Humble advice for emerging performance artists

I’m always looking for ways to break bad habits and reanimate my practice. I come back to this advice again and again:

from: Guillermo Gomez Pena & Roberto Sifuentes, Exercises for Rebel Artists: Radical Performance Pedagogy (Routledge, 2011)


  1. Work against formulas. If your art becomes too easy to recreate, you are on the wrong path.
  2. Challenge all forms of authority with an open and critical mind.
  3. Make your art relevant to the world, not just the art world. Don’t create in a bubble.
  4. Practice intelligent skepticism. Question simplistic formulas, easy answers, one-sided narratives, dogmatic solutions, self-righteous positions. Question power. Question everything, cono, even this advice. Ask a lot of questions, irritating questions, the questions that others aren’t asking.
  5. Discuss politics and culture daily with friends and colleagues.
  6. Distrust mainstream media. Go out of your way to remain informed. Subscribe to various alternative magazines. Read the foreign press as much as possible. Scan the net regularly. Get as many points of view as possible, and contribute your own.
  7. Travel to other countries for extended periods of time.
  8. Learn other languages, especially those that will help you understand and communicate with your surrounding “others”. We must all be fluent in at least three languages.
  9. Don’t be a purist. A “performance purist” is a contradiction in terms. Challenge yourself to reinvent your practice on an ongoing basis.
  10. Be an “outside/insider”, a temporary member of multiple communities. Artists need to be everywhere: in the media, in academia, in the major institutions as well as the community-based ones. We also need to be in the streets.
  11. Devote equal energy to work and play.
  12. Experiment with your identity and your sexuality. Add a performance dimension to your daily life.
  13. Practice responsible hedonism. Re-vindicate the sacred right to party, and fight puritanism in all its forms – puritanism is a (not-so) subtle form of political control.
  14. Be humbly accessible to others. Share your knowledge and connections with others. Support your peers and less fortunate artists. See their work, write about it, reference it. Collaborate. Don’t be selfish.
  15. Deliver critiques to your fellow artists gently but deliberately. You should expect the same in return.
  16. Don’t take yourself too seriously. If you stop laughing, you are dead.
  17. Don’t be a prince(ss) . Get your hands dirty: get involved in every aspect of production, from fundraising to designing lights and sound, to moping the floor after the performance.
  18. Don’t be a mindless bohemian. Articulate your ideas. Always state your case, speak up, write and engage in dialogue. If you don’t speak for yourself, someone else will speak for you… or worse, no one will.
  19. Be open with your lovers about your performance madness. If your lover is too possessive or intimidated by your practice, don’t bring them on tour. They might get jealous and set fire to your car!
  20. Don’t become sexually involved with your immediate collaborators. Uncontrolled desire can turn the sanctuary of the collaborative process into hell for others. Now, outside of the collaborative circle, you can do whatever the hell you want. (NOTE: This is the most frequently broken rule.)
  21. Rely on community. Get involved with and make yourself useful to several local ethnic, gender-based, professional, or activist communities. If you are not grounded in your community, the wind will blow you away.
  22. Confront the oppressive and narrow-minded tendencies in your own ethnic-based or professional communities with valor and generosity. The “enemy” is everywhere, especially inside ourselves.
  23. Respect your elders and predecessors. Treat us with tenderness, and then, when the time comes, kill us ritualistically.

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