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October 2, 2004

Architectures of Memory, Identities in Transit: The Performance of Collective Creation in Latin American Theater

Architectures of Memory, Identities in Transit: The Performance of Collective Creation in Latin American Theater


In the context of my dissertation project in Performance Studies, I intend to explore the particular ethics and aesthetics of collective creation in Latin American theater, inasmuch as I conceive it as a performance of an �architecture of memory� rehearsed by identities in transit. My investigation, conceived as a dramaturgical inquiry, crystallizes an ongoing artistic and scholarly process of study and documentation I have been developing on the peculiar configuration of collectives of creation explored and sustained for over twenty years by two specific artistic projects in Latin America: Grupo de Teatro Malayerba in Quito, Ecuador (theater ensemble and pedagogic laboratory created by two political exiles, Argentinean playwright and director Ar�stides Vargas, and Spaniard actress Charo Franc�s), and the ongoing collaboration between theater director and professor Rosa Luisa M�rquez and visual artist Antonio Martorell in Puerto Rico. Their creative methodology, along with their consistent cultural and pedagogical activism, have shaped a unique praxis of experimental theater that poses provoking proposals on the transformation of spaces and objects as scaffolding for the performance of personal and collective memory, on the possibility of creating ephemeral communities for artistic collaboration, and on the embodied configuration of a collective identity in transit that challenges and problematizes political and economic boundaries.
A peculiarity of these two artistic projects is the constitution of a community not defined by geopolitical definitions, but by a shared liminal state (i.e. political exile, blurred political status, insularisms, cultural �mestizaje�) that renders solidarity a modus operandi of collaboration, not only for artistic work, but also for pedagogic projects like the Escuela Internacional de Teatro de Am�rica Latina y el Caribe (EITALC). Working as discrete clusters of collective creation, they have also continuously merged in collaborative work, both in theater pieces (for example, Donde el viento hace bu�uelos, currently touring internationally) and in festivals, colloquia, international workshops, etc. Their distinctive esthetics, their ethic of work and their methodology of collaborative creation have not only shaped a corpus of dramatic work for more than two decades (rehearsing and embodying identity as an archipelago of shards, memories, mementos, rendered a �self as/in transit� that finds a �patria� in friendship, in solidarity): they have been a decisive influence in the current creative performing artwork by emerging ensembles in my country, in what some theater critics have identify as a new �generation� of Puerto Rican theater.
All this artistic and pedagogic endeavor, its repercussions in Latin American theater landscape, its shortcomings and potentialities, have not yet being studied and documented in a consistent, rigorous manner, but through scattered scholarship that has not yet dialogued with each other. My investment as an artist and scholar of performance in this project reaches a phenomenological dimension: I have been a spectator, student, artist, dramaturg, assistant director and collaborator for several years with both collectives; the pertinence and necessity to thoroughly study and document this cultural phenomenon not only springs from my respect, love and familiarity for and with their artistic endeavors, but also from the scarcity of scholartistic reflection on these topics towards the development of a history of contemporary Latin American theater.
I propose, then, to apply performance both as a theoretical approach and as a methodology, shaping my investigation as a dramaturgical research. In this liminal position �a bridge of sorts between the spectator/critic stand and the artist/creator/pedagogue realm- I will sustain a critical involvement with the historiographical, theoretical and methodological processes of these two �case studies�, while engaging in a collaborative process of curatorship and documentation of their work with Mexican-Puerto Rican videoartist and documentalist Miguel Villafa�e. Our goal, (his from the image, both in film and photography, mine form theory and the literary) is to develop a documentary that celebrates de �contagion� of collective creation, morphing form and content in a performative dialogue between the archive and the repertoire, a memorial that reflects on memory, that traces a genealogy of experimental theater in Latin America and poses questions on the array of contemporary theater in Puerto Rico.
To perform my investigation, I intend to research diverse archives (some mere conglomerates of heteroclite materials, some more �curated�), mainly in Puerto Rico and Quito, where private collections (La Casa Malayerba, and Dr. M�rquez� and Mr. Martorell�s personal collections) and public archives (University of Puerto Rico �Puerto Rican Collection� and its Theater Department archives, in addition to several newspapers� archives) contain videotaped performances, hand programs, props, promotional posters, photographs, scholarly articles, theater critic newspaper articles, among other materials. Also, the Casa las Am�ricas archive in La Havana, Cuba, the Casa de Am�rica in Madrid, Spain, and several archives in Mexico City and Buenos Aires might shed light on the genealogic material I intend to study and document.
I have already been a dramaturg for several plays directed by M�rquez, and have been accompanying the process of creation and presentation of their most recent collaboration, �Donde el viento hace bu�uelos�; the Malayerba ensemble has invited me to join the as dramaturg/participant in their next process of collective creation for a new play, starting 2005, and I constantly travel between New York and Puerto Rico, in an open and constant dialogue with the artists, as well as with my fellow documentalist, Mr. Villafa�e. My personal and professional relationship with these artists has already facilitated a fruitful conversation on these matters, and I intend to continue the series of interviews I have been developing with them for the past years.
In order to maintain this investigation-in-transit, some grants could help fund the travel and research expenses; among them, I have pinpointed the Dissertation Fellowship of the American Association of University Women ($20,000, deadline November 15), the Ford Foundation Diversity Dissertation Fellowship ($21,000, deadline December 1), the Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Field Research Fellowship (no more than $20,000, deadline November 1), and the Comprehensive Fullbright Grant (Deadline October 21).

Posted by at October 2, 2004 6:09 PM