Rivers McKenzie Corinne Scheiner Senior Seminar December 14 2011
Heterotopia as Chicano/Indigenous? Resistance, Response to Chavoya's Internal Exiles C. Ondine Chavoya, in Internal Exiles: The Interventionist Public and Performance Art of Asco provides several examples of the collective's interventions in and interrogations of public spaces in downtown and east Los Angeles in the 1970's. In doing so, he points out what these performances "elucidate about public space and urban relations" in that city (190). Specifically, Chavoya remarks on Asco's tactic of "situating social critique in contested urban spaces" in a reaction against the "normative landscape" of L.A., regulated as it was/is by an "official culture" that attempts to make the Chicano presence invisible, into a "phantom culture" according to Asco member Harry Gamboa Jr. (190). Though not particularly surprising, Gamboa's articulation of a Chicano population as phantom to a larger, dominant culture is particularly useful in situating contemporary writing on American Indians and native culture (referred to as a "ghost" or "ghoul" culture in certain texts) in conversation with Asco. Chavoya identifies what Tristan Tzara originally named the "ethics of combat" (in reference to Rimbaud's work) as the "emphatic characteristic" that underpins all of Asco's diverse works (192). The ethics of combat is used here to refer to the group's "spatially politicized aesthetics" (192), but is not defined, strictly speaking. To better understand Chavoya's use of the phrase, I think it might be helpful to think of how he refers to Foucault's heterotopia. He writes: "In the face of crisis, Asco engaged a transverse tactic of heterotopic resistance and deviation" (192). Chavoya doesn't cite it, so I had to look it
McKenzie 2 up. Foucault wrote about heterotopias in a 1967 manuscript "Of Other Spaces," as places opposed to utopias ("sites with no real place"). Instead, heterotopias are "real placesplaces that do exist" in which "all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted" (Foucault). Chavoya uses Foucault's notion of the heterotopia as a "countersite" (192), the engagement of which allowed Asco to use public spaces as a place of "political practice" and imagine rigidly delimited spaces differently. Foucault describes the heterotopia in six principles, the last of which I find most useful to understanding Chavoya's particular use of the term, and perhaps to articulating indigenous resistance in literature or performance (, depending). Foucault's sixth principle of the heterotopia states that all heterotopic spaces "have a function in relation" to all other space. This function, according to Foucault is either to create "a space of illusion" that reveals all other, real spaces to be even more illusory or to "create a space that is other, another real space, as perfect, as meticulous, as well arranged as ours is messy, ill constructed, and jumbled." Chavoya remarks on Asco's ethics of combat as having to do with their "transverse tactic of heterotopic resistance and deviation." Where Asco encountered restricted spaces (as in the canceled parade route of Walking Mural), they introduced " a carnivalesque inversion of authority and a reclamation of social space" (Chavoya 193). First Supper (after a Major Riot) seems to me, to enact both Foucault's function and its inverse. As a response to urban planning attempts to de-politicize and make a "non-place" of Whittier Boulevard, a once "particularly bloody site of the East L.A. riots," Asco reintroduces unwanted protest to a now normalized space or landscape. As a memorial occupation for the violence of the L.A. riots, Asco also counters the messy, jumbled space of the traffic surrounding them
McKenzie 3 with stylized remembrance opposed to "historical amnesia" (Chavoya 196). Chavoya's inclusion of heterotopia, like Gamboa's "phantom culture," I think will prove really helpful in my attempt link the Chicano performance group and their tactics to constructing a vision of anti-normative indigenous resistance. I think that this particular tactic of creating and/or inverting heterotopias has much potential for application to indigenous performance or text (I'm thinking immediately of environmental protest in urban space and the creation of heterotopic landscapes with "other" gender structures in indigenous science fiction). Again, I think Foucault's and Chavoya's uses of "countersite" may provide the beginning of a trajectory that ultimately my paper "other" and more specifically "queer" spaces, a discursive strategy important in talking both about the status of indigeneity as "queer" to the settler colonial state and about models for queering spaces in text, performance, and theory with indigenous presence.