Essential Works

A Gómez-Peña project chronology.

Guillermo Gómez-Peña walking across the desert in a suit with a bandage on his head.

Border Walk

1979


In early 1979, Gómez-Peña walked from Tijuana to CalArts in Los Angeles in two and a half days.

With his head covered in gauze, the artist wore his father’s suit and carried with him a briefcase containing his passport, talismans, and a diary.

"Dear reader: This performance chronology is a conceptual artwork in permanent progress. It was originally conceived as “a poetic-activist intervention into the historical discourses of performance art.

You may consider it an invitation for historians and curators to incorporate our multiple parallel histories in the discourse of contemporary art; and for performance artists to engage in similar genealogical projects; to think of ourselves as artist/documentarians.

I fully acknowledge the role of my poetic subjectivity in the construction of this project. I also wish to thank Emma Tramposch and Balitronica for being my main accomplices. What follows is an excerpt of the total archives. " - GP

“Border Walk,” from Tijuana to Los Angeles in 2 & ½ days, 1979.
GP outside an INS Detention Center, (first site-specific performance) 1978.
Guillermo Gómez-Peña positioned on the floor in a public elevator. Wrapped in floral-patterned batik fabric.

The Loneliness of the Immigrant

1979


The Loneliness of the Immigrant is an early solo performance piece in which Gómez-Peña transformed his body into a mysterious package, positioned on the floor in a public elevator. Wrapped in batik fabric, the artist lay on the floor for 24 hours.

On the wall of the elevator, a text read:

“Moving to another country hurts more than moving to another house, another face, another lover… In one way or another we all are or will be immigrants. Surely one day we will be able to crack this shell open, this unbearable loneliness, and develop a transcontinental identity.”

Over the course of the day, many passersby interacted with the cocooned person/object: talking, kicking, poking, confessing, and verbally threatening. A dog peed on him.

Eventually, the artist was evacuated by security guards and thrown into an industrial disposal bin. Gómez-Peña called this work, “a metaphor of painful birth into a new country, a new identity-- Chicano-- and a new language-- intercultural performance.”

This piece was the first performance by Gómez-Peña fully documented and made visible to the art world. One of the photographs is in the private collection of LACMA.

The Loneliness of the Immigrant, 1979.
GP as a “Mexican Homeless,” spends 12 hours laying on a downtown LA street, 1978. "I discovered that as both a 'homeless' and as Mexican, I was invisible to the Anglo population.“
A crowd of people surround a circle of candles and ritual objects on a concrete floor.

Poyesis Genética

1979 to 1983

With Sara-Jo Berman


Poyesis Genética was Gómez-Peña’s first interdisciplinary arts troupe, formed at CalArts and co-founded with NY choreographer Sara-Jo Berman.

The group was comprised of mainly politicized immigrants and foreign students. They created performances, installations, public interventions and video artworks that explored “fusing various cultural traditions utilizing performance as a syntactic thread,” and developed an interdisciplinary language that evoked indigenous rituals, blended with sexual and political imagery, personal pathos and iconography from pop culture.

“The birth of Poyesis Genética 1”, GP’s first performance troupe, Cal Arts, LA, 1979.
“The birth of PG 2”, Cal Arts, 1979.
GP in an early PG ritual performance dressed as a shaman "neo-azteca" collaborating with a symphonic cellist. LA, 1979.
Performing for involuntary audiences. From the "Bathroom (Spanglish) Poetry Recital" series, CalArts, 1979.
Leonides Guadarrama and GP performing as doppelgangers for a week. (The artist wishes he could still look like that)
Poyesis Genetica’s “Cabaret Babylon Aztlan,” (GP & Sara Jo-Berman) 1983 Beautifully deteriorated photo: Don Costello
"Mister Misterio" GP’s first iconic performance persona (Go to "Uroborus vs Trump's Border Wall" section and listen to "Border-X-Frontera" - GP's first radio piece chronicling his days at the US/Mexico Border)
Border Arts Workshop performer wearing ladies lingerie, covered in a mask, and carrying a crucifix.

Border Arts Workshop

1984 to 1990

Photographs courtesy of the BAW/TAF archives.


The legendary San Diego/Tijuana-based Border Arts Workshop/Taller de Arte Fronterizo (BAW/TAF) was founded in 1984 by a binational group of artists, activists, journalists and scholars. The founding members included Gómez-Peña, David Avalos, Sara-Jo Berman, Víctor Ochoa, Isaac Artenstein, Michael Schnorr, Emily Hicks and Jude Ederhart.

The group's projects were often carried out on both sides of the border, and at the borderline itself. From the beginning, the group established its interest in addressing "the social tensions the Mexican-American border creates, while asking us to imagine a world in which this international boundary has been erased...The Border is a spiral not a straight line."

BAW/TAF created the theoretical border-art paradigm that led to the institutionalization of border art and the utilization of border theory in Academia. With their late works, BAW/TAF became the first Chicano troupe to ever be accepted in the Venice, Sydney and Habana Biennials.

Ila Nicole Sheren states:

"Border Art didn't become a category until the Border Art Workshop/Taller de Arte Fronterizo (BAW/TAF). Starting in 1984, and continuing in several iterations through the early twenty-first century, the binational collective transformed San Diego-Tijuana into a highly charged site for conceptual performance art ...The BAW/TAF artists were to link performance, site-specificity, and the U.S.-Mexico Border, as well as the first to export "border art" to other geographic locations and situations."

"Gómez-Peña and colleagues created a spatial and temporal utopia, demonstrating why he is one of our most important living artists." -Philip Stanier, Live Culture at Tate Modern

Street performance at the US/Mexico Border line. Circa.1986.
“Border action #1” by BAW/TAF. Members of the workshop embody border stereotypes right where Border State Park meets Playa de Tijuana, 1985.
“Border action #2:” BAW/TAF extreme performance action in front of The Border Patrol and international journalists and filmmakers. Border State Park/Playa de Tijuana, 1985.
Hugo Sanchez performing a sicario in a border intervention, circa mid 1980's
Louis Malle shoots GP for "In the Pursuit of Happiness", San Diego/Tijuana, 1986
"The General in Exile in his California white-trash home" (Currently held in the private collection of Francisco Toledo and exhibited against artist's wishes as "untitled by anonymous artist".

The Border Wedding

1988

With Emily Hicks


In 1988, Gómez-Peña and Emily Hicks staged their "performance wedding" right on the Tijuana-San Diego borderline, with poets and musicians performing on both sides, and family and friends crossing into each other’s countries during the ceremony. The media labeled the event "a masterpiece of symbolic politics." Emily was 7 months pregnant. The artist reflects "It only cost me half of my MacArthur award & a family court case."

Emily Hicks & GP. Border Wedding right where Border State Park meets with Playas de Tijuana. 1988.
Emily Hicks & GP re-stage border wedding at NY/Ontario Border 1987
Tourist Polaroid of the Border Wedding, 1988
Guillermo Gómez-Peña in a leopard fur cap seated behind candles and ritual ephemera.

Border Brujo

1988 to 1989

Videographer: Isaac Artenstein


Sitting at an altar decorated with a kitsch collection of cultural fetish items, and wearing a border patrolman’s jacket decorated with buttons, bananas, beads, and shells, Gómez-Peña delivers a sly and bitter indictment of U.S. colonial attitudes toward Mexican culture and history.

"Border Brujo" is “a ritual-linguistic journey across the U.S./Mexico border” in which Gómez Peña becomes a migrant touring the routes of jornaleros. This classic performance monologue also has a video component.

Whirling through various Mexican American stereotypes, Gómez-Peña emphasizes the collision of Mexican and American cultures, their mixture and misunderstanding of each other, each appearing as a dream/nightmare reflection of the “Other.”

The personas are symbolic of the borders between North and South, Anglo and Latino; myth and reality; legality and illegality; art and life. Border Brujo assaults and exorcises the demons of dominant cultures. He articulates fear, desire, trauma, sublimation, anger, and misplacement embodying ruptured and defiant communities with multilingual dexterity and humor.

Buy the video or watch a preview at vdb.org.

“Gómez-Peña is magnificent, melodramatic, robustly hilarious and precisely, exquisitely witty...I emerge from his performances somewhat dazed.” -Lucy Lippard

Classic portrait of Border Brujo by Max Aguilera-Hellweg. 1986. This project jump-started GP's solo performance practice.
Classic portrait. Photo: Becky Cohen, 1988.
GP as Border Rocker.
Classic Portrait of GP and 6 month old Guillermo Emiliano. By Max Aguilera Hellweg. (Photo currently held in a "private collection" - the home of a curator to remain nameless - against the artist’s consent.)
Guillermo Gómez-Peña & Coco Fusco inside a golden cage dressed in native costume.

Couple in the Cage

Two Undiscovered Amerindians Visit the West

1992 to 1993

With Coco Fusco and Paula Heredia


In Couple in the Cage: Two Undiscovered Amerindians Visit the West, Gómez-Peña and Fusco travel and appear before the public in four different countries as two "Guatinaui Indians," members of a fictional "newly discovered" tribe who had agreed to be displayed at malls and museums around the world, after the manner of human exhibition in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Gómez-Peña, like his contemporaries (James Luna, Fred Wilson, Jimmy Durham, Barbara Kirschenblatt, Mike Taussig, et al) were interested in a radical, alternative framework of anthropology, and was playing with the format of a “living dioramas.”

Conceived as a "satirical comment on the past," the performances in The Guatinaui World Tour evoke various responses, including huge numbers of people who are convinced the personas are real and do not find the idea of "natives" locked in a cage objectionable. One concerned audience member at the Smithsonian even called the "humane society to liberate the specimens".

The work is considered seminal in Gómez-Peña’s career and in several threads in art history including institutional museum critique, post-colonial debate, problematic representations of cultural otherness, and para/fictional art.

To purchase the Couple in the Cage please contact Video Data Bank.

News Alert for the Connoisseur: The full film of Couple in the Cage is now viewable on YouTube.

Photo Courtesy of Walker Art Center. This image was on the cover of Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett's "Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums and Heritage"
“Couple in the Cage" Madrid, 1992. Photo: Nancy Lyttle
"Couple in the Cage", Madrid, 1992. Photo: Nancy Lyttle.
“Couple in the Cage,” Covent Gardens, London, 1992. Photo: Nancy Lyttle
Fusco, Sifuentes & GP resting backstage after "New World Border" - a performance staged on the days following "Couple in the Cage" Randolph Street Gallery, Chicago, 1992.
Vintage photo of "Queen Isabella and El Moctezuma Jr" by Rubén Ortiz-Torres. GP asks: Can I get one copy of the original in color, please?
“Coming out of the Border Cage” Photo by Javier Caballero, Gran Canaria. Where is Coco?

NAFTAZTEC T.V.

...or, El Naftazteca: Cyber-Aztec TV for 2000 AD

1994

With Roberto Sifuentes


This project was Gómez-Peña's infamous pirate TV broadcast. A live military satellite transmission interrupts the nightly news in an act of "guerrilla television".

This classic piece of para/fictional art presented the artist as a "post-NAFTA Cyber-Aztec" pirate who commandeered a commercial TV signal from his underground "Vato bunker," where virtual reality meets border art in a collage of footage ranging from home movies, excerpts of earlier GP's performances, Mexican movies, political commentary, etc. Radical politics, autobiographical material, "reverse anthropology" and parodic traces of media broadcasts comprise the content of this legendary video art piece. Later distributed by Video Data Bank. To purchase the video please visit VDB.

“A cross between Oscar Wilde and Lenny Bruce, witty and gritty and brilliant, Gómez-Peña stretches language to the breaking point, coining words and code shifting at will... Anyone interested in contemporary performance theory should read his books. For the rest of us, it is a cultural roller-coaster ride with decidedly satirical seat belts." -Publishers Weekly

‘El Naftazteca,’ 1994. Photo: Clarissa Horowitz
Portrait of GP & Sifuentes as TV pirates and border rockers. Photo: Clarissa Horowitz. This photo generated a lot of semiotic misunderstandings since the audiences expected a rock concert, not a performance art piece.
Guillermo Gómez-Peña suspended from a crucifix.

The Cruci-Fiction Project

1994

With Roberto Sifuentes


Gómez-Peña and Sifuentes staged the original “Cruci-Fiction Project” in 1994, attaching themselves to 12 by 8 foot crosses at Rodeo Beach, Marin Headlands Park in front of 300 invited guests and members of the international press. Images of The Cruci-Fiction Project appeared in Der Spiegel, La Jornada (Mexico City), and many other publications in multiple countries, inspiring similar actions worldwide.

The performance was a critique of the state-sponsored xenophobia branding people of color, specifically Latinos in California, as criminals, romantic entertainers and gang bangers. The only film documentation of this project is in the archives of the late René Yañez held at the Bancroft Library.

Protesting immigration policy in California: GP during The Cruci/Fiction Project, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, 1994. Photo: Cinthia Wallis
Sifuentes at The Cruci/fiction project, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, 1994 Photo: Cinthia Wallis
Lothar Muller re-enacts the Cruci-Fiction. Mexico City, 2012.
Guillermo Gómez-Peña seated inside a glass cabinet holding a white chicken, and surrounded by ritual artifacts.

Temple of Confessions

1995 to 1996

With Roberto Sifuentes


This itinerant and interactive performance/installation is an early work credited to La Pocha Nostra, Gómez-Peña’s transdisciplinary art organization.

Temple of Confessions presents two "end-of-the-century saints" from an "unknown border religion," in search of sanctuary across the United States while gathering confessions on intercultural fears and desires. Designed as a theater of mythos and cultural pathologies, the "Temple" proposes a ceremonial space for the reflection on ethnic, racial, and gender prejudices. It is divided in three main areas: the "Chapel of Desires," displaying "El Pre-Columbian Vato" or "holy gang member" (performed by Roberto Sifuentes); the "Chapel of Fears," displaying "San Pocho Aztlaneca" (a "hyper-exoticied curio shop shaman for spiritual tourists" performed by Guillermo Gómez-Peña); and an enigmatic funerary vignette composed by performance objects. Paintings of other "hybrid santos" hang from the walls, two "chola nuns" take care of the temple, and visitors can leave their "confessions"; the most revealing ones are incorporated into the installation soundtrack for future performances.

Through a series of performative interventions in everyday life, as well as in museums, La Pocha Nostra creates the means for provoking in the "Temple" prospective audience an aura of expectation, a bearing witness of a mythology of intercultural fears and desires.

GP as “San Pocha Aztlaneca” inside a plexiglass box accepts confessions from his audience during "The Temple of Confessions,“ DIA Museum, Detroit, 1996
Sifuentes at The Chapel of Desires, “The Temple of Confessions,” DIA, Detroit, 1996. Photo: Dirk Bakker
Audience members in confessional mode during performance in The Temple of X-Teresa, Mexico City.
Guillermo Gómez-Peña and a female dressed in ethnic garb expressing intercultural fears and desires toward Latinos, immigrants and people of color.

The Mexterminator Project

1997 to 1999


A 'political peepshow' of sorts, this interactive performance/installation functions as a living museum of techno-dioramas displaying a series of living 'multicultural Frankensteins' or 'ethno-cyborgs'.

The characters, created by La Pocha Nostra, are based on thousands of anonymous on-line responses by net users (www.mexterminator.com), re-interpreting their proposals for 'hybrid specimens' meant to embody Americans' expressed intercultural fears and desires toward Latinos, immigrants and people of color. The resulting dioramas involve physical interaction with the audience, encouraging visitors to engage in the reflection of their own psychological and cultural monsters.

The Mexterminator Project inspired the pop aesthetics of Robert Rodriguez films and the Hollywood craze for "Border Pulp" cinema.

“Natural Born Matones” (GP & Iranian feminist theorist and radical dancer Carmel Kooros) From the Mexterminator Project, 1997. Photo: Eugenio Castro
GP as “El Mad Mex”. From the Mexterminator Project, 1997. Photo: Eugenio Castro
Chicana performance and visual artist, biker & activist sex worker Isis Rodriguez as “La Super-chicana Dos.” Mexterminator Project, 1998.
“Ciber Vato” (Sifuentes) From the “Mexterminator Project,” San Francisco, 1997. Photo: Eugenio Castro
“El Stelarc de Tijuana" Photo by Eugenio Castro, 1997. In the world of LPN, technologies rebel against identity.
“Faux Movie Poster” Mexico City, 2019
Guillermo Gómez-Peña in a black leather vest and hat with right armed salute. Latino gang member on stage in the background with a woman in a dark dress nearby,

Borderscape 2000

1997 to 1999


Described as a "high-tech Aztec Spanglish lounge operetta," this performance works through and with Chicano stereotypes -- featuring the Cyber Vato, the Mexterminator, the Transvestite Mariachi and other Pocha Nostra "cultural specimens" -- in order to address and examine border-crossing issues of race, gender, language, religion, politics, commodification and multiculturalism.

The deadend of multiculturalism.” Rustom Bharucha

Scene from the performance operetta “Borderscape 2000”, New World Theater, Amherst, MA, 2000.
Portrait of GP during the performance of “Borderscape, 2000
LPN Crashing “The Mexican Pavilion” ARCO Madrid, 2005
“Intergenerational Conflict” GP and Sifuentes in Washington, DC.
Violeta Luna and GP re-stage personas from Borderscape 2000 at GP’s grandma’s home, Mexico City.
"Fashionable Extremism" Emiko R. Lewis at Detox Festival, Norway
Guillermo Gómez-Peña seated with cyber-ethnic costumery and sunglasses next to a standing woman looking upwards with pale hair, sombrero, and a black and white dress.

The Living Museum of Fetish/​ized Identities

1999 to 2002

Credit: La Pocha Nostra


The Living Museum of Fetish/ized Identities is a project of La Pocha Nostra. Part nightclub, part theatre, part church, part peepshow, the work is a hyperactive, participatory kaleidoscopic experience of identities, perceptions and realities. It was conceived of as 'experimental curiosity cabinet', a sort of living museum where participants exhibit constructed 'hybrid personas' based on their own complex identities and personal sense of race and gender. These 'cultural especimens' compose a diorama of fetishized identities, addressing issues of appropriation of hybridity by corporate multiculturalism.

It is considered a groundbreaking work combining performance, installation and extreme audience participation.

“Posesión Ritual” during The Museum of Fetishized Identities, GP & museum curator, The Space, Sydney, Australia, 2000
"Pocha Royalty" GP and Rachel Rogers at Tate Modern, London, 2003.
“Australian Diorama” Juan Ibarra and wax figure of caucasian male figure at the Sydney Biennial.
Museum (or bar? we don't remember...) intervention by LPN with Andres Serrano (Piss Christ)
"Same sex wedding in Curaçao” Re-enactment of the Museum of Fetishized Identities, 2010.

The Great Mojado Invasion

2001

Gustavo Vazquez


This video has been newly re-mastered in light of the current Trumpocalypse!


In The Great Mojado Invasion (The Second US - Mexico War), writer/performer GP and filmmaker Gustavo Vazquez combine Chicano wit and political vision to create an ironic, post-millennial and postmodern look at the future of U.S./Mexican relations. Both artist and director generate a complex commentary on history, society, pop culture, the politics of language and the repercussions of ethnic dominance. Like a ghost from the future, Gómez-Peña (also known as the Border Brujo and El Webback) narrates this "mock-umentary," which envisions a queue of mojados ("wetbacks") who reconquer lost Mexican territory to establish the new "U.S. of Aztlan." This pseudo-documentary presents a fictionalized account of the history of the current state of affairs, from pre-Columbian times to the immediate future.

The video begins at the inception of a second U.S./Mexico war. This time, contrary to history, Mexico is victorious. The nation-state as we currently know it has collapsed. The ex-U.S. of A. has been fragmented into a myriad of micro-republics loosely controlled by a multi-racial junta and governed by a Chicano prime minister appointed as El Gran Vato. "Spanglish" is the official language, treating the monolingual viewer as a "nomadic minority." Panicked by the "New Borders," Anglo militias desperately try to recapture the "Old Order." The "New Aztlan Regime" propagandizes itself by satirically depicting Anglos with the same stereotypes currently utilized against Latinos: a portrayal of dumb, lazy, violent, drug-taking lunatics who are demonized as "alien" invaders from outer space.

As the video moves through time, the artists reveal found-footage from Mexican B-movies and U.S.-made films depicting Latinos (e.g., The Three Amigos, Under the Volcano, Altered States, Disney animation, etc.). The outcome is a "whirlwind tour of Latino stereotypes in film.

Film trailer below. To purchase the full video please visit Video Data Bank.

"As in most of his work, Gómez-Peña toys with an underlying meta-theme: the fear and/or embracing of a psycho-sexual-political-racial borderland identity. Through the juxtaposition of clips from campy Mexican genre films (sci-fi, wrestler, soft porn, historigraphical, and other exoticized kitsch) against stereotypes long popular in Hollywood, Gómez-Peña, along with his accomplice Vazquez, fabricates a videographic hall of mirrors. The result is a multifaceted reflection shifting between fiction and the realities that expose the depth of internalized racism in this country. Gómez-Peña and Vasquez attack hard reality with large doses of irony and black humor." VDB

The Mapa/​Corpo Series

2004 to 2009

With Violeta Luna and Roberto Sifuentes


With "Mapa/Corpo", La Pocha Nostra members Gómez-Peña, Violeta Luna and Sifuentes (and later on Maria Alejandra Estrada and other performance artists throughout the Americas) create a performance setting that is both live jam session and reflective ritual zone. The full environment experience ultimately allows the audience to co-direct the fate of the performance by incorporating symbolically charged actions and imagery with those of the artists.

In this “interactive ritual for the new millenium” Luna lies on a surgical table covered by the flag of the UN. Behind the body, an acupuncturist dressed in a lab coat prepares for surgery, laying out 40 needles. A small flag is attached to the tip of each needle, each representing a nation of the "coalition forces.” A doctor methodically inserts the needles into her body/map, leaving the audience to ponder the after-image of a "colonized" female body/world. The audience was then asked to "de-colonize the Mapa/Corpo" by carefully removing the flags with the assistance of the acupuncturist/doctor.

Gómez-Peña has said about this project: “As live artists, our task is to create living metaphors that articulate a new aesthetic, culture, spirituality and a sexuality that emerge out of the ruins of our Western civilization.”

Using the human body as a site for political reinvention and poetic prophesying, La Pocha explores both the legacy of fear of the Other -- the criminalization of the brown body inherited by the Bush administration, and the emerging culture of hope, imagination and faith that has developed in response to the former world order. The resulting performances tackle this historic moment of dramatic reinvention by looking into the immediate past and attempting to manifest a possible future without resorting to quick fixes and false hopes.

A brief history of the Mapa/Corpo series:

In this series, La Pocha re-examines the human body as a site for radical spirituality, memory, penance, activism, stylized anger and corporeal reinvention. The first in the series (Mapa/Corpo) toured internationally from 2003-2010 offering a poetic, interactive ritual that explored neo-colonization/de-colonization through political acupuncture and the reenactment of the post-9/11 "body politic."

The second part of the series (Divino Corpo) was a performative temple where the sacred and the profane intertwined with racy contemporary issues. In this project the artists posed as living saints and Madonnas of unpopular causes (border crossers, undocumented migrants, prisoners, the infirmed and displaced invisible others) in an attempt to articulate a radical spirituality located in the body that emerged out of the debris of war.

The latest performance in this series offered a reinactment/performative languaging of the criminalization of the brown body titled Corpo/Ilicito: The Post-Human Society 6.9. The project premiered in early 2010 at the La Habana Biennale (Cuba) and at the Trouble Festival in Brussels (Belgium). Other versions were performed at PRISMA in Oaxaca (Mexico), the Three Rivers Art festival in Pittsburgh (US) and El Arte es Acción in Madrid (Spain).

Colombian performance artist Maria Alejandra Estrada & “accupuncturist priest”, Mapa-Corpo, Buenos Aires, 2007.
Peruvian performance artist Amapola Prada prepares the body of Sifuentes for Mapa Corpo, Hemispheric Institute gathering, La Recoleta, Buenos Aires, 2007
GP & Violeta Luna performing Mapa Corpo against the famous Diego Rivera mural, Rivera Court, DIA Museum, Detroit. Photo: Dirk Bakker
Brazilian performance artist Filipe Espindola during a Mapa Corpo Reenactment, Teatro Gilberto Gio, Rio de Janiero. His body is bearing the flags of the Latin American countries afllicted by organized crime violence. 2010.
“Corpo Ilcito,” Havana Biennale, Centro Wilfredo Lam, 2010. Gomez-Peña & Sifuentes collaborate with local Santera. In that Biennial GP was supposed "unearth" his time capsule from 2005 buried underneath the floor of a gallery but they could not locate it because the curator Shifra Goldman (rest in peace) was not there to remind us of the exact site. Photo: Javier Caballero.
"The Holy Trinity" GP, Sifuentes and Luna posing for Zach Gross in the "Divino Corpo Series"
Re-enactment of "Divino Corpo" a couple decades later. GP morphing into the body of Michele Ceballos. Photo by RJ Muna.
Postscript: First Drag. Photo taken by father, 1962.

The Mexorcist

2006 to 2008


In this performance, Gómez-Peña assaults the demonized construction of the US/Mexican border-a literal and symbolic zone lined with Minutemen, rising nativism, three-ply fences, globalization, and transnational identities. To this effect, the “border artist extraordinaire” uses acid Chicano humor, hybrid literary genres, multilingualism, and activist theory as subversive strategies. In this journey to the geographical and psychological outposts of Chicanismo, Gómez-Peña also reflects on identity, race, sexuality, pop culture, politics and the impact of new technologies in the post-9/11 era.

The Mexorcist, one of Gómez-Peña’s first truly solo works, was performed in multiple iterations, and under multiple subtitles, over 5 years. It sparked him to begin exploring a body of spoken word performance solos that he continues to develop and perform to this day.

Poster for GP’s “El Mexorcist” solo performance. Photo: Manuel Vason, Liverpool Biennial, 2002
Classic portrait of GP by Zach Gross publicizing solo work. Circa 2010-2018
“The Three Fridas” GP and his alteric selves - preparing for a solo tour. Photo by Zen Cohen.

La Nostalgia Remix Series

2006 to 2017

With James Luna


Since the early 1990s, conceptual artist James Luna and Gómez-Peña worked on an ongoing project titled “The Shame-man meets El Mexican't,” in which the duo challenged assumptions and lazy thinking about ethnicity and culture in our society infused with a strong dose of melancholic humour and sharp-edged conceptualism.

"La Nostalgia Remix" was the last project in “The Shame-man…”. It was launched in 2006 and used nostalgia as style, a form of resistance and community reinvention. Using performance, writing, photography, video and interventions in seedy bars, La Nostalgia Remix involved a series of live performances that explored the cultural, symbolic and iconographic dimensions of nostalgia both on the Native American "rez" and in the Chicano "barrio."

"La Nostalgia Remix: Solid Gold" was a culminating performance anthology of the artists’ past collaborations in the form of a live art record album and a series of performances inspired by a chance game of routlett. In this final project, the artists challenged the audience to move, groove and experience the performance actions from multiple perspectives and “git down” to participate in the celebration of the end of western civilization.

GP and James Luna performing La Nostalgia Remix. Photos by RJ Muna, 2010
GP and Luna by RJ Muna
GP and Luna's "Busted" Reenactment. While working at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, the artists got busted for "smoking dope" (incense) and paradoxically this photo is now in the Smithsonian Archives.
Funeral re-enactment of the two artist’s deaths. GP, Luna and "unidentified mourning widow" San Francisco, 2007. Photo by James McCaffry
Bar Invasion in San Francisco: a Tribute to Orson Wells” Photo by RJ Muna

Performance Conversations

2010 to 2011


In 2010, Gómez-Peña began a new series of collaborative ‘duets’ with international fellow artists under the loose title of “performance conversations.”

He said:

"What propels us is the fight against cultural and political isolationism, legacies of the Bush era; the search for a new democratic art practice and a new spirituality centered in the human body that emerges out of the debris of war & the collapse of the global project. I am particularly interested in collaborating with artists whose practice is slightly or dramatically different from mine but with whom I am connected by a long-term friendship and mutual admiration. Our goal is to use the museum, gallery or other historically charged space as the site to compare notes and performance strategies and coexist.

I begin new projects with activist preacher Reverend Billy, Cuban conceptual artist Tania Brugera, Lebanese-American photographer RJ Muna, Chicano comedian Richard Montoya, Mexican electronic composer Guillermo Galindog, the rock band The Size Queens, Native Collective Postcommodity, VestAndPage (Andrea Pagnes and Verena Stenke), Francesca Carol Rolla, Brazilian choreographer Marcela Levi, Marceli Antunez and Mexican performance diva Maria Eugenia Chellet, etc."

Perhaps the most successful of these collaborations was that with radical activist preacher Reverend Billy. Here’s an excerpt of a conceptual press release: “In a radical move to form the biggest, wildest mega-church of the 21st century, the congregations of the Church of Stop Shopping and the apostles of the Mexiconspiracy of Borderasure, we have decided to merge in an interfaith wrestling match! Join with us in celebration as fellow preachers in the wilderness, the Reverend Billy and El Shamex Gómez-Peña consecrate our hopes and exorcise the demons of art, activism and political despair.”

“Poetic Wrestling Match”
Photo of young GP and Ashley Bickerton (Neo-Geo) jamming in Los Angeles, 1979
GP and Reverend Billy drinking backstage and talking shit before a performance of "Two Churches" at GALA Theater, Washington, DC.
GP and Felipe Ehrenberg posing for street photographers at the Basilica de Guadalupe, 2008.
GP and Congelada de Uva (Posnacional 1) "La Cortez no quita lo Malinche"
GP and Tania Bruguera goofing around at Cafe Barbieri. Photo by Javier Caballero, El Arte Es Accion, Madrid.
Franko B and GP emasculated by Facebook.
Brazilian choreographer Marcela Levi in conversation with GP. Festival Panorama, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
GP performs a tribute to Finnish performance artist Roi Vaara
“Black Widow” La Saula and Maria Eugenia Chellet at GP's home in Mexico City. Photo by Herani Hache

Posnacional Series

2013 to 2020

With Saula Garcia López


Beginning in February of 2013, Gómez-Peña began a series of performance workshops and “jams” between “national” and “post-national” artists from Mexico and the U.S. Curated and directed by the artist, as part of his Posnacional project, these multiple collaborations between artists from both sides of the border and three generations take the form of live performances, workshops, theoretical dialogues, poetry slam festivals and photo-performance sessions. The “re-encounters” take place in multiple sites across Mexico, in cities undergoing crime cartel violence and extreme forced migration to the US.

These Reencuentros are meant to reconnect La Pocha Nostra and the Chicano artists that they bring with several generations of performance artists in high migration areas, to increase involvement in the radical pedagogy of performance in the "other" Mexico. These residencies also contribute to the development and professionalization of performance art in Mexico.

In the second phase of this project (2017-2020) Gómez-Peña explores recurring themes from the initial series including: violence, racism, identity crisis in both countries, forced migration to the "other side", the intergenerational abyss in the performance art community, and the anti-immigrant policies of the Trump Administration.

The portfolios in the Posnacional/Reencuentros series aim to debunk the traditional binary of photographer/model, instead giving equal creative agency to each individual collaborator. At the same time, they present wholly integrated, synergetic works with all elements engaging in dialogue. By framing the images as a truly collective, democratic work, La Pocha Nostra hopes to encourage viewers to unpack complicated issues of authorship, ownership, credit and criticism.

(The original 8-year old visual memory of this project was erased overnight by Tumblr under their new "community friendly clause".

The remaining portfolios from the series can be accessed here.

"Welcome to Latin America!" (The collaborating artists chose to remain unidentified.) Photo by Herani Hache.
"Amantes trans/fronterizos". The iconic photograph of GP and Balitronica by Manuel Vason at the artists' San Francisco Studio. Photo by Manuel Vason, 2016.
GP and La Chica de Monsanto. Photo by Herani Hache, 2014.
“7 Ways to kill a the Mexican" Balitrónica le demuestra al público como matar a un mexicano en California, 2014.
"El Mariachi Zombie de Culiacán" La Saula exposes America's Mexiphobia. Photo by Norma Patiño.
“The Archbishop and her weekend fetish” Lothar Mueller and LB. Templo de X-Teresa, Mexico City. Photo by Norma Patiño.
Polemic image of La Pocha Nostra making fun of Alvarez Bravo’s infantilized Indigenism. Photo by Norma Patiño.
GP as "El kinky bear". Photo by Juan Carlos Ruiz Vargas en CDMX. 2018
"Body Map in the Trump Era" La Saula by Juan Carlos Ruiz Vargas.

The Phantom Mariachi

2015 to 2020

With Balitronica Gómez


In early 2015 - as the “post-gentrification” era became harder and harder to ignore and more virulent than ever before - La Pocha Nostra performance troupe began to think of ways to address complex issues facing our immediate Bay Area community (San Francisco, Oakland & Berkeley) in performative, playful and highly visible ways.

The Phantom Mariachi made her public debut in the 2015 San Francisco Pride Parade as part of the leading entourage of “the Ecosexuals” (Annie Sprinkle, Beth Stephens, Gómez-Peña & crew).

The persona of the “Phantom Mariachi” features a black spandex Sentai-suited “anonymous” woman (we are not disclosing her identity) wearing a mariachi hat, high heels and bearing a bar-code that directs onlookers to political statements viewable online. Other times she holds placards with statements like: “Against the erasure of complex identities and eviction.” or “Trump no existe.”

This bold persona appears as a walking censorship bar. She silently speaks of the devastating erasure of complex identities. She is a symbolic inhabitant of past, present and future of all “creative cities”-gone wrong.

The goal of this real-life Super-Heroine is to inspire people in San Francisco and other cities undergoing similar processes of extreme gentrification to respond with creative and critical commentary to their own local issues.

During public appearances, the Phantom Mariachi delivers poetry, takes selfies with audience members, engages in more staged photo opportunities, stages tableaux vivants with people in the streets, crashes politically questionable events, takes public transportation and ad libs with audience members and the unsuspecting/perplexed passer by.

This self-styled “Madonna of the Bohemian Others” has a more serious side bringing to light the seeming erasure and displacement of communities in the Mission district and other similar neighborhoods; in particular the many Latino families, artist, bohemian, queer communities and working class people, currently being evicted or deported.

Phantom Mariachi at The Cervantino Festival press conference. 2016.
Phantom Mariachi with the legendary "capo de la Mision" René Yañez (Chicano Godfather of GP, Rest in Power)
Phantom Mariachi with Colombian Writer/Curator Juliana Delgado Lopera at the SF Public Library, 2015
The Phantom Mariachi with curator Amy Vázquez, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, 2016

Adam and Eve in Times of War

2017 to 2020

With Saula Garcia López and Balitronica Gómez


"Adam and Eve In Times of War" is a performance ritual created by Gómez-Peña and La Saula. It includes a poetic/spoken word "mass" by Gómez-Peña and a participative live art ritual by Garcia-Lopez and Balitronica Gómez.

The performance articulates the contradictions of the ongoing colonial culture of violence in both countries and specifically parts of the Mexico-USA border controlled by crime cartel violence with the complicity of US mercenaries and gangs.

During the ritual component, La Saula & Balitronica engage in a performance ritual action inside the carcass of a large cow or pig corpse borrowed from the local slaugherhouse.

The artists invite audience members to reflect on the culture of violence against the "other" including migrants, indigenous peoples and, on the US side, Mexicans and refugees.

Like codices, Gómez-Peña's group performances are palimpsests through which layers of history and critique speak in (de)effaced languages whose grammar we are in the process of (re)constructing.“ -Eduardo Mendieta, Nepantla Magazine

The Premiere in Yucatan, Mexico, 2016. La Saula and Nayla Altamirano
El Galpon, Lima, Peru, 2017.
La Saula. Minimalist version with "piglet" from the local butcher shop. (don't worry we didn't kill it) Kunsthaus, San Miguel de Allende, 2017
Balitronica and La Saula perform "Adam and Eve" in Haiti, 2016 after the last earthquake and during the cholera epidemic. This performance was later re-enacted in Montreal, Mexico City and other places. Photo by Adrian Morillo.
Balitronica, La Saula and GP in Festival Quatre Chemins, Port au Prince, Haiti, 2016
“Negotiating US/Mexico Relations” at the Live Biennial in Vancouver, BC. Balitronica and GP during live performance.

The Most (un)Documented Mexican

2018 to 2020


The Most (un) Documented Mexican is a solo performance monologue work that draws from Gómez-Peña’s 30 year old living archive and combines new and classic performance material to present a unique perspective on the immediate future of the Americas. His-self styled “imaginary activism” invokes  performance art as a form of radical democracy and citizenship.

Combining spoken word poetry, activist theory, radical storytelling and language experimentation, Gómez-Peña offers critical and humorous commentary about the art world, academia, new technologies, the culture of war and violence in the US, organized crime in Mexico, gender and race politics, and the latest wave of complications surrounding gentrification in the “creative city”. This spoken word performance includes cameos by La Pocha Nostra troupe members Balitrónica and Saula.

El Quebradito at GP's SF Studio. Photo by Zen Cohen. 2014.
Vintage photo of GP as a radio pirate performing "scary Otherness". Circa 1985.

Uroborus vs. Trump’s Wall Audio Anthology

An Audio Art Anthology

2018


Uroborus vs. Trump’s Wall is Gómez-Peña’s anthology of recordings from 1978-2018, including audio-art, performance, border poetry & weird songs performed against Trump’s imaginary border wall.

As part of Guillermo Gómez-Peña's ongoing "Posnacional 2” Project in Mexico, this is the artist’s second "Audio Anthology," a remasterized selection of his classic collaborative sound poems and audio art (with Guillermo Galindog, Greg Landau, Rupa Marya, the Size Queens and DJ Ricardiaco) as well as brand new recordings. The final mix was made at the 3CNUNO 2019 in Mexico city by DJ Ricardiaco and Rodrigo Castillo Filomarino. The creation of the podcast was made by Erin Fleming in San Francisco.

WE ARE ALL ALIENS 2020-2022


Currently in the works.

Muza de la Luz as "Miss Illegal Alien". MAM, Mexico City, 2017
Jamming at MAM with over 30 performance artist from 8 different countries. Mexico City, 2017.
Jamming at LARVA (Laboratorio de Arte Variedades) with local artists, Guadalajara City, Mexico, 2016.
Site by Aveling RayBody font (Fontin Sans) by exljbris Font Foundry