The Living Archives of Gómez-Peña & La Pocha Nostra

Gómez-Peña and La Pocha Nostra’s “living archives” are comprised of five decades of rare and personally collected materials and ephemera - including performance art props, costumes and set pieces, original photo and video works, audio and radio art, letters, scripts, books, magazines, albums and digital/media work. Also included in the collection is a sizable array of work by other experimental artists of multiple generations, in dialogue with the Pocha ethos, aesthetics and history.

As active participants in the Chicano, border and performance art movements of the last four decades, we have collected myriad materials currently housed in our two main locations: San Francisco and Mexico City. Through performance reenactments and lectures, we have been performing our “living” archives for over 20 years. Our goal is to continue to make them pertinent and accessible for new generations of artists.

Our living archives are a powerful testimony of a lifetime of artistic border crossings and troublemaking in many directions and cultural contexts. The collection is “American” in the largest sense of the word, but also includes documentation of work done internationally. We view collecting as an immigrant artist obsession and everyday objects and materials as biographical markers of our complex identities and practices.

Parallel to the ongoing touring of our recent performance works, there have been 3 retrospectives showcasing the living archives (Centro Atlantico in Gran Canaria, MAM in Mexico City, Jane Addams Hull House in Chicago)  In recent years, our San Francisco studio and Mexico City home have been repurposed as bi-national Casas Museos. We are constantly seeking willing curators, funders and organizations interested in helping us process and exhibit the materials that remain inactive.

The ultimate goal for the foreseeable future is to secure, process and locate the total collection in a well supported setting. We imagine a multi-purpose space that can fully support the interdisciplinary nature of the work. (Please see our Open Letter to the Museum of the Future below).

“The End of the Line” The original Border Arts Workshop, Border State Park/Playas de Tijuana, 1985. Photo: Jay Lussard.

An evolving list of related questions:

* How can we as artists inform art historians and museums on how to best represent us and our interdisciplinary arts practices?

* How can we create an engaging format for chronicling parallel histories (including the Chicano/Latino/Native/immigrant) and inspire other performance artists to engage in similar genealogical projects?

* What are the ideal formats for housing this collection and ensuring it is made accessible and engaged with for generations to come?

* How can “legacy” be performed, ritualized and reimagined? How can an artistic legacy evolve over time?

* How can the archives be engaged with at a local level and interact with diverse groups (activists, theorists, artists) in the Pocha tradition of always responding to the historical moment?

* Who are the most daring funders, institutional champions & sites for this endeavor?

A Letter to the Museum of the Future

Written by Guillermo Gómez-Peña

I dream…I dream…I dream of an art world without superstars and mega-exhibits about nothing or about something irrelevant.

I dream of museums and funding institutions who are race, gender and class literate; who are truly, TRULY committed to ‘social justice’ - the word of the month - and whose labor practices, staff and board reflect the ideas they claim to defend and the audiences they wish to conjure.

I dream of museums and galleries as community think tanks and gathering spaces for cultural difference, wild thinking and deviant behavior; as eco-ethno-techno-trans-generational laboratories to envision a better tomorrow; spaces that look and feel like the world I wish to live in...

I dream of museums that welcome me, that make me and my friends feel important, smart and essential, a crucial part of an enduring historical narrative; spaces that welcome our critical commentary and encourage us to converse with other audiences.

I also dream of neighborhood museums made out of adobe, petate, mud, tractor tires, found wood, trash containers; imaginary architectures in high rascuache proletarian chic style. I dream of rooftop gardens w/ outdoor bars & tropical canopies; of amphitheaters performing punk operas, queer mariachi rock, multilingual poetry slams, 24 hours 8 days a week. 

I dream of ritual performance spaces made out of stones and metal, High-tech native longhouses and dream circles around the bonfire of collective dreams with elders telling stories and dirty jokes…

I dream of a performance space that looks like my home, where everything is possible and the call out culture and the PC patrols are nowhere to be found.

I dream of a world beyond the white avant-garde, way beyond the Western Canon, a supernova of possibilities. And I invite you, dear foreigner in my performance country, to dream with me and send me your own letters imagining a better art world or rather a myriad artworlds coexisting in synergy with nature, radical imagination and community; your surrounding multiple communities.

I dream of museums and theaters as a network or constellation of spaces that work in close communication to better the field - including wrestling with colonial demons and white supremacist practices.

Dear audience, what are your dreams? Do you have ideas to propose for a museum of the future?