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Fusco/Gómez-Pena «Two Undiscovered Amerindians»
Fusco/Gómez-Pena, «Two Undiscovered Amerindians», 1992
© Fusco/Gómez-Pena
Madrid, 1992

«Two Undiscovered Amerindians»

The live performance «Two Undiscovered Amerindians Visit Spain» took place at Columbus Plaza in Madrid, Spain, in 1992. In order to address the widespread practice of human displays, Fusco and Gomez-Peña enclosed their own bodies in a ten-by -twelve-foot cage and presented themselves as two previously unknown «specimens representative of the Guatinaui people» in the performance piece «Undiscovered Amerindians.» Inside the cage Fusco and Peña outfitted themselves in outrageous costumes and preoccupied themselves with performing equally outlandish ‹native› tasks. Gomez-Peña was dressed in an Aztec style breastplate, complete with a leopard skin face wrestler's mask. Fusco, in some of her performances, donned a grass skirt, leopard skin bra, baseball cap, and sneakers. She also braided her hair, a readily identifiable sign of ‹native authenticity.›
In a similar fashion to the live human spectacles of the past, Fusco and Gomez-Peña performed the role of cultural ‹other› for their museum audiences. While on display the artists' ‹traditional› daily rituals ranged from sewing voodoo dolls, to lifting weights to watching television to working on laptop computers. During feeding time museum guards passed bananas to the artists and when the couple needed to use the bathroom they were escorted from their cage on leashes. For a small donation, Fusco could be persuaded to dance (to rap music) or both performers would pose for Polaroids. Signs assured the visitors that the Guatinauis «were a jovial and playful race, with a genuine affection for the debris of Western industrialized popular culture . . . Both of the Guatinauis are quite affectionate in the cage, seemingly uninhibited in their physical and sexual habits despite the presence of an audience.» Two museum guards from local institutions stood by the cage and supplied the inquisitive visitor with additional (equally fictitious) information about the couple. An encyclopedic-looking map of the Gulf of Mexico, for instance, showed the supposed geographic location of their island. Using maps, guides, and the ambiguous museum jargon, Fusco and Gomez-Peña employed the common vocabulary of the museum world to stage their own display.

(source: Gabriella Ibieta, Miles Orvell, «GUILLERMO GOMEZ-PENA and COCO FUSCO: Inventing Cultural Encounters», in: Inventing America: Readings in Identity and Culture, St. Martin's, 1996, p. 23,