Marisel Gabourel

Los Angeles


Woman in animal costume dancing while man plays bongo.

Marisel Gabourel's animal rights performance piece at the University of California, Davis. Photo by Lawrence Bogad

I registered for a class at UC Davis on tactical performance at the professor’s suggestion for spring 2012. I was excited to be able to take a class that allowed me to work on a project I felt passionate about: animal rights. My initial plan was to create a protest performance in honor of the animals suffering at the UC Davis California Primate Research Center. The class went extremely well and I had an entire quarter to learn a side of performance and theater I never knew. Performance art is so personal and raw, and I was drawn into the power and freedom it allowed in its explorer. Imagine my shock when my professor offered to let me join a graduate course on nonfiction performance in winter 2013.

Performance art has been a release and a blessing. It has molded me and proven itself a positive aspect in my life. It may have even saved my life. I learned so much in the nonfiction performance class and I learned so much more from the grad students I became close with.

I was able to confront my bulimia, anxiety, and depression because performance art allowed me to be vulnerable. My light has come from my darkness. Art should allow people to explore issues that are personal and that affect the world in the hopes of spreading knowledge and creating discussion and a solution. Performance art can be utilized to investigate and understand issues on sex and gender, issues on race, war, money, issues on poverty and politics, etc.

We have had artists such as Guillermo Gomez-Pena, Beth Stephens, and other great performance artists come to our department and demonstrate how their work has affected society and how their work can affect us. We have seen what performance art can do in the case of Annie Sprinkles whose avant-garde and highly sexualized performances explore sexuality and fight to save the earth against fracking and deforestation. We know that El Teatro Campesino was a successful group that used theater and performance to educate the farm workers about the political and economic issues and injustice they faced during the late 1960s and about the United Farm Workers Union. We have seen the power and effect of political theater, performance art, street theater, and experimental theater. This is the goal of art: to provide solutions, inspire change, and fight for justice.