An earlier version of the following text was delivered as a keynote speech during the Performance Studies International Conference, “Here Be Dragons,” Aberystwyth, Wales, April 1999. Since the organizers of the event asked me the day before the conference began to come up with a “keynote provocation,” I didn’t have time to properly sharpen my ideas and the questions I wanted to pose to scholars in the field. The original text was written in a couple of hours in dialogue with Lisa Wolford. Because it was drafted so quickly, it contained a number ofrethorical contradictions, generalizations and imprecisions. Besides, my use of “we” (usually meaning artists), “you”(usually referring to the theoreticians attending the conference), and “they” is adversarial and vague at times. Though this version is a bit more polished than the original, I chose to maintain its abrasive, polemical style, since it reflects the way my voice and thoughts tend to be at times. In early June of 1999, as I finish revising the final manuscript, I still stand behind 90 per cent of the ideas expressed in this keynote, even though I articulate them here in a somewhat basic and strategically simple way. I measure the success of the provocation in the context of the conference by the number of people (both scholars and artists) who came up to me in the campus bar to argue with me, share stories of their own experiences as artists, or to express appreciation of the issues I had raised. I wholeheartedly encourage strong responses from the reader as well.
Dear locos and locas: today, from my multiple repertoire of personas, I’m choosing to be the artist as theoretician, as speaking subject, “the mariachi with a big mouth,” and my role will be to ask some hopefully incisive questions