HAVANA BIENNIAL DOCUMENTARY

Posted Monday, March 30th, 2009 at 5:52 pm

GUILLERMO GÓMEZ-PEÑA, performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña photographed by Zach Gross, 2007.

GUILLERMO GÓMEZ-PEÑA, photographed by Zach Gross, 2007.

OPC Blog Entry 7

March 30th, 2009

Guillermo Gómez-Peña generously invited us into his dressing room and rehearsal space minutes before his performance, which took place in the outdoor courtyard of the Wifredo Lam Center. Amidst the pre-performance hubbub we spoke with Gómez-Peña and six of his collaborators not only about the impending event but also about broader issues related to practices removed from art world centers.

While speaking with us, Gómez-Peña and his collaborator Roberto Sifuentes emphasized their efforts to tailor each performance to the local conditions of its presentation. The performance at the Lam Center was no exception. Their collaborators included artists from across Latin America, but Gómez-Peña and Sifuentes took care to include Cubans in the planning and execution of their piece as well.

In response to our question about his role as an internationally renowned artist returning to a radically local situation, Gómez-Peña described himself as a permanent border-crosser, narrating his experiences of performing at Latino community centers in San Antonio one evening and at the Tate Modern the following week. Gómez-Peña explained his practice is characterized by a constant opposition to stasis – a refusal to refusing to be situated in one context or the other.

We asked Gómez-Peña his opinion about the pressures facing young Cuban artists during the Havana Biennial, when they are confronted by a temporary influx of artists and curators from the United States, Western, Europe, and other art world centers. Gómez-Peña replied that it was a difficult question, one that he needed to think more about. Though aware of the danger that local artists might be compelled to assimilate into the predominant languages of contemporary art, Gómez-Peña displayed a generally positive attitude about the potential for increased familiarity with international practices that foreigners could offer Cuban artists.

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