Q&A: Lorena Lo Peña

A conversation with Lorena Lo Peña, after her performance at this summer’s Freshly Packed.

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SOMETHING HUMAN: On 17th August 2013 you performed Eat to Live – that you had performed for the first time in 2010 in South American art venues – in a completely different context: the communal hall of a library in the heart of Deptford. How different is it to bring this live art intervention in a public space such as Deptford Lounge?

LORENA: I believe the performance got quite enriched and was quite different to the ones I’ve done in the past. Two things struck me particularly, firstly that I was surrounded by windows, like on a showcase. This gave the piece a whole new meaning, because I felt like I was on display, on a shopping mall or high street. I wonder how audiences that saw the piece from the outside of the library must have felt, if the windows and display situation provoked or resonated in them some new meaning that other wise it wouldn’t have been possible.

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Secondly, I got struck by the fact that the venue where the work was showed was not an art venue and that the audiences were definitively not expecting or were even used to experiencing performance art interventions. Since I got proposed to do ‘Eat to Live’ in a non-performative space I thought of it as an opportunity to reach London audiences I would not normally reach and try to resonate with my piece in their minds. I am very much interested in exploring the idea of bringing socially relevant performances to non-performative environments to confront and provoke a reaction with art in ‘reality’ (the real world with real people, and not art audiences).

SOMETHING HUMAN:  Eating disorders are often connected with pressure applied from society and immediate family to conform to specific role models. In this case the ‘others’ become judges whose standards are imposed on you. I wonder whether in your performance the audience becomes your judge and whether you relate to them as your antagonists.

LORENA: Not really. I see the audiences as my accomplices, as my witnesses and my apostles, I want them to walk the walk with me, or at least I hope they do. Of course I’m aware that they at any point can become that ‘judge’, and honestly probably they would do at some point –it’s human to do so-; but through this performance I wish that audiences see themselves and their own behaviors reflected, and so in this sense, if they judge ‘my behavior’, they are actually judging themselves. I wish my performance became a mirror to audiences’ behaviors.

SOMETHING HUMAN: In Eat to Live, your body is at the same time the main locus of punishment and the site of rebellion against contemporary interpretations of female roles. Would you define your performance as feminist?

LORENA: No. I consider my performance as coming from a woman’s personal perspective and very gender oriented, but I wouldn’t call it feminist because I don’t consciously follow any movement or philosophy. I just create performances that relate to what happens to me as a woman/and person and what I think its important/necessary for me to share and expose about it for questioning.

SOMETHING HUMAN: “Why do we feed ourselves? What is a calorie? What are we trying to fill when we ingest over our daily-recommended amount of calories?”*

LORENA: These are questions that I have asked myself many times, especially when I’ve just gone through some kind of eating ‘trance’ or attack. My personal answer is to fill an inner void (this could be caused by many factors and could be filled with many different things, in this case is food). These are questions I ask the audience for them to reply to themselves.

SOMETHING HUMAN: We found your work really interesting and provocative. What are your plans for the coming months?

LORENA: In the coming months I’ll be developing two new pieces, one is about the relationship between body-power-control-sexuality, called ‘Full Metal Dress’ (It’s work-in-progress was presented at The Terminal in October 2013); the second one is an experiment about sound art and the biology of the body, hopefully it will be presented in January 2014 at ]Performance s p a c e [ and it will be called ‘Digestive Concerto – in three gastric movements’.

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*Part of Lorena’s performance soundtrack

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