Guillermo Gómez-Peña Brings Unique Solo Performance to The College of Wooster

Renowned performance artist presents “Strange Democracy: The border wars” on April 15

Post-Mexican writer and performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña will bring his unique combination of embodied poetry, performance-activism, and theatricalizations of postcolonial theory to The College of Wooster when he presents “Strange Democracy: The border wars” on Friday, April 15, in Freedlander Theatre (329 E. University St.). The presentation, which begins at 8:15 p.m., reflects on the post-9/11 era, the current “border wars,” and the formidable challenges facing President Obama. Tickets are $9 for general admission and $6 for senior citizens. College of Wooster students, faculty, and staff will be admitted free of charge.

Described as “Chicano cyber-punk” and “ethno-techno art,” Gómez-Peña’s inimitable solo performances have been hailed by critics, including Jan Breslauer of The Los Angeles Times, who said his combination of multiple “languages, wild theatrics, and guerrilla satire convey a new internationalism, a borderless ethos.” Actor Peter Sellars called him “one of the handful of great performance artists in America today.”

Gómez-Peña moves the focus from the mainstream to cultural borders, which places audience members in the role of “foreigners” or “minorities.” He uses acid Chicano humor, hybrid literary genres, multilingualism, and activist theory as subversive strategies in his performances. He shifts between languages and personae, and “bombards audiences with his infamous border savvy techno-ideology, ethno-poetics and radical aesthetics.” He also reflects on such issues as identity, race, sexuality, pop culture, and current politics. He is especially critical of the anti-immigration hysteria, and he “assaults the demonized construction of the US/Mexican border,” calling it “a literal and symbolic zone lined with Minute Men, rising nativism, three-ply fences, globalization, and transnational identities.”

In his 10 books, as in his live performances, digital art, videos and photo-performances, Gómez-Peña pushes the boundaries by exploring what’s left for artists to do in a repressive global culture of censorship, paranoid nationalism and what he terms  “the mainstream bizarre.” He examines where this leaves the critical practice of artists who aim to make tactical, performative interventions into our notions of race, culture, and sexuality.

Gómez-Peña has received a number of honors and awards, including the Prix de la Parole at the International Theatre Festival of the Americas (1989), the New York Bessie Award (1989), a MacArthur Fellowship (1991), an American Book Award (1997) and a Lifetime Achievement Award (Taos Talking Pictures Film Festival, 2000). He was also named Senior Fellow of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics NYU (2010), a title awarded to scholars, artists, and activists whose work exemplifies the highest achievement in the field of performance and politics. In addition, he has been a regular commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered and Latino USA, and a contributing editor for The Drama Review (NYU-MIT). His books include forthcoming releases Conversations Across Borders (Seagull Press) and Radical Performance Pedagogy: Exercises for Rebel Artists and Border Crossers (co-authored with Roberto Sifuentes. Routledge)

Sponsored by Wooster’s Department of Theatre and Dance, Gómez-Peña’s appearance is funded, in part, by the President’s discretionary fund. Additional information about Gómez-Peña’s performance, including ticket sales, is available by calling 330-263-2241.

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