This impromptu spoken word duel between Guillermo Gómez Peña & Susana Cook was presented as part of the 7th Encuentro of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, held in August of 2009 in Bogotá, Colombia, under the title 'Staging Citizenship: Cultural Rights in the Americas.' This 10-day event brought together activism, scholarship, and art around the themes of legacies, memories, struggles, and frontiers of citizenship. As a part of the Encuentro, performance artist Susana Cook coordinated a series of late-night performances that were staged in Mapa Teatro’s theater space – an old house where the ruins of the past coexist with the vitality of live performances. Every night, participants presented short, sometimes impromptu, cabaret-style performances, transforming Mapa Teatro into an open site for artistic experimentation and exchange. Both Susana Cook and Gómez Peña are well known for their spoken word works; for this reason, this video documentation of their ‘duel’ is a unique opportunity for enjoying their art and their playful dialogue. Staged as a jam session of poetry, both performers explore issues regarding power, complicity, nation, and gender. Their interaction transformed the surface of the table into a ludic field upon which an emerging community of performers and spectators engaged in a convivial meeting. This experience offered compelling questions about how performance is never a finished product, but an ongoing process of creation and transformation.
Susana Cook is a New York based Argentine playwright, performer, and director. She has presented her work as an independent artist for over 20 years. Her original plays include: The UnPatriotic Act: Homeland Insecurities, The Values Horror Show, 100 Years of Attitude, Dykenstein, Hamletango, and Hot Tamale, among others. The recipient of numerous fellowships and honors, she has presented her work globally in Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Spain, India, Ecuador, and Canada.
Guillermo Gómez-Peña is a performance artist/writer and the director of the transnational arts collective La Pocha Nostra. He was born in Mexico City and came to the US in 1978. Since then he has been exploring cross-cultural issues with the use of performance, multilingual poetry, journalism, video, radio, and installation art. His performance work and eight books have contributed to the debates on cultural diversity, identity, and US-Mexico relations. His art work has been presented at over seven hundred venues across the US, Canada, Latin America, Europe, Russia and Australia. He is a MacArthur Fellow, American Book Award winner, and a Senior Fellow of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics. He is a regular contributor to National Public Radio, a writer for newspapers and magazines in the US, Mexico, and Europe, and a contributing editor to The Drama Review (NYU-MIT).