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A Savage Performance: Guillermo Gomez-Pena and Coco Fusco's "Couple in the Cage

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Author(s): Diana Taylor
Source: TDR (1988-), Vol. 42, No. 2 (Summer, 1998), pp. 160-175
Published by: The MIT Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1146705
Accessed: 31/08/2008 14:24

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the Indians approached. iFi. They carried bows and arrows. "'sur- rounded by gardens of corn. con la cabezacontrael sueloy los oidostapadoscon los dedos.] Explosiony resplandorde llamas. El ARQUITECTO.. Marcelo Santos. Summer 1998. A Savage Performance Guillermo Gomez-Pena and Coco Fusco's "Couple in the Cage" Diana Taylor Theatricality On an island. ayudeme. fi. my local newspaper ran an article informing its readers that an "Expedition Claims to Have Found New Tribe in Amazon Rain Forest. figa. soy el funico superviviente del accidente. sale corriendo. bananas.] For two hours..) -Ferando Arrabal El arquitecto y el emperador de asiria(I984)' On II September I995. i6o . "The male Indian became fasci- The Drama Review 42..tiemblade espanto. an expert from Brazil's Indian Agency. Copyright ? 1998 New York University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. manioc and yams.intentapermanecertranquilo.! ARQUITECTO: (Horrorizado) (Le miraun momentoaterradoy."' There were two of them. "The Indians-a man and a woman-wore headdressesand jewelry made in part from bits of plastic apparentlytaken from mining or logging camps. fi.." The expedition leader. in the middle of nowhere: (Ruidode avi6n. recounts coming upon "'two huts"' in the Amazon..Tocaal ARQUITECTO con la extremidadde su bastonal tiempoque le dice:) EMPERADOR: Caballero.Oscuro. porfin. We made noise to announce ourselves. comoun animalperseguidoy amenazado. 2 (T158). buscaun refugio[. and after a waiting period.. [." Santos said.El ARQUITECTO. the two groups marveled at each other.Pocos momentosdespuets entraen escenael EMPERADOR con unagran maleta. Tiene una ciertaeleganciaafectada.

" whose power to shape a sense of cohesive identity comes through the seeming naturalnessand transparencyof what Judith Butler. To prove his point. perhaps even makes inevitable. The theat- ricality of the colonial encounter allows. theatricality (like theatre) flaunts its artifice. In his first letter from his First Voyage (1493).calls the "iterative and citational practice by which discourse produces the effects that it names" (1993:2). When he returned to Spain in 1493. two years later. It's more about artistic framing or political bracketing than about political agency. And. He gave the man the watch and two knives. "is a noun with no verb and therefore no possibility of a subject position" (1994:I99). who "wear their hair long like women.scientists. Theatrical encounters. Columbus also popularized im- ages of "natives" he never saw-the cannibals "born with tails" (ii). taking either a "languageexpert or an In- dian with a similar dialect with us to establishverbal communication. Secondly. they give rise to an industryof "experts"needed to approach and interpretthem-language experts.ethicists. for they use bows and javelins" (I5). the countless iterations.and cartographers. its constructedness. staged to justify the appropriationof their lands. includ- ing some that might still be "undiscovered. and on our arrivalat any new place they published this. The use of the passive voice is perhaps indicative: theat- ricality. naked. are captured in these scenarios." Though there are more than 500 indigenous groups in Brazil. and perspectival structureswithin which the charactersare positioned and perform their prescribed roles. accordingto Santos.eth- nographers. political. generous. the show always seems structured in the . who are proofs of the facts which I state" (I5). and communicate to us what they knew respecting the country" (9). One was left on display in the Spanish Court until he died. if we believe Columbus. Columbus had several Arawaks with him. the astonished natives be- lieved and propagated notions of his innate superiority: "they continue to en- tertain the idea that I have descended from heaven. as I have argued elsewhere. This is only the latest in a long line of "discoveries" of wild men and women in the New World." Santos said. Couplein the Cage 161 nated with my watch. come and look upon beings of a celestial race"' (9). As the opening scene of Arrabal's The Architect and the Em- perorof Assyria so lucidly illustrates. 'Come."a lawyer for landowners claims the story is a hoax. Columbus writes of the people he "discovered" as unarmed. (Valley News I995:A8) Santoshas vowed to returnto the area. the physical presence of the "Indians"would authenticate his story: "I bring with me individuals of this island and of the others that I have seen. And unlike "performativity. for they "employ themselves in no labour suitable for their sex. crying out immediately with a loud voice to the other Indians. "timid and full of fear" (Columbus 1978:6). certainly. Insofaras nativebodies are invariablypresentedas not speaking (or not makingthemselvesunderstoodto the definingsubject)." The women were equally threatening. in Bodies That Matter. of sadness apparently. By "theatricality" I refer to the aesthetic." Their use-value was multiple: The "Indians"could facilitate his recon- naissance mission if "they might learn our language. Columbus captured "some Indians by force.

That materiality. and therefore "'obliged to submit to Spanish rule. and cartographers. Voiceless. confirms no one point." The colonialist discourse that produces the native as negativity or lack itself silences the very voice it purports to make speak. status." as Marianna Torgovnick puts it. brought to the Americas to continue the back-breaking work. ethicists. Gayatri Spivak has maintained. Economics have always been deeply en- tangled in debates about moral value and have fueled or foiled the discussions surrounding the definition. The drama of discovery and display of native bodies-then and now- serves various functions. describes . Native bodies can only be seen or heard from the perspective of the "discoverer. Were the "Indians" by nature inferior. For this reason. the head of the Indian Agency. they "prove" the material facticity of an "other" and authenticate the discov- erer/missionary/anthropologist's adventure. not as proof of alterity. the native body serves. Though clearly a setup. as the less intel- ligent are ruled by their betters"' (in de Las Casas 1985:165)? Or were "Indi- ans" human beings with souls and. The moment of convergence. The hero's resolve to bring the power of his civilization to bear on the native re- sults in the same tragic denouement-even though names and places change in its many reincarnations.162 Diana Taylor same way. Not for that were the native peoples spared. 95 percent of the population died (Stannard I992:x)." the Brazilian landowners want to know. is followed by the hesitant tension of unknowing. the discoverer. deserving of humane treatment. "the subaltern cannot speak" (1988:308). No matter who tells the story-the playwright. value. The indigenous bodies perform as a "truth" factor. and power are fought out by competing dominant groups. or the government official-it stars the same white male protagonist-subject and the same brown "found" object. it lets us speak for it" (I990:9)." The colonialist discourse that produces the native as negativity or lack itself silences the very voice it purports to make speak. thus. and rights of the native body. both in terms of geographic and ideological positioning. "The primi- tive. "does what we ask it to do. as Bartolom& de Las Casas contended (I985)? In other words. In the 50 years following European contact. of course. but merely as the space on which the battles for truth. insofar as native bodies are invariably presented as not speaking (or not making themselves understood to the defining subject). as Gines de Sepulveda maintained. conveyed in the present tense. they give rise to an industry of "experts" needed to approach and interpret them-language experts. If these na- tives "exist. scientists. The debate between Gines de Sepfilveda and Bartolom& de Las Casas in the mid-I6th century is a case in point. could they be worked to death with moral impunity by their "superiors"?The outcome of the controversy affected not only the self-image of the conquerors and the fate of the conquered. As in the case of the native populations of the Americas and the recently "discov- ered" tribe in Brazil. ethnographers. soulless. The inscription of the native body as "weak" resulted in the abduction and enslavement of "strong-bodied" Africans.2 Santos. what does that do to the value of their land? Are there really "undiscovered tribes" that have some- how or other failed to enter "our" scopic/legal field? Or is the Brazilian gov- ernment staging this farce to confiscate the landowners hard-earned land? Then. the theatricality of the co- lonial encounter can be no less regulatory than performativity in producing "the effects that it names.

. interprets.. Fusco and Gomez-Pefia chose countries deeply implicated in the extermination or abuse of aboriginal peoples. and feed us sandwiches and fruit. We called our homeland Guatinau. and ourselves Guatinauis. the "natives" were once again constructed as exotic others and given to be seen. We performed our "traditionaltasks. an authorized. it activated current controversies about what and . and Levi- Strauss). The "encounters"with the native cre- ate "us" as audience just as much as the violence of definition creates "them"- the primitives. and we would pose for Polaroids with visitors. The native is the show. At the Whitney Museum in New York we added sex to our spectacle. theorize. "We. Furthermore. take us to the bathroom on leashes. disinterested profes- sional dedicated to the discovery and analysis of societies of which the ethnographer forms no part. to Buenos Aires. and records. Latino performance artists Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gomez- Peiia decided to put the viewer back into the frame of discovery. who poses as a neutral observer. I would dance (rap music). they situated the dehuman- izing practice in the very heart of these societies' most revered legitimating structures. The objectified. "primitive" body exists. the civilized observer is the privileged spectator."which ranged from sewing voodoo dolls and lift- ing weights to watching television and working on a laptop computer.. A donation box in front of the cage indicated that. and debate their (never "our") societies. The performance (among many other things) repeated the colonialist gesture of producing the "savage" body. for a small fee [one dol- lar]. and it historicized the practice by highlighting its citational character. A chronology with highlights from the history of exhibiting non-Western peoples was on one didactic panel and a simulated Encyclopedia Britannica entry with a fake map of the Gulf of Mexico showing our island was on another. free to define." those viewers who look through the eyes of the explorer. By staging their show in historic sites and institutions. from the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History to London's Covent Gar- dens. The "primitive"body as object reaffirmsthe cultural supremacy and author- ity of the viewing subject-the one who sees. from the divine Columbus to the ethnographer (a la Malinowski. traveled around the world-from Plaza Colon in Madrid to the Australian Museum of Natural Science in Sydney." Performance In 1992. the highly controversial performance. They started their Guatinaui World Tour as a sardonic response to the celebrations of the quincentennial: Our plan was to live in a golden cage for three days. (Fusco I995:393) For the next year. Couplein the Cage 163 the encounter to the journalist who then passes it on to "us"-the audience unwittingly forged by the scenario. The drama depends on maintaining a unidirectional gaze. are (like the explorer) positioned safely outside the frame. presenting ourselves as undiscovered Amerindians from an island in the Gulf of Mexico that had somehow been overlooked by Europeans for five centuries.As in the 15th-century Spanish Court. isolated and removed. Two Undiscovered AmerindiansVisit. Argentina. and stages the lack of reciprocity and mutual understandinginherent in "discovery. Two "zoo guards"would be on hand to speak to visitors (since we could not understand them). offering a peek at authentic Guatinaui male genitals for $5. Guillermo would tell authentic Amerindian stories (in a nonsensical language). Mead.

it seemed. like typical visitors. after all. Colonialism. museums have literalized the theatricality of colonialism-taking the cultural other out of context and isolating it.These bodies were presented as little more than the ge- neric "male" and "female" announced in the didactic panel. and (dominant) values. Fusco and G6mez-Pefia's vow of silence. The artists engaged in the domestic routine of eating. preserve (a particular)history. then do- mesticate. The monumentality of most museums emphasizes the discrepancy in power between the society which can contain all others. and those represented only by remains. the shards and fragments salvaged in miniature displays. has deprived its captives of individuality. as Joseph Roach would put it. these two beings offered themselves up as all surface. There was no more interiority to their perfor- mance of the stereotype than in the stereotype itself and nothing to know." in de Certeau's meaning of the term (I988:II7). sold. that was not readily available to the viewing eye. Museums enact the knower/known relation- ship. in a museum. and watching TV. Their performance went along with the museum's fictions of discon- tinuity. barbarism. These performances of power have different histories or. Like the stereotype. (certain) traditions. reducing the live performance of cultural practice into a dead object behind glass. Fusco and G6mez-Pefia openly gave themselves up to be classified and labeled.164 Diana Taylor how museums display. for the deracinated past and the informed present appeared to coexist on either side of the bars. who were there to be looked at. they exposed themselves to public scrutiny. Scantily clad. leader of Sendero luminoso (Shining Path). it also introduced another history: the caging of rebellious individuals in Latin America from pre-Hispanic times to the recent public caging in Peru of Guzman. The critique of colonialism was multifaceted. was certainly a "practiced place. milled around. The monumentality of most museums emphasizes the discrep- ancy in power between the society which can contain all oth- ers. The performance challenged the way history and culture are packaged. The "barbaric. Like the other exhibits. The observers. sleeping. Since their inception in the Igth century. the shardsand fragments salvaged in miniature displays. in which "natives" were placed in model "habitats"much as lifeless specimens were placed in di- oramas. like exhibits in a diorama. In a cage. It called attention to the Western history and practice of collecting and classifying that James Clifford explores in The Predicamentof Culture (I988)." the display teased us to believe. could be safely contained. Yet. the "business" of the performance was monotonous and repetitive. at times disturbing the repose of the ob- jects. and those represented only by remains. attempting both to create. their avoidance of eye contact and any other gesture of recognition.4 The museum space. and consumed within hege- monic structures. The cage confronted the viewer with the "unnatural" and extremely vio- lent history of representation and exhibition of non-Western human beings. stripped their performance of anything that could be mistaken for a "personal" or individual trait. It recalled the construction and performance of the "exotic" staged in the ethnographic fairs of the late Igth century. genealogies. in a society that segregates and incarceratesits inhabitants.5And it parodied the assignation of value that the West has placed on . Fusco and G6mez-Pefia made clear.

The way they "did" their bodies very consciously linked together a series of what Brecht would have called "quotable" gestures drawn from a tradition of stereotypes of native bodies developed through ethnographic world fairs. as living proof of radical difference. her grass skirt. For one dollar. Si- lent.bare chest. Several times on their tour. It suggested the impossibility of self-representation by the "indigenous" contained in and through representation ("the subaltern cannot speak"). They were anything the spectator wanted them to be. there was also something Latin American. G6mez-Pefia wore his "enmascarado de plata" mask. visitors could marvel at the stereotype of the uprooted natives without worrying about the contemporary reality of displacement and migration. Against the body-as-primitive scenario. Nonetheless. G6mez-Pefia's performance of masculinity was also troubling for some audience members. he held his penis tucked between his legs. and pure relajo. circus shows. humorous. something proud." When. be- gan to stroke his legs and soon moved towards his crotch. impassive. His macho presentation affirmed and challenged the age-old ambivalence and anxiety surrounding the sexuality of the nonwhite male. rebellious. as sexual object. He stepped back. and pseudo-scientific displays. and the frequent sexual overtures by men suggest that perhaps the erotic pleasure of her performance eclipsed its ethos (I995:6I). Their self-rep- resentation belonged less to the colonial grotesque (of the Hottentot Venus variety) than to a postcolonial chic. There was something very alluring about Fusco with her beautiful face painted and wearing a grass skirt and skimpy bra. Fusco and G6mez-Pefia enacted the various economies of the object I alluded to ear- lier-the body as cultural artifact. imperialist economy. Fusco played scientific specimen and ex- otic curio with her face painted. sunglasses. "asked for plastic gloves to be able to touch the male specimen. The world tour. moreover. except human. His long. as a legiti- mate interest in cultural "difference") that animates much current ethno-tour- ism. wig. Both performers very much played the "male" and "female" referred to in the explanatory panels. highlighted by spiked gloves and dog collar. As "objects. and black boots. and contemptuous in the way Fusco and G6mez-Pefia approached their audiences. of course. showing only a "feminine" triangle. Yet there was also something threat- ening about his macho strutting around and some S/M quality to his perfor- mance. Fusco recounts. and the woman stopped" (I995:57). While the performance critiqued structures of colonialism. as threatening alterity. . they performed the subaltern in style. for five dollars. It openly confronted the voyeuristic desire to see the "other" naked (passing.6 The Cage promised the security of partial recognition. enticing. One woman in Irvine. there was less of an attack on prevailing structures of sexism or heterosexism." Coco Fusco and Guillermo G6mez-Pefia out-fetished the fetish. the artistswould perform their culture. dioramas. straight. sunglasses. he displayed his genitals at the Whitney Museum. black hair brought back Columbus's description of the effeminate "natives. briefcase (with a snake in it). Pure critique. Couplein the Cage 165 the exotic. her voluptuous torso. as scientific specimen. California. films. and tennis shoes. women actually touched him. highlighted the continued circulation of these images and desires in the global neocolonial.

. dupes.W]e intended to create a surpriseor "uncanny" en- counter. Someone with a Polaroid took souvenir photos of audience members posed against the couple in the cage. Though the filmmakers selected the responses. Others showed more skepticism. Fusco and Paula Heredia were making a documentary video of the performancesand the audiences. the video shows a fair range of reactions. you'll probably find candidates. the range of reactions to the show. but the main player. they were actors in another-in which.7 But the focus of the performance. For all the parodic staging and acting. transparentlydocuments what happened in the former. in part because the two mediums-live performance and film- affect the nature of the audience response. However. along with other roles. The intense controversy surrounding the Cage. So while viewers were tourists. refused to fall for a simplistic "is it or isn't it?" approach to the issue of native identity. Cuts from films representing "natives" were interjected with routines performed by the artists and interviews of audience members in the many sites hosting the Cage.. and both he and Fusco document the incident in Buenos Aires when someone threw acid on his leg (Fusco I995:6I. one of the most interesting and complicated aspects to the Cage performance was that several performances were taking place simultaneously. And. their beliefs are more likely to rise to the surface. (I995:40) The spectator was now not only in the frame. exploratory role. G6mez-Pefia speaks of skinheads trying to get into the cage. While Fusco and G6mez-Penia paced in their cage. consumers. according to Fusco. who looked Mayan in origin and expressed an inter- est in and knowledge about Guatemala.8 They spotted traces of ritual action and other signs of primitivism that they recognized but didn't exactly understand. Why was gender construction more difficult to deconstruct than colonialism? The unquestioned naturalnessof the couple doing their do- mestic act in public bespoke a different kind of blindness. I'll briefly look at the way the audience of the performance is constructed in the video. makes dupes of viewers who think that they're speaking of the live performance. Many viewers. object of the audience's gaze. much to Fusco and G6mez-Pefia's surprise. The film of the Cage. The video.. is in part a product of this double staging. they played tourists. one in which audiences had to undergo their own process of reflection [.166 Diana Taylor the viewer apparently felt tempted to assume a protagonic. according to G6mez-Peina. She also eschewed essentialist notions of cultural authenticity. was actually wider than what Fusco and Heredia chose to include. believed the show was "real" and that the Guatinauis came from that far-off world of National Geographic-land. G6mez-Pefia 1996:112). or colonizers in one production. as the footage shows. we might be tempted to believe. I believe. and prompted les- bian performance scholar Sue-Ellen Case to suggest that all heterosexuals belong in cages. Trying to resist the temptation to "read" one performance as the other. habits. many in the audience believed the per- formance. consumers. saying only that if you're willing to pay people to travel around in a cage. an "ex- pert" with an "Ask Me" button explained the natives' dress. Her somewhat defensive and defiant pose suggested that she knew better than to comment on whether "undiscovered" people exist. stating that people go into a soci- .. And the assumed normativity of the heterosexual "couple" bothered some commentators. all the while. One woman. Nonetheless.C]aught off guard. But these are quite dif- ferent shows. was: less on what we did than on how people interacted with us and inter- preted our actions [. and origins. and colonists. moreover. dupes.

placed as it was in the very heart of civili- zation. Couplein the Cage 167 ety and take what they want. So.9 The responses that the video highlights. giggled nervously as she concluded that the spectacle made tourists of its audiences. One woman. Fusco performed a highly unritualistic dance to rap. They longed for authenticity. Other viewers felt deterritorializedthrough the encounter. ran along the lines of Latin American theories of transculturation which explain how aspects of native cultures survived and continue to flourish after 500 years of conquest. at "their" fascination. identifiable. Several people identified (with) the very "real" message underlying the highly parodic performance-a Spaniardknew it was about the conquest and coloni- zation. The gullibility and deception are flip sides of the same will-to-believe." The cage might signal dislocation. The reassuring notion of stable. sensing the ground beneath her feet shifting. one might choose to believe. so angry? Let's start with the first. ab- sorbing. the other feels nothing but outrage- can't anyone be trusted anymore? Some viewers clearly wanted to believe in the Guatinauis. The video shows an Anglo man staring at the couple with rapt atten- tion. A Pueblo elder looked in the cage and recognized the faces of his grandchildren. the theatricality of colonialism. He (much like Santos on his Brazilian expedition) marveled at how "na- tives" are fascinated by miracles of technology they cannot understand. The Guatinauis. rather than normalize. The Cage promised the security of partial recognition. one wonders. the other sees only the "lie. maintaining that they were being "deceived?" And." demanded incredulity. the guides. forced to migrate. Why these re- sponses. visitors could marvel at the stereotype of the uprooted natives without worrying about the contempo- rary reality of displacement and migration. It was worth a dollar to imagine that the Guatinauis' primitive cage in no way reflected back on the troubles of our postmodern societies. When paid to dance. everything that the audi- ence saw was blatantly theatrical. or are pushed onto reserva- tions of some sort or another. no matter how glaring the contradictions. Fusco and G6mez-Pefia parodied Western stereotypes of what "primitive" people do. Most. Her notion of societies as constantly in flux. He kept looking. resulted from the momentary interruption of the barbaricinto "our" world. the "traditional tasks" included working on a computer. two questions: How could people either believe the show or feel offended by it. One dollar was a small price to pay for an encounter with "real" otherness. fascinated. colonization. and the Encyclopedia Britannica. secondly. The point of the performance was to highlight. are those by people who felt deceived or offended by the show. The first accepts "the truth" of the colonial claim. These stemmed from people who felt drawn or coerced into the scenario of discovery and either "believed" or felt that they were being asked to believe that "primitives" existed. and subsequent viewers of the film. native peoples of the world today are uprooted. and resemanticizing "foreign" cultural materials. given that there was little illusion of authenticity to the performance? Aside from the "authoritative"framework provided by the mu- seum. "real" otherness legitimated fantasies of a real. But the dislocation. But one could pretend that the show of dis- placement was unrelated to that history." One stubbornly clings to the official version. knowable "self. It didn't have any- thing to do with the diasporasand cultural transformationsprovoked by colo- nialism. Every stereotype was exaggerated and contested-the sunglasses offset the body paint. and lamented that Native Americans are not much better off today. if not all. and most emphatically not on what Homi Bhabha calls the "unhomeliness" of the colo- nial and postcolonial condition stretching from I492 to the present (I994:9). why were they. however. linguistically derived from "what now. or to the current history of political . and imperialism.

beyond civilization. and the live performance that I imagine I see in it."they saw themselves re- flected in artists'dark glasses. premodern to postmodern. Precolonial subjects. that is. she writes: "even those who saw our performance as art rather than artifactappeared to take great pleasure in engaging in the fic- tion. "Home" for the migrant. no trans-cultural-nada.outside time. marking the radical boundary between the "here" and the "there.-Cuban Coco Fusco or Chilango- Mexicano-ChicanoGomez-Pefia. they don't. Maybe that's what made the spectacle so troubling to many spectators-when they got close to the cage and stared at the "savages." the "us" and the "them. I believe the anger in part comes from the "testlike" quality of both. we fail. We can laugh at others' reactions. is what the performance and the video were all about. While I personally love the video. For Fusco. The hierarchies and epistomologies that the perfor- mance attacked are in danger of being reproduced. really are from nowhereland.I68 Diana Taylor exile and migration of artists like U. postcolonial encounter. the un- seen-seer. the "pre"/"post" hammers in distinct and identifiable boundaries. they were gullible fools or self-interested colonists. no cross-. We know. It served to maintain a distance between the pre. They. and recognizable difference. "is always some- where else" as G6mez-Peiia puts it (I995). then. Could we argue. stable identities. though not in the way their spec- tators were being asked to believe." allowing for no inter-. it seems. or for G6mez-Pefia. making people see themselves as im- plicated in these colonial fantasies. the bars actually pro- tected against that realization. The native body was believable. the naked.and the post-: precolonial to postcolonial. No matter what. The de- gree to which some of the viewers continued to disavow the marked theatri- cality of the performance attested to how deeply invested they were in maintaining the colonial fantasy. really are Guatinauis of sorts. didn't experience today's hybrid ethnic and racial identities.S. The last thing they wanted. who fled Mexico City. the video watcher is outside the frame. by paying money to see us enact completely nonsensical or humiliating acts" (I995:50). Coco Fusco complains about an au- dience member at the Whitney Biennial who was willing to pay $Io to feed her a banana. In her essay. like many others including myself. Rather than challenging us to more fully acknowledge the racial and cultural heterogeneity of societies such as Latin America's in which very real indigenas continue to live in or alongside industrialized centers. conversely. So why are so many people who agree politically with the project so angry? Once again. Suspended overthere. not because it was "real" but precisely because it wasn't. deterritorialized from postrevolutionary Cuba. frozen in static essence. there is no "there" there. mute native body lures the destabilized postmodern viewer into dreaming about fixed positions. that the man was just willing to . For some viewers. But what if they didn't believe the show. Bringing the spectator into the frame. if they understood it as a perfor- mance? Some people recognized it as performance without recognizing that Fusco and Gomez-Pefia were the artists. was to recognize the contemporaneity of the postmodern. Would audience members go along with the expert's explanations about the Guatinauis and their island? If the spectators believed the show.

Several specta- tors I've watched the video with felt angry at the intrusive video camera that "outs" spectators as closet colonists or dupes. feel gloriously Latin American when I watch this video. looking at each other looking. it creates a community of resis- tance. humiliation." But. I. Once again. Through a disruptive act. the ones who actually tried to open the cage during the world tour were the skinheads who wanted to at- tack the actors physically. I knew I'd failed the test. As Gomez-Pefia stated toward the end of the video. unlike the performance that Gomez-Pefia and Roberto Sifuentes staged on the Tijuana/San Diego border in which they crucified themselves and explicitly asked audience members to bring them down from the cross. given the West's violent history of displaying. That's what relajo is all about. ironically. People who recognize the conven- tions of performance. Most of us know all about im- perfect responses. "falls somewhere between truth and fiction" (I995:37). or delayed witticisms of the "this is what she was thinking but could not say" variety. and look again in their attempts to grapple with the colonialism in the heart and soul of Western cultures (assuming the video camera doesn't . We know. this is the space that the video does not allow for. Sprung upon the viewer with the intention of creating "a surprise or 'uncanny encounter"' (Fusco 1995:40). they don't. We can laugh at others' reactions. don't interrupt the show. a community (as Portilla puts it) of underdogs. Couplein the Cage I69 play along? I asked Gomez-Pefia what his ideal spectator would have done. the spectacle would surprise anyone. "open the cage and let us out. one-way focus? While the live performance situates us all in the Lacanian field of the gaze. Before the spectator can digest and come to terms with the show. in which we're all in the frame. "Their" gullibility reaffirms our superior wisdom. As video watchers. as Fusco writes. that response is turned into a show for someone else." Does reversing the ethnographic lens. sometimes it takes a while for the viewers to under- stand what they're seeing and their role in it. painful pauses. personally. very empowered knowing I "get it" and "they" don't. So what do we do? Play along as a "good" audi- ence? And what would that mean. the video watcher is outside the frame. and exterminating human beings? Should we walk out and cancel our membership to the museum? There is no appropriatereaction. He stated. it freezes that immediate re- sponse. no "true" or "false" response to this perfor- mance that. the unseen-seer. the video shifts the borders. The hierarchies and epistemologies that the performance attacked are in danger of being reproduced. Maybe that's why I love it. our pleasure is somehow tied into the audience members' floundering or. But my own pleasure troubles me-is this the "appropriate"response to a history of dehumanizing colonial subjects? (Even though I enjoyed the performance and relished its sardonic humor. Others felt sad and confused. Our looking becomes unidirec- tional and invasive. there is nothing in this performance that calls for intervention. The video further accentuates the spectators' discomfort when suddenly faced with the disturbing spectacle of people locked in cages. incarcerating. But though it might have been the artists' intention to create a pause for reflection. look. worse. albeit sardonically. Quite the opposite. "they" once again serve to stabilize "us. prove less invasive than the ethnographic practice under critique? Unlike the live performance-which offers the spectators a little room to pause. as Cervantes so ferociously demonstrated in Don Quixote. Some spectators felt offended. The prohibition against uninvited intervention comes specifically from its performative nature. exactly? Participate in the fantasy by posing for a photograph with the "natives"?Would it be appropriate to laugh at the obvious parodic mode? Or would that be highly inappropriate.) And is putting the viewer on the spot automatically a form of critiquing the eth- nographic. And.

'?And yet. the social drama. original. and elucidating ges- tures of those who came before even as we struggle to do away with the cage? Or does the problem have more to do with the way ethnography and performance come together in staging encounters with otherness as they seek to elucidate the drama of cultural encounters? Ethnography Ethnography. and unwittingly colludes with the ethnographic pleasures it sets out to deconstruct. as Turner puts it. rather than as a past-tense narrativedescription. it might never even see. Schechner continues. we are the products . produces and exposes the other. and with cultural meaning. conflict. The target group that is the object of analysis (like the actors) does not usually see or analyze the group that benefits or consumes the ethnographer's accounts (the audience). if ever. The ethnogra- pher brackets the moment [here the drama of"discovery"]. takes place live in the here and now. it comes first. in some cases. Though it's hard to imagine a more Western narrative of discovery into the "heart of darkness" than Claude Levi-Stauss'sdescription of his voyage into the "primitive" societ- ies of Brazil in TristesTropiques." and "A Backward Glance" (1967). The spectacle is "real"." like the dramatic characteracted by a live ac- tor. he insists. The object of analysisis present. as Schechner points out." he writes. and the theoretical framework after. as in theatrical performances. Moreover. or re- stores.Nonetheless. the ethnologist plays a role in the dramathat he or she (in theory) is there to simply observe. The ethnologist studies theatrical aspects normally associated with acting (movement. ritual action. is part "real. resolution). "and yet it moves" (1986:37). chooses the cast of charactersby virtue of framing the event. form on my field data" (1986:37). the ethnographer insists that the spectacle is "real" or. The ethnographic "other.calls "restored behavior. like the systems of representation it parodies. presenting one group to another in a unidirectional way. with staging (backdrop. in BetweenTheatreand Anthropology. body language. and endows it with shape and mean- ing.staged in the here and now. I have suggested throughout. mimicking the seemingly endless slate-cleaning." part "fiction"-that is. the ethnologist mediates between two cul- tural groups. have stressed that they peform ethnography by recording social dramas. and fieldworkers are becoming. and other forms of "twice-behaved behavior" that Richard Schechner. embodied cultural behavior which.which is subdivided into chapterssuch as "De- parture. It. with dramatic plot (crisis. even an Aristotelian. is not necessarily the same as the audience for which it was (or will be) written (1997). Victor Turner tries to dispel notions that the eth- nologist imposes a Western narrative on the material under examination: "It may perhapsbe argued against me. The addressed audience for both. The encounter is constructed theatrically. quot- ing Galileo's affirmationof the incontestable order of our solar system. And it rarely." "On Board Ship. gesture). So is that the point? That there is no "other"-no noncoercive system of representation? We're all trapped in our performative traditions. not only studies performance (the rituals and social dramas commentators habitually refer to). we would answer." As Schechner puts it: "Directors have been. context). spe- cialists in restored behavior" (I985:IO9). "that I have imposed a Western. I have tried to argue that ethnography is performative primarily in the way it stages. Many commentators. And other performative aspects have been stressed. real bodies come to embody fictional qualities and characteristicscreated by the ethnographer/dramatist.170 Diana Taylor pounce on them)-the video "captures" or "cages" the viewer. gets to respond to the written observa- tions which. Edith Turner and Victor Turner most no- tably. it is performative. Like the director.

However. is the figure that Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gomez-Pefia capture and put behind bars. there is also a way in which performance. child of the ethnographers' cultural reper- toire. Their enactment shows the violence of the ethnographic per- formance that tries to pass as real-violent because its performative strings are hidden from the spectator'sview. is ethnographic-though not perhaps in the way that it intends. A flyerfor thefilm The EDITED BY DAISYWRIGHTi. of our own discursive and epistemic systems. we are no more outside the cul- tural repertoires that produce us than the earth is free from the sun's pulls and tugs. fictional other. This created. BY GUILLERMO PERFORMANCE GOMEZPENAAND COCO FUCO Couple in the Cage: A UNNI 0 MN j Guatinaui Odyssey by CocoFuscoand Paula Heredia (1993). Couple in the Cage 17I ME COUPLE IN THE CAGE: II A GU A TINA UI ODYSSEY a video by Coc Fusco and Paua Heredia I 1.in a sense. or at least this perfor- mance. has much in common with the raw materialof ethnog- raphy-stemming from the same rituals and social dramas that ethnographers . All performance. The spectator of "real" ethnography (as op- posed to Fusco and G6mez-Pefia's parody) is supposed to see it as objective sci- ence of authenticity ratherthan as fantasy.

etc. hold for other forms of performance that move the focus from the stage onto the audience in an attempt to gauge its habits and belief systems. gender. And 20th-century artists have actively tried to reconnect to ritual action. a form of "carryingthrough" as its etymological roots (parfournir = to perform. ratherthan as the show? These questions. and adjustedtheir expectations according to information gained in the field ("We did not anticipate that our self-conscious commentary on this practice could be believable" [50]). Grotowski.has also served as an instrumentof culturalanalysis. were more ludic in their reac- tions than American whites" (55). these performance artists made assumptions about the imagined viewers (a "white audience" as Coco Fusco describes it in the opening paragraphof her essay [I995:37]).S. who the dupe."our" being the audience at the performanceand capturedon tape. However. while "Whites outside the U. or is the data being used. as evident in the writing and work by major practitioners such as Artaud. Certainly. Who. and so on. defined their meth- odology (interactive performance). Or.the self-proclaimedelite" did that (52). is being constructed?Does the scrutinyof the audience in fact end up turning spectatorsinto specimens?Does the encounter give us more information about our own culturalfearsand fantasies. as G6mez-Pefia and Fusco intend. Performance. class. is it also about the way in which it.insulting and hu- miliating speech. and others. "people of color who believed. They then decided to measure (collect hard data) the size and range of reactions of the audiences that attended the performance. and national origin. that the performancewas real" did some- thing else (53). pulls the performative strings?Who is positioned where in this most uncanny. "Severalfemi- nist artistsand intellectuals at performancesin the United States" said this (55)." The subject of analysisin the Cage performance is not the "couple" inside but the audience outside. As culture becomes less a synonym for performance than its field of work. body language. the history and practice of Western ethnography is the target of the parody. classified. or is it ethnography. is this reverse ethnography that sardonicallyshows up the violence inherent in ethnographicpractice. Performance.though the society under examination has tended to be the artist's own. Like the ethnographer.and presented to some other audience entirely?Does that audience get to respond to the show.too. at least initially. perhaps we may be excused for wondering who the artists are. like ethnography.).172 Diana Taylor make their focus. and as performance complicates our understanding of cultural practice so that we recognize the rehearsed and produced and creative nature of every- day life. carrythrough thoroughly) would suggest. rather than the "other's. the audience. which were then broken down and classifiedaccording to age. But the performance is in itself ethno- graphic. race. formulatedtheir goal ("to create a surprise or 'uncanny' encounter. Barba. explores the use and significance of gesture. though directed at the performance and particularly the video of the Cage. So. movement. complete with its own inherent violence? Is the discomfortmanifestedby the au- dience simply about the troubling content (the treatment of aboriginalpeoples)? Is it about the disconcerting true/false setup? Or. "[W]e found that young people's re- actions have been the most humane" Fusco writes (I995:52). perfor- mance is not just a doing. While the performance sardonically mimics the gestures of ethnographic displays and dismantles the "real" they purport to reveal. This analysisled to certain conclusions about deeply held Western cultural stereotypes and anxieties that manifest themselves in cer- tain forms of public behavior on the part of spectators(chagrin. who the closet colonist. ultimately. who the ethnographer. one in which audiences had to undergo their own process of reflection as to what they were seeing" [40]). postmodern drama of cultural encounters? . the video in turn wants to function as a "document" of culturalbehavior. "Artistsand culturalbureaucrats.

FatimahTobing Rony (1996).He has a certain forcedelegance. de Certeau.in the middle of nowhere: (Airplanenoises. 7.000 spectatorsbelieved the Guatinauiswere "real.or what the late Mexican intellectualJorge Portilla. and EthnographicSpectacle(1996). Las Casas. Couple in the Cage 173 Notes i. In an essaywritten afterthe experience.Like a trappedandfrightenedanimal. "A Savage Perfor- mance. and many others.it never occurredto them that they would be taken literally. Cinema. rebellious soli- darity-that of the underdog.the ARCHITECT looks for a refuge. 8. References Arrabal.He triesto keep his composure. See also Rey Chow's discussionof Spivak'sessay in WritingDiaspora.an act of sardonicdevalorization. ..) EMPEROR: Help me. Spring 1994. ARCHITECT: (Horrified) Fee! Fee! Feegaa!Feegaa!Fee! Fee! (Fora momenthe looksat the EMPEROR and then runsoff asfast as he can. Homi K. The comment was made during a discussion following my lecture.Translatedby EverardD'Harnoncourt and Adele Shank. Blackout. 1984 de automovilesy El Arquitectoy el Emperador El cementario de Asiria.Bartolom6de 1985 Obraindigenista.. Center for Ideas and Society.] Explosion.Berkeley: University of CaliforniaPress.New York: Routledge. While Fusco and G6mez-Pefia had intended to play "the identity of an Other for a white audience" (1995:37). "Genealogiesof performance.)(Arrabal1969) 2.Judith 1993 BodiesThatMatter:On the DiscursiveLimitsof "Sex."This was in spite of the fact that the in- formationon the walls around the cage specificallyset the piece in a traditionof a rep- resentationalpractice-nonwhites and "freaks"have been exposed for centuries."New York: Routledge. "The Other History of InterculturalPerformance. For a discussion of the ethnographic fairs see Fatimah Tobing Rony's The ThirdEye: Race.theAR- CHITECT.Riverside. On an island.He is carryinga largesuitcase. Edited by Diana Taylor.Trembling withfear."documentthe historicaltransmis- sion and disseminationof culturalpracticesthroughcollective representations" (1995:48). 4. Io. Butler.Fernando 1969 TheArchitectand the Emperorof Assyria."was first pub- lished in TDR 38. The Couplein the Cage:A Guatinaui Odyssey (I 993). in Fenomenologia del relajo(1984). See the video by Coco Fusco and Paula Heredia. Applying terms such as "real"and "authentic"to culturalbehavior has been continually problematizedby people such asJames Clifford (1988). Madrid:Ediciones Catedra."Where Have All the Natives Gone?" (1993). calls "desolidarization"with dominant norms in order to create a different. Bhabha. 28 February1997. I (TI4I).A brightflashofflames.He touchesthe ARCHITECT with the tip of his cane."Joseph Roach explains. Ella Shohat and Robert Stam (I994). Relajois "una burla colectiva" (a collective prank). 6. hisface againstthe sand. 1994 TheLocationof Culture. The essaycited here. University of California. Madrid:AlianzaEditorial. Michel 1988 The Practice of EverydayLife. 9. Fusco notes that more than half of their 150. 3. Richard Schechner (I985). 5. sir! I am the only survivorof the accident.[.puts hisfingersin his ears. and therefore requiresno furtherelaborationhere.A few moments laterthe EMPEROR appears." in the "Performing Identities" lecture series. New York: Grove Press.

and PaulaHeredia 1993 The Couplein the Cage:A GuatinauiOdyssey. Diana 1994 "Opening Remarks. October. Ella. New York: Atheneum. Gayatri 1988 "Can the SubalternSpeak?"In Marxismand the Interpretation of Culture. 45-63. NC: Duke University Press. Columbus. Dartmouth College. Ethnography. Torgovnick. Taylor.ModernLives. Durham.New York: The New Press.James 1988 The Predicament of Culture:Twentieth-Century Literature. Victor 1986 TheAnthropology New York: PAJPublications. 1996 "The Artist as Criminal"TDR 40. Guillermo 1995 Public presentation. Levi-Strauss. Shohat.and Ethnographic Spectacle.edited by Diana Taylor and Juan Villegas. I (T149):II2-I8.H. Coco.Claude 1967 TristesTropiques: An AnthropologicalStudyof PrimitiveSocietiesin Brazil. Coco 1995 EnglishIs BrokenHere: Notes on CulturalFusion in the Americas. Richard 1985 BetweenTheaterand Anthropology. Spivak. New York.Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. MA: Peter Smith. Cambridge. 27 July. NY. Tobing Rony. Stannard. Translatedand edited by R. G6mez-Pefia. pp.A BilingualEdi- tion. Joseph 1995 "Culture and Performancein the Circum-Atlantic World. Portilla.Chicago: University of Chicago Press. I997 Personalcommunication with author.Bloomington: University of IndianaPress.David E. Fusco. Fenomenologia Roach. Fatimah I996 The ThirdEye: Race. of Performance.Mexico: Fondo de culturaeconomica." In WritingDiaspora. Clifford.pp.and Art.New England Council on Latin American Studies Con- ference. Major. and Performance. Sedgwick.edited by Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg. Rey 1993 "Where Have All the Natives Gone.Authentic Documentary Pro- ductions. 271-313. Marianna 1990 GonePrimitive:SavageIntellects.Sexualityand Theatri- calityin Latin/o America. 1992 AmericanHolocaust:The Conquestof the New World. NC: Duke University Press. Fusco." In Performativity edited by Andrew Parker and Eve K.Durham.MA: HarvardUniversity Press. New York: Routledge. and Robert Stam 1994 UnthinkingEurocentrism: Multiculturalism andtheMedia. Christopher 1978 Four Voyagesto the New World:Lettersand SelectedDocuments. Cinema. Schechner."In NegotiatingPerformance: Gender.174 Diana Taylor Chow. Turner. .New York: Oxford Uni- versity Press. Gloucester.Trans- lated by John Russell.New York: Routledge.Jorge 1984 del relajo. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Copyright ? 1998 Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett. as is The Couplein the Cage. The Drama Review 42. Latin American Theatre Review. Rather than offering a critique of con- temporary (or even modern) ethnographic theory and practice. Theatre Journal. . Latino. 1997). Gestos. which can be said to be "museums" of repudiated anthropological knowledge. The flyer announcing the video explicitly positions the staging in tabloid terms by faking the front page of the fictional NaturalEnquirer. 1991). Diana Taylor is Professorand Chair of Performance Studies at Tisch Schoolof the Arts/NYU. Summer 1998. She has editedthreevolumesof criticalessayson Latin Ameri- can. Performing Arts Journal. and of Disappearing Acts: Spectacles of Gender and Nationalism in Argentina's "Dirty War" (Duke UniversityPress. 2 (T158). The EthnographicBurlesque BarbaraKirshenblatt-Gimblett The Couplein the Cage restagesrepudiated modes of ethnographic knowledge and display. CallawayPrizefor the Best Book on Drama. Estreno. practices associatedwith the early history of ethnographic writing and dis- play and with popular entertainment. which won the Best Book Award given by the New England Councilon Latin AmericanStudiesand HonorableMen- tion in theJoe E.' Before the advent of public museums. such displays were largely in the hands of commercial showmen. and Spanishplaywrights. Couplein the Cage 175 ValleyNews 1995 "Expedition Claims to Have Found New Tribe in Amazon Rain Forest.Her articleson Latin Americanand Latinoper- formance have appearedin TDR. the "ghosts of history" that the piece unleashes are still palpable in tabloids and tourism. She is the authorof Theatre of Crisis: Drama and Politics in Latin America (University Press of Kentucky.Indeed." ValleyNews. who com- bined edification and amusement in various ratios (Altick 1978). I September:A8. and otherscholarlyjournals. The Couple in the Cage uses the ethnographic burlesque in the service of a shameful ethnol- ogy. She has directedand participatedin staging Latin Americanand Latino theatrein Mexicoand the United States.