Over the last 150 years, the Rio Grande River, a colonized body of water traveling between three US states and two nations, has suffered tremendously from climate change and its causes: the fallout of centuries of human chauvinism and shortsighted human management of the river.
In the 20th-century, the impact of unsustainable practices continued with forced mechanistic applications on the once wild and glorious river to purge it of its supposed wastefulness. By the 21st century, the river had surrendered every drop of her water to a procession of governing bodies even before it fell as rain or snow from the sky. Reverse the Curse, a participatory performance art piece, imagines that the cause of the river’s demise was a mal de ojo or evil eye curse incited by the river’s natural good fortune as a precious life source.
Since 2021 Castillo has invited folks living along the river from Taos, New Mexico, to Juarez, Mexico, to participate in a Reverse the Curse community performance at their local river bridge: spitting at the victim. This curandera-derived remedia and common mal de ojo reversal helps negate envy, the fundamental cause of the evil eye.
Reverse the Curse uses the audacity of local magic to provide an allegory for a participatory and embodied tithing to the Rio Grande, an entitlement to a body of water who is not allowed to have any share of her own water.
Castillo has also invited other New Mexico-based artists interested in the health of the Rio Grande to contribute to the larger project from their expertise and skill sets. These artists include portrait photographer Don Usner, whose work has effortlessly captured the spirit of some of the remedias; eco-poet Terry Mulert who wrote Water, a commissioned poem showcased here that meditates on the marginalization of our planet’s freshwater; and experimental sound artist Amanda Dannáe Romero who collected sounds from the Rio Grande riparian environment for auxiliary sound compositions.