In this era of post-millennial angst, where borders become blurred between religion and ideology, when social and personal identities are in crisis, and mass communication, mass destruction (real or manufactured) and overall massive relativism confuse our compass, Guillermo Gómez-Peña is hard at work on a new map. His art, pedagogy, and cultural criticism are fueled by an awareness of shifting social plates, rusted metaphors, and dusty symbolism. It is perhaps at times like these, when solid ground eludes us, that a measure of reality can be conjured up only in the crossing.
Born in Mexico City, and residing in San Francisco, base of his performance company La Pocha Nostra, Gómez-Peña, a Chica-no/mad artist, performs and develops his material all over the world in collaboration with colleagues and co-conspirators of many—and mixed—nationalities and identities. His performance art, visual media and writings are profoundly dialogical, inviting his audiences to cross over, to cross dress and to dive in, with a mixture of surreal humor and sobering insight. During his performances Gómez-Peña's shamanic persona is conscious of the power of ritual to help us cope with the violence that results when cultural fundamentalism clashes with the inevitability of change.And when we run out of air, he holds the magic switch that turn us on to the in-between, where paradox flows and we can breathe again.
In keeping with the spirit of our Borders issue of e-misférica, we feature a remixed cartography of recent works by Guillermo Gómez-Peña. Hailed as a "mesmerizing poem in the spirit of Allen Ginsberg's Beat-era litany, 'Howl' by The Seattle Times, A Declaration of Poetic Disobedience from the New Border is a powerful denuncia poética in response to the "security state" and the politics of exclusion that are making more and more of us into socio-cultural wetbacks. The Declaration is included as text and also presented as a video piece, the result of a collaboration with film artist Gustavo Vázquez. It features a gallery of Gómez-Peña's changing personas ritually chanting its sections against an almost nostalgic classroom map of the world, that feels as flat as a computer screen.
Also in this section, The Chi-canarian Expo is a selection of nine beautiful images from a Photo Performance portfolio, curated by Orlando Britto-Jinorio and photographed in the Canary Islands in 2005. These photo performances feature Gómez-Peña, La Pocha collaborators Roberto Sifuentes and Violeta Luna, as well as other artists, engaged in the creation of dioramas for a museum of post-colonial identities.
We invite you click on the Texts section for the insightful conversation Performing in the "Zones of Silence". Written by Gómez-Peña in dialogue with Argentinean curator Gabriela Salgado, a fellow expatriate working in England, Zones is a revealing conversation about "exclusion in the 'international' art world" that attempts to shed light on why some artists are granted access to the microphone, while many worthy others are left unplugged.It is no mystery that at a time when more people are crossing borders—desperately, forcefully, or driven by the need of work—than ever before, fear of the dangerous other reigns. As dividing walls are raised all over the world, Guillermo Gómez-Peña's cartography is intent on pointing out where all the holes in the fence are.