Defending Her Hotel






I was invited to Mexico City in the fall of 2003 on a research and production grant from the Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Quebec with six other female artists during the “Voila Quebec Festival”, a Mexican – Canadian Artists Cultural Exchange.

woman willing to defend her hotel’ is a performance work that took place at the entrance to the Hotel Isabel close to the Presidential palace. In this highly suggestive and transient environment of a hotel, this intervention became an interactive space concentrating on points of friction between public and private space.

I stood outside the hotel for about three hours and guarded the hotel in a burlesque kind of fashion, with the security guard dressed in a sort of “Lara Croft/Patty Hearst” military uniform. As I handed out a soft-pliable toy or “lookalike grenades” to a passersby or tourists from the hotel, I advised participants in Spanish that the object and its purpose was “for protection…”.

I had stuffed fake Mexican money in my pockets and army jacket and awarded this out generously to the public security force or/and police in uniform outside the entrance to the hotel (there is a very large security presence felt in Mexico city, especially protecting the streets of the Zocalo, the historic district close to the Presidential Palace and they are dressed in different forms of uniform and stature). 

  • Performing in front of the camera has always seemed so immediate.
  • Since the 1960s, if not before, artists have centered their work more increasingly and offensively on issues of socio-political parameters
  • In action, performance can reveal the way in which body language and gesture interact and define our relationships with one another and the world around us.

As one examines the “culture of fear” that appears to be of increasing magnitude and importance all over the world, humanity is far from convinced that social order is recovering – rather, that the present populace is living through and in an age of terrorism, environmental disaster and widening inequality.

I have also been very interested in manifestations of fear both on a personal and social level, and as captured in the popular imagination. This early body of work also serves as an inquiry into how some of the phenomena associated with fear are constituted and negotiated.

The digital stills [self-portraits] and the recording of the video that resulted from this performance led to my return to Mexico by invitation to a private gallery, ‘Galeria Nina Menocal’ in order to present this work once again to the art community at large.

Photography’s relationship to reality has been irrevocably transformed by the numerous ways in which images are now constructed.

Using this kind of documentation is fundamental for artists today who seek to articulate concerns relating to contemporary global events and experiences as they evolve in the world around us, rather then simply capture the memory of them.


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Juliana España Keller born in London, England, grew up in New York, her thirties living in the jungle of Ciudad Guyana, Venezuela, now makes Montréal, Quebéc, her home where she teaches at Concordia University. Her work has traveled to international venues including among many others, the Muu Gallery in Helsinki Finland, "Gravity" in April of 2007 with Vox Populi Gallery in Philadelphia. Her last solo exhibition in May of 2009 at Art Mûr was entitled: 'modern camouflage'. Most recently, she was awarded an artist residency by the Association of Icelandic Visual Artists (SÍM) in Reykjavik, Iceland. Juliana is also a part of two performance collectives: WWKA [Women with Kitchen Appliances] and B.E. Canada.