Race and Classification: The Case of Mexican America

By Ilona Katzew; Susan Deans-Smith | Go to book overview

9 Pose and Poseur
The Racial Politics of Guillermo Gómez-Peña's
Photo-Performances

Jennifer González and Guillermo Gómez-Peña

(In this conversation, an art theorist and a performance artist discuss race,
sentation. This conversation took place during November 2005, via e-mail and
hybridity, border culture, globalization-gone-wrong, and the politics of repre-
phone.)

JG: I'm interested in the way race, as a visual discourse appears in the works you call “photo-performances.” These images create the conditions of a nonnarrative yet highly iconographic interface between performer and camera. The photo-performance can be seen as an extension of your earlier works, including what you call your first self-conscious performative gesture in the photograph El vaquero poblano (fig. 9.1) in which you pose as a young adult astride a children's artificial horse wearing a toy gun and cowboy hat in Puebla, Mexico. Your body is clearly out of scale with the toy horse, and the hat you wear is perched ironically, but the image also exudes a melancholic or a nostalgic yearning for childhood innocence. How does this image encapsulate your interest in the role of the photographic pose? Is it possible to argue that the photo-performance is a new genre? Are there artistic precedents that shape this contemporary practice?

GP: Mexican culture has always been extremely performative. From the dioramas of santos found in colonial churches and the casta paintings to the pop photographs of the early twentieth century depicting burlesque divas, not to mention the calendarios (calendars) of Helguera in the 1940s, Mexico has always been fascinated with the staging of extreme performance personas.

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