- Performance Constellations: Networks of Protest and Activism in Latin America by Marcela A. Fuentes
Performance Constellations: Networks of Protest and Activism in Latin America. By Marcela A. Fuentes. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2019; 178 pp.; illustrations. $75.00 cloth, $24.95 paper, e-book available.
In Performance Constellations: Networks of Protest and Activism in Latin America, Marcela Fuentes proposes "performance constellations" as a concept to understand activist aesthetic interventions and protests in the era of digital culture and neoliberalism. Performance constellations entangle on- and offline systems of communication in what Fuentes calls "connective dramaturgies" (3), which link fragmented sites of protest across temporalities and localities within a common dramaturgy for action, whether it be remembering statesponsored disappearances in Mexico via Twitter hashtags or staging move-ins in Argentina's banks to protest capital flight. [End Page 174] As the author states, her work builds on Diana Taylor's theorizations of performance traditions as systems of knowledge transfer, from body to body, within culturally specific repertoires of embodiment (Taylor 2003). Performance constellations do not depend on body-to-body transfers, yet they produce "dispersed collectivities," where bodies from different localities perform separately but collectively, and within the shared mediation of "a common frame or narrative" (16). The book provides a hemispheric history of neoliberalism in Chile, Argentina, and Mexico, which by the late 1990s—where the author begins her analysis—had seen "mutating forms of neoliberal capitalism, such as transnational trade, financial speculation, predatory lending, and narco violence" (20). Fuentes brings performance studies up to date by examining how collective protests, our sense of embodiment, and other aesthetic practices defined as live performance occur entangled with online modes of communication, in performance constellations "distributed" across many localities and "extended" over time by continued online presence and distribution for new iterations. Having reformulated performance in this new way, the author historicizes and theorizes overlooked possibilities for political resistance within neoliberal systems of power. She demonstrates how activists have effectively intermingled body-to-body performances with digital networks to articulate "demands concerning the common good" (112), mobilizing politically excluded bodies against neoliberal ideals of self-sufficiency and meritocracy.
In the first chapter, "Assembling Convergence Online," Fuentes analyzes virtual sit-ins in the late 1990s organized by the US-based collective Electronic Disturbance Theater in support of the Zapatista uprising against NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). She posits virtual sit-ins against the exclusionary and individualizing drives of neoliberalism, and argues that this form of protest functioned to create dispersed collectivities of embodied anti-imperialist action. The author draws from Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker, who proposed networks as dominant forms of control that can also articulate resistance (Galloway and Thacker 2007). The synchronous embodied participation of people in front of their computers, flooding targeted websites, created a "copresence" that relied on a collective imaginary of convergence or networked actions. Performance constellations of convergence create a sense of collectivity without physical proximity between performers, or a sensorial experience of others' live performance.
In the second chapter, "Articulating Global and Local Resistance," Fuentes provides a historical account of Argentinian activists' attempts to make visible connections between local predatory finance systems and global neoliberal economic policy regimes by theorizing "stream-out" performance constellations, conceptually uniting events that occurred in distinct times and spaces in the 2000s following the years of deindustrialization and capital flight. She demonstrates how asynchronous actions, "pieced together through practices of citizen journalism, digital storytelling, and asynchronous assembly" (44), linked protesters with shared aesthetic vocabularies. Examples of these include email-circulated PowerPoint presentations that described the economic situation of Argentina in the format of a cooking recipe and called for pots and pans protests; and on-site performances of clients "moving into" banks to draw connections to capital leaving their banks.
In chapter 3, "Expanding Moves, Enacting Futurity," Fuentes analyzes how the affective force of live performance can be enhanced by the entanglements and circulation of performances online, allowing distributed...