- DOC/UNDOC: Documentado/Undocumented Ars Shamánica Performática by Felicia Rice et al.
Casual readers of TDR would probably identify Guillermo Gómez-Peña as a performance artist and writer, in that order. Subscribers might note his service as a contributing editor. But even those whose shelves hold all 10 of Gómez-Peña's published collections of performance texts, poems, essays, pedagogical exercises, and interviews may not think of him as especially invested in producing printed matter per se. His appropriations of electronic media—video, audio, and digital—have generated much more scholarly commentary than his publications, even taking into account his widely read The New World Border (1996). In addition to garnering Gómez-Peña an American Book Award, that book inaugurated a significant collaboration between Gómez-Peña and City Lights that also produced Codex Espangliensis: From Columbus to the Border Patrol (2000). A sequel of sorts to that extraordinary volume, DOC/UNDOC: Documentado/Undocumented Ars Shamánica Performática constitutes a more thoroughgoing effort to "re/imagine the future of bookmaking" (15) as a collaborative process that encompasses multiple media ("old" and "new") and makers.
Both projects first manifested as artists' books created by Gómez-Peña and collaborators including printer-publisher Felicia Rice, and were issued by Rice's Moving Parts Press in editions of 50. Copies are expensive enough that most people interested in Gómez-Peña's artists' books will encounter the limited-edition Codex Espangliensis (1998) and DOC/UNDOC (2014) only in museum and university rare book collections. If, like me, you happen to work in or near an institution that holds copies, you too can experience them in all their intermedial splendor. You can unfold each letterpress-printed book, bound accordion-style in the manner of the códices painted by preconquest Mesoamerican scribes, to its full length of 31 feet, 6 inches. You can see and feel the texture of the handmade papers on which Rice printed the collages she composed by combining drawn, painted, engraved, and photographed images with Gómez-Peña's performance texts. If you can procure one of the 15 deluxe copies of DOC/UNDOC, you can lift the book out of its decorated aluminum case, hear the audio files resounding from the built-in speakers, and watch the videos on an enclosed DVD. If you are fortunate enough to own one, you can do as Gómez-Peña and colleagues generously suggest in one of the audio pieces: "consider yourself a Chicano performance artist […] for a few hours," fashioning personae with the luchador mask, makeup, and assorted "ritual objects" arranged in a tray beneath the book.
Whether or not your location, credentials, or bank accounts afford you that experience, the new edition of DOC/UNDOC more than merits a reading. As they did with its predecessor, Gómez-Peña, Rice, and City Lights editor Elaine Katzenberger have reconceived DOC/UNDOC as a trade edition, with the admirable intention of making the artists' book and its collaborative production process accessible to a larger audience. The oversize volume commences with striking, high-resolution color photographs of the case opened to display the objects packed inside, as well as the mirrors affixed to its lid. Though you won't see yourself or your masked personae in these images of mirrors, the edition does elicit less literal forms of reflection—personal and political—facilitated by the bookwork, which takes the pains and pleasures of identity formation and transformation as its major subject.
"Bookwork," a term advanced by the late artist-archivist Ulises Carrión, describes the project better than the more widely used "artists' book," which may unduly emphasize the printed component. As the copious introductory texts and images detail, the project actually began [End Page 179] as a video series (accessed in this edition via USB key) made by Gómez...