1994

Roberto Sifuentes and I crucify ourselves for three hours on 16-foot crosses at Rodeo Beach, in front of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. The piece is designed to protest the xenophobic immigration politics of California governor Pete Wilson. Inspired by the biblical myth of Dimas and Gestas, the two petty thieves crucified next to Jesus, Roberto and I decide to dress as "the two contemporary public enemies of California." I am the "undocumented bandito" (mariachi) crucified by the INS, and Roberto the generic "gang member" crucified by the LAPD. Using a flyer, we ask our audience "to free us from our martyrdom as a gesture of political commitment," but we miscalculate. Paralyzed by the melancholy of the image, it takes audience members over three hours to figure out how to get us down without a ladder. By then, my right shoulder has become dislocated and Roberto has passed out. The media picks up photographs of the Cruci-Fiction Project and the piece becomes international news.

NAFTA comes into effect. The Zapatista insurrection takes the world by surprise affecting directly the work of most Mexican and Chicano artists.

Greywolf Press publishes my first book, Warrior for Gringostroika, a collection of writings and photographs from 1979 to '92. It's my "border art period." With this book, my work slowly begins to be embraced by academia.

Organized crime makes its home in Mexico. To exorcise my own fear of losing the streets of Mexico City to the new culture of fear, I engage in a series of street performances in downtown.

Grandma Carmen, the moral center of my family, dies in our Mexico City home. My relatives and I surround Grandma's bed as her soul tenderly leaves her body.   

Roberto and I create the interactive pirate television project Naftaztec TV in collaboration with Adriene Jenik and Branda Miller (from the iEar Studio at Rensselaer Polytechnic). This simulacrum of a pirate TV intervention is broadcast to hundreds of cable television stations across the country, as well as over computer networks via early broadband technology. The content is a strange blend of radical politics, autobiographical material, and a parody of traditional TV formats gone bananas. We demonstrate a "Chicano virtual reality machine" that can turn collective and personal memories into video footage. The project is re-broadcast nationally in 1995 and becomes a cult hit. An edited version circulates in film and video festivals. I cannot help but to wonder, what does it mean for a pirate TV intervention to be re-broadcast and embraced by the art world? Isn't this a contradiction in terms?

Colombian ballerina-turned-radical performance artist Michelle Ceballos joins the troupe.

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*Radio Free Pocha