‘Mundos Alternos’ to Conclude with Carmelita Tropicana Performance, Feb. 3

A new opportunity to see UCR ARTSblock’s ‘Hybrid Alternos’

Carmelita Tropicana will be appearing in her only Southern California performance of ‘Hybrid Alternos’ this Saturday (Photo by Carlos David)

If the artworks found in UCR ARTSblock’s “Mundos Alternos” exhibit could be embodied in a single performer, that person might be Carmelita Tropicana, a New York-based artist who will conclude the exhibition this Saturday.

The Cuban actress, also known as Alina Troyano, has been a force in the East Coast art scene for almost 40 years, personifying themes of identity and queerness through performative costume, irreverent humor, and fantasy. Bilingual puns are abundant in her performances as part of a greater narrative about Latina identity.

“She is in dialogue with the whole exhibition,” said Kathryn Poindexter, exhibitions manager and assistant curator at UCR ARTSblock, who organized the performance program for “Mundos Alternos.” The two have been in close contact as “Mundos Alternos” materialized, the exhibition having resonated with the artist because of its focus on identity and science fiction — themes Tropicana has previously explored in her work.

Performance studies scholar José Esteban Muñoz once likened a Tropicana performance to a “queer assemblage … a body without organs, which is a body that is constantly dismantling the organism, causing asignifying particles or intensities to circulate differently.”

Saturday’s “Hybrid Alternos” performance promises a similar effect. Tropicana, in collaboration with her  sister, filmmaker Ela Troyano, will take audience members to a world where species disappear and new ones born. The audience will meet Hye, a fugitive human hyena hybrid desperately seeking home in Nebula, the only nation that accepts subhuman hybrids and illegal androids.

Animal species, which are a common theme in Tropicana’s work, serve as a discourse by the actress on topical issues such as identity, conservation, immigration, and xenophobia — the futuristic context adding another dynamic layer of expression.

“The real power of science fiction is to talk about these issues from a lens that might be more engaging for people or make them think about things in a different way,” said Poindexter, adding the presence of female artists and queerness in the exhibition was important because of science fiction’s historically homogenous platform. “It’s easy with science fiction, which is male-dominated, to have a white male dialogue.”

The exhibition curators have worked to bring together a diverse group of artists to drive a new dialogue of identity, and Tropicana is no exception.

“We didn’t realize how timely this exhibition would be,” said Poindexter, “It makes it all the more important to be talking about these things.”

The event will include a reception at 6 p.m., an hour prior to the performance. A Q&A session moderated by Armando García, assistant professor of English, will follow.

UCR ARTSblock commissioned “Hybrid Alternos” in conjunction with the exhibition “Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas,” on view through Feb. 4, 2018.

To reserve a free ticket, please visit: artsblock.ucr.edu/Performance/Carmelita-Tropicana

This performance has been rescheduled from Jan. 27.

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