By Kathleen Vanesian
By Amy Silverman
By Robrt L. Pela
By Jim Louvau
By Kathleen Vanesian
By Benjamin Leatherman
By New Times
By Becky Bartkowski
The Tucson artist's 12-by-24-foot, map-shaped "Novus Ordo (New Order)" is a mammoth statement about the chaos of current world affairs--and no noteworthy person or event is spared Quir¢z's irreverent gaze. Ronald Reagan stands with Idi Amin, Yasir Arafat, Margaret Thatcher, Fidel Castro, Nelson Mandela, Mao Tse-tung, Buddha, Krishna and Jesus Christ, while syringes, kabuki actors, satellite dishes and Pepsi logos jockey for position. A beleaguered Uncle Sam holds up a sign reading "Will Work for Food." Even George Washington is assailed in the self-explanatory "Washington Inspects the Hemp Crop," in which the Holy Father of Our Country goofily displays a plastic marijuana plant, much to the delight of an equally goofy black slave in a tricornered hat. The Catholic Church, Our Lady of Guadalupe and Quir¢z's Aztec forebears fare no better. There's something to inspire, amuse and/or offend everyone here.
"The Temple of Confessions," which was a live performance piece for three days running and will remain as an installation for the duration of the show, is perhaps the most provocative part of "Crossing Borders." Considered one of the finest performance artists working in the United States today, Mexico-born Guillermo G¢mez-Pe¤a and his collaborator, Roberto Sifuentes, have created a surreal, chapel-like environment. In this space, viewers become participants, revealing their innermost fears and feelings about Mexicans, Chicanos and Mexican culture in general.
Sifuentes, who was working on making a permanent installation of the visually engaging piece before flying back to Los Angeles, described the performance in an interview: "For five and a half hours each day of the three days, Guillermo and I stood in these glass cases, which are like those in Mexican churches containing santos [statues of saints], performing ritual acts. I was dressed like a pre-Columbian vato [gang member], draped in chains and with tattoos all over my face. "Guillermo, who played San Pocho Aztlan, was dressed like an androgynous conchero with leopard bikini underwear and a black bra showing from under his Aztec costume, which included a Stetson with feathers coming out of it and political buttons," says Sifuentes. Also included in the performance, he says, were two women dressed as "nuns": "They were there to encourage the audience to reveal their feelings to the 'saints,' who were a reincarnation of Mexican stereotypes of the noble savage and the gang banger. "Audience members 'confessed' to the caged deities," Sifuentes continues, "either verbally into a microphone located at a kneeler in front of the cages, or in writing, which they deposited into something that looks like a church offering box. "We warned people that they were being taped and their confessions could be used as part of the installation, though we gave them the option of wearing a mask and having us alter their voices to protect their identities." Public reaction, he adds, was better than the artists expected. "We were amazed at the response we got. The gallery was filled all three days--people would stay for an hour at a time, confess, then drag a friend in to participate. We've remixed the audio, so that the best of the confessions are being played and will be updated as more people 'confess,' this time to sculptural effigies with masks made by Zarco Guerrero, a local artist from Mesa."
Listening to the tapes is like listening to poetry. People are disturbed, confused, elated, ashamed, hopeful; they confess to revulsion or to a lack of understanding about the images used in the performance and what they really mean, as well as to their personal prejudices. But the confessions themselves are the beginning of the process of understanding. And like a real confession, they signal the desire for forgiveness and a resolve for a better tomorrow.