Guillermo Gómez-Peña

Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Ex-centris (A Living Diorama of Fetish-ized Others), 2002


Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Los Video-Grafitis (From the Ethno-Techno Jukebox), 2002

Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Ex-centris (A Living Diorama of Fetish-ized Others), 2002


Born in Mexico (b.1955) and now resident in San Francisco, Guillermo Gómez-Peña – whether working in performance, installation, writing, video or on the web – illuminates the cultural side-effects of globalisation and the commodification of identity. The borderless future he points towards may not yet have arrived, but the cultural margins, with their transgressive agendas (not so long ago closely patrolled by the border guards of taste) are fast disappearing, appropriated now into what Gómez-Peña terms ‘the mainstream bizarre’:

‘A perplexing oxymoron ... nowhere is this phenomenon more apparent than in mass media and the Internet, where so called radical behaviour, revolution-as-style and extreme images of racialised violence and sexual hybridity have become daily entertainment, mere marketing strategies. From the humiliating spectacle of anti-social behaviour performed in US network talk shows to TV specials on mass murderers, child killers, religious cults, extreme sex and sports, predatory animals and/or natural disasters, and the obsessive repetition of real crimes shot by private citizens or by surveillance cameras, we’ve all become daily voyeurs and participants of a new cultura in extremis.’

Conceived for Liverpool as a sort of experimental ethnography project, Ex-Centris: A Living Diorama of Fetish-ized Others (2002) brought Gómez-Peña together with a team of performers from Mexico, USA, India, Japan and Britain to present an interactive museum of ‘living dioramas’ that parody colonial practices of representation. These included the ethnographic tableaux vivants found in natural history museums, the freak show, the Indian trading post, the border curio shop, the porn window display, and their contemporary equivalents. 

The participants in this living museum became ‘inter-cultural specimens’ – charged symbols of cultural difference, reflecting the experiences of those hybridised ‘orphans of the developing world’ who exist beyond nation states. The performance-installation functioned both as a bizarre stage set for a contemporary enactment of ‘cultural pathologies’, and as a ceremonial space for people to reflect on their attitudes toward other cultures. It addressed the appropriation of hybridity by corporate multiculturalism and global media, and asked why certain ‘Others’ are demonised, whilst other ‘Others’ are romanticised or eroticised.

Guillermo Gómez-Peña at Liverpool Biennial 2002

Ex-Centris (A Living Diorama of Fetish-ized Others), 2002
Courtesy of artists
Exhibited at Bluecoat Arts Centre

Los Video-Grafitis (From the Ethno-Techno Jukebox) 2002
30 performance videos 
Courtesy of artists
Exhibited at Tate Liverpool