tv Mosaic World News LINKTV September 10, 2012 7:30pm-8:00pm PDT
in the very center of the wound, washington, d.c., or as chicanos say, "watchingon." so what does it mean for latinos to be here, right now, at a time in which we are perceived as america's number one public enemy? as a cause of america's downfall? well, we are here precisely to either dispel this fear or to confirm it. woman: welcome to "the temple of confessions," an interactive performance installation designed to help you better understand your cultural fears and desires in a post-nafta america.
we are fully aware that you are currently experiencing... gómez-peña: in early '94, roberto sifuentes and i premiered in arizona our most ambitious collaborative art project to date, a performance installation titled "the temple of confessions." we combined the format of the pseudo-ethnographic diorama with that of the dramatic religious dioramas displayed in mexican catholic churches, and decided to exhibit ourselves inside plexiglas boxes as both cultural specimens and holy creatures. i am a border citizen. i was raised in two countries. my family is literally divided by the borderline. half of my family lives in mexico, and the other half is spread throughout the u.s. and canada.
and my work is informed by these two traditions. i draw from u.s. and latin american literature, art, and pop culture. and in this sense, my aesthetics are aesthetics of fusion and juxtaposition. i juxtapose high and low culture, politics and art, religion and sexuality, english and español. [ speaking spanish ] [ rooster crows ] in the installation, we have eight velvet paintings
representing other saintly idols. and underneath each painting, we have a small table with symbolic objects. these objects are part of our personal pop archaeology that represents the meeting of two or more cultures, like bart sanchez, the mexican cousin of bart simpson wearing a poncho. and then the wonderful iguana clay hamburger, which is a classic from 1960's tijuana tourist art. roberto and i were completely unaware of the pandora box we were about to open. [ rock music plays ] partly due to the profound spiritual and cultural crisis afflicting u.s. society, and partly perhaps because of america's obsession with public confession,
people expressed their innermost feelings, fantasies, and memories of mexico, mexicans, chicanos, and other people of color. i don't have any fears about mexico. i was in tijuana last march, a year ago. woman: i'm afraid that america will become a two-language country. i mean, my parents were immigrants, but they learned english. why can't you mexicans do the same? man: the character that i portray in "the temple of confessions," the pre-columbian vato, is a mixture of recognizable media images, how the media portrays the latino youth these days. ♪ 'cause i still feel the same ♪ 'cause i still feel the same ♪ a lot of the images are associated with chicanos,
but exploded, magnified 200 times. woman: what are you doing? and who are you? we perform slow-motion, ritualized actions for the five-hour periods that we're within the plexiglas boxes. [ rooster crows ] you think that kevin costner's going to hire us for his next film? either him or harrison ford. sifuentes: guillermo and i have been working together in various capacities since 1991. so for five years. it began when guillermo had a huge commission.
he went looking for many chicanos to come and work with him. i was a performance artist, just out of college, and here was a great opportunity to work with one of the premier chicano thinkers of our time. it was a great opportunity for me. snake boots. plastic cascavelles. authentic primitive bones from audience members i have eaten. our work is about anthropology, but a very particular form of anthropology. i term it "reversed anthropology." my vest from a leopard that i hunted down in the streets of tijuana. we assume a fictional center, push the dominant culture to the margins, and treat it as exotic and unfamiliar. amulets to protect me.
so in our performance world, spanish is a lingua franca. mexicans are the dominant culture, and americans are exotic, nomadic minorities. my headdress. i'm a warrior of the end of the century. my stetson hat. a performance artist is someone that wears many hats, or many masks, at different times and for different reasons. my virgin of guadalupe belt. protects me on the road. at times, we see ourselves as experimental linguists, as reversed anthropologists, or as citizen-diplomats. my bandanna, to become an instant bandito. sometimes we are activist artists.
our work is an ongoing exploration of the possibilities of identity, the unlimited possibilities of identity. you know, chicano culture experiments with identity all the time. we're constantly reinventing ourselves year after year. beware of the false prophets. sifuentes: the reason why we choose performance art as a medium is that it really allows us to be chameleons. beware of your own reflection. one day we're doing a performance art installation in a museum or gallery sort of environment. another day we're doing an alternative space. the next moment we're doing a pirate television intervention.
[ man speaking spanish ] good evening, post-nafta america. i am sorry to inform you that this is a pirate tv broadcast. my name is nafta sticker, cross-cultural salesman, disc jockey, apocalyptical and information superhighway bandito, all in one, within, and vice versa, interrupting your... sifuentes: we performed in '94 a piece that's called the "cruci-fiction project," where guillermo and i crucified ourselves on 16-foot high wooden crosses for 3 hours directly underneath the golden gate bridge. we decided to crucify ourselves as the contemporary public enemies of california.
the point was to get this image out into the media so that the image would transcend the moment of the performance and be picked up as international news. i think that we have to link it with religion. in fact, we have to base it in a kind of religious metafiction because of the kind of spiritual emptiness that america is currently undergoing. so let's see how this sounds. "two living saints from an unknown border religion "are searching for sanctuary across america. "people are invited to experience "this bizarre pagan temple and confess to the saints their intercultural fears and desires." tell me another confession. "i fear that there will be drive-by shootings in our quiet, white middle-class neighborhood of scottsdale." that's pretty good. "signed, a spanish teacher."
"i am all for cultural diversity as long as it doesn't raise my taxes." [ rooster crows ] so let's do some mexercise. all right. what number exercise is this one? uh, exercise number 187. now smoke in... and smoke out. feel the natural brana, the holy smoke. smoke in... and smoke out. this is a very good breathing exercise. very good. very good. smoke in... this smoke is very good for our souls. smoke out.
this exercise that we're about to do is very connected to a lot of the slow-motion, ritualized, highly concentrated actions that we perform in "the temple of confessions." we're sitting on the car. the los angeles police department has just pulled us over. slowly, you put your hands on the dashboard, and keep them there in full view. the officer comes, and he asks me to show him my driver's license. and i go for i oy? [ slowly ] i am reaching for my wallet. and, norma, could you get the car registration out of the glove compartment? okay. i am reaching for the glove compartment.
slow actions. nothing sudden. this is just a wallet. make sure it's nothing threatening. don't scare them. offer a smile every now and then. i have the registration. that's very good. very good. you keep the other hand visible. you already knew to do that. excellent. good. so this is a typical chicano performance art rehearsal. [ rooster crows ] sifuentes: washington is undergoing its own urban crisis. it's a very troubled city. woman: christina has been doing paperwork for the past 2 1/2 hours. she only left the corcoran about five minutes ago.
so all the paperwork was not processed. this is really hypocritical, you know. nafta means open markets and closed borders. and especially for mexico. and it's such a paradox. the mold for the corpse of the last immigrant to be eaten on sunday at the corcoran atrium has been held in t department of agriculture in the atlanta airport for several days. and then in the customs department. you know, the last immigrant is now imprisoned in the customs department of the washington dulles airport. what does this mean? [ rooster crows ]
sifuentes: the jell-o man is being cooked at the market on macomb. man: and on the seventh day, césar created man. jell-o man. woman: aztec jell-o man! then we are going to put this that way, and we are going to attach. okay. [ applauding ] [ rooster crows ] woman: everyone is welcome to participate in "the temple of confessions" regardless of race, ideology, religious creed, or sexual persuasion.
in these galleries, you will encounter two authentic living border saints. they are prepared to hear your desires, your anger, your pain, and confusion. please take the time to fully explore this. sifuentes: the images that we use are very provocative. so we do want to get responses from the audience. man: stop cleaning your gun with our flag, wetback. the whole piece is designed to be beautiful, seductive, elegant, strange, exciting. even if they are somewhat repulsed, at the same time, they really are interested in staying for long periods of time to try and find out why they feel this way, to begin to reflect on their feelings and attitudes towards latinos and chicanos. man: my desire is to stay as far away from "el mexico" and its water as i can. gómez-peña: just like in roberto's case, from a certain distance, i look authentic.
i could in fact be an indigenous shaman. but as the viewers get close to my box, i start to look like a generic primitive. despite this, the archetype of the mexican as a witch doctor remains intact. sifuentes: the performance can be thought of at times as a seduction. certain actions that i perform, or that guillermo performs, really will draw people into the performance. parents think, "oh, it's okay. he has animals. this is a nice mexican boy," you know. and then in that moment when everybody's gathered really close and they're with me, i feel they're all really with me, then i'll take one of my stronger or most provocative or repulsive actions,
which is to slowly bind the american flag bandanna, wrap it around my arm, and pull it like a tourniquet, exposing the veins in my wrists, which people watch with extreme interest. like, "what is this guy going to do?" we have two mexican performance artists, césar martinez and lorena orosco, who are joining us this time in the temple.
gómez-peña: at least a third of the visitors eventually decide to kneel and confess. visitors attempt to establish a personal, spiritual connection with me. emotions begin to pour from both sides. there was a man in mexico who had a family that lived in a house down in the little village. and i was invited into the house to have a cold drink with his family. and his wife was completely unaware that the man had made aggressive sexual advances to me just previously. woman: when i drive around at night and i see all these people, i just want to run them over. i just want to obliterate them, kill them. sifuentes: we began an internet experiment, which we've transformed in "the temple of confessions" into a techno-confessional on the world wide web.
people can visit us from their home computers, adopt fictional identities, participate in a virtual temple on the web as their favorite cultural others, and discuss with anonymity all of these issues that we're talking about. we're gathering a lot of the same information that we gather in "the temple of confessions." i wanted to give you... ♪ alleluia
♪ alleluia in the name of the dollar and the free trade, all you can eat. in the name of the dollar and tlet us pray.e, sifuentes: we operate within the context of the times. first reading of the free trade agreement according to the u.s. congress. we work within this context of artists in the end of the century, chicanos and mexicanos renegotiating space, redefining national identity here in the united states. and we try and use our installation pieces and language pieces to attain a central voice. ♪ alleluia
gómez-peña: in american culture, traditionally there has always been a place for the anti-hero. and performance artists, we have conveniently occupied that space. so in a sense we are accepted transgressors, accepted provocateurs, accepted iconoclasts, and we often can get away with murder. we can do things that if we were just straight political activists, we would easily end up in jail or deported back to mexico. but as performance artists, we can always justify whatever we do as extreme aesthetic behavior, and we can really speak the truth. -- captions by vitac -- burbank, pittsburgh, washington