Mortuary Dioramas and Human Altars

La Pocha Nostra

Since 1993, Gómez-Peña and the members of the Pocha Nostra performance troupe have conducted cross-cultural/cross-disciplinary/cross-generational workshops involving performance artists, actors, dancers and students from diverse ethnic communities and artistic backgrounds. The objectives of this educational project are:
a). - To groom emerging artists and cultural leaders and help them sharpen their performance and analytical skills in dialogue with like-minded cultural rebels;
b). -To develop new models of relationship between artist and community; mentor and apprentice, which are neither colonial nor condescending;
c). - To establish a temporary utopian space for aesthetic freedom and cross-cultural dialogue; and
d). - To seek a new aesthetic that truly reflects the spirit and tribulations of our times.

This workshop at the Hemispheric Institute will specifically deal with the human body as a hybrid altar; and performance as alternative ritualism. The artists politely require that each participant to the workshop bring at least 5 objects from their "personal archeology" and/or costume pieces connected to their own cosmology and aesthetics. These objects can be figurines, wigs, hats, masks, wands, talismans, etc. The artists also suggest participants to bring make up and water-based felt pens to mark the body.

The issues addressed in the workshop include,
Performance as embodied theory.
Performance art as a form of radical pedagogy and radical democracy.
The slippery borders between performance and theater.
The construction of "personas" and "ethno-cyborgs" as supposed to characters.
Real time vs. ritual time vs. fictional time.
Meaningful vs. mindless Interactivity.
The difference between "living diorama" and proscenium setting.
Effective uses of the Internet and new technologies in performance.

Other pertinent questions addressed during the process include:

What does "radical behavior" mean in the year 2003?
How to begin a discussion about ethics in the 21st century?"
What are the new roles of artists in the post-9/11 era?
What are the different relationships between performance art and academia, activism, the media, and pop culture?


Guillermo Gómez-Peña is a writer and performance artist. He was born in México and came to the U.S. in 1978. Since then, he has been researching issues such as the border and trans-cultural identity. Through journalism, performance, radio, video, poetry and installations, Gómez-Peña has looked into the relationship between Latinos and the U.S. He has been awarded with the Prix de la parole at the Festival Internacional de las Américas (1989), a Bessie in New York (1989) and a fellowship from the MacArthur Foundation (1991), among others. He is the author of Warrior for Gringostroika published by Graywolf Press in 1993. His book The New World Border received an American Book award in 1997.

Juan Ybarra is an actor, dancer, and choreographer whose work combines diverse styles including Decroux mime, Butoh, contact improvisation, and martial arts. Ybarra has taught at Univercity Centre of Theatre, the National Institute of Fine Arts Montreal, and La Casa del Teatro (Mexico City). He has performed with Pocha nostra in the Indian Queen (1998), BORDERscape (2000), Jurasic Aztlán (2000) and The Museum of Fetish-ized identities (2002/2001).