Closeup Image of polished vintage wood flooring at CFPA - Center for Performing Arts in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Who is La Pocha Nostra?

Saúl García-López, co-artistic director of La Pocha Nostra, will be conducting a workshop at CFPA Mpls this weekend, culminating in a public presentation,

Saturday, March 24th, at 7:30 pm.

In advance of this workshop, García-López shared some thoughts with CFPA Mpls Executive Director Jackie Hayes.

Why and how is live performance important to your work?

Listen…Cambio…testing…testing…I climb into performance as a vehicle to test my fronteras: performance as a seductive and sensual power, as colonial exorcism, as symbolic cannibalism for identity reincarnation.  My identity, just as yours, continues to be a work in progress, I have been an object for the enjoyment of the “white” cultural consumerism of the Latino/a.

Just like many of our alumni, my artistic work was radically transformed after taking my first Pocha Nostra workshop in 2010. I had the unique opportunity to take two workshops as a student, and then three workshops as a pedagogical coyote, activating exercises as a workshop participant propelling the pedagogical aims. I became a core member of Pocha  in 2013 and I started to teach the pedagogy.

Saúl García-López

Thanks to this, I have found an anchoring force between my complex identity, ambiguous accent, gender complexity and the historical, physical and imaginary markers of my body. I gathered powerful tools to dislocate stereotypes and decolonize myself. The catalyst that brought all this to the forefront of my consciousness was performance art and the radical pedagogy of La Pocha Nostra.

CFPA Mpls’s ReClaim Series is a project that aims to address audience and works of art as equal holders of knowledge – an effort at diminishing the hierarchy of knowing and learning between artist and audience.  It’s a kind of curriculum of experience we’re experimenting with here.  Pocha Nostra describes it’s creative making process as a pedagogy.  Please elaborate on the process you are describing and what is meant by radical pedagogy.

La Pocha challenges traditional art world mythologies. We do NOT accept the role of the artist as a suffering bohemian and misunderstood genius drowning in the angst born of their existential suffering and personal traumas. La Pocha artists are first and foremost social critics and chroniclers, inter-cultural diplomats, re-interpreters and mis-translators, radical pedagogues, informal ombudsmen, media pirates, information architects, reverse anthropologists, experimental linguists, border semioticians with P/T jobs as “high/low tech exotic inter-cultural fetishes for rent during weekends.” We even bartend at times.

La Pocha operates from a horizontal model of continual, clumsy and chaotic democratic negotiation, radical tenderness, listening, patience, heroic sustainability and love. We are far from perfect, and perfection is very far from our desire. But one thing we have learned is that a star-driven vertical model does not work for us. We strive for humble and egalitarian participation from our core troupe members and to honor the hard and committed work of our many affiliates throughout the globe. For some of us this is a utopia, a distant marker in the horizon; for others, the younger ones, a mere daily anarchist practice.

La Pocha functions through an open belief system: performance is theory and practice. We strongly believe in embodied theory and embodied artivism. We strongly trust the idea that consciousness is stimulated through non-traditional presentational formats stressing the role of the “intelligent body,” and the concept of “embodied poetics and ideas.”  Therefore, we view each performance project as an effective catalyst for thought, action, and debate.

La Pocha’s performance pedagogy performs a major role in our political praxis. Our pedagogy is also becoming more and more part of our artistic praxis. The interaction of these two universes is an ongoing process; the process itself becomes “the ultimate project.”

Our pedagogy encourages autonomy. It challenges authoritarian hierarchies by horizontally spreading responsibility and participation. It also challenges specialized knowledge by creating temporary utopian spaces where interdisciplinary dialogue and artistic imagination can flourish.  These temporary “utopian zones” are loosely framed by, but not contained within, a pentagon-shape of radical ideas and actions whose vertices are community, education, activist politics, new technologies, and experimental aesthetics. Every project we undertake is loosely framed by these parameters. “Radical Tenderness” and ongoing “trans-cultural trans-disciplinary border-crossings,” concepts developed by La Pocha 15 year ago, are the framing device for this “utopian/dystopian pedagogical space.”

La Pocha workshops serve as an anthropological and artistic experiment where multiple communities of difference can find common ground in performance. It is our connective tissue and lingua franca.