Performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña shocked many students at Towson University through radical spoken word pedagogy on February 23.
Gómez-Peña’s wife stood on the podium naked beneath a transparent raincoat and delivered a trigger warning that was not expected. The trigger warning made it obvious that the material was going to be controversial.
“His wife’s trigger warning really shocked me,” said Rachel Brown, an Art History student at Towson. “They were directed to the more conservative audience”.
The performance was favored by the liberal members in the audience.
“If you are one who suffers from cooperate fatigue, white guilt, acute class entitlement, or you are a Make America Great Again supporter…this show is probably not for you,” Gómez-Peña’s wife said.
Gómez-Peña took stage to continue his performance, but censored out many words that may have been offensive to the people his wife mentioned. The purpose of his censoring was to show the audience the impact of censorship on a society.
Guillermo Gómez-Peña continued through most of his speech critiquing the United States’ current administration. The performance took place in the Mainstage Theatre at the Center of Arts building on campus. The audience that filled three-fourths of the theatre, snapped often, affirming the comments he made.
Viewers thought that the performance was an effective way to share activism, but thought his thick Chicano accent was a barrier.
“I think that the use of performances can be an affective way to share activism,” said Adrienne Wild, a Towson University student. “It has to be done correctly in order to be informative and not just entertaining”.
“I noticed myself struggling to hear him clearly and therefore focusing more on what he was saying rather than why,” said Wild.
He offered the idea of punishing companies using Spanish names such as GOYA and the NFL sports team Denver Broncos. He also threatened the crowd with the loss of tequila and margaritas.
“If you want to continue to criminalize the Spanish language, consider renaming many American companies,” Gómez-Peña said.
Throughout Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s performance he asked the audience to participate by having them imagine a life as someone else.
“Imagine a world controlled by the alt right,” he said. “Imagine being an angry white male but you have a Spanish wife and interracial children.”
He used this example to demonstrate how the loss of Mexicans would be detrimental for society.
While some of the crowd exited after the trigger warning, many people stayed and agreed with Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s view on the current political climate.
“I really felt what he was saying, it spoke to me personally,” said Claire Leaman, a Towson University student.
Gómez-Peña is the director of the international performance troupe La Pocha Nostra. The art organization provides support for artist of various backgrounds. It was created to help erase the borders between art and politics.
Both Wild and Brown wished that he incorporated more art installations in his performance to help them better understand all the concepts he talked about.
Gómez-Peña travels often to perform the same show he presented at Towson.