Cross Contamination:

The performance activism and oppositional art of La Pocha Nostra…

In 1993, Guillermo Gomez-Peña, Roberto Sifuentes and Nola Mariano founded La Pocha Nostra in Los Angeles, California. The objective was to objectively formalize Gomez-Peña’s collaborations with other performance artists. In 1995, La Pocha Nostra moved to San Francisco’s Mission District. In late 2001, La Pocha Nostra completed the process of incorporation and became a non-profit-organization. Members became Guillermo Gomez-Peña, Violeta Luna, Michélle Ceballos, Roberto Sifuentes, and over thirty associated worldwide. Projects range from peformance solos and duets to large-scale performance installations using video, DVD, photography, audio, and cyber art. La Pocha Nostra invites performance art group from all over the world to use their models and (pedagogical) methods for their projects…

Read more about La Pocha Nostra’s manifesto

“Over the years, La Pocha Nostra’s most significant contribution to the field has perhaps been the hybrid realm of performance/installation. We create interactive ‘living museums’ that parody various colonial practices of representation including the ethnographic diorama (as found in museums of natural history), the Freak Show, the Indian Trading Post, the border ‘curio shop’, the sex-shop/strip joint window display, and their contemporary equivalents in global media and corporate entertainment. In fictionalized contexts, we ‘exhibit’ ourselves as human artifacts, our bodies highly decorated, within aesthetically designed diorama environments. At times we are ‘specimens’ from an endangered tribe or ‘border saints’ from a persecuted religion. Other times we surrender our will to the audience and assume composite identities dictated by the fears and desires of museum visitors and/or Internet users.

The composite identities of our ‘ethno-cyborg’ personae are manufactured with the following formulae in mind: one quarter stereo-type; one quarter audience projection; one quarter aesthetic artifact and one quarter unpredictable personal social/monster. These ‘artificial savages’, are mere cultural projections of The First World desire/fear of its surrounding subcultures and the so-called ‘Third World Other’. The live performance becomes the process via which we reveal the morphology of intercultural fetishes as well as the engineering mechanisms propelling the behavior of both our ‘savages’ and our audiences.

When the doors open, the audience steps into a ‘total’ environment, where we (the ethno-cyborgs) are on display on platforms of varying heights and sizes for three to four hours a night, sometimes for a three day period. Live and prerecorded music, multiple video projections and slides, fog, cinematic lighting, embalmed animals, old-fashioned medical figurines, and ‘etho-kitsch’ design motives (cigar-shop Indians, sleepy Mexicans, Negro-bilia, etc.) all help to enhance our ‘ethno-techno’ and ‘robo-baroque’ aesthetic, and contribute to create a ‘heightened state’ in the spectator/ participant.”

La Pocha Nostra performance artists Guillermo Gomez-Peña, Roberto Sifuentes and Michéle Ceballos will do a workshop and performance with local participants on Curacao, hosted by IBB and Canarian curator Orlando Britto-Jinorio, from November 1st to 14th, 2010.