Dangerous Border Crossers: The Artist Talks Back

By Guillermo Gómez-Peña | Go to book overview

Deported to the North

(An earlier version of this text was published in my book New World Border under the title “The Artist as Criminal.” Though this version hasn’t been significantly rewritten, I felt it was absolutely necessary to include it in this book, because of the new meanings it takes on in this context. The original version was translated by Christopher Winks.)

I remember that cold afternoon in Buenos Aires vividly. It was mid-August 1993, and my colleague Coco Fusco and I were performing a version of our project, The Guatinaui World Tour, right on the corner of Callao and Corrientes, one of the busiest intersections in the city. As part of our performance projects subverting pseudo-ethnographic exhibitions of humans and the colonial format of the “living diorama,” we spent three days inside a gilded cage displaying ourselves as “exotic primitives” from a fictitious island in the Gulf of Mexico. On the second day, suddenly, from within the crowd , a mysterious character in a black trenchcoat approached me, threw some kind of liquid at me, then vanished. Seconds later, I realized I had been the victim of a physical assault. My stomach and legs had been burned with acid.

One of the theories circulating in the Buenos Aires artistic community was that this attack involved a political misunderstanding. There was speculation that the assailant was an ex-military man who felt implicated by our performance, probably because he believed that our project was a direct commentary on Argentine military culture, which jailed thousands of youths before the alleged democratic transition of 1987. It makes sense.

For politicized artists experimenting with the tenuous and ever-fluctuating

-137-

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