- 1998 ATHE Keynote Address
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(The following “performance monologue” is a collage of texts from many sources: performance and video scripts, radio commentaries and essays. I originally put it together as a performance keynote for the ATHE conference held in San Antonio on August 12, 1998. Different versions with other structures and combinations of texts have been presented since in many other places. —GG-P)
It is a pleasure to be here in San Antonio, one of the two capitals of Chicanolandia, the other being Los Angeles. Today I will attempt to occupy a space equidistant from performance, activism, and pedagogy. I cannot guarantee you I will succeed, but I’ll give it a try.
Dear foreign audience:
welcome to my conceptual set
welcome to my performance universe
welcome to my borderzone
welcome to the cities and jungles of my language
las del inglés y las del español
kick back, light up your conceptual cigarette
(I light up a cigarette)
& breathe in, breathe out,
breathe in, breathe out
now, reach over,
grab the crotch of your neighbor
yes . . . [End Page 93]
I. The Larger Context: A Post-democratic Era
We experience the end of the world . . . and the word, as we know them, and the beginning of a new era. Perhaps our main frustration is our inability to envision its new characteristics and features. It’s a bit like being drunk in the middle of an earthquake and not having a language to express it.
We live in a world without theory, without ethics and without ideology. Our spiritual metahorizons are rapidly fading, and so are our geo-political borders. The nation state collapses in front of our swelling eyes and is immediately replaced by multi-national macro-communities governed by invisible corporate boards, trading partners, and computer firms. The new political class believes, or perhaps pretends to believe, that free trade and a healthy economy are the solutions to all our problems, even to the cultural and social ones. In this unprecedented, may we call it “post-democratic era,” basic humanistic concerns are no longer part of their agenda. Civic, human and labor rights, education and art are perceived as minor privileges, and sometimes as dated concerns. Artists and intellectuals don’t seem to perform any meaningful role other than that of decorators of the omnipresent horror vacui and entertainers of a new, more tolerant and cynical consumer class.
As far as I am concerned, we have no real government looking after the human being. Left to our own civilian fate, it is entirely up to us to figure out which are the new models of survival, citizen collaboration, and multi-lateral cooperation—the new terms for a new social contract. In this sense, the 90s to me are about citizen responsibility, community action, and a civilian logos. This presentation is a humble contribution to the imagining of a true citizen action.
Let’s exercise our political imagination for a moment.
II. The Self-deportation Project
It is the immediate future in a typical US city, that is to say, a city full of immigrants, people of color, and people who speak other languages . . . like Spanish. You perceive yourself as an “angry white male,” but no one knows about it. Not even your beautiful “Hispanic” wife or your interracial kids.
NASAL VOICE (A LA WALTER WINCHELL FROM TIJUANA):
You wake up one day and go to work. You need to stop for gas, but the gas station is closed. (You don’t know that all the attendants went back to Old Mexico the day before.) You drive around looking for an open gas station until you run out of gas. You call a cab, but there are no cabs because the drivers, mainly Latino, quit the day before. [End Page 94]
Somehow you make it to the office to find your colleagues watching TV in total disbelief. A nervous President Clinton is pleading for all unemployed Anglos and African Americans to show up immediately to the closest...