This evening was a real lesson in performance art for me. These two performances extended beyond every pre-conception I have toward performance art. The “stars” of the show was La Pocha Nostra. They are an internationally recognized performance art troupe led by the shamanistic Guillermo Gómez-Peña. The two other core performers that make up La Pocha Nostra are Erca Mott and Roberto Sifuentes. In the main room of Human Resources, the group set up three mid-sized stages against three walls, projecting a video on the fourth. On one stage a woman received geo-political acupuncture. Mott and Sifuentes were on the two stages that faced one another, each performing beautiful albeit gruesome tableaus, while Gómez-Peña roamed through the audience encouraging interaction with the each scene.
When I compared the entirety of all performance art that I have witnessed personally, they where clearly a cut above; the intense display was lucidly conceived, beautifully lit and well staged. Each aspect of their performance was minimal but used to maximum potential and the results where impressive. The person that introduced me to the group described them as, “the de-colonized Marina Abramovic”. After witness their show I understood what that meant.
While La Pocha Nostra were the “stars” of the show, Alejandra Herrera was the real thing for me. Herrera had constructed a false room in the alleyway behind Human Resources that was all white and had a number of domestic items. Items included two children chairs, a table with china, two shelves with glass stemware, numerous containers of wine and a large white on white cloth banner on the very back wall. Her performance incorporated her two young daughters. Sometimes she would have them join her performing certain movements, other times she would sit them down and teach them the alphabet in both English and Spanish. In between soft nurturing moment like these, Herrera would strain to hold large stacks of china until she could no longer hold them. The stacks would fall with a terrible crash. (She was very mindful of the children not being in the way of the breaking shards.) It was clear that the stacks of china were meant to represent a personal struggle that only she alone could go through. As the performance unfurled Herrera would spray and sometimes spit wine onto the white banner. The text would slowly reveal a quote.
The room was cramped as audience members squeezed in to see but moved out of the way as the petite Herrera helped her children sweep up all the broken china on the floor and place it into a glass jar with the word “hurt” on it. I was only able to read a few words of the text but what was clear to me was the word “prematurely”. I immediately understood the imagery of a mother holding a tremendous weight, only for it to drop and shatter into a thousand sharp and painful memories that must be carefully cleaned up as a family. The intensity of the metaphor became overwhelming for me and I began to weep.
Having lost someone recently myself, I intimately understood all the broken shards placed into a fragile hurt jar. I have been moved by many artworks but never to tears and then sobs. I eventually pulled myself together but not before being noticed by Gómez-Peña who was standing behind me at that moment. He touched me on the shoulder and said, “This is very powerful.”
It was later revealed that the text was a quote by the performance artist Natalie Loveless. It was she that experienced the trauma. Despite the biographical separation of the quote and the performer, I was touched by an intense connection to love and loss, hope and frustration and the mess that we must silently clean up after an ordeal.
Human Resources LA is located at 410 Cottage Home St, LA, CA 90012
Photographs and article by Andrew Thompson