Chicano/Robot Identity Crisis
by Silke Tudor
For decades, Chicano performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña has challenged our notion of identity and demanded exploration of "other" through lush, interactive tableaus. In 1998's Mexterminator Project -- the "Techno-Museum of Experimental Ethnography and Apocalyptic Culture" created with fellow journeyman Roberto Sifuentes -- a car in the shape of a glossy high-heeled shoe roared through a gallery of cross-cultural mash-ups; a she-male in a mariachi jacket crucified herself on a glowing cross; members of the audience transformed themselves with props and costumes into Black Panther cowboys, Indian Sufi braves, ninja Chicanas, and Geisha terrorists; one man -- performer or visitor, it was hard to tell -- explained, "You don't know who you are until you've been someone else."
In a post-9/11 world, where xenophobia and racial profiling are schoolyard topics, the question of identity and perception has become more urgent and complex. Thankfully, La Poncho Nostra -- the collaborative performance arts troupe/international network created by Gómez-Peña, Sifuentes, and Erica Mott -- has also become more sophisticated, and more beautiful. Its latest set of living tableaus, "Corpo Insurrecto 3.0: The Robo-Proletariat," toured Austria, Brazil, Finland, and the Netherlands. Using everything from robots to goats,
La Pocha Nostra probes the definition of self, bringing subjective truths to places as diverse as Mexico City's subway, London's Tate Modern, and, now
"Corpo Insurrecto 3.0" is March 30 at 8 p.m. at Performance Art Studio, 435 23rd St., S.F. Admission is $15-$20; call 501-0575 or visit theperformanceartinsti-tute.org.