Crossing Borders: Guillermo Gómez-Peña.
Bolikowska, Agnieszka A.
Cypess, Sandra M.
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In Performing Borders: Guillermo Gómez-Peña, I examine selected interdisciplinary and multi-media work of contemporary Mexican-American artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña. I develop an alternative set of strategies for reading across-the-border(s) identitarian, artistic and pedagogical encounters in the work of Gómez-Peña. Drawing upon ideas of archive, identity and body in cultural studies, I analyze various performative acts of the artist; varying from visual arts representations, performance art études, public art interventions and the written word. As I juxtapose Mexican, Latin American and Latina/o discourses on identity in Gómez-Peña's work, I aim to see where they overlap and where they differ. Moreover, I search for where Gómez-Peña is creating an identity that is informed by a globalized, cosmopolitan visual culture. I give an account of Gómez-Peña's dialogue with two important identitarian discourses on the Mesoamerican past on both sides of the US-Mexican border: those of Octavio Paz and Aztlán. I analyze the way Gómez-Peña transforms and furthers these two discourses through his reinterpretation of pre-Hispanic codices. Furthermore, I offer a reading of Gómez-Peña's somatic work through its uncanny similarities with the Gonzalo Guerrero figure and discuss a possibility of an identitarian paradigm shift. I examine how Gómez-Peña's performance work reinterprets two theater conventions: Augusto Boal's Forum Theater and the Mexican carpa. I offer a reading of the "Performative Town Meeting" staged at the Smithsonian in the 1990s, and show how Gómez-Peña blends Boal's engaged theater matrix with carpa's ludic conventions to provoke a conversation about the role and limits of performance art. The dissertation concludes with an analysis of an experimental series of workshops that I taught using Gómez-Peña's performative methodology. I examine how the identitarian discussions in Gómez-Peña's work translate into a dynamic classroom scenario as I suggest inherent links between performance and teaching.