PERFORMANCE ARTIST GUILLERMO GOMEZ PENA HAS HELD AUDIENCES SPELLBOUND FOR DECADES
By Michaela Payne
Performance artist and cultural critic Guillermo Gómez-Peña will perform his latest solo work as “el Mad Mex” in the Diego Rivera Theatre at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 18, presenting his views on the future of the Americas through spoken poetry, activist theory, radical storytelling and language experimentation as visions for radical democracy.
Known for his provocative videos and performances around the world, “el border brujo” has published 10 books and co-founded the San Francisco-based collaborative cross-disciplinary performance group La Pocha Nostra in 1993—and he is wilder than ever at age 60.
“Gómez-Peña offers critical and humorous commentary about the art world, academia, new technologies, the culture of war and violence in the US, organized crime in Mexico, gender and race politics, and the latest wave of complications surrounding gentrification…” the department’s poster announced.
“He provokes,” art Department Chair Anna Asebedo said. “We should provoke each other to think differently.”
The City College art department is making efforts to offer more equity to students by hosting guest artists who reflect the diversity of the department. The number of Latina/o students has been increasing, so hosting Gómez-Peña—who was born in Mexico City and speaks candidly about wishing for a world with no borders in which artists and intellectuals are at the forefront of international politics—is a dream come true for the school.
This is Asebedo’s first time curating a performance at City College. “Everybody is pitching in,” Asebedo said.
Instructor Sophie Touze, who teaches women in art history, knew a friend of Gómez-Peña’s that got the event on the table. Video production instructor Susan Boeckmann from the broadcast electronic media arts department will help film the performance for City College’s archives. Visual media design instructor Colin Hall is making the event’s program, and others will help with the rest.
“What’s lovely about (Gómez-Peña) is it’s about him. He’s got under 10 props,” Asebedo said. She teaches printmaking classes and paints.
In contrast to other disciplines, she said, performers like Gómez-Peña “are the receptor of all that attention and emotional response—that just blows me away.”
To Asebedo’s knowledge, Gómez-Peña will be unique in the college’s history as the first performance artist to visit. The college does not offer performance art classes, though the dance department’s contact improvisation course and the theatre department’s acting for the camera and physical comedy courses, among others, could relate.
Asebedo suggests checking out Gómez-Peña’s videos online, especially “Instant Identity Ritual” (on Youtube, 1:47 minutes) and “Radical art, radical communities, and radical dreams” for his 2013 TED talk from TEDxCalArts (on Youtube, 26:24 minutes).
The show will include a guest performance by the Phantom Mariachi, a persona developed by the La Pocha Nostra artists to symbolically resist the evictions and erasure of diversity taking place in San Francisco.
Admission to the show will be free and open to the public.
Check out ccsfpena.blogspot.com and “An Evening with ‘El Mad Mex’ Guillermo Gómez-Peña” on Facebook.
Contact a reporter
Send an email to: Michaela Payne