Coco Fusco and Paula Heredia’s The Couple in the Cage: Guatinaui Odyssey
In this exclusive two-week screening, watch the landmark video about the troubling legacy of museums.
Mar 9, 2022
Coco Fusco and Paula Heredia’s The Couple in the Cage: Guatinaui Odyssey screened here March 9–March 23, 2022. The video is no longer available for streaming. Join us for the next Hyundai Card Video Views screening, Nalini Malani's Utopia, beginning April 13, 2022.
In 1992, artists Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gómez-Peña performed The Couple in the Cage: Two Undiscovered Amerindians Visit the West, touring the United States, Spain, the UK, and Australia as representatives of the fictional island of Guatinau. Dressed in costumes ranging from luchador masks borrowed from Mexican wrestling to grass skirts and brand-name sneakers, they provocatively reenacted the conditions and history of ethnological exhibitions in which humans—presented in reconstructions of their supposedly primitive environs—were showcased at world’s fairs and other exhibitions beginning in the 19th century. As Fusco and Gómez-Peña demonstrate, these exhibitions continue to contribute to stereotypical representations of BIPOC communities today.
The following year, Fusco and independent film director Paula Heredia produced The Couple in the Cage: Guatinaui Odyssey. The video uses the techniques of collage and montage to document the performances and present interviews with audience members alongside found footage. Using the language of film, the work skillfully builds layers of visual meaning and subtexts which satirize cultural stereotyping. In Heredia's words, “Through a collective artistic process, we as interdisciplinary artists successfully translated a performance piece into a documentary film.”
The Couple in the Cage: Guatinaui Odyssey considers the tangled relationship between the museum and colonialist histories—also a starting point for Fusco’s work as an artist, writer, and teacher. On the occasion of the 30-year anniversary of the original performance, I spoke to Fusco via email about this landmark work of institutional critique.
–Lilia Rocio Taboada, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Media and Performance Art
Media and Performance at MoMA is made possible by Hyundai Card.
Major support is provided by MoMA’s Wallis Annenberg Director’s Fund for Innovation in Contemporary Art.
Generous funding is provided by the Lonti Ebers Endowment for Performance and the Sarah Arison Endowment Fund for Performance.
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