ENGLISH IS BROKEN HERE by Coco Fusco

ENGLISH IS BROKEN HERE

Notes on Cultural Fusion in the Americas
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

 In her first book, a performer and art critic offers a potpourri on cultural border-crossings. During the 1970s, the mixed-race, Cuban-descended Fusco ``didn't look oppressed enough for white liberals or black enough for cult nats.'' By the next decade, she notes, the hybrid world(s) of multiculturalism had become her home. In a group of diverse personal essays, she offers a trenchant, undogmatic diary of several trips to Cuba, commenting on Cuban art and exile; other essays, including one on black popular culture and another on the ``politics of appropriation''--white artists appropriating aspects of subordinate cultures--are heavy going. Also specialized is the book's second section, which includes essays on artists like Pep¢n Osorio, whose installations invoke Puerto Rican migration; and Lorna Simpson, whose photo/texts probe racial and sexual identity. However, Fusco's creativity lifts the book's most accessible pieces, notably a report on a project in which she and collaborator Guillermo G¢mez-Pe§a posed at museums as newly discovered Amerindians from an overlooked island. They performed ``traditional tasks'' for museum-goers--including working on a laptop computer. This exercise provoked some disturbing reactions, ranging from discomfort on the part of people of color to paternalistic outrage by whites. A final section includes two interesting dialogues with G¢mez-Pe§a, who calls Tijuana ``one of the biggest installation art pieces in Mexico'' and warns against ``facile pan-Latin Americanism.'' Two radio scripts close this aptly titled book. In one, Fusco and her partner muse with wit and irony on false boundaries in the Americas, noting the Latin American presence in US cities and the penetration of North American pop culture down south. Thought-provoking in parts, abstruse in others.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1995
ISBN: 1-56584-245-6
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: New Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1995