Performance pushes art, political boundary

By CiaraShook

La Pocha Nostra, performance troupe of artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña, will bring “Corpo Illicito: The Post-Human Society #69” to Columbia on Oct. 30 as part of the first installment in Critical Encounters’ Artists in Residence series.

Gómez-Peña said the group is devoted to erasing the borders between art and politics. “Corpo Illicito” pushes boundaries of faith, culture, identity, race and how people perceive their own.

Gómez-Peña and two other members of La Pocha Nostra, Violeta Luna and Roberto Sifuentes, will perform “Corpo Illicito” at Stage Two, which is on the second floor of the 618 S.Michigan Ave. building.  Although Gómez-Peña, Luna and Sifuentes have given individual variations of “Corpo Illicito” around the world, Columbia will be the first to see the three perform it together.

“I think we’re in for a really provocative evening that is going to be surprising, but inspirational and challenging,” said Sara Slawnik, program director for the Institute for the Study of Women & Gender in the Arts & Media.

Gómez-Peña, Luna and Sifuentes will be positioned in different areas of Stage Two. They will perform monologues and have dialogues while creating human tableaus, a striking dramatic scene or picture.

Dia Penning, associate director for Civic Engagement at the Center for Teaching Excellence,  said “Corpo Illicito” is an exploration of the cusp between what America experienced during the Bush administration and what America is experiencing now. It will explore how it’s changed from a culture of fear to a culture of hope.

“Guillermo has his own pedagogy, which really gets people to look at their location in the world, their relationships with people, their politics and how they relate to their own identifiers,” Penning said.

Lott Hill, director for the Center of Teaching Excellence, said Critical Encounters aims to help students reach the college’s mission statement, which states that the students of Columbia will go on to author the culture of our times and shape public perception.

Hill said Critical Encounters puts artists, creators and media makers who author modern culture and shape public perception in front of students.

“That is  very much what La Pocha Nostra and Guillermo Gómez-Peña have been doing for many years,” Hill said. “Their work historically has explored issues of faith, of culture, of race, of borders, of identity and ultimately has challenged the ideas that we as a society or we as a culture have that are very much in keeping with this year’s Critical Encounters focus on Fact and Faith.”

Gómez-Peña has been conducting a workshop with a group of students from Columbia, University of Chicago, Northwestern University, School of the Art Institute, DePaul University and members of the community since Oct. 23. The workshop is to help the students express themselves through performing arts.

“It’s a nice, broad scope of people and it’s giving our students an opportunity to produce work with others that study the same sort of things they do,” Penning said.

Eric Scholl, associate professor of television, said the workshop will be used to develop another piece that will be performed as part of gender fusion in April.

Penning said that although students will not be performing in “Corpo Illicito,” they will participate by creating their own images prior to that performance.

La Pocha Nostra is the first in what is hoped to be a series of Artists in Residence for Critical Encounters.

Slawnik said Critical Encounters’ Artists in Residence series is a partnership of the Ellen Stone Belic Institute, the Institute for the Study of Women & Gender in the Arts & Media, the Center for Teaching Excellence and the Center for Community Arts Partnerships.