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Theatre Journal 53.1 (2001) 172-173
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Performance Art Of The Americas
As Coco Fusco states in her introduction to Corpus Delecti, there is a scarcity of scholarly material available in the United States that addresses Latin/o American performance art. This important new collection of critical and historical essays, performance excerpts, and artist statements on performance art offers a long awaited assessment of the diversity of work being produced by performance artists of Latin American descent throughout the world. The performances discussed in this collection range from art museum and theatre performance traditions to street performance and popular entertainment. The geographical span of Corpus Delecti is just as expansive, including works from both North and South America, as well as Europe.
It is José Muñoz's theorization of performance itself as theory in motion in "Memory Performance: Luis Alfaro's 'Cuerpo Politizado'" that is most compelling in his argument. Through a focus on the performance of memory, his theoretical model suggests a politics of affect as a strategy toward the articulation of latinidad. Memory in this context is offered as a radicalizing maneuver that fuels the cultural practices of alterity in the Latina/o imaginary by inscribing a different knowledge in the constitution of the subject. Similar to Muñoz's piece, Ondine Chavoya's insightful essay on the historiography of the work of ASCO (a Chicano conceptual art group that produced an impressive series of visual art, installation art, and performances from the 1960s to the late 1980s) eloquently demonstrates the limits of the current theorization of performance through a focus on disappearance and the dematerialization of the object. Through an examination of ASCO's strategies of representation, especially the use of No-Movies (theatrical photographic portraits advertising never to be produced films in an ironic appropriation of high Hollywood style) Chavoya outlines an avant-garde performance practice that focused on visibility. This focus produced images that were critical of, but advocated for, intervention in a positive/additive manner within an economy of representation that renders the Chicano experience invisible. Performance here functions as a counter-theoretical postulation.
Expanding the general focus of the collection, Silvia Pellarolo's look into the public performance of Eva Perón historicizes the performative nature [End Page 172] of the political arena through a genealogy of her histrionic practices as a young theatre actor and film star. Pellarolo argues that Perón's experience in the performing arts helped her rise in the public imagination to become an icon of Argentinean nationality, allowing her to utilize her symbolic power to the benefit of Juan Perón's presidency from 1945-1952. Through an analysis of the conventions of melodrama, the dominant theatrical and cinematic tradition in Perón's Argentina, this article produces an important assessment of the construction of the body politic through performative conventions.
Raquel Mendieta Costa's brief essay "Exotic Exports: The Myth of the Mulatta" introduces the historical legacy of race relations in Cuba and its effects on the representation of race in contemporary culture. Constituted since the colonial experience of slavery, the position of the mulatta in Cuban representational practices is examined here from a critical lens attuned to the exigencies of history and the convoluted maneuvers of contemporary official discourses of the nation. This convention of representation is closely associated to an industry of exotica and sexual tourism that cemented the mulatta in a metaphorical trap that continues to be performed in present times in the cabaret stages and prostitution circuits of Havana.
Rosalyn Constantino's essay on the theatre of Jesusa Rodríguez is similarly provocative regarding the state's intervention in the representation of bodies, especially when these bodies elicit desires beyond the approved scripts of the nation. By surveying Rodríguez's body of work, Constantino points to the many challenges her performances pose to conservative Mexican hegemonic culture. If Jesusa Rodríguez's queer...