Stuff

Duration: 60 min 12 sec
Original Format: ¾” Umatic

Entry from Acts of Transfer:

STUFF is a multi-layered performance narrative by artists Nao Bustamante and Coco Fusco that interrogates relations between tourism, food and the exploitative consumption of the Latina body in the Western imagination.[1]  Framed with a promotional tourist rhetoric, a series of eclectic “skits” performed by Bustamante and Fusco begin with a sales pitch from our travel guide, “Triple E”, who promises novel experiences and carefree transportation to exotic destinations. The rhetorical device of the televised ad man introducing and framing the evening punctuates the power dynamic at play in the work.

The performance includes epistolary readings from postcards, crude tourism promotions, an “authentic” communal meal for “foreign guests” that requires audience participation, myth telling, excerpts from a sex tourism language manual, and rumba dance sequences, eventually culminating in a bilingual karaoke sing-a-long that ends in the refrain: “Drunk gringos are the island girl’s curse.” Certain elements from the script derive from the artists’ trips to Mexico and Cuba,[2] where they conducted interviews with prostitutes in Havana, and child street vendors in Chiapas.[3]

STUFF is a performance jointly commissioned by the Institute of Contemporary Arts (London), Highways Performance (LA), and the Portland Center for Contemporary Art.[4] It was first performed at the National Review of Live Art in Glasgow in November 1996 and ran until the end of 1998. At the time of the performance, Bustamante was based in San Francisco and Fusco in New York.[5]  STUFF was the first collaboration between the two practitioners, who both have extensive independent careers as curators, writers, and interdisciplinary artists.[6]  Bustamante,“infamous for [her] edgy, improvisation/performance pieces in which both she and her audiences are on display,” is complemented here by Fusco’s practice of using “parodic exaggeration as a means of lowering spectators’ defenses in order to reveal their own complicity.”[7]  Combining their respective strategies, Fusco and Bustamante reveal the dualities and tensions at play between their Western American upbringing and their Latino roots to present an entertaining and self-reflexive performance. STUFF breaks open the stereotypes and myths, deliberately satirizing the female form to comic effect, revealing (and revelling in) the constructed fiction of the “Other” caught in a perpetually exploitive cycle of consumption and cultural display.

1 - Bustamante, Nao, and Coco Fusco. “STUFF.” TDR/The Drama Review 41, no. 4 (Winter 1997): 63-82.
2 – Fusco is Cuban-American from her mother’s side. Alba, Elia, and Coco Fusco. “Coco Fusco by Elia Alba – BOMB Magazine.” Coco Fusco – BOMB Magazine. Accessed March 2018. https://bombmagazine.org/articles/coco-fusco/.
3 – Bustamante, Nao, and Coco Fusco. “STUFF.” TDR/The Drama Review 41, no. 4 (Winter 1997): 63-82.
4 - Bustamante, Nao. “Stuff.” Nao Bustamante. http://www.naobustamante.com/art_stuff.html. Accessed March 2018.
5 - Weatherston, Rosemary. “Stuff by Nao Bustamante and Coco Fusco.” Theatre Journal 49, no. 4 (December 1997): 516-18.
6 – ibid.
7 – ibid.

Original Archive Entry:

The following text is taken from Front Magazine, vol. IX, no. 3, p. 7, Jan/Feb 1998:

Stuff is a look at the cultural myths that link Latin women and food to the erotic in the Western population imagination. Using multi-lingual sex guides, fast food menus, bawdy border humour and more, Fusco and Bustamante mingle with audience members, treating them to a meal, a host of rituals and exotic legends, an occasional rumba and at least one Spanish lesson as part of their satirical look at the relations between North and South. STUFF deals with how cultural consumption involves the trafficking of that which is most dear to us all our identities, our myths and our bodies. It is a commentary on how globalization and its accompanying versions of cultural tourism are actually affecting women of colour both in the third world and in Europe and North America, where hundreds of thousands of Latin women are currently migrating to satisfy consumer desires for a “bit of the other.”

This performance has been supported by the following department at Simon Fraser University: School for the Contemporary Arts, Institute of the Humanities, School of Communication Grad Studies, and the Latin American Studies Program.

Cosco Fusco will give public artists talks at SFU on Thursday, January 22, time tba.