Performance Art: Central America / Caribbean

Latin America has a rich political history of performance art.

The evolution of performance art or live art (as it’s known in the U.K.) in Latin and indigenous America has responded to dramatically different art historical and sociopolitical factors. With the exception of a handful of names that have been singled out by the members of the exclusive club of the self-proclaimed international art world—mostly privileged artists in ongoing dialogue with their European and New York peers—the majority of Latin American practitioners remain a mystery to European and U.S. artists and art audiences. (more here)

Performance Art – Central America / Caribbean America

An excerpt from

The Forbidden Body: Notes on the Latin American Live Art Scene

By Gabriela Salgado, Guillermo Gómez-Peña

GGP: The evolution of performance art or live art (as it’s known in the U.K.) in Latin and indigenous America has responded to dramatically different art historical and sociopolitical factors. With the exception of a handful of names that have been singled out by the members of the exclusive club of the self-proclaimed international art world—mostly privileged artists in ongoing dialogue with their European and New York peers—the majority of Latin American practitioners remain a mystery to European and U.S. artists and art audiences. Why?

GS: The question of unwritten history is central to this invisibility. The history of art written by Northern historians for universal consumption is incomplete, biased, Eurocentric, largely white, and highly prejudiced. Moreover, the notion of international art and its assumption of sameness are both rooted in outdated notions. As Walter Mignolo proposes, “The defense of the human sameness above human differences is always a claim made from the privileged position of identity politics in power.” He also argues that whiteness is presented alongside political theory as transparent, neutral, and objective, while color/blackness plus political theory becomes essentialist and fundamentalist.1 Such identification with the white/Western cultural paradigms of modernity obliterates most initiatives tending to underscore the multiplicity of Latin American societies and their complex relationship with other colonized cultures. In this sense, live art and other conceptual and activist practices with an impact on the social sphere are sites of resistance, as they are interwoven with political and sexual dynamite. In addition, there is also the question of consumption and parasitism that your work explores so often. The inclusion of the parallel developments of art—including performance, video, conceptual practices, music, literature, and other manifestations of artistic activity outside the Europe/U.S. axis—depends, as you have repeatedly pointed out, on trends. The latest fascination with post-Soviet Eastern European or Middle Eastern

GS (cont.):  art scenes will soon be replaced by the next geographical chic.

Another layer of misunderstanding is added by the fact that as the history of those contemporary expressions is unknown, everything seems to float in a vacuum, propitiating the validation of the aesthetically or conceptually familiar, to the detriment of the specificity of those practices.

GGP: There are other political factors that contribute to this invisibility. With the events of September 11, Latin America disappeared overnight from the map [of Western culture]. The U.S. and Canada closed their borders to their continental neighbors and engaged in a policy driven by paranoid nationalism, cultural isolationism, and xenophobia. Their panic-stricken policies were easily justified by the narrative of an endless war on terror. While this was taking place, with the exception of Colombia and Mexico, Latin America moved to the left and stopped thinking of the U.S. as a major cultural reference and developed many strong voices and places in the live arts. In the past ten years, an exciting live art movement has emerged out of Mexico City, Oaxaca, Lima, Bogotá, Cali, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Córdoba, and Santiago, to name a few places. Most of these rebel milieusare led against all odds and with very little funding by women and gay artists.

GS: But there is a serious communication problem between these milieus.

GGP: Partly due to Western ethnocentrism and partly due to the fact that there are no formalized communication channels, networks, or magazines between North and South America, these multiple live art worlds remain invisible and indifferent to one another. And when Latin American artists convene, the meetings are always brokered by the North. Northern impresarios, curators, and theorists often perform the role of ventriloquists and interpreters of difference. Paradoxically, because of this lack of direct communication between countries in the Americas, many of these live artists still don’t know one another in person. I have attended myriad gatherings in Los Angeles, New York, Quebec, London, Paris, and Berlin where I get to hang out with artists from my own continental neighborhood for the first time. It’s bizarre. Even the Latin American biennials devote very little space to performance. The only active network coordinated and theorized by Latin Americans and located throughout the continent is the Instituto Hemisférico de Performance y Politica.

GS: The prominent academic Néstor García-Canclini proposed in a recent public discussion during the Mercosur Biennale [in Porto Alegre, Brazil] that events such as biennials of the South should invite Northern platforms to contemplate us, to summon the North Americans in order to invert the [role of] accessory historically allocated by them to us, whereby we were always invited to their parties. To invert the map, taking as inspiration the prescient Joaquín Torres García’s drawing from 1936, to make our North the South—that is the question.

GGP: True. As diasporic Latinos operating from North America, our task is to occupy an alternative and more inclusive cartography, to occupy a fictional center, and to push the dominant North to the margins, treating it as exotic and unfamiliar. Fortunately there are enough border artists and intellectual coyotes (smugglers) with a bifocal understanding of these inter- and transcultural relations. These practitioners who are constantly migrating on their own volition, both within their own countries and outside, perform the role of informal diplomats and translators. And there is a lot to translate besides the language difference. The politics of the human body also needs to be translated.

Literature and information for Latin American Performance Art
  • Jorge Glusberg, El arte de la performance, Buenos Aires: Arte Gaglianone, 1986. The book attends to international performance art, and particularly argues for the power of the subjectivity of the body, especially as independent from mass media, and the role of performance in the specific context and revolutionary situation of Latin America. (Spanish)
  • Laura Buccellato (ed.), Arte de Acción, 1960-1990, Buenos Aires: Museo de Arte Moderno, 1999. Considers the evolution of action art in Argentina from the 1950s to the 1990s, including b&w photographs and a bibliography. (English)
  • Coco Fusco (ed.), Corpus Delecti: Performance Art of the Americas, London: Routledge, 2000, 307 pp. Divided into three sections, the anthology attends to “Heterotopic, Homoerotic, Hyper-Exotic Cabarets”; “Ritualizing the Body Politic”; and “Stepping toward an Oppositional Public Sphere.” Introductory essay by Coco Fusco, with contributions by Silvia Pellarolo, Nao Bustamante, Evelyn Velez-Aguayo, José Esteban Muñoz, Raphael Montañez Ortiz, Charles Merewether, Tania Bruguera, Nelly Richard, Felipe Ehrenberg, Ricardo Dominguez, a.o. (English)
  • Contemporary And América Latina – Magazine – Contemporary And América Latina is a dynamic, critical art magazine focusing on the connection between Afro-Latin America, The Caribbean and Africa.
  • Antonio Prieto Stambaugh, Pánico, performance y política: cuatro décadas de acción no-objetual en México, 2001. [160](Spanish)
  • Diana Taylor, Roselyn Costantino (eds.), Holy Terrors: Latin American Women Perform, Duke University Press, 2003, 464 pp. Scholarly essays by the editors, with contributions by Antonio Prieto Stambaugh, Teresa Marrero, Marlèno Ramírez-Cancio, Vivian Martínez Tabares, and José Muñoz; contains artists’ writings, and discussion of and by such performance artists Denise Stoklos (Brazil), Astrid Hadad, Jesusa Rodríguez, Katia Tirado, and Ema Villanueva (Mexico), as well as playwrights and dramaturges; with illustrations and bibliography. [161](English)
  • Josefina Alcázar, Fernando Fuentes (eds.), Performance y arte-acción en América Latina, Mexico City: Sin Nombre, 2005, 194 pp. Traces the legacy of performance to the writings of such important figures as Manuel Maples Arce, Sánchez Fogarty, Mathias Goeritz, and Alejandro Jodorowsky, and especially to the performances and conceptual art of Felipe Ehrenberg. Other essays reflect on the art of the No-Grupo, founded in 1970 by Alfredo Núñez, Melquiades Herrera, Maris Bustamante and Rubén Valencia, and women’s performances like those of Katia Tirado, Gina y Marcela, Lorena Wolffer, Lorena Orozco, a.o. (Spanish)
  • Emilio Tarragona, Accionismo en el Perú, 1965-2000, Lima: ICPNA, 2005. (Spanish)
  • Francisco González Castro, Leonora López, Brian Smith, Performance art en Chile, Santiago de Chile: Metales Pesados, 2016, 277 pp. [162][163](Spanish) Diana Taylor, ¡Presente! The Politics of Presence, Durham: Duke University Press, 2020, xii+329 pp. (English)
  • Laura G. Gutiérrez, Performing Identities: Chicana and Mexicana Performance Art in the 90s, Madison: University of Wisconsin, 2000, v+284 pp. PhD dissertation. (English)
  • Arte ≠ vida: Actions by Artists of the Americas, 1960-2000, New York: El Museo Del Barrio, 2008, 370 pp. TOC, Chronology. Chronology of actions by artists of the Americas, with essays by Deborah Cullen on performance in New York, California, and Puerto Rico; Ana Longoni on Argentina; Claudia Calirman on Brazil; Gabriela Rangel on Venezuela; Maris Bustamantem on Mexico; Sharon Lerner Rizo-Patrón on Peru; Robert Neustadt on Chile; Elvis Fuentes on Cuba; Sayuri Guzmán on the Dominican Republic; María Iovino on Columbia; and Virginia Pérez-Ratton on Central America. Includes color and b&w illustrations, a bibliography, and an artist index of nearly 300 artists. Exh. held on 18 Jan-31 May 2008. (Spanish)/(English)
  • Portable Borders: Performance Art and Politics on the U.S. Frontera since 1984 (Latin American and Caribbean Arts and Culture Publication Initiative, Mellon Foundation)

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