Guillermo Gómez-Peña at LACMA

Gómez-Peña and La Pocha Nostra
On April 29th, 2005, performance artist and writer, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, staged an interactive live performance/installation work at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Titled Panetnica: A pavilion of X-treme Identities, the work was a collaboration between Gómez-Peña and La Pocha Nostra - Colombian dancer, Michelle Cebal, and Mexico City performance artist, Violeta Luna. In a press release, Gómez-Peña said the trio would create “living dioramas depicting California’s current obsessions about race. The performance artists will occupy a gallery space throughout the piece, interacting with audience members, and constructing tableaux vivants of ‘interracial couples’ with audience members.” Gómez-Peña and La Pocha Nostra apparently delivered what they promised, delighting or repulsing hundreds of people who wandered into LACMA’s Anderson Building, where the performance took place from 6 to 10:00 pm.

I was not able to be present at the performance, but my associate, Chicana photographer and new media artist, Sandra de la Loza, attended and described it as a “happening” where audience members were encouraged to become part of the performance. Loza, who took the photos that accompany this article, made clear to me that the evening was an extraordinary night of high energy political/cultural performance, where the lines between artists and audience were completely blurred. Issues of national and racial identity, imperialism and sexuality became focal points in the performance, and LACMA was transformed into a world stage where Zapatistas, Aztec warriors, and barrio gang bangers mixed it up with shamanic draq queens, apocalyptic home girls, and a demented heroin shooting Frida Kahlo. After exposure to the mind-bending and stupefying mutations offered by Gómez-Peña and company, I’m sure those leaving the happening became confused when they suddenly realized the streets of Los Angeles and its denizens were just an extension of the performance. But then, that’s the purpose of art… to lift the veil that blinds us.

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