Tuesday, December 9, 2008
On Saturday night, we were making our way to the new permanent home of Sushi: & A Center for the Urban Arts and because we were chatting away, we ended up on the 8 West heading in the wrong direction. & The solution was to take the 163 South, which put us right in the middle the insane amount of traffic going to December Nights. & I started to get overly anxious because we were running late (typical). & As I tried to calm down and keep my nervous toes from tapping, I looked around me at all the other cars. & It occurred to me we were about to have a very different kind of evening than all of our fellow travelers on the 163. & On tap for them: & Christmas lights, child ballerinas, a Santa Claus, an organ pavillion, homespun snacks like kettle corn, fountains and happy, rosy-cheeked children running amok. & On tap for us: & an "x-treme" fashion show with a barbarian theme, cross-dressing, a "trickster, brujo poet," lots of leather, nudity, gender-bending dress, piercings, border politics, and plenty of masks. &
We were on our way to see pioneer performance artist Guillermo Gomez-Pena and his collective La Pocha Nostra at Sushi where they were staging the US premiere of The New Barbarian Collection , a radical, x-treme fashion show meant to critique the media and celebrity obsession. I decided to bring you a little slideshow from the evening to give you a sense of how things went down. & G & oacute;mez-Pe & ntilde;a's readings were the most interesting aspect of the show, as he chanted variations of "we are..." citing a long list of terms for marginalized communities and subcultures, races, and political affiliations. & Some references were playful, others were reclaiming slurs and stereotypes. & He continually landed on the refrain "we will not stop talking back." & At other times throughout the night, Obama's acceptance speech played on a loop contrasted with a talking Bush doll that sat on the end of the runway. & The doll would spout Bush-isms, like "a low voter turnout is an indication of fewer people going to the polls."
A stream of performers walked the runway in various costumes and radical attire. Some danced, others peformed acrobatics, and almost all of them transformed, manipulated or used their bodies to make a statement or challenge a conventional idea. Overall, the show didn't feel as tight as it could be, especially in its pacing. & If the idea was to mimic the fashion show aesthetic and then turn it on its head, it missed the boat on the pacing and spectacle of a fashion show. It did, however, achieve that tenuous sense you often get from performance art where anything could happen, especially if an audience member were to spontaneously react in a way that could change the course of the performance. & Overall, I was intrigued and am certain that an appearance by G & oacute;mez-Pe & ntilde;a is not to be missed. His work is so important to the politics and culture of this region and the nation as a whole. & And, I suspect this fashion show idea will get tighter and more nuanced as it gets performed more. &
I was thrilled to see the new Sushi space and founder Lynne Schuette presiding over the evening. & Sushi has been so central to defining the edges and boundaries of the San Diego art scene. & Now that they have a permanent space again, we'll likely find some of the most interesting cultural events in San Diego happening within its new walls. &