From Diana Taylor
Dear Participants of the Hemispheric Institute 2001 Encuentro in Monterrey!
Welcome to this second international conference/seminar/festival of the Hemsipheric Institute of Performance and Politics! The ‘encuentro,’ like the Institute, aspires to bring together artists, scholars, activists, and students for an extended, in-depth discussion of many of the problems facing us in the Americas. The goal is not to ‘show-case’ individual work but to establish a relationship among those of us who work, often in isolation, on the intersections of performance and politics. Our theme this year, “Memory, Atrocity, and Resistance” invites us to think about the role of performance and embodied practice in the turbulent, often violent, histories of the Americas. How does ‘performance’—embodied, repeated behaviors such as dance, ritual, healing arts, political elections or demonstrations among others—intervene in the social arena? While the word ‘performance’ has no equivalent in Spanish or Portuguese—translated simply but nonetheless ambiguously as ‘el performance’ or ‘la performance’—scholars and artists have started to use the term to refer more broadly to social dramas and embodied practices. The concept proves vital in redefining Latin American and Hemispheric studies because it de-centers the historic role of writing since the time of the conquest. As Angel Rama notes in The Lettered City (La ciudad letrada), “the exclusive place of writing in Latin American societies made it so revered as to take on a aura of sacredness.” Whose memories “disappear” if only written knowledge is valorized and granted permanence? As native communities have long shown, performance also stores and transmits social memory. At this ‘encuentro’ we will discuss the ways in which performance enables communal memory and builds cultural agency, exploring not only the past but the possibilities for our future.
This year we have a fabulous group of artists, academics, activists and students in dialogue for an intensive ten-day period of workshops, performances, round-table discussions, mini-seminars, works-in-progress, conference panels and presentations. We have accomplished a lot during this last year. Mexico, through the efforts of Professor Javier Serna and his colleagues at the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León and CONARTE, has become the fourth site of the Institute. Not only are they hosting this spectacular event but they will join us this September in teaching the 3rd Hemispheric Institute course: “Staging the Nation: Independence movements and the performance of citizenship in 19th century Americas.” The website has been re-designed and expanded, thanks to the work of Karen Young, Assistant Director of the Hemispheric Institute, and Tal Halpern (title). We hope that all participants will contribute actively to the digital archive by submitting original materials. The newsletter and the bulletin boards will offer participants ways to stay in touch and work together throughout the year. Please use the website regularly and contribute information about your work, upcoming events, and other topics of interest. I would also like to thank all the other people who have made this event, and the Hemispheric Institute possible: Carolina Farías, Director of CONARTE, has been instrumental in sponsoring this event as has Dr. Galán Wong, Rector of UANL. Ayanna Lee and Hester Martínez have worked very hard to organize it. And thanks to the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation for their continuing support of our collaborative, hemispheric project.