Collective situations: readings in contemporary Latin American art 1995-2010 9780822372493, 9780822369264, 9780822369417, 0822369265, 0822369419

537 104 44MB

English Pages xx, 438 pages [449] Year 2017

Report DMCA / Copyright


Polecaj historie

Collective situations: readings in contemporary Latin American art 1995-2010
 9780822372493, 9780822369264, 9780822369417, 0822369265, 0822369419

Table of contents :
Introduction / Grant Kester and Bill Kelley Jr. 1 Part I. (Un)Civil Disobedience 19 1. Lava la bandera: The Colectivo Sociedad Civil and the Cultural Overthrow of the Fujimori-Montesinos Dictatorship / Gustavo Buntinx 21 2. Interview with Caleb Duarte of EDELO Residencia / Raquel de Anda 43 3. Grupo Etcetera: Project Description / Rodrigo Marti 58 An Interview with Etcetera / Etcetera 62 4. Artistas en Resistencia: Project Description / Kency Cornejo 79 An Interview with Artistas en Resistencia / Kency Cornejo 83 5. A Long Way: Argentine Artistic Activism of the Last Decades / Ana Longoni 98 Part II. Urbanism 113 6. Galatea/bulbo Collective: Project Description / Mariola V. Alvarez 117 "Participacion" (2008) and Tijueneados Anominos (2008-2009) / Bulbo 120 7. Interview with Tranvia Cero / Maria Fernanda Cartagena 130 8. Art Collectives and the Prestes Maia Occupation in Sao Paulo / Gavin Adams 149 9. Frente 3 de FevereiroProject Description / Rodrigo Marti 165 The Becoming World of Brazil / Fremte 3 de Fevereiro 169 10. Interview with Mauricio Brandao of BijaRi, October 9, 2011 / Mariola V. Alvarez 186 Part III. Memory 199 11. Skins of Memory: Art, Civic Pedagogy, and Social Reconstruction / Pilar Riano Alcala and Suzanne Lacy 203 12. Some Frameworking Concepts for Art and Social Practices in Colombia / David Gutierrez Castaneda 220 13. Chemi Rosado-Seijo: Project Description / Marina Reyes Franco 241 An Interview with Chemi Rosado-Seijo / Sofia Gallisa Muriente, Marina Reyes Franco, and Beatriz Santiago Munoz 245 Part IV. Indigeneity 255 14. Ala Plastica: Project Description / Fabian Cerejido 259 Otros-Nosotros: An Interview with Ala Plastica / Grant Kester 261 15. Interviwe with Pablo Sanaguano / Maria Fernanda Cartagena 279 16. The Empowerment Process of Community Communication in Ecuador / Alberto Muenala 297 Part V. Migrations 305 17. Of Co-Investigations and Aesthetic Sustenance: A Conversation / Colectivo Situaciones and Electronic Disturbance Theater / B.A.N.G. Lab 309 18. How Three Artists Led the Queens Museum into Corona and Beyond / Prerana Reddy 321 Part VI. Institutional Critique 339 19. Lurawi, Doing: An Anarchist Experience-Ch'ixi / LXS Colectiverxs 343 20. Con la Salud si se Juega: Project Description / Fabian Cerejido 367 The Tournament: Nodes of a Network Made of Undisciplined Knowledge / Juan Carlos Rodriguez 369 21. La Lleca Colectiva: Project Description / Elize Mazadiego 388 Exodus to La Lleca: Exiting from "Art" and "Politics" in Mexico / La Lleca 391 22. La Linea: Project Description / Elize Mazadiego 403 The Morras Project / Interdisciplinario la Linea/La Linea Interdisciplinary Group: Abril Castro, Esmeralda Ceballos, Kara Lynch, Lorena Mancilla, and Sayak Valencia-Miriam Garcia 406 Contributors 413 Index 423

Citation preview

Collective Situations

Collective Situations Readings in Con­temporary Latin American Art, 1995–2010

bill kelley jr. and grant H. kester, editors

du ke u ni v e r s i t y pre s s Durham and London  • 2017

© 2017 Duke University Press All rights reserved Printed in the United States of Amer­i­ca on acid-­free paper ∞ Cover designed by Heather Hensley; interior designed by Jennifer Hill Typeset in Chaparral Pro and The Sans by Westchester Publishing Services Library of Congress Cataloging-­in-­Publication Data Names: Kelley, Bill, Jr., [date] editor. | Kester, Grant H., editor. Title: Collective situations : readings in con­temporary Latin American art, 1995–2010 / Bill Kelley Jr. and Grant H. Kester, editors. Description: Durham : Duke University Press, 2017. | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: lccn 2017015431 (print) lccn 2017022942 (ebook) isbn 9780822372493 (ebook) isbn 9780822369264 (hardcover : alk. paper) isbn 9780822369417 (pbk. : alk. paper) Subjects: lcsh: Art, Latin American—21st ­century. | Art, Latin American— 20th ­century. | Group work in art—­Latin Amer­i­ca. Classification: lcc n6502.6 (ebook) | lcc n6502.6.c66 2017 (print) | ddc 700.980/0904—­dc23 lc rec­ord available at https://­lccn.loc​.­gov​/­2017015431 Cover art: Fernando Falconí (Falco) and a group of ­women from the Danubio Azul, “Nuestra Patrona de la Cantera,” La Cantera, San Roque, Quito, 2008. Photo and proj­ect w ­ ere part of the Encuentro de Arte y Comunidad al Zur-­ich (2008) and the Tranvia Cero archives. ­Faces are intentionally blurred by the contributor.

To Samira and Elliott Te quiero con todo mi alma. —­G.H.K. A mi querida madre Zoila —­B.K. Jr.

This page intentionally left blank


Introduction 1 grant H. kester and bill kelley jr. Part I. (Un)Civil Disobedience 19 1. Lava la bandera: The Colectivo Sociedad Civil and the Cultural Overthrow of the Fujimori-­Montesinos Dictatorship  21 gustavo buntinx 2. Interview with Caleb Duarte of edelo Residencia  43 raquel de anda 3. Grupo Etcétera Proj­ect Description  58 rodrigo martí An Interview with Etcétera  62 ­e tcétera 4 . Artistas en Resistencia Proj­ect Description  79 kency cornejo An Interview with Artistas en Resistencia  83 kency cornejo

5. A Long Way: Argentine Artistic Activism of the Last De­cades  98 ana longoni Part II. Urbanism 113 6. Galatea/bulbo Collective Proj­ect Description  117 mariola v. alvarez “Participación” (2008) and Tijuaneados Anónimos (2008–2009)  120 bulbo 7. Interview with Tranvía Cero  130 maría fernanda cartagena 8. Art Collectives and the Prestes Maia Occupation in São Paulo  149 gavin adams 9. Frente 3 de Fevereiro Proj­ect Description  165 rodrigo martí The Becoming World of Brazil  169 frente 3 DE fevereiro 10. Interview with Mauricio Brandão of BijaRi  186 mariola v. alvarez Part III. Memory 199 11. Skins of Memory: Art, Civic Pedagogy, and Social Reconstruction 203 pilar riaño-alcalá and suzanne lacy 12. Some Frameworking Concepts for Art and Social Practices in Colombia  220 david gutiérrez castañeda 13. Chemi Rosado-­Seijo Proj­ect Description  241 marina reyes franco An Interview with Chemi Rosado-­Seijo  245 sofía gallisá muriente, marina reyes franco, and beatriz santiago muñoz Part IV. Indigeneity 255 14. Ala Plastica Proj­ect Description 259 fabian cereIjido

Otros-­Nosotros: An Interview with Ala Plastica  261 grant H. kester 15. Interview with Pablo Sanaguano  279 maría fernanda cartagena 16. The Empowerment Pro­cess of Community Communication in Ec­ua­dor  297 alberto muenala Part V. Migrations 305 17. Of Co-­investigations and Aesthetic Sustenance: A Conversation  309 Colectivo Situaciones and Electronic Disturbance Theater/b.a .n.g. lab 18. How Three Artists Led the Queens Museum into Corona and Beyond  321 prerana reddy Part VI. Institutional Critique 339 19. Lurawi, ­Doing: An Anarchist Experience—­Ch’ixi  343 lxs colectiverxs 2 0. Con la salud si se juega Proj­ect Description  367 fabian cereIjido The Tournament: Nodes of a Network Made of Undisciplined Knowledge  369 juan carlos rodríguez 21. La Lleca Colectiva Proj­ect Description 388 elize mazadiego Exodus to La Lleca: Exiting from “Art” and “Politics” in Mexico  391 la lleca 22. La Línea Proj­ect Description  403 elize mazadiego The Morras Proj­ect  406 interdisciplinario la línea/la línea interdisciplinary group: abril castro, esmeralda ceballos, kara lynch, lorena mancilla , and sayak valencia-­m iriam garcía Contributors 413  Index 423

This page intentionally left blank

Introduction grant H. kester and bill kelley jr. Injustice is not an accident. gustavo gutiérrez, The Power of the Poor in History

This collection of essays, statements, interviews, and proj­ect descriptions provides a selective overview of collaborative, socially engaged art practice in Latin Amer­i­ca between 1995 and 2010. Our goal is to introduce English-­language readers to some of the most engaging new artists and critics currently working in Mexico and Central and South Amer­i­ca.1 Many of the proj­ects presented ­here are l­ittle known in the United States and Eu­rope, and a significant number of the essays and interviews have been translated into En­glish for the first time, specifically for this anthology. We believe this material deserves a much wider audience. While some publications have focused on earlier periods (Katzenstein and Giunta’s Listen, ­Here, Now! for example, which includes material from Argentine artists active during the 1960s), this is the first book to pres­ent work from the most recent generation of artists working throughout the region.2 This has been a remarkably fertile period of experimentation, with new forms of artistic production not just in Latin Amer­i­ca, but globally. In par­tic­u­lar, this period has witnessed a range of efforts to redefine conventional notions of aesthetic autonomy, as artistic practices began to overlap with and to parallel forms of cultural production in the realm of activism, urbanism, radical pedagogy, environmentalism, and other fields. Examples range from Park Fiction’s experiments with participatory planning in Hamburg to Ala

Plastica’s engagement with regional ecosystems in the Río de la Plata basin (discussed in this book), and from Huit Facette’s proj­ects in the villages of Senegal, to Tania Bruguera’s Immigrant Movement International in New York.3 While a number of artists working in Latin Amer­i­ca over the past fifteen years have gained considerable fame in the established cir­cuit of international biennial and museum exhibitions (Francis Alÿs, Ernesto Neto, Gabriel Orozco, and Santiago Sierra, among o ­ thers), their work w ­ ill not be the focus of our attention ­here. In fact, many of the artists and groups presented in the current study are relatively unknown in the mainstream art world. This is due in part to the particular—­some might say parochial—­ interests of con­temporary curators and critics, but it also reflects a conscious decision by a number of ­these artists to locate their practices in networks of validation and reception that are peripheral to the mainstream art world and, by extension, to establish a dif­fer­ent relationship with the public. Rather than simply accepting the self-­selecting audiences and the arbitrary time constraints imposed by biennial commissions or museum exhibitions, ­these artists seek to define new publics and new constituencies for their practice, and to engage the broader field of variables (of space and time, situation and subjectivity) that constitute the social field of a given work. This act of secession also reflects a growing disillusionment with the increasingly close integration between the institutional mechanisms of the mainstream art world (the journals, curators, critics, art fairs, biennials, museums, and galleries that provide the discursive and intellectual validation for con­temporary art) and the global auction market, in which con­temporary art alone generated almost five billion dollars in sales in 2014. Given the diversity and sheer size of the American continent, the relationship of the proj­ects discussed ­here to the global art world cannot be generalized. Some regions have l­ittle in the way of “art world” infrastructure (galleries, museums, publications, and so on) while cities such as Buenos Aires, Mexico City, or Rio de Janeiro rival the art centers of Eu­rope and North Amer­i­ca. What seems to be consistent, as noted above, is that ­these practices have, with a few exceptions, traditionally operated outside the art world’s purview. Only very recently, in cities that have a strong history of community-­based art practice, such as Medellín or São Paolo, has some effort been made to incorporate t­ hese proj­ects into a larger matrix of museological programming or art historical research and publication. In terms of research, some of ­these developments are driven 2   •  g r a n t H . k e s t e r a n d b i l l k e l l e y   j r .

by teams of national and international curators, as is the case with the São Paolo Biennial, while o ­ thers are taken on by academic researchers and in­ de­pen­dent research teams, such as the Red Conceptualismos del Sur. Art historical studies focused on con­temporary art have been relatively rare in Latin Amer­i­ca. As such, it is often the case that the writers associated with this work ­were e­ ither educated abroad, or emerged from other disciplines, such as the social sciences. This further contributes to a situation in which community-­based or socially engaged art practices are more fully and frequently examined in fields outside of art history or theory (e.g., visual anthropology, sociology, ­etc.). In many cases t­ hese artists and collectives exist in relatively precarious circumstances, with l­ ittle institutional support or recognition from the art world, and an often antagonistic relationship to formal state bodies (this is evident in the case of Colectivo Sociedad Civil in Peru, Grupo Etcétera in Argentina, and Artistas en Resistancia in Guatemala, for example). The contrast with the sumptuary economy on display at art fairs, galleries, and biennials could hardly be more striking. This contrast is paralleled by a key ideological difference. Where the default attitude ­toward po­liti­cal change within the mainstream art world involves a studied cynicism (as Santiago Sierra famously observed, “I c­ an’t change anything . . . ​I d ­ on’t believe in the possibility of change”), the artists represented ­here are committed to the idea that change is not only pos­si­ble but essential, and that they can play a role in bringing it about.4 At the same time, they have come of age in a region of the world where both the possibilities and the disappointments of po­liti­cal transformation are a subject of visceral, daily knowledge and lived historical experience. If ­there is a broader institutional context for this work, and a wider set of affiliations, it can be found in an improvisational network of activist and socially engaged artists and collectives scattered around the world, from Senegal, to Finland, to Myanmar, to Delhi and beyond, which are equally peripheral to the mainstream, Euro-­ American art world. Site-­specific art has conventionally operated through what might be described as a teleological orientation. While a given image, event, or idea may be generated in response to a par­tic­u­lar context or situation, the artist’s relationship to site is largely appropriative, and the locus of creativity resides primarily at the level of autonomous conceptual ideation (e.g., the well-­worn image of the artist working alone in his or her studio). The world, in turn, becomes a kind of reservoir from which the artist may draw at ­will in elaborating his or her par­tic­u­lar vision.5 By and large, the I n t r o d u c t i o n   •  3

work presented in this collection has been produced through a situational engagement with active sites of social or cultural re­sis­tance (the Prestes Maia occupation in São Paolo, the ecosystem of Buenos Aires, the public sphere of Medellín). In each case we see a concern with tactical knowledge production and an extemporaneous relationship to incipient po­liti­cal formations and social spaces—­a form of civic reimagining.6 At the same time, ­these individual sites of practice share certain commonalities, through the influence of recent geopo­liti­cal shifts in Latin Amer­i­ca, which we w ­ ill trace below. From the Requerimiento to the EZLN The vio­lence of Spanish colonization constituted a social trauma that was borne by the body politic of Latin Amer­i­ca long ­after formal in­de­pen­dence from Spain was achieved. While the specific or local forms of domination set in place by the Spanish colonizers ­were modified over time, in the case of Latin Amer­i­ca, the under­lying structures (the repression of indigenous languages and cultures; the hacienda system; forms of race-­, caste-­, and class-­based oppression; the dominance of an elite of planters and merchants) remained largely intact, even as a new generation of neo­co­lo­nial actors came to power in the region in the mid-­to late nineteenth ­century (­Great Britain and l­ater the United States). In fact, the authority of the aristocratic latifundistas in Latin Amer­i­ca was actually strengthened a­ fter in­de­pen­dence due to the leading role they played in military re­sis­tance to Spanish authority. The concentration of land owner­ship in large estates, the appropriation of native lands, and the eradication of indigenous communities continued, and even increased, in many countries, especially during the late 1800s. As a result, neo­co­lo­nial po­liti­cal movements retain a contradictory character. On the one hand, the leaders of ­these movements (Rafael Núñez during the regeneration period in Colombia, Juan Manuel Rosas’s “populist” reforms in Buenos Aires, La Reforma in Mexico ­under Benito Juárez) sought to encourage re­sis­tance to foreign economic domination through appeals to a unified national identity. At the same time, t­ hese movements ­were often led by, and designed to benefit, wealthy landowners, traders, and industrialists at the expense of working-­class, mestizo, and indigenous populations.7 Colonial powers, from Spain in the sixteenth c­ entury to the colonial adventures of vari­ous Eu­ro­pean nations in Africa during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, have typically maintained their domination through tactical alliances with local indigenous elites, which identify their interests 4   •  g r a n t H . k e s t e r a n d b i l l k e l l e y   j r .

with the colonial power rather than with their own p ­ eople. As a result, many of the conflicts that occurred in the countries of Latin Amer­i­ca following liberation from Spain involved efforts by t­ hese same elites to retain control over the cultural and economic resources of their countries. The result was a cyclical pro­cess familiar to historians of the region, as a comprador class skimmed off a portion of the wealth exported from the country by foreign investors and corporations, in exchange for maintaining order and repressing or­ga­nized re­sis­tance among the working class and indigenous populations.8 This model was, in the long run, untenable. Debt payment burdens, pressure t­ oward monoculture economies, and periodic currency devaluation only exacerbated internal class divisions, leading to the rise of a cadre of autocratic caudillos and military dictators during the early to mid-­twentieth ­century. In the post–­World War II period (roughly 1950–70), a series of new po­ liti­cal movements emerged in Latin Amer­i­ca that attempted to challenge long-­standing internal class divisions, while also taking up a more oppositional relationship to foreign capital. Typically t­ hese involved socialist or quasi-­socialist reforms (Jacobo Árbenz Guzman in Guatemala and Victor Paz Estenssero in Bolivia in the early 1950s, Juan Velasco Alvarado’s nationalization of oil production in Peru in 1968, and the 1970 election of Salvador Allende in Chile) as well as open revolution, in the case of Cuba in 1959 and the overthrow of the Somoza regime in Nicaragua by the San­ di­nis­tas in 1979. Most of ­these endeavors ­were greeted by overt and covert attempts at subversion by the United States, including support for military coups, dictatorships, and po­liti­cal assassinations. During the 1960s the Alliance for Pro­gress, a hemispheric plan developed by the Kennedy administration, played a leading role in this pro­cess, providing indoctrination and counterinsurgency training for both urban and rural guerrilla groups in the name of “fighting communism” in the region. By the mid-1970s many countries in Central and South Amer­i­ca had returned to a familiar pattern in which foreign investors and corporations worked in tandem with internal elites, whose power was frequently maintained by military repression (e.g., in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay).9 However, where previous client states had attempted to ameliorate some of the economic and social costs of dependence through spending on domestic social programs, the 1970s and 1980s witnessed a gradual return to demo­cratically elected governments and a transition to early neoliberal policies, imposed through the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. ­Under the so-­called “Washington Consensus,” I n t r o d u c t i o n   •  5

t­ hese policies required debtor nations to reduce welfare and worker protections, eliminate tariffs, and open internal markets to foreign investment. It is impor­tant to understand that neoliberalism does not involve an absolute reduction of the state’s power relative to the private sector. Rather, neoliberalism involves a transition in state function, as the government abandons a market-­regulating role (imposing controls over corporate conduct, recognition of or­ga­nized ­labor, e­ tc.) and embraces instead a market-­complementing role in which any “public” obligation is subordinate to the interests of corporate and financial elites.10 Neoliberal economic policies proved to be particularly well-­suited to repressive po­liti­cal regimes in Latin Amer­i­ca, as the withdrawal of social support systems (i.e., reductions in welfare, public education, health benefits, and so on) only served to increase internal social tensions that, in turn, ­were used to justify further social repression and vio­lence. In response a number of po­liti­cal leaders during the late 1990s attempted to combine obedience to the fiscal discipline of neoliberal development with a largely symbolic embrace of populist domestic policies (e.g., Carlos Menem in Argentina, Alberto Fujimori in Peru, and Patricio Aylwin and Eduardo Frei in Chile). The failure of ­these efforts w ­ ere epitomized by the fall of Fujimori in 2000, the Argentine debt crisis of 1999–2002, and the coterminous financial crisis in Brazil, which prompted a domino effect of monetary devaluations throughout the region. The result was the so-­called “Pink Tide” of the early 2000s, as a series of po­liti­cal leaders emerged in Central and South Amer­i­ca who w ­ ere openly antagonistic to the neoliberal economic discourse that had dominated the region since the 1970s.11 This marked a significant shift in Latin American politics, as ­these leaders came to power through peaceful, demo­cratic means, reflecting a region-­wide frustration with the social costs of globalization. At the same time, while heads of state such as Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Rafael Correa, Hugo Chávez, and Evo Morales have been, or ­were, critical of neoliberal dogma, they also recognized the tactical necessity of working to some extent within the international economic community and the mechanisms of the global market.12 It is this final period, both utopian and pragmatic, that provides the po­ liti­cal backdrop for many of the artistic experiments documented in this collection. The time frame for this collection is significant, beginning as it does in the mid-1990s, which witnessed both the passage of the North American ­Free Trade Agreement (nafta), that penultimate expression of neoliberal ideology, and the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico, which introduced a new paradigm of revolution. It is a period marked by a wide6   •  g r a n t H . k e s t e r a n d b i l l k e l l e y   j r .

spread repudiation of the tenets of neoliberalism and structural adjustment, and an equally widespread disillusionment with traditional armed re­sis­tance.13 The gradual shift ­toward new forms of po­liti­cal organ­ization in Latin Amer­i­ca was signaled by the emergence of the ezln (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional) or Zapatista Army of National Liberation in Chiapas in 1994. “It is not our arms which make us radical,” the Zapatistas declared, “it is the new po­liti­cal practice which we propose . . . ​a po­liti­ cal practice which does not seek the taking of power but the organ­ization of society.”14 The Zapatistas deliberately sought to differentiate themselves from previous models of revolutionary insurrection. In an early interview Subcomandante Marcos stated: We do not want a dictatorship of another kind, nor anything out of this world, not international Communism and all that. We want justice where ­there is now not even minimum subsistence. . . . ​We do not want to monopolize the vanguard or say that we are the light, the only alternative, or stingily claim the qualification of revolutionary for one or another current.15 The Zapatistas are emblematic of a broader desire in Latin Amer­i­ca during this period to move beyond the traditional notion of revolution as a system for communicating the expertise of a vanguard party or mobilizing the quiescent masses through agitation or exemplary acts of vio­lence. Some indication of the richness and diversity of t­ hese new approaches can be found in Boaventura de Sousa Santos’s “Reinventing Social Emancipation” initiative, which he launched in the early 2000s. This is an international research proj­ect that provides an overview of new forms of social strug­gle in the Global South. At the core of de Sousa Santos’s research is a differentiation between existing models of “representative” democracy, associated with the traditions of bourgeois liberalism, and incipient forms of participatory democracy in Latin Amer­i­ca, Asia, and Africa, many of which have been catalyzed in response to neoliberal globalization. “The main thesis” of this research, as de Sousa Santos writes, “is that the hegemonic model of [liberal, representative] democracy . . . ​guarantees no more than low-­intensity democracy, based on the privatization of public welfare by more or less restricted elites, on the increasing distance between representatives and the represented, and on an abstract po­liti­cal inclusion made of concrete social exclusion.”16 From Brazil’s mst (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra), to the cocaleros of Putumayo, to innovative forms of participatory bud­geting I n t r o d u c t i o n   •  7

in Porto Allegro, de Sousa Santos identifies a “new emphasis on local democracy and on the variations of the demo­cratic form.”17 Taken in the aggregate, t­ hese initiatives seek to expand demo­cratic pro­cesses and princi­ples beyond the formal confines of representative politics to the “lived temporality” of everyday life. They represent the strug­gle to “de­ moc­ra­tize democracy,” in de Sousa Santos’s words, and mark a movement ­toward a more experiential and pragmatic approach to social and po­liti­cal transformation. This model of change implies neither a rejection of strategic thinking nor a refusal to acknowledge the coordinated and systematic nature of oppression t­ oday.18 It does, however, suggest that we must continually rediscover our relationship to practice: that consciousness does not always precede action, and that action itself can produce a form of knowledge that is both experiential and reflective. It is this same spirit that animates many of the artistic practices presented ­here. The imperative to de­moc­ra­tize our knowledge as well as our politics has also been addressed by the Chilean economist Manfred Max Neef. According to Max Neef, the current neoliberal economic model, often presented as the only pos­si­ble form of economic policy and almost universally supported by Western universities and academics, fails to take account of “meaningful ­human scale indicators.” Max Neef argues that conventionally educated economists who study poverty do so from the abstracted critical distance of “scientific” macroeconomic indicators (e.g., gross national product). As a result, they never truly understand the nature of poverty, how it affects ­people, or what local communities can do to improve their lives. He argues for a “barefoot economics” that would study issues such as poverty through learned community experience and de­moc­ra­tize the indicators of development to include local ancestral knowledge and the impact on nature in any cost–­benefit analy­sis. This suggests an enriched intercultural dialogue between histories and cultures analogous to what de Sousa Santos calls an “expanded ecol­ogy of knowledge.”19 De Sousa Santos and Max Neef both seek to challenge the “cognitive injustice” that has paralleled the economic and social injustice of the postcolonial period, as neoliberalism ignores, or deliberately represses, alternative epistemologies and value systems (­whether of the indigenous, the poor and working class, or the non-­Western).20 Progressive Latin American social theory since the 1950s has been characterized by a concern with the rights of the oppressed and methodologies that focus on local perspectives and initiatives. Thinkers such as Enrique Dussel have remarked on the practical and theoretical foundation estab8   •  g r a n t H . k e s t e r a n d b i l l k e l l e y   j r .

lished in g­ reat part by advocates of Liberation Theology and other liberatory pedagogical and community-­driven practices during the 1960s. As Dussel notes, this work enabled the rise of a new generation of left-­wing po­liti­cal leaders and perspectives in key regions of Latin Amer­i­ca. Within the distinctly decolonizing discourse of Liberation Philosophy, Dussel cites mid-­century populist movements, the theoretical implications of the Cuban revolution, and the Catholic Church’s work in developing local comunidades de base (base communities) that focus on the lives of the poor. Concurrently, the work of theologians like Gustavo Gutiérrez insisted on turning theology away from abstract philosophy and ­toward criticality and the social sciences. Within this arena of study, one must also acknowledge the contributions of Paolo Freire and other pedagogical theorists whose ideas on popu­lar education and the po­liti­cal and liberatory nature of collaborative and community work through art have been extraordinarily influential. The second Latin American Episcopal Council (celam) in Medellín laid the groundwork and established the language of Liberation Theology in 1968. However, this was only one stage in a broader movement by Latin American activists and academics beginning in the 1960s to critique the Eurocentric foundations of Western theory and philosophy. Decolonial theoretical movements focused on revealing epistemological exteriorities—­ forms of knowledge and methodologies left aside and pushed beyond the scope of Eurocentric modernity in its drive ­toward modernization and capitalism. Decolonization, as a theoretical apparatus, is concerned with the contingency of a world-­system that is defined by the centers of power. It seeks instead to recover forms of knowledge that re-­center the frame on intercultural exchange and prioritize the cultural work of the Global South. Concepts such as transmodernity—­seeing Euro-­modernity and its economic forces “from the perspective of its reverso, its underside, its occluded other”—­argue for the reevaluation of that same exteriority.21 The development of a Latin American philosophy centered on the decolonization of knowledge has played an instrumental role in questioning the relativity of postmodern thought, and in ascribing validity to local cognitive histories, knowledge, and methodologies. Th ­ ese positions are grounded in the po­liti­cal movements of the late 1960s, a period that was as much about the affirmation of Third World p ­ eoples’ autonomy, identity, ­will to freedom, and liberation as it was about the critique of imperialism, racism, and sexism within industrialized First World nations. ­Today ­these ideas not only provide the foundation for a historical understanding of I n t r o d u c t i o n   •  9

Latin American po­liti­cal thought; they continue to flourish in the hands of thinkers such as de Sousa Santos, Max Neef, Dussel, and ­others, and function as a theoretical framework for con­temporary methodologies that reverberate through many of the practices in this book. Otros-­Nosotros The dramatic expansion of collaborative and community-­based art practices has been accompanied and framed by an emergent critical discourse that remains largely Euro-­and U.S.-­centric in both its theoretical orientation and its objects of study. The theoretical and methodological inheritances of Latin Amer­i­ca are as diverse as its p ­ eople, yet the analy­sis of t­ hese art practices within the intellectual centers of the West has tended to “translate” Western critical theory and apply it to Latin American art without recognizing or investigating local communities, contexts, histories, and practices. Recent art-­world debates around issues of art, collectivity, and po­liti­cal change (Nicolas Bourriaud’s “relational” art, Claire Bishop’s deployment of Chantal Mouffe’s concept of agonism, Jacques Rancière’s framing of the ambiguous relationship between the aesthetic and the po­ liti­cal, Miwon Kwon’s foregrounding of displacement, e­ tc.) have focused primarily on the work of more mainstream artists and have, in many cases, expressed a congenital mistrust of communal or collective identities and action. Thus, the proj­ects documented in this book may well be viewed with some suspicion by mainstream art critics. From Ala Plastica’s engagement with environmental policies in the Río de la Plata basin to La Linea’s work with w ­ omen’s shelters in Tijuana, t­ hese proj­ects operate both within and against the grain of existing civil society in Latin Amer­ i­ca. In each case we witness a willingness to work through civil and public institutions (ngos, governmental agencies, ­unions, ­etc.), combined with a commitment to transforming t­ hese institutions through practical action and re­sis­tance. Notwithstanding the per­sis­tent skepticism about collaborative and collective art practice among some critics and theorists, artists themselves have shown an increasing willingness to explore the potentials offered by this approach. As noted above, we are currently witnessing a heightened interest in ­these practices in the mainstream art world. This has led, in turn, to an inquiry into the place of collaborative and community-­based art practices within a larger history of Latin American art. This inquiry has ranged from more general investigations into the history of the avant-­garde in Latin Amer­i­ca to case studies focused on specific proj­ects, such as the 1 0   •  g r a n t H . k e s t e r a n d b i l l k e l l e y   j r .

actions of the Tucumán Arde group in Argentina during the 1960s.22 Thus, the drive to situate collaborative and collective art practices from Latin Amer­i­ca within a larger canon has already begun. While the con­temporary proj­ects included in this book share certain commonalities with ­those earlier, historical practices, the methodologies employed by the artists presented ­here are distinctly transdisciplinary, placing greater emphasis on close community participation and dialogue. This marks an impor­tant departure from earlier models, in which the primary locus of creativity was often seen to reside within the authoring consciousness of a single artist. It suggests, as well, the need for a new set of analytic par­ameters that do not rely solely on the traditions of historical avant-­garde art, but rather remain open to a broader range of influences, criteria, and intellectual contexts. Thus, proj­ects like the memory recuperation initiatives created by Pablo Sanaguano or the community video network-­building efforts of Alberto Muenala, both produced with indigenous groups in Ec­ua­dor, have closer ties to the traditions of radical pedagogy and the con­temporary legislative efforts associated with the indigenous concept of sumak kawsay (translated as “good living” in Kichwa) than with the conventions of Western art history.23 ­These proj­ects also demonstrate a range of tactics for overcoming the pervasive historical amnesia in many Latin American countries regarding the vio­lence of authoritarian regimes during the 1970s and 1980s. This is evident in Grupo Etcétera’s work in Buenos Aires, as well as memory and reconciliation proj­ects in Colombia. Fi­nally, we can observe new forms of protest and dissent in the cultural proj­ects developed as part of the Prestes Maia occupations in São Paolo and Colectivo Sociedad Civil’s Lava la bandera per­for­mances in Lima. In each case, ­these proj­ects are characterized by a receptive, improvisational approach; an openness to the insights generated through practice and action; and a desire to both learn from, and move beyond, the limitations of past narratives of po­liti­cal emancipation. And in each case the groups involved seek to address a public that is both receptive to claims of social justice and able to act upon them. This faith in the often-­fragile mechanisms of participatory democracy is all the more remarkable given the recent history of state repression in Latin Amer­i­ca. Taken in the aggregate, what do ­these artists and collectives have to teach us? We can identify several recurring themes or motifs in their practices, notwithstanding the very wide range of locations, constituencies, and thematic concerns evident throughout this anthology. The first, as already noted, is a sustained and immersive relationship to specific sites and I n t r o d u c t i o n   •  1 1

locations, and a model of critique that is always rooted in specific institutions, subjectivities, and po­liti­cal forces. This relationship entails a set of distinct methodologies (pragmatic forms of learning and research, i­nterviews and conversations, shared perambulations or performative actions, ­etc.) and a heightened awareness of the complex interplay of the discursive, the haptic, and the po­liti­cal that structures any given site of practice. This work is, by and large, durationally extensive, unfolding over weeks, months, and even years of engagement. This situational commitment is joined by a strong connection to national and international networks of prac­ti­tion­ers and activists struggling with similar issues throughout Latin Amer­i­ca and around the world, from which many of ­these artists take inspiration and with whom t­ here are frequent and productive exchanges. Second, the proj­ ects presented ­here exhibit a consistent concern with the generative potential of collaboration itself. In their essays, interviews, and statements ­these artists repeatedly stress the necessity of learning from the experiences and actions of their collaborators and interlocutors, of remaining open and receptive to the transformative encounters across the bound­ aries of subjectivity and culture that characterize their work. Fi­nally, we encounter a shared recognition that existing models of both artistic practice and po­liti­cal re­sis­tance are changing, and a consequent willingness to challenge the conventional bound­aries between art and activism or aesthetics and politics.24 We hope that this anthology can help facilitate a dialogue on, and further an investigation into, ­these diverse forms of artistic practice. The rapid growth of dialogical or collaborative forms of art making over the past de­cade, not to mention the rich and largely unwritten history of community-­driven art practice, makes a collection of this nature all the more pertinent. Very l­ittle of this material is available in En­glish, and we believe ­these translations can help open up a productive exchange between prac­ti­tion­ers, critics, historians, and activists working in the United States and Eu­rope (who may be unaware of the remarkable range of art practices developed in Latin Amer­i­ca over the past twenty years) and their counter­ parts in Mexico and Central and South Amer­i­ca. The se­lection of materials is by no means exhaustive, but we have sought to provide a representative sample of regional efforts to rethink the bound­aries between art and activism and, by extension, the creative capacity of art. While many significant studies and groups have been left out of this collection, due to limitations of space and time, we feel the material we have been able to include effectively highlights the diversity of practices in the region. 1 2   •  g r a n t H . k e s t e r a n d b i l l k e l l e y   j r .

We have or­ga­nized the thirty-­one readings in this book, consisting of essays, interviews, manifestos, and conversations, into six parts: (Un)Civil Disobedience, Urbanism, Memory, Indigeneity, Migrations, and Institutional Critique. The orga­nizational structure came about organically, as we began to identify the most relevant case studies and proj­ects. Each chapter includes a brief introduction, and detailed proj­ect descriptions accompany several of the texts. The proj­ect descriptions serve to highlight basic information not covered in the central text and are included to facilitate further research, and to provide an additional contextual foundation for the essays themselves. From the beginning of the editorial pro­cess we deci­ded against imposing fixed limits on the kinds of texts we would publish. We ­were open to what­ever format the artists and authors felt was most effective in representing their work or their creative investigations. Most of the texts are new, but ­there are a few that have been republished from smaller or less accessible publications. As is so often the case with proj­ects of this nature, it is, at the time of its publication, already a historical document. Over the past five years a range of exciting new works have been developed in Latin Amer­i­ca. Impor­ tant research on memory, vio­lence, and the history of military repression (and its toll on, and relationship to, artistic and activist practice) has been undertaken by groups such as La Red Conceptualismos del Sur, and across the hemi­sphere. Th ­ ere are active and vibrant gender equality movements involving artists and cultural producers in Bolivia, Argentina, Ec­ua­dor, and other countries. Many of the artist groups in São Paolo or Buenos Aires who took to the streets in the early 2000s are now active in building organ­izations, developing infrastructure to facilitate international collaborations, and forming new cultural alliances and strategies to continue their initial po­liti­cal strug­gle, while also redefining the role of the artist in society.25 The ending date for this anthology, 2010, marked the moment that Lula da Silva stepped down as president of Brazil, to be replaced by his former chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff. Rousseff has become increasingly unpop­u­lar as inflation has increased dramatically, and her administration has been confronted with scandals over Petrobras, Brazil’s state-­run oil com­pany. She is currently facing impeachment. By 2013 Hugo Chávez had died, replaced by his former vice president, Nicolás Maduro Moros. Maduro has also strug­gled, as falling oil prices have led to a growing economic crisis in Venezuela. Notwithstanding t­hese shifts, Latin Amer­i­ca remains one of the key regions in which new forms of re­sis­tance to the imperatives of I n t r o d u c t i o n   •  1 3

neoliberalism are sustained and at least partially encouraged at the state level (Rafael Correa and Evo Morales remain in power).26 Moreover, 2010 was also the year in which Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi immolated himself in protest ­after the police prevented him from selling vegetables, marking the beginning of the Arab Spring. We are unable ­here to pursue the productive points of contact between the Arab Spring and the subsequent Occupy movement (which began in 2011) and the work developed in Latin Amer­i­ca during the Pink Tide. It is evident, however, that in each case we can identify a significant relationship between po­liti­ cal re­sis­tance, especially in response to neoliberalism and antidemo­cratic or authoritarian regimes, and artistic production (for example, the new forms of street art that proliferated in Tahrir Square as well as in the Occupy movement). It is our hope that this collection ­will contribute to the ongoing dialogue around the nature of this relationship, as both artistic practice and po­liti­cal re­sis­tance continue to evolve, complicate, and challenge each other.27 Notes Epigraph: Gustavo Gutiérrez, The Power of the Poor in History (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1983), 117.1. 1 While our primary focus is on work produced in Latin Amer­i­ca, especially proj­ ects that are less well known in the English-­speaking world, we ­will also include some discussion of recent proj­ects developed in diasporic communities in the United States (see “Of Co-­investigations and Aesthetic Sustenance: A Conversation between Colectivo Situaciones and Electronic Disturbance Theater/b.a.n.g. lab” and Prerana Reddy’s “How Three Artists Led the Queens Museum into Corona and Beyond,” chapters 17 and 18). Of course, ­these two essays can offer only a partial and incomplete picture of the diversity of artistic practices developed by Latino/a diasporic communities in North Amer­i­ca. We would note ­here that con­temporary artistic practices being produced by Latino/a artists and communities in the United States are already well represented in English-­language sources and museum exhibitions. See, for example, the exhibition “Our Amer­i­ca: The Latino Presence in American Art” at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art (October 25, 2013–­March 2, 2014), which toured nationally and featured a major conference and accompanying cata­log. In addition, one of our concerns, as noted in this introduction, was to focus on proj­ects developed in the context of significant po­liti­cal shifts that occurred in Latin Amer­i­ca, specifically during the late 1990s and early 2000s (the so-­called “Pink Tide”). 2 Inés Katzenstein and Andrea Giunta, Listen, ­Here, Now! Argentine Art of the 1960s: Writings of the Avant-­Garde (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2004). 1 4   •  g r a n t H . k e s t e r a n d b i l l k e l l e y   j r .

3 This work has been described as the expression of a “dialogical” (Kester) or “relational” (Bourriaud) aesthetic, and as evidence of a “participatory” turn in con­ temporary art. For recent studies, see Nicholas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics, translated by Simon Pleasance and Fronza Woods with the participation of Mathieu Copeland (Dijon: Les Presses du Réel, 2002); Grant Kester, Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004) and The One and the Many: Con­temporary Collaborative Art in a Global Context (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011); Shannon Jackson, Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics (New York: Routledge, 2011), Living as Form: Socially-­Engaged Art from 1991–2011, edited by Nato Thompson (Cambridge, MA: mit Press, 2012), and What We Made: Conversations on Art and Social Cooperation, edited by Tom Finkelpearl (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013). 4 The Sierra quote is from the cata­log Santiago Sierra: Works 2002–1990 (Birmingham, UK: Ikon Gallery, 2002), 15. 5 See Grant Kester, “Lessons in Futility: Francis Alÿs and the Legacy of May ’68,” Third Text 23(4) (July 2009): 407–20. 6 By “tactical” we refer to the effects of artistic and activist practices at specific sites and in specific situations (as opposed to “strategic” forms of action that involve the calculation of the long-­term effects of cumulative practices). ­There is an implicit scalar distinction ­here, but also a temporal shift, in which tactical action allows for the immediate recalibration of a resistant practice in response to changes, breakthroughs, or counter-­actions at a given site. The concept of a “civic reimagining” refers to the capacity of certain artistic practices to contribute to a pro­cess of reframing the nature of public and civic space within a given social system. As with the Lava la bandera actions in Peru discussed by Gustavo Buntinx (“Lava la bandera: The Colectivo Sociedad Civil and the Cultural Overthrow of the Fujimori-­Montesinos Dictatorship,” chapter 1), this often entails the ability to reclaim signifiers or symbols of po­liti­cal unity (e.g., the Peruvian flag). 7 As historians Benjamin Keen and Keith Haynes argue: Populist reforms historically had united elites and subalterns u ­ nder the banner of nationalism ­because they promised social and po­liti­cal inclusion without fundamentally redistributing property and power. In the absence of such a radical transformation of existing social structures, however, populist reforms had to be financed by high export prices, low-­interest foreign loans or some combination of both. —Benjamin Keen and Keith Haynes, A History of Latin Amer­i­ca: In­de­pen­ dence to the Pres­ent, vol. 2, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009), 498–99. 8 Originally deriving from the Portuguese word for “buyer,” associated specifically with trade with China, “comprador” evolved in the Marxist tradition to identify a “native” man­ag­er of Eu­ro­pean colonial enterprises.

I n t r o d u c t i o n   •  1 5

9 The overthrow of Anastasio Somoza by the San­di­nis­tas in 1979 was an exception. 10 See The State ­after Statism: New State Activities in the Age of Liberalization, edited by Jonah D. Levy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006). 11 ­These include Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández in Argentina, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Ricardo Lagos and Michelle Bachelet in Chile, Rafael Correa in Ec­ua­dor, Mauricio Funes in El Salvador, Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Fernando Lugo in Paraguay, Tabaré Vázquez and José Mujica in Uruguay, and Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. 12 This is also a reflection of the loss of the USSR as a sponsor of state socialism in Latin Amer­ic­ a. 13 This period was also marked by the death of Jacobo Arenas of farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in Colombia in 1990 and the capture of Abimael Guzmán of Sendero Luminoso in Peru in 1992. farc had come u ­ nder increasing criticism for its reliance on kidnapping for revenue and its recruitment of ­children as young as fifteen. 14 As Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos wrote in an open letter to “National and International Civil Society” in 1996: We do not want o ­ thers, more or less of the right, center or left, to decide for us. We want to participate directly in the decisions which concern us, to control ­those who govern us, without regard to their po­liti­cal affiliation, and oblige them to “rule by obeying.” We do not strug­gle to take power, we strug­gle for democracy, liberty, and justice. Our po­liti­cal proposal is the most radical in Mexico (perhaps in the world, but it is still too soon to say). It is so radical that all the traditional po­liti­cal spectrum (right, center left and ­those of one or the other extreme) criticize us and walk away from our delirium. —Zapatista Army of National Liberation Mexico, “To National and International Civil Society” (August 30, 1996), http://­flag​.­blackened​.­net​/­revolt​/­mexico​ /­ezln​/­marc​_t­ o​_­cs​_­se96​.­html. 15​­ In a communiqué released in response to the emergence of the epr (Popu­lar Revolutionary Army), which engaged in more traditional armed re­sis­tance, the ezln responded: You strug­gle for power. We strug­gle for democracy, liberty and justice. This is not the same t­ hing. Though you may be successful and conquer power, we ­will continue struggling for democracy, liberty and justice. It does not ­matter who is in power, the Zapatistas are and have always strug­gled for democracy, liberty and justice. —Zapatista Army of National Liberation Mexico, “To the Soldiers and Commanders of the Popu­lar Revolutionary Army” (August 29, 1996), http://­flag​ .­blackened​.­net​/­revolt​/­mexico​/­ezln​/­ezln​_­epr​_­se96​.­html. 1 6   •  g r a n t H . k e s t e r a n d b i l l k e l l e y   j r .

16​­ Boaventura de Sousa Santos, “General Introduction: Reinventing Social Emancipation: ­Toward New Manifestos,” in Demo­cratizing Democracy: Beyond the Liberal Demo­cratic Canon, edited by Boaventura de Sousa Santos (London: Verso, 2005), ix. 17 Boaventura de Sousa Santos and Leonardo Avritzer, “Introduction: Opening Up the Canon of Democracy,” in Demo­cratizing Democracy, xxxvi. As de Sousa Santos and Avritzer continue, “The strug­gle for democracy is ­today above all a strug­gle for the democ­ratization of democracy. Liberal democracy, the normative paradigm, confined democracy to the po­liti­cal realm. . . . ​This rendered the demo­cratic pro­cess susceptible to constituting an island of democracy in a wide ocean of social despotism” (lxii). 18 In fact, as de Sousa Santos writes, “in our time, social emancipation involves a dual movement of de-­globalization of the local (vis-­à-­vis hegemonic globalization) and its re-­globalization (as part of counter-­hegemonic globalization).” Demo­cratizing Democracy, xxxvi. 19 Max-Neef, in reaffirming the importance of po­liti­cal agency in local ­human and economic development, defines the concept of “­human scale development” as “focused and based on the satisfaction of fundamental h ­ uman needs, on the generation of growing levels of self-­reliance, and on the construction of organic articulations of ­people with nature and technology, of global pro­cesses with local activity, of the personal with the social, of planning with autonomy, and of civil society with the state.” Manfred A. Max-­Neef, ­Human Scale Development: Conception, Application and Further Reflections (New York: Apex Press, 1991), 8. 20 Also see Raewyn W. Connell, Southern Theory: Social Science and the Global Dynamics of Knowledge (London: Polity Press, 2007) and, in the context of postcolonial Africa specifically, Jean Comaroff and John L. Comaroff, Theory from the South: Or, How Euro-­America Is Evolving ­toward Africa (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Press, 2012). 21 Eduardo Mendieta, in Enrique Dussel, The Underside of Modernity: Ricoeur, Apel, Taylor and the Philosophy of Liberation, translated and edited by Eduardo Mendieta (New York: Humanities, 1996), xxii. 22 Maria Carmen Ramirez’s contribution in Inverted Utopias: Avant-­Garde Art in Latin Amer­ic­ a (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004) and Luis Camnitzer’s Conceptualism in Latin American Art: Didactics of Liberation (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2007) are two popu­lar and recent examples. 23 See Pablo Alonso González and Alfredo Macías Vázquez, “An Ontological Turn in the Debate on Buen Vivir—­Sumak Kawsay in Ec­ua­dor: Ideology, Knowledge and the Common,” Latin American and Ca­rib­bean Ethnic Studies 10(1) (summer 2015): 1–20; Julien Vanhulst and Adrian E. Beling, “Buen Vivir: Emergent Discourse within or beyond Sustainable Development,” Ecological Economics 101 (2014): 54–63; and Sarah A. Radcliffe, “Development for a Postneoliberal

I n t r o d u c t i o n   •  1 7





Era? Sumak Kawsay, Living Well and the Limits to Decolonisation in Ec­ua­dor,” Geoforum 43 (2012): 240–49. Kester discusses this question in more depth in “On the Relationship between Theory and Practice in Socially Engaged Art,” in the Blade of Grass journal Fertile Ground on July 29, 2015 (​ /between-theory-and-practice/), and the editorial for issue #2 of FIELD: A Journal of Socially Engaged Art Criticism (fall 2015) (http://­field​-­journal​.­com​/­issue​-­2​ /­kester​-­2). Examples of this shift would include Grupo Etcétera and Frente 3 de Fevereiro. Each group has evolved, more recently, to explore their respective social and po­liti­cal concerns through the building of regional and international cultural alliances, publishing, and curatorial work. Morales himself has been accused of facilitating the “bureaucratic stagnation of the Bolivian revolution.” As Dinerstein has noted, in the post-­Pink Tide period of retrenchment ­there are, among the grass roots, “divisions between ­those who support the governments and ­those who feel betrayed.” See Ana Cecilia Dinerstein, The Politics of Autonomy in Latin Amer­i­ca: The Art of Organ­ izing Hope (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 8. For a useful study of the impact of the Occupy movement on artistic practice, see Yates McKee, Strike Art: Con­temporary Art and the Post-­Occupy Condition (Brooklyn, NY: Verso Books, 2016). The exhibition “Creative Dissent: Arts of the Arab World Uprisings” was on display at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, between November 8, 2013 and February 9, 2014. See Some proj­ects documented in this anthology ­were featured in exhibitions or­ga­nized by coeditor Bill Kelley Jr. Rather than see this as a source of editorial compromise, the author wishes to convey his belief that curatorial practice is one of the few ways in which it is pos­si­ble for an in­de­pen­dent researcher to gain direct, firsthand knowledge of ­these complex, long-­term proj­ects. This kind of field research is essential to a deeper critical, as well as curatorial, understanding of the work.

1 8   •  g r a n t H . k e s t e r a n d b i l l k e l l e y   j r .

Part I (Un)Civil Disobedience

This section brings together five essays and conversations that reflect varying approaches to po­liti­cal re­sis­tance, with a par­tic­u­lar focus on h ­ uman and civic rights within their respective local contexts. The creative nature of protest in Latin Amer­i­ca cannot be fully represented by ­these examples, but they do demonstrate the poetic and emancipatory thinking that has driven community-­based art practices over the past two de­cades. Collectively ­these texts examine the efforts of artists to work in the realm of po­ liti­cal action and or­ga­nize communities t­ oward common c­ auses. They also represent the lack of bound­aries between the discipline of art and adjacent forms of action and knowing. This fluidity between art and po­liti­cal protest, regardless of the form in which it manifests, has been a hallmark of artists in Latin Amer­i­ca throughout the twentieth c­ entury. The artists and essayists in this section deal with issues ranging from community organ­ izing in the face of po­liti­cal oppression to investigations of the poetic potential of protest as affective public theater. Gustavo Buntinx reflects on the actions of Colectivo Sociedad Civil (Collective Civil Society) during the turbulent years of the Fujimori regime in Peru (1990–2000), when widespread reprisals w ­ ere carried out by his intelligence officer Vladimiro Montesinos and o ­ thers in his administration. The group’s most iconic action, Lava la bandera (Wash the Flag), was

performed in plazas and squares in dozens of cities and towns throughout the country as a formal protest by citizens, who lined up with ­water and bars of soap in hand waiting their turn to cleanse the national flag. The edelo space in San Cristóbal de las Casas, in Chiapas, Mexico, was started by artists Caleb Duarte and Mia Eve Rollow in 2008. edelo (En Donde Era la Onu or Where the un Used to Be) emerged as a residency space for rethinking artistic practice and building relationships, primarily with local, Zapatista communities. By learning about the Zapatista way of life through engaged collaborations, the artists’ intention was to create a laboratory of ­free thinking and transdisciplinary practice while stepping outside of “limited definitions of art” and ­toward “a healing and transformative experience.” In this conversation, Raquel de Anda speaks with Duarte about the history of the space and how Zapatista thinking and methodologies frame their practice. The Etcétera collective formed out of the turmoil of the economic crisis that wrecked the Argentine economy in December 2001. Intermittently working as the International Errorista, for this publication Etcétera discusses its own history and its viewpoints on the relationship between art and politics. In a staged self-­interview, the group recalls its early years, from the creation of theatrical escraches (public outings of military criminals from the Dirty War) while collaborating with hijos (Sons and ­Daughters for Identity and Justice against Oblivion and Silence), to its public demonstrations staged during the financial crisis, to its transition into the International Errorista in a post-9/11 world. In an essay entitled “The Long Way: Argentine Artistic Activism of the Last De­cades,” theorist Ana Longoni reflects on the vari­ous artist groups that emerged during the period of the Argentine economic crises but that also pointedly aimed their critique at the po­liti­cal corruption and terror of the dictatorial era. Longoni gives us an overview of the period while tracing the numerous street-­based and public strategies and methodologies employed by groups such as Argentina Arde, Grupo de Arte Callejeros (gac), Taller Popu­lar de Serigrafía (tps), and o ­ thers. The Artistas en Resistencia collective emerged in Honduras ­after the military-­led coup of President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales in 2009. Street protests led to severe and brutal repression. The collective, formed by artists of vari­ous disciplines, quickly assembled to discuss and assess the po­liti­cal climate and or­ga­nize protests and events. Kency Cornejo speaks to several of the group’s members about their history, particularly during the turbulent months a­ fter the coup, and the importance of organ­izing artistic communities. 2 0   •  P a r t I

Lava la bandera


The Colectivo Sociedad Civil and the Cultural Overthrow of the Fujimori-­Montesinos Dictatorship gustavo buntinx Ars brevis, vita longa Liminaries

The overthrow of a dictatorship is not usually the result of a single masterstroke, but rather of the slow yet relentless construction of demo­cratic consensus in each sector of civil society. ­There is a cultural overthrow of dictatorship as impor­tant and decisive as its economic, po­liti­cal, or military overthrow. For what is thus obtained is an alteration of public consciousness that is also an awakening of the most intimate individual consciousness—­and a lasting turn in the prevailing common sense of the times. Such transformations are not necessarily foreign to artistic initiatives, when t­ hese are subject to an extreme—­and critical—­socialization. The strug­gle for symbolic power in the public sphere—in public space itself—­encouraged for Peru the reconstruction of ­those civic ethics that the dictatorship of Alberto Fujimori and Vladimiro Montesinos pretended to suppress by generalizing among the population a certain post-(civil) war syndrome.1 A major contribution to this liberating pro­cess was the overflow of an ethical agenda that for years had been consolidating itself from within the relatively sheltered spaces of art: the stubborn w ­ ill to expand the limits of what is speakable, sayable, conceivable even, in a social context where po­liti­cal repression was often internalized as psychic repression.

(Self)Censorships The task was to fight the power, of course, but not just u ­ nder its evident manifestations as a de facto regime. The strug­gle was also—­and more crucially—­against the subtle prolongations of the dictatorship into the individual habits and cultural practices that sustained that despotic power and made it ­viable. The cultural overthrow of dictatorship is not content or complete with the mere discrediting and displacement of the tyrant of the hour. It also implies the slow but decisive transformation of our traditions, all so authoritarian, demagogic, clientelist, caudillistas. . . . ​And it requires as well the arduous construction of a new civil society. A new citizenship, an active citizenship, articulated beyond the state, before the po­liti­cal parties, as a vital and living participatory act: a live and alive intervention in the social processes—­and in history itself. This strategy made it pos­si­ble for core groups of persons emerging from the visual arts scene to contribute in a decisive way to the still recent demo­cratic turn in Peru. A feat accomplished through a cultural praxis that offered a differential plus to the strug­gle for citizenship: a symbolic surplus value. The results ­were artistic experiences that radically socialized themselves to the point of renouncing their own specificity, generating instead groups of critical intervention in the broader cultural and po­liti­cal spheres. Due to testimonial needs and space restraints, I w ­ ill ­here comment only on the Colectivo Sociedad Civil (Civil Society Collective, also known by its Spanish acronym csc). And due to reflexive exigencies, I ­will privilege, out of the Colectivo’s ample trajectory, the republican rituals it conceived for the recovery of a civic self-­esteem, rescuing public space for a demo­cratic praxis, restoring the city to the citizenry.2 Les Mots et les Choses Even in its self-­assumed denomination, the Colectivo Sociedad Civil suggested a sense and purpose that went beyond any artistic or partisan vocation. The csc intended instead to prioritize the factual and symbolic reconstitution of our usurped citizenship—­and of its lost social fabric. With this prospect in mind, the csc postulated the cultural edification of democracy as the necessary dialectical complement of the cultural overthrow of dictatorship. The under­lying premise was that only cultural change renders any social or po­liti­cal modification irreversible. We must, however, avoid any messianic temptation. The trajectory of this and other groups is only part of a vast and diverse scene. And the origins of that “move” 2 2   •   g u s t av o b u n t i n x

(rather than movement) go back at least to the protests provoked in 1997 by the dismissal of the members of the Constitutional Guarantees Tribunal. This arbitrary mea­sure was meant to dismantle the juridical obstacles to an illicit presidential re-­reelection already in the works, in flagrant violation even of the fraudulent charter imposed by the dictatorship itself. The civic mobilizations against this abuse thus became the prelude for a new po­liti­cal sentiment. The unpre­ce­dented overflows of that cultural-­political libido infiltrated and corroded and overwhelmed the logics of psychosocial control made instrumental by the regime through the fascistoid imperatives of martialization and simulacrum: the exacerbation in local terms of a certain generalized symbolic embezzlement that would characterize our (post) modern times, transforming Peru into a pauperized society of spectacle. Especially in its televised version: from the news-­less news programs to the reconstructed assaults on the Japa­nese ambassador’s residence, the fujimontesinista power structure evidenced itself as a pathetic but hypnotic real­ity show whose deliberate manifestation would precisely be Laura Bozzo, the infamous show-­woman, almost in the same way that the so-­ called Vladivideos acted as that system’s terminal Freudian slip.3 Sex, Lies, and Vladi-­tapes: God in His (Her) infinite mercy has willed to make of our extreme periphery the paradigmatic center of the (post) modern condition, its emblematic mise-­en-­abyme, its exemplary vortex: a provincial techno-­political vanitas, a subtropical memento mori of simulacrum, in which the voyeur and onanistic powers-­that-be videotape each of their own acts of corruption and debasement—­and the runaway president renounces by fax an investiture whose only legitimacy was its mediatic fetishization. ­Under such conditions, it became a fundamental po­liti­ cal task to simply make it pos­si­ble for words and t­ hings to signify once again, to once again convey sense.4 But to reconstruct t­ hose specificities of meaning implied raising our suspicions over meaning itself and its capital vocations. Las trampas de la peruanidad: The traps and entrapments of Peruvian identity, of so-­called Peruvianness, a category historically constructed through a permanent game of exclusions, appropriations, resignifications. . . . ​The act of unraveling ­those entanglements, however, also made it pos­si­ble to liberate the latent promises contained in their very construction. If Peru does not exist, as has so often been argued, it should perhaps be reinvented. As indeed Peru has been reinvented in so many progressive ways through the unfinished cultural attempts to broaden the very concept of L ava l a B a n d e r a   •   2 3

citizenship. Or through the continuous efforts to dispute new and homegrown values out of the official discourses and emblems.5 The renewed subjectivity, the supposedly dead subject that thus returns, that thus is founded, is the new community, almost the communion: a utopia brought forth at the dawn of this new millennium by an incipient civil society fostering a radical concept of citizenship. Radical ­because, among other ­things, it is formulated not from the hedonic solipsism of a certain dominant globalization, but through local ethical imperatives whose collective vocation recoups and revives—­resignifies—­the most rhetorical values and emblems of a purported “national identity,” and of a shared sense of belonging: t­ hose values, for example, that configure the very idea of Motherland—or even the imagery of religious emotion. Few experiences put this trance into such a paradigmatic scene as the Peruvian flag’s almost liturgical transmutation during the civic mobilizations against the Fujimori-­Montesinos dictatorship. An essential part of this was the redefinition of public space through a renewed sense of praxis: the critical intersections of city and citizenship, of polis and politics; also, predictably, of ethics and aesthetics. Lava la bandera Let’s make (brief) history. The transformation and continuous diversification of the Colectivo Sociedad Civil has blurred its origins in a visual arts scene that, t­ oward the end of the 1990s, had managed to rearticulate its civic consciousness a­ fter gradually overcoming traumatic circumstances. For years, the anguished awareness of the disasters of war—­subversive and counter-­subversive—­had been compounded by the fears derived from the persecutions or­ga­nized against the critical intelligent­sia, even during the failed experience of electoral democracy spanning the period between 1980 and 1992: the precarious Peruvian Weimar Republic, which was liquidated with eloquent ease by the self-­inflicted coup d’état imposed by Fujimori and Montesinos in that final year.6 The new type of dictatorship that was thus enforced legitimized the campaigns of stigmatization and silencing that fostered censorships, exiles, imprisonments, and murders, even within some artistic circles. Th ­ ose repressive mechanisms also gave place, however, to renewed tactics and strategies of symbolic dissidence: shrewd acts of signic revelry often quite notable but weakened by their isolation. Among the vari­ous proposals that intended to overcome that dispersion ­there stands out, as an antecedent for the csc, a self-­produced exhibition that proclaimed its militancy from 2 4   •   g u s t av o b u n t i n x

the very polysemy of its highly charged title: Emergencia artística: Arte crítico 1998–1999 (Art Emergence/Art Emergency: Critical Art 1998–1999).7 The show opened on the 27th of October of that last year, in parallel—­ not in opposition—to the second Lima Ibero-­American Biennial. It thus benefited from the circulation and opening generated by that event in order to precipitate a demo­cratic consensus against censorship and authoritarianism. Almost immediately Emergencia artística constituted itself as an unavoidable referent for cultural discussion and for symbolic re­sis­ tance to the perpetuation in power of Fujimori and Montesinos, who had already made plain their w ­ ill to force the dictator’s r­ eelection. Practically all the founding members of the csc had participated in that show. ­These and other previous relations proved crucial, since they made it ­pos­si­ble for the Colectivo to come into existence at a moment’s notice when, on the presidential election night of the 9th of April of the year 2000, it became obvious that the dictatorship intended to perpetuate itself through a scandalous fraud. More than half of ­those who would form the initial core of the group took upon themselves the commitment and the frustration of an arduous collaboration with the ngo Transparencia (Transparency), which attempted to in­de­pen­dently supervise the elections. But t­hose intentions and efforts proved insufficient to prevent the flagrant wrongdoings in an official vote count intent on imposing a forged definitive triumph for Fujimori even in the first electoral round. The Colectivo’s sudden crystallization was then fostered by the rapid and massive mobilization of a citizenry that in such a supreme hour declared itself in militant civic alert and reclaimed public space for po­liti­cal protest. The csc’s contributions to the demonstrations gave iconic presence and permanence to the tensions and intensities of ­those heroic days. But above all, ­these first initiatives by the Colectivo almost intuitively rehearsed the relational structure that would ­later characterize its entire symbolic praxis. The action that best fulfilled that vocation was Lava la bandera (Wash the Flag), a participatory ritual of patriotic cleansing begun by the csc ­under the relative protection offered by the Feria por la Democracia (Fair for Democracy) which several civic organ­izations staged on the 20th and 21st  of May  2000 in the centrally located Campo de Marte. On May  24, however, just four days before the second electoral round (as fraudulent as the first one), the Colectivo confronted the police and assumed considerable risk by moving Lava la bandera smack into Lima’s Plaza Mayor (Main Square), where it would afterward reiterate the action ­every Friday around L ava l a B a n d e r a   •   2 5

the colonial ­water fountain of that emblematic site. This location proved determinant for the symbolic foundation of the redemptive spirit postulated by the ritual: an act of dignification for the national emblem that was at the same time a propitiatory gesture calling for transparency and honesty in a historical pro­cess soiled by grave and murky irregularities. The liturgical instruments ­were minimal but significant: ­water (the lustral ­water, the primordial cleansing liquid), soap (Bolívar brand: the name of a liberator), and ordinary plastic washbasins (red in color) placed on rustic wooden benches (cheap but gilded: the altar of the nation, and at the same time a wink at a popu­lar phrase about Peru’s opulent poverty).8 ­These ele­ments waited t­ here for any and all who brought Peruvian flags, of what­ever size but made from cloth to be washed by the citizens themselves, and then hung on improvised clotheslines that crisscrossed the Plaza Mayor. The establishment’s symbolic center (executive palace, ecclesiastical cathedral, town hall, even Francisco Pizarro’s absurd monument) was thus transformed into a gigantic communal drying green. And the most heavi­ly guarded public square—­under permanent surveillance by video cameras, riot troops, and armored vehicles—­became an extension of the domestic backyard. “Dirty linen is washed at home.” Thus, using a popu­lar proverb, complained Martha Hildebrandt, then president of the subjugated national Congress, unaware of her implicit admission of the dirt imposed on the nation by the regime she so strategically served. Unaware too of the fact that one of Lava la bandera’s multiple meanings was precisely the vindication of the Plaza Mayor as every­one’s home: a citizen’s agora. A citizen’s agora. ­There is undoubtedly an emotion that is aesthetic, erotic even, floating among the hundreds of damp flags waving the humidity of their folds and crevices ­under Lima’s proverbial, sometimes poetic, drizzle. But just as suggestive is the spectacle of the speech act, the word spoken and recovered by persons from ­every walk of life as they group in diverse circles, accompanying the ritual with multiple discussions that extend well beyond the ritual itself. And when agents from the National Intelligence Ser­vice (Servicio de Inteligencia Nacional, sin) attempted to infiltrate the crowd, instigating it to react violently against the patriotic laundering, the ­people opted instead to debate and refute their nonsensical arguments, overwhelming them with a demo­cratic practice that proved too disconcerting and ultimately scared them off. That was not the only repressive strategy, to be sure. Inevitably ­there ­were a number of illicit interventions against the csc (including the usur2 6   •   g u s t av o b u n t i n x

pation of its electronic mail), as well as constant threats, literal and symbolic. A skull was thrown into the ­house of one of the Colectivo’s members. Another received the gesture of a gunshot at point-­blank range, but ­there was no bullet in the pistol. On the 9th of September the regime’s yellow press tried to initiate a psychosocial campaign against Lava la bandera by dedicating scandalous headlines to the indictment of a strip-­tease dancer for her “presumed offensive misuse” of the flag in a spectacle where the banner was turned into a vestment.9 The intent was to generate antecedents for judicial persecutions of the Colectivo, but that purpose would be frustrated by the dictatorship’s imminent downfall (barely a week afterward the first Vladivideo was made public). The attacks against the very act of washing the flag ­were more direct. On several occasions the fountain’s ­water supply was cut off, but nevertheless ­water was made available in bags, ­bottles, or basins provided by the area’s residents, workers, merchants. Other days loud military bands attempted to drown out the protest with their martial tunes: the population responded by adapting their own oppositional chants to that beat. On July 7, a swat team warned that any washing would be interrupted by force and all flags hung to dry would be torn down. Despite that threat, the participants proceeded with the ritual, intoning the national anthem as a symbolic protection, and then bearing the wet banners on their bodies in order to form a gigantic ­human clothesline. The resulting situation thus became keenly more moving and power­ful than the one the police intended to prevent.10 But this dialectical overcoming of repression was also a radical projection of alternative energies. ­There is in Lava la bandera a po­liti­cally symbolic gesturality that nonetheless also offers itself as a liturgical ablution, as a baptism even, with all its etymological connotations of an immersion followed by the emergence t­ oward a new life. Washing the flag became a ritual gesture for the mobilization of all the necessary energies (of ­every type) for the recovery and defense of citizens’ rights— of citizenship itself. A social shamanism: It was not infrequent to see native persons, dressed in their traditional attire, empowering the patriotic cleansing with invocations to Mother Earth and other Andean deities. In numerous cases, the participants would spontaneously murmur almost magical litanies while scrubbing the banners in an attempt to exorcise Peru of its po­liti­cal demons.11 This dif­fer­ent articulation of vari­ous, even opposite, meanings, consolidated in Lava la bandera a formidable symbolic capital that served as an effective strategic rear guard for the continuous regrouping of the L ava l a B a n d e r a   •   2 7

demo­cratic forces. This became especially true during the worst repressive moments, immediately a­ fter the gigantic march or­ga­nized to protest the pathetic self-­swearing-in of the dictator on the 28th of July, the Peruvian In­de­pen­dence Day. That multitudinous demonstration, without pre­ce­ dent in the country, had been brutally repressed with the tragic outcome of six deaths in spectacular fires provoked by the sin but blamed on the opposition—­following the model of the Nazi Reichstag arson. With the po­liti­cal parties in retreat and many politicians on the defensive, overwhelmed by fear or by a misdirected sense of guilt, when not directly bought by the regime, Lava la bandera coalesced the citizenry’s s­ imple and sheer ­will to not yield, to not surrender. And the ritual grew beyond all expectations. During the following weeks hundreds of thousands of ­people, in all corners of the entire country and even overseas, joined t­ hose who had already incorporated the Colectivo’s initiative, autonomously re-­creating the ritual throughout the Peruvian populace. “A s­ ilent and symbolic ritual is making its way across the length and breadth of our national territory,” reported the Lima newspaper La República on the 12th of August.12 And six weeks ­later: “Wash the Flag, a protest that does not cease.”13 “Lava la bandera is a cancer,” Montesinos is said to have complained, in allusion to its metastatic growth with no centralized direction or single organ­ization (although the pathology of the meta­phor responded to the subjective self-­projection of the person who coined it, rather than to the healing w ­ ill of the action being referred to).14 By mid-­September ­there ­were virtually no cities in the entire country, and no districts in the im­ mense Lima metropolitan area (eight million inhabitants), where the flag was not being ritually washed. The action was even performed in at least twenty Peruvian communities abroad.15 Certain politicians and demo­cratic parties quickly joined the initiative, as did the national ombudsman. But so did members and leaders of native communities, army reservists, ­women’s and journalists’ organ­izations, guilds and l­ abor ­unions, students, artificers-­ at-­large, neighborhood committees, and institutions of ­every type, all of them participating cooperatively or organ­izing their own washings.16 At certain culminating moments protesters washed not only the Peruvian flag but also the emblems of municipalities and institutions in the ser­vice of the dictatorship. But also army uniforms w ­ ere laundered, right in front of the Joint Command itself, in an act that would be echoed by personalities so im­mensely respected as the priest Hubert Lanssier. Fujimori’s own Constitution was washed on the steps of the Palacio de Justicia (Palace of Justice), along with the archived and silenced judiciary files 2 8   •   g u s t av o b u n t i n x

on tortures and po­liti­cal assassinations (shortly afterward the same ablutions ­were applied to the magistrates’ robes and insignias). Three days before that, the monuments of national heroes w ­ ere washed precisely in Tacna, known as “the heroic city” for its protracted re­sis­tance to the Chilean occupation during the nineteenth-­century Pacific War. ­There was even a striking “face washing,” alluding to the shamelessness of certain congresspersons. And ­there was too a singular mise-­en-­abyme when some groups washed the mythical rainbow flag of the Tawantinsuyo, the Inca Empire whose current banner is a modern invention, a utopian image of ancestral connotations subjected to the semiotic utopia of a con­ temporary ritual. Equally significant ­were the allusions of ­every type to Lava la bandera made even in tele­vi­sion comedies and journalistic caricatures. Even glamour and show-­business publications privileged the images of actresses identified with the Colectivo Sociedad Civil, suggestively draped in Peruvian flags.17 And the most-­read Peruvian magazine posted on its cover a dramatic photo­graph of the intervention of a theatrical group in the civic washing, accompanied by the headline “Viernes: La patria en remojo” (Friday: The motherland in soaking).18 The extension and intensity of the phenomenon seriously preoccupied the regime. The outbursts of Martha Hildebrandt and other qualified spokespersons of the regime ­were accompanied by the altered insults with which certain members of the press corrupted by the regime attempted to delegitimize and ridicule Lava la bandera (“hilarious show” is how the cartoons of the newspaper Expreso referred to the ritual on the very same page in which it published fiery defenses of the Augusto Pinochet dicta­ ere the pseudo-­juridical threats of torship in Chile).19 More ominous w General Saucedo Sánchez, minister of interior at the time (now in jail for corrupt dealings). He made a self-­serving interpretation of regulations formulated more than half a c­ entury ago by the dictatorship of General Manuel Odría, with the pretension of declaring the laundering of the flag illegal and offensive to the nation.20 Lava la bandera, however, defined itself as an act of patriotic purification. And that is how it was understood by a civil society that immediately made its own the elementary but power­ful meta­phors of hygiene so deliberate and explicit in the ritual: its “civic prophylaxis,” its “efficacious lesson of cleanliness,” in the words of the journal Dominical, for which “the best detergent is democracy.”21 “Wings of freedom,” editorialized El Comercio in its general review of the entire year: “With ­water and much lather, hundreds of Peruvians attempted to rinse out the country by scrubbing the L ava l a B a n d e r a   •   2 9

flag.”22 And three months beforehand: “They get their hands wet in order to forge an unsoiled country.”23 “It is by now a habit of national hygiene,” wrote Liberación on the 15th of July, “a gesture of consideration t­ oward the country and its ­people, to wash the Peruvian flag ­every Friday.”24 “­Little needs to be said,” concluded one of the participants (the actor Miguel Iza). “I simply want a clean country.”25 But this meta­phor of cleanliness is also one of regeneration, even of innocence regained, of baptismal rebirth. It is not surprising that the continuous photographic coverage of Lava la bandera would often privilege heartwarming images of ­children participating in the “laundry of hope,” as it was expressed by one of the journalistic mottos characteristically printed on the front page of El Comercio.26 The magazine Caretas, for its part, summed up the transition into the new millennium with the drawing of a l­ ittle girl who, by washing the flag, cleans the Motherland of the ominous shadow of Montesinos and Fujimori, leaving b ­ ehind the submissive image of a geisha that for many years embodied the passive attitude of so many in the face of arrogant abuse and imposition.27 The Power of the Symbolic By that time the symbolism of Lava la bandera had been incorporated into the common sense and the cultural landscape of the period. The publicity campaign for an encyclopedia published by La República showed ­children and adults reading at the Plaza Mayor with the patriotic clotheslines in the background.28 An airline’s tele­vi­sion spot paused endlessly on the hands of a worker lovingly caressing and cleaning the Peruvian flag painted on the plane’s fuselage.29 Textbooks and school illustrations reproduced photo­ graphs of Lava la bandera as a model for civic education activities to be conceived by the students.30 Even El Comercio’s interview with one of the persons primarily responsible for the strug­gle against corruption in the judiciary was illustrated with a full-­page drawing in which he appears arduously washing the flag—­and no explanatory text is deemed necessary.31 The symbolic inertias of Lava la bandera would prolong themselves interminably, even years ­after its conception, not only in fact, but also in fiction and in simulacrum. The list is endless, including other washings with local agendas that also multiplied themselves throughout the entire continent: the protean life of symbols. But Lava la bandera also became deeply ingrained in popu­lar culture. One could cite the allusive images and texts stitched into the endearing quilts produced by cooperatives of mi­grant ­women expelled by the civil war from their Andean homelands 3 0   •   g u s t av o b u n t i n x

and into Lima’s depressed shantytowns. Their embroideries incorporated scenes of the clotheslines in the Plaza Mayor with mottos such as “El acto del lavado de la bandera es muy importante” and “Deben ser las banderas más limpias del mundo” (The act of washing the flag is very impor­tant, They must become the cleanest flags in the ­whole world). Lava la bandera gave a collective and original image to an epochal change that urgently needed to signify and configure the emotion of its historic moment. Like that impressive photo­graph that, on November  25 of the year 2000, shortly ­after the dictator’s flight, appeared in prominent color on the cover of all Lima’s newspapers, including the Fujimorista media that ­until a few days before had spearheaded the harassment campaigns against the Colectivo Sociedad Civil. “It could not be believed,” recounted the demo­cratic Somos magazine: “­there, on the balcony, stood not only the new President Valentín Paniagua and the new Prime Minister Javier Pérez de Cuellar, but also a handful of p ­ eople who, a few months before, would never have ­imagined themselves addressing the masses from the Palace itself, with their red caps and their voices hoarse from all the shouting, while holding in their hands the same piece of white and red cloth that is both a testimony and a flag”32—­a tattered flag that displayed, like healing wounds, the traces of thousands of ritual ablutions performed over them throughout six months. The fabric was being handed over by the csc to the new president as a token—he was told—of the commitment he would have to undertake on behalf of the demo­cratic agenda demanded by the citizenry. In accepting that demand, Paniagua promised to publicly bestow that clean flag during the inauguration ceremony for the authorities to be elected during the next year. And as a binding gesture for ­those words, the president and the prime minister together waved the banner in the wind, amid the applause and the chants of the Colectivo, followed by the ecstatic ovation of the multitude that accompanied euphorically the scene from the plaza.33 At the same time, an im­mense flag was hoisted into the sky by a hundred white balloons and two hundred passionate red ones (poetic justice). It was the culminating moment of the ritual farewell for Lava la bandera, or­ ga­nized by the Colectivo as soon as a new and demo­cratic government was established. Bailando y lavando, dancing and washing, thousands participated joyously in that festive act of closure for the weekly clothesline of cleansed banners. In that act, however, ­those flags ­were also ironed, folded, and sewn up, “to better care for them should they again be needed for the vindication of L ava l a B a n d e r a   •   3 1

democracy,” as announced by the manifesto written for the occasion and precisely titled: “Lava, plancha, cose, dobla, cuida” (Wash, iron, sew, fold, care). The ritual was not brought to an end: it entered a state of latency, and of vigil: two months l­ ater—on the 29th of January 2001—­those same flags returned at dawn to the Plaza Mayor to cover the Palacio de Gobierno’s fences as a symbolic protection against the destabilizing campaign propagated by Montesinos and Fujimori’s henchmen through the corrupt tele­vi­sion channels they still controlled. Only a few days beforehand, ­those same banners had been used in a blindfolded march that, with the motto “embandera tu mirada” (flag your gaze), demanded the broadcasting of all the Vladivideos before the special elections planned for the demo­ cratic renewal of the government. “Ver para votar” (Seeing is voting) was the slogan then spread by the Colectivo Sociedad Civil, in an obvious twist to the well-­known idiom “ver para creer” (seeing is believing). The phrase was disseminated through diverse acts and thousands of posters pasted on bus stops, as well as on gigantic billboards. With impressive celerity the slogan gave voice and image to a new common sense. Dozens of analysts and politicians made it their own, and innumerable opinion columns and even the front pages of printed media used it as a headline. “That must be one of the phrases most repeated by the press ­after the corruption videos ­were made public,” wrote La República.34 “ ‘Ver para votar’ is the word!,” exclaimed one of the characters in El Comercio’s influential daily caricature.35 The motto thus became incorporated into the po­liti­cal debate as an argumentative formula of enormous force: just a few days ­after the Colectivo’s campaign started, the remnants of the Fujimori-­Montesinos regime still in Congress ­were forced by public opinion to allow the incriminating tapes to be made public. But such astounding po­liti­cal efficacy is founded on a previous moral authority, a symbolic capital accumulated through the sacrificial energy of thousands of ritual washings. The matrix of collective identification at work ­here is as much religious as it is po­liti­cal or patriotic: a domestic religiosity, quotidian, personal, almost irreverently pop in its liturgical informality, but no less sublime for it. It is, a­ fter all, thanks to its accessibility and immediacy that Lava la bandera ritualized the country. (“Dios se mueve entre los cacharros”—­God walks among the kitchen pots and the pans—­wrote Saint Teresa of Jesus. God moves also among the soaps and the lather.) Perhaps it is this spiritual aspect that explains the deep inscription of that civic liturgy in a distinct mnemonic register, in the emotional memory of a citizenship ­under construction. “Fifty years 3 2   •   g u s t av o b u n t i n x

from now,” commented the social scientist Nelson Manrique, “the ritual of the washing of the flag ­will be much more impor­tant for historians than other circumstantial facts, b ­ ecause it is a symbolic pro­cess born out of moments of discomfort and immorality.”36 “Lava la bandera: a ritual that we Peruvians ­will not forget,” editorialized Domingo, the Sunday supplement of La República, in its recapitulation of the strug­gle against the dictatorship.37 And El Comercio: “2000 ­will be remembered as the year in which the flag was washed.”38 In and Out of Art “Cheap symbolism” was the phrase used by Martha Hildebrandt to disqualify Lava la bandera po­liti­cally and culturally.39 And she was not entirely wrong, in at least two re­spects: the very basic and inexpensive resources necessary for the ritual, and its apparent literalness. But both traits turned out to be determinant for that other and crucial complexity achieved in the social pro­cess of its shared elaboration. The broad and radical modification of consciousness that the Colectivo Sociedad Civil aspired to required transformative experiences only attainable through the live incorporation of the population into a symbolic praxis that went beyond the s­ imple reception of speeches and slogans, or the mere participation in strictly po­liti­cal acts. Of course, the csc maintained a constant presence in the street demonstrations against the dictatorship, and its members suffered from the police vio­lence unleashed on innumerable marches. But the distinctive contribution of the csc was the structuring of rituals and symbolic actions in which the population itself recovered its repressed cultural initiative—­ and in that manner also retrieved its civic self-­esteem. This partially explains the elementary but open and participatory structure of each action initiated by the Colectivo. The goal was to generate not works but situations to be appropriated by a citizenry that thus abandons its passive spectator role in order to become coauthor and regenerator of the experience—­and of history itself. This is consistent with the preference for carry­ing out t­ hese actions in the most public and symbolically charged spaces, rather than in the protected (and therefore restricted) venues of strictly artistic circulation. Th ­ ere has been no lack of critical endeavors to associate Lava la bandera with the suggestions offered by categories such as happenings, per­for­mances, pro­ cess art. . . . ​But the validation of its actions in ­these artistic terms is of ­little consequence to a Colectivo whose members identify themselves first L ava l a B a n d e r a   •   3 3

as citizens and only secondarily as cultural authors, to the point of diluting their professional origins. Although aware of the importance that a certain artistic capacity acquires in the strug­gle for symbolic power, the csc gradually incorporated members foreign to the visual arts scene and even cultural work in general. Among the dozens of persons who joined the Colectivo, actors and designers and dancers could certainly be found, as well as writers and sociologists, but also students, workers, h ­ ouse­wives, white-collar employees, unemployed . . . ​even a Vietnam War veteran. The list could be extended to include ­those who, without entering the Colectivo, capitalized on its deeds for their own initiatives—­sometimes in the very space and time of Lava la bandera. The consolidation of the ritual opened the Plaza Mayor to all types of parallel actions that ­every Friday accompanied the csc with autonomous symbolic practices: an overflow of creativities at times startling, such as the convulsive dances performed by youth groups over carpets assembled with copies of the degrading and corrupt yellow press, that ended up torn apart and destroyed by that gestural exorcism. An impressive display of imagination and energy all the more effective for placing itself outside any artistic consideration or ambition. “Artistic rituals for a democracy at half-­mast,” is how Mirko Lauer titled the opinion column that places Lava la bandera in line with Pablo Picasso’s Guernica or Robert Motherwell’s Elegy to the Spanish Republic, “both attempts through art to rescue a ­human dignity temporarily mauled by brute force.”40 Without necessarily sharing all the nuances of such a reading, it is telling that it comes from a recognized cultural critic who is also one of Peru’s leading po­liti­cal analysts. And it is significant as well that his reflection also associates Lava la bandera with the street experience of the Siluetazo, conceived in 1983 during the strug­gle to keep alive the apparition of the dis­appeared in Argentina. That continuity between the social and the artistic would be highlighted too by other impor­tant po­liti­cal and cultural commentators.41 Caretas awarded its po­liti­cal re­sis­tance prize to the Colectivo Social Civil, and at the same time included Lava la bandera as part of that year’s most notable artistic productions—an appreciation shared by almost the totality of the cultural critics and commentators of the moment. Such frictions are enlightening. For the csc art functioned not as an autonomous end but rather as a laboratory for communicative actions whose criterion of truth lies radically outside art itself. At least for some csc members, the relevant antecedents for the Colectivo’s work do not often stem from art history, as it is traditionally understood, but instead from t­ hose instances that frac3 4   •   g u s t av o b u n t i n x

ture that history ­toward a broader cultural-­political sociability. Of par­tic­ u­lar pertinence w ­ ere certain interventions of some Avanzada ele­ments in the 1985 plebiscite against Pinochet, as in the “No +” campaign then initiated by the cada (Colectivo de Acciones de Arte).42 And ­there was always the inspiration provided by the symbolic strategies of the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, so relevantly mentioned by Lauer’s already cited article.43 To be sure, it is not difficult to also pinpoint some properly artistic references, even in the individual work of the csc members themselves. The examples of artificers outside the Colectivo are even more numerous. It would be a m ­ istake, however, to place excessive emphasis on t­hese and other specific relations, distorting the real intensity of collective pro­cesses where continuous brainstorming transforms and drastically rearticulates each individual proposal. This praxis was difficult to understand for some journalists—­and even some cultural critics—­intent on identifying and establishing single authorships for initiatives that nevertheless always responded to group dynamics. This erroneous interpretive fiction also misses the crucial fact that what the csc postulates is not an artistic condition but rather the intervention of aesthetic resources in a critical redefinition of power and of politics: the construction of a symbolic counter-­power that capitalizes on but transcends any strictly artistic referentiality. In and out of art could be the almost erotic formula in operation ­here. Not a liquidation of art but rather an artistic transfusion for the agonizing social body. Hence the incongruence of any attempt to contrast open and participative rituals such as Lava la bandera with works or actions that define themselves in terms of an artistic formality or reputation, from a closed criterion of author and authority. The interest and the importance ­these last productions may reach belong to a dif­fer­ent order. The csc’s first and final vocation was not to enter art history but to modify history itself, a secas. Mojándola.44 The Heroism of Everyday Life ­There is in this praxis a po­liti­cal ­will in open dispute with a nationalism without a nation, of a republic without citizens. In confronting the absurdities of Peruvian history, the spirit of the Colectivo was not “nationalist” but civic. Washing the flag was not the affirmation of a state but, on the contrary, a means to put that construct in evidence and in discussion. And in a differentiated value-­system: the ritual of Lava la bandera placed that state, literally and symbolically, in the hands of its presumed citizens. For L ava l a B a n d e r a   •   3 5

what was ultimately at stake was the signification and sense of belonging in a paradigmatic emblem that is also a battlefield. The strug­gle for symbolic power resignifies the rhetorical sacredness of the flag and recovers some of its most vital and earlier meanings. Primordial senses whose actuality is rooted not so much in the iconography as on its ritual staging, its liturgical mise-­en-­scène. The Colectivo Sociedad Civil literally snatched the flags from the ­enemy. Not to drag them through the mud, as in some ancient triumphs, but rather to rescue them out of that slime and vindicate them as one’s own in the very act of purifying them—­ which is also the act of re-­creating them. The result of that appropriation is an empowerment that fleetingly rescued the symbols of power for a certain utopia of community. And for a civic mystique: not the least of the csc’s accomplishments was its per­sis­tent vindication of a new sense of heroism—an immediate, accessible, con­temporary meaning that is made up of small, almost domestic, gestures, and is inspired in the heroism of everyday life, that surplus of existence arduously obtained by the underprivileged in their daily quest for survival—­and for dignity. The permanent wager of the Colectivo Sociedad Civil was for that alternative history of an/other protagonism moving into the very center of po­liti­cal definitions. “The democracy that we can ­today glimpse,” proclaimed a csc communiqué a­ fter Fujimori’s escape, “is not the product of subtle negotiations among partisan elites, but of the multiple and sacrificial acts of the mobilized population. We all are heroes: we all together have transformed history and the Motherland.”45 The symbolic strategies of the Colectivo reversed the grandiloquent and unreal schoolbook models of heroism by redirecting them ­toward the most ordinary and immediate vital experiences. The experience of aura emerges not from the image but from the ritual that incorporates it into a cult value. This crucial notion belongs to Walter Benjamin, who also perceived in the politicization of art a pos­si­ble response to the fascist aestheticization of politics. In the radicalization of this radical line (Benjamin still believed in art—­sometimes) the csc prefigured the new civility, the new citizenship, of a still utopian Peruvian community. Heal Your Country (Coda) Nothing is more indicative of this than Cose la bandera (Sana tu país). Sew the Flag (Heal Your Country) was conceived as a ritual of symbolic repair and mending for the victims of the civil war and the dictatorship. The action was initiated by the Colectivo Sociedad Civil, on May 25, 2001 (almost 3 6   •   g u s t av o b u n t i n x

exactly one year ­after the first rites of Lava la bandera) as a collaboration with the campaign “Comision de la Verdad ¡Ya!” (Truth Commission, Now!), sponsored by the Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (National Coordinator for ­Human Rights) and other demo­cratic organ­izations.46 That Truth and Reconciliation Commission was destined to reveal and suture the hidden wounds of our recent traumatic history. Consistent with that objective, artificers, activists, citizens in general, and relatives of the dis­ appeared transformed the Plaza Mayor not into a laundry room, but into an “improvised stitching workshop,” in the words of El Comercio.47 At that symbolic site, all the participants sewed together a gigantic Peruvian flag, dispossessed of its bloodlike red colors, as a sign of the stillunresolved grief and mourning for the unpre­ce­dented vio­lence endured during Peru’s recent internal war and dictatorship. A mourning flag composed of hundreds of pieces of clothing, predominantly white or black, whose empty presence was also a tacit reminder of missing bodies—­the void of so many forced absences. A collective shroud, and at the same time a quilt, a composite blanket with which to shelter and keep warm the hope of a shared rebirth. The ­union of ­those clothes by a ­grand act of participative sewing was meant to explic­itly symbolize the u ­ nion of demo­cratic ­wills for a new country. In a clear sign of the transformed times, the military took no repressive action against Cose la bandera. Instead, in pursuing its own objectives of apparent public repentance, it attempted to appropriate the symbolic discourse circulated by that action. “On this Flag Day,” reads the newspaper advertisement published full-­page (and full-­color) on the following June 7 by the army, “we renew our commitment to the u ­ nion of all Peruvians.” The telling image that accompanies that text is that of a child carefully stitching a flag. The cloth, however, seems clean, new, intact, in open contrast to the irregular and almost shapeless appearance of Cose la bandera’s always unfinished banner, which kept accumulating hundreds of vari­ous garments, all the way from traditional Andean skirts to military uniforms—­ and even an erotic corset sewn into the quilt by a transvestite. That makeshift flag was also the dramatic allegory of a country in ruins, a Motherland torn to pieces, and yet willing to knit a new community over the premise—­the promise—of not repressing difference but making it productive: the new citizenship. Such an ideal is replete with ethical exigencies. The Colectivo Sociedad Civil assumed the cultural overthrow of dictatorship, of all dictatorships, as the personal and nontransferable duty of each of its members and of each citizen. Another symbolic action L ava l a B a n d e r a   •   3 7

assumed by the csc was the dissemination of a phrase inspired by a certain well-­known work by John Lennon and Yoko Ono against the Vietnam war (“War Is Over,” 1969): “The dictatorship is over (if you want it).” If you want it. Hagamos historia. Larga. (Let’s make history. Longa.)48 Notes 1 Fujimori had been elected in 1990, but two years l­ ater he led a coup that allowed him and his consigliere Montesinos to acquire virtually dictatorial powers. 2 Some of the other groups strongly committed to symbolic actions w ­ ere La Resistencia, ­Women for Democracy (Mujeres por la Democracia), the Popu­ lar Youth Agora (Ágora Popu­lar Juvenil), and the Civil Re­sis­tance (Resistencia Civil). All the permanent members of the Colectivo Sociedad Civil came from the art world: Fernando Bryce, Gustavo Buntinx, Claudia Coca, Luis García Zapatero, Emilio Santisteban, Susana Torres, and Abel Valdivia. It is impor­tant to point out, however, the early incorporation into the csc of communicators such as Eduardo Adrianzén, Juan Infante, and Jorge Salazar, as well as of ­people related to the scenic arts, such as Karin Elmore, Vanesa Robbiano, and Mónica Sánchez. Although not a militant member of the csc, the actress Delfina Paredes served as a constant support in its public demonstrations. Another ­couple of artificers, Natalia Iguíñiz and Sandro Venturo, had an active role in the founding of the csc, but left the collective before Lava la bandera was conceived. Over time the Colectivo incorporated many citizens of very dif­fer­ent backgrounds, not necessarily with a direct relationship to the cultural scene. As a snapshot of the diverse composition obtained by the csc by the end of 2000, see the collective—­though incomplete—­portrait published by the magazine Caretas in its last edition of that year. What follows is an alphabetical listing of the citizens ­there portrayed: Delia Ackerman, Eduardo Adrianzén, Fernando Bryce, Gustavo Buntinx, Manuel Canessa, Pedro Chuquijara, Claudia Coca, Angelo Cruzzati, Alicia Cuadros, Ana Durán, Luis Espinoza, Gabriela Flores, Luis García Zapatero, Juan Infante, Amada Márquez Moreno de Torres, César Morales, Rocío Pérez del Solar, Jorge (“Coco”) Salazar, Emilio Santisteban, Cecilia Solís, Teo, Juan Antonio Torres Márquez, Juan Carlos Torres Márquez, Susana Torres Márquez, and Abel Valdivia. “Premios a la Resistencia 2000: Bandera Limpia,” Caretas 1651 (Lima, Peru, December 28, 2000): 38–39). 3 During its final years, the dictatorship continuously performed mediatic reenactments of the 1997 military rescue of the hostages held by a subversive group at the Japa­nese diplomatic legation. Immediate history turned into propaganda and spectacle. Bozzo’s degrading real­ity shows can be seen as a paradigmatic expression of the systematic politics of slander and moral debasement implemented by the dictatorship in ­every sphere it could intervene. Vladivideos 3 8   •   g u s t av o b u n t i n x

4 5 6



9 10



is the ingenious term coined by local humor and the national press in order to name the video recordings in which Montesinos secretly registered the acts of bribery and other illegal proceedings performed by the regime in order to buy the ­will of decisive authorities within the po­liti­cal, mediatic, and judicial powers. ­These tapes ­were also used for blackmail of vari­ous types. The public revelation of one of ­those Vladivideos on September 14, 2000, had an impor­tant—­though not exclusive—­role in the final downfall of a dictatorship that was already severely weakened by the continuous protests sustained by the demo­cratic opposition. The reference to Michel Foucault is deliberate (Les mots et les choses, translated into En­glish as The Order of ­Things). Gustavo Buntinx, “Las trampas de la Peruanidad (y sus promesas),” Márgenes 16 (Lima, Peru, December 1998): 5–7 (cf. the separate flyer “Fe de Fallidos,” 1). I coined the concept of the “Peruvian Weimar Republic” immediately a­ fter that coup. For a further discussion of the term see Gustavo Buntinx, “El poder y la ilusión: Pérdida y restauración del aura en la ‘República de Weimar Peruana’ (1980–1992),” in Arte Contemporáneo: Colección Museo de Arte de Lima, edited by Sharon Lerner (Lima, Peru: mali, 2013), 62–95. This is a bilingual reprint of an essay published in 1995 by the Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes de Montevideo (in Spanish) and the Institute of International Visual Artes (iniva) (in En­glish). As curator of the show I freely made use of the title of an unfinished book of mine about the “poetic emergencies” in the last two de­cades of the twentieth ­century. The exhibition was assembled ­under the name and organ­ization of Micromuseo (“al fondo hay sitio”) ( Gustavo Buntinx, Emergencia artística: Arte crítico 1998–1999 (Lima, Peru: Micromuseo [“al fondo hay sitio”], 1999), 16. “Peru is a beggar sitting on a bank [bench] of gold.” To be sure, some have proposed the precise inversion of that piece of vernacular wisdom: “Peru is a bank of gold sitting on a beggar.” It is impor­tant to clarify that the term “Bolívar” ­didn’t hold for the csc—or for the Peruvian po­liti­cal discussion at the time—­ any association with the authoritative distortions that this historical name would abusively undergo ­under the regime of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. “¡Jeanet Está Loca! Ultrajó bandera” and “Clavan otro juicio a Jeanet Barboza: Por bailar chicha con la bandera,” El Chino (Lima, Peru, September 9, 2000): 1, 7. “Ni la falta de agua ni amenaza policial evitaron que el pueblo lavara la bandara: Acto simbólico se desarrolló con gran éxito en la Plaza Mayor de Lima,” Liberación (Lima, Peru, July 8, 2000): 10. Jimena Pinilla Cisneros, “La lavandería de la Plaza Mayor,” El Comercio (Lima, Peru, September 30, 2000): A-16. Also see Heidi Grossmann, “La Patria se lava con mano firme,” Liberación (Lima, Peru, October 7, 2000): 14–15. “Banderas democráticas: El ritual del lavado se extiende por todo el país,” La República (Lima, Peru, August 12, 2000): 14.

L ava l a B a n d e r a   •   3 9

13 “Lavado de la bandera, la protesta que no cesa,” La República (Lima, Peru, September 23, 2000): 15. 14 Pablo O’Brien, “Viernes de lavandería,” Somos 14 (718), supplement to El Comercio, (Lima, Peru, September 9, 2000): cover and 12–15. 15 The Peruvian flag was ritually washed in vari­ous cities of Argentina, Chile, France, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States. 16 Starting a few years ago, I renounced the use of the terms “artist” and “artisan” in my writings on con­temporary practices. Instead, I replace both denominations by the sole word “artificer,” seeking in that way to signify the crisis of ­these and other distinctions in a culture increasingly made up of the impure and the contaminated. For more on this ­matter, see http://­www​.­micromuseo​ .­org​.­pe​/­rutas​/­loimpuro​/­index​.­html. Also​ fiesto/index.html. 17 See, for example, Ima Garmendia, “Mónica Sánchez: Una mujer de bandera,” Domingo, supplement to La República, (Lima, Peru, January 14, 2001): 24–25. 18 Pablo O’Brien, “Viernes de lavandería,” Somos 14 (718), supplement to El Comercio (Lima, Peru, September 9, 2000): cover and 12–15. 19 Juan de Dios Vial Larraín, “Fracaso, mito y venganza,” Expreso (Lima, Peru, August 14, 2000): 22. Not surprisingly, only a few months l­ ater the Vladivideos would show the directors of this newspaper and its associated tele­vi­ sion channel receiving—­literally—­mountains of cash from the hands of Montesinos. 20 “Bandera nacional debe ser tratada con mayor respeto: Invoca Ministro del Interior,” El Peruano (Lima, Peru, July 21, 2000): 5. Also see “Respeto a la bandera,” El Comercio (Lima, Peru, July 22, 2000): A-7 and “Ministro Saucedo amenaza a ciudadanos que lavan sus banderas en la Plaza Mayor,” Liberación (Lima, Peru, July 22, 2000): 8. 21 Dominical, supplement to El Comercio. The phrase is repeated in Jaime Rodríguez Zavaleta, “Planchando la bandera,” Somos 14 (718), supplement to El Comercio (Lima, Peru, September 9, 2000): 20–22, 24. 22 “Épica: Gritos de libertad,” Año de película, special supplement to El Comercio (Lima, Peru, January 1, 2001): 6–7. 23 “Lavado de esperanza: Por una política sin manchas,” El Comercio (Lima, Peru, September 30, 2000): 1. 24 “Fujimori protégé a terroristas,” Liberación 243 (Lima, Peru, July 15, 2000): 1. 25 “Artistas, políticos y jubilados lavan la bandera frente a Palacio de Gobierno: Participan Miguel Iza, Vanessa Robbiano, Delfina Paredes, entre otros,” La República (Lima, Peru, July 22, 2000): 10. 26 “Lavado de esperanza: por una política sin manchas,” El Comercio (Lima Peru, September 30, 2000): 1. 27 “Y así comenzó,” Caretas (Lima, Peru, December 28, 2000): 11. 4 0   •   g u s t av o b u n t i n x

28 “Todo el saber humano de la enciclopedia Visor: Ya salió el VII tomo,” La República (Lima, Peru, September 13, 2000): 18. Also see “No se pierda el IX tomo de Visor,” La República (Lima, Peru, September 30, 2000): 18. 29 For printed versions of this commercial, see El Comercio (Lima, Peru, March 26, 2001): A-25. Also see La República (Lima, Peru, March 30, 2001): 17. 30 See, for example, César Antonio Guevara Soplín, Personal Social (Lima: Prisma, 2005), 163. Also see Democracia en el Perú (Lima: Huascarán, s.f., June 2001), 1. 31 José Antonio Indacochea, “No se ha castigado la corrupción judicial: Entrevista a Jorge Angulo Iberico,” El Comercio (Lima, Peru, March 19, 2001): A-4. 32 Jaime Rodríguez Zavaleta, “Planchando la bandera,” Somos 14 (730), supplement to El Comercio (Lima, Peru, December 2, 2000): 20–22, 24. 33 Paniagua proved true to his promises. 34 Óscar Miranda, “Para no botar tu voto” and “Ver para votar: Vladivideos y elecciones,” Domingo, supplement to La República (Lima, Peru, February 11, 2001): 1, 18–21. 35 Hernán Bartra, “El apunte del día,” El Comercio (Lima, Peru, February 8, 2001): A-15 (po­liti­cal cartoon). 36 Jorge Paredes, “De la pifia a la lavada,” El Dominical, supplement to El Comercio (Lima, Peru, November 2000): 4–5 (interview with the historian Nelson Manrique). 37 Domingo 129, supplement to La República (Lima, Peru, November 26, 2000): 6. 38 “Épica: Gritos de libertad,” Año de película, special supplement to El Comercio (Lima, Peru, January 1, 2002): 6–7. 39 Cited in: “Lavan banderas ‘manchadas’ por el gobierno: Artistas encabezaron jornada de protesta en la Plaza Mayor,” La República (Lima, Peru, July 8, 2000): 9. Also see “Ni la falta de agua ni amenaza policial evitaron que el pueblo lavara la bandara: Acto simbólico se desarrolló con gran éxito en la Plaza Mayor de Lima,” Liberación (Lima, Peru, July 8, 2000): 10. 40 Mirko Lauer, “Rituales artísticos para una democracia a media asta: ¿Ya lavó la bandera?,” La República (Lima, Peru, August 20, 2000): 4. Also see Mirko Lauer, “Lava la presidencia: Libertad, igualdad, irresponsabilidad,” La República (Lima, Peru, October 1, 2000): 6. 41 See, for example: Hugo Neira, “Al día siguiente,” Debate 22 (112) (Lima, Peru, December 2000–­January 2001): 20–25; Abelardo Oquendo, “Dese gusto: Enjáulelos,” La República (Lima, Peru, August 22, 2000): 22. Also see Aníbal Quijano, “Masas deben volver a las calles: Mientras se realiza diálogo gobierno-­ oposición,” La República (Lima, Peru, August 27, 2000): 27. 42 In 2002 Francisco Brugnoli, Chilean artist and director of the Museum of Con­temporary Arts in Santiago, defined the initiatives of cada as “collective actions of the type of Lava la bandera.” Cited in José Gabriel Chueca, “Vecinos desconocidos: Entrevista [a] Francisco Brugnoli,” El Comercio (Lima, Peru, March 12, 2002): C-3.

L ava l a B a n d e r a   •   4 1

43 For an interpretation of the more ritualistic aspects of ­these strategies, with additional allusions to the cada experience, see Gustavo Buntinx, ­“Desapariciones forzadas/Resurrecciones míticas,” in Arte y poder (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Centro Argentino de Investigadores de las Artes [caia], 1993), 236–55. (Proceedings of the Quintas Jornadas de Teoría e Historia de las Artes, or­ga­nized in Buenos Aires by caia in 1993.) 44 ­There is ­here an untranslatable pun. A secas is a Spanish expression that relates the condition of dryness to a bare and sheer condition, with no additions or specifications. Mojándola derives from the popu­lar usage of the verb mojar (to dampen or make wet) as a synonym for both taking a risk and of engaging in sexual intercourse. ­There are ­those who have attemped a competition of alleged radicalisms with Lava la bandera, exhibiting in a gallery some artistic questionings of its supposed ideological content. Such initiatives derive from not understanding that the ritual’s foundational radicality lies precisely in its non­artistic condition. The specificity of its critical nature transcends the tranquil order and the safety of repre­sen­ta­tion in order to affirm itself from the perilous exigencies of presence—­and from the complex commitments derived from a structure that is both experiential and participatory. Not to mention the crucial dimension of risk: in order to be coherent, any effective contestation of Lava la bandera should assume the challenges of exterior social space and of social mobilization, even of danger, personally assumed. As we say in Spanish, poner el cuerpo (risk your body). 45 Colectivo Sociedad Civil, Todos somos héroes (photocopied manifesto. 2000). 46 Among ­these last: the Instituto de Defensa ­Legal (ideele), the Asociación Paz y Esperanza, and the Centro de la Mujer Peruana Flora Tristán. 47 Jimena Pinilla, “A coser las heridas: En búsqueda de la verdad,” El Comercio (Lima, Peru, May 26, 2001): 1, A-8. 48 This is a severely abridged version of a longer text, to be circulated in book form by Harvard University’s Cultural Agents Initiative. Both are based on an original Spanish-­language text: Gustavo Buntinx, “Lava la bandera: El Colectivo Sociedad Civil y el derrocamiento cultural de la dictadura de Fujimori y Montesinos,” Quehacer 158 (Lima, Peru/desco, January–­February 2006): 96–109. I wish to thank Bill Kelley Jr. and José Falconi for their interest and ongoing encouragement, as well as Joaquín Terrones for providing an initial translation that has been much transformed during the rewriting pro­cess.

4 2   •   g u s t av o b u n t i n x

Interview with Caleb Duarte of EDELO Residencia


raquel de anda, december 26, 2012

On January 1, 1994, an uprising of guerrilla forces, named a­ fter Mexican revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata, emerged from the thick southern jungles of Chiapas, Mexico. Masked, armed, and determined, the group declared war against the Mexican government, against the suppression of indigenous populations throughout Mexico, and against the deceptive, ­ ree Trade Agreeexploitative mechanisms of nafta (the North American F ment). On the same day, the Zapatistas presented the first of six Declarations from the Lacandon Jungle (their po­liti­cal manifesto) titled, “­Today We Say, Enough Is Enough.” The group succeeded in wresting vari­ous indigenous towns and villages in their territory from government control. Although a violent counterattack by the government pushed the Zapatistas back into the mountains, the uprising created a new po­liti­cal vision within Mexico, a movement outside the traditional arguments of left and right. On February 16, 1996, ­after two years of per­sis­tent strug­gle, the San Andrés Accords ­were signed, promising indigenous rights such as education, participation in government affairs, and the preservation of natu­ ral resources. The proceedings fostered a national awareness of indigenous ­people’s rights. Unfortunately, the San Andrés Accords ­were not honored, and many towns and villages continue to be deprived of adequate public

ser­vices such as health care and education. The plight of indigenous populations and the often intolerable conditions they continue to face persist as a palpable expression of class strug­gle throughout Mexico. Zapatista communities are now spread throughout the lush, mountainous area of southern Chiapas. Local authorities hold administrative meetings at municipalities throughout the region, and government officials are prohibited from entering their territories. ­Children are educated at Zapatista-­run schools, and necessities such as ­running ­water and electricity are all developed from within their communities. In many areas, the construction of roads alone has proved an impossible feat for the national authorities. While conventional thought may assume that such insular communities would prevent integration into larger mainstream society, the ideology and aesthetics of the Zapatista movement have found vari­ous entry points into a much broader social, po­liti­cal, and aesthetic identity within Mexico and beyond. The psychogeography of Chiapas produces an experience in which one is immersed in a pristine landscape coupled with the wisdom of indigenous cultures and the fierce, po­liti­cal vision of communal Zapatismo. Informed by the latter, edelo Residencia is located in San Cristóbal de las Casas, nestled between cobblestone streets and colonial architecture.1 The artist-­run residency began in 2008 when Caleb Duarte and Mia Eve Rollow grew tired of the discourse of academic structures and saw their work as expanding beyond their bodies into the social practices of the everyday. Their curiosity led them to develop edelo in an abandoned building where offices of the United Nations ­were once ­housed. The space was evacuated when a group of displaced indigenous community members occupied the building demanding the release of their po­liti­cal prisoners. Rather than complying, the UN moved to a location with a smaller entranceway and higher security. A few months ­later, edelo (En Donde Era la Onu or Where the un Used to Be) emerged as a residency space for rethinking engaged art practice. Rather than reacting to the po­liti­cal landscape, residencies and exhibitions at edelo are based around new formulations of space, place, and relationships. Visionaries from numerous disciplines come together to learn from each other’s practices, challenge themselves with new, unfamiliar landscapes, and filter information back into their communities. What characterizes edelo is its ability to build alliances with new communities. Through a fierce dedication and ­humble per­sis­tence, Duarte and Rollow have built a unique space for collective development. 4 4   •  r a q u e l d e a n d a

What follows is an interview with founder Caleb Duarte. rd: Caleb, can you speak to us a bit about the formation of edelo? What brought you and Mia to move to Chiapas and develop this unique residency space? cd: ­After six years of private art school and trying to figure out where I fit as an immigrant artist and as a Chicano artist, I became ­really frustrated with the art world. I visited India for the World Social Forum, Cuba, the Philippines, and Central Amer­i­ca and started to look for something dif­f er­ent in my studio practice. I was also looking at my personal experiences as an immigrant, as an economic exile and a refugee. My ­family never wanted to leave Mexico, so the phenomena of global migration and globalization ­were a concern in my work. Visiting Chiapas in 2003 confirmed for me how the essence of art could be part of daily life. It was exercised without any need for validation and was happening through poetry, images, and ­people’s need for protest. The way the Zapatistas saw the world was an ancient and con­temporary poetic practice. ­There’s something about standing in the corner of a market in Chiapas and having a huge group of p ­ eople rush by you on a truck covered with banners blasting loud m ­ usic. . . . ​It’s an amazing expression of a community. I wanted to figure out how to articulate this as a form of art continuously manifesting itself around us. Not by having institutions validate it, but by figuring out how I could become part of this practice of daily art through my body—­ without needing to produce a painting or a sculpture. This inspired me to follow my convictions and abandon what I was being taught—­especially in an art school context where I was constantly having to defend myself, and where I was always seen as the token “other.” I wanted to be part of a dif­fer­ent dialogue outside of a Eu­ro­pean aesthetic, and Zapatismo was a movement that provided me with the possibilities of time travel into a place that was neither the ­future nor the past. Before we opened edelo I spent some time in San Cristóbal. I invited artist friends to visit and produce work in the area without having a physical space to work in. A lot of experimentation emerged. At this time I was working with Mia Eve Rollow in the use of our bodies and video per­for­ mances. We met in grad school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Mia was working with ele­ments of sound in melting wax, I n t e r v i e w w i t h C a l e b D ua r t e   •   4 5

­ ater, and fire, but when she was twenty-­two, ­after her first sew mester of grad school she was involved in a serious car accident that left her permanently para­lyzed from the waist down. We met six months ­after as she recovered and returned to her studies. Mia’s new way of being, and our intimacy led us to experience art in everyday moments, from relearning how to bathe and dress to moving around concrete cities. We started to investigate art in dif­fer­ent ways—­through life, the body, and spirituality. This new form of living led Mia to see how art could step outside limited definitions and into a healing and transformative experience. Moving to Mexico to explore ­these possibilities while learning from the Zapatista way of life was all part of the inspiration, especially during this moment of true physical suffering. During this time ­there was an occupation by over a hundred indigenous communities in the offices of the United Nations. This lasted for a few months u ­ ntil the United Nations deci­ded that it was easier to move to a dif­fer­ent space than resolve their demands. The building was vacant right at the time when we w ­ ere searching for a place to begin our residency program, so it was a perfect fit. This occupation r­ eally caused us to look closely at our role and at what we ­were producing, which is why we kept the name edelo [En Donde Era la ONU/Where the un Used to Be]. It’s a reminder that we stand outside institutional bodies that attempt to define our role as artists in society. We want to support artists who are interested in taking this on, and we are curious to see how artists can become more engaged in culture and in the formation of society. ­We’re living in a time much dif­fer­ent than that of the 1950s and ’60s, when the artist had a more isolated identity, and we want to support artists as active cultural producers engaged in a variety of disciplines and arenas of life. rd: I’m curious about the connection between the mission of edelo and the ideology of Zapatismo. What kind of pro­cess do you and Mia focus on? cd: Like Zapatismo, our space began with the idea of the “other.” It ­wasn’t about being anti-­structure or anti-­institution, but about learning through our practice. Zapatismo was never interested in the transfer of power, but in the freedom to create a separate world based on a relationship to the land, knowing that t­ here is always enough. So, at edelo we wanted to function with t­ hese simi4 6   •  r a q u e l d e a n d a

lar ideas and create a laboratory where anyone could walk into the kitchen and see a Ph.D. student immersed in research alongside a juggler or a healer. We wanted to gather individuals or groups that ­were exploring creative alternatives to their specific areas of study and work with the dynamics of what this touristy, colonial town offers. We are also always attempting to break down hierarchy. An example of how we do this is by engaging art students in conversations with artisans and seeing what role they can play within our space. It’s all ­really an experiment—­bringing dif­fer­ent characters together from activists to educators, environmentalists, and paint­ers, without any sort of hierarchy. It’s an equal playing field where ­people from dif­f er­ent disciplines can come together and learn from each other. rd: So one ­thing is bringing dif­fer­ent ­people together, but then how did you start creating connections to vari­ous communities in the Chiapas area? cd: When we first opened edelo we made space for artist groups and collectives to use and collaborate with us. A large mix of p ­ eople came through, from circus performers and gypsy artisans to activists, doctors, and educators. We offered art and literacy programs for working c­ hildren through volunteers and would open our bathrooms to families of po­liti­cal prisoners that ­were on hunger strike. Imagine that, the building where the UN used to be situated providing a resting place for indigenous communities occupying the city center. We d ­ idn’t start from nothing, though. Individuals and collectives that had been working in San Cristóbal for a long time took advantage of the space’s energy. From clown collectives like Zapayasos to indigenous ­women’s theater groups, permaculture groups like Jaguar de Madera, alternative media collectives like Komnan Ilel, and Internet and pirate radio programs like Promedios. ­These collectives had been building relationships with diverse groups in the area, but they needed a physical space for experimentation and a reason to create unity between their disciplines. The way we saw it, we ­were working with an extremely creative class and wanted to step between per­for­mance, social sculpture, and art as entertainment. We also saw ourselves as much more than just working within the space and began to developed proj­ects in the markets, in plazas, in rural communities, and r­ eally just tried to explore the potential of art within I n t e r v i e w w i t h C a l e b D ua r t e   •   47

the public realm. When a resident presented a proposal we would always try to find a way of developing the proj­ect. This ended up creating a situation where we met and worked with a large variety of individuals. All we asked for was an idea, and then we offered the support network to make it happen. rd: So edelo is a space for multiple shared voices and experimentation between disciplines. Do you find this has been difficult to validate within the art world? cd: No, I ­don’t think so, ­because the art world like leading art institutions is beginning to feel the pressures of a changing demographic. Art schools are even providing degrees in community work now. I got to know Ken Foster recently, the former director of ybca [Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA] and realized that we share similar ideas on how to expand the ideas of experienced art. He had been creating a ­great program that engages a variety of audiences at ybca while diversifying the staff. I think ­people are r­ eally questioning why the art market and the art world is still Eurocentric despite the change in North Amer­i­ca’s population. If we continue to honestly investigate art’s role in society, we w ­ ill discover that art is not something tangible. That it’s neither bought nor sold but that it transforms through material and space. Our goal is to create bridges and a larger dialogue about the issues. And naturally, this involves politics alongside personal transformation so that we can create space for critical thinking about the changing world in which we live. rd: So, your interest at edelo is not about engaging in the art market but rather about rethinking citizenship and the arts, about investigating vari­ous ways in which artists can align with communities. At this point you are established in San Cristóbal and your neighbors re­spect you as artists and as a space. However, in certain areas ­there are ­people that are more difficult to access, communities where the initial interaction is much more delicate. This practice is not always easy to manage, so I’m curious what your pro­cess has been. How w ­ ere ­these connections made in such liminal areas with individuals who are detached from mainstream society? How did you go about creating ­these lines of trust? cd: Sometimes you just have to go for it without knowing what w ­ ill happen. I get a lot of heat from friends who rightfully say that good intention is not enough and that we must be careful about

4 8   •  r a q u e l d e a n d a

how we engage in communities that are not of our own. Especially coming from a history of missionary and colonial thought. Our bodies carry this history. But when we engage in a shared experience and in the pro­cess of creating art, the possibilities for discovering the depths of ­human expression grow im­mensely. ­Mistakes we make together lead to other discoveries. One t­ hing I’ve realized is that artists have more immediate access to issues that would take other institutions or ngos much more coordination to access. When we bring a singer to a community to develop a series of programs, it happens much quicker than a peace observer who wants to enter through an ngo or a larger orga­nizational structure that ­will validate their presence. But with the right connection a painter, puppeteer, or storyteller can have direct and immediate access. rd: What was the original connection to La Junta, the Zapatista authorities. cd: My first visit to La Junta was when I was working with painter Hersalia Cortolar from Chiapas. Her group, Zapayasos, uses clown per­for­mance to communicate strug­gles and distribute messages across the state of Chiapas. When I first moved to Mexico I hated clowns, but I now understand their poetic and ancient role as storytellers. Laughter is a beautiful h ­ uman trait. Moving h ­ ere made me question why clowns a­ ren’t considered per­for­mance artists. Hersalia and I visited La Junta together, presented them with a letter, had an interview with the authorities, and they accepted our proposal. As a result, we spent a week and a half painting with ten campesinos [farmers]. This was the first residency we held in 2008 with New York muralist Katie Yamasaki and Todd Brown, cultural worker and founder of the Red Poppy Art ­House in San Francisco. rd: It’s in­ter­est­ing that muralism was your entrance into the community. When we think of dif­fer­ent models for collective, participatory, or public art, the most popu­lar is mural making b ­ ecause it has a long history and is easily understood, especially within the context of Zapatismo and their use of imagery. So it makes sense that that was your introduction. I’m sure from t­ here you began to create dif­fer­ent aesthetics or ideas for situational engagement. Can you speak about other nontraditional formats or per­for­mances ­you’ve developed? I n t e r v i e w w i t h C a l e b D ua r t e   •   4 9

2.1.  ​Cervantino Festival, San Cristóbal de las Casas. Four-­hour per­for­mance with shoe shiner youth, 2010. Courtesy of EDELO .

cd: Sure. One example was in the summer of 2010 when we worked with ten Mayan youth in San Cristóbal on a per­for­mance piece that clashed with ideas of normally accepted be­hav­ior. It was a week-­long intensive workshop of conversation and learning about new material—in this case, gesso. Each youth cast one of their feet in gesso to resemble a block of cement. For the final per­for­mance they walked several blocks from edelo to the city center dragging the weighted foot. This was problematic with many p ­ eople since they d ­ idn’t like seeing working c­ hildren suffer and having such a difficult time walking. But think about it . . . ​if I contract ten white c­ hildren to shine shoes in the city center it would be a difficult image for p ­ eople to see ­because it fragments our ideas of what is normal. But since the c­ hildren working in the streets are Maya, it’s not an issue. Racism is deeply embedded in the way we see the world, and most ­people ­don’t think twice knowing that ­these ­children ­aren’t getting a good meal or an education. So, by restricting their movement and having them uncomfortably march downtown, we created space for this dialogue. The piece ended with the ­children breaking the gesso with chisels and hammers in front of the main cathedral on the steps of a ­giant cross—­ liberating their feet. ­People who saw them struggling ­were clearly uncomfortable, and some ­were empowered to speak up. ­After the event we had a feedback session for p ­ eople to voice their feelings 5 0   •  r a q u e l d e a n d a

about the pro­cess. José Luis, one of the participants, expressed how he felt ashamed b ­ ecause every­one was looking at them. Some ­were reminded of their ancestors in the times of slavery as they marched in line dragging their feet. ­Others felt strong by being able to carry such heavy objects on their feet and a sense of pride in attracting attention from the public . . . ​­because the public actually saw them. It was a ­great feedback session and made space for in­ter­est­ing dialogue. rd: So edelo definitely has a strong presence both within the city of San Cristóbal as well as in rural areas. How do you maintain a presence in ­these communities? cd: ­Running an artists’ space takes a lot of energy. When we began we ­were most often in San Cristóbal. Then once we had strong proj­ect ideas we began to visit other communities. Our visits ­were always proj­ect based. When students from other countries would pres­ent a clear idea that dealt with Zapatista communities, I would visit a month in advance to pres­ent the proj­ect and then two weeks before to remind them about the work and offer more details. It’s a long pro­cess. Sometimes the officials deny us entrance b ­ ecause of po­liti­cal pressures, or b ­ ecause the paramilitary groups are too strong. But usually they are accessible, especially when they see our desire to contribute. However, every­thing has its pro­cess. rd: Right, you need to be per­sis­tent and genuine. cd: Yes, and they can see that immediately. rd: So let’s talk about some of ­these proj­ects. Can you talk about Gonzalo Hidalgo’s piece? cd: Sure, the proj­ect is just beginning. I met Gonzalo in Berkeley at the beginning of 2012. He is originally from Chile and a gradu­ate of the San Francisco Art Institute. When I met Gustavo he had just spent some time working in Peru with dif­fer­ent communities on performance-­based proj­ects. One of his main focuses is working on sustainable ­water culture. I spoke to Gonzalo about edelo, about what we w ­ ere trying to accomplish, and mentioned the idea of collaborating to develop a proj­ect with Elambo Bajo—­a village about an hour north of San Cristóbal in the larger region of Zinecantán. The community has been autonomous for over three years now and identifies as La Otra Campaña. But they still need to purchase their ­water from outside their village since they ­aren’t allowed access to the w ­ ater that is provided by the two leading po­liti­cal I n t e r v i e w w i t h C a l e b D ua r t e   •   5 1

parties in their area—­the pri and the prd. So we set a date for Gonzalo to visit the community and put him in touch with a group called Jaguar de Madera, another in­ de­ pen­ dent environmental group in Chiapas that works with sandbags to create dome architectural buildings, dry rest­rooms, and rain catchers. The two connected and we are now in the planning stages to develop a larger water-­based sustainability proj­ect. It’s grown into an exciting collaboration between edelo, Jaguar de Madera, Gonzalo Hidalgo, and, of course, the members of Elambo Bajo. ­We’re all working to design the program together with the community. Gonzalo has a clear way of working where no resources from outside come into the community. Every­thing from materials to l­abor comes from within the community itself. It’s true community sustainability, what La Otra Campaña tries to uphold. rd: It’s like community arts through the lens of permaculture, using only what is found in your immediate environment. Can you elaborate a bit more about the politics of La Otra Campaña? cd: Sure. In 2006 ­there was a national campaign that emerged as part of the leftist party. Keep in mind that Zapatismo is not a leftist organ­ization, it is an autonomous organ­ization. Zapatismo ­doesn’t speak about the exchange of power or about communism or socialism, it’s a completely dif­fer­ent proposal for a self-­r un system. This is what attracted me to the movement to begin with. This is also why it’s not r­ eally a po­liti­cal threat to the establishment. It’s a threat ­because the government ­doesn’t have access to land that is occupied by the Zapatistas, but as a po­liti­cal organ­ ization it d ­ oesn’t r­ eally affect the power systems. So in 2006 the Zapatistas began a national campaign to develop La Otra Campaña in order to build indigenous solidarity throughout Mexico and develop a system that separates itself from the po­liti­cal pro­cess through self-­run, collective organ­izing. It’s a way of becoming socially and po­liti­cally in­de­pen­dent from the state and to encourage dif­fer­ent p ­ eople in the strug­gle to or­ga­nize. Rather than living with the Zapatista communities in the jungles of Chiapas, La Otra Campaña was a movement that spread throughout the country. This way, even if ­people live in other rural areas or even in cities, they can identify as La Otra Campaña and develop their own autonomy. ­They’re connected to a much larger network. So La Otra Campaña marched throughout Mexico to gain support for 5 2   •  r a q u e l d e a n d a

their movement. It was all very theatrical; a movie-­like experience with p ­ eople building excitement for [Subcomandante] Marcos’s visit into town. Unfortunately, at this time Zapatismo lost a large amount of support ­because Manual Lopez Obrador of the left­ eople blame La ist party [prd] was very close to winning. Many p Otra Campaña for this loss, since they encouraged ­people to leave the po­liti­cal pro­cess and serve their own. rd: So when you began working with Elambo Bajo, an autonomous community, you realized they needed help in developing a sustainable ­water system in order to be completely self-­sufficient. When Gonzalo mentioned his proj­ect, you saw a perfect fit, visited the community to ask for permission, and are now developing a multilevel program? cd: Yes, exactly. Gonzalo has developed a system for catching rain and filtering it for drinking ­water. The group is also working to teach ­people from Elambo about sustainable ­water systems. When a community claims autonomy, they lose complete access to institutional structures or they decide to not participate in the buying of votes through ser­vices. This proj­ect is one way we can help them in their pro­cess. We’ve also thought a lot about the church and monuments in this pro­cess. In any small town in Mexico ­there is always the presence of a large church that’s vis­i­ble from anywhere in the town. Rather than producing a monument such as a church or a government building, we thought of building large-­scale rain catchers to symbolize autonomy from the cap­i­tal­ist system. So now, when you look at this autonomous space from afar, you can see a large church on one side of town and the rain catchers on the other side. It’s a striking image of dif­fer­ent power systems. rd: ­Great, this seems like a strong feedback system where both the artists and the community are actively engaged in the pro­cess. I’m also curious to hear about a proj­ect where edelo has expanded beyond Chiapas into the U.S., or where ­you’ve been able to draw connections between Zapatismo and U.S. culture. Your recent work with Emory Douglas and the Black Panthers is ­really in­ter­ est­ing to me as a proj­ect that syncretized two impor­tant re­sis­ tance movements. Can you speak about this a bit? cd: This proj­ect has been such a blessing. When edelo was just beginning, Mia and I sat around and began to play with names. We created a dream list of residents without any restrictions or I n t e r v i e w w i t h C a l e b D ua r t e   •   5 3

2.2.  ​Embroidery created by   Zapatista ­women’s collective using iconography from Black Panther   artist Emory Douglas, 2012.   Courtesy of EDELO .

limitations. Ai Weiwei was on this list, along with Alfredo Jaar, Eduardo Galeano, Marina Abramović, Andy Goldsworthy, and many other p ­ eople who inspired us. We just thought, “Why not.” Emory Douglas was also on this list. Rigo 23 held his residency at edelo for six months between 2011 and 2012 with a proj­ect called “The Autonomous Intergalactic Space Program.” This led to an exhibition in San Cristóbal and Los Angeles. At the time, Rigo had already developed a lot of work with the Black Panthers at the San Francisco Civic Center and had also worked with Emory Douglas. So when I visited San Francisco, Rigo introduced us. We had lunch, spent the day in his studio, and visited galleries. Emory was very much open to the idea of visiting edelo and developing a proj­ect with us. ­After many conversations with Rigo, Mia, Emory, and other residents, we came up with the idea of connecting the Black Panther movement with Zapatismo. We wanted to look at what the Black Panthers ­were able to accomplish with their bodies and through the use of Emory Douglas’s “violent” imagery. As I 5 4   •  r a q u e l d e a n d a

became more familiar with Emory and got to know the Black Panther movement more intimately, I realized how progressive they ­were. Their movement was embedded in feminist thought, and they ­were very inclusive. They w ­ eren’t as masculine and violent as the media portrays them, or even as they portrayed themselves. It was all a strategic movement to regain strength and power within the black community. So, in looking at the movements, we realized many differences and similarities. While the Zapatistas used hand-­carved wooden guns and covered their f­ aces with black masks, the Black Panthers scared the establishment by legally arming themselves for self-­ defense. They carried guns, large glasses, and leather jackets. ­There are also many similarities within the use of the body and the image. In the end they both radicalized our public discourse on race and politics. The Black Panther movement definitely affected po­liti­cal pro­cesses in the United States regarding race. During this time, white flight took place and a large number of p ­ eople moved to their suburban cages with high levels of security. This was all part of the psyche of white Amer­i­ca ­after the civil rights movement, ­after the black power movement and the 1960s era. We thought a lot about how art and creative expression are a living part of both of t­ hese movements. And about how the movements exist on their own terms, separate from any institutional validation, curators, or museums. We ­were interested in bringing both of ­these movements together. Our initial idea was to produce an exhibition with Zapatista artists and Emory Douglas. We also wanted to produce a Black Panther public intervention in Zapatista territory and introduce Emory Douglas to Zapatismo. In the end, along with an exhibition of Emory Douglas’s images produced by a Zapatista collective of embroiderers, we also painted the entire auditorium of one of their autonomous schools, working with hundreds of students. Another part of the idea was to create a Zapatista newsletter based on the Black Panther Party newspaper, The Black Panther. Our version is titled Zapantera Negra. ­We’re inviting leading academics and artists to reflect on art within their lives, to speak about how art has kept them moving forward and invigorated during the strug­gle. ­We’re hoping to have Mumia Abu-­Jamal, who was an original writer for The Black Panther newspaper, contribute I n t e r v i e w w i t h C a l e b D ua r t e   •   5 5

to the proj­ect, and are interested to see how poetry, m ­ usic, and theater have kept his hopes of a better world alive. We want to know this on a personal level, so we can see how art affects us all in our daily lives and keeps us imagining. rd: It’s in­ter­est­ing overall, ­really, ­because this conversation is about edelo and Zapatismo, but ­really it’s about how ­these ideas inform our actions as individuals, as artists, and contributors to a larger society. And this is the pro­cess that edelo is engaged in. You all are based in San Cristóbal de las Casas, and ­whether you are working with artists who chose to align themselves with the Zapatistas or not, you are always promoting the ideology. It’s a way of seeing the world through collectivism, voice, self-­representation, and the building of bridges. I’m curious what your thought of aesthetics is within this pro­cess. Overall I see this as a way of being, as a daily creative practice; however, in order to show it to a wider audience ­there is a conversation about aesthetics that should be made. How does this play into your proj­ect? What do you see as aesthetic? cd: It’s funny ­because we actually have a white cube in our space, but it’s r­ eally not that at all. We’ve redefined it. During Rigo 23’s opening for his intergalactic space program, over one hundred artists, carpenters, activists, students, artisans, electricians, welders, and weavers collaborated. We held a ceremony of sorts, a ten-­hour opening with candles and pine n ­ eedles on the ground. Despite the ceremonial aspect, it still had an art-­world aesthetic. It felt fresh, clean, with bright lights and smoke from copal. When ­people entered the space they knew they w ­ ere part of an art experience or witness to an “art show.” However, when you compare this to the opening at the redcat gallery in the Frank Gehry Disney Center, which was very spacious, clean, and formal, you can see that each space serves a completely dif­f er­ent audience. So ­there is definitely a juggle between producing something that you can engage with versus displaying an object that is clean and observable. It’s sort of like comparing the altar to the monument. The altar is kept alive with action between the person and the object, while the monument sits in place to remind us of who we are or where we come from. The altar changes with the rotting of fruit, melting of a candle, or shifting of a photo­graph, while the monument stands as a story that never changes. 5 6   •  r a q u e l d e a n d a

Aesthetically this is something I’m ­really curious about. I love white walls and in­de­pen­dent art objects, but at the same time I’m inspired by how communities express themselves through their own vernacular, through the images they construct without analyzing where influences come from within a historical context. Within churches, at po­liti­cal demonstrations, or in indigenous communities ­there are always very unique aesthetics at play. At edelo we are constantly considering how to create a space where opposites can interact, where multiple individuals can guide our direction. We kind of let vari­ous ele­ments mingle to see what the final result ­will look like and how we can integrate ­these aesthetics into a larger, art-­world context. ­These decisions are made one by one, in each show and at ­every per­for­mance. ­We’re always trying to push ourselves to discover new potentials. Our residents are selected by their craft and the intention of their practice. The way we see it, if you are a painter, a storyteller, or exploring a creative life outside the confinements of a system, then you are already imagining alternatives and causing some sort of shift. We constantly ask ourselves, “Is creating art t­ oday an act of privilege or an act of revolution?” We prefer the latter. Note 1 The term “psychogeography” is taken from the writing of Guy Debord and the Situationist International.

I n t e r v i e w w i t h C a l e b D ua r t e   •   5 7

Grupo Etcétera


PROJ­E CT DESCRIPTION rodrigo martí As they tell it, it was “random fate” that brought found­ers Loreto Garin Guzmán and Federico Zukerfeld to set up their first studio at the one-­ time residence and printing fa­cil­i­ty of deceased Surrealist Juan Andralis. They had been searching for a large squat space suitable for a studio and received a call on a winter’s day in 1998 with the tip-­off to a perfect spot in the Abastos neighborhood of Buenos Aires. Scrolling through the group’s weblog, the discovery of this space is told with wild poetic charm, describing the books, piles, smells, and ghosts left by Andralis’s past waiting in ruin for the group to take into their own call to arms. Formed at the cusp of the economic and po­liti­cal turmoil of late-1990s Argentina, the deeply po­liti­cal, poetic, and collaborative group is known for their ability to use their participation in protests to make striking statements as part of the general raucousness of marches, events, and interventions in public space. Describing themselves as a “flux” in an auto-­interview from 2011, the group had over twenty-­five members in their first fourteen years, with an uncountable number of participants from proj­ect to proj­ect. Etcétera has developed a unique ability to use the most economic and makeshift methods to produce their playful and striking poetic actions in ever-­changing and dynamic environments. By the time they left the old printing ­house in 2002, the group had produced over twenty-­five dif­f er­ent

proj­ects, having executed eleven escraches, eight interventions or street actions, three distinct counter-­propaganda posters, and participated in three exhibitions. Developing work in printmaking, video, painting, sculpture, per­for­mance, and (most characteristically) street theater in their first two years, the group continued to develop the use of t­ hese materials over time. Working in an interdisciplinary manner, they combine forms and media in works, such as the human-­size printed figures in their “Gente Armada: Nosotros ponemos el cuerpo, ustedes ponen la cara” (Armed ­People: We provide the bodies, you provide the f­aces) intervention from 2003, where historic, popu­lar, and imaginary armed figures w ­ ere erected in an old newspaper style, their f­ aces cut out within a carnivalesque landscape in the Plaza de Mayo square during the December  20th protests. Th ­ ese same figures ­later played a prominent role in their timeline anchored exhibitions as well as a key motivator in forming the International Errorist movement in 2005. Similarly, their theatrics have flowed from street protests to YouTube with Etcétera TV, national and international gallery exhibitions, and a recurring role in staging the “counter-­fair” outside the Buenos Aires Art Fair. The group’s work began in 1998 with their denunciatory plays produced right outside the homes of unpunished criminals from Argentina’s Dirty War. They had joined forces with hijos (Hijos por la Identidad y la Justicia contra el Olvido y el Silencio or Sons and D ­ aughters for Identity and Justice against Oblivion and Silence), which was founded in 1995. Th ­ ese actions, called escraches, ­were developed by hijos as a way to loudly voice public denunciations and remind Argentinians of the presence of past criminals of the Dirty War living freely in the streets of their cities, by confronting them at the footsteps of their homes. Two of their more elaborate early escraches ­were directed t­ oward former military leader Galtieri as well as a notorious military doctor, Raul Sánchez Ruiz. The escrache against Sánchez Ruiz took the form of a comic restaging of his notorious crime of stealing newborns from the military’s concentration camps and delivering them surreptitiously to military families. During Etcétera’s loud and raucous reenactment for the crowd, protesters used the group’s theatrics as a decoy to take the offensive against the infamous doctor’s highly guarded and stately home. The next escrache play was a large mock soccer match entitled Argentina vs Argentina held in front of the home of former military dictator General Galtieri. Staged on the same day as the Argentina–­ England World Cup game in the United States, the escrache recalled the 1978 World Cup held in Argentina four years before the bloody Malvinas War led G r u p o E t c é t e r a   •  5 9

by Galtieri. The country was hosting the world while si­mul­ta­neously continuing its assassination and torture campaigns against its own population. Etcétera’s soccer match reached its conclusion when a member of hijos shot a ball full of red paint straight into the ex-­dictator’s tightly guarded home.1 Continuously refining their po­liti­cal analy­sis and cultural agenda, it was in 1999 that the group turned its attention ­toward “Mega Eventos” (or Large Cultural Events), first in front of the city’s book fair, with a proj­ect entitled “Libro Libre” (­Free Book), where the group handed out f­ ree publications printed on their Surrealist printing presses while yelling a series of slogans such as “Sí a una feria itinerante y gratuita con canje abierto de libros” (No to the Shopping Library Center, Yes to an itinerant and f­ ree fair with open exchange).2 This action was followed up by a similar staging outside Artebiene, the newly minted Art Fair of Buenos Aires. Th ­ ese fairs are described by the group as a clear co-­opting of the arts into the by-­then decade-­old return of Argentinian national economic policy, and throughout Latin Amer­i­ca, to policies that increasingly substituted ­human values with financial ones, motivated ultimately by American interests not unlike ­those first seen during the Dirty War of the 1970s. So it was at Artebiene’s doorstep, which in retrospect clearly foreshadowed the imminent crumbling of the po­liti­cal and financial systems of the country, that the group abruptly staged a counter-­fair, where they promoted an increase in the accessibility of culture by staging their own exhibition of artists’ works. The next year the group returned, sharing a generator with a neighboring pirate radio station. This time they set up a more “professional” white-­walled counter-­fair, mimicking ­those inside, while well-­dressed group members sipped champagne as they handed out pamphlets that questioned the logic of the art market and consumer culture while using decontextualized revolutionary insignias.3 By 2002 the group moved inside the fair when they took on the role of gallerists dealing in fake Argentinian bank notes and spreading them throughout the fair months before the a­ ctual Argentinian peso’s depreciation took place. ­After three years of recession, increasing civic unrest, and the corralito economic measure—­the almost total freezing of American dollar–­denominated bank accounts for nearly a year—­backfired, President Fernando de la Rúa stepped down on December 20, 2001. By early 2002, while the country was still ­under the restrictive mea­sures imposed by a failed banking system, the population had become more experienced and a­ dept in the practice of street protest, developing a widely emulated action called the “Mierdazo” 6 0   •  r o d r i g o m a r t í

(roughly translated to mean the Big Shit). For this event, discontented citizens began tying bags of excrement—­their own, a friend’s, or a pet’s— to the door of the National Congress. On an eve­ning when politicians ­were debating fiscal strategies for the year to come, the group staged an action in which an actor wearing a sheep mask and suit began defecating into a toilet solemnly placed on a red carpet on the steps to Congress, surrounded by protesters and their signage. The action caught on to such a degree that individuals fi­nally began tossing the bags of shit directly at the building while on national tele­vi­sion. In 2005 the group working with other fellow organ­izations and protesters, founded the Errorist International, a movement based on vindicating the philosophical and practical value of error. The Errorist International was created in response to the spreading ideology of terrorism, inflamed by the media, which, as the group pointed out, has essentially criminalized an im­mense portion of the world’s population. The movement was christened on the beach of Mar de Plata outside Buenos Aires in the fall of 2005 during a protest against the Summit of the Amer­i­cas, with what became a series of ­grand Errorist errors. ­After days of protesting on the streets of the city, the group went to the beach to film a scene consisting of members wearing face scarves, holding a large banner, and waving cardboard Kalashnikovs with comic red “bang” flags projecting out their barrels at planes departing the local airport. A ­ fter two military he­li­cop­ters flew over the head of ­these “kids playing on the beach,” the group was flanked by police who ordered them to drop their “weapons” and subsequently took them into custody.4 When the group explained the artistic nature of their actions, they w ­ ere in turn told that they w ­ ere seen “shooting” at Air Force One as it departed the country, and that this action could not have been accidental. The group countered by explaining that it was an Errorist error, and ­after a lengthy conversation they ­were released. In the following years, the movement has attracted numerous Errorist “cells” around the world, which have begun exhibiting and producing actions internationally. During the 2010 Creative Time Summit, Zukerfeld described the philosophy of the error by asking: “Why are we so afraid of making ­mistakes and of failure? Why must we strive to be ‘perfect,’ to be ‘beautiful,’ and to continuously work in ‘the right way’? What if we accept error as a positive individual and social attribute?”5 In 2012 the group or­ga­nized a major international group exhibition with twenty-­eight individual and group artists at the Haroldo Conti Cultural Center of Memory in Buenos Aires, a former detention center from G r u p o E t c é t e r a   •  6 1

the Dirty War. Using the concept of reflection as an analogy for the social pro­cess by which identity and memory are created, and framing the exhibition with ele­ments from the story of Alice in Wonderland, the exhibition was created as a way to continue the rediscovery of the past embodied in the Cultural Center’s connection to the years of military dictatorship and repression. In 2013 the group won the International Award for Participatory Art in Bologna, Italy, for their work “crisi” (Commune of Research for Inclusive Social Imagination), a proj­ect they instigated as finalists (one of three) for the prize’s curators. The prize is a partnership between local arts organ­izations and the regional government initiated in 2009. As finalists, the group created a work in four chapters relating to dif­fer­ent aspects of the pervasive world crisis, be it economic, generational, meta­phorical, or po­liti­cal. The work explored the objective and subjective effects of the crisis and alternated between the city center and the suburbs. The proj­ect’s second chapter was aimed at youth from a resistant suburb of Bologna, and involved working with four collectives. The chapter concluded with an ­album created by the youth and the mcs of the Bologna-­based hip-­hop lab On the Move. The proj­ect was completed as part of the “Assemblea Infinita” (Infinite Assembly) chapter, in which participants represented the ste­reo­types of an assembly over three days of continuous rehearsal and improvisation. This ­grand jest parodied both governmental and bureaucratic inadequacy while si­mul­ta­neously giving participants a chance to thoroughly embody the differing roles that make up any given assembly. It was ­later staged at Piazza Verdi, where student protests ­were set in the 1970s, resulting in what the group has called “a literal black hole.”6 AN INTERVIEW WITH ETCÉTERA May 10, 2011 Translation by Fabian Cereijido “Let’s eat, let’s create: the de-­education from a long Etcétera . . .” Interview between Nancy Garin, Federico Zukerfeld, and ­Loreto Garin Etcétera . . . ​­will not be defined. Imagine what comes next. Etcetera: From the Latin “et,” which means: and, cetera, ceterum. It means: What exceeds or what is missing. A term used to interrupt a speech indicating that what was still to be said w ­ ill in fact be omitted and represented by the sign and followed by the name or the abbreviation of ­etcetera (­etc.). We chose Etcétera . . . ​­because it is the word that breaks the language system. 6 2   •  r o d r i g o m a r t í

Etcétera . . . ​closes and opens a discourse, Etcetera “is” in e­ very language; it is an ally in the entire world. Etcétera . . . ​is in pres­ent tense; its members cannot be counted. Etcétera . . . ​is singular and plural, feminine and masculine. Etcétera . . . ​adds, subtracts, divides, and multiplies. Etcétera: In an interview, you usually face somebody, an other, who introduces you to his/her knowledge. But interviewing yourself or interviewing a constantly changing collective becomes a deconstructive experience, which in this case, is part of this flux that is Etcétera . . . ​ It’s been fourteen years of this experience that has engaged many ­people. One could almost refer to Etcétera . . . ​as a school . . . ​a learning zone . . . ​a place of reinvention that challenges the conventional and normative ways in which we think, make love, make art, make friends, develop affection, dream, and deal with desire and commitment. An area of de-­education, something you experience through your body. . . . ­e tcétera: It’s true. We could say that the denial from which Etcétera . . . ​was born was a dialectic situation, that it constituted itself in a flux we cannot define a priori. We went through the wonderful experience of de-­education at the school chosen by Etcétera . . . ​, the hard path and the underground, that marginal world of downtown Buenos Aires in the late ’90s. That urban space that contained a richness, in which the codes ­were more open than closed. That “Side B” culture where you could find common criminals and the unemployed in full search for survival, poets, rockers, punks, hippies, activists, and office workers, artists, intellectuals, and ­lawyers. And ­there we found Etcétera . . . ​, waiting for us. When in 1998 random fate shook us, we ended up taking over the printing facility/home of a Surrealist, the late Juan Andralis (1928–94).7 So we joined his cause and began wearing his old and elegant clothes, we started reading the books that w ­ ere dormant, and joined the po­liti­cal militancy of the hijos,8 we began experimenting with forms of love and politics of the body, and from our happenings and poetry we deci­ded to form an artistic movement. Since then we have lived theatrically, or we have given life to the theatrical, the way the el­derly or some futuristic extremists G r u p o E t c é t e r a   •  6 3

do. We lived about four years of art and community life in that occupied ­house where love generated sparks more than once, and ­after 20019 we went out to join with the masses and the waiters10 that had awoken. In 2005, along with many o ­ thers, we founded a movement and now we are one group among the many groups and individuals in that flux that is the Errorist International. In 2009 some members of the group created this extradisciplinary creature along with other cultural groups and cooperatives with whom we share networks, resources, ideas, and feelings in the city of Buenos Aires. . . . ­etcétera: In the late ’90s Etcétera . . . ​participated in the actions that accompanied the escraches11 or­ga­nized by hijos and other initiatives of the time like “A Comer” (Let’s Eat) and “[email protected].”12 We could say that what was ­really taking shape was a u ­ nion of Art/ Life. What spaces are activated by the power­ful call to enact “Cultural Hunger”? . . . ­etcétera: When you talk about “Cultural Hunger,” I guess you are thinking about the “Guerrilla Group of Hungry Crazed Dreamers for Liberation.” That action involved more than a hundred p ­ eople ­running in aluminum costumes, g­ oing into supermarkets carry­ ing ­giant forks screaming “Let’s eat!”13 . . . ­etcétera: Yes, that was a massive action seen and savored by so many outside Etcétera . . . ​It still moves ­people to laughter around the world when the video is shown. . . . ­etcétera: Yes, oh, that video, Etcétera TV, 2004/2005,”14 reflects the social turmoil of ­those days in Argentina, when three presidents ­were ousted in less than two months. But it was in the 1998 exhibition “A Comer” that hunger became a key conceptual axis for the group. It still is. We met artists Fernando “Coco” Bedoya and Emei15 at a demonstration, and they invited us to “intervene” a gallery at the Re6 4   •  G r u p o e t c é t e r a

3.1.  ​Otra Realidad es Posible, Buenos Aires, 2001–2003. Courtesy Archivo Etcétera.

coleta Cultural Center in Buenos Aires.16 A ­ fter long discussion at the center’s library, we came to the realization that physical nourishment was as essential as cultural nourishment. So we deci­ded to develop an exhibition to protest “Cultural Hunger,” with sculptures such as El Niño Globalizado (The Globalized Child)17 and El Crítico Cítrico (The Citrus Critic)18 and paintings like La Ultima Cena (The Last Supper).19 The exhibition also included participatory per­for­mances and improvisations and the cooking of live fish, the aroma of which permeated the air of the entire Cultural Center. The exhibition had an opening e­ very day for a c­ ouple of weeks. ­Every one of t­ hese inaugurations included the ­free distribution of food and wine. “Hambre Cultural,” “[email protected],” and “A Comer” ­were actions that referenced the social crisis Argentina was g­ oing through during the ’76 dictatorship. They also acted as a condemnation of the general passivity confronting the imposition of an economic and moral system that was destroying the minds of a generation. When one speaks ­today of conceptual art and its contribution to new forms of life, our memory falters a bit. Since the late G r u p o E t c é t e r a   •  6 5

’90s, what the art world bigwigs w ­ ere dishing out was not that far removed from that model of the “youth of the late twentieth ­century” offered on conventional TV programs for teens in Argentina: a passive Naif softened like a r­ ose soufflé over the decay of the system. And the model of the “artist” was that of a cynic who laughed at the misfortune of ­others and allowed himself to be seduced by the power­ful baubles of the market. For that success-­oriented “model of life,” politics and civic participation did not exist. We ­were r­ eally far from being a ­rose soufflé or Boy Scouts of the ­future. So we attacked with a ferocious hunger ­those representatives of that fast food feast, which we called “Fast Art.”20 . . . ­etcétera: It was a moment of total depoliticization and empty systematic “formalism” in the field of visual arts, with a marked proliferation of market-­oriented thought and production. . . . ­etcétera: But we had (and continue to have) a voracious hunger for social criticism, and our bodies ­were assaulting institutional contemplation; we w ­ ere making choreographies out of chaos, occupying territories with rebellion, and generating ourselves as we went along. I am sure that it is with joy that you remember “Hambre Cultural” and “A Comer.” They w ­ ere chants of victory, not of defeat. They had nothing to do with the ways of life and cultural models implied in the art we consumed in the ’90s. That art had us starving and desperate, while an enormous segment of the Argentine population was sliding fast into deeper and deeper poverty and hunger. “Hambre” touched on many t­ hings: hunger for culture and art beyond the market, the real hunger of a big percentage of society, the hunger for a life beyond consumption, the anthropophagous nature of politics, the hunger for life itself. . . . ­etcétera: Since the beginning of 2004 I remember t­ here was an urge to define, name, and frame the precise position of t­ hese artistic practices. They had to belong to the field of po­liti­cal activism or 6 6   •  G r u p o e t c é t e r a

the field of art, or even to in­ven­ted categories like “Artivism.” Much time was lost in the dichotomy artist/po­liti­cal activist. Clearly, for this group t­ here has never been a difference, much less a dissociation, but this difference is deep for ­those in the social sciences and for t­ hose in the discipline of art. It seems that even for the agents who build new spaces for art, ­these spaces are seen as already subject to the dictates of the market and, of course, very distant from social space, where inequalities not only remain but are increasing at an alarming pace. How do you see Etcétera . . . ​in relation to this issue? . . . ­etcétera: Self-­definition is exhausting and yet it’s so impor­tant for the tiny space of art theory, ­don’t you think? The in­ter­est­ing ­thing would be to see the practices beyond t­ hese categories, to study them beyond ­these dichotomies, to approach them with deeper theories and above all to just let them be so we ­don’t over-­define them and inhibit their potentialities too soon. We could say that Etcétera . . . ​is a “borderline”21 or an extradisciplinary practice, and even like this it is difficult to define. In fourteen years of experience, over twenty-­five ­people have passed through the group, in addition to the ancestors who participated by medium communication [laughs] and the many p ­ eople who joined us for specific actions and activities. What may be defined as an Etcétera . . . ​is very heterogeneous. Its members came from diverse spaces and by use of a wonderful shifting and moving game, the group has averted the dichotomies that separate the outside from the inside, the body from the intellect, marginality from elitism, numbers from shapes, ­etc. . . . ​­etc. . . . ​ We have been able to be autonomous up to t­ oday, thanks to our good management of definitions and limits. Poetry has provided us with a discursive tool that helped us maintain an emancipatory discourse even in the lethargic ’90s. Poetry has helped us to reinvent sophisticated layers of meaning when realism became too exaggerated. On many occasions we have used “garbage” words, and “old words” no longer in use in postmodern times. We provided ­these terms with new meanings and visual richness. . . . G r u p o E t c é t e r a   •  6 7

­etcétera: We generated poetic weapons that recovered the voice of that which common sense cannot grasp. Poetic weapons that helped us steer clear of realistic, conventional interpretations and the abuses of over-­discursivity. . . . etcétera: Poetry is for Etcétera . . . ​an essential part of our war machine. I ­don’t know if you agree, but I think poetry gives eroticism to the coitus of the Etceterean per­for­mance. It allows us to reach through other channels, certain speeches that are bothersome ­because of their po­liti­cal incorrectness. Or that are bothersome simply ­because they come from a repressed place within our unconscious. . . . ­etcétera: Is this poetry perhaps also a way to revitalize a type of overly academic field of thought seen in the last twenty years? . . . ­etcétera: For us theory, or the field of thought, has always been an area of freedom rather than of fences or mandates, so we never used textbooks; we have a certain contempt for this kind of map in which it is impossible to get lost. We like labyrinthine spaces, so we have not made much of an effort to enter spaces that become completely predictable. We appreciate the discussions about art and politics as they give visibility to groups formerly excluded from the debate itself. However, we think that t­ hose melancholic debates only brought division, paralysis, and the ossification of pro­cesses. They produced readings devoid of a body, which was what the mainstream was striving for. . . . ­etcétera: Etcétera . . . ​in its fanat­i­cism for dreams and imagination, has had a very special mobility. Its amorphous, “trans-­erratic” path has a lot of love for creativity and art. And we do believe in art b ­ ecause it gives us a vital adrenaline, it is an infinite territory, and it is intrinsically linked to the imagination and to sensitivity. It is natu­ral to all ­human beings regardless of class or territories, 6 8   •  G r u p o e t c é t e r a

and it is essential for the transformation of real­ity. Art has forced us to go through the experiences, to “place the body,” which is substantial in creating critical thinking. In that sense we could say we breathe through the artistic and social event rather than through anything a priori. That is why we have allowed ourselves to err knowingly in each specific context. If it’s alright with you, we can move on to other, more palatable concepts. ­etcétera: I was thinking now about points of inflection like September 11 and the Twin Towers, and in the case of Argentina, December 20th of the same year. Th ­ ese are points that marked a further ratcheting up of cap­i­tal­ist adjustment, with ultraviolence and a new systemic radicalism. They marked a turning point for international politics with the onset of a new geopo­liti­cal configuration. It affected the very forms of post-­Fordist capitalism, and precisely b ­ ecause of this, the entire field of re­sis­tance spaces. It is clear that what September 11 generated is the construction of a new “­enemy” of the system, a construction that already existed but that a­ fter the Twin Towers was magnified and radicalized. This new ­enemy is given the name “Terrorism,” and it is a new discursive/symbolic tool. ­Because when that word is deployed, ­there’s a battery of implied synonyms, nouns, and adjectives that deploy with it. It seems that Terrorism is every­thing non-­Western, nonwhite, non-­straight, non–­First World. Terrorism is the East, the left, f­ ree thinkers, critical thinkers, dissidents, all that is anomalous to the system. I think of what Bifo22 describes in Post Alfa:23 a new mediatic generation that experienced the global inflection through media images like the burning towers, the armed invasions, recorded torture, the looting riots caught on video. A veritable reality/ irreality made of images. How have we faced and/or incorporated this image-­prone reality/irreality in the field of activism and in the field of art, which is eminently visual? How has this affected the production of subjectivity, the creation and incitement of new subjectivities? How is it pos­si­ble to articulate collective creation on the face of what Bifo describes in La Fabrica de la Infelicidad (The Factory of Unhappiness) as a crisis of cognitive l­ abor?24 . . . G r u p o E t c é t e r a   •  6 9

­etcétera: We w ­ ere transformed in 2001 not only by the fall of the towers but by the social crises in Argentina, as you well point out. The events contaminated the w ­ hole region, and obviously t­ here was a paradigm shift. Perhaps the paradigm shift that we are living in 2011, with the revolutions in Africa and the ­Middle East, is just as impor­tant to the world, just as symbolic as December 20 in Argentina and September 11 in the U.S. September 11 brought about a very effective excuse that permitted demo­cratic states to implement laws of exception that are violent, radical, and imperceptible. Although the vis­i­ble level of vio­lence has soared internationally, the implementation of new repressive laws and the creation of security devices that did not exist before was done in relative secret, u ­ nder the guise of protecting the rule of law. We have the impression that this is something that has not only affected the countries that started this repressive monster, but also our own daily lives, our social imaginary, and our social contract. ­Here in Latin Amer­i­ca the majority of the antiterrorism laws ­were passed by progressive governments, and most have been applied against radical left-­wing groups and indigenous p ­ eoples facing landowners and mafias. Our artistic compass revealed to us a very dark side, a society of control where e­ very space is regulated. Freedom of thought and cultural autonomy are seen as ­mistakes and criminalized so we can access and enjoy the type of “national sovereignty” that “hyperdeveloped” socie­ties enjoy. We have friends and acquaintances among the Mapuche p ­ eople in Chile who have faced situations of hostility and vio­lence in the “golden” years of Bachelet’s socialist government. Nothing has changed with the rightist government of Mr. Piñera; the reasons given to justify repression are the same: it is imperative to defend sovereignty and democracy against the “terrorist” ­enemy. Antiterrorism laws ­were passed in Argentina in 2007 ­under the government of Néstor Kirchner, as part of agreements signed by countries in the region. Very few p ­ eople know that exceptional laws ­were being issued, which penalized with equal force “terrorist activities” and the production and circulation of symbols or pictures that could promote or assist terrorist actions. We feel that the idea of the radicalization of some sectors of society (the 7 0   •  G r u p o e t c é t e r a

poor) is something that produces terror in demo­cratic states, ­whether they are socially demo­cratic or fascist. Ultimately, the state is a mediator that guards the interests of hegemonic economic groups. . . . ­etcétera: It is at that time that we began to pointedly address the media’s false portrayal and criminalization of social protest and poverty with actions like “Gente Armada” (Armed P ­ eople, which in Spanish also mean assembled ­people). . . . ­etcétera: Of course, it was at that time that poverty began to be seriously criminalized in Argentina. In 2003, during the government of Eduardo Duhalde, when the Piquetero movement25 had achieved a critical level of organ­ization and autonomy, the state began to tire of so many protests and so much self-­organization. New repressive mea­sures w ­ ere enacted, together with a large-­scale media campaign that demonized the movement. The mass media and po­liti­cal power brokers constructed a ste­reo­type by which the poor ­were criminals. The small victory of the antiterror campaign has taken place in the catastrophic minds of a ­whole generation for whom the fear of terrorism and crime allows for the tacit ac­cep­tance of imperceptible control. Our lives are monitored by security cameras, watched by vari­ous police agencies operating in the same circumscribed areas, studied by parapolice and paramilitary groups. And we are still not told what and who is a “terrorist” or an “­enemy.” Since then we have not stopped asking what it is that is undermining the rule of law, and how this is defining the logic of our daily lives. In addition, by many means we have been taught to have fear of failure, terror of the other, and aversion to divergence. The e­ nemy is anybody who shows us a single failure in our systems of understanding. The prob­lem of our time is that we have been educated ­under the logic of success and perfection, so that the “ideal ideas” are always mediated by competition. Although as an artistic generation we have learned to speak out in creative ways, re­sis­tance movements disintegrate fast. It is very easy for all that autonomous G r u p o E t c é t e r a   •  7 1

power to be rapidly eaten by a strong leader capable of displaying power. In this sense it was impor­tant for us to understand what Bifo articulated in our dialogue with him in 2008:26 the need to escape the vio­lence of the mass media when, for example, it shows you twenty-­four uninterrupted real-­time hours of the catastrophes plaguing humanity. It is impor­tant to escape this vio­lence, not to run away from it, but to be able to confront it with other creative and emotional resources. It is also impor­tant to remove oneself from work, not in the literal sense of laziness, but in order to deposit our affections elsewhere, to find happiness in other spaces which are not necessarily t­ hose of alienated production. It is impor­tant to be able to view the state of affairs from several ­angles, retaining our creative, emotional, and liberating potentialities. It is imperative to retain creativity, the idea of bringing together imagination and the most basic aspects of life and fight that other war where t­ here are other soldiers, other destructive tools, and moral clues that are not necessarily the same ones wielded by the planes bombarding the ­Middle Eastern desert. As we mentioned above in the discussion regarding “Cultural Hunger,” ­there are “cognitarians” engaged in producing lifestyles that are enslaving, that appeal to our supposed “desires,” and that ­reproduce a thousand times the consumerist logic promoted by advertising. The question is how to reverse that situation. . . . ­etcétera: As Bifo says in Factory of Unhappiness (p. 69): “The inversion of desire plays a very impor­tant role from the moment that social production is incorporating larger and larger portions of m ­ ental activity, of symbolic, communicative, and affective action. In the pro­cess of cognitive work we are involving that which is most essentially ­human. Not muscle fatigue, not the physical transformation of ­matter, but communication, the creation of ­mental states. Affect and imagination are the goods being generated by productive activity.” . . . ­etcétera: That phrase is lovely. . . . ​[silence] 7 2   •  G r u p o e t c é t e r a

. . . ­etcétera: Since 2004, when Argentina began the pro­cess of normalization,27 we deci­ded to work with another temporality and allow ourselves to play, to take the place of “objects of desire” and invade certain areas of meaning and commodity creation, like the Cultural Industry. But when we entered the heart of that industry, we did it full of passion and without haste. We w ­ ere trying to understand the complex hierarchies at play, where unexpected resources are implemented and unsuspecting zones like the body, intimacy, the mind, and ethics are placed on unstable grounds; a space where decisions are made and co-­optive devises are designed; a space that takes advantage of the surplus value of creative practices. Being in this industry is always worth it ­because it is full of workers who want to occupy and transform the conditions ­under which this factory works. The in­ter­est­ing ­thing about this industry is that is not identifiable with physical factories but it is very much a delimited space. You may leave, moved by the unhealthy working conditions or by the very corruption of its leaders. Our actions in the streets continued ­under their own logic with a ­little more reflection, a ­little less urgency, and fewer pronouncements. For us the ­union of error and terror happened both by design and by chance. It was in early November  2005, as we ­were planning the demonstrations and activities to repudiate the presence of U.S. President George W. Bush in Argentina for the Américas Summit28 in Mar del Plata, that the “International Errorista” was founded. Etcétera . . . ​participated in the counter-­summit, the “­People’s Summit,”29 together with social organ­izations, movements of peasants, left-­leaning parties, ngos, in­de­pen­dent media, ­human rights organ­izations, trade u ­ nions, and student organ­izations. We or­ga­nized dif­fer­ent demonstrations and cultural events. The context was that of a city besieged by the police and the military. The city center was closed, guarded by three security cordons. U.S. Marines could be seen patrolling the streets and beaches. It was then and ­there, in the midst of performatic actions, street protests, and demonstrations that the motto that now headlines the manifesto was introduced: “we are all er­ istake, when someone forrorists.” Errorism was created by m got to type the “T” key. Since we wanted to avoid the weight and G r u p o E t c é t e r a   •  7 3

3.2.  ​International Errorist, Mar del Plata, 2005. Courtesy Archivo Etcétera.

“danger” of using the words “(T)error” or “(T)errorist,” we escaped via the accidental pun. That is the way Errorism was born, by error. In times of censorship we had to force the language, we had to stretch our meta­phors, we had to point out without naming. . . . ­etcétera: Precisely, decisions like that one and our general opposition to vio­lence, repression, the police state, and the co-­option of our resources and imagination led us into a more open oppositional field. We are now members of a widespread network with an interest in starting a “movement.” In the late ’90s the territory in which we operated was limited to escraches and the general strug­gle for ­human rights. We cultivated the kind of clear theatrical and visual language that our context and the use of public space demanded. T ­ oday we see a change in the way our generation and the younger one participate, and we are generating new strategies to subvert the real­ity we face, with new methodologies and pro­cesses that arise spontaneously whenever we find someone with whom to share experiences. 74   •   G r u p o e t c é t e r a

. . . ­etcétera: Of course, during the ’90s the administration of Carlos Menem followed exactly the ­recipes handed down from international lending agencies, as did most Latin American countries. It was the consummation of an economic and po­liti­cal proj­ect begun during the military dictatorship of the ’70s. Capitalism was transforming itself again, this time in the form of “neoliberalism.” That time was marked by supply and demand, exchange value, competition, speculation, and consumption replacing ­human values with mere aspirations of accumulation. All relationships and institutional activities w ­ ere transformed into mere repetitions of the patterns of commerce. In the late ’90s context, Etcétera . . . ​gravitated t­ oward ­human rights organ­izations. They ­were the only ones, other than the radicalized left, that opposed the official policy. That is why we are very happy that ­after a thirty-­year strug­gle the prosecution of the dictatorship’s crimes is an official task of the state, supported by the vast majority of the Argentine population. ­Today our strug­ gle continues ­because real­ity, like imagination, is relentless. That is why we have diversified. We are operating in several contexts, which fills us with vitality. ­Today we are living an in­ter­est­ing moment. As you know, we are now working in a more network-­oriented mode, in collaboration with numerous Etcéteras moving through the planet, as well as with other groups and individuals. At the same time we are part of the International Errorista and function as something like its organ of propaganda in some spaces. The Madrid cells of our movement have just made their first per­for­mance in public space, and the cqfd14 in Marseille, the written organ of the movement in France, is in full swing.30 Together with the actions, texts, and manifestos that ­we’ve been producing since 2006, we are now facilitating “de-­education” experiences in what we call “Not Work/Not Shop.”31 ­These are clearly unproductive and anticonsumerist workshops, in which we seek no specific results, but if results happen anyway, we celebrate them. It is very paradoxical, b ­ ecause we are often invited to give ­these workshops at expensive universities, where it is odd to explain in such institutions that our results might not produce G r u p o E t c é t e r a   •  7 5

very “curricular” results. The workshops turn into a kind of shock therapy or a tool to de-­educate or “de-­normalize.” So t­ here is plenty of Etcétera . . . ​still to come, and that keeps us very mobilized as our pursuit of happiness becomes more and more collective and as we let ourselves be subverted by the happiness of ­others. . . . Etcétera . . . ​Etcétera . . . ​Etcétera . . . ​ Notes 1 Brian Holmes (2007), “The Errorist International: Washed Up on a Beach in Australia,” 2–2/. 3 4 5 6​ -second-edition/. 7 Juan Andralis was a printmaker and Greek-­Argentine artist who was associated with the Surrealists in Paris and with Aldo Pellegrini. ­After returning to Argentina he was the main communicator and editor of Surrealism in Latin Amer­i­ca. Andralis joined the Graphic Design Department at the Institute Torcuato di Tella in 1966. 8 Translator’s note (hereafter abbreviated as TN): hijos (Hijos por la Identidad y la Justicia contra el Olvido y el Silencio/Sons and ­Daughters for Identity and Justice against Oblivion and Silence) is a ­human rights group formed in 1995 to fight the general absolution issued by the government of Carlos Saul Menem, which set ­free thousands of Argentine state agents involved in the violation of ­human rights during for the 1976–83 military dictatorship. 9 Etcétera . . . ​is referring to the acute crises and popu­lar insurrection of 2001, during the administration of President Fernando de la Rúa. 10 This is a word play on the affinity between the vernacular words for masses (masas, which is also pastries) and waiters (mozos). 11 The escraches (escrachar, Argentine vernacular for pointing out, bringing to light, exposing, ­etc.) ­were a direct-­action modality in­ven­ted by hijos that consisted of staging noisy and eye-­catching demonstrations right outside the homes of unpunished repressors of the military regime. 12 A purposely ambiguous title that could be Hombre (Man) if the @ stood for an “o” or Hambre (Hunger) if the @ stood for an “a.” 13 Reference to a participatory action or­ga­nized by Etcétera . . . ​in 2003. 7 6   •  G r u p o e t c é t e r a

14 A widely circulated video/manifesto made by the group in 2005 that documents the crises and several actions carried out by the group. 15 Members of the 1980s collective capataco (Colectivo de Arte Participativo Tarifa Común) (Participatory Art Collective Common Rate) that developed in­ter­est­ing graphic work and interventions in public space linked to social movements of the time. Many capataco activists ­were also militants of the mas (Movimiento al Socialismo/Socialist Movement). 16 A 1998 action in which several collectives occupied one of the halls of the Recoleta Cultural Center of Buenos Aires for several days to protest the isolation of the center from the country’s social crises. 17 A life-­size sculpture of a malnourished boy with an inflatable balloon in his belly that the audience could inflate with a mechanical device. 18 A performative piece in which a sleepy “critic” with a lemon in his head sat in a corner observing the exhibition, while projected images of ready-­mades by Marcel Duchamp emanated from his chest. 19 A collectively made painting of the Last Supper featuring Jesus, Lenin, the Pink Panther, Arafat, and ­others. 20 In En­glish in the original. 21 In En­glish in the original. 22 Bifo, or Franco Berardi (Bologna, 1949), is an Italian writer, phi­los­o­pher, and cultural agitator. He participated in the Movement of ’68 at the University of Bologna and in the Creative Movement of ’77 that mobilized all of Italy. 23 Franco Berardi, Generación Post Alfa: Patologías e imaginarios en el Semiocapitalismo (Buenos Aires: Tinta Limón Press, 2007). Translated into Spanish by Patricia Amigo. 24 ­After the Twin Towers, the debacle of the dot​.­com start-­ups, and the consolidation of new media monopolies, Franco Berardi (in the book mentioned above) described the crises of technological and informatics workers and handlers of signs in general (what is traditionally called the creative class and what Berardi calls the cognitariat, to make it similar to the proletariat) as having two main components: (1) most programmers and developers realize that they are actually exploited workers, rather than the f­ ree and in­de­pen­dent entrepreneurs they thought they ­were; and (2) they realize ­there is no escape from the physical world, that affection, health, and time for the body is needed. 25 The Piquetero movement took its name from its preferred protest form. A piquete (picket) is a type of demonstration by which a group of p ­ eople block a street or road with the purpose of calling attention to a demand. The piqueteros first came to national prominence during the 1990s, when the privatization of most national companies by the second postdictatorial president, Saul Menem, produced massive unemployment. Initially localized in the vicinity of the privatized oil refineries, the piquetero form of protest soon spread to the poor neighborhoods of Buenos Aires and other major cities, signaling the per­sis­tence

G r u p o E t c é t e r a   •  7 7

26 27



30 31

of widespread unemployment and the lingering dissatisfaction of the poor and the unemployed with conventional po­liti­cal parties. Etcétera . . . ​is referring to a 2008 encounter the group had with Berardi, who visited Buenos Aires to pres­ent his Generación Post Alfa book. In 2004, twenty years ­after the end of military rule, President Néstor Kirchner reopened the ­legal cases against the previously pardoned torturers with a nationally televised address from the building where the most impor­tant “disappearing” center had functioned during the dictatorship. From the very cells where so many had been confined, tortured, and killed, he pronounced the now famous words: “I come to apologize in the name of the Argentine state for twenty years of shameful silence about the atrocities.” The Summit of the Amer­i­cas is the periodic meeting of heads of state and governments of the continent, sponsored by the Organ­ization of American States and held each time in a dif­fer­ent city of the continent. Since the first such meeting (Miami, Florida, in 1994) the main objective of the forum has been to discuss the creation of an area of ­free trade that would extend the terms of nafta (the North American ­Free Trade Agreement) to the w ­ hole continent. In 2005 the venue was Mar del Plata, and the visit by George Bush and the prospect of a Pan American ­free trade zone unleashed violent antiglobalization protests. The ­People’s Summit is regularly held in parallel to the Summit of the Amer­i­cas and brings together representatives of social and po­liti­cal movements from Latin Amer­i­ca and the Ca­rib­bean. The one held in Mar del Plata featured iconic figures such as Evo Morales, Eva de Bonafini, and Diego Armando Maradona. Etcétera . . . ​and the International Errorista participated in the ­People’s Summit of Mar del Plata with workshops and participatory actions in public space. cqfd is a monthly publication printed in Marseille with which the International Errorista and Etcétera . . . ​maintain a strong bond of cooperation. In En­glish in the original.

7 8   •  G r u p o e t c é t e r a

Artistas en Resistencia


PROJ­E CT DESCRIPTION kency cornejo The collective Artistas en Resistencia came into existence as abruptly as the military coup d’état that forcefully removed President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales from office on June 28, 2009. Despite the solidarity President Zelaya had publicly promoted with leftist Latin American leaders—­ Hugo Chávez, Evo Morales, and Rafael Correa—­and the growing presence of U.S. military bases in the country, the idea of an unconstitutional coup in the twenty-­first ­century still shocked Honduras. Even more disconcerting was the state’s brutal repression of its citizens, who took to the streets in protest. From this chaos and urgency, artists from all disciplines (visual art, poetry, ­music, theater, and dance) quickly came together to form Artistas en Resistencia. The collective discussed and assessed the po­liti­cal climate, or­ga­nized a series of public manifestations and events, and used the vari­ous arts at their disposal as a po­liti­cal voice against the ensuing wave of ­human rights abuses in the country. Moreover, as the collective positioned art at the forefront of public sociopo­liti­cal re­sis­tance, the nation’s citizens began to take notice and strongly identify with the artistic community, resulting in an identification and solidarity between citizens and artists unpre­ce­dented in Honduras. When Roberto Micheletti Bain, former president of the Honduran National Council, assumed his position as the head of the de facto

government, civilians took to the streets in re­sis­tance for 170 consecutive days. As artists from all disciplines began to encounter each other in the streets of Tegucigalpa, the country’s capital, they collectively agreed it was imperative to or­ga­nize as artists. The first call to convene was hosted by mua (Mujeres en las Artes “Leticia Oyuela”), one of the few and leading noninstitutional spaces for con­temporary art in Honduras, run by artists Bayardo Blandino and Amer­i­ca Mejia. ­After the initial meeting, and with the support of the historian Anarella Vélez and the poet Rigoberto Paredes, Café Paradiso became the permanent base for the collective as a meeting and workspace, and often a place of refuge during sudden bursts of police brutality in the streets. With an initial twenty-­five artists, the collective quickly grew to over sixty members in Tegucigalpa alone, a number in constant fluctuation. Among its most active members ­were the visual artists Léster Rodríguez, Lucy Argueta, Jorge Oquelí, Medardo Cardona, Cristian Ortíz, Celeste Ponce, Darvin Rodríguez, David Soto, and Renan Fajardo, who was ­later assassinated by the regime; writers like Fabricio Estrada and Mayra Oyuela, who took on strong leadership and organ­ization roles for the group; the poet Edgardo Florián; musician Karla Lara; and the singer/songwriter known as Geronimo, who was also assassinated by the military regime. Although the coup was the impetus for Artistas en Resistencia, the collective’s po­liti­cal concerns ­were not centered on, or limited to, Zelayismo. Rather, they extended into a series of po­liti­cal, social, and cultural issues that had been fermenting for years. The collective’s uniting consensus was a rejection of the illegal coup, the military repression, the h ­ uman rights abuses, and the impunity that followed. The discontent also included the lack of art spaces and cultural support. The collective utilized public space, especially through public manifestations, to ensure accessibility for all citizens and as a communal setting where vari­ous art disciplines could participate. This was a considerable and serious risk for the collective as it has been ­extensively confirmed that ­human rights violations took place during mobilizations, including illegal detentions, physical and psychological torture, disappearances, sexual assault during and ­after manifestations, and the assassination of journalists and other citizens. As Artistas en Resistencia engaged in both the practical aspects of mobilization and experimental art practices, they adroitly challenged preconceived notions of the artist’s role in Honduras, which was grounded in romantic notions of solitary study, contemplation, and a depoliticized concept of “high art.” The collective executed most artistic components 8 0   •  k e n c y c o r n e j o

of public manifestations. They designed and produced posters, signs, and ­giant puppet heads of politicians, in addition to enacting public interventions, per­for­mance art, musical concerts, poetry readings, and street theater. Si­mul­ta­neously, many of its visual artists w ­ ere participating in national and international exhibitions, including biennials, where they further addressed and critiqued the po­liti­cal context. Likewise, the same actors, actresses, and directors producing classical theater in traditional venues, staged street theater per­for­mances and improvisations in the style of Agusto Boal’s theater of the oppressed. Moreover, while Artistas en Resistencia openly put art in the ser­vice of the re­sis­tance, citizens who other­wise did not view themselves as artists or creative producers became interested in the vari­ous art practices, and art suddenly became the immediate and most effective method of expression and contribution to the re­sis­tance. Citizens formerly distanced from art joined the collective and the movement, not through a po­liti­cal association, but through an artistic identity. ­Music was also an impor­tant component. Among the musical artists in Artistas en Resistencia was the band Café Guancasco (a name stemming from a Lenca ritual of peace and brotherhood). Founded by Pavel Núñez and Pavel Cruz, the eight-­member band was already known for its progressive po­liti­cal compositions, and was among the first protestors at the presidential h ­ ouse on the day of the coup. They w ­ ere also at the center of the first documented act of repression u ­ nder the newly implemented government of Porfirio Lobo Sosa—an act of repression specifically targeting artists within the re­sis­tance movement. In a critique of the nation’s cele­bration for Central Amer­i­ca’s In­de­pen­dence Day (September 15), the group or­ga­nized a protest concert in the most industrial city of Honduras, San Pedro Sula, the base location for foreign corporations and maquiladoras. The police aggression against Café Guancasco and the audience ensued immediately in an attempt to stop the concert, leaving hundreds injured, ­children hospitalized, and one man dead. The collective’s members publicly condemned the repression and executed a “counter-­offense” the following month on October 21, known as the official “Día de las Fuerzas Armadas” (Day of the Armed Forces) in Honduras as a result of a 1970 coup. With the solidarity of other art and re­sis­tance groups, the collective commemorated October 21 as a “Día del Arte y la Cultura en Resistencia” (Day of Art and Culture in Re­sis­tance) with a musical concert. Their strategy of combat was ­music and a resignification of a national calendar day, efforts that w ­ ere honored and repeated A r t i s t a s e n R e s i s t e n c i a   •  8 1

the following year. The use of the vari­ous arts as counter-­offense tactics was a common strategy for Artistas en Resistencia as well as acts of civil disobedience. In another case, the collective or­ga­nized midnight concerts and poetry readings in parks and plazas that broke the state police’s spur-­ of-­the-­moment curfews. With only five minutes to get to their homes, citizens who could not possibly reach their destination within this time frame—as was anticipated—­were consequently detained, arrested, and tortured by the police. Outraged, citizens walked to the collective’s midnight musical and poetry events as a joint act of civil disobedience where they denounced the most brutal policemen. The awareness raised via the arts eventually led to the removal of t­ hose officers and the investigation of their violations. Photography, in par­tic­u­lar, facilitated a visual testimony of the military repression while si­mul­ta­neously capturing the courage within the re­sis­tance. To showcase the testimonial and aesthetic qualities of professional, emerging, documentary, and artistic photog­raphers, the collective produced the exhibition “Tierras del Nunca Más, imágenes de la represión y del heroísmo de la resistencia,” inaugurated in 2010. Among its key organizers w ­ ere Mayra Oyuela, Lucy Argueta, and Samuel Trigueros. The exhibition included a published cata­logue, as well as nine postcards with photographic images by photog­raphers Ariel Sosa, Hugo Bautista, Irene Maradiaga, Paúl Carbajal, and Delmer Membreño, who was ­later captured, tortured, and forced into exile in Chile. The postcards w ­ ere intended to transport the artistic and testimonial images with a government postage stamp and seal, invoking the irony of a de facto government that denies its h ­ uman rights violations. Members of the collective financed the proj­ect themselves and traveled to San Pedro Sula, Trinidad, Copána, and Tocoa, where they mounted the exhibition and heard citizens’ reactions and personal testimonies of their own involvement and contributions to the re­sis­tance movement. Many identified the locations in the photo­graphs or recalled physically being t­ here in the moment captured, expressing their indignation. While the illegal coup and ­human rights abuses only made a small appearance in international news—­drowned out afterward by news and images from the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, and other public sites of protest around the world—­the violent repression continues in Honduras ­today. Some artists, who draw their income from other jobs, have been blacklisted professionally, and now the economic repression is unbearable. While they have taken a break from producing public manifestations in 8 2   •  k e n c y c o r n e j o

Tegucigalpa, Artistas en Resistencia members continue their artistic militancy by redirecting their energy and commitment into the solidification of a cultural movement. Some members continue to produce experimental artistic proposals, exhibitions, and programs that cater to the largest group of victims of vio­lence (­women and indigenous communities in rural areas). Some have opted for supporting the new po­liti­cal party Libertad y Refundación (libre). ­Others are working in city proj­ects with the intention of penetrating archaic systems by advocating an experimental artistic presence in city planning. Though less vis­ib ­ le in public streets, the consensus among its members is that Artistas en Resistencia was unpre­ce­dented in the history of Honduras, that it inspired o ­ thers to join the movement through the arts by placing an artistic identity at the forefront of re­sis­ tance, and most importantly, that the re­sis­tance is far from over. AN INTERVIEW WITH ARTISTAS EN RESISTENCIA,   SEPTEMBER 20, 2012 From Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo to the marches of the Zapatistas, the embodying of public spaces and the performative ele­ments of protest have created an influential visual archive in Latin American cultural history. The Honduran coup d’état of 2009 gave birth to a broader re­sis­tance movement and to the collective Artistas en Resistencia, which similarly utilizes public space as a site of protest and as a way to engage in multidisciplinary artistic practices. Artists in the collective actively opposed the coup on June 28, 2009, in which the former president of the Honduran National Council, Roberto Micheletti Bain, forcefully expelled President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales from the country, initiating a new phase of persecution and h ­ uman rights violations for Honduran citizens. With t­ oday’s new media technology, images are easily diffused into the most remote locations of the world. And yet, when the media are so fully u ­ nder the control of conservative governments and corporations, as is the case in Honduras, the most urgent images, demanding immediate international response, are easily purged from social consciousness. Artistas en Resistencia functioned as a re­sis­tance and cultural movement that also attempted to convey the po­liti­cal situation in Honduras to the world, a situation in which ­human rights violations and military repression echoed the still-vivid memories of the wave of vio­lence Central Amer­i­ca endured in the 1980s. The following is less a formal interview than a thread of multiple conversations. It offers a few perspectives by some of the collective’s most active members: the writer/poet Fabricio Estrada, whom I met in Costa A r t i s t a s e n R e s i s t e n c i a   •  8 3

Rica, where we participated in the regional Central American art conference Temas Centrales 2; the visual artists Lucy Argueta and Jorge Oquelí, two emerging con­temporary artists whose work I have been following; and Tito Ochoa, the renowned theater director whom I unexpectedly ran into on my way to Café Paradiso, where we met o ­ thers from the collective. At the time, Tegucigalpa had just inaugurated the Fourth Honduran Biennial and the country was approaching its first elections ­after the coup, creating an intense environment within the artistic and po­liti­cal realms. Lucy and Jorge ­were among the artists who participated in the biennial, while Fabricio had accepted candidacy for the newly formed po­liti­cal party Libertad y Refundación (libre), and was ­running as mayor of his hometown of Sabanagrande. Though the conversation took place on separate occasions within this time frame, all of the participants spoke of their experience in the collective, the repressive conditions u ­ nder which the collective functioned, the influence it had on themselves and the population in general, and the current state of Artistas en Resistencia. Though the subject was serious and their responses can be read as solemn, each conversation had a high level of energy, commitment, an air of reflective optimism—­and laughter. Fabricio Estrada Fabricio Estrada was born in Sabanagrande, Francisco Morazán, Honduras, on October  22, 1974. As a writer and poet his publications include, among ­others, Sextos de Lluvia (1998), Poemas contra el miedo (2001), Solares (2004), and Imposible un ángel (anthology, 2005). He has been recognized nationally and internationally. As a cultural promoter he became one of the leading figures in Artistas en Resistencia and a vocal advocate in communicating the experience of post-­coup repression to art and intellectual communities outside Honduran borders. From writer to photographer

They knew me as a poet. The coup d’etat led me to photography. I had just purchased a camera at a local store, the same day as the coup, and I used it for the first time in the m ­ iddle of a tussle. I d ­ idn’t even know how to use it. It’s this one right ­here [takes out his camera]. I take it out in the taxi, and the driver says, “This is as far as I’ll go! Th ­ ey’re killing p ­ eople ­here!” I stand watching the chaos; a crowd was r­ unning ­toward us, so I take it out and I start taking pictures at random without knowing how to use it. I took it out just when a police officer was getting ready to kill someone. And I do this [click], and it d ­ oesn’t work! So I start clicking away 8 4   •  k e n c y c o r n e j o

to capture all the movement. L ­ ater, I kept searching for other t­ hings to photo­graph. Now they know me as a photographer as well [laughs]. The ­thing is that I come from a lit­er­a­ture background, so what I have been able to do is operate as a cultural agent. I’ve been very involved in this movement. And now I’m a revolutionary. . . . ​I think I’m risking too much in this, in terms of believing in the pro­cess of creating a po­liti­cal party that ­will solve something. I’m not sure anymore, I’m not sure. . . . ​I’m ­going to take your picture now. . . . ​ On foreseeing the movement

We foresaw it, but we w ­ eren’t very aware that what was happening in Honduras was a ­matter of a cultural proto-­revolution, which ­little by ­little became more of a cultural revolution more than a po­liti­cal revolution. ­Because if it had been a po­liti­cal revolution the objectives would have been very clear, but for 170 days we d ­ idn’t know anything. What was happening was a change in signs, symbols, and codes: that famous change of a Gramsci-­esque common sense. Like Gramsci used to say, we needed to shake off common sense and begin another sense “in common,” not a common sense. On choosing to go into the streets

Notice that ­people wanted to convince the military by talking, but the military only responded with brutality and more brutality. And when citizens see that, fury takes over, not a po­liti­cal fury, but a more basic one. I remember seeing something that moved me, and I said, “No, I also have to go out into the streets.” It was the day of the coup. ­There was a row of soldiers approaching and another row of ­women hitting them in the face yelling, “­Idiots, what have you done?!” But the soldiers—­look at this—­ were quite the cipotes,1 army recruits of seventeen and eigh­teen years of age. It looked like their ­mothers ­were hitting them. When the high command saw that the crowds had no fear, it began to call in the special units. So the repression originated with special units confronting the insurgents, men who had a militaristic ideal and detested the public. You could see it in their f­ aces. In the streets, I managed to see t­ hese men who emitted such hatred against the civilians. On speaking out about the repression

Roberto Sosa, a poet, told me before the coup, “Look Fabricio, h ­ ere we the intellectuals and writers can say what­ever we want! We are so A r t i s t a s e n R e s i s t e n c i a   •  8 5

4.1.  ​“Los Monigotes del Golpe” (Paper dolls of the coup d’état) by Fabricio Estrada, July 2009, a proj­ect by Artista en Resistencia led by theater artists Susan Arteaga and Leonardo Montes de Oca. Figures represent the principal figures involved in the coup d’état. Courtesy Fabricio Estrada.

insignificant to ­those in power that they never take us seriously. Say what­ ever comes to your mind. H ­ ere it ­won’t make an impact, but outside it ­will!” I held onto that. . . . ​Tito Ochoa the dramatist told me, “Look, what we did in the ’80s to protect ourselves”—­because our dilemma was how to be activists while also surviving—­“was to show ourselves as much as pos­ si­ble. So that the ­people could see us as much as they could. That is g­ oing to be our protection. ­Because we ­were turning into crucial symbols of the strug­gle. They [the state] are not in a position to risk every­thing. They want to control it, it’s not that they want to destroy it. We have to understand that,” he said. They d ­ on’t want a genocide. They want to control. I connected to t­ hose two ideas very personally, and I deci­ded to participate in certain settings, together with other compatriots, to give pre­sen­ta­tions within t­ hese settings and to say every­thing pos­si­ble. We said every­thing we wanted to say, including “Death to Micheletti.” We said it, all right, and we scrawled it on the walls. But what Roberto Sosa said also proved to be true: “Traditional power is so arrogant that we can say thousands of 8 6   •  k e n c y c o r n e j o

t­ hings and nothing ­matters . . . ​­until ­we’re in power, ­until it’s real and we are operatives, ­we’re irrelevant to them.” On economic repression and the current response to Artistas   en Resistencia’s work

We artists become involved in a natu­ral way. Th ­ ere ­wasn’t a better moment than the period a­ fter the coup. But now we are in a terrible moment ­because of the government’s strategy of economic asphyxiation. I think poverty and every­thing ­else exists not b ­ ecause ­there is a lack of investment, but ­because the government created a system of collective asphyxiation. They increased some ser­vices and decreased o ­ thers. They have reassessed prices, discontinued products, created an artificial shortage, all combined with having encouraged a certain level of criminal delinquency, like a net, allowing them to capture whoever they wanted. And the murders. . . . ​ Obviously it affected the general population the most, the one in re­sis­ tance, the one who suffers from price increases for electricity, for ­water, for every­thing. So the public is in a pure state of survival, and not like on other occasions in the past. I mean, if before ­there was no horizon in sight, now ­there is an awareness that we are inside a well. At least I ­don’t see an escape, not how ­things are ­going now I ­don’t. The only escape is to light the spark for ­there to be a general insurrection. You have no idea how many artists have been brought ­here recently as part of the ­great cultural anesthesia efforts on the part of the government. ­People are sneaking in depoliticized reggaeton from e­ very corner. Most recently, Vicente Fernandez Jr. was brought ­here, and they again silenced the mara,2 by distracting them, when the mara was previously only attending concerts or­ga­nized by the Resistencia. If you could only see ­these ­things, the cultural combat between AenR and the government. On agreeing to run in the 2012 elections

My presence is an experiment. I’m ­here against all logic: I’m young, I’m an artist, I left my village, I’m returning to my village again, I’m an idealist. I’ll tell you every­thing that the government denies. Would you vote for me? Lucy Argueta Lucy Argueta, born in 1983 in Cane, La Paz, Honduras, is an emerging visual artist and educator who has represented Honduras in national and regional biennials. In addition to solo exhibitions (“Transfiguraciones,” A r t i s t a s e n R e s i s t e n c i a   •  8 7

2011), she has collaborated with other art collectives including Molotov (2009) and Lacrimógena (2005), and with individual artists such as Honduran Léster Rodríguez (2005) and Salvadoran Walterio Iraheta (2009). She also develops cultural proj­ects as director of Escuela Experimental de Arte y Capacitación Técnica (eat) in Tegucigalpa. The night before our conversation Lucy participated in the 2012 Honduran Biennial. From its inception, Lucy was among the most active members of Artistas en Resistencia. On life before and ­after the coup

Speaking about the po­liti­cal context, I can tell you that I think that it changed us. At least, my life in par­tic­u­lar ­isn’t the same as it was before the coup. Not at all. Not at all. And as an artist, it forced me to reground myself in terms of where I want to show my work and for what purpose. ­Because an artist also has the responsibility to respond to social contexts. On “Mermas,” her latest installation, exhibited in the 2012   Honduran Biennial

I deci­ded to produce a work that is oriented ­toward what happened ­after the coup. In the ’80s t­ here w ­ ere many disappearances h ­ ere in Honduras, and ­there always have been: ­people being dis­appeared and murdered. But ­after the coup every­thing became even more shameless! ­There’s so much killing of young girls [femicide] ­going on. It’s tremendous, the number of bodies we are finding! And they say, “They ­were gang members. They ­were this or the other,” and it’s not true! So I deci­ded to focus in this piece on familiarizing myself with p ­ eople not involved in the arts, like psychologists involved in proj­ects with individuals who had lost a ­family member in the coup. It was ­because of ­these real-­life experiences, ­because of all the news, and ­because of every­thing that has happened, that we created the Artistas en Resistencia collective. We ­were all receptive and open to having an impact within our middle-­class context, which is the biennial space, and to having our message be heard, so I began to work on this art piece. I deci­ded to contextualize it with what was happening. On artistic pro­cesses ­under state repression

I deci­ded to go to my village, since it’s such a delicate ­thing to work ­ ere: just imagine all the p h ­ eople you encounter, so many phony policemen and soldiers around. They see me taking pictures of mass graves—­hollow 8 8   •  k e n c y c o r n e j o

openings where they hide bodies—­and they say, “What’s g­ oing on h ­ ere?!” By my h ­ ouse, they said they found a clandestine cemetery of ­people who are unrecognizable. I paid two young men to dig me two-­meter holes that resemble mass graves, and then I went to a lot owned by an ­uncle and I started making clothes. I wanted to link the current situation with the context of the ’80s. I naturally made reference to that phrase: “history repeats itself.” I went to stores and bought ’80s clothes to connect the current killings to ­those times, and I started to throw the clothes into the graves. I closed them up completely and left the clothes t­ here for a month. I came back a month l­ater and extracted the articles of clothing as if they ­were archaeological artifacts. More than anything, t­ hese pieces are like an archaeological memory. ­These are now clothes bathed in organic ele­ments, born from the earth as well. It was a hard ­thing to do but in the end what ­matters is the action. The articles of clothing came out of the ground deteriorated. They w ­ ere no longer the same, and they ­were already used when I buried them; they ­weren’t new. I extracted them from the ground like a material artifact that became part of the installation, along with paper and plastic, just like they disinter the dead when they take them from a mass grave. And so ­there ­were four pieces of plastic in the shape of a body [body bags], and the articles of clothing ­were right ­there inside. I think this is what I’m most invested in, and what allowed me to experience the most power­ful catharsis, Kency, ­because of so much that I’m feeling inside and b ­ ecause of so much pain, and so much indignation . . . ​this piece has allowed me to feel that, you know? In the end, what you want is to be able to do something, to denounce. On the role of ­women and the liberating aspects of art   in the re­sis­tance movement

We had beautiful experiences in the beginning. We also knew that the immediate ideas that we w ­ ere seeing at the moment ­were linked directly to art, to art-­actions. ­There ­were also a lot of pintas, which kind of changed the aesthetic.3 ­There was a need to have a voice through words as well as a lot of per­for­mances. ­There w ­ ere many artists and feminists who performed numerous actions, and with a ­great deal of force! ­Because look, Kency, this d ­ oesn’t come from my being a ­woman, but this strug­gle was led by ­women. You would see in the streets that they ­were normal ­women, ­house­wives . . . ​look, I even get goose bumps! You c­ an’t imagine it. But we went out without r­ eally giving importance to w ­ hether or not we left our A r t i s t a s e n R e s i s t e n c i a   •  8 9

c­ hildren. Sometimes Léster would stay. The two of us had to go, but we also had to look out for our son, but it was good that we ­were in this. You have to understand it. A lot of ­women left their husbands, or they accompanied their husbands, or they went with their ­whole families to the protests. That was a r­ eally good ­thing. So I think part of putting on a concert, of denouncing, of reciting poetry—­poetry also had a lot of impact, we read a lot of Roque Dalton4—­was to operate through the vehicle of art, through culture. ­Because imagine that while experiencing so much stress, so much disgrace, so many dis­appeared, you ran into a friend and then ­later you realized that he’d been killed. It was a terrible, a frightening ­thing. So with art and with creating ­these platforms, you could liberate yourself a ­little. You could loosen ­those tensions a bit. ­People would go and get involved. Thus, Artistas en Resistencia was a support system, a very impor­tant support system, during the period of the coup. On the popu­lar response to Artistas en Resistencia and the need   for ­formation (formal organ­ization and professionalization)

The moment came, Kency, when p ­ eople liked what we w ­ ere ­doing so much that a new set of questions came to light. ­People said, “Are we ­going to have a demonstration or a march? You guys are coming, right? Are you ­going to set up the stage? Are you ­going to get artists? Which artists are you bringing?” L ­ ater ­there was a moment that proved fundamental, when we had to regroup ourselves. Did we r­ eally want to do this? W ­ ere we ­going to simply build scaffoldings, or w ­ ere we ­going to grow a l­ittle more as a group? And we deci­ded to go in the direction of formation. It’s one ­thing to go out and do t­ hings, but it’s another t­ hing to educate ourselves and build an organ­ization. It’s fundamental. So we started to have shows, po­ liti­cal workshops, po­liti­cal debates, and more forceful actions, more power­ ful, unlike at the beginning when we tried to calm and to mediate. It was more like guerrilla warfare. So we would go out at night sometimes and we carried out actions devised by other comrades. A comrade would say he had a plan. We would discuss who would do what, who would support what actions, who would document it. ­There are a lot of rec­ords of that activity too. On the current state of fear

In the end you realize that t­ here are a lot of fractures, and that ultimately you realize you d ­ on’t know how to do it. It’s like a porcelain figure that’s been broken: even if you glue it back together, it w ­ on’t be the same. 9 0   •  k e n c y c o r n e j o

And the same ­things keep happening, it’s terrible! Since the coup, nothing has changed. It’s still the same. Actually, it’s worse, especially with the youth, with the murders of ­women, it’s incredible. And drug dealing continues too, and it’s sparked so many other t­ hings, po­liti­cal ­things. ­Here ­there’s no freedom of expression or freedom of movement. We still ­don’t live, ­we’re in fear. You go out into the street, you go out with your friends, and it inspires fear in you. You c­ an’t trust the police, absolutely not. Not even the military. I mean, think of it this way: the military w ­ ere the ones who ­were in on the coup. So nothing changes, nothing has changed. Quite the opposite, actually. For t­ hose very same reasons we cannot be afraid. From ­every discipline, I think we can influence t­hings and we can start being part of ­these pro­cesses, and in the end only time ­will tell. But it’s our biggest responsibility. I’m a m ­ other too, I have a twelve-­year-­old son. We have a huge responsibility for the next generation—we are also young, of course we are—­but this generation that’s growing up now has lived through this as well. My son protested, he knows what a coup d’état is. He has a po­liti­cal awareness that I never had at his age. They told me stories about repression when I was a child, but it’s dif­fer­ent to live through it. On the continuity of Artistas en Resistencia

I think that anyone could say that Artistas en Resistencia was sparked by personal reasons. But Artistas en Resistencia—­and this needs to be clear—­formed ­because of the coup d’état, and it has operated in a certain way ­because of this fact. It was a proj­ect, a collective that has its origin in the coup, and it continues t­ oday, and it h ­ asn’t died. Every­one has continued practicing their own profession as best they can. The beautiful ­thing about Artistas en Resistencia is that ­people had a tremendous need to influence this pro­cess. They would say, “Well, I’m not an artist, but I can still be in it.” And so man­ag­ers, physicians, engineers, and ­people of ­every profession have joined. Tito Ochoa Tito Ochoa is a Honduran theater director who trained in Czecho­slo­va­ kia ­under Frantisek Stepanek. In Colombia he cofounded La Escuela de Arte Dramático de la Casa del Teatro Nacional, where he directed vari­ous theater productions, coordinated acting and theater-­directing workshops, and or­ga­nized theater festivals. In Honduras he founded Teatro Rascaniguas, served as director of La Escuela Nacional de Arte Dramático, and is currently president of La Asociación Cultural Memorias, identified as a A r t i s t a s e n R e s i s t e n c i a   •  9 1

proj­ect of Artistas en Resistencia. Ochoa directed guerrilla theater productions during manifestations developed by Artistas en Resistencia. On not compromising artistic quality

­There is this belief that the coup triggered the emergence of radical theater. No, what it accomplished was to make more vis­i­ble t­hose groups that had already existed for a very long time. But I do think that ­there has been growth and pressure from the community. We are a theater group that normally does stage per­for­mances in theaters, but we took it to the streets. We perform quite a lot in the streets—­and ­we’re a group from a professional theater that performs in theaters in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and El Salvador. But we ­can’t only think about theater in a formal auditorium. We have just performed three theatrical works out of our commitment to this cause. The impor­tant ­thing is that every­one comes, that we d ­ on’t make art just for t­ hose who already believe in the cause. Even t­ hose ­people who are against us come to see us, ­because what ­we’re ­doing has an aesthetic and artistic value, not just a po­liti­cal value. Personally, I think that when art is truly art then it’s always popu­lar art. Shakespeare, and Ariel Dorfman’s work, is popu­lar theater—­theater for the ­people. The prob­lem is that ­people ­don’t have access to that type of theater anymore. Our job is to provide that access. We know that artists are expressive beings against their own culture. [turns to Fabricio] It’s a ­little bit like what you ­were saying. I think that an artist has to elevate his art to the level of the ­people. Yes, b ­ ecause if we believe that ­we’re ­going to show something to the public, w ­ e’re actually very distanced from popu­lar knowledge. No, we have to begin from that knowledge and elevate our discourse to their level. Jorge Oquelí Jorge Oquelí is a visual artist born in 1974 in Comayagüela, Honduras, and is known for his work with sculptural objects and per­for­mance art. In addition to representing Honduras in national and regional biennials he has participated in the collective exhibitions “Momento Mori” in Lima, Peru (2010), “Identidades Centroamericanas” in Costa Rica (2009), and “Unión Utópica: Primera muestra de arte virtual centroamericano” in Managua and Costa Rica (2007), among o ­ thers. Jorge was deeply involved in creating and participating in per­for­mances and actions during manifestations for Artistas en Resistencia. 9 2   •  k e n c y c o r n e j o

On current artistic practices and strategies in Honduras

Well, ­there w ­ ere already impor­tant reverberations within the arts at the beginning of the ’90s. And that can be said to be an attitude of re­ sis­tance. But artistic practices have begun to take on another in­ter­est­ing shift lately. ­There’s a more conscious approach to public space, and ­toward ideas as well, and the coup was a breeding ground for this new attitude. ­There was already a lot of unease regarding public space, as well as other types of artistic practices. B ­ ecause look, in the public sphere, what has dominated is painting, and above all figurative painting. I’m not g­ oing to say anything negative about painting b ­ ecause, in Artistas en Resistencia, a lot of us come from the context of fine arts. Our origin is the fine arts: drawing, painting, ­etc. But this medium has been dominated by the market and ­there has been a figurative style of painting that, ­little by ­little, has left ­behind more in­ter­est­ing aesthetic, formal, or po­liti­cal positions. It is from new strategies that more in­ter­est­ing proposals can begin to emerge. For example, Artistas en Resistencia came into existence on exactly the same day as the coup. On identifying with artists and ideas

It happened at dawn. At nine in the morning t­ here was a collection of ­ eople who w p ­ ere in Tegucigalpa and in the municipalities within the surrounding areas. We w ­ ere already in front of the presidential h ­ ouse with a large gathering. It was something that began right ­there, in the exact moment of the coup. And from that moment it was something quite spontaneous and quite emotional, but it also gave life to a more coherent organ­ization. Artistas en Resistencia began to round up ­people from the realms of poetry, theater, m ­ usic, and visual arts. This was a milestone ­because never before had p ­ eople identified themselves so much with artists and their ideas. Even in the context of class strug­gle, when art has been discussed, it’s been argued that it accompanies ­these pro­cesses. In real­ity, it’s not like that. Art is thinking too, and it’s fundamental. The pro­cess of Artistas en Resistencia has opened up several spaces. Look, the coup generated an immediate identification for e­ very kind of artist to form this collective. In real­ity, it’s something very unpre­ce­dented and very impor­tant. Not to sound like I’m over-­exaggerating, but t­ here ­hasn’t been anything like this in the history of art in this country—­a moment in which artists came together in such a way—to take over the public sphere and form a po­liti­cal voice. And that has been an incredible accomplishment for artists. A r t i s t a s e n R e s i s t e n c i a   •  9 3

4.2.  ​The AenR event poster by Fabricio Estrada and graphic artist Henry Reyes from the   Unidad de Diseño Gráfico de Artista en Resistencia. October 2011. Courtesy Fabricio Estrada.

On the response from outside the capital, in the rural areas of Honduras

Well, the truth is that our collective has received a very warm welcome from ­people in the interior. One of the times where the ­whole collective was together was in Bajo Aguan, a very precarious zone b ­ ecause of conflict over land. We w ­ ere surprised that p ­ eople in the communities very honorably told us that, more than help (food or any type of necessity), they wanted to hear ­music, they wanted to hear poetry! To me this was something incredible ­because what they said is that ultimately they wanted to hold rituals. It seemed extraordinary to me ­because it suggests a need that goes far beyond searching for an ideal place in the world. And so we understood that that place in the world was imaginary. Yes, b ­ ecause beneath all this context ­there has been social mobilization as well. ­There has been strong activity, like the sects and rituals of Garifunas y Lencas, for example.5 That too has been very in­ter­est­ing: that in the midst of all that’s happened in the interior communities, something impor­tant emerged that had to do with artistic interventions, with poetry, and with this type of ritual. ­People actively participate, ­because in this construction of meaning, the public is fundamental. Without them, nothing could be created. ­Because what we gain, above every­thing, as I’ve said, is the imaginary. On artists, Artistas en Resistencia, and the continuity   of the artist in re­sis­tance

Artistas en Resistencia also generated a certain multiplier effect for some ­people who took critical positions t­oward the collective. Most of ­these criticisms ­were quite valid. For example, some would say, “Well, I ­don’t belong to that collective, but I am a re­sis­tance artist b ­ ecause I also take back the public sphere and I also have ­things to say.” ­These groups all shared the objective of exploring in­ter­est­ing, low-­cost strategies that ­were easily at hand. So it’s always t­ here. Not all of t­ hese actions had the same level of organ­ization as Artistas en Resistencia, like I’ve said, but the impulse is t­ here, and p ­ eople kept producing this kind of work. When social mobilization falls into place, the re­sis­tance artist has an impor­tant presence. Artistas en Resistencia is also interested in alternative forms of communication. It’s a collective that was derived from historians and sociologists, p ­ eople who also produce thought from within all of t­ hese activities and communities. ­There are ­people like Fabricio as well, who’s such a lucid voice. The same with Mayra. Th ­ ey’re very valuable comrades. I think that’s the real­ity of Artistas en Resistencia. A r t i s t a s e n R e s i s t e n c i a   •  9 5

On media manipulation of images from the repression

The actions of the media and its officials have been disgraceful. They are so biased that they ­will actually manipulate the photo­graphs they ­reproduce. It’s something that’s angered ­people h ­ ere a lot. One of the official newspapers, the most cynical one that has radicalized itself, removed the blood from the image of a murder scene of a boy from the re­sis­tance, Isis Obed.6 This angered every­one a lot ­because, although they tried to hide it, every­one found out about that boy’s blood. Therefore, the fact that the paper showed a bloodless image of him was something that offended a lot ­people. This repression of the truth has also affected radio and other alternative media as well. So it’s no coincidence that Radio Globo, for example, or Radio Walcho, mediums that w ­ ere previously ignored but have maintained a somewhat dignified position, have had a significant impact on p ­ eople. On where the situation may go

­There’s a po­liti­cal maturity among the ­people nowadays that w ­ asn’t t­here before, and that’s something that we must feel very proud of. And ­there are a lot of attitudes and a lot of spaces in which t­ hey’re again initiating impor­tant conversations. And art is one of them; like the conversations that the Garifunas and the Lencas are having. Like I was saying before, the collectives of thinkers or the feminist movements, and the space that has been won over in the po­liti­cal realm, ­there’s a lot of potential ­there. Yet we also c­ an’t ignore the fact that the f­ uture perspectives are uncertain. It’s not as s­ imple as t­here being medium-­term or long-­term projections, ­because we also live in very volatile conditions. Vio­lence, impunity . . . ​­because with the coup ­there ­were also ­people from or­ga­nized crime that positioned themselves within the structure of power. I ­don’t ­really know what perspectives or forces exist to oppose all ­those ­things. But t­ here is a w ­ hole repressive imaginary and t­ here are forces that oppose all of that. This too is a real­ity. Notes 1 Cipotes is a word in common usage in Central Amer­i­ca that means “­children” or a young boy or girl. 2 Mara refers to a “group of ­people” or, in some contexts, a “gang.” 3 Pintas are graffiti-­style signs and art on public walls. 4 Roque Dalton was a Salvadoran poet and revolutionary, assassinated in 1975. 5 Garifunas are Afro-­descendant ­peoples living along the Ca­rib­bean coast of Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Belize. Along with Garifuna communi9 6   •  k e n c y c o r n e j o

ties, members of the indigenous Lenca community (mainly living in Honduras and El Salvador) ­were among ­those most affected by the coup d’état in Honduras, with the threat of removal from, or militarization of, their lands. 6 The nineteen-­year-­old Isis Obed Murillo was assassinated with a bullet in the neck by military soldiers as he, along with thousands of ­others, waited at the airport for the attempted return of the former president, Manuel Zelaya. Murillo became one of the first victims of the Micheletti-­led repression following the coup.

A r t i s t a s e n R e s i s t e n c i a   •  9 7

A Long Way


Argentine Artistic Activism of the Last De­cades ana longoni translation by fabian cereijido

The articulation of po­liti­cal action and artistic practice has a long history in Argentina, dating at least as far back as the late nineteenth ­century. Far from unproblematic and peaceful, the combination has been marked by tensions, discrepancies, utopian propositions, public controversies, and secret alliances. Some of ­these episodes have been repeatedly revisited in the last few years, particularly the confluence of the artistic avant-­ garde and po­liti­cal radicalization that generated the vertiginous “1968 Itinerary”1 culminating in the collective work “Tucumán Arde” and the visual politics of the h ­ uman rights groups of the 1980s, particularly the Siluetazo—­the massive production of silhouettes in the Plaza de Mayo in the last years of the final dictatorship, to give presence to the absence of thirty thousand desaparecidos.2 The ­great documentary and interpretive density generated around t­ hese few creative instances contrasts with the scarce attention paid to other moments that undoubtedly shed light on the meandering nature of this confluence, and on the many modes in which mutual overflows and contaminations have redefined both artistic and po­liti­cal practices. I ­will concern myself ­here with examples that have taken place between the 1980s and the pres­ent, and are less familiar than Tucumán Arde and the Siluetazo, in order to underscore the vitality and scope of artistic activism in Argentina. I group ­under this denomination

(which I recognize as polemic) actions and productions (very often collective in nature) that use artistic means to take a stand and influence in some way the po­liti­cal realm. Between Terror and Revelry One Sunday in 1982, during mass at the cathedral of the city of Rosario, several strange ­things happened. A few meters from the altar, a man looked through binoculars at the officiating priest. Another man was propelling himself at ­great speed around the church in a wheelchair, asking for alms at the top of his lungs. A person in the confessional was loudly describing how he had just masturbated. Fi­nally, one of the congregants lined up to receive communion, and when it was his turn, he threw up on the priest. This bit of chaos disrupting the regulated normativity of a key ceremony in a Catholic church was one of the disconcerting interventions of the group Cucaño. It was created during the last military dictatorship in Argentina (1976–83). This daring group veered away from standard forms of po­liti­ cal denunciation to implement actions that, at a micro level, disrupted the reigning institutional terror. In this case they w ­ ere subverting the public ceremonies of an institution whose leaders had openly supported the repression. Let’s use this anecdote as the introduction to a largely understudied chapter of Argentine artistic activism. Despite the governing terror, ­those years saw the emergence of a series of artistic collectives that surreptitiously subverted the country’s everyday institutional “normalcy.” In the midst of a hard, dictatorial, repressive order, and l­ater on in the midst of the first celebratory transitional years of democracy, t­ here was an upsurge of collective poetic-­political initiatives (visual, graphic, musical, literary, and performance-­based) such as gastar (Grupo de Arte Socialista–­Taller de Arte Revolucionario) (Group of Socialist Art–­Revolutionary Art Workshop), which then became CAPaTaCo (Colectivo de Arte Participativo–­ Tarifa Común) (Participative Art Collective–­Single Price), which operated in Buenos Aires between 1980 and 1991; the tit (Taller de Investigación Teatral) (Theater Research Workshop) and the tim (Taller de Investigación Musical) (Musical Research Workshop), also operating in Buenos Aires, from 1978 on; and the Grupo de Arte Experimental Cucaño (Experimental Art Group Cucaño), which worked in the city of Rosario between 1979 and 1983. ­These are experiences that have been ignored by the existing po­liti­ cal and artistic historical narratives of the period. Their preferred field A L o n g W ay   •   9 9

of action was the street. They first implemented isolated, daring actions and, as the end of the dictatorship neared, their work was incorporated into the massive demonstrations or­ga­nized by local ­human rights groups. ­These groups also intervened in social conflicts and made international (or we should say internationalist) alliances. Concretely, I am referring to the participatory actions that gastar/CAPaTaCo implemented jointly with the Frente por los Derechos Humanos (­Human Rights Front), a group of young militants who supported the Madres.3 ­These included a candlelight vigil in support of the opposition to the dictatorship of Pinochet in Chile (“Vela x Chile” or “Candle for Chile,” in 1986 and 1987) and a massive bicycle tour around Buenos Aires, which included periodic pauses for dif­fer­ ent per­for­mances in solidarity with the Chinese students of Tian­anmen Square (“Bicicletas a la China” or “Bicycles for China,” in 1989) in what they described as a form of “ready-­made social.” Betting on the viability of small territories of freedom that defied, by their mere existence, the annihilation of public space, ­these collectives generated opportunities for street-­level participatory action and contributed to the massive countercultural activity brewing in the “underground” of Buenos Aires (which included actions/groups such as the Parakultural, Babilonia, and Mediomundo Varieté). Some of the collective actions ­were articulated (in an informal, noninstitutional manner, though tensions w ­ ere not uncommon) with the actions of ­human rights groups that led the antidictatorial movement (particularly the Madres de Plaza de Mayo) and with certain po­liti­cal organ­izations (particularly the Trotsky-­leaning Partido Socialista de los Trabajadores). We cannot think of ­these alliances in conventional terms. ­These groups created experimental, symbolic resources that went far beyond the conventional illustrations that politics (particularly the traditional left) commonly expects from art. Rather, we should think about the militancy practiced by artists within t­ hese activist collectives as following the complex imaginary expressed by the 1938 manifesto written in Mexico by Leon Trotsky and André Breton, which asked for “all freedom(s) for Art.” This is something quite dif­fer­ent from a “po­liti­cal art” marked by an illustrative subordination of the image to the po­liti­cal letter or by realistic figurative work in which the po­liti­cal component is reduced to a mere question of content. It is impor­tant to underscore the Surrealist genealogy and experimental tendencies of t­ hese practices. It is also impor­tant to stress the common interest many of ­these collectives had in printmaking as a socializing medium. This tactic connects them to the long-­standing 1 0 0   •  a n a l o n g o n i

leftist tradition (starting in the nineteenth c­ entury) of challenging the limited circulation and conditions of reception found in media such as oil painting, for example, and privileging the reproducibility and accessibility of the graphic print. If the dictatorship was successful in repressing bodies by annihilation, torture, and ­legal and illegal imprisonment, while also restraining education, the mass media, and everyday life, ­there ­were, nonetheless, survival strategies—­like the ones devised by ­these activist artists—­that it c­ ouldn’t entirely control. Th ­ ese ­were responses to or reactions against depression, fear, and despair that had spontaneous, unconnected origins but that ­little by ­little found articulation in the youthful underground of rock, alternative theater, magazines with secret circulation, and so on. In the ­middle of a tragic situation, dancing and enjoying the com­pany of ­others can be experienced as a po­liti­cal act of tremendous disruptive potency. This is what Indio Solari, the singer and leader of the rock group Los Redonditos de Ricota, had in mind when he declared that his m ­ usic attempted to preserve the mood that had been trampled by terror. At this time, in ­these marginal spaces, the very experience of participating in a rock concert started to change: where before the spectators had remained in their seats, now they ­were called upon to be active participants, to move, to transform themselves in the presence of ­others. The body in ­these situations was perceived as a site for po­liti­cal insubordination; the internalized, normalizing disciplinary regimes that had been “made flesh” w ­ ere challenged. Th ­ ese experiences questioned a disciplinary order that had penetrated deeply and had s­ haped subjectivities. The undisciplining of the bodies was expressed in terms of sexual dissent, which was also po­liti­cal dissent, which questioned the gendered assignment of heteronormativity, and even some of the constraints of “homonormative” be­hav­ ior. Dancing bodies in motion, cross-­dressed bodies, unpredictable bodies collectively dancing without guidelines, the party and the costume caused transformations in the body that dismantled any stable identity. This is what the artist Roberto Jacoby called the “strategy of joy,” born during the dictatorship and extending into the years of demo­cratic transition.4 The festive configured a marginal (or anti-­institutional, or self-­managed) space in which to meet, produce, and circulate art, and to create a “dancing museum” (as the CAPaTaCo group used to call them). It was an expression of new forms of socialization and reclamation, where the strug­gle for ­human rights that had arisen during the dictatorship converged with new existential pathways involving experimentation with drugs, the aesthetic A L o n g W ay   •   1 0 1

exploration of corporeality, and new forms of sexuality. New subjective realities that seemed not to be included in the official transition t­ oward democracy began to take form, setting in motion a zone of countercultural and underground activity that played a key role during the 1980s. Escraches On a day like any other day in 1996, somewhere in Buenos Aires, a group of young p ­ eople is engaged in conversation with neighbors while pasting up posters on the walls. The posters feature the face of a man who lives in the area, his exact address, and his rec­ord: the man is a military criminal implicated in numerous cases of illegal detention, torture, and “disappearances.” He has been in charge of one of the more than five hundred secret detention and extermination centers that existed in Argentina during the last dictatorship. He is ­free thanks to the so-­called P ­ ardon Laws (Leyes del Perdon) and acquittals granted by successive demo­cratic administrations. The young men and ­women invite this man’s neighbors to collectively expose (escrachar, Argentine vernacular for pointing out, bringing to light, exposing) his place of residency some days ­later. “If ­there is no justice, ­there is escrache” was the ­battle cry of hijos (Hijos por la Identidad y la Justicia contra el Olvido y el Silencio) (Sons and ­Daughters for Identity and Justice against Forgetting and Silence). The group was formed in 1996 by sons and ­daughters of detained-­desaparecidos during the last dictatorship, many of whom w ­ ere entering adulthood around this time. ­There w ­ ere a number of groups active in the 1990s that promoted street action and interventions in public space, in opposition to the general cultural trend at the time ­toward individualism and withdrawal to the private domain. ­These included En Trámite (In Pro­cess) (Rosario), Costuras Urbanas (Urban Stitches) y las Chicas del Chancho y el Corpiño (The Girls of the Pig and the Brassier) (Córdoba), Escombros (Garbage) (La Plata), Maratón Marote (Marathon Head), Por el Ojo (Through the Eye), 4 para el 2000 (4 for the 2000), La Mutual Argentina (the Argentine Cooperative Association), and Zucoa No Es (It Is Not Zucoa) (Buenos Aires). Two collectives from t­ hose years, the gac (Grupo de Arte Callejero) (Street Art Group) and Etcétera (renamed Internacional Errorista in 2005) are still active ­today, a dozen years l­ater. The gac and Etcétera gave a defined visual and performative identity to the escraches, the direct-­action modality in­ven­ted by hijos that helped revive the strug­gle for ­human rights by challenging the impunity of torturers associated with the junta, who ­were 1 0 2   •  a n a l o n g o n i

immune from judicial indictment, through stirring up public exposure of their crimes. hijos learned much from the Madres de Plaza de Mayo. From the very beginning the Madres a­ dopted symbolic resources that identified them, enhanced their cohesion as a group, and made them and their cause vis­ib ­ le to other relatives of desaparecidos, to the rest of Argentine society, to the foreign press, and to the international community. But unlike the marches of the Madres that have taken place ­every Thursday since 1977—­a walk around the central monument within the Plaza de Mayo, the symbolic center of the country’s capital, surrounded by buildings that represent the po­liti­cal, religious, and economic power of the nation—­the escraches constitute a delocalized and dispersed practice. They could take place at any time, anywhere an unpunished war criminal happened to reside (“wherever they are we w ­ ill find them” was a common chant in h ­ uman rights demonstrations). In addition, if the symbolic strategy of the Madres was designed to give visibility to the victims of the dictatorship (particularly to the desaparecidos who ­were perversely unacknowledged by the juntas), hijos concentrated instead on exposing the perpetrators and promoting popu­lar indictments. The gac was founded by students of the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes Prilidiano Pueyrredón who had painted anonymous murals while dressed in traditional public school white coats in support of a prolonged teachers’ strike, while the members of Etcétera define themselves as Surrealists, self-­taught and connected to the underground theater scene.5 Despite their dif­fer­ent origins, the gac and Etcétera converged in many actions, especially around their shared collaboration with hijos. From 1998 on, the gac generated the graphics for the escraches. Typical of their productions are the altered street signs made with the typography, color, and placement of the official transit signage of the city, so that for the unaware passerby they could blend right in. The signs made by the gac (which ­were never signed or attributed so as to invite their appropriation, proliferation, and circulation) ­were placed in the urban landscape to make evident, for example, the proximity of a clandestine detention center, the airstrip from which the “death flights” departed, or the site of a hidden maternity ward. Their anonymous cartographic production “Genocides Live ­Here,” a map of Buenos Aires with the precise locations of the residencies of more than one hundred war criminals, was plastered all around the city for the twenty-­fifth anniversary of the military coup of 1976. The signs make A L o n g W ay   •   1 0 3

5.1.  ​Etcétera, Mierdazo, Buenos Aires, 2002. Courtesy Archivo Etcétera.

evident the enduring relevance of their cause: a quarter c­entury ­later, ­those who had ordered and executed the genocide w ­ ere living among us, their identities and rec­ords all but forgotten. The gac defines its production as a specific kind of militancy, “a group of ­people trying to have a po­liti­cal militancy through art . . . ​we d ­ on’t think politics necessarily need to be practiced through conventional means.”6 Neither politics as subject, content, or external reference, as in so-­called “po­liti­cal art,” nor the aestheticization of politics, their work seeks to create “a space where art and politics can be part of a single mechanism of production.” Devising and conferring value to “works of art” is antithetical to the gac’s convictions. They produce ephemeral, multiple (many times anonymous) graphic resources and experiences (stencils, signs, surveys) that can be appropriated and circulated by ­others. The gac is clear and explicit regarding this aspect: “we rarely include signatures in our production . . . ​most of our output is anonymous, which stresses the ambiguity of its origin . . . ​we encourage the reappropriation of our works and methodologies by groups and individuals who share our general goals.”7 Etcétera added its grotesque per­for­mances to the escraches. They used large dummies, masks, and costumes for per­for­mances given at the end of each escrache (right outside the homes of war criminals) that repre1 0 4   •  a n a l o n g o n i

sented torture, clandestine childbirths, and the subsequent appropriation of babies by the military; vignettes of military officers confessing to co-­conspiring priests; and a soccer match in which Argentines played against Argentines (an allusion to the 1978 World Cup in Argentina ­under the first junta). According to Etcétera, t­ hese per­for­mances ­were first introduced as decoys to distract the police deployed to protect residences from the defacing actions of the demonstrators. The carnival was a diversion that made it easier for ­others to land their red paint balloons (marking the targeted ­house) from a better ­angle. At the beginning, the gac’s street signs and the per­for­mances of Etcétera ­were invisible as “art actions” within the art world, while at the same time they provided the escraches with an identity and social visibility that helped them become a new and potent form of strug­gle against impunity and injustice. The creative and carnival-­like dimension of ­these actions coincided with similar protest forms used at the time by many groups around the world, starting with the Zapatistas in Chiapas in 1995 and a ­little ­later the anti-­wto demonstrations in Seattle in 1999. The escraches contributed to the formation of a collective, festive body that made pos­si­ble the invention of new forms of po­liti­cal action. 2001 and Beyond Between the social explosion of 2001 and the election of Néstor Kirchner in 2003, Argentina endured a period of unpre­ce­dented institutional instability, permanent agitation in the streets, and the emergence of what came to be called “new social protagonisms.” In the heat of the revolt, on December 19 and 20, 2001, when a state of siege was declared, President Fernando de la Rúa resigned while harsh repression killed thirty-­five ­people. New forms of intervention developed in close connection with the po­liti­cal events and social movements of the time, with the intention of transforming life in Argentina: popu­lar assemblies, sit-­ins, and blocked roads; factory takeovers by workers; marches by the unemployed; barter markets and swap meets. Groups such as the Taller Popu­lar de Serigrafía (tps), Argentina Arde (Argentina Is Burning, l­ater Arde! Arte) and many ­others ­were formed, signaling the reemergence of artistic activism. Th ­ ese groups ­were challenged by the appearance of new collective subjects that vociferously called for radical changes in the po­liti­cal system with the chant “¡Que se vayan todos!” (“May all of them leave!” i.e., all the corrupt leaders from across the po­liti­cal spectrum). In this climate, new forms of social and cultural militancy flourished with the widespread participation A L o n g W ay   •   1 0 5

of art collectives, film and video makers, poets, alternative journalists, and thinkers. Many artists joined the improvised associations (neighborhood councils, unemployed workers associations, peasant movements, e­tc.). They felt interpellated by this climate in which the very idea of po­liti­cal praxis was reevaluated and transformed, and rearticulated their artistic practices in the context of a revitalized social praxis. Some of ­these groups had an ephemeral and circumstantial life span and some persisted, like the tps and Argentina Arde. The tps was born out of an initiative by the artists Mariela Scafati and Diego Posadas in the Asamblea Popu­lar (Popu­lar Assembly) of the San Telmo neighborhood of Buenos Aires in February  2002 (they wanted to teach serigraphy, to socialize this skill). Soon they ­were producing posters promoting demonstrations, and then, in a spontaneous aleatory way, their serigraphic images began to be printed on articles of clothing (T-­shirts, bandanas, banners, sweaters, “what­ever ­people wear and take off by amorous demand”) at demonstrations and po­liti­cal gatherings, particularly at ­those or­ga­nized by the Piquetero movement.8 By printing on clothes that ­people ­were actually wearing, they expanded and activated the circulation of their images and po­liti­cal messages. For each occasion, they generated a battery of direct, even obvious images and phrases that reflected the cause and emotional tenor of the specific action. The tps “attempts to provide the po­liti­cal movement with an image that identifies the place and the time of the action.” It bases its strategy on person-­to-­person interchanges, between the hand that prints and the hand that offers its T-­shirt. Argentina Arde, like the historical action its name pays homage to, centers on counter-­information. Its inception happened in the heat of the 2001 crises, in relation to a general call by Indymedia to every­one who was documenting the developments to help ­counter the disinformation coming from the mass media. “They piss on us and Clarin says it’s raining” (nos mean y Clarin dice que llueve), claimed a recurrent graffito of the time, in reference to the reporting in the largest circulating newspaper. Argentina Arde operated like a permanent assembly, one more of the dozens of neighborhood asambleas that flourished in t­ hose days. The collective had more than a hundred members, with groups dedicated to video, photography, journalism, and cultural activism. The activist artistic practices developed at this time included every­ thing from conventional media presented in aty­pi­cal spaces (easel paintings hanging from trees at a public plaza in support of female workers who 1 0 6   •  a n a l o n g o n i

had occupied and reopened the Brukman textile factory in 2003) to experimental performative actions and urban graphic interventions (on the ground, on walls, posters, clothing, and banners); from wall paintings in the style of the traditional Latin American murals to massive exhibitions at institutional sites. The repertory of languages and practices was very wide, engaging dif­fer­ent traditions of so-­called “po­liti­cal art,” from references to social realism to the reactivation of the historical avant-­garde, to the critical experimentation of the 1960s. Most of ­these artists (grouped in collectives more often than not) brought their interventions to the public space. They operated during demonstrations; they took over city walls, billboards, and streets. They addressed and questioned casual audiences consisting primarily of ­people who ­were unaware of the artistic nature of ­these irruptions in their daily lives, often eliciting interest, humor, or puzzlement. The subversive use of large-­scale media (advertising, urban graphics, posters) along with the newer generation of alternative communications became common and habitual in the new modalities of protest. Also common ­were the attempts to radically reappropriate public space through the socialization of art (which implied rethinking the production and circulation of art’s very specific kind of knowledge). In all of t­ hese actions the engagement of the community (be it a group of passersby or a group of demonstrators) is provoked, so that it becomes an activator and participant in the work. In some instances, hundreds of ­people became collective art producers, participating in the emergence of transformed subjectivities by implicating their bodies in t­hese actions, as well as in the use and circulation of produced images. Many times the “artistic” origin of the practice became unclear, or was ignored, as the resources brought by the collectives ­were appropriated and resignified by the masses. ­These collective initiatives develop through a pro­cess of rethinking, questioning, and reformulating the legitimacy of traditional forms of repre­sen­ta­tion, both in politics and in art. They also consider their own complex position within the institutional cir­cuits of the art world, as well as within the social and the po­liti­cal realm. They have chosen to (self) analyze how their practices relate to the social and po­liti­cal movements within which they are inscribed, the strategies they can implement to best address their demands, and the specific contributions they can make. Furthermore, they are engaged in debates regarding horizontal forms of collective organ­izing, new ways of thinking about art, and alternative forms of exhibition practice. A L o n g W ay   •   1 0 7

We Are All López Who is López? Julio Jorge López was a construction worker in his late seventies who had survived the state-­sponsored terrorism of the last dictatorship. He “dis­appeared” between 1976 and 1978, and was one of the few desaparecidos who did, eventually, reappear. He had been associated with the leftist Peronist militant groups of his neighborhood, Los Hornos, in the outskirts of the city of La Plata. He had been abducted together with some of his fellow militants and had been tortured and detained in three dif­f er­ent clandestine detention centers belonging to the police of the Buenos Aires province. Disregarding his captors’ threats (in the Juicio de la Verdad he testified: “the captors did not say anything ­else . . . ​the only ­thing they told me was shut your mouth and d ­ on’t say anything a­ fter you are freed . . . ​or you too ­will get it), he deci­ded to testify. He implicated more than sixty military men, only ten of whom are ­behind bars t­ oday. He was a key witness in the trial that indicted Miguel Etchecolatz, a se­nior police officer famous for his prominent role in the repression. A day ­after his testimony, on September 18, 2006, in a sinister act of vengeance that made evident the per­sis­tent power and presence of the repressive forces in Argentina (which remain active and intact within the police), Julio Jorge López dis­appeared again, as he traveled from his home in Los Hornos to the court­house in La Plata. ­After a series of false starts, suspensions, and indecisions, the investigation into his disappearance stalled and was eventually suspended. Currently, the case does not have an assigned judge, t­ here is no po­liti­cal ­will to resolve it, and the issue is immersed in an atrocious silence. The mass media scarcely mention López. In opposition to this state of affairs, many artists and collectives over the last years have maintained a steady stream of actions and interventions to keep the second disappearance of López from sinking into oblivion. Among the many actions originating in La Plata, I ­will refer to one by a group that defines itself as a “grupo de arte y accion politica” (group of art and po­liti­cal action), formed by no fewer than twelve w ­ omen, the Colectivo Siempre (the Forever Collective). “We are p ­ eople from the world of dance, or close to the world of dance, and we work together with theater ­people and even with visual arts folks who help us define t­ hose aspects.” In what was to be their first group action, they came up with an idea for the demonstrations marking the first anniversary of López’s second disappearance on March 18, 2007. It was a complex, participatory intervention that involved spatial displacements, 1 0 8   •  a n a l o n g o n i

sounds, and movement by t­ hose in the demonstration who wanted to participate. The group prepared two hundred masks/banners with the face of López and question marks. Their massive e-­mail campaign asked ­people to wear black or white to the demonstration, which was to take place at the Plaza Moreno, a large square in the center of La Plata, flanked by City Hall and the cathedral. “We went ­there with the two hundred masks without knowing what was g­ oing to happen. I remember the emotion we felt when we saw the ­people arriving at the plaza dressed like we had asked.”9 Each of the hundreds of volunteer participants took a mask/banner and joined one of the four groups gathered at each corner of the plaza. At the appointed hour they all started to walk slowly ­toward the center of the square, and then together moved in the direction of City Hall, in front of which they planted the mask/banners. The action of Colectivo Siempre altered that demonstration (and the ones to come) in several ways: it generated visual and performative devices that w ­ ere appropriated and used subsequently, it attracted a larger number of p ­ eople, and it disrupted the habitual shape and rhythm of the demonstration itself, opening it to new possibilities. From that day forward the mask/banner became a key symbol in new marches for Julio López. P ­ eople kept them and brought them to each new demonstration, but they also took them to the theater, and they dragged them to school and to any public event. From time to time they could be seen, like unexpected guests, in the background of random photo­graphs in the newspaper, standing ­behind interviewed officials. The second disappearance of Julio López also affected the artist Hugo Vidal, who since the incident has concentrated on advocating López’s cause and calling us to action. He printed and handed out business cards with the word llamame (call me), the name Jorge Julio López, and the date of López’s disappearance instead of a phone number. He also issues, year ­after year, his “calendars of absence,” which have empty pages in lieu of days and months. Instead of providing temporal guidance, they question us with a blunt, recurrent inquiry: how many days have we been without López? Th ­ ese calendars are posted in public places and are also handed out. In addition, Vidal designed a label that alters, in a subtle and almost imperceptible way, ­bottles of the classic López wine, produced by the winery of the same name with the words aparicion con vida de Julio. Three years ago Vidal began secretly altering the b ­ ottles on supermarket shelves without taking them out of commercial circulation, and has personally offered modified ­bottles at art openings. To have a toast with López wine now has a disturbing po­liti­cal feel. A L o n g W ay   •   1 0 9

In a similar vein, the activist artist Leo Ramos has produced several graphic and sound-­based interventions about López around the Casa por la Memoria (House of Memory), the Museo de Medios de Comunicación (Museum of Communicative Media), and the local chapter of hijos in his city, Resistencia (province of Chaco), one of the poorest in Argentina. In September 2009, on the third anniversary of López’s demise, Ramos created an intervention called “Donde Está?” (Where Is He?), which consisted of life-­sized images of López’s emblematic face placed on the win­dows of public buses at the height of the passengers’ heads. Since López’s disappearance, the court­house of La Plata has kept a symbolic empty chair during the proceedings of the Juicio de la Verdad. In this case the seat on the bus is symbolically taken by López. Passengers in their everyday routines are pressed into contemplation by this phantasmal presence. The spaces where t­ hese interventions occur are at the same time unexpected and ordinary: the street, the supermarket, and sites of public transportation. The idea is to reach and catalyze a much wider public than the one found within the art world. ­ oday T In recent years, as the need or demand for street demonstrations has lessened, some groups dissolved and ­others opted for introspection and withdrawal. At the same time, new forms of artistic activism have appeared, such as Mujeres Públicas (Public ­Women), a group that took the cause of ­legal abortion to the streets and altered common perceptions of the feminist movement in Argentina, Iconoclasistas, whose complex cartographic studies circulate and are appropriated around the world; La Movida del Diablo, which formed the night the universal marriage law was approved, making Argentina the first country in Latin Amer­i­ca to have ­legal same-­ sex marriage; Luli, a group that implemented several graphic and urban interventions in the city of La Plata to denounce police repression; and many more. The history and influence of ­these art activists are evident in the more recent practices of po­liti­cal groups and in popu­lar culture more generally. It is noteworthy that the “creative dimension” has been incorporated into a wide range of social protests, and is evident in the upsurge of spontaneous, anonymous graphic practices (stencils, signs, interventions on conventional graphic ads, ­etc.) that one can find everywhere. ­These are not sophisticated elaborations based on hermetic rhe­toric, but rather easily appropriated resources, reproducible actions, common types of knowledge. Th ­ ese are reused ideas, sometimes foreseeable and 1 1 0   •  a n a l o n g o n i

trite. Their “artistic” qualities in terms of originality, authorship, and con­ temporary critical debates are of ­little or no relevance. It might seem paradoxical that in May 2010, as part of the bicentennial cele­bration of Argentina’s in­de­pen­dence from Spain, the gac (together with renowned artists like León Ferrari, Marcos López, Mondongo, and Graciela Sacco) was officially invited to design one of the public gateways leading to the site of the massive week-­long cele­bration. This is clearly a dif­fer­ent historical moment than that of the 1990s. With only a few days left before the end of the de­cade, members of hijos (the ­children of the dis­appeared) emotionally embraced the Madres (the ­mothers of the dis­appeared) and other survivors of the repression. Meanwhile in court, many of the war criminals who had been pardoned or had never even been prosecuted have been given life sentences to be served in common jails. We have come to this point only ­after a very long and difficult journey. Notes 1 This itinerary is reconstructed in Ana Longoni and Mariano Mestman, Del Di Tella a Tucumán Arde (Buenos Aires: El Cielo por Asalto, 2000). The first edition is out of print. The second edition was published in 2008 by Eudeba. 2 See the anthology El Siluetazo, edited by Ana Longoni and Gustavo Bruzzone (Buenos Aires: Adriana Hidalgo Editora, 2007). 3 Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo (­Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo). 4 Roberto Jacoby, “La alegría como estrategia,” in Roberto Jacoby, El deseo nace del derrumbe (Barcelona: La Central et al., 2011), pp. 410–12. 5 For a complete history of the group see gac, Pensamientos Prácticas Acciones (Buenos Aires: Tinta Limón, 2009). This book contains a sort of open archive or toolbox, a polyphonic account of the group’s history. 6 gac testimony at a meeting of collective art groups held in Tatlin, Buenos Aires, January 2003, and published as Multiplicidad (Buenos Aires: Malba-­ Proyecto Venus, 2003), unpaginated. 7 gac, Pensamientos Prácticas Acciones, cited above. 8 Statement of Taller Popu­lar de Serigrafía, Buenos Aires, 2002. 9 Interview by the author with Colectivo Siempre, La Plata, May 2009.

A L o n g W ay   •   1 1 1

This page intentionally left blank

Part II Urbanism

The five essays and interviews in the Urbanism section are centered on art practices that address conditions of urban crisis. Scholars often cite the financial meltdown of the early 2000s as a catalyst for many of the subsequent activist, urban-­centered proj­ects in Latin Amer­i­ca, and the artists in this chapter deal with a variety of social issues ranging from racism to police vio­lence to gentrification and housing shortages. Nevertheless, the financial collapse and the challenges presented by the rapid growth of Latin American cities over the past half c­ entury are only part of the story. Biennials and other cultural festivals have proliferated as well in recent years and have begun to support art-­making in “alternative” public spaces. Access to technology, the Internet, and other information technologies have allowed artists to open their practices to larger communities and cross-­disciplinary dialogues, which in turn has allowed for radical knowledge-­building, disciplinary experimentation, and collaborations not foreseeable a few de­cades ago. The artists in this section have chosen to take an active, community-­driven approach to their practices, as well as their analy­sis of the urban environment. The members of the BijaRi collective met over ten years ago as architecture students at the University of São Paolo. That urban studies orientation marks all facets of their work, from public space video and m ­ usic installations to in-­depth collaborative

studies of gentrification issues within the city. For this book, Mariola Alvarez interviews BijaRi about how their work has changed over the past de­cade and their continuing interest in critically examining urban living conditions through the use of art and media. BijaRi often collaborates with another collective from São Paolo, Frente 3 de Fevereiro, whose critical investigation of racism in Brazil took shape ­after a series of high-­profile, racially motivated incidents—­and the wild media-­fueled speculations that followed—­forced the group to consider the institutional roots of racism in Brazil.1 Their 2007 film entitled Zumbi Somos Nos is a historical and critical investigation into t­ hese topics, featuring the collective’s actions, per­for­mances, and conversations with vari­ous experts and community members on the racial politics of their country. For this book the group has contributed a cartographic and historical map of the militarization of black communities in Latin Amer­i­ca. Along ­these same lines, artist and writer Gavin Adams contributes an essay on the community occupation, and subsequent 2006 eviction, of 468 families from the Prestes Maia building in São Paolo. Situated in one of the largest metropolises in Latin Amer­i­ca, the previously abandoned twenty-­ two-­story building h ­ oused unemployed and low-­income occupants who developed a community-­run infrastructure that included a library, workshops, and other educational and cultural components. The bulbo collective worked in Tijuana from 2002 through 2012, investigating issues around the border, including environmental crises, the maquiladora industry, and other socioeconomic prob­lems in the city through film, radio, and tele­vi­sion production. In their essay included ­here bulbo reflects on related proj­ects dealing with the increased vio­lence fueled by the narcotrafficking wars now gripping Mexico. “Participación” (2008) was a collaboration with local journalists investigating the media’s reporting of the vio­lence. Tijuaneados Anónimos (2008–2009) began as an open-­door self-­help space in a downtown storefront, founded on the princi­ples of Alcoholics Anonymous’s twelve-­step program, and ­later became the basis for a film. The final essay in this section is from the Tranvia Cero collective, based in Quito, who recently celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Al Zu­rich art festival, a program they or­ga­nize with the assistance of local community leaders. The festival originally began as a way to bring p ­ eople together in their neighborhood. Over time it has formed a solid base of community involvement and support. More recently, they have begun to question the geographic and institutional location of art and culture in a city whose rich colonial history often overshadows efforts to resituate 1 1 4   •  P a r t I I

artistic practice as part of a more con­temporary and demo­cratic dialogue. María Fernanda Cartagena interviews the group about Al Zu­rich, Quito’s historic colonial center, and its relation to the adjacent working-­class and mestizo neighborhoods the group calls home, as well as their efforts to create support networks for artists within ­these communities. Note 1 See the film Zumbi Somo Nos (2007).

U r b a n i s m   •  1 1 5

Galatea/bulbo Collective


PROJ­E CT DESCRIPTION mariola v. alvarez As a media collective, active from 2002 u ­ ntil 2012, bulbo pushed back against the images of the city of Tijuana, Mexico, created by t­ hose from outside the region, most significantly from its neighbor to the north, the United States. They ­were also concerned with creating images of a city that is marginalized and geo­graph­i­cally separated from the mainland of Mexico, and especially from its national capital, Mexico City. Working in all forms of media, bulbo took the city of Tijuana as its object, and gave voice to its citizens by allowing them to become part of the creative pro­cess. Initially the group used media to intervene in the lives of t­ hose living in Tijuana via cultural events or by representing ­those left out of the narrative constructed by more traditional media outlets. Most recently, and as a result of a sharp increase in vio­lence in Tijuana and throughout Mexico, bulbo’s media lens turned to an ethic of participation and protest, and a consideration of the constitution of lived space. Past members, including Ana Paola Rodríguez, Blanca España, Araceli Blancarte, Lorena Fuentes, David Figueroa, José Luis Figueroa, Omar Foglio, Juan Eduardo Navarrete, Sebastián Díaz, and Miguel Álvarez, originally met in the 1990s, though some had known each other since childhood. The group came into being as a result of vari­ous recreational trips across Mexico, where their discussions prompted them to initiate a business in which

they could be their own bosses. So in 2000, they launched Galatea Audio/ Visual. Then, in 2002, bulbo was born as more of an artistic proj­ect. Galatea has always operated as a media production business and the economic arm of the collective, whereas bulbo was conceived as an experimental media intervention. Bulbo saw itself as part of a larger cultural re­nais­sance happening in Tijuana. From 1991 to 2005 the cross-­border exhibition inSite brought artists from all over the world to the Mexico-­U.S. border, where the artists would take up residencies and produce an artwork installed in the region. Bulbo participated in the 2005 inSite with “La Tienda de Ropa” (The Clothes Shop). The proj­ect consisted of a collection of voices and images of Tijuana. Their intention was to produce new constructions of/for Tijuana in the form of clothes. Bulbo appropriated the theme of fashion as a common link between p ­ eople in order to open a space of discussion, collaboration, and creation, with Tijuana as another node of reflection. They chose seven participants who lived in Tijuana, of vari­ous ages, professions, lifestyles, and economic backgrounds, and asked them to meet for eight sessions. At ­these meetings the participants discussed fashion, analyzed fashion magazines, and fi­nally designed clothing that was put on display and sold at vari­ous events throughout inSite, including a high-­end boutique in La Jolla, California, and a swap meet in Tijuana, Mexico. With a focus on the urban cultural life of Tijuana, bulbo’s early proj­ects used vari­ous forms of media—­television, the press, the Internet, radio, and even a rec­ord label—to manifest a Tijuana they believed was not represented in current media. The formation of a community and engagement with the public links together all of bulbo’s actions throughout the years. Along with thirty-­minute documentaries broadcast weekly on tele­vi­sion about ­those living in the border region and a magazine and Internet platform promoting local events, ­music, and culture, bulbo enacted a critique of the mainstream media and the ways in which it focused attention only on a select aspect of Tijuana, significantly the more spectacular stories of immigration and crime. Through the promotion of self-­run media outlets, bulbo attempted to represent a dif­fer­ent public in Tijuana. In the pro­cess, the collective generated a new community by allowing p ­ eople to take control of the means of (media) repre­sen­ta­tion, and to become involved as knowledge producers, rather than merely recipients. More recently, bulbo shifted away from a program focused on identity politics to an engagement with the civic and ethical life of the city. During the mid-2000s, Tijuana became the stage for ­battles between the Mexican federal government and drug cartels, and as a result vio­lence due to 1 1 8   •   m a r i o l a   v. a lva r e z

drug and ­human trafficking increased dramatically. Between 2008 and 2012, more than 1,200 p ­ eople ­were killed, and the city had witnessed kidnappings, torture, and violent executions. In 2005 two members of bulbo experienced this vio­lence directly, as members of their own families w ­ ere kidnapped and killed. The mood of the city was radically transformed, as well as the interaction across the border, including the reduction of tourism to Tijuana and the ongoing perpetuation in the media of images of vio­lence and an environment of fear. Bulbo began to consider their connection to other countries in Latin Amer­i­ca that have witnessed mass vio­lence such as Argentina and Colombia, and forms of protests and witness-­bearing that have occurred in ­those areas. As a response not only to the vio­lence but also to the apathy of ­those living in Tijuana, bulbo began Tijuaneados Anónimos (Tijuaneados Anonymous) in 2007, a self-­help group based on the format and guiding princi­ples of Alcoholics Anonymous. The word “Tijuaneados” cannot be translated exactly as it is a slang word originally meant to describe used cars that ­were in a deteriorating condition. Eventually the term came to be used for ­people, objects, and the general conditions of Tijuana as well. With the reappropriation of the term, bulbo hoped to understand why p ­ eople allowed themselves and their city to become Tijuaneados. So rather than presenting the city of Tijuana through social events or as a mediated image, bulbo asked what it meant to be a public citizen, and how the constructed city and its policies affected the psychic life of its inhabitants. Tijuaneados Anónimos was open to the public, and was purposely located at a busy intersection in Tijuana to allow maximum access. The group met regularly in sessions where one could speak about her/his personal story and the ways they wanted the city to change and improve. All who attended ­were asked to maintain the space, and ­were promised anonymity. Bulbo subsequently made a documentary about the experience of the group, and featured some of the members and their lives, intercut with interviews with journalists, photojournalists, and educators and their reactions to the transformed mood of the city, and the apathetic attitude of its citizens and politicians. The documentary asks: “What makes a city?” The built environment? Governmental policies and politics? The residents who experience it both as a civic site and an emotional real­ity? The following year, bulbo produced the proj­ect “Participación” (Participation) in collaboration with two journalists, Daniel Salinas and Omar Martinez. This proj­ect continued bulbo’s focus on the meaning and function of citizenship, and more specifically on the role of protest. It featured G a l at e a / b u l b o C o l l e c t i v e   •   1 1 9

a conversation with the two journalists and members of bulbo along with a video work with a voiceover by Salinas, and images selected by Martinez related to issues of vio­lence and civic protests. The video pres­ents images of the recurring vio­lence in Tijuana, including dead bodies and headlines with the number of deaths per day. The video also reflects on the responses of t­ hose living in the city. Th ­ ese range from t­ hose who have been able to leave the area and pursue other opportunities (represented in the film by numerous “for sale” or “for rent” signs), to ­those who refuse to leave and who refuse to be silenced by the vio­lence. The latter portion focuses on protests led by the parents of dis­appeared ­children who continue to investigate the events surrounding their child’s kidnapping, and to remain vis­i­ble in a town where the federal government and the criminals control who can take to the streets. Salinas’s power­ful and poetic words ask what happened to Tijuana and what ­will happen to Tijuana. “PARTICIPACIÓN” (2008) AND TIJUANEADOS ANÓNIMOS (2008 –2009) translation by fabian cereijido

The following material documents the work of the Tijuana-­based art collective bulbo. Formed in 2002, bulbo explores the possibilities of exchange and collaboration, supported by technology, to promote a constructive vision of real­ity. Their work has been presented and exhibited widely at venues throughout the United States, Eu­rope, and Latin Amer­i­ca.1 The material included ­here focuses on bulbo’s research proj­ect “Participación,” which evolved from an earlier bulbo proj­ect entitled Tijuaneados Anónimos and was produced for the Proyecto Cívico Diálog­os e Interrogantes (pcdi).2 “Participación” was developed in collaboration with journalists Daniel Salinas and Omar Martinez. It explores aspects of citizen participation and activism in the context of widespread vio­lence in Tijuana. The pcdi (2009) was or­ga­nized by Bill Kelley Jr. and was supported by the ­Centro Cultural Tijuana (cecut or the Tijuana Cultural Center). bulbo on Tijuaneados Anónimos In our early years, bulbo would give voice to, and promote, p ­ eople and cultural events that the mainstream media ignored. As a collective we base our practice on collaboration; each member contributes her ideas and abilities in pursuit of a common goal. We have worked this way since 2002 and we have tried to convey this to ­those who participate in our proj­ects. The early 2000s was a period of cultural effervescence in Tijuana. We cre1 2 0   •   m a r i o l a   v. a lva r e z

ated proj­ects that facilitated communication between p ­ eople of diverse interests, social classes, occupations, and so on. We contributed to a better understanding of real­ity across society’s divisions. In 2005 the city of Tijuana, and Mexico in general, began to experience a situation of extreme, unpre­ce­dented and ever-­increasing vio­lence related to drug trafficking and government corruption. As a result of this situation, that same year, we suffered the kidnapping and murder of two of our members’ relatives. The city has experienced cultural, po­liti­cal, economic, and social prob­lems that have turned it into a place full of fear, neglect, and sadness. This affected our work, transforming our lives and our vision of real­ity. Now our work is invested in promoting the idea that social change is intimately related to individual change. We base our work on the conviction that if the individual does not change his or her values and renounce selfishness, greed, and vio­lence, it is impossible to have a peaceful society. In this context we conceived Tijuaneados Anónimos, a self-­help group based on the twelve-­step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, in which the participants sought to recover from the pernicious effects of the city, and where they re­imagined their city and themselves. The Tijuaneados Anónimos meeting room was located on the Avenida Negrete in the Zona Centro, one of the busiest arteries in Tijuana. This made it pos­si­ble for us to promote the ­simple idea that such a group could exist. We thought that just seeing the storefront could instill a new idea in the collective imaginary, even if not every­one would be interested in participating in a session. The doors w ­ ere open to anybody who felt afflicted by the city. We w ­ ere visited by acquaintances, some ­people from San Diego with ties to our artistic community, some curious passersby, and some members of other twelve-­step programs. The group was promoted over the Internet, in flyers with information regarding the sessions, and in the “Inside the Wave” exhibition at the San Diego Museum of Art, where the meeting room of Tijuaneados Anónimos was re-­created. The group took on a life of its own, and we thought it appropriate to rec­ord the meetings and bring ­these reflections about our city and our position as ordinary citizens ­beyond the four walls of the storefront. We deci­ded to make a documentary. The documentary has been presented at film festivals, in over a dozen cities in Mexico, and at several U.S. universities. ­After each screening we hold a Q&A session between the audience and members of bulbo about the content of the documentary. This turns the screenings into something very similar to a session of Tijuaneados Anónimos. In Mexico, the conversation generally revolves around the power that we citizens have to G a l at e a / b u l b o C o l l e c t i v e   •   1 2 1

6.1.  ​Tijuaneados Anónimos, Tijuana, 2008–2009. Courtesy bulbo.

end the vio­lence and chaos that we are experiencing in our country. Tijuaneados Anónimos has had an impact among the public within the arts, in movie theaters, and in the academic world. Bill Kelley Jr.’s invitation to bulbo to participate in the pcdi coincided with the early production stages of the Tijuaneados Anónimos documentary. We consider “Participación,” our contribution to pcdi, to be a component of, and a rearticulation of, Tijuaneados Anónimos. “Participación”: Chronicle of the Construction of a Video Pain transforms you. You can lead a life completely alien to public issues or activism and suddenly the presence of death or the anguish of having experienced or being touched by an abduction transforms you. —­Daniel Salinas (from the conversations in the “Participación” proj­ect)

From September 2008 to the pres­ent (April 2009), ­there have been over 1,200 violent deaths in the city of Tijuana, Mexico. Although the phenomenon of drug-­related vio­lence is not new to this city, it had never been this severe and disturbing. Confronted with such a chaotic situation, we took an open position against vio­lence and citizen passivity. We understand that 1 2 2   •  b u l b o c o l l e c t i v e

taking a po­liti­cal position is not cool in the Tijuana art world, but when vio­ lence is so close to everyday life and its effects are felt firsthand, it seems irresponsible not to participate with other citizens in the search for pos­ si­ble solutions. “Participación” began in July 2008 as an artistic research proj­ect based on the question: “How can one construct civic participation to confront the prob­lem of vio­lence?” At first our goal was to see what role the citizenry played, or might play, in the development of public policies against vio­lence in the city, but in early September Tijuana experienced an unpre­ce­dented series of violent hom­i­cides in what came to be known as the “Black Week.” ­These events produced widespread indignation and became a trigger for participation in the proj­ect. Working in response to the invitation to participate in the pcdi, we structured the proj­ect with certain fixed par­ameters: It had to be investigative. That is, it had to address specific questions. It had to be collaborative. It had to establish links with other agents and cultural producers in the city. It had to contribute to a discussion regarding the possibilities of a cultural center like the Tijuana Cultural Center (cecut), offered as a space where citizens could exercise their rights and their po­liti­cal potential. We invited two local journalists, writer Daniel Salinas and photojournalist Omar Martinez, to collaborate with us b ­ ecause we felt that their daily experiences gave them an informed outlook on the prob­lem of vio­ lence that would have taken us much longer to acquire. The proj­ect was structured around a series of conversations between two journalists and members of the bulbo collective. Each conversation helped shape the final outcome of the video. First conversation, August 28, 2008, regarding the idea

daniel salinas: It seems a good idea to me to take into consideration the many personal histories of p ­ eople whose lives w ­ ere transformed by the ensuing insecurity and vio­lence. ­People who used to have a certain lifestyle, with dif­fer­ent ambitions, but due to the incidence of the vio­lence w ­ ere transformed. For example, the Medical Acad­emy two years ago used to gather to discuss advancements in the field of heart surgery or improvements in the treatment of tuberculosis, I ­don’t know . . . ​but now the Medical G a l at e a / b u l b o C o l l e c t i v e   •   1 2 3

Acad­emy meets to discuss kidnappings.3 This is perhaps the most classic example, but t­ here are many cases, older ones like the case of Mrs. Cristina Hodoyán, who’s been involved in this type of discussion since the disappearance and imprisonment of her son many years ago, which effectively turned her into an activist.4 Sarita Benazir’s m ­ other, what was she like before? She was just a ­mother who had a l­ittle ­daughter. Now she is an activist and her ­daughter’s death has become a symbol.5 josé luis figueroa: And what could we ask them [the p ­ eople whose lives have changed ­because of the vio­lence] about the proj­ect’s idea, about participation? It is clear that suffering and pain makes you overcome fear. Surely if you ask them about this they ­will tell you “it was the pain, to hell with fear,” but what other questions could we ask, how ­else could we deepen the inquiry? ds: Look, h ­ ere are the key questions. How did your life change? Who ­were you before and who are you now; ­because you are another person, you are not the same anymore. Your mindset, even the way you sleep and the way you express yourself has changed. How did you see Tijuana before and how do you see Tijuana now? Do you feel that what y­ ou’ve done, your activism, has influenced the ­actual security policy being enforced? B ­ ecause the groups that have formed are relevant, they are groups the government is influenced by and concerned about. All the noise, all the awareness you have promoted, has it taken a­ ctual shape in any way? Do you think your testimony and denunciation have been useful? jlf: What happens with the Other, with the folks who cannot take this step? What does it mean that if you or­ga­nize a demonstration ­under the slogan “Let’s march ­because this cannot continue” and fifty or a hundred ­people show up instead of the thousands you’d expect if your message had ­really touched the minds and hearts of ­those affected? It would also be in­ter­est­ing to know what they themselves think about this civic passivity. omar martínez: Many times what happens is that the lack of trust in the government makes ­people conduct their own investigations. ds: They do their homework, they become detectives, police officers, ­lawyers, they learn the judicial code. om: For example, the f­ amily of Sara Benazir, who w ­ ere ordinary ­people, are now, ­after just a few months, conversant regarding the law and 1 2 4   •  b u l b o c o l l e c t i v e

you can tell they are following the cases, they are investigating them. jlf: To recap a bit, could we go over four stories of citizens who have suffered such a transformation? That would be in­ter­est­ing ­because they have responded to a chaotic situation by reinventing themselves. It would be in­ter­est­ing to study how the chaos that suppresses certain civic guarantees, that ignores and suppresses basic rights makes ­people reinvent themselves and create new ­things that ­were previously outside their scope of possibility. ds: ­There is another aspect that we could explore. Ultimately few become activists, most flee; this is even reflected in the city’s real estate situation. You can say, “­These are the stories of t­ hose who transformed their lives and became activists” and “­These are the stories of t­ hose who chose to flee.” If you go to the affluent areas of the city, you’ll see all the homes that are for sale at bargain prices. How w ­ ere ­these neighborhoods ten years ago, and how are they now? They ­were full of life and now they are ghost towns. paola rodrÍguez: And all t­hose empty businesses you see downtown, businesses that left. ­These are ­people who are leaving. jlF: And it is linked to migration—­people fleeing. They leave like t­ hose who go into exile to escape war. ds: Like escaping a dictatorship. . . . ​ jlF: As “elite” refugees, ­because they might have the resources to go to Bonita [San Diego], right? miguel alvarez: An ugly effect of the vio­lence you notice ­here in Tijuana is that ­people do not even want to open their doors to you. The effect in the city has been mostly that ­people do not participate, that every­one wants nothing to do with anybody e­ lse, not even with their next-­door neighbor. jlf: Yes, it’s the same issue of fear but causing a dif­f er­ent reaction, not participation but rather withdrawal, denial, and hiding Postscript to first conversation

In the pro­cess of contacting p ­ eople who had turned to activism a­ fter a relative, a friend, or they themselves had suffered vio­lence, we encountered the Asociación de Esperanza contra la Impunidad y las Desapariciones Forzadas (Association for Hope against Impunity and Forceful Disappearances), which or­ga­nized a peaceful demonstration against vio­lence, corruption, and impunity on August 30, 2008. As a result we ­were able to G a l at e a / b u l b o C o l l e c t i v e   •   1 2 5

6.2.  ​“Participación,” Tijuana, 2009. Courtesy Omar Martínez.

interview and photo­graph a number of ­people involved with the group and document the march. The video footage, photo­graphs, and interviews, and the very experience of participating in the march, w ­ ere extremely valuable in giving the final proj­ect its shape. We ­were able to incorporate ideas and information we did not have at the beginning of the proj­ect. In par­tic­u­ lar, we learned that in the city of Tijuana ­there ­were many more ­people with dis­appeared relatives than has been officially acknowledged. We also discovered that the vast majority of marchers had personally suffered the loss of a loved one. The engine of the movement was the ­will to find the relative, dead or alive, which is to say that the engine of the movement was the search for peace. We deci­ded that the final component of the proj­ect was ­going to be a collaborative video, for which Daniel Salinas would provide a text to be read through voiceover narration. Omar Martínez would supply a se­ lection of images related to the issue of vio­lence, impunity, kidnapping, participation, and civic activism in Tijuana, and the bulbo collective would add video footage on the same topic and complete the final editing of the work. The collaboration was very smooth and rich; however, we ended up with something completely dif­fer­ent from what we had expected at the beginning of the proj­ect. As in all open-­ended art works, the pro­cess and circumstances of our work in the city affected the original objectives and 1 2 6   •  b u l b o c o l l e c t i v e

made us rethink the direction of the proj­ect. Initially our guiding prob­lem was the role of civic participation in developing public policies against vio­ lence. But in early September ­there w ­ ere prison riots in Tijuana, followed immediately, as noted above, by what Daniel Salinas called the Black Week of violent hom­i­cides. As a result, the final work is defined by a strong sense of anger and outrage. Second conversation, October 17, 2008, regarding the   framing of the proj­ect

josé luis figueroa: What did you think about Daniel’s text? omar martínez: It’s strong, right? Full of indignation, so in the end you have to be careful. You d ­ on’t want just a cry of pain and fury. jlf: When you feel progressively trapped, you can develop a sense of outrage, and this can trigger something that shakes up every­ thing. Daniel used to say, “Within this violent situation if you add an economic crisis, watch out! It is a situation that for better or worse can generate profound changes, shock, bottoming out.” david figueroa: In the ’80s, with the economic prob­lems h ­ ere in Tijuana, church attendance increased, the distress brought about by the devaluations turned many ­people into Christians, but I ­haven’t seen that sort of ­thing happening ­today with the vio­lence yet. So what José Luis is saying is that if we add an economic crisis, which is surely coming, to the current situation ­things could ­really turn sour. jlf: I think we should find data or someone who has studied the development of civic participation and actions. What role does indignation play in this? It is evident that the text by Daniel is giving voice to a very widespread feeling when it claims: “­Things are very fucked up.” df: The experiences in other Spanish-­speaking countries like Spain and Colombia can help us. In Spain, eta caused a collective outrage and all the Spaniards reacted well, and in Colombia they had to suffer a lot, and learn a g­ reat deal, to get to where they are now. paola rodrÍguez: It took the Spanish fifty years. And now they say, how did we bear fifty years of that? om: What’s next in Tijuana? jlf: What is our situation? We are ­either a step away or a long way to go. G a l at e a / b u l b o C o l l e c t i v e   •   1 2 7

om: With that statement ­you’ve planted a seed, a reflexive question rather than a desperate cry. I think we should leave it ­there. pr: The issue is not to only show horrible scenes like in a movie: “Oh how ugly, how brave, how bad, how good.” This is on the news ­every day, so the issue is to go one ­little step further. Postscript to second conversation

Basic definitions of participation, like the one found on Wikipedia, relate it to direct or participatory democracy, and to mechanisms that allow the public to influence the decision-­making pro­cess of the government without being part of the government or joining a po­liti­cal party. The value of participation lies in the fact that it can be the most accurate way to identify the needs of a given community, while providing guidelines for concrete action. Participation is not simply utopian. Rather, it can play a central role as a trigger for civic action and improvement. ­There are many examples of participatory action against vio­lence in Latin Amer­i­ca. In Colombia ­there is an in­de­pen­dent citizen radio program called Las Voces del Secuestro6 (The Voices of Abduction) that seeks to send the dis­appeared who are still alive messages from their families. Night ­after night, the announcer, Herbin Hoyos, reads out the messages received by the station by letter, e-­mail, or phone in the time allotted to the program. In Argentina the Asociación Civil Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Civil Association of Grand­ mothers of the Plaza de Mayo), is a nongovernmental organ­ization that tries to locate and return all the missing c­ hildren abducted by the government during the junta to their legitimate families.7 It also seeks to create conditions to prevent this terrible violation of the rights of c­ hildren, youth, and adults from ever happening again. The group also demands punishment for ­those responsible for the original disappearances. Similarly, in Baja California the civic nongovernmental organ­ization mentioned previously, Asociación de Esperanza contra la Impunidad y las Desapariciones Forzadas, works to defend ­human rights, through its protests against kidnappings and the rampant disappearances that are all too common in our own country.8 In attempting to answer the question with which we began this work (“What role can civic participation play in challenging the vio­ lence in Tijuana?”), we ended up with more questions than answers. What ­factors can encourage the kind of civic participation we envision? What roles do pain, anger, and suffering play in catalyzing participation? Conversely, what roles do courage, unselfishness, hope, and love play? How can we participate without becoming victims of vio­lence ourselves? Is it 1 2 8   •  b u l b o c o l l e c t i v e

pos­si­ble for this kind of civic participation to emerge solely from one’s own self-­awareness? The final video of the “Participación” proj­ect can be viewed at: http:// The transcribed conversations presented ­here ­were edited for reasons of space. Notes 1 Bulbo’s work has been exhibited at cecut in Tijuana (2004, 2006), arco in Madrid, Spain (2005), inSite05 in Tijuana and San Diego (2005), Corner­house in Manchester, E ­ ngland (2006), Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso in Mexico City (2006, 2007), the Museum of Con­temporary Art San Diego (2006), the Santa Monica Museum of Art (2007), Viva México! in Warsaw, Poland (2007), the Natalie and James Thompson Art Gallery in San Jose (2008), the San Diego Museum of Art (2008), and the Los Angeles Museum of Con­temporary Art (2008). 2 Proyecto Cívico Diálog­os e Interrogantes (pcdi) was a collective research program curated and or­ga­nized by Bill Kelley Jr. involving seven artist groups in Tijuana, Mexico, along with local and international interlocutors to discuss notions of citizenship, the city, democracy, and its states of exception. The pcdi was produced in collaboration with the exhibition entitled “Proyecto Cívico” (Centro Cultural Tijuana, 2008), curated by Lucia Sanroman and Ruth Estevez. 3 The Medical Acad­emy of Tijuana is a civic group that is one of the most active in urging the Baja California government to put an end to the crime of abduction in the city. 4 The son of Cristina Palacios de Hodoyán dis­appeared twelve years ago. Since then she has been one of the most impor­tant activists working to force the city government to take a more active role in preventing kidnappings. 5 Sara Benazir was murdered by being thrown from a speeding vehicle in a city street. 6 For more information see http://­www​.­lasvocesdelsucuestro​.­com. 7​­ For more information see http://­www​.­abuelas​.­org​.­ar. 8​­ For more information see http://­www​.­ciudadtijuana​.­com​/­asociacionesperanza​ /­index​.­html.

G a l at e a / b u l b o C o l l e c t i v e   •   1 2 9

Interview with Tranvía Cero


maría fernanda cartagena, february 17, 2011

The Tranvía Cero collective was born in 2002 in southern Quito, as a result of the pressing need for new spaces of cultural production. Over the years, visual artists, cultural promoters, communicators, and self-­taught individuals have made up the collective. At the time of writing, it includes Pablo X. Almeida, Pablo Ayala, Karina Cortez, and Samuel Tituaña. The collective has come to channel its work into creative, po­liti­cal, and historical pro­cesses, from a horizontal, equitable, and demo­cratizing logic with the community, which is an essential part of the pro­cess. Their ten years of work enable them to affirm that urban or public cultural action can be realized by a community’s own inhabitants, in their places of coexistence, establishing spaces for dialogue, discussion, and criticism—­conditions that create sincere relationships. They have developed their activity primarily in neighborhoods in southern Quito, through the conception and organ­ization of the Documenta Internacional de Arte Acción Mishqui Public and the Galería Itinerante de Arte Mama Carmela. They are best known for developing the Encuentro Internacional de Arte Urbano al Zur-­ ich, other­wise simply known as Al Zu­r-ich, which has developed its own proj­ects in the southern part of the city and in other local contexts. Tranvía Cero has participated in the following international events: La Otra, Feria de Arte Contemporáneo, Bogotá, Colombia (2008); II Encuentro

Iberoamericano de Espacios Alternativos, Montevideo, Uruguay (2008); Bienal Internacional de Per­for­mance, cita a ciegas, Cusco, Perú (2009); riia (Residencia Internacional de Artistas), Buenos Aires, Argentina (2009); X Bienal Internacional de Cuenca, Ec­ua­dor (2009); Semana Cultural de Ec­ua­ dor en España, arte y cultura post-­fronterizos, Madrid, Spain (2009); Zonadearteenaccion, proyecto de intercambio Cheguagua, Quilmes, Argentina (2010); Encuentro Internacional de Medellín (mde11), Colombia (2011); and XI Bienal de la Habana, Cuba (2012). Among Tranvía Cero’s most recent proj­ects is “Las Biblias Creativas” (2011–2012), a proj­ect of participatory design and recycling for youth libraries, developed in collaboration with collectives and artists coming from the areas of architecture, design, and management. In 2012 the Encuentro de Arte Urbano al zur-­ich celebrated a de­cade of existence. Another recent work is the “P.010” proj­ect (mobile, attachable, expandable, wandering, nomadic, and utilitarian prototype), in development since 2012, designed together with artists Todo por la Praxis (Spain) and Nordacas (Ecuador–­Spain). This platform was devised in order to accommodate participatory proj­ects in support of communal cultural interests, and is based on acquired experience, proposing new directions and challenges for the group. “P.010” received the Mariano Aguilera Con­temporary Art Award from the Quito municipality in 2012. In 2004 I had the opportunity of collaborating with Tranvía Cero at the second Al Zu­rich, and since then I’ve taken an ongoing interest in the work of the collective. The following interview, conducted in 2011, points out key episodes and reflections from throughout the collective’s existence. Tranvía Cero’s visionary and radical approach to demo­cratizing art in the Ec­ua­dorean context through a committed, sustained, and experimental practice generated a productive questioning of the state and the field of art by taking a genuine and critical look at the links between art and society. maría fernanda cartagena: The first Encuentro de Arte Urbano al Zur-­ich [Urban Art Meeting al Zur-­ich] was or­ga­nized in 2003 in the midst of Ec­ua­dor’s worst crisis. In 2000 the dramatic devaluation of the national currency had been followed by a dollarization that brought about a gigantic loss in purchasing power for holders of sucres. Social unrest precipitated the downfall of former President Jamil Mahuad, who was ousted in a coup. As a result of the crisis ­there was a massive emigration of poor Ec­ua­doreans. In the arts, the local market collapsed, galleries closed their doors, and I n t e r v i e w w i t h T r a n v í a C e r o   •  1 3 1

official art institutions faced demands to update and transform. How did this scenario affect your emergence? What determined the formation of Tranvía Cero and the beginning of your proj­ect? tranvía cero: This disappointing sociopo­liti­cal and sociocultural situation exposed the constraints governing the creation, production, and circulation of art. It signaled the end of a de­cade, of an era, marked by several attempts to transform the field of artistic creation. In the School of Arts at the Universidad Central ­these efforts ­were carried out by such youth groups as La Maquina Gris [The Gray Machine], puz, Avanzada Aparte [Unallied Avant-­ Garde], and the Centro Ecuatoriano de Arte Contemporáneo ceac [Ec­ua­dor­ian Center for Con­temporary Art].1 While ­these groups ­were concrete referents for us, they w ­ ere isolated experiences that had a relatively limited presence during that de­cade; their intentions and their potential did not materialize ­because ­there was no interlocution with artists, art critics, and institutions. The artistic activity was isolated, permeated by the idea of total autonomy and in­de­pen­dence from the art world and its institutions that at that moment w ­ ere pursuing po­liti­cal, academic, or symbolic interests. ­These artists began to manage alternative spaces as the official exhibition spaces and biennials attracted less and less public attention, making evident how inaccessible and remote they ­were to the ­people. ­There was no ­will to invest in and promote a market oriented t­ oward long-­term plans; t­ here was no receptivity to changes in creation and production, and no academic renewal. ­There was no ­will to support scholarship and reflection. ­There was no effort to promote contact and dialogue with external actors. Beginning in 2001 t­ here was a gradual confluence of many of the fellow artists with whom we began this pro­cess. Some ­were involved in proj­ects implemented in the city: El Espacio Centro de Arte [Art Center Space] (2002), Transmigración [Transmigration] (2001), Señal Uno [Signal One] (2002), Pagando Piso II [Paying Dues II] (2001), and La Cosa [The ­Thing] (2002). Through La Cosa, a theater and visual arts group, we established contact with the Colectivo Teatral Entretelones [Backstage Theater Collective] and the Sur de Quito [South of Quito] movement, which was mobilizing and confronting the administration with cultural, social, and artistic demands.2 ­After ­these initial contacts with Sur, and in the context of the Festival del Sur [South Festival], we or­ga­ 1 3 2   •  m a r í a f e r n a n d a c a r t a g e n a

nized the 2002 El Primer Encuentro de Arte Plásticas Al Sur [First Plastic Arts of the South Encounter] at the Iglesia de la Magdalena [Church of the Magdalene] and the Dionysus Theatre Café. This experience led us into what we l­ ater considered community-­based cultural actions, a type of work carried out by organ­izations in the Sur since the early ’90s. The refusal of the Church to host a second exhibition sets in motion the “first zur-­ich” (2003), which gradually took its current shape. To summarize, we can say that in a time of change, dislocation, lack of institutional support for emerging art, and lack of space, we w ­ ere part, a­ fter the contact with Sur, of an in­de­pen­dent proj­ect that reflected our concerns about art, politics, and society in general and implemented communitarian cultural actions. We ­were very per­sis­tent and stubborn. mfc: The Red Cultural del Sur [Cultural Network of the South], to which you belong, is a pioneering initiative in the country that brings together practices outside so-­called “high culture.” What is its current status? How do you participate, and what is the relationship between your proj­ect and other initiatives within the Red network? tc: The work of the Red Cultural is an experience that has been brewing since 1994. It brings together a very diverse group of organ­ izations. It creates opportunities for dialogue, discussion, and collaboration between them so they can support each other and generate communitarian cultural actions. The Red generated the Primer Plan de Desarrollo Cultural para el Sur de Quito [First Cultural Development Plan for South Quito]. This Plan emerged between 1998 and 2008 and brought together artistic organ­ izations, official institutions, and the private sector. Many of the initiatives generated ­under the Plan had an informal character that did not follow the logic one associates with institutionality. This is an organ­ization where the dif­fer­ent parts meet, retreat, coalesce, and disperse according to the changing sociocultural needs of the city. Among the groups associated with the Red, t­ here are self-­generated neighborhood initiatives, ­family associations, youth organ­izations, and po­liti­cal cells. Within the Red, Tranvía Cero is a group that works specifically in the neighborhoods, taking and making vis­i­ble the cultural demands of the dif­fer­ent districts. Other impor­tant tenets of the Red’s work are re­spect for the autonomous, in­de­pen­dent orga­nizational pro­cesses generated I n t e r v i e w w i t h T r a n v í a C e r o   •  1 3 3

locally and the promotion of co-­responsibility, better life conditions, democracy, equity, and long-­term collaborative work. mfc: How did the experience of producing nine urban art meetings inform the methodology of the proj­ects you carry out ­today and your se­lection criteria? tc: The initial methodology we pursued to interconnect artists, communities, and urban space led to a transition away from individual work. Now the work we foster promotes a comprehensive, collective, and articulated vision, informed by tools created and constructed in the dialogical-­ relational interactions between the community, the social, po­liti­cal, and institutional actors and their respective proponents. This openness, integrity, and mobility in the conception of artistic practice led us to confront pro­cesses that are neither linear nor continuous. It makes us see community not as a peaceful panacea, but as a pos­si­ble source of solidarity, a constant site of discussion and negotiation that starts from the symbolic. This understanding gives us an X-­ray or a diagnosis of the community, its conflicts, its everyday occurrences. This makes it pos­si­ble for us to engage practice as critical action and to work from within everyday conflicts, not apart from them. Although this method of working d ­ oesn’t seek to impose a certain style, certain symbols, or a certain form of art, it has yielded some useful par­ameters regarding ways in which to start and sustain an artistic pro­cess: preliminary field work, contact with community leaders, implementation of three phases of work (outreach, dialogue, and execution), monitoring and documentation, and constant dialogue with the proponents. Beyond t­ hese tools the most impor­tant ele­ment is how ­things have been done and what type of flow the dialogue has generated. This makes us understand and engage ­people’s times, their priorities, their uses, their tastes and references regarding the artistic, their orga­nizational modes, and the conflicts that arise from them. Another impor­tant f­ actor is the evolution of our understanding of public space. It went from an initial method based on intervention to our current approach, which seeks to articulate and take into account the local context, social dynamics, and culture, and to operate from the perspective of networking and collective work. The se­lection of proj­ects we developed is guided by what ­we’ve outlined above. We seek proj­ects that work in a collective, coordi1 3 4   •  m a r í a f e r n a n d a c a r t a g e n a

nated, comprehensive way and are developed from within t­ hose realities. We emphasize the participation of artists, non­artists, and actors from the communities themselves. Initially our se­ lection pro­cess was unilateral. Now it is open to dif­fer­ent voices such as representatives of neighborhood organ­izations, sociologists, artists, and art critics. Our search for the right tools to realize the ideal relationship: artist–­community–­urban space has disrupted the relationship viewer–­artist and now the “participants” have become facilitators and agitators who incite collaborative community action. We could mention “El león de la León” [The Lion of the Lion neighborhood] by Guido Gómez (2007). It is a proj­ect that interrogates the name of the neighborhood (la León) and undertakes several actions around a reconstruction of the neighborhood’s myth and name. Gómez managed to enlist the district’s sports league, the local church, the police, youths, adults, ­children, and of course the local elders in a general inquiry about the origin of the neighborhood’s name. “Galerías Quebradas de la Zona 13” [Broken, or Ravine, Galleries of Area 13] (2009) achieved the same type of articulation of an original idea. This time it involved the redesigning and reconstruction of a group of bridges that used to connect two neighborhoods in the area of Guamaní, but which had fallen into disrepair. For this proj­ect we sought the participation of dif­fer­ent actors: micro­businesses, neighborhood leaders, and graffiti and hip-­hop prac­ti­tion­ers. Fi­nally, “El Comic del Barrio” (the Neighborhood’s Comic) by the Colectivo Vanguardia de Guayaquil [Guayaquil Avant-­Garde Collective] (2010) contrasts with the proj­ects described above. It centers on the recognition of community actors such as vendors, married ­women, and youngsters, who are celebrated in a comic magazine featuring their daily activities such as cooking, playing ­music, and selling crabs. mfc: How do you operate internally? How do you define objectives and activities? How do you work with selected proj­ects? What are the commitments you establish with the artists, the groups, and the communities? tc: For us internally it is essential not to be afraid of making m ­ istakes, not to evade discussion or conflict. We want to be able to assimilate chaos, to keep our feet on the ground, to be self-­critical of the weaknesses and gaps in the proj­ects, to work within t­ hese I n t e r v i e w w i t h T r a n v í a C e r o   •  1 3 5

7.1.  ​Fernando Corrado and the Area 13 Collective, Galería Quebradas de la Zona 13, ­Guamaní, Quito, 2009. Courtesy Tranvia Cero.

realities, and to do it collectively. We do not evade the idea of combining our work as artists with the bureaucratic administration of proj­ects, which is often seen as an unforgivable sacrilege by ­those who call themselves artists. To reach our goals it has been necessary to learn to say t­ hings clearly, plainly, to listen, to accept differences, and to re­spect each other’s individual space. We want to conceive the proj­ect as the primary objective of the group, so that ­later we can develop individual proj­ects with the support of the pro­cess it gives us. We want to be clear that no one is indispensable and essential in this pro­cess. We want to build long-­ term proj­ects following our convictions, successful or not, about art, politics, and society. This work of collective creation and production does not evade conflict and promotes clear and open debate about the broad or limited nature of our approach; we ­don’t know every­thing. Th ­ ere is conflict also in our interactions with the institutional, the po­liti­cal, and the communal fields, which we did not know that well. ­Little by ­little, we have learned to deal with rough situations, following the paths that experience itself traces for us and using practice itself as critical action against worn-­out institutional and artistic discourses. 1 3 6   •  m a r í a f e r n a n d a c a r t a g e n a

In the case of the Encuentro, the primary objective is to engage always the communities and understand how their dynamics and collaborative activities can be promoted in the field of art. For this purpose it is necessary to take into account the orga­nizational levels of the dif­fer­ent neighborhoods where proj­ects are planned. Not all districts have a history of working collaboratively. This can affect the interest the neighborhood and the artists might have in the proj­ects and their successful or unsuccessful implementation. The local, provincial, and national institutions are a ­factor in backing and determining the level of funding for the proj­ects, but not in the decisions that shape the proj­ects. ­Those are made in a completely autonomous and in­de­pen­dent fashion. The ways in which collaborative models are nurtured, con­temporary art and marginal populations brought together, and the social fabric reconstituted and rearticulated are deci­ded in a totally self-­governing way. We select proj­ects in which the proponents demonstrate commitment, quality, and the necessary breadth to be at the same time facilitators, activists, and advocates of the proj­ects within the community and at the institutional level. We want to be critical mediators between the proj­ects and the sociocultural actors in the neighborhoods. We are not employees. We seek to fulfill the ideal of synergy and teamwork within the community, ensuring the quality of the pro­cess. We are guided by a basic premise: ¨We are not serious but we are professional.” By this we mean that as we give our friendship and hope, we expect their commitment and results. mfc: The spatial and subjective constitution of Quito is marked by hierarchical divisions of race, ethnicity, and class. The south of Quito, or the “other Quito,” was built according to the logic of power, based on discrimination, stigmatization, and the marginalization of popu­lar groups. How does your proj­ect position itself and act in regard to ­these conditions? tc: Our first encounter with the district and its organ­ization, which took place in 2001 and 2002, gave us a clearer picture of the conflicts generated by a centralized vision and building policy. The Centro Historico [historic center] has always been ­there as the dynamic generator of the city’s life. With the arrival of the train, the south of the city became another axis of economic and cultural activity. In the north, modern Quito developed. Of t­ hese three, the I n t e r v i e w w i t h T r a n v í a C e r o   •  1 3 7

south, conceived as a working-­class district, lost influence over time as all the modern administrative, educational, economic, and cultural infrastructure was developed and built in the center and north. The south generated strong grassroots po­liti­cal organ­ izations that did implement cultural programs. But ­these organ­ izations always operated from a vision that excluded and contested high culture and established contrasts: formal versus informal, cultivated against popu­lar, the patrimonial against the peripheral and marginalized. The lack of infrastructure and investment in the south did not constitute a limitation, for its organ­izations grew on the basis of per­sis­tence, self-­management, and autonomy. In their streets, sidewalks, informal soccer fields, communal ­houses, and green spaces they generated and implemented cultural practices that w ­ ere not separate from real­ity but a part of it, that ­were not conceived as exceptions but as parts of their daily world. Our first encounter with the Sur made us aware of the orga­nizational pro­cesses they had experienced and obtained benefits from. It also made us hear their clamor for economic re­distribution and infrastructure investment, not just for the Sur, but for the city in general. You asked us how and from what par­ameters the city had been built. It was built following the centralizing discourse of po­liti­cal, administrative, economic, repre­sen­ta­tional, cultural, and symbolic power groups. They governed the city, ignoring the contributions of cultural grassroots groups and organ­izations like the Centro Cultural del Sur [South Cultural Center], La Red Cultural del Sur, and groups like Al Sur del Cielo [South of Heaven], Centro Cultural Pacha Callari [Pacha Callari Cultural Center], and ­others. It was within the prejudicial context of the power groups I mentioned above, which see the Sur and popu­lar culture as contemptible, that we put forward and championed the neighborhood as a potential space to work and relate to con­temporary art. This perhaps was not in the plans of many of the artists of this cultured, noble, loyal, orderly, white, and patrimonial city. In addition, our proj­ect was not managed by the institutions, nor by the educated circles that see themselves as the true interpreters of the population’s needs. Given all this, our proj­ect was not initially well received by the cultural institutions of the city. Also we have to consider that in Quito, cultural “patrimony” has been and ­will 1 3 8   •  m a r í a f e r n a n d a c a r t a g e n a

be the macro objective ­toward which investment is oriented. It is a conception and a pro­cess that thrives on history, on the past, and on the tourism it generates. ­There is ­little investment in con­ temporary pro­cesses and in the social base. We faced an administration that had failed to make income distribution more just and was not in dialogue with the diverse sociocultural actors of the city. We wondered ­whether the declaration of Quito as a “Cultural Heritage of Humanity” city 3 also included the areas without basic ser­vices, and lacking quality education, public universities, hospitals, galleries and museums, and so on. mfc: The provision of the state in terms of infrastructure and ser­vices has historically been very weak in the south. Is this deficit or void a variable that influences the proj­ects that you carry out? What is your opinion as to when, and if, art should take on demands unmet by the municipality or the government? tc: This absence has a special significance ­because the proj­ects we develop seek to engage the context, the environment, and the specific realities and limitations of the places where they are implemented. ­These proj­ects confer an extra value to the neighborhoods as receptacles of a cultural richness in peril. The proj­ects distance themselves from centralism and engage the cultural and artistic work of ­house­holds, youth organ­izations, and grassroots po­liti­cal initiatives. When you work within a specific district you notice the voids left ­behind by negligent official institutions and policies, in the documents, discourses, and pro­cesses. You notice how in the South this institutional lack has been filled by grassroots initiatives. You have the Al Sur del Cielo annual concert that pres­ents homegrown rock groups; Alquimia and Entretelones, which promote alternative theater; Machangarilla, which works for the recovery of cultural memory; and more general events like al Zur-­ich too. They are valuable ­because they are generated within the social pro­cesses of the community and they enact forms of in­de­pen­dent action that can be reproduced elsewhere. This shows us that art and cultural practice are cogs in the structure of social relations, that they are not separated from real­ity, and when they are brought in to fulfill the demands we mentioned above, they assume responsibilities ­toward the environment, promote social change and po­liti­cal transformation. They question not only the institutions but also the community and its inhabitants. I n t e r v i e w w i t h T r a n v í a C e r o   •  1 3 9

Several proj­ect proposals we received touched on substandard ser­vices and expose the lack of interest that the authorities have in the living conditions of the population, especially ­those in remote or depressed areas. When you have this kind of neglect, art and culture react, create convergences, and activate a cooperativist logic. This is quite evident in the “Galerías Quebradas” [Broken Galleries or Ravines] proj­ect (2009), proposed by Fernando Corrado and the Area 13 collective. Residents of a section of the Guamaní neighborhood, which did not have a usable bridge connecting two districts separated by the stream of Santo Tomas, projected and built a metal bridge that reflected the neighborhood’s collective vision in its design and its graffiti. For the proj­ect engineers, contractors, bricklayers, voyeurs, ­house­wives, and regular folks worked in close collaboration. mfc: In our art schools the scholarship, research, and ­actual contact with artistic practices that involve the fabric of society are quite limited. What are the traditional views regarding the role of art, the figure of the artists, and public space that come into conflict when art engages social contexts? tc: The arts of painting, sculpture, drawing, and printmaking w ­ ere conceived as generators of objects of aesthetic enjoyment that emphasize formal work, craft, and technique. Traditional art forms w ­ ere not conceived as generators of dialogue and possibilities of interaction with social actors. Our art schools still train students ­under the premise of the “artist genius,” an individual who must create in conformity with a personal aesthetic. This is a romantic idea developed in past centuries. It is a conception that places the artist high above, in an almost vertical relation to o ­ thers. Art forms like video, per­for­mance, and installation propose a dif­fer­ent rapport with the viewer. They are hardly ever included in the curricula of our institutions. Traditionally, the visual or plastic production of an artist should be in a museum or a gallery. The subject–­object relationship and the distance that traditional art viewing enacts is even more pronounced in popu­lar neighborhoods. That is why it creates conflicts for many of the participants in our proj­ects when the community intervenes in their work, when the viewers turn into active participants and join the creative pro­cess. We have witnessed how artists and proj­ect proponents have gotten involved in the conflict-­ridden social relations that consti1 4 0   •  m a r í a f e r n a n d a c a r t a g e n a

mfc: tc:

mfc: tc:

tute the city. This is another feature of this way of relating art and community: it questions the very concept of art, its creation, production, and circulation. It is not that we topically discuss ­these issues. We bring and disseminate t­ hese conceptions with what we say and what we do. We stress the relevance of rec­ords. In the rec­ ords we are not g­ oing to find artworks but the testimony of a pro­ cess. This is indeed one essential ele­ment of our approach: we are interested in the pro­cess and not necessarily in the final results or the art object itself. The overall proj­ect has to contribute: to stimulate and develop additional flows and spaces for art in the city. Our proj­ect was itself conceived as a ­great work of art and not just as a product. Could you describe what you mean by “total artwork”? You use this term to describe several of your proj­ects. For us it involves a confluence of cultural ele­ments, genres, techniques, and styles. Th ­ ese ele­ments are used and articulated with good sense, in response to the needs of the proj­ect and its construction pro­cess, and not so much for the personal needs of the author. We add to this the pro­cess of interaction and the work of the artist, the community, their physical spaces, and their communal coexistence ­under a sense of cooperativeness, horizontality, democracy, and fiesta. What are the local and international artistic references in other fields, disciplines, or practices that have attracted your attention? Well before starting this current phase of our collective proj­ect, some of us now linked to Tranvía had participated in several actions in the city, between 2001 and 2002. Th ­ ose proj­ects ­were carried out by vari­ous artists and actors from the School of Arts of Universidad Central [Central University]. Groups and individuals like Danilo Zamora, Danilo Vallejo, Patricio Guzman, Raymond Duke, Pablo Barriga, Rodrigo Viera, Yoko Jacome, La Coorporación, Abrelatas [Can Opener], Taller de Arte [Akaros Art Workshop], and La Mancha Social Club [Stain Social Club]. As the pro­cess unfolded we came in contact with texts by García Canclini about the inSite4 experience, with texts by Allan Kaprow, Coco Fusco, and ­others. Our work and thinking ­were permeated by the experience of community organ­izations associated with the Red that characteristically promoted small-­format productions in the performing arts like m ­ usic and theater, workshops, and grassroots I n t e r v i e w w i t h T r a n v í a C e r o   •  1 4 1

art experiences. Our interest was to work with the community from a new and dif­fer­ent perspective. We wanted to promote collective creation without disciplinary constrains. Once we started our activities, we found referents in, and began to have dialogues with, the Ciudad Múltiple de Panamá5 [Multiple City of Panama] and with the Bienal de Venecia de Bogotá6 [Venice Biennale of Bogotá]. Locally, we established links to the Proyecto Ataque de Alas7 [Attack with Wings Proj­ect], and Invade Cuenca8 [Cuenca Invades], among ­others. Since the Encuentro was established, we have been connected to several artists and collectives: envelope, Muntadas, Wilson Diaz, Helena Producciones, Ala Plastica from Argentina, BijaRi and Frente 3 de Fevereiro from Brazil, Transductores, Basurama, Democracia and Todo por la Praxis from Spain, Zonadearteacción from Argentina, Fabiano Kueva’s Oído Salvaje, Experimentos Culturales, Ñucanchik P ­ eople, and La Selecta. mfc: What have been the most impor­tant turns or adjustments made over the past nine years in conceptual and po­liti­cal terms? What internal or external aspects have motivated ­these changes? What do you consider to be the most impor­tant achievements of Tranvía Cero in the Sur and beyond its borders? tc: ­After promoting a traditional exhibition in 2002, we changed our approach. In 2003 the very nature of the work pro­cess in public space and ­later the involvement with specific neighborhoods made us focus on the development of the interrelationship between artist, community, and urban space. We went from collaborating with Festival del Sur to the creation of an in­de­pen­dent initiative without distancing ourselves from the pro­cesses already taking place in the Sur. We substituted the invitational policy of the festival for open calls and a methodology consistent with our interests. From a traditional se­lection pro­cess centered on single notable judges or single visions, we moved to collective se­lection teams where multiple voices could be heard: from a neighborhood representative to a sociologist to an art critic. In 2010 we started to work officially in some provinces. When we first associated ourselves with the cultural and artistic demands of the Sur, we entered the po­liti­cal field, but not party politics. We wanted to emphasize not the po­liti­cal but the artistic aspect of our work. What we wanted to build, starting with the 1 4 2   •  m a r í a f e r n a n d a c a r t a g e n a

7.2.  ​Fernando Falconí (Falco) and a group of ­women from the Danubio Azul, “Nuestra Patrona de la Cantera,” La Cantera, San Roque, Quito, 2008. ­Photo and proj­ect ­were part of the Encuentro de Arte y Comunidad al Zur-­ich (2008) and the Tranvia Cero archives. Faces are intentionally blurred by the contributor.

demands of the Sur, was an ample, demo­cratic, equitable space for culture and art. From the beginning of the pro­cess it became clear that it was problematic to deal with the Sur and only with the Sur, that this idea divided the south from the rest of the city. The notion of a proj­ect for the w ­ hole of Quito entered our internal conversations. Regarding the rest of Quito, we asked ourselves why artists and man­ag­ers of other city districts did not or­ga­nize and promote proj­ects; we did not want to be paternalistic and assume the repre­sen­ta­tion of ­those we did not ­really represent. We also had bud­get limitations that did not allow us to expand. In the end it was the pro­cess itself and the proposals we received that established a north–­south dialogue. For example, the proj­ect by Patricio Dalgo and Belen Granda, “Celdas Perceptuales” [Perceptual Cells] (2005), established a dialogue between the districts of Solanda in the south and Carapungo in the north; the collective Cosas Finas [Fine Th ­ ings], with its “Limpia Mediatica” [Mediatic Expiation] (2004), started a conversation between Otavalo in Imbabura province with the Oriente Quiteño neighborhood in the south. Patricio Dalgo in his work “Frontera” [Border] (2008) connected the border cities of Huaquillas (in Ec­ua­dor) to Aguas Verdes I n t e r v i e w w i t h T r a n v í a C e r o   •  1 4 3

(Peru). Efrén Rojas, Vanesa Santin, and Vladimir Iza worked with the association of blind ­people of the village of Atahualpa in the south and the Mariscal sector in the north (2005). The fact that we work in and from the vantage point of the Sur has generated discussion, criticism, ac­cep­tance, and rejection. In terms of achievements, we have been able to work in a collective, con­temporary fashion from, and with, the neighborhoods. We have devised and contributed a working methodology. We have promoted a revision that questions the way the city has been built po­liti­cally, socially, eco­nom­ically, culturally, artistically, and symbolically. We have expanded the possibilities for the creation, production, and circulation of cultural and artistic goods. We have helped develop new art publics and art flows. We have strengthened the Red and the relationships and social frameworks that tend to improve the quality of life. This, of course, from our limited ability as man­ag­ers, producers, and artists. It is also impor­tant to mention that we have contributed to making vis­i­ble a district and above all a process-­based social organ­ization that has been working in the city for two de­cades. It is a social organ­ization that has not only protested, it has implemented and executed many proj­ ects, year ­after year without state funding. mfc: What type of support have you received from the city and the central government? What do you think their role should be in this type of practice? tc: Since we began d ­ oing this kind of work, we have told the official institutions that, in addition to providing funding, they should also get involved in the implementation of community-­based art proj­ects. However, they have only provided funding. They see us as a means for the institutions to access areas they cannot usually reach. B ­ ecause we advocate for holistic approaches, and the institutions are part of the ­whole, we have asked for their input, questions, and criticism, which they have not provided. Aside from this, we want to contribute to the implementation of serious cultural policies and fair rules. We ­don’t want the cultural official to have to beg for resources to implement proj­ects, and we ­don’t want the artists to be impoverished bohemians scrounging for basic needs. We believe in the collective construction of policy, in the cultural pro­cesses of the city, in the constitutional plans, in the Ley Cultural [Law of Culture],9 and in legislation that man1 4 4   •  m a r í a f e r n a n d a c a r t a g e n a

dates the contribution of the private sector. We d ­ on’t believe in ­those cultural policies discussed and implemented by a handful of bureaucrats and spoiled rich brats who know nothing about the everyday lives of our visual artists, theater p ­ eople, singers, movie-­ makers, and cultural producers, who are constantly dealing with lack of social security and dismal wages. mfc: The current government in Ec­ua­dor promotes citizen and cultural rights and involvement more than any prior government. Has this policy empowered the residents of the south? Do you see any impact of this policy at work? tc: Regarding participation, cultural and civil rights, ­there are several good examples of existing proj­ects by arts organ­izations. ­These would include the Red Cultural del Sur and its associated organ­izations (born in the ’90s) and Tranvía Cero (2002). Th ­ ese are organ­izations that exercise cultural and civil rights with the implementation of their proj­ects; they comply with their participatory duties and demand that the official institutions fulfill their social role. ­Today, the work of organ­izations of that sort is backed by a constitution that gives more emphasis to the contribution of citizens in the construction of the state and its policies. That’s why ­today ­there is a feverish surge of civil participation and a proliferation of civil rights watchdog groups that guard against abuse and claim their right over that which is public. Let’s hope this is not a passing fancy since it is impor­tant for ­people to be involved in the social fabric, in the decisions that ­will affect them directly, and in ­simple everyday events like bad ser­vice or an abusive action by the state. The 2010 proj­ect “Cómic del Barrio” by the Colectivo la Vanguardia, which took place in the south of the city, specifically in the Guasmo Norte, showed the depth of civil involvement in Guayaquil. In the context of this proj­ect, local residents identified themselves with their district and its stories, discussed their frustrations from a local point of view, and enjoyed the street and river bank per­for­mances of their Youth Symphony, all without anyone causing any prob­lems. All this reveals a new awareness of what is mine, what represents me, and where I belong. mfc: ­Today we are witnessing transformations in the Sur. Its enormous economic potential is now recognized and business investments are increasing, as is evident with the inauguration of the Quicentro Sur mall (2010), described as the largest in the country. In I n t e r v i e w w i t h T r a n v í a C e r o   •  1 4 5

addition, the city also has increased its investment in infrastructure and cultural ser­vices. What is your perception of this “boom” in the Sur, and what challenges does it pose for your work? tc: The biggest prob­lem with this boom is that it does not take into consideration the sociocultural pro­cesses of the district, and it imposes new dynamics that are detrimental to local small groups and businesses. They are affected by the implementation of ­these kinds of super-­structures you describe. We are not saying that ­these structures ­don’t generate other forms of socialization. In fact, the Sur has always been commercial; the difference with other districts is the payment method. ­Here almost every­thing is paid in cash, which means that t­ here is much more real monetary movement. In the north, most ­things are bought with credit cards or in installment payments. This creates a ­whole architecture of expenditure, collections, interest, and savings expectations. Still, in ­matters of investment and cultural infrastructure the Sur is lagging ­behind the north considering the relationship between population size and land area. The only cultural institution that was actually built t­ here was the Mexico Theater in Chimbacalle. For some years now, the Centro Cultural del Sur and the Red Cultural del Sur have asked the city to build not only parks and swimming pools but a w ­ hole cultural machinery involving libraries, cinemas, safe spaces for concerts, exhibition galleries, museums, f­ ree Internet, universities, ­etc. ­There is a need for building plans that address more than the historical and religious heritage. If this does not change, we ­will continue to see nothing but proj­ ects to build bridges, expand access to drinking w ­ ater, create social parks, and give worthy names to abandoned backstreets in disrepair. mfc: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing your proj­ect? What are the aspects you would like to deepen or strengthen in the ­future? tc: We would like to strengthen our working methodology so it can be applied in other sectors of the country. We want to contribute to the spreading of more efficient collaborative models in which the contribution of the community can be clearly discerned. We want to champion an integral and professional vision of the work of the artist so that the creation, generation, promotion, communication, 1 4 6   •  m a r í a f e r n a n d a c a r t a g e n a

and production of art are conceived as more than personal products. Another big challenge we face is being able to bring our community art proj­ects to a greater number of districts throughout the ­whole year. We would like to generate texts about the experiences and proj­ects generated by the Encuentros year ­after year. We want to support more emerging artists so that they can contribute new ways of relating to art. We want to devise mechanisms to make the organ­ization self-­sustaining, to make it generate its own funds, and to be administered u ­ nder a cooperative logic in which associate members can be fairly and equitably remunerated. Notes 1 The names of groups, works, and organ­izations ­will be translated the first time they feature in the text. Subsequently, the translation ­will use the original Spanish names. 2 In the Spanish original, the term Sur is used by the interviewer and Tranvía to define both the movement and the district of Quito where it originated. The translation ­will use Sur for both as well. 3 unesco (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organ­ization) declared Quito a Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 1979. 4 Supported by a changing array of American and Mexican cultural and educational institutions, inSite is a periodic artistic event that takes place roughly ­every four years, starting in 1992. It engages the border area between San Diego and Tijuana through a series of specially commissioned and site-­specific works and exhibitions. 5 “Panama Multiple City” (2003) was a proj­ect the municipality of Panama City or­ga­nized as part of the cele­bration of the hundredth anniversary of the republic of Panama. It brought artists and collectives of vari­ous countries to Panama City. Artists ­were invited to create art in the streets that would engage local issues and have an impact on them. 6 The Bogotá Venice Biennale began in 1995. It was an initiative of the art collective Matraca, composed of students of fine arts from the National University of Colombia. The Venice of the title refers not to the Italian city and its biennial international art exhibit but to a popu­lar neighborhood of the Colombian capital. The initiative challenges the centralism of the international art market and creates a venue for young Colombian con­temporary artists. Matraca gave the biennial a community-­centered slant and soon received the support of the community and the most progressive sectors of the local artworld. 7 The Proyecto Ataque de Alas is an art and public space initiative, exhibition program, and methodology devised in 2002 by the Museo Antropológico y de

I n t e r v i e w w i t h T r a n v í a C e r o   •   1 47

Arte Contemporáneo (maac) (Museum of Anthropology and Con­temporary Art) of Guayaquil, Ec­ua­dor. 8 Invade Cuenca is an in­de­pen­dent art exhibition started in 1998 in Cuenca, Ec­ua­dor. 9 The Ley Cultural is a comprehensive cultural bill passed in 2009 by President Rafael Correa and the National Assembly of Ec­ua­dor.

1 4 8   •  m a r í a f e r n a n d a c a r t a g e n a


Art Collectives and the Prestes Maia Occupation in São Paulo gavin adams

The text below outlines a few ideas about collaborative practice in the context of art collectives working with the São Paulo Housing Movement, focusing specifically on work developed around the Prestes Maia occupation in São Paulo between December  2004 and December  2006.1 The Prestes Maia occupation was a squatted building, the largest vertical squat in Latin Amer­i­ca. It was occupied by an or­ga­nized homeless movement (the mtstc or Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Teto do Centro), and was one of many such initiatives that emerged in downtown São Paulo during the 2000s. It is an area rich in empty property and often targeted for gentrification by the city administration. This essay seeks to contribute to the formation of a shared vocabulary of re­sis­tance and autonomy, artistic and other­wise, as it explores the relationship between artists and social movements. This text benefits from the hindsight of many years, and many initially tentative definitions have now gained a clarity not available when I was first invited to take part in the work carried out by other collectives and individuals. I’ll examine the complex scenario composed, on the one hand, of a shifting network of artists, educators, ­lawyers, cinema buffs, and assorted supporters, and on the other, by the equally complex phenomenon of the housing rights movement, and in par­tic­ul­ar its embodiment in the Prestes Maia squat. This text also seeks to answer the broader question:

In what way w ­ ere collective and collaborative art practices mobilized in conjunction with the housing movement? To carry out work at Prestes Maia, right in the heart of São Paulo, in dialogue with an or­ga­nized and active housing movement, presented an opportunity to intervene in the cityscape at a scale and degree totally beyond the scope of the art world and its concerns. No cultural agency, art gallery, or official institution could offer such a context with which to engage. São Paulo’s city center is the stage for a fierce territorial strug­gle. The housing movements are in the front line of a ­battle over gentrification. In very ­simple terms, gentrification involves the degradation of the central area so that private enterprise—­mostly property ­owners—­can demand state investment (in the form of tax rebates or more direct forms of subsidy) to increase the value of property and of pres­ent or ­future businesses. In this pro­cess, low-­income families, such as the homeless or informal and semiformal workers who already live in the city center, are usually removed and relocated to the outskirts of the city. The Prestes Maia occupation is close to the Luz transportation complex, a node for trains and underground railways. This proximity makes the site much more valuable and increased the pressure to evict the squatters. The gentrification pro­cess in the central area is in full swing, with the erosion of pedestrian areas, removal of street populations, and so on.2 The Prestes Maia occupation constituted an entire universe of people, concentrated inside a single building and or­ga­nized into countless improvisational combinations: formal and informal workers, unemployed, ­mothers, youngsters, ­children, and refuse pickers, bearing endless stories and personal, professional, and spiritual journeys. It is worth mentioning that the artists and their collaborators did not establish a central forum or direction in the occupation, and that they (the artists) came from a variety of professions, occupations, attitudes, backgrounds, and ideologies, though in their crushing majority they w ­ ere suburban and did not live downtown. Proviso and Procedure It is impor­tant at this point to state that I am not a theoretician and that my perspective on this work is that of an artist who was involved in many of the pro­cesses that I’ll be discussing. As a result, I d ­ on’t provide many theoretical references, and indeed most of the text is intuitive and lacks solid theoretical analy­sis. Another proviso involves my decision to withhold the names and identities of artists or collectives linked to specific 1 5 0   •   g av i n a d a m s

artworks cited in the text. I am aware that this tactic hinders easy verification of the points I raise throughout, thus diminishing the value of this text for researchers who seek to know more about the events or collectives involved.3 My intention, however, is to avoid, or at least problematize, the tendency of the rec­ord to stand in for the event. Fi­nally, a complete history of the relationship between the São Paulo housing movement and its constellation of supporters, including the art collectives, has yet to be written, and it is not the intention of this text to do so. Only a multitude of accounts could do justice to the diversity of the original experience. This article, therefore, pres­ents a necessarily partial and reductive point of view. Initial Points In earlier drafts of this essay I strug­gled with the apparent contradiction of artistic practices (the work of Superflex, for example), which seemed, on the one hand, to be aligned with left or anticapitalist beliefs, but on the other, seemed to support or legitimize the very market forces it claimed to be resisting. The collective format and the interest in collaborative work I had witnessed in con­temporary art in general seemed to indicate a desire to challenge the art market as it exists, but it turns out that ­there was a disconnect between what I now see as critical theory and poststructuralist thinking. As my own background was based primarily in the traditions of critical theory (e.g., Walter Benjamin and leftist Modernism), practices linked to the poststructuralist tradition came as a surprise to me and posed many impor­tant questions. Key among t­ hese was the question of what constitutes collaboration in the first place. The art world has partly engaged the question of collaboration, but to my mind it has done so in a somewhat confusing way, as artists seemed to regard the issues raised by collaborative practice as having no direct bearing on the politics of the art world itself. Rather, the discussion has been limited to the production of artwork that incorporates collaboration as a theme. The debate in the art field has focused on the relationship between the audience and the author/artist, centered on concepts such as participation, interactivity, and collaboration. Some of the protagonists in this debate include Gregory Sholette, Suzanne Lacy, Claire Bishop, Nicholas Bourriaud, Lucy Lippard, Christian Kravagna, and Grant Kester. The 2006 São Paulo Biennale, with the theme of “How to Live Together,” precipitated a surge in this debate in Brazil. I have borrowed a few ideas from Kester, including a brief classification of types of collaboration. Kester’s argument A r t C o l l e c t i v e s a n d P r e s t e s M a i a   •  1 5 1

is more sophisticated than suggested by the pres­ent text, but it w ­ ill serve nevertheless as a starting point for my discussion. Kester’s distinction of three degrees of collaboration helped me to start thinking about the relationship between artists and social movements: the Other as an extra, as a coadjutant, and as a coproducer. Kester proposes a more complex discussion, focusing on the issues raised by the second and third types of collaboration. In the first form of collaborative practice, the Other—­individual, community, movement or situation—­ serves as an anonymous face that adds “local color” to an action, event, or artwork produced by the artist. In the second type of collaboration, the Other plays a supporting role as the artist seeks to establish some exchange with a given place and the p ­ eople who live t­ here, as part of the work. This approach often ends up by restricting collaboration to the production of an event or experience that is documented and circulated in the art world as an object “created” by the artist. The third type of collaboration seeks to understand the Other as a coproducer, and involves the shared authorship of the work. The point is not to impose a moral scale on artistic practice, in which the highest score is awarded to ­those collectives that treat the Other most kindly. Instead, the central question is how to harness the creative, anarchic energy of the collective in contact with social movements. How can this contact yield the tools necessary for action in a situation in which traditional po­liti­cal institutions (parties, ­unions, elections) are failing? How can the poetic field of social conflict be expanded by drawing on a wider range of experience than that found in the art world? Can any of the strategies deployed in the art scene actually be useful in the streets? And how do art collectives end up reproducing, intentionally or not, the very conditions they intend to challenge? To phrase it other­wise: How come so many artworks about collaboration involve ­either open or hidden hierarchies? Is it a prob­lem if a compelling piece of art about rhizomatic relations involves pyramidal production techniques? Must an artwork about freedom be made in a context of freedom (must it somehow contain freedom in its very production, or should it just convey the idea)? In a deeper sense, how does diversity relate to the division of ­labor and collaboration? Does it mean that the tools or insights yielded by art about re­sis­tance are faulty ­unless the final work is resistant on all levels? Can one restrict collaboration to the production phase and then circulate the result for individual gain? Is such an artwork destined only to appeal to the managerial culture of curators, academics, and administrators of art institutions? 1 5 2   •   g av i n a d a m s

Neoliberal economic ideology has encouraged artists to become “ser­vice providers” rather than traditional object makers. As artists we reproduce the general flexibilization of ­labor in the pro­cess of producing our own work. This concept of artistic practice has dominated São Paulo art schools since the 1990s, and converged with the popularity of readings of poststructuralist authors such as Deleuze and Guattari. This helps to explain why certain Brazilian art collectives found it so easy to generate value for themselves, and their ­careers, through collaborative work at Prestes Maia, sometimes acting on both sides of the gentrification front line. The prestige gained in the street can be sold in the gallery and in the design or advertising agency. It should come as no surprise that designers, advertising professionals, and even artists would participate in this appropriation pro­cess and render it pos­si­ble. My point is that an art collective that hopes to develop alternatives to market-­based forms of cultural action needs to consider its under­lying condition as a collaborative producer, and that the value of the resulting work does not depend solely on the artist’s intention or disposition, or indeed the artwork’s “content.” Instead, the larger, structural, logic of conventional artistic production must be challenged more systematically. Authority/Collaboration In my opinion, the Prestes Maia occupation provided an opportunity to invert the pro­cess that normally rewards artists for enhancing the economic and cultural value of gentrifying urban spaces. This pro­cess usually takes the shape of exhibitions, shows, or other forms of entertainment that evoke a hip, urban lifestyle, so as to attract higher-­income buyers and consumers who do not currently live downtown. Urban redevelopment almost always involves the creation of a cultural center of some sort, to meet the demands of upscale consumers, while also offering generic educational, entertainment, and art ser­vices provided by artists or, more strictly speaking, “creative workers.” Many of the art collectives and artists in São Paulo met at the acmstc (Con­temporary Art at the Roofless Downtown Movement, or Arte Contemporânea no Movimento dos Sem Teto do Centro) exhibition in December 2003, a three-­week event at the Prestes Maia occupation. Th ­ ere had been previous meetings and activities related to art collectives, but it was this event that brought me into contact with the wider circle of art collectives. A number of groups are involved in the strug­gle for housing rights in downtown São Paulo. They are known in Brazil as the “roofless” A r t C o l l e c t i v e s a n d P r e s t e s M a i a   •  1 5 3

(sem-­teto). What I call São Paulo collectives are t­hose art collectives that have participated in one or more activities developed in the context of the housing movement, in par­tic­ul­ ar around the Prestes Maia building. Th ­ ese collectives do not, by any means, constitute the totality of the city’s art collectives. This diversity among art groups and supporters resulted in a variety of dif­fer­ent approaches to working in the building. The conditions ­under which the initial interactions between artists and the Prestes Maia squatters took place also help clarify the issues at stake in the relationship between the art collectives and the housing movement more generally. More specifically, the squatters faced imminent eviction. The precariousness of their situation was shared by other squatters in the housing movement, such as the Plínio Ramos squatters, who ­were evicted in 2005. The movement’s immediate survival needs ended up limiting somewhat the kinds of work done by the art collectives, which had to focus primarily on helping the squatters avoid eviction. Thus, orga­nizational imperatives such as the need to increase the po­liti­cal visibility of the movement in the media, boost the squatters’ impact in the streets, and form a protective ring of collaborators around Prestes Maia ­were among the activities most often carried out. ­These typically took the form of street per­for­mances in demonstrations, debates within the occupation, workshops, theater, and film projections, as opposed to more explic­itly artistic experimentation. It was necessary, in other words, to increase the po­liti­cal cost of the eviction pro­cess: to “take the movement from the crime section [of the newspaper] and bring it into the culture supplement,” as was said at the time. This task began with the mobilization of resources already available to the artists: contact networks in the media and other opinion-­forming spheres. A series of activities, some related to art and some not, ­were carried out by artists in the context of the movement and inside the Prestes Maia building. The first of ­these was the acmstc exhibition mentioned above. A ­whole range of proj­ects ­were subsequently launched, ranging from a ­hotel set up inside the building (a section of Prestes Maia was equipped with beds and other h ­ otel facilities for a weekend) to easel paintings simply hung on corridor walls with no explanatory text.4 In terms of visibility, ­ le manifestation of the alliance beacmstc provided the first widely vis­ib tween artists and the housing movement, outside the normal cir­cuits of the activist or art worlds. However, this visibility had a somewhat ambiguous character, if one considers the fact that the only major media venue 1 5 4   •   g av i n a d a m s

that gave any attention to the event was Mônica Bérgamo’s gossip column (in Folha de São Paulo newspaper, December 14, 2003). The acmstc event helped to consolidate a strong affective and po­liti­cal bond between the occupation movement and a cloud of vari­ous collaborators in São Paulo, and laid the groundwork for ­future developments. At the same time, the collaborative interaction was not f­ ree of contradictions and estrangements on both sides. Some of the points of tension I more vividly recall involved the workings of the occupation’s internal power structure (Who decides who ­will, or ­will not, live in the building?) and the degree of personal freedom claimed by the artist regarding the exhibition space or the use of drugs. Despite that, many bonds forged at this time continued to bear fruit in the form of sporadic encounters among individuals from both groups. A subsequent eviction threat in July and August of 2005 triggered a fresh round of mobilization involving both existing supporters and new recruits. This led to “Reintegração de Posse x Integração sem Posse” (RIPxISP), a series of activities, workshops, shows, and pre­sen­ta­tions held on Saturdays in the Prestes Maia building, so that it was pos­si­ble to interact more fully with the squatters.5 ­These included ­music and dance per­for­mances, vari­ous workshops, theater, and poster-­making and pasting. Despite the fact that the art collectives devoted a ­great deal of time to trying attract broader public attention, the media showed ­little interest in the events, since ­there was no “journalistic fact” to report. Other efforts to increase the po­liti­cal visibility of the occupation ­were undertaken in collaboration with the flm (Frente de Luta por Moradia, or Housing Strug­gle Front), an alliance of the downtown housing movements. Th ­ ese often involved protests, including a major demonstration outside the São Paulo Law Courts (Fórum João Mendes) on August 8, 2005. As part of the demonstration, T-­shirts ­were printed with single letters, which, when worn by ­people standing side by side, spelled out phrases relevant to the protest. Another similar event was the blockade of Avenida Prestes Maia (February 7, 2006), carried out by the occupation; the presence of artists was evident in media reports (tele­vi­sion news flashes). Many other forms of collaboration and strug­gle ­were carried out in the course of the RIPxISP pro­cess as a ­whole. The escracho, for instance, was a manner of rendering vis­i­ble some of the cogs in the gentrification system (October 29, 2005). It was inspired by the Argentine escraches, which sought to “out” torturers and other figures active in the military dictatorship A r t C o l l e c t i v e s a n d P r e s t e s M a i a   •  1 5 5

by means of vari­ous interventions in the city, often in the neighborhood where the former security agents lived. Typically, posters or graffiti would be placed on the walls around the h ­ ouse and per­for­mances would be carried out at the torturer’s front door. The São Paulo escracho invited squatters and supporters to sunbathe by a “swimming pool” set up in front of city secretary Andrea Matarazzo’s ­house, in the wealthy neighborhood of Morumbi. The event that seems to have more clearly embodied the strategies described above occurred during the eviction of the Plínio Ramos occupation. The municipal authorities announced their plan to launch the eviction on August 16, 2005, and the dwellers deci­ded to stay inside and resist peacefully. They locked themselves in their apartments and waited for the police to arrive. The place had been previously “prepared” by the occupiers, who placed banners and posters on the building’s façade and created a stage out of street placards in front of the building that featured the word dignity in ­giant letters.6 Thus, the police w ­ ere unwittingly forced into visual traps, as the photog­raphers and media pres­ent at the eviction ­were able to rec­ ord images of them dismantling the word dignity. The placards ­were ­later appropriated by the Prestes Maia occupation and employed as a kind of protective outdoor barrier for the building. The presence of artists and supporters with cameras inside the Plínio Ramos building alongside the squatters allowed for the generation of images that highlighted the a­ ctual removal phase, which is not normally vis­i­ble, and helped to expose serious incidents of police vio­lence. Police officers, once inside the building, separated artists and activists from young squatters and subjected the latter to abuse. The violent eviction increased the po­liti­cal cost of f­ uture evictions for São Paulo’s governing elites, and may have played a role in halting the eviction of the Prestes Maia occupation.7 The images of police officers dragging toys out of the building or trampling on the “dignity” sign circulated worldwide on the Internet, ­ fter the eviction, a “funeral cortège” generating international outrage.8 A or­ga­nized by the evicted dwellers and artists walked the streets of São Paulo in protest, an extension of the poetic clash around the occupation. This may have marked the first significant shift in the media discourse around the occupations, as journalists could no longer claim that t­here was nothing of substance to report. An impor­tant “journalistic fact” unrelated to the vio­lence l­ater materialized in the form of the Prestes Maia library, which received a ­great deal of interest from the media. This was launched by a Prestes Maia resident, who pushed a cart around town pick1 5 6   •   g av i n a d a m s

ing up recyclable material for sale. In his rounds, he ended up collecting enough books to build a library, l­ater supplemented by donations. Set up inside the Prestes Maia occupation, it developed educational proj­ects with local ­children and served as a meeting point for visitors. The urgency of the po­liti­cal situation around the occupations allowed for a convergence between the movement’s pressing tactical need to stave off eviction and an established set of activist cultural practices brought in by the artists, who shared an expertise in the creation and circulation of symbols. The alliance between artists and the housing movement resulted in a significant increase in visibility for the movement and an expansion of the poetic range of urban actions. Moreover, it contributed to the survival, at least, of Prestes Maia, which achieved a level of relative l­egal and po­liti­cal stability. Prob­lems The art collectives, by and large, ­didn’t know how to take advantage of the potential of the Prestes Maia occupation, due to their lack of po­liti­ cal awareness and an inability to listen and learn from their collaborators. This lack of reciprocity was apparent in their attempts to or­ga­nize more stable, ongoing workshops that would spark the interest of the squatters (following the excitement of the initial demonstrations). The general attitude among the artists seemed to be that “we” had something to teach the squatters and they had something to learn from us (e.g., skills such as drawing or glassblowing). When the squatters tried to or­ga­nize their own classes to teach the artists, the artists showed ­little interest in participating. The artists’ collectives failed to ­really listen to the squatters and learn about the issues that ­were most relevant and impor­tant to them. They ­were also uncertain about how to move forward with an artistic practice that ­didn’t lead to the creation of a physical object that could be sold and circulated within the art world. Opportunities to build actions collaboratively, as opposed to bringing in a piece created elsewhere, pinning it on the movement, photographing it, and moving on, ­were consistently missed. Although one could argue that ­there are win-­win situations where the two parties—­social movement and artist—­met temporarily to spark an action, this was clearly a rare occurrence. Maybe I am too attached to older forms of movement building and unable to appreciate the full potential of Hakim Bay’s Temporary Autonomous Zones, or cloud mobilization, or nomad subjectivities roaming freely in smooth spaces. I think I have a legitimate concern, however, about the A r t C o l l e c t i v e s a n d P r e s t e s M a i a   •  1 5 7

tendency ­toward social tourism and the lack of interest in d ­ oing the hard work of collective politics that is evident in much con­temporary social art practice. Much of this work seems to miss the point of what was and is urgent in po­liti­cal and artistic terms. Movement building is not something peripheral to the concerns of the artist, to be outsourced to po­liti­cal workers or ju­nior militants. I am alarmed by the perception of the artist as a kind of specialist who travels from movement to movement, providing a ser­vice and then, ­after collecting a tradeable rec­ord, vanishes into the air. This dovetails too neatly with managerial culture and the tendency to privatize work done in common. To act critically within one’s own system of production is crucial in order to better shape both poetic and po­liti­cal actions. The uncertainty around the productive nature of the collective (Is it a private enterprise or a truly collaborative undertaking?) enabled the participation of many art collectives in what can be described as the antithesis of Prestes Maia: the City Hall’s cultural initiative “Virada Cultural.” This event was promoted by the administration of the then-­Mayor José Serra and his successor Gilberto Kassab. It consisted of a series of m ­ usic and art per­for­mances that took place over a twenty-­four-­hour period, chiefly in the downtown area, and was inspired by Paris’s Nuit Blanche. A municipal decree invited artists to submit proposals for funding. Their proj­ects and musical per­for­mances formed the majority of the night’s events. The entertainment character of this event was evident in its two iterations (2005 and 2006). It had the explicit aim of attracting a middle-­class audience to the city center (specifically, p ­ eople who do not normally go downtown). The role of this event within the gentrification pro­cess was obvious: the pre­sen­ta­tion of the city center as a stage for cultural consumption, a kind of rehearsal for the “recovery” (i.e., gentrification) proposed by the administration. Prior to the event, the city had carried out a social cleansing of the downtown area, by physically removing local street populations. The mayor’s office was even able to pres­ent this removal as a victory for the common citizen against the criminal forces of the pcc, a power­ful drug cartel that staged a city-­wide uprising in 2006, shutting down the city for several hours. São Paulo’s newspapers promoted the same message, with headlines like “Virada Cultural is society’s answer to vio­lence” (Viva o Centro, May 22, 2006) and “Peace, the city’s answer to terrorism” (O Diário do Comércio, same date). The media generally supported the wider pro­cess of gentrification as well, with Rio de Janeiro’s Eventos e Mercado (May 24, 2006) citing São Paulo Turismo President Caio Luiz de 1 5 8   •   g av i n a d a m s

Carvalho’s contention that “the fusion of culture with tourism is the best way for the capital to find its tourist identity.”9 A few of the art collectives that developed activities as part of the Prestes Maia occupation participated in the Virada Cultural as well. I believe that this was a crass po­liti­cal ­mistake, which diminished the potency of artwork that tried to break the official framework and voice a dissident message. The fact that many artists at the time d ­ idn’t seem to fully understand the role that art plays in the gentrification pro­cess, and even the politics of their own position within the art world, made it relatively easy for the city government and development community to co-­opt them into a pseudo-­consensus around the city’s security policies in downtown São Paulo (policies that posed a direct threat to the Prestes Maia occupation itself). Conclusion It’s not my intention to diminish the experiences of art collectives working with social movements in São Paulo. I believe that t­ hese experiences have been extremely valuable and have revealed in­ter­est­ing new forms of collaborative practice. The reclaiming of the public sphere as a space of strug­gle and poetic creation has to move beyond the creation of symbols and directly address the question of what it means to work together creatively, beyond the managerial culture that presently confines artists to entrepreneurial modes of production. The ­free exchange of knowledge and skills is urgently needed, but not in the form of art products. We need artistic practices to multiply, but not artistic c­ areers. We are all authors—we all hold authority. As I noted above, one of the most impor­tant effects of the Prestes Maia art actions was to help increase the po­liti­cal cost of eviction by reframing negative popu­lar and media images of the squatters as criminals and troublemakers. By December of 2006, the federal government began to negotiate with the residents over the pos­si­ble renovation of the building for use as housing. At the very least, the housing movement has been able to survive against considerable odds. Furthermore, ­these actions helped to expand the circle of supporters for the occupation, relieving the initial group of supporters, which was composed mostly of artists. The art collectives of São Paulo gained a g­ reat deal of wisdom and practical experience as a result of their work in Prestes Maia. However, it’s also true that the art collectives ­didn’t ­really take full advantage of the occupation’s potential. A r t C o l l e c t i v e s a n d P r e s t e s M a i a   •  1 5 9

I believe, as I noted above, that this was due to their low level of politicization, their lack of understanding of internal collective practices, and the absence of a developed po­liti­cal understanding of the issues of gentrification and their own position as artists. The orga­nizational deficit of the collectives was evident not only in the difficulty that the artists had in mobilizing the squatters, but also in their inability to promote internal democracy. The artists failed to multiply the power foci within the occupation and encourage autonomy as a personal po­liti­cal practice, balancing out the highly centralized power structure within the occupation. Indeed, the occupation’s pyramid-­like hierarchy, whose apex was actually above the vis­i­ble female leaders, is evident in the ease with which the occupation was appropriated by the Partido dos Trabalhadores (the Workers Party, in power with President Lula and President-­ Elect Dilma Roussef). The pt had no qualms about trying to illegally corral voter turnout inside the building.10 ­These practices ­violated the libertarian spirit of the occupation, and ended up degrading the quality of collaborative exchanges. It is also symptomatic that they w ­ ere unable to obtain any public or private funding for the activities developed inside Prestes Maia. None of the individuals, institutions, or corporations that normally irrigate the art industry, such as federal agencies (Funarte) or public companies (Petrobras) and private banks (Itaú, Unibanco, or Bradesco) ­were willing to support the development of artwork inside the occupation. The inescapable conclusion is that it’s necessary to develop art practices that are sustainable outside such funding limitations, lest artists accept the confines established by the market. At the same time, institutional po­liti­cal parties are very ambiguous in their relationship with social movements, and cannot always be relied on as allies. São Paulo, December 2006 Postscript Several years have passed since the events described in this text. Some issues have gained in clarity while o ­ thers seem to have faded somewhat in importance. The central issue, however—­that of the encounter between art and social movements—­seems to burn on. When working collaboratively in contexts such as the Prestes Maia occupation, artists still tend to view themselves as specialists providing a ser­vice, and not as part of a social movement themselves. This perception impoverishes the quality, and the poetic potency, of their collaborations with other social actors. It also results in a detachment from re­sis­tance itself that enables the artist 1 6 0   •   g av i n a d a m s

to “spin off” the resulting work in the art world once a specific po­liti­cal action is completed, while evading the possibility that the production and circulation of art itself could be a site of strug­gle. As I write this, activities collectively developed in Prestes Maia as “­free” or “author-­less” now exist in the portfolios of individual artists and designers, who are content to leave ­actual politics to somebody ­else to carry out.11 ­After the Arab Spring and the Occupy movements worldwide erupted on the po­liti­cal scene, fresh challenges now have to be met. Although icon or symbol making may play its part in the pro­cess, clearly it is not enough to meet the demands of a global re­sis­tance movement, whose chief tasks seem to include making a horizontal, nonviolent, and inclusive social structure actually work, as opposed to simply imagining it or circulating rec­ords in the art world. At this crucial stage, information, experience, and affection must be exchanged in forms other than the market, other than the media, and other than institutional politics. In this context, the separation between makers and thinkers is especially harmful. As for the squatters’ movement, it is still battling on. Despite numerous attempts by the mayor’s office to “reoccupy” and gentrify the city center (including many de­mo­li­tions and evictions), Brazilian poverty and destitution seem to be “winning” in the downtown area, even as the forces of speculation continue to march through the city. Municipal and state administrations have up to now failed to provide the private and public resources necessary to significantly “cleanse” the area of lower-­income dwellers, so the basic situation remains the same: vacant property amid a multitude of homeless ­people. In conformity with the dictates of neoliberalism, ­there is still no public housing policy in São Paulo (for many years the municipal housing secretary was also the president of the Real Estate Operators u ­ nion!). The slow-­burning “cold war” rages on. In 2010 I was told by the cooperative of catadores (pickers who collect rubbish around town and recycle it, often using handcarts) that the murder of street ­people in vari­ous downtown areas is still carried out by real estate enterprises. On the one hand, the housing movements still have many opportunities for strug­gle and re­sis­tance in downtown São Paulo. On the other hand, t­ here has been no real shift in the market-­based orientation of urban policy in the city, so they have found it difficult to mount a successful campaign. ­There is no public provision of any kind for low-­or no-­income families in São Paulo or elsewhere in Brazil. The most that the Brazilian state w ­ ill provide on any level is a loan that amounts to what, for us, is a middle-­class income (some US$700 dollars per month). A r t C o l l e c t i v e s a n d P r e s t e s M a i a   •  1 6 1

The Prestes Maia occupation ended in a somewhat anticlimactic manner. By late 2007, leaders and squatters reported an increasing erosion of internal life and a general exhaustion with the precarious situation in the building. Participation in collective actions declined around the same time, while reports of vio­lence inside the building increased. The occupation’s coordinating committee struck a deal with City Hall to vacate the building in exchange for a weak but clear commitment from the federal government to provide the squatters with living space in three nearby buildings, currently undergoing renovation, or flats in municipal housing estates. All of this was to be paid for by the squatters themselves, funded by federal loans. The mayor himself came into Prestes Maia to announce the deal in an event that was widely covered by the media. Somewhat surprisingly, given the history of the occupation, he was cheered by the squatters pres­ent. The deal consisted of three choices. The squatters/occupiers could choose from a flat in a housing estate in the distant outskirts of São Paulo, a small monthly rental stipend for t­ hose choosing to wait for the three federal buildings to be refurbished, or a letter of credit from City Hall that allowed them to borrow money to buy a ­house or flat. The housing estate turned out to be very difficult to reach on public transportation and in very poor condition. The rental stipend was cut ­after a few months, and, to my knowledge, only one of the federal buildings was actually refurbished. As for the letter of credit, it did allow many dwellers (although not ­those with no income) to buy a place of their own, but it remains to be seen w ­ hether they w ­ ill be able keep up with the payments. Hopefully the upturn in the economy in Brazil ­will allow them to keep their jobs long enough to pay off their loans. The occupiers fi­nally vacated Prestes Maia in 2007. Since then ­there have been many other, smaller, occupations in downtown São Paulo. The strategy remains the same: create a de facto situation with the occupation of one or more buildings and then bargain with City Hall for the best pos­ si­ble deal. Police brutality and impunity from prosecution is still the norm. Prestes Maia itself was partially reoccupied in 2010, and this time artists are actually living in the building. This was a very positive development that the artists associated with the previous occupation ­were unable to carry out. By living in the community, they seek to work so that more significant exchanges can be achieved, and collaborative practices can be tested as they are developed. The proximity to conflicts and the tensions resulting from living together can only enrich collaborative practices. As pointed out in the original text, ­there ­were many productive aspects to the Prestes Maia occupation. Perhaps most significant was the 1 6 2   •   g av i n a d a m s

s­ imple fact that an occupation involving two thousand p ­ eople occurred in the m ­ iddle of downtown São Paulo. The occupation was marked by an expansive reaching out to society as a ­whole, and created explosive possibilities for social change by breaking down divisions and bringing p ­ eople together through shared strug­gle. It opened up an experimental space in which new ways of being together could be tried out. At the same time, the occupation featured certain negative characteristics. ­These included incidents of authoritarianism and corruption within the housing movement itself, the fragmentation of the strug­gle as a w ­ hole, and the large numbers of destitute ­people who participated in the movement but who never gained any benefit. Equally problematic was the relationship ­between the movement, São Paulo’s po­liti­cal parties, and the city’s administrators. Thus, the l­ awyer and shadow leader of the Prestes Maia occupation was also the owner of a catering com­pany that runs the municipal homeless shelters in the city. The Prestes Maia leadership and ­others thus, indirectly, drew salaries from the city administration by means of a chain of outsourced ser­vices. He is also a member of the Worker’s Party, which is in opposition at the level of city government, but holds power at the federal level. It’s also worth noting that the success of the housing movement (represented by the relocation of some of the squatters to new housing) also led to its po­liti­cal disempowerment, as ­those who got homes ceased to participate in the strug­gle. This is in contrast to the Rural Landless Movement in Brazil (the mst), which is involved in a strug­gle over the means of production (arable land), rather than the owner­ship of private property. So the final picture seems to indicate that the attempt by artists to forge working relationships with social movements or other collective agents is both necessary and liberating. Th ­ ere is ample room for creative experimentation and questioning in the context of social strug­gle. It is my belief that artistic practices are especially well positioned to participate in social strug­gles, cutting across t­ hose divisions in which the con­temporary po­liti­cal subject operates. São Paulo, February 2012 Notes This is an abridged and revised version of the text “Arte e coletivos na ocupação Prestes Maia,” originally written in Portuguese and circulated in Brazil, having appeared in vari­ous electronic publications (including the defunct Documenta 12 magazines) from January 2007.

A r t C o l l e c t i v e s a n d P r e s t e s M a i a   •  1 6 3

1 The Prestes Maia occupation was deactivated and emptied out on June 15, 2007. It has recently (November 2010) been reoccupied. 2 Fórum Centro Vivo has published a complete dossier about the pro­cesses ­under way downtown: 3 Perhaps the best surviving site for information and documents is http://inte​ 4 A relatively compete list of acmstc participants can be found ­here (bear in mind that it was compiled before the event):​ /group/corocoletivo/message/5. 5 This would read something like “Repossession x Integration without Property.” 6 The work with the real estate placards had been initiated in the splac event, promoted by eia. 7 As it would have been ­later related to the Prestes Maia coordinators by the police battalion commander. 8​ -urgentes/Les-actions-urgentes-en-anglais/article/brazil-468-families-9275,, http://www​ 9 A good compilation of press reactions can be read, in Portuguese, at the Virada Cultural official site:​ =11&nid=180. 10 Providing ­favors such as transport to poll stations in exchange for votes. 11 Also, further readings revealed that the issue of the man­ag­er and managerial practices has been better discussed by, for instance, Gregory Sholette and his definition of the art world, and the distinction between “thinkers” and “makers.”

1 6 4   •   g av i n a d a m s

Frente 3 de Fevereiro


PROJ­E CT DESCRIPTION rodrigo martí Frente 3 de Fevereiro (f3f) is an art group that was formed in 2004, following the murder of a young black student, Flavio Sant’Ana, by police in São Paolo. A ­ fter dropping off his girlfriend at the airport on the eve­ning of February 3, Flavio Sant’Ana returned home, where the police, searching for a thief described as a young black male, confronted and ultimately shot him to death by the side of a suburban road. The only reason this murder did not go unnoticed, as the majority do, was that Flavio’s ­father was a retired police officer who took it upon himself to investigate the details of his son’s death and discovered that the police officers had planted a firearm on Flavio in order to construe a violent intent on his part. When Flavio’s ­father brought his findings to the attention of the media, it ignited a national conversation. In addition to the overt vio­lence that led to Flavio’s death, it was also a symbolically poignant event, as it challenged the “racially demo­cratic” narrative of Brazilian culture. A national myth maintains that Brazil is a post-­racial state, fundamentally mestizo as opposed to segregated, in which anyone who is perceived as being of African or indigenous descent has equal access to the tools of social mobility and social dignity. Flavio Sant’Ana, who was a young aspiring dentist from a middle-­class background, with an advanced degree and a Swiss (and Caucasian) girlfriend, was, in short, what many consider the perfect image

of a young aspiring black male in Brazil, who should have easily attained his goals. Instead, his race became the decisive f­ actor that led to his being slain by police. Troubled by the biased and incomplete media coverage of the killing and the way in which the media would overlook the racial nature of this form of vio­lence, the group asked themselves a set of founding questions: “How can we bring the question of race back into the debate around the killing of this young man? How do you begin to talk about the vio­lence, legitimated by a racist and violent society, b ­ ehind police brutality?”1 The group had nineteen members as of 2006, coming from diverse backgrounds in the arts, academia, and other areas. Together they use research and direct forms of action to bring attention to issues of race in Brazil. They consider their art to be transdisciplinary and have created works in a number of media, beginning with street interventions in 2004 and including a full-­length book and documentary, both entitled Zumbi Somos Nós (We Are Zumbi), released in 2007. The group received funding from the vai city initiative, which supports proj­ects for underserved areas, to realize their youth-­targeted book, and was funded by the Fundação Padre Anchieta, a private educational radio and tele­vi­sion foundation, to create their documentary film. Funding for their other works is varied and tends to come from socially and po­liti­cally oriented initiatives based in Brazil, such as Videobrazil, dedicated to supporting the production of art in the “geopo­liti­cal south cir­cuit”; the Goethe Institute of Rio de Janeiro; and the Sesc of São Paulo, a long-­standing social ser­vice initiative supported by the business sector. In their first four years the group exhibited their work eigh­teen times, showing in community art centers, galleries, and international museums, beginning with the Kunsthalle Fridericianum in Kassel in 2005. The artistic practice of F3F is characterized by a mixing of forms, ­music, and urban intervention and documentation, found most succinctly in their video work. The group also maintains a pedagogical approach that is focused on the importance of involving oneself with the lived events that form their politics, while also continuing to develop an intellectual, if not academic, line of research in parallel to their artistic practice. The group has named eight thinkers as collaborators in their efforts, such as Vera Malaguti, a sociologist and professor in criminology; historian Nicolau Svcenko; and Frei Davi, a Franciscan friar and head of Educafro, an educational initiative serving the poor and African descendants of Brazil. Their intellectual inquiry has led them to frame their production along three related lines 1 6 6   •  r o d r i g o m a r t í

of investigation: police vio­lence, racial democracy, and the geography of exclusion. F3F used the murder of Flavio Sant’Ana to galvanize a public discussion of the long and varied history of racism in Brazil. Their first action involved the construction of a monument and a plaque to mark the site where Flavio’s murder took place, in order to commemorate the young man’s life. A video made by the group documents the installation of the plaque, which took the form of a symbolic public burial ser­vice where ­those involved and their supporters held hands while a painted plaque was lowered onto a cement patch at the side of the road. Musicians ­were on hand playing ­music throughout the action, as well as witnesses and Flavio’s ­father, who gave accounts of the eve­ning of Flavio’s death. The group followed this action with the production of a series of graphic posters, the first of numerous public statements. The initial poster asked: “Police racism. Who polices the police?” The act of placing ­these posters around the city led group members to consider the varied perspectives from which the city is seen and experienced. This insight marked the beginning of the group’s interest in cartography as a key ele­ment in their work. In 2005 a public debate on racism in Brazil was sparked ­after an Argentinian soccer player used a racial slur against a black Brazilian player during a Copa Libertadora soccer game. The slur was caught by a nearby microphone and led to the Argentinian player’s arrest for “slander aggravated by discrimination” on live tele­vi­sion. Understanding that the soccer game was a mythological space in which the image of Brazil was itself being played out, the group worked to deconstruct the fixed ste­reo­types of blackness and Brazilian society reproduced in the media and the forces that propagate them on the soccer pitch. For the final game of the Copa Libertadora, one of the most watched events of the year, a massive banner was created, not unlike t­ hose used by soccer fans to cheer their team on, allowing the group to infiltrate the media. In massive black letters and in a kind of provocative salute, the banner read “Brazil Negro Salve.” This ambiguous statement could be read in two primary ways. The term salve can be used to mean both the affirmation in a greeting, as in “Hello black Brazil,” while also potentially meaning health or well-­being, as in “To black Brazil’s well-­being.” The group followed this action with a number of other banners unfurled by fans at soccer games. The next one read “Onde estao os negros?” (Where are the blacks?). The statement was meant to lead to a questioning of the category of blackness, an identity that can be both given to and taken by a person or group, as well as connoting the spaces, both physical or F r e n t e 3 d e F e v e r e i r o   •  1 6 7

cultural, that are designated as “black,” such as soccer, the favela, or samba ­music. As part of a satellite site for the 2006 Havana Biennial, the group joined a dozen other collectives to support the Prestes Maia squat, the largest high-­rise squat in Latin Amer­i­ca, which at the time ­housed over four hundred families who ­were fighting their upcoming eviction. It was during this occasion that the group created a work for their third line of inquiry, the geography of exclusion. Residents of Prestes Maia had formed what became an elaborate modern experiment in autonomous living. The long-­vacant building in the m ­ iddle of the city was cleaned, drug traffickers ­were expelled, cultural events and educational workshops ­were or­ga­nized, and a ­free library was built. But in 2006, a­ fter fifteen years of ­accruing debt over municipal taxes, and a­ fter four years of being inhabited, the building was to be returned to its l­ egal owner, who began to threaten residents with eviction. It was at this site of conflict between the poor and homeless who are, as we know, predominantly p ­ eople of color, and t­ hose who own and manage the cities properties, that F3F created another banner linking Prestes Maia with the Quilombo dos Palmares, an impor­tant historical antecedent from the sixteenth c­ entury. Quilombos ­were settlements of mainly free-­born and escaped survivors of slavery, of African descent. The Quilombo dos Palmares was the largest of ­these settlements, lasting almost a ­century and growing to an estimated thirty thousand ­people. The population developed their own form of government, derived from a number of Central African models, and ­later became the center of what was a fugitive kingdom, known by many as “­little Angola,” and consisting of a large centralized capital with surrounding settlements. Their last ­great general was Zumbi dos Palmares, whose fall to the Portuguese in 1695 marked the beginning of the end of this massive Quilombo.2 In order to link the present-­day residents of the Prestes Maia settlement with ­those of the historic Quilombos and their last g­ reat hero, the f3f suspended a massive banner from the top of the Prestes Maia building with “Zumbi somos nós” (We are Zumbi) scrawled across it in bold black text on white. It constituted a plea for Brazilians of any ethnicity or class to identify with the history of Zumbi and the autonomous population of the Quilombos against the imperial powers that continue to wage war against the African descendents and natives of Brazil. Foreseeing the inevitable conflict to come with the fast-­approaching World Cup and Olympics to be held in Brazil, the group has begun a new 1 6 8   •  r o d r i g o m a r t í

work tentatively titled “Architecture of Exclusion.” Instigated in Rio de Janeiro as a video documenting their interventions and interviews, the work considers the changing f­aces of the favelas and their police and military occupation. The work takes the catastrophic turmoil of Haiti a­ fter the devastating earthquake of 2010—­represented by a ­giant balloon globe with Haiti scrawled over it, filmed while crashing on waves or bouncing around a crowd of ­people—to continue exploring the ways in which Brazil’s claims of tolerance and equality have been used to cover over an inherently unequal and racist society. THE BECOMING WORLD OF BRAZIL frente 3 de fevereiro City as Spectacle: 2014 World Cup, 2016 Olympic Games,   and the Dramatization of Conflicts Brazil! 2014 World Cup! 2016 Olympic Games! It is every­one’s wish to experience it live and in color, this incredible global spectacle. To be the center of the world. To be the world stage for contests between the warriors of all the nations in the universe. To be the world’s theater. The red curtains are opened. The lights are illuminated. The strug­gle to assert oneself as the venue for the two biggest sporting events in the world, the Olympic Games and the World Cup of soccer, goes beyond the issues of media visibility and the supposed economic benefits. Beneath this façade ­there exists the essential role of the direction this theater of forces ­will take. To coordinate t­hese events means to be in a privileged place to articulate the strands of a geopo­liti­cal dispute. But first, the primary condition: one must erase any possibility of diverting attention from the spectacle. Currently, in the Brazilian capitals that w ­ ill be the headquarters of ­these events, a war is being waged to erase social conflict. Social movements are criminalized. Criminality is displaced to spaces far from the view of the cameras. Within this dynamic, the media has a fundamental role. Which crimes are made vis­i­ble and which are made invisible? Brazil in the Twenty-­First ­Century In recent years, Brazil has under­gone a historic change. For the first time, and in continuous form, the country is experiencing economic growth, a reduction of poverty, a reduction in in­equality, and a growing international presence. Brazil is fash­ion­able. Brazil is an emerging example. This ­great success F r e n t e 3 d e F e v e r e i r o   •  1 6 9

9.1.  ​Overview of artist map of Brazil.

has allowed Brazil to gain the right to host the two most impor­tant sporting events in the world: the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. Rio de Janeiro is transforming itself as the center of this global spectacle. The pro­cess of “the becoming world of Brazil” began in the de­cade of the 1990s, with its opening up to so-­called globalization. This opening promised won­ders, modernization, increased competitiveness, greater efficiency, and improved well-­being for all. The open market would take care of every­thing. Brazil followed the United States and began to participate more actively in diverse international spaces. Nevertheless, just as with 1 7 0   •  f r e n t e 3 d e f e v e r e i r o

9.2.  ​Media/concentration of power.

vari­ous other Latin American countries, by the beginning of the 2000s it was already clear that neoliberalism had not delivered what it promised. In­equality and poverty had risen. Media: Concentration of power

The concentration of power around select financial groups that control major communication media has produced a contraction within media-­ related discourse. In the same construction of concepts, the “big media networks” create the context of consensus and “legitimacy” for police operations that function as war operations. Within the logic of war, the e­ nemy (the other) can and should be defeated by a soldier of the army. A dichotomized discourse between good and bad reigns, similar to the already repeated discourse of the “war against terror.” International or­ga­nized crime: Drug and arms trafficking

Rio de Janeiro is a central point in the international network of drug distribution. In the city, the mafias of the world negotiate and define the international price of cocaine. During the military dictatorship, in the favelas (informal settlements similar to slum dwellings) where the state was notably absent, certain thieves began to view drug trafficking as an opportunity for greater profits than the lower level of earnings to which they ­were accustomed. Over time, the traffickers began to arm themselves in order to defend and expand their territories. Their competitors, in turn, also became heavi­ly armed in order to defend themselves. The police also armed themselves with the most lethal weapons. The strug­gle between ­these groups generated a state of war. The logic of war and extermination F r e n t e 3 d e F e v e r e i r o   •  1 7 1

9.3.  ​International or­ga­nized crime/  drug and arms trafficking.

then began to dominate public security policies. The inhabitants of the favelas are seen as civil populations of the e­ nemy army. Arms trafficking, money laundering, the implication of the state in ­these pro­cesses, housing and employment policies, all remain b ­ ehind the smokescreen of gunfire. This arms race is only pos­si­ble ­because of the easy access to weapons. Who sells t­ hese weapons? Who profits from this trafficking? Do the arms traffickers live in the favelas? Is or­ga­nized crime pos­si­ble without the state’s consent? Corruption: Military police

The police force with the highest killing rate in the world. The Brazilian military police emerged as a republican attempt to ensure the state’s mono­poly of vio­lence. However, it is constituted on the values of slaveholding and colonial socie­ties. The figure of the “Captain of the Woods,” former slaves who ­were captured black slaves in colonial times, continues to perpetuate itself. The police headquarters extend into the poorest areas, into the peripheries, not to protect the population but to control it. Underpaid and underprepared, the police are also launched into the logic of war. Corruption, vio­lence, and arbitrariness determine the actions of the police throughout the country. Traffickers: Systemic point of drug ­wholesale

Traffickers in the favelas are the tip of a system of which no one knows the end point. Th ­ ose who profit the most, t­ hose who are b ­ ehind the entire system, clearly do not live in the favelas. Once again, one can bet that the criminal embodies the crime. So the area where the criminals—­ “merchants,” as Mano Brown says—­have their business is invaded, and it is assumed that the occupation takes place over the crime area, not the criminals’ area. ­Will crime be eliminated from the social sphere at the rate that the criminal is eliminated from the geographic sphere? 1 7 2   •  f r e n t e 3 d e f e v e r e i r o

9.4.  ​Military police/the police force with the highest killing rate in the world.

Militias: Paramilitary groups that dispute the mono­poly of vio­lence

The militias are made up of current and former public security agents who drive the traffickers out of the community and then take over control of that community. Instead of profiting from drug trafficking, ­these militias profit from the collection of payments for ser­vices in ­those communities, such as illegal cable TV, bus transport, gas, and so on, in addition to charging for the security they offer. ­These groups are heavi­ly oppressive, imposing curfews, threatening and executing p ­ eople, and so on. The militias ­were created more than a de­cade ago and they expanded very F r e n t e 3 d e F e v e r e i r o   •  1 7 3

rapidly, ­controlling areas of favelas ­today larger than t­ hose held by or­ga­ nized crime factions. Fascist delirium: BOPE (Batalhão de Operações Policiais   Especiais)—­elite police

The intensification of the confrontations, police corruption, and the difficulty of “combat” in the geography of the hills and the housing of the favelas provoked the Rio de Janeiro police to develop a highly specialized combat technology. We have developed an im­mense technology to control the masses of impoverished populations, to the point that we now export our technology. We became global benchmarks in a war against one’s own population. Tropa de Elite

The movie Tropa de Elite (Elite Squad), which premiered in 2007, addressed the issue of the strug­gle against trafficking in Rio de Janeiro and the actions of the bope. The film was a ­great success and generated intense debate. The identification of the main character, Captain Nascimento, as a hero makes a fascist delirium apparent: torture and extermination. In the movie’s sequel, Tropa de Elite 2, the filmmakers deci­ded to focus on the issue of militias, resulting in the film becoming the biggest box office success in zilian cinema.    UPPs in the southern zone: Pacifying Police Unit (UPP)

Created in 2008, the upps are the center of the new public security policy. It is a Rio de Janeiro proj­ ect for the permanent police occupation of the favelas with the objective of regaining control of the territories controlled by drug trafficking. The operations are made up of a large military force, with the objective of intimidating the traffickers to avoid conflict. First, “the bope sweeps the community clean.” With the traffickers driven out, the community begins to coexist with a constant and intense police presence. The training of the upps consists of two weeks with the bope and a one-­week course in community policing. The policing is done with war weaponry. This proj­ect’s 9.5.  ​Militias/paramilitary groups that dispute the   mono­poly of vio­lence.

1 74   •   f r e n t e 3 d e f e v e r e i r o

9.6.  ​BOPE (Batalhão de Operações   Policiais Especiais)/elite police.

origins are in the Operación Orión, which was the first military occupation in the slums of Medellín, Colombia. Police state: Geopo­liti­cal war for traffic hegemony

In front of a media-­perpetuated discourse of the good (represented by spectacular police forces like bope) against the evil (represented by the terror ­toward the poor young black trafficker), we have the erasure, the invisibility of the ferocious strug­gle for hegemony in the crime geopo­liti­ cal scenario. In the face of this police state that brings to light certain crimes while it shadows other ones, we ask how do the or­ga­nized crime’s new diagrams of forces reconfigure themselves, submerged, in the geopo­liti­cal relations. Where do the traffickers expelled from their local controls go? What are the new collusions of the ­great criminal organ­izations? How is the drug distribution in the southern zone structured? Does anyone believe that the consumers have stopped consuming? Walls: Vis­ib ­ le and invisible

Brazil’s history has always consisted of walls. Invisible walls that made the country one of the most unequal in the world. Walls that seemed to be crumbling. However, once again we are confronted with a wall. This vis­i­ble wall comes with the new cover story of environmental protection. The government of the state of Rio de Janeiro announced the creation of walls to contain the advance of nineteen favelas, supposedly with the goal of protecting the remaining vegetation on the hillsides. Of the areas of the city that are built higher than one hundred meters above sea level, 70 ­percent are occupied by the ­middle class and 30 ­percent by favelas. It is out of this history of vis­i­ble and invisible, voluntary and involuntary walls that the conflicts of the “Cidade Espetáculo” are revealed once again. Walls more than four meters high reiterate a politics of repression. Once again, barriers are constructed in order to contain populations. Architectures of exclusion. But the fight to level t­ hese concrete walls F r e n t e 3 d e F e v e r e i r o   •  1 7 5

continues everywhere. A rupture is incited in the immaterial walls. A rupture from the status quo, from that which dominates, with the eloquent voice of the world. Cuts, fissures, fractures, scratches, an open path for the birth of a micro crisis. A micro crisis that c­ auses something to spring forth from the situation, but that does not belong to that terrain. A mutant birth. A bastard birth. An extraordinary birth. A birth of the fantastic provoked within and by the most mundane, everyday structure. “Standard colored suspect”: The ste­reo­type of   the young, poor, black criminal

The legacy of slavery in Brazil, the history of our police, and the history of racism in our country result in a type of “standard colored suspect” as the police force’s main target: young, black, poor, and inhabitants of the periphery. In this sense, police action is extremely discriminatory. Extermination of youth

The logic of war within police action and the identification of the ste­reo­ type of the suspect and the trafficker, marked by racism, cause the police force with the highest killing rate in the world to provoke a true extermination of poor black youth in the country. The large majority of individuals murdered by the police fit this profile, at a disproportionate rate compared to the ­actual characteristics of the types of individuals who commit the majority of crime in Brazil. “Re­sis­tance followed by death” is the motive for the majority of the victims of the police, and it covers up the real conditions ­under which ­those deaths occurred. Equipment like the Caveirão type of war tank utilized in Rio de Janeiro police operations, is an example of the logic of war and extermination that dominates public security. Prison system: The logic of mass punishment and incarceration

Another ele­ment of the cycle within the police state is the prison system. The logic of prohibition and punishment of criminals generates increasingly severe laws as the only pos­si­ble response to the increase in crime. Prohibition in itself is never questioned. Neither are alternative forms of justice. Legislation prohibits the use and commercialization of certain substances, while it permits ­others that are equally or more toxic than ­those that carry penalties. Prohibitionist laws, the desire for punishment, and the logic of the war against crime lead to the same outcome: an 1 7 6   •  f r e n t e 3 d e f e v e r e i r o

9.7.  ​Police state/geopo­liti­cal   war for traffic hegemony.

increase in imprisonment. The large majority of p ­ eople in prison have not committed a violent crime. Prisons do not exist to rehabilitate, but only to punish and generate more dangerous subjects. The more criminals, the more legitimized the police state becomes. Once again, all t­ hese policies affect the poor black populations much more than the rest of society. Racism is pres­ent at all levels of the justice system. Brazil’s prison population is made up of approximately five hundred thousand individuals. In the last de­cade, this number increased by 150 ­percent. Media-­driven attacks on the city by criminal factions

In November 2010 in Rio de Janeiro, we witnessed the media spectacle of the military’s invasion of the Complexo do Alemão. The triggers of the occupation ­were attacks against buses, trucks, and cars, particularly on November 21, in the southern zone of the city. One of the principal instruments of pressure utilized by or­ga­nized crime factions involves attacks on the city. From the burning of buses to direct attacks against the police, this is the method ­these factions use when they want to draw attention or seek revenge for certain police actions. Military occupation in the northern zone:   The invasion of the Complexo do Alemão

The Complexo do Alemão is a complex of favelas in the northern zone of Rio de Janeiro, considered the main fortress of drug trafficking in the city. It was controlled by the Comando Rojo, and was known as one of the most dangerous places in Rio. The federal government had already begun social infrastructure construction proj­ects in the area. In November 2010 the state government, which already had plans to implant a upp in the Complexo do Alemão, took advantage of the favorable atmosphere F r e n t e 3 d e F e v e r e i r o   •  1 7 7

9.8.  ​Media-­driven attacks on the   city by criminal factions.

within public opinion generated by the criminal factions’ attacks on the city in order to carry out the occupation. The state government, together with military forces made available by the federal government, invaded the entrances to the Complexo do Alemão. According to official statistics, thirty-­seven ­people ­were killed during the invasion, 123 ­were accused, and 130 ­were arrested. The seizure of weapons and explosives increased police numbers. Around 102 vehicles ­were set on fire. It was pos­si­ble to see the traffickers fleeing on live tele­vi­sion. Reporters wore bulletproof vests and narrated emotionally from the front. The secretary of security referred to the region as “the heart of evil.” In the end, the main news networks proclaimed a “victory against crime.” Interviews revealed terrorized residents. A discourse emerged regarding liberation from the clutches of drug trafficking. The operation of occupying the Complexo do Alemão had the support of the army. Armored cars, camouflaged soldiers, and heavy armaments w ­ ere utilized in order to convince the traffickers that t­ here was no possibility of re­sis­tance. They played their role in the media spectacle. In contrast with the pacified favelas of the southern zone of the city, the Complexo do Alemão was initially ­under the control of, and patrolled by, the armed forces. 1 7 8   •  f r e n t e 3 d e f e v e r e i r o

9.9.  ​Military occupation in the northern zone/  the invasion of the Complexo do Alemão.

The United Nations (UN) geopo­liti­cal dispute

One of the facets of the dispute for Brazil’s central role in international politics during the Lula years was the search for a principal role for Brazil to play in the stabilization of Haiti. In 2004, the demo­ cratically elected president of Haiti, Jean-­Bertrand Aristide, was removed from the country by U.S. military forces. The un Security Council then created the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (minustah). “Haitian” Troops: Troops from Haiti

A large number of the army’s soldiers who occupy and patrol the Complexo do Alemão served in minustah in Haiti. Seven hundred of the approximately two thousand soldiers involved in the occupation had already pointed their guns at the Haitians. The justification for this use of Brazilian manpower was the “troops’ schooling in urban conflicts.” MINUSTAH: Brazilian military men in Haiti

Brazil deci­ded to assume the coordination of minustah. Brazil is the country with the largest contingent of troops, and it leads the military command of the mission. One of the objectives of minustah is to pacify and disarm rebel groups in Haiti that are located in the country’s large favelas. Before departing for the mission, Brazilian soldiers had military training with bope in order to learn how to carry out combat missions in favelas.

9.10.  ​“Haitian” troops/troops from Haiti.

9.11.  ​MINUSTAH/Brazilian military men in Haiti.

F r e n t e 3 d e F e v e r e i r o   •  1 7 9

Haitian in­de­pen­dence: The first and only colonial   slave revolution to ­assume power

The first slave revolution occurred in 1804. The first in­de­pen­dence in the Latin American colonies. A black victory. A time of hope. The hope of a nation forged in the strug­gle for liberty. “Haitianismo,” the fear of a g­ reat slave revolt, spreads through the Spanish and Portuguese colonies. In Rio de Janeiro, the blackest city in the continent, this fear was felt intensely. How does one maintain order? How does a minority maintain control over a majority? The revolutionary ­future of Haiti begins to be blocked in 1825 with the French obligation to Haiti to compensate them for the loss of their slaves. The debt would last ­until 1947. In 1915 the United States carried out a military occupation of the country and r­ emained ­until 1934, training a Haitian military force that has brutally repressed ­every re­sis­tance movement. ­These military forces became the ruling power ­after the exit of North American troops. From 1957 to 1986, the dictators Papa Doc and Baby Doc controlled the country like a militia, terrorizing all ­those who opposed them. ­After a year of strong public protests, Baby Doc was forced into exile in France. In 1990 Jean-­Bertrand Aristide was elected president with 67  ­percent of the vote. A public mobilization impeded a first coup attempt, but a second attempt ended up installing a new military dictatorship less than one year ­after the elections. Aristide’s party members ­were persecuted. In 1995, René Préval was elected as Aristide’s successor. Aristide returned to power in 2000. In 2010 an earthquake destroyed more than 80 ­percent of the structures in the capital of Port-­au-­Prince. It is estimated that more than two hundred thousand ­people ­were killed. Colonization: Africa, Asia, Oceania, and Amer­i­ca

At the center of the colonial pro­cess was the crushing of infinite possibilities of existence. Colonization left a t­ riple trauma in ­these new worlds: the vio­lence of the Inquisition, the vio­lence of slavery, and the vio­lence of extinction. How do we invent our past? The past is a fabrication. We look for exceptions to the historical norms. Giving chances to multiplicity.

1 8 0   •  f r e n t e 3 d e f e v e r e i r o

9.12.  ​The Corner of Worlds.

The Corner of Worlds

A proj­ect created to rethink our history of colonization and its implications. In South Africa, a creation addressing borders and pro­cesses of identity. Brasil Negro Salve

July  14, 2005. The final game of the Copa Libertadores. São Paulo and Atlético Paranaense play in the game that ­will decide which is the best soccer team in the Amer­i­cas. In the packed stadium, more than 75,000 ­people watch the game. In their homes, millions of spectators watch on their tele­vi­sion screens. In the ­middle of the transmission, a ­g iant flag begins to be opened by the fans. A phrase is revealed: “Brasil Negro Salve” (Save Black Brazil). Through this enigmatic action—­which is followed by a series of three other flags—­a documentary film of the São Paulo–­based research and action collective Frente 3 de Fevereiro is created. The film Zumbi Somos Nós (We Are Zumbi)3 attempts to deconstruct racial prejudices in Brazil, seeking to inscribe new forms of existence into everyday life. F r e n t e 3 d e F e v e r e i r o   •  1 8 1

9.13.  ​Brasil Negro Salve.

9.14.  ​Haiti ­Here.

Haiti ­Here

The film Architecture of Exclusion came about as a pro­cess of research-­ action created by the Frente 3 de Fevereiro and Afrofuturismo collectives. In this audiovisual production, we propose questions about the vis­ib ­ le and invisible walls that permeate urban centers. A ­giant ball that reads “Haiti ­Here” was used to trigger dialogue and encounters. Is Haiti ­here? 1 8 2   •  f r e n t e 3 d e f e v e r e i r o

9.15.  ​Haiti ­Here.

Responses from the Ipanema and Rio carnivals reveal the territories of our historical perspective. Haiti ­Here

The first intervention on the wall of the Santa Marta favela was to paint a hole on it. This was part of the research-­action of the “Architecture of Exclusion” proj­ect. Police racism: Who polices the police?

Posters pasted around police headquarters in São Paulo. Frente 3 de Fevereiro, 2004. What can we expect from a country that kills its population at its most active age? And who benefits from ­those deaths? The weapons industry, the uniform industry? The cemeteries, the funeral homes? And who polices the police? And what do I have to do with this? And what do you have to do with this? We are Zumbi

The intervention in the soccer stadium was transmitted live. The assertion of new possibilities for the f­ uture with the reframing of the past. To connect with the transformative power of the world. The happiness of creation, action, and reflection. We are Zumbi! São Paulo, 2006. How do we invent our ­future? F r e n t e 3 d e F e v e r e i r o   •  1 8 3

9.16.  ​Police racism: Who polices the police?

9.17.  ​We are Zumbi.

The holes, the crevices, the cracks in the walls created by the demonstrations of life. Unlimited finite of new ways of living. Explosions on the no exit road. Not every­thing is dominated.  . . . ​ The Becoming World of Brazil. Cartography created by Frente 3 de Fevereiro and Afrofuturismo in 2011. This proj­ect was created by Daniel Lima and Felipe Teixeira. Drawings by Daniel Lima. Photos: Peetssa, Cris Ribas, and Frente 3 de Fevereiro. 1 8 4   •  f r e n t e 3 d e f e v e r e i r o

Notes 1 Frente 3 de Fevereiro, Zumbi Somos Nós (São Paulo: Corprint, 2007), 6. 2​­ “Quilombo: Brazilian Maroons during Slavery,” Cultural Survival Quarterly, ­December 2001, https://­www.culturalsurvival​.­org​/­publications​/­cultural​ -­survival​-­quarterly​/­quilombo​-­brazilian​-­maroons​-­during​-­slavery. 3 Zumbi was one the most prominent leaders of the Quilombo of Palmares, which was established in the seventeenth ­century. Quilombos ­were runaway rebel slaves’ settlements in Brazil.

F r e n t e 3 d e F e v e r e i r o   •  1 8 5

Interview with Mauricio Brandão of BijaRi


mariola v. alvarez, October 9, 2011

ma: You all met each other in the Universidade de São Paulo, right? mb: Yes, in the School of Architecture and Urbanism. ma: How many members are ­there now, and has the group changed over the years? mb: Yes, it has changed over the years. ­There have been many changes. We started with eight ­people and at another time ­there ­were eleven of us. Six years ago we had ten members, but in the last five years, we reduced the number of members to six. ma: And you ­were always involved? mb: Yes, I was always involved. The six of us who work together now ­were always involved. We also have a part of the group that has worked more closely with the commercial sector, like graphic design and video production. It is funny ­because ­those of us who ­were always involved with the production of works of art from the beginning are the ones that remain. And ­those who ­were not working closely with art production ended up leaving the group. I am not sure if ­there is a correspondence, but the six members most involved with art stayed in the group.

ma: And when you w ­ ere at the university, you all wanted to work in architecture, or was ­there always an interest in working between art and architecture? mb: No, no. In the beginning we worked in architecture and planned to work with architects. But as we grew older and entered the job market, we felt disillusioned with the field of architecture and how questions w ­ ere posed in the field. We became more interested in occupying a position of criticality or a po­liti­cal position, and moved away from architecture in the strict sense. We saw the possibility of creating a space between architecture, urbanism, and art, in which we could create work that considered urban conditions and social conditions critically and reflectively. ma: Did you have professors in the university, w ­ hether in architecture or art, who nurtured ­these types of ideas, or was it something that happened only ­after your years at the university? mb: We met at the university in the second or third year, and honestly we did not have a professor who introduced us to this new possibility. ­Really it has always been a quality of the group to be curious and discover new areas of research and new forms. The idea of public interventions was a bit ­later, in 2000, when at least I had already graduated. And it was an idea that developed very organically, especially tied to our travels through Eu­rope and the United States. For example, our experiences in California showed us that the artistic practices we encountered t­here ­were very similar to the ideas we ­were having h ­ ere in São Paulo. ma: So do you mean ­there ­were other groups in Eu­rope or the U.S. that influenced you? mb: No, not groups specifically, but more the larger context of art in ­those places. In the 1990s and early 2000s, we saw in Eu­rope and the U.S. artists taking an interest in questioning, intervening, and possibly modifying the dynamics and contexts outside of the art world but through the mode of art. For the most part, I think ­those groups ­were interested in discussing and confronting much more aggressively the context of neoliberalism that imprisoned creative forces for the promotion of a way of life oriented only ­toward consumerism. And so you see artists like Yes Men and 0100101110101101 who look to create provocations through media interventions, to sabotage the discourses of the ­great cap­ i­tal­ist and national corporations. Another proj­ect I can mention I n t e r v i e w w i t h M a u r i c i o B r a n d ã o   •  1 8 7

is inSite, a biennial exhibition hosted in San Diego and Tijuana, which looked to reflect the dynamics of the border and to open a discussion about American identity.1 ­These kinds of approaches instigated in us, this short cir­cuit, the possibility to expand territories through art. It is worth noting that Brazilian artists like Cildo Meireles and José Manuel had already created “Insertions into Ideological Cir­cuits” in the 1960s. In Brazil, that generation brought forth many collectives who wanted to work with public art, and we looked to other contexts to reflect on our own situation ­here in Brazil. In Western Eu­rope at this time t­ here was also a fierce context of neocapitalism. In Spain, a reference for us was the group Yo Mango and its festive interventions that mixed activism and carnival. Already in the old countries of Eastern Eu­rope, art was a way to discuss the wounds, the injustices, and the difficult transition from communism to capitalism. Irwin, Radek, Marjetica Potric, and o ­ thers influenced us greatly. We ended up meeting ­these artists in a proj­ect called “Collective Creativity” in Germany in 2005. This proj­ect, or­ga­nized by the Croatian group whw, mapped artistic collectives from Eastern Eu­rope, Latin Amer­i­ca, Rus­sia, and the U.S. ma: Could you also speak about the role of theory in your thinking at this time? What you ­were reading? mb: We have always been very interested in theory. Even in school, our program of architecture was very open to other disciplines like art history and fine arts. So we ­were always in contact with art theory, especially of Brazilian con­temporary art, like Lygia Clark, and Hélio Oiticica. We always had access to books, authors, artists, and critics like Rosalyn Deutsche, Joseph Beuys, and Miwon Kwon. We would form reading groups within the university to read texts and authors from outside the country. I remember reading Rosalyn Deutsche and lot of interest in Krzysztof Wodiczko. All the research and artistic production of Hélio Oiticica (and his book Aspiro ao grande infinito), in which he thinks through an environmental and organic art, was of ­great interest to us. His art relates itself as much to the constructed form of ­houses and favelas as to the form of movement of a Brazilian person, ­whether moving, balancing, or dancing the samba [cf. “Estética da Ginga” by Paola Berenstein]. Hélio was interested in the fusion of art and 1 8 8   •   m a r i o l a v. a lva r e z

life, and so he created a program of “ambiental art” in which he created immersive installations that worked sensorially and synaesthetically (he was inspired by the vocabulary of the vernacular architecture of Rio). We w ­ ere also interested in his famous parangolés, or robes to wear, that w ­ ere supposed to be used and “activated” by the public through movement or dance. Or they could be artistic forms that ­were inspired and completed through ­human relations. Lygia Clark also took her artistic production to a more hybrid place, but in her case art was directed more t­ oward psychotherapy. Her work was made with ele­ments that w ­ ere activated principally through touch and could be exhibited in galleries as well as used in therapy sessions. ma: Did you read the texts mentioned earlier in Portuguese or En­glish? mb: Many of them ­were Portuguese translations. I would usually read in En­glish and Spanish if texts ­were not accessible in Portuguese. I  am trying to think of other authors. . . . ​Grant Kester, who I eventually met, we read his work. We always had access to texts from outside Brazil. ma: You spoke of having vari­ous members throughout the years; how would you say the group has changed over the years? Or maybe how the group’s agenda has changed? mb: We began as a very young group. And I would say ­after about five or six years of working together, around 2006, our work had taken a tone of conflict. It searched for polemics, or to find work whose questions ­were closed. And we had to rethink t­ hings, reformulate. We understood then that we had to look for potentially constructive situations and not destructive ones. So we wanted to work with social groups and with education. We changed strategy. We realized that we wanted to produce works that made or constructed ­things. Like the proj­ect in Colombia we are working on now, where Bill [Kelley Jr.] was the curator, it moves in that direction.2 We worked with the Santo Domingo Savio community in Medellín to create a story, a memory of that community, which is very young and has had many conflicts, and to create an intervention. Using fragments, we wanted to create a story. We spoke to ­those living in the neighborhood, and they would tell us their part about their dreams, desires, and conflicts, and then we painted ­those fragments on the roofs of their homes. Th ­ ere was also a form of transportation, a cable car in which you could read I n t e r v i e w w i t h M a u r i c i o B r a n d ã o   •  1 8 9

10.1.  C ​ ontando con Nosotros (Recounting on Us), 2011. Courtesy Museo de Antioquia—­M DE 11.

the fragments of t­ hese texts while you climbed up in the cable car. So in that way, the work was like an open book, in which each page  was a moment in that community’s story. I think that example explains a bit more the direction in which we want to move. We want to work more as an interlocutor in direct contact with social conditions in order to produce knowledge rather than create works that only serve as a form of denunciation. ma: Can you say more about BijaRi’s turn to object-­making? mb: I think with the proj­ect in Colombia, it was the materiality of our relational approach or the “box of stories and secrets” constructed like an art object that allowed for a more playful and spontaneous relationship with the residents of the Santo Domingo neighborhood. We carried around this box made of cardboard and cut-up plastic ­bottles, with an audio-­video recorder stuck inside, everywhere we went and throughout the ­whole pro­cess of getting to know and chatting with the local community. The box awoke a dimension of fantasy, and I think it was through this that we could more directly and more immediately gain the confidence and sympathy of our interlocutors. At the same time, and in addition, our intervention with the phrases on the roofs of the homes had a physical dimension, once 1 9 0   •   m a r i o l a v. a lva r e z

they ­were up ­there, clear, direct, and resplendent for all who traveled on the cable car to see. It was a palpable object that was permanent and not ephemeral like works we have done in the past. ma: So this work in Medellín contrasts with what you aimed to do in the past with a work like A Galinha (2002), which intended to shock or be confrontational? Whereas now you are more interested in creating an environment? mb: Yes, exactly. I think in the past we ­were very interested in issues of provocation, shock, confrontation, and now in real­ity, our interests have changed to create situations with potentialities that are also relational, and in which denunciations still happen but in a form more complex and more interested in understanding the universe from ­those contexts. ma: And do you think that was always the case, or perhaps this has something to do with age, of not being young anymore? mb: Yes, I think that makes sense. We have more experience now. But I also think it was not only about being young, so much as just starting out making work, and being willing to be more risky. And, well, now the group has a body of work, has a history, and we have more time to produce work. Like in the work in Colombia; we can travel, do research, and even have some money to make the work. And so this gives us the opportunity to make more complex works. We are in a dif­fer­ent phase now, but we do not intend to lose any radicalism. I think that is always a possibility as one becomes more comfortable in any profession, but we want to keep a spirit of criticality. ma: Do you all live off of BijaRi, or do you also maintain other jobs? I know you also work on other media proj­ects. mb: Yes, like I was saying earlier, BijaRi makes art, but throughout our ­whole history we have also had a business com­pany. So we always survived financially through jobs like graphic design, video clips, motion graphics, set design, and it was always like that. ­These jobs sustained us financially. But I think that this aspect has its benefits and its disadvantages. We cannot survive solely from our art, which is unfortunate. But on the other hand, the money from the business brings with it in­de­pen­dence in relation to the content of our art, the format and the reception of it. With many of our friends who live off their art and show in galleries, we feel t­ here is a certain art market agenda that the artists have to follow. Our I n t e r v i e w w i t h M a u r i c i o B r a n d ã o   •  1 9 1

group instead has an in­de­pen­dence from the market, which is a positive aspect and also allows us to retain our radicalism. As a result we can retain a politics in regards to capitalism, corporations, industries, ­etc. I think this structure r­ eally works for us. It is impossible to work outside the system. But we found a way to work inside the system yet continue to critique it from within. ma: During the week do you all work from a par­tic­u­lar place, or do you each work from home, or do you meet in an office and see each other ­every day? mb: We have always had a studio where we work together ­every day. It is a system somewhat like a corporation. I think having that common space also allowed for other possibilities like hosting parties, openings, receiving artists from outside São Paulo, also acting like a space for residencies. At least twice ­every year, artists who have become familiar with us make temporary artworks in our studio. The space also allows for us to receive artists, architects, and other kinds of p ­ eople. We spend a good amount of time working on the commercial proj­ects, but we make sure to leave time to think about our art proj­ects. ma: Do you all live in the studio? mb: No, no. Only work. We have our families at home and our f­ amily at work. ma: How do you work together on proj­ects? Is it always the same or does it differ with each proj­ect? mb: Each proj­ect, both for the commercial and art proj­ects, has a coordinator from the point of view of strategy, logistics, and production. We always plan meetings for brainstorming. So when we get a proj­ect, we talk about the details, the options, and also give time for ­people to offer critiques and make suggestions. Inevitably, the work takes form and then two or three p ­ eople take over the proj­ ect specifically in terms of production. In this way ­every member of BijaRi has a say. It is a very horizontal working pro­cess. We all do a ­little bit of every­thing. Within the balance of art and commerce, sometimes I am working on an art proj­ect, and two of my colleagues are working on a business proj­ect, and then another day it is the opposite. It is very horizontal, which can be a prob­lem within the commercial aspect but not within our art practice. ma: Do you mean it can be difficult within the commercial side b ­ ecause the client sometimes does not know with whom to speak?

1 9 2   •   m a r i o l a v. a lva r e z

mb: Exactly! It is principally a prob­lem on that side. Within regular businesses, their sections or areas are clearly defined. And that is not how it is with BijaRi. We are not clearly defined. Ultimately, we work as an art group even within our structure. And that is why we recently hired a ceo to administer our commercial business. ma: You have a ceo? mb: Yes, yes we have a ceo but not for the art side. He does not interfere with our art proj­ects. He only organizes our business jobs. ma: He is like an office man­ag­er. mb: Yes, an office man­ag­er. ma: And for the art proj­ects, you say two or three p ­ eople most often work on them? So all of BijaRi conceives of the work, but then only a few carry it out? mb: No, I think I misspoke. I was thinking more of our most recent proj­ects. For instance, our work in Los Angeles and Colombia included travel, so any work that includes travel to another location, which we have been d ­ oing more of recently, we d ­ on’t all go. The maximum is three ­people. But when we work on public interventions in São Paulo we are all involved. It is an in­ter­est­ing turn ­because we are working less and less in Brazil. In the past the works we created or pursued ­were rarely made for institutions or galleries in Brazil. I think mostly ­because the format of our work does not fit with t­ hose places or the traditional circulation of art within the market. So we have always been more associated with proposals from organ­izations in Eu­rope or the U.S., who ­were always more interested in us and the kind of art we make, which is on the edges of art as it has traditionally been defined. ma: I saw on your website a work you did on the street with graffiti called Jardins Moveis (2009). mb: Yes, this is a work we made of gardens in the urban landscape. The work began with the idea of the “outdoors,” when in 2007 São Paulo passed a law prohibiting the use of outdoor ads. At the time we worked with a Dutch architect to create the gardens and transform the outdoors with suspended gardens. The idea was to put the gardens where the ads would have been. Over the course of four years we have expanded the proj­ect, and in real­ity the original idea was never carried out. So we looked to appropriate ­those forms [the space of the outdoor ad] and other urban forms like the dumpster used to collect trash on the street, and also cars. I n t e r v i e w w i t h M a u r i c i o B r a n d ã o   •  1 9 3

Once we even created a garden inside of a bus. The idea was to take ­those symbolic forms of the urban experience, which are at the same time harmful and aggressive, especially with pollution, but which we invariably live with in an urban space. So the idea was to appropriate them and transform their function into a carcass of the urban now taken over by vegetation. We w ­ ere ­really thinking about it in a symbolic way, a vision of when the city would lose its function and would be taken over by living organisms. ma: Is this an example of ­doing something in São Paulo that was in collaboration with the Museum of Art, São Paulo, or was the museum only one of the sites for the gardens? mb: No, the work was done in the streets. First it was a car that had been abandoned in the street. Then the dumpsters w ­ ere part of an intervention we had been invited to participate in by a festival of ­music and electronic art. We w ­ ere asked to propose a public intervention, so we proposed the idea of the dumpsters. Th ­ ese dumpsters circulate through the city in dif­fer­ent neighborhoods or on city streets. So we used t­ hese dumpsters and had them customized by dif­fer­ent graffiti artists. We had rented them but a­ fter we returned them, they continued moving through the city with the graffiti on them. Part of the work was also a Bluetooth program, so that when ­people passed by them, they could hear a reading of a manifesto. The manifesto addressed the forms of living in the city, the ways in which the city became more crowded, and therefore the increasing need for a space of reflection, of a pause, of a space for breathing. ma: Could you speak a l­ittle bit about the importance for the group of public reception? Given the public nature of your proj­ects, is it impor­tant for you to know how the works are received? Do you speak with or collect in any way the public’s opinion of your works? mb: I think I w ­ ill respond to the question with examples. Some works are purely symbolic and formal, made to be photographed or videotaped. For example, A Galinha or Jardins Moveis are more symbolic, formal, structured works. They are less interested in a relationship with the public. In this sense they are more traditional. We have also, though, made other works directly invested in forming a relationship with the public. For example, one work called Cubo (2005) was a cube mea­sur­ing seven meters in height with

1 9 4   •   m a r i o l a v. a lva r e z

10.2.  C ​ açambas Verdes (Green Dumpsters), 2009. Courtesy of André Porto.

multiple projections inside. The idea then was to circulate the cube through the plazas of the city of São Paulo, and in each plaza we would put on a multimedia installation. We called it an antispectacle. It was made specifically for the population on the streets. The content of the projections was also created specifically for that population. So, for example, we created an urban intervention that had punching puppets. We installed fifty punching puppets in the plaza. The punching puppets then w ­ ere not just meant to demonstrate the physical act of punching, the ways they could be manipulated, but also they ­were meant as a reflection for the ­people who had suffered through vio­lence. In that moment in São Paulo we ­were living through a politics of repression, a cleansing of the streets especially directed at the homeless and the informal market through a heavy police presence. We filmed ­people coming through the square and interacting with, and punching, the plastic forms of the puppets. It became a trigger for them to express themselves about what was happening in the city. It allowed a physical response, but it also brought forth reflections on their urban experiences, the actions of the state on their lives, and the vio­lence they suffered living in the city of São Paulo. The work was made to capture that friction specific to that time and for the I n t e r v i e w w i t h M a u r i c i o B r a n d ã o   •  1 9 5

­ eople passing through the plaza. We also filmed many ­people p who just wanted to voice their opinions on vio­lence, the police, and the po­liti­cal economy. And then at night we projected this video in the cube. In this way the film intervened with another population. We ­were also interested in hearing their stories. So we used this form of a multimedia event to interact with ­these specific populations and begin a conversation about their experiences of the city. ma: I also wondered about Jardins Moveis, and similarly with the proj­ ect Arquitetura Inflavel (2010)—­what you all think of in regard to the viewer’s response? I mean reception not only in the sense of participation, but also how t­ hese works can transform what a passerby expects to find in the city. And like you said earlier, it does not need to be only a work that functions through shock. It can also be a way to imagine the city in a dif­fer­ent way, not only through confrontation. A work can also function through the “sublime.” mb: Cool! Yeah, we had not thought of that third option in thinking about reception. The proj­ect Arquitetura Inflavel was not our work. It was the idea of the architect Hans Walter Mueller. But it did involve exactly that idea of reception. We made an installation inside of the tent that meant to dislocate the spectator when they entered the tent. With the sound, the lights, and the sculpture inside of the tent, the viewer found an infinite perspective. I think that work functioned more within the model of reception that you describe. We wanted to give the spectator a moment to pause, to stop and consider a dif­f er­ent perspective. I am saying this without a lot of pre-­thought on the topic. But I think it is in­ter­est­ing to think of reception in this way. ma: Yeah, I mean I was thinking with Jardin Moveis about the city resident who sees t­ hese works, which one w ­ ouldn’t normally expect to encounter within the city, especially São Paulo, which is so large and dense. Coming across the unexpected within the city allows the passerby to reconsider how the city can be or­ga­nized differently. mb: Yes, and I think this is very related to what we did in Colombia. ma: Yes, I agree, especially the way in which you spoke of the work as an open book. The work thinks of the city and the urban not as buildings and ­houses, but also how the city is made up of the

1 9 6   •   m a r i o l a v. a lva r e z

stories and histories of the p ­ eople who live in the city. The proj­ect in Medellín produces the city as a community. . . . ​ Fi­nally, I wondered if you could tell me what the name BijaRi means? mb: It has two explanations. The first explanation relates to the neighborhood of our first studio, which was located next to the university. It was a neighborhood with street names that emerged from the indigenous language. One of the streets then, Rua Bijari, was named ­after an indigenous word. We came to find out l­ater the meaning of the word. It is not exactly a proper word. It is a quality or a function, often applied to trees that can renew themselves, especially renew their skin, their bark. The word can also be used to describe snakes and the periodic loss and renewal of their scales. So ­really the word describes any organism that can renew itself. This is the meaning of the word in Tupí-­Guaraní. We thought the meaning of the word was very in­ter­est­ing. We also called our studio the “Fabrica Bijari,” inspired by Andy Warhol’s Factory. In the beginning we ­were very inspired by Andy Warhol [laughs]. We eventually abandoned the use of “Fabrica” ­because we also stopped being inspired by Warhol and became more inspired by Beuys, and then just became BijaRi. ma: Thank you! mb: Good-­bye! Notes 1 For information on inSite, see the inSite archives at the University of California, San Diego Special Collections library:​ /findingaids/mss0707.html. 2 The proj­ect was the Encuentro Internacional de Medellín (mde) at the Museo de Antioquia in 2011.

I n t e r v i e w w i t h M a u r i c i o B r a n d ã o   •  1 9 7

This page intentionally left blank

Part III Memory

The past de­cade has witnessed the emergence of new cultural institutions throughout Latin Amer­i­ca dedicated to preserving the memory and histories of violent po­liti­cal pasts. Museums of memory have been established in Medellín, Santiago, Rosario, and Mexico City, while o ­ thers, such as ­those in Guatemala City and Lima, have recently opened their doors. Truth commissions have been or­ga­nized, often with international support, to conduct the delicate work of uncovering the harsh facts about t­ hese histories. At the same time, the perpetrators of t­ hose same atrocities are often protected from prosecution or are still in positions of power. Nevertheless, ­these reconciliation pro­cesses are vital not only to the historical rec­ord in a post-­conflict democracy, but also for the families still searching for justice. In the case of Colombia, ­these memory recuperation proj­ects are ongoing while the vio­lence and armed conflicts continue. In the pro­cess of framing a ­future that must si­mul­ta­neously reconcile with its past, many artists have found common interest with communities, alongside the governmental and nongovernmental agencies that support their work. This collaboration between artists and nongovernmental agencies is particularly relevant ­today in Colombia, where the vio­lence of the 1990s led to a massive growth of what are known as corporaciones.1

A common term for a local nonprofit group or ngo—­literally translated as incorporated—­corporaciones are helping to transform con­temporary Colombia. Nonprofit advocacy groups such as Corporación Pasolini, focused on teaching skills and creating platforms for community video and filmmaking, or Corporación Nuestra Gente, which is dedicated to bringing per­for­mance and theater workshops to formerly violent neighborhoods in Medellín, are examples of a collaborative l­ abor that focuses on memory recuperation, reconciliation, and civic reintegration. Working through an active matrix of cultural and po­liti­cal agencies and relationships, many of t­hese groups are attempting to construct a new civic discourse and a framework of public engagement in their communities through memory work and art. In 1989 Colombian anthropologist Pilar Riaño-Alcalá, along with Corporación Región, a group dedicated to ­human rights issues, and other collaborators in Medellín, asked U.S. artist Suzanne Lacy to work with them on a community-­based retrieval of neighborhood history called “The Skin of Memory” (La Piel de la Memoria). This complex proj­ect incorporated the collecting and display of objects of memory (photo­graphs, artifacts and other mementos) into a traveling community museum, and was expanded and revisited in 2011. Both proj­ects are discussed ­here in an essay titled “Skins of Memory: Art, Civic Pedagogy, and Social Reconstruction.” Colombian art historian David Gutiérrez Castañeda contributes an essay entitled “Some Frameworking Concepts on Art and Social Practices in Colombia,” highlighting recent proj­ects that operate as hybrids of artistic practice, public policy initiative, university-­ based research, nongovernmental organ­izations, or cultural centers. Historically impor­tant community-­based theater proj­ects, such as Heidi and Rolf Abdelharden’s “C’úndua Proj­ect: Pact for Life,” which took place in Bogotá, are considered alongside Lacy and Riañ­o’s “The Skin of Memory” to provide a critical lens through which to understand community-­based or service-­based learning in Colombia. Art practices operating in the sphere of memory and historical legacies are not confined to the aftermath of po­ liti­cal vio­lence. In Latin Amer­i­ca, many proj­ects center on ongoing debates over disparities in access to social and public spaces that continue to define the region. Puerto Rico–­born artist Chemi Rosado-­Seijo investigates vari­ous sites and neighborhoods around San Juan through the history of their use, focusing on the collective memory of place in the city. While Rosado-­Seijo cites Modernist painting and architecture as two impor­tant influences in his artistic formation, his working practice is also clearly in2 0 0   •  P a r t I I I

formed by community organ­izing methodologies and a critical perspective on the inequalities and colonial legacies operating in Puerto Rico, both past and pres­ent. Note 1​­ http://­www​.­ngohandbook​.­org​/­index​.­php​?­title​=C ­ olombia​_­NGO​_­Sector.

M e m o r y   •  2 0 1

This page intentionally left blank

Skins of Memory


Art, Civic Pedagogy, and Social Reconstruction pilar riaño-alcalá and suzanne lacy

In a country such as Colombia, which has endured a half-­century, multilayered armed conflict, vari­ous social groups have g­ reat difficulties acknowledging the legacies of violent pasts and considering questions of societal reconciliation. This is not only a result of acute social conflicts that feed the wars; it is also related to the micro­politics of community making and mourning. In this complex scenario, we engaged in a public art proj­ect that grew from questions about how memory, ritual, and art may constitute dynamic media for recognizing social suffering and encouraging collective mourning. Moreover, we questioned how they can elicit a collective civic pedagogy that supports critical thinking about vio­lence and the destruction of local social life, the sharp separation between bloody repre­ sen­ta­tions of vio­lence and experiences of h ­ uman suffering, and disruptive binary constructions (victim/perpetrator, violent/nonviolent) that disregard the complexities embedded in the experience of vio­lence. Throughout the 1990s, ­human rights activists, community leaders, artists, and public intellectuals in Medellín joined forces to work t­ oward strengthening civil society. Several themes that are relevant to t­oday emerged: the rise of youth cultures, including youth gangs and militias; the production of demo­cratic and local pro­cesses by communities working with public intellectuals/activists; and the surfacing of memory work as a

means for developing public voice and community capacity in the midst of ongoing armed conflict. “The Skin of Memory” was positioned in the context of this vital movement in 1999 as a social laboratory to explore art’s potential for the production of a public pedagogy and as an active intervention in the everyday social world of Medellín’s residents. An early work of community-­activist public art in Colombia, the proj­ect grew out of, and subsequently was reabsorbed into, the ongoing production of a civil society in that country. “The Skin of Memory” began in 1998 when Pilar Riaño, a Colombian-­ Canadian anthropologist, and five local community-­based organ­izations invited the U.S. artist Suzanne Lacy to work on developing a public artwork that drew upon Riañ­o’s fieldwork research and supported ongoing local community reconstruction pro­cesses. We worked between 1998 and 1999 in collaboration with local youth, w ­ omen, and community leaders, with community workers from local nongovernmental and government organ­ izations,1 and with a multidisciplinary team of historians, social workers, educators, artists, and architects. “The Skin of Memory” consisted of a museum/installation of collected objects along with a final cele­bration. What follows is a reflexive account of the 1999 proj­ect and the pro­cesses it triggered, and a description of a subsequent artistic revisiting of the proj­ect and its legacy for the 2011 Encuentro Internacional de Medellín. “The Skin of Memory” (1999) [El Barrio Antioquia] The barrio where “The Skin of Memory” proj­ect took place is situated in Medellín, the second largest city in Colombia. In the 1980s, Medellín became the strategic center for the operations of the power­ful Medellín drug cartel, and underwent a dramatic social transformation. Youth, in par­ tic­u­lar, joined gangs and became sicarios (hired assassins) or part of an underground network of illegal ser­vices for or­ga­nized crime. By the time we started this proj­ect, over 40,000 youth had died in a period of twenty years. In t­ hese years, Colombia had become one of the most violent countries in the world, reaching a yearly average of seventy-­seven hom­i­cides per 100,000 ­people. In 1991, the situation in Medellín was even bleaker, with 381 hom­i­cides per 100,000 p ­ eople (Corporación Región 1999). Since the end of the 1980s, the proliferation and growth of the national leftist guerrillas and right-­wing paramilitary groups also had a major impact on the spread of vio­lence in Medellín. Nationally, the two leftist guerrilla groups, the farc (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the eln (Ejército de 2 0 4   •  p i l a r r i a ñ o - a l c a l á a n d s u z a n n e l a c y

Liberación Nacional, or National Liberation Army), w ­ ere showing a steady growth in the number of combatants, controlled territories, and violent actions. The right-­wing paramilitary groups united in the United Self-­ Defense Forces of Colombia (auc, Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia), financed by rich landowners and drug cartels and with direct links to the Colombian army, expanded through the national landscape, and spread terror through massacres, selective hom­i­cides, and forced displacement. In the broader picture, Colombia, at the beginning of the twenty-­first ­century, was undergoing large-­scale po­liti­cal and social vio­lence, which represented the most critical crisis affecting the continent, due to Colombia’s strategic position at the gateway to South Amer­i­ca (from the north), its rich resources, and its singular interlinking of guerrilla warfare, or­ga­nized crime, the war on drugs, dirty wars, and everyday social vio­lence. Colombia, the third largest recipient of U.S. military aid in t­ hose years, was at the center of competing international interests and forces (e.g., the United States’ $1.3 billion Colombia Plan, the Andean Regional Initiative). The repercussions of this multilayered conflict in the region w ­ ere experienced in the threat to territorial borders, the destabilizing impact on markets, and the dramatic h ­ uman costs of a war that was felt through massive ­internal displacement (2.5 million p ­ eople internally displaced in the 1990s), an increase in death statistics (25,000 violent deaths per year), the large number of refugees crossing national borders or leaving the country (over a million in the last de­cade), and the highest kidnapping rates in the world (50 ­percent of the world total). When socie­ties go through prolonged periods of violent conflict that drain away the taken-­for-­granted texture of everyday life, collective anx­i­eties leave an emotional sediment that might turn into hate and vengeful actions which reaffirm the ideologies that sustain ­these be­hav­iors. The social fabric gradually weakens, the intimate and ritual mechanisms for negotiating grief are blocked, and the debilitating impact of vio­lence in the psychological, social, and cultural spheres intensifies. Artifacts of memory, subjects of history

In barrio Antioquia, the conditions necessary for community reconciliation ­were fragile due to the intensity of neighborhood conflicts and the weakening of the basic local structures of solidarity. The terror generated by the territorial wars of several gangs, and the perception that even funerals constituted a target of vio­lence, limited the possibilities for carry­ ing out rituals that establish mechanisms to reconcile with the past. It was clear during our pro­cess of community-­based retrieval of neighborhood S k i n s o f M e m o r y   •  2 0 5

history and visualization that “The Skin of Memory” proj­ect needed to animate a kind of collective engagement that confronts the past through aesthetic experience, mourning, and storytelling. We understood that the possibility of activating ­these pro­cesses of memory and mourning rested in the location of the art proj­ect within a civic pedagogy pro­cess of community mourning and reconciliation. The first part of the proj­ect addressed grief through the lending of a meaningful object or artifact of memory from each f­ amily. A team of youth and ­women from the barrio gathered five hundred objects symbolizing personal, ­family, or neighborhood memories for the p ­ eople of barrio Antioquia. The object collectors aimed at establishing close relationships that allowed ­those being visited to share certain memories through the objects. The collectors became, in the words of a local journalist, “archaeologists of the everyday”: looking for objects and identifying their symbolic weight, helping residents to establish a relationship between the object, the place it occupies in their material world, and the ways in which it establishes a link with the past. Th ­ ere, in the intimacy of the bedroom or the living room, as the objects ­were being taken out of chests, off shelves, or from walls or corners, the stories ­were told: a porcelain figure from a church, with a crack in the bell tower and an angel playing the guitar, scented talcum powder in a l­ittle black b ­ ottle made of white cardboard and plastic with silver flowers that was the last M ­ other’s Day gift that Nora received before her son was killed. Once the subject dis­appears, the leftover clothes become evidence of one’s being, as when the m ­ other of El Negro gave Lili a blue shirt that “he used to wear with white jeans and brown sneakers, and he looked ­really sharp.” Or like the blue jeans that Omar was wearing when he was murdered, which Mayerly and another friend kept “as a memory of him, ­because ­there are so few reminders left.” Objects thus carry within them aspects of the person who is no longer ­there, and that in daily life point to a certain presence of someone now gone.2 The objects ­were infused with oral traditions, which had passed from generation to generation, relating back to the origins of the neighborhood or pointing to f­ amily histories: the coal irons with engraved h ­ andles, the pots and pewter jars, the picture of the Holy Trinity which was ­there during the first religious pro­cession in the neighborhood in 1950, the plastic Pinocchio figure that is seventy years old and has passed through four generations, the hundred-­year-­old sewing machine in which “my great-­ great-­grandmother used to sew waistcoats and anything needed for breast support.” Travelers’ objects that came back from the United States ­were 2 0 6   •  p i l a r r i a ñ o - a l c a l á a n d s u z a n n e l a c y

also included: radios in the form of a 1970s Cadillac, dollar bills, or garish decorative objects. Th ­ ere ­were articles that joined f­amily histories to life cycles, generational changes and kinship ties: birth, baptism, the first steps, religious ceremonies, and marriage. Objects ­were emblematic of critical moments for their ­bearers. Sometimes ­these objects had been kept in secret, and at other times they had been kept to tell one’s history many times over: sculptures or paintings that w ­ ere created in jail, a newspaper clipping narrating the drama of a ­woman who was caught in the 1970s carry­ing drugs and sent to a U.S. prison, the letters a five-­year-­old girl wrote to her dead ­father, which she stores away carefully in a ­little plastic box, the cross made of bullets that the soldiers made during military ser­vice in 1928, the rope that saved many ­people during the flood, and the cutlery refinished in gold that Griselda Blanco, the “Queen of Cocaine,” gave as a gift to one of the neighborhood grand­mothers who had worked for her. Once the team collected the significant objects and gathered the stories, our challenge as artists and educators was to transfer them to an appropriate context of repre­sen­ta­tion. We chose a school bus to exhibit the objects ­because it could move freely between vari­ous sectors of the barrio and ­because at the time of the proj­ect ­there was no place in the neighborhood that the residents from e­ very sector could safely visit. The transformation of a public transport bus into a museum also allowed us to interrelate its function of transporting ­people through the city (crossing territories) with the meta­phor of a memory museum that crosses violent territorial divisions and traces a symbolic route for an encounter with memories. The bus offered a place for the transformation of the acts of looking and remembering into acts of recognizing. A receptacle of living and daily memory, it represented a sensorial texture, a skin of memory—­seen, felt, and resymbolized for each one of its visitors. The artist and the anthropologist in consultation with the historian and the youth reviewed the history of each object when it came time to arrange them in the bus. The aesthetic and narrative proposals that developed in earlier workshops led to our decision that each object should be set up so as to make evident the distinct value it held for its owner. We grouped objects according to visual narrative threads suggested by the stories, mindful of the ways in which the representative power of bloody vio­lence can be counteracted through the respectful and artistic display of the object, as well as the ways in which alternative cultural images of death could trigger a reelaboration of memories of vio­lence. The sequence S k i n s o f M e m o r y   •  2 0 7

11.1.  ​“La Piel de la Memoria” (Skin of Memory), Barrio Antioquia, Medellín, 1998–1999. Courtesy of Suzanne Lacy and Pilar Riaño-Alcalá.

of t­ hese objects, placed with care and creativity ­behind hundreds of small white lights, created a visual web of relationships and a candlelight aura of ritual underscoring the magnitude of loss. The links between the unknown owner of an object, the other objects, and the collective memory resulting from the installation produced a field of rich meanings that represented the conflictive nature of local memories and the diverse ways in which local histories re­create national histories. Inside the bus: Meaningful gazes

­After the museum opened its doors, the collectors turned into the guardians of the artwork. Over the next ten days they became literacy workers of memory who related the histories of the objects with the many visitors, listened to stories, shared grief, and collected written letters. Their ­labor was to bear witness to the power­ful acts of remembering, the ways in which strangers trusted their intimate stories to them, and how ­people would recognize each other through this communication of shared emotion. Youth guardians witnessed how objects became bridges that connected material and ­human losses to the sentient body, and personal experience to other repre­sen­ta­tions of loss and history in the museum. The primary work for the visitors was in their gaze and acts of contemplation: reactivating the memory of ­those who visited, recognizing objects, finding pieces of history that dated back generations, looking at and 2 0 8   •  p i l a r r i a ñ o - a l c a l á a n d s u z a n n e l a c y

recognizing the ­faces of so many who have died, silently contemplating, hurling forth quick commentaries that denote resentment or mistrust, inviting dialogue and the sharing of emotions. The objects ­were recognized for their historical significance and as markers of impor­tant moments. In this subtle manner, links w ­ ere drawn between local, regional, and national history: “The letters that came from the United States for a man who had already died, and all ­those nice messages that remember history, that is beautiful.” Pro­cess is a vital ele­ment of this type of artistic intervention and civic pedagogy, understood as much in its temporal duration as in its dimension of social interaction, in which the experience of seeing and making art becomes a pro­cess of creating meanings and common references. The participation of a team of youth and ­women leaders, the collaboration and coproduction with the team of nongovernmental organ­izations, and the embedding of art within a wider pro­cess of community organ­ization and civic pedagogy ­were pro­cesses crucial for establishing a community base from which to construct common meanings about the sense of loss and history. Relationships ­were established between the residents and their history, between the visitors and ­those who lent pieces, between the residents of the neighborhood and the outside visitors, between the o ­ wners of the objects and the resignificance given to them through the museum installation. This journey of recognition that occurred in the bus facilitated acts of witnessing and engagement in a collective civic pro­cess of mourning. Art and memory activated a desire to recognize, to give testimony, to think individually and collectively about reconciliation. Among residents and visitors, but particularly within our team of community leaders, volunteers, community and cultural workers, this desire to recognize and give testimony grew stronger as the days went by. Entries in the registration book make evident the diverse ways that the museum was experienced. Each person synthesized this in their own words: “very special,” “super cool,” “very or­ga­nized,” “Heavy!,” “Fabulous,” “very chimba [beautiful, something that is liked],” “I love how the p ­ eople of the neighborhood ­were kept in mind for the museum, every­one ended up being a Van Gogh.” The comments also evidenced the ways in which the personal and aesthetic experiences of facing the exhibit give a sense of ritual to emotions evoked by walking through the bus museum. They make reference to the power of memory for changing into an expressive medium through which individuals make sense of the past and resituate themselves in the pres­ent: “It’s something that we can use to bring back the memory of the dis­appeared . . . ​so many p ­ eople.” S k i n s o f M e m o r y   •  2 0 9

While in the museum, visitors ­were invited to leave a letter with a wish for an unknown resident, as well as a specific wish for the ­future of ­barrio Antioquia. Nearly two thousand letters, written on thick white paper, ­were put inside large white envelopes and exhibited unopened, objects of mystery in their own right. The acts of writing letters and registry book entries led to new ave­nues of expression and w ­ ere central ele­ments of our collective civic pedagogy. Writing and sending letters represented other relational acts, which, through written language, activated a visualization of the f­ uture. This type of pro­cess, anchored in visual, experiential, dialogic, and written tools, supports the view of a community reconciliation pro­cess as collective acts of literacy. The individual’s engagement within this relational field facilitated the consideration of alternative constructions of “the ­others” beyond the dichotomies of friend–­enemy or good–­bad, ­toward the locating of oneself within a common experience of living pain. For the local organ­izations involved, this was one of its most impor­tant social implications ­because it supported their vision of demo­cratic citizenship. Th ­ ese organ­izations are part of a broader social movement that envisions Medellín as a ciudad educadora, a city that promotes a demo­cratic culture, forms of solidary citizenship, and a city that values differences and seeks a negotiated resolution to its conflicts. Movements of desire

The very fact that the bus opened its doors in e­ very one of the sectors of the neighborhood without incident testifies to the recognition that the proj­ect received, despite taking place during one of the barrio’s worst periods of armed confrontation. The fighting between two local gangs escalated in the days leading up to the bus museum opening, and on two occasions t­ hese gangs disregarded the implicit agreement to re­spect community events. We ­were afraid that bringing objects and photos of p ­ eople involved in the conflict into the bus would make it a target of aggression. But this did not happen, and the bus crossed symbolic and physical territorial borders, actually creating another type of topography and movement. In part, this was facilitated by previous community work that local leaders had engaged in over the year in their sectors, educating p ­ eople about the purpose of the proj­ect and its relationship to other community initiatives such as the annual festival Streets of Culture. The impact of a previous memory recuperation pro­cess, the substantive coverage by printed and electronic mass media, and the expectations that the bus museum created for the residents of the community also played a role. During the ten-­day 2 1 0   •  p i l a r r i a ñ o - a l c a l á a n d s u z a n n e l a c y

exhibit, we witnessed how the more than four thousand visitors from all over the city ­were transformed into promoters and disseminators, sharing their reactions and descriptions of its purpose. This form of spreading news about the event was in itself a pro­cess of resignification and transmission: an act of literacy and communication. The exhibit ended with a performance-­celebration in which six carnivalesque troupes performed along the streets of the neighborhood. Recreational traditions of the region ­were re­created through mimes, ­music, stilt-­walkers, dancing, and the pro­cession itself. They wandered throughout the neighborhood, celebrating the museum installation and delivering a letter to each home in the area. Sixty mimes on bicycles—­the common means of transportation in the neighborhood—­delivered the letters in silence, with smiles, bowing as they handed the letter to residents in an act of reverence that drew attention to the power­ful significance of the object being delivered. The team envisioned the final cele­bration as a festive act extending a bridge between the anonymous neighbor who wrote the letter and ­those who received and read it. The event built on the dynamic border-­crossing itinerary of the bus museum with six pro­cessions that traveled in­de­pen­dently through the vari­ous sectors of the neighborhood, taking over the streets of barrio Antioquia as expressive spaces and routes to be retraced, temporary neutral spaces establishing connections between the pres­ent and f­uture, between sectors and among neighbors, between visitors and the visited, and through anonymous letters to neighbors. As the six pro­cessions moved ­toward each other, they converged into a final parade, which exploded with joy and optimism as it traveled exuberantly ­toward the neighborhood’s main street. Subsequently the bus was exhibited in the main center of Medellín, where it continued to attract national media attention. Once the proj­ect was finished, the group of ­women and youth leaders continued working on the community reconstruction with neighborhood ­children and youth. With enthusiasm and in the midst of ­great difficulties, this group fostered cultural and recreational activities and strengthened their roles as leaders and actors for peace. A pro­cess in motion: Claims for justice and reparation

It would be naïve to think that the pro­cess unleashed through this proj­ ect fundamentally changed the fabric of relationships and conflicts in barrio Antioquia. This pro­cess however, put in motion a series of possibilities for embracing aesthetic experience as well as the entangled universe of renewed cultural meaning for whoever was touched, in any way, by the art S k i n s o f M e m o r y   •  2 1 1

intervention. The universe of actions, resignified as acts of collective literacy by a pro­cess of social interaction through public art, illustrated the trajectory and emotions that accompany the construction of ­viable peace pro­cesses at the local level. At the level of the city, the large amount of attention that the proj­ect received in the media attracted many ­people, who, overcoming fears of a stigmatized neighborhood, crossed imaginary borders and visited the museum, publicly recognizing the ­human and material impact of vio­lence as a common experience among all residents of Medellín. The proj­ect placed the local (the barrio, the city) as the primary social and spatial context for witnessing, and it suggested witnessing as a way to recover qualities of trust and close relationships in the everyday and to create a context for an engagement in broader acts of societal reconciliation. “The Skin of Memory” emphasized the importance of thinking about social repair as a gradual pro­cess of civic literacy supported by cultural interventions that reconstruct the bonds of neighborhood, of friendship, or of ­family weakened by so many acts of vio­lence. It demonstrated the importance of a symbolic legitimation of the claims made by t­ hose who suffer, and the ways in which historic memories have a decisive influence on relationships that individuals have with the pres­ent. ­These ele­ments also play a central role in the national negotiation pro­cesses when they are turned into one of the bases from which the diverse actors, including the state, define and negotiate their positions. The use of art and memory as fields of interaction and social witnessing allows us to think of the pro­cesses of social repair that take place in the everyday and at the community level. As we saw in this proj­ect, ­these actions of repair mobilize a desire to face ourselves through the past, rather than an erasure of the past. This involves a return to the senses through recognition of pain and relational memory where experience and testimony intersect. The pro­cesses of social repair provide a structure and a temporary framework to recognize suffering, to deal with grief, and to face the destructuring of the social world by vio­lence. This ­human, social, and cultural pro­cess creates a space from which collectivities and individuals can be better equipped to demand truth and justice. “The Skin of Memory Revisited” (2011)

When national and international curators began planning for the 2011 Encuentro Internacional de Medellín (mde11), with its focus on pedagogy and activism through art, they discovered that “The Skin of Memory” lived on as a referent in both local and national contexts, and was frequently cited 2 1 2   •  p i l a r r i a ñ o - a l c a l á a n d s u z a n n e l a c y

in aesthetic and po­liti­cal circles.3 Invited to pres­ent a new work, “The Skin of Memory Revisited,” Lacy and Riaño worked with many of their original collaborators, taking advantage of the reflective space of the museum to consider the past de­cade through the lens of the pres­ent. mde11 provided a space of creative and critical reflection to layer upon the original work the subsequent memories and reflections of participants in the proj­ect since 1999. The installation served as a strategic platform to create a new work, out of a deep fabric of relationality that continues t­oday, and to examine the themes of mde11—­art, pedagogy, and community. It was also an opportunity to rethink dilemmas of repre­sen­ta­tion and engagement in art and pedagogical practices when socie­ties confront the divisions and erasures of memory that occur in the aftermath, or through the workings, of vio­lence. From the most basic questions—­what happened to ­those who produced “The Skin of Memory”?—to the more complex—­what has changed in the everyday lives of Medellín’s youth?—­the 2011 proj­ect approached memory as a disputed and pres­ent terrain, and social change as a pro­cess of ongoing relationships, critical reflection, and ethical action. Our focus was not the 1999 work per se, but the intense relational fabric formed through the myriad relationships, actions, workshops, interventions, and person-­to-­person shared experiences across generational/geographic/ background differences that constituted “The Skin of Memory.” “The Skin of Memory Revisited” consisted of an installation in the galleries of the Museo de Antioquia, the city’s long-­established museum of historical and con­temporary art, and a per­for­mance during the opening weekend of Aula Dialogica (Dialogic Classroom), a convening of local and international artists, curators, and critics. The installation consisted of two video projections facing each other at opposite ends of the room. On one side of the room s­ ilent video footage from “The Skin of Memory”—­street scenes, everyday life in the barrio, and the construction and exhibition of the bus of memories—­was accompanied by popu­lar ­music. On the opposite wall another video projection consisted of current interviews with eigh­teen former collaborators, whose voices commanded the space. Rather than discuss memories of “The Skin of Memory,” the former participants reflected on changes and continuities between past and pres­ent social conditions, in par­tic­ul­ar the advance of memory work and the continuing vio­lence. What was left undone, and what does the ­future hold for civil society in Colombia? Why, ­today, are memory and art at the center of both local and national initiatives for social reconstruction? What is society’s responsibility for a violent past? S k i n s o f M e m o r y   •  2 1 3

Both the country and its discourses on memory and reconciliation have changed profoundly in the past de­cade, and as Ruben Fernandez reflects, some of ­these changes are about naming the legacies of vio­lence: [Now] ­there is an official recognition of an armed conflict in Colombia. The official discourse moved from what we had before (in the ’90s and mid-2000s), a denial by decree of the existence of the conflict, to a recognition that t­ here is a conflict. What does this mean? If t­ here is conflict, t­ here are victims and perpetrators. If ­there are victims, ­there is a need for the state to take action, as in many other parts of the world, ­toward reparation, to attend to ­people who have suffered the consequences of the War. . . . ​For the city, it [“The Skin of Memory”] was a pioneering work in the sense of acknowledging that memory m ­ atters, that memory and its pro­cesses, has to have a place. Along the far wall of the darkened space, a glowing aluminum shelf with tiny clear bulbs connected the two opposing videos with a layered, twenty-­five-­foot-­long narrative featuring fifty objects re-­collected from ­those five hundred originally displayed in the bus. ­These bridge objects ­were once again reconstituted as dynamic and historical ele­ments of a collective narrative that was now further complicated by the multiple narratives ensuing since the 1999 proj­ect. On this shelf, re­imagined from ­those in the original bus, dif­fer­ent kinds of stories and narratives w ­ ere layered through opacities and transparencies of materiality, reflected in the light from the multiple bulbs. Past letters and current observations by former youth leaders w ­ ere hand-­inscribed on Plexiglas, and photos of original objects from the bus w ­ ere printed on Plexiglas, creating a spectral and nonlinear presence of multiple memory narratives. In one reconstruction, a series of eight delicate drawings of maps on thick Plexiglas blocks (like ­those posted in the bus win­dows to announce stopping locations) could be seen twice, in the shadows projected on the wall and through a thick but transparent barrier of plastic, as if through time, with neighborhoods and territorial borders now changed or erased. The shadows, transparencies, fragilities, and reflections on the shelf in the darkened exhibition space created a glowing and compelling icon for a field of meanings produced by past and current “Skin of Memory” participants. Two archival vitrines documented and gave testimony to the dynamics of youth vio­lence over time and as they w ­ ere portrayed in news media, magazine chronicles, or academic texts. They also served as dynamic archives of the proj­ect’s history and its material traces: photos, letters, books, sketches, and index 2 1 4   •  p i l a r r i a ñ o - a l c a l á a n d s u z a n n e l a c y

11.2.  ​“La Piel de la Memoria Revisitada” (Skin of Memory Revisited), Encuentro Internacional de Medellín, 2011. Courtesy of Bill Kelley Jr.

cards of cata­loged objects. In a series of small hand-­stitched books whose texts, taken together, constituted an ongoing conversation between the artist and the anthropologist, Lacy and Riaño framed the key working themes of the conversation that led to this new work. While this installation in the context of the Encuentro Internacional de Medellín received visitors from around the world, in a real sense the installation was envisioned as a second space—­akin to the first created in the bus—­for the per­for­mance of a localized set of relationships in the context of a shared set of histories, experiences, and current social conditions. In terms of our intentions, the installation must be considered together with the per­for­mance of community during the Aula Dialogica, on the eve­ning of September 2, 2011, a community formed eleven years ago and now occupying the “center” of, and framed by, the Museum of Antioquia. The per­ for­mance was an enactment of that former and continuing relationality as well as a platform to discuss the production of pedagogical space through art and community work. It began as a reunion of eighty members of the community constituted through the production, attendance, and subsequent evaluation of “The Skin of Memory.” In the South Plaza Atrium S k i n s o f M e m o r y   •  2 1 5

of the museum, surrounded by fountains, lit with a soft wash of lights, and accompanied by festive ­music, with a ten-­foot round ­table covered with flowers and food, a private reception paid tribute to ­those who made up the complex community from the earlier proj­ect. It was held during the Aula Dialogica, and artists and critics attending the conference witnessed this community as it knowingly reconstituted itself to celebrate and to claim their role as cultural producers within the museum itself. On the surrounding balconies, video monitors played recent interviews with reunion participants. Aula visitors and a few members of the public could watch ­these or eavesdrop as the multiple conversations in the atrium below merged into a single one led by Pilar Riaño and Hernando Muñoz, one of the coordinators of “The Skin of Memory” production. Former ­children now grown, public intellectuals now working internationally, a youth leader who had gone to college to become a sociologist, another who had started her own catering business, some with c­ hildren of their own, one recently murdered, a reporter who had become mayor, an electrician who constructed the bus museum and a mime who gave out letters, an ngo leader now the director of the government’s House of Memory museum—­all reflected on the changes, lessons, and legacies from the past twelve years. Observers ­were invited to join the conversation, to move from their position in the surrounding corridors to enter the conversational and learning space of “The Skin of Memory Revisited.” We sought to explore how memory work through art had activated a thick fabric of relations among civil society members and how ­these relationships inform the pres­ent work of artists, anthropologists, and educators who explore questions on living through vio­lence, truth-­telling, and reparation. The re-­presentations of this relational fabric in both the atrium and gallery spaces constituted acts of commemoration to the reconstruction of relationships in the face of the destruction of social ties produced by war and armed conflict. Through the spaces created by this new work, The reciprocal exchange between the site of memory and the commemorative event that is characteristic of any place of memorialization was produced ­here not by formal commemorative rituals or the erection of par­tic­u­lar symbolic or material markers or speech per­for­mances, but by bringing the community and ­those who join the commemoration into an emplaced relationship.4 Inasmuch as the 2011 “The Skin of Memory Revisited” offered reflections on the intervening de­cade of cultural production in Medellín, it 2 1 6   •  p i l a r r i a ñ o - a l c a l á a n d s u z a n n e l a c y

also reflected developments in social practice art and memory work. In the self-­conscious space of the museum, we deliberately reversed the social and everyday space of the earlier proj­ect, in the homes and streets of barrio Antioquia, converting it into a formalized commemorative space not unlike that in the bus. We also aimed to challenge the authority and scope of art in solidarity with what we posed as the currently embodied experiences and grounded knowledge of “The Skin of Memory” collaborators. Artists and audience members w ­ ere invited to engage in a dialogue together with community members on the past and the ­future of the city. The evolution of our concerns (as artist and anthropologist) with the ethics of repre­sen­ta­tion and the very real possibility of provoking more vio­lence through the work we had done led us to question now, in the framework of the museum, whose voices w ­ ere t­ hose speaking on pedagogy and art. Who was looking and listening? Where did they “place” themselves within the field of memories we re-­presented? What is it that transforms an observer into a witness? This concern with the response-­ abilities of witnessing is at the heart of our practices as anthropologist and artist, and “The Skin of Memory Revisited” continues a several-­year conversation on the ethical and moral implications of our respective work with vio­lence and oppression. Emplaced witnessing—as Pilar terms the plural, place-­based imaginative strategies and embodied acts of transfer through which an individual or a collective creates a safer social space to give testimony of vio­lence or resistance—­places the observer/researcher in a shared and mutually accountable space. ­Here the space of the museum was ­imagined as one of reflexive encounter and accountable looking. But how does that accountability exercise itself through the typical museum­goer’s encounter—in this case, their encounter with the community of participants who produced “The Skin of Memory” in 1999? It depends on who the museum­goer is and where she finds or places herself within the historical, po­liti­cal, and social context of Medellín and Colombia. Witnessing is not simply an act of looking. “The Skin of Memory Revisited” was open to the observations of all, but it was created with the idea of a specific audience of witnesses, one constituted of Medellín residents—­people who live in a space of ongoing conflict and everyday vio­lence, present-­day actors whose community is inclusive of the one from the 1999 proj­ect. The installation depended on this localized context and on the workings of a per­for­mance of inquiry to activate a looking that goes beyond S k i n s o f M e m o r y   •  2 1 7

sympathy or empathic interest. By focusing on the local as a site that can shelter diverse knowledges, and to the practices that mobilize alternative and plural forms of testimony through storytelling, per­for­mance, art, and the crossing of territorial and artistic borders, we aimed to problematize our own witnessing practices and t­ hose taking place in the context of the museum. We do not have a rec­ord of visitors’ responses and cannot make an informed conclusion on what took place inside the installation space or during the reunion. Also, it remains to be seen how this proj­ect joins with and supports the discourses of many other proj­ects created in Colombia that construct local spaces of memory and social reflection. For us, however, “The Skin of Memory Revisited” engaged us with ­these questions by calling for a renewed commitment to work with the complexities of memory, the multivocality of truth-­telling, and the relational spaces that a public art concerned with a pedagogy of social reconstruction can render vis­i­ble. Notes This text, up to the section “Skin of Memory Revisited,” is excerpted (with some revisions) from “Encounters with Memory and Mourning: Public Art as a Collective Pedagogy of Reconciliation” by Pilar Riaño-Alcalá, in Public Acts: Curriculum and Desires of Social Change, edited by Erica Meiners and Francisco Ibañez-­ Carrasco (in the “Re-­Engaging the Public Sphere” series) (New York: Routledge, 2004). 1 The members of the proj­ect’s coordinating team and workers in the local organ­ izations ­were William Alvarez, Jorge García, Juan Vélez, and Angela Velásquez. This team combined a wealth of educational and community work expertise with their individual professional training as educators, psychologists, and historians. Pilar Riaño was responsible for the overall coordination of the proj­ect, Suzanne Lacy for its artistic vision, and the historian Mauricio Hoyos for its production. The four organ­izations that supported and funded the proj­ect ­were the Secretaría de Educación de Medellín (Education Secretariat of Medellín), the Caja de Compensación Familiar (Comfenalco), and two nongovernmental organ­izations, Corporación Región and Presencia Colombo Suiza. 2 A. M. Reyes, “Horrific Beauty: Commemoration and the Aestheticization of Vio­lence in Con­temporary Colombian Art,” paper presented at the seminar “New Perspectives in the Study of Social Conflict,” Latin American, Ca­rib­bean, and Iberian Studies Program, University of Wisconsin (Madison, March 23, 2001). 3 Lacy and Riañ­o’s early conversations with mde11 cocurator Bill Kelley Jr. on the premise for revisiting “The Skin of Memory.” 2 1 8   •  p i l a r r i a ñ o - a l c a l á a n d s u z a n n e l a c y

4 Pilar Riaño, “Encounters with Memory and Mourning: Public Art as Collective Pedagogy of Reconciliation,” in Public Acts: Disruptive Readings on Making Curriculum Public, edited by Francisco Ibanez-­Carrasco and Erica Meiners (New York: Routledge, 2004), pp. 237–61. James Young, The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994).

S k i n s o f M e m o r y   •  2 1 9


Some Frameworking Concepts for Art and Social Practices in Colombia david gutiérrez castañeda translation by fabian cereijido

This paper seeks to identify and analyze artistic practices in the Colombian context that are linked to nongovernmental organ­izations, public policy, and memory work. I w ­ ill begin by framing certain theoretical perspectives on vio­lence as well as identifying some transdisciplinary aspects of t­ hese proj­ects, which operate through artistic pro­cesses. Fi­nally, I ­will pres­ent case studies of two recent proj­ects in Colombia. The Subjectivity of Vio­lence and Artistic Community-­Based Practices The armed conflict in Colombia during the 1980s radically transformed our way of life. The drug trafficking groups and paramilitary forces w ­ ere already acting as social and po­liti­cal agents in the country thanks to government-­armed offensives against guerrillas and the mass kidnapping strategies developed by vari­ous criminal gangs.1 Drug traffickers consolidated their business interests while the paramilitary groups strengthened their right-­wing po­liti­cal agendas. Extortion, kidnapping, intimidation of leaders of social organ­izations, the magnicide of a leftist po­liti­cal party (the Patriotic Union Party), the assassination of high-­profile politicians, as well as the systematic killing of community leaders and ordinary citizens, violent car bomb attacks, and massacres in major cities, such as the armed

shootings in Bogotá at a court­house in 1985 and the Administrative Department of Security in 1989,2 radically transformed the experience of terror for Colombians.3 The armed vio­lence by military groups was believed by some to operate only outside of urban centers, and thus it was not believed to affect everyday urban life. However, ­after ­these events during the 1980s, the experience of vio­lence entered everyday life and daily existence, even in the city. The experience of vio­lence began to be felt more intensely, ­either b ­ ecause it was lived through the body or ­because the media saturated the airwaves with its repre­sen­ta­tion. Colombian society, during the de­cades of the 1980s and 1990s, experienced a strong internal conflict that was difficult to understand.4 As sociologist Pilar Riaño writes: In recent years, paramilitary organ­izations consolidated their power in the field with the support of wealthy landowners and drug cartels. In the late nineties, this armed phenomena was expanded to the entire country, with an army of more than eight thousand members. Both guerrilla and paramilitary operations ­were financed with drug money. The Colombian army fulfills many roles in this war, and has one of the worst rec­ords of ­human rights abuse, while backing paramilitary activities.5 By the early 2000s the extremity of this situation led to a series of discussions concerning peace and vio­lence that have radically marked the national po­liti­cal culture. At this time the concept of a “peace agreement” returned again to Colombian politics, for the first time since the 1980s.6 The peace agreement was now imbued with greater force thanks to the involvement of new social movements and organ­izations. The broader peace pro­cess has involved the rearticulation of the cultural and academic policies of Colombian society in a way that made itself felt at the negotiating ­table in Havana, where the final peace accord was being developed. The connection between the institutions of civil society and broader po­liti­cal change, evident in the peace pro­cess in Colombia, is an impor­tant area of study, especially as it relates to mechanisms of sociability, reconciliation, and social responsibility.7 The primary axis in framing vio­lence in Colombia has historically focused on physical vio­lence as perpetrated by armed agents. This focus ignores, however, the emotional and affective effects that terror holds in a societal context, and gives a discursive priority only to the armed agent in relation to the state. How can we understand the experience of vio­lence in Colombia? Daniel Pécaut suggests that we look beyond the binary logic of “friend or e­ nemy,” A r t a n d S o c i a l P r a c t i c e s i n C o l o m b i a   •  2 2 1

or from the position of the agent in one armed group in conflict with members of other armed groups, as a basis for the study of vio­lence. Rather, he urges us to study “the experiences and repre­sen­ta­tions of ­people who are exposed to the power of vio­lence and, particularly, its manifestations; ­things change when territory is disputed by vari­ous actors and when forms of intimidation and terror start to become routine.”8 Studying the experience of vio­lence in Colombia’s case should not be limited to analyzing the po­liti­cal affiliations of armed groups or tracking convoluted maps of power and territorial control in paramilitary–­drug–­guerrilla–­military–­ state relationships. Rather, this research, while necessary, is only a foundation upon which we must add an experimental ethnographic approach to account for the daily life of the population, marked explic­itly or implicitly within the dynamics of terror.9 Once again, such studies require us to focus on the subject that lives the experience of vio­lence, not exclusively on the armed protagonist.10 We might think of this subjectivity that has experienced vio­lence as a form of living constructed in and through daily life. Living in a violent area does not necessarily create a violent person, nor does it necessarily create a protagonist within an armed conflict,11 but it does mean that the individual who lives in such an environment engages in a series of decisions and be­hav­iors by which they balance their survival and that of their loved ones with the demands of an everyday life that is riven with vio­lence. Inhabiting violent areas refers not only to living with war or po­liti­cal conflict in the ­house­hold; it also means accounting for the vari­ous emotional frames of aggression, fear, and terror that permeate bodies ­either by being involved in violent acts, witnessing them, or encountering them in the media, as the experience of t­ hese affective acts shape social relations. The question of the subjectivity of vio­lence involves a micropolitics before it involves a macro-­politics.12 This is why an experimental ethnographic approach is of ­great importance in studying this issue. For researcher Myriam Jimeno, the reconfiguration of everyday life by violent action has the effect of eroding our trust in our environment and peer groups, and it endangers the closest links of solidarity within communities. The effect is to isolate individuals, and to deny them the ability to understand and influence their own social relationships, and above all their own individual forms of grief or mourning. The collective real­ity of loss is denied in this way. In other words, a subjectivity of vio­lence is constructed. As Jimeno writes: 2 2 2   •   d av i d g u t i é r r e z c a s t a ñ e d a

solidarity is valued as a desirable be­hav­ior; unfortunately, it is inhibited by the fear of its frank expression. In this way, passivity does not arise from the lack of moral values or the failure to identify vio­lence as illegitimate when it is exercised, but by the impossibility of acting against it due to fear. It’s not so much that the threshold of society’s tolerance ­toward vio­lence is high or that vio­lence is accepted as part of the pattern of everyday be­hav­ior, but rather that it is experienced more as an inevitable product of a larger sociocultural and psychological complex against which the individual is helpless and exposed. This encourages ­people to resort to vio­lence, to privilege violent responses in certain scenarios, or to inhibit responses that confront the dynamics of its occurrence.13 We should emphasize that this subjectivity entails the dissolution of the social fabric founded on the values of coexistence, and generates another form of society based on fear and passivity in the face of violent acts, fragmenting ­people’s sense of belonging. It is an effort to work against this passivity and fragmentation that brings together a collection of artistic initiatives in Colombia that attempt to produce situations where subjects learn to trust through building and articulating collective speech. In reviewing t­ hese artistic practices, which I researched in 2010,14 I came to realize that they share a concern with the imperative to build relationships with communities in crisis and to act on the coordinates that make new subjectivities pos­si­ble through: (1) actions against collective silence and individual adaptations to conflict (the tendency of individuals to ignore what happens in their own communities); (2) activation of public spaces, not as scenarios for terror but as sites that are open to other, nonviolent, collective experiences; (3) the generation of ­legal and legitimate community organ­izations that are linked to the establishment and defense of h ­ uman rights, the strengthening of community proj­ects, and partnerships for conflict negotiation (not solely focused on po­liti­cal vio­lence but also ­those proj­ects that address domestic or intimate conflicts); and (4) the construction of individual and local histories that re-­create bonds of solidarity and sociability. ­These imperatives are part of an ongoing and extensive discussion on memory and ethics in Colombia that has led to a large number of artistic, community-­based practices in the country. ­These four features appear in e­ very proj­ect that I researched. The way in which each of ­these proj­ects engaged the spatial, temporal, and collective A r t a n d S o c i a l P r a c t i c e s i n C o l o m b i a   •  2 2 3

e­ nvironment is not partial but responds to a po­liti­cal and historical circumstance relating to par­tic­u­lar social groups. Acting on the subjectivity of vio­lence requires artists and social workers to create activities that permeate social interactions and unveil other affective energies. Following the work of William López, memory refers to the construction of the past in the pres­ent; it also involves the construction of this pres­ent in the pres­ent via a group of permeable and overlapping repre­sen­ta­tions that act through proj­ects and stories.15 The pro­cess of creating this living memory is enunciated to the extent that ­these proj­ects connect with the contradictions of daily life, are aware of them, and allow new symbolic forces to operate within them. That is why practices are delimited within both communities and historical contexts, due to the fact that they have to respond to each concrete situation differently. Two proj­ects led the way in facilitating the participation of nongovernmental organ­izations, international aid agencies, and local government in artistic practices that are imbedded in, and responsive to, specific communities in Colombia. They w ­ ere “Piel de la Memoria, Barrio Antioquia: Pasado, Presente y Futuro” (1997–99) (The Skin of Memory, Barrio Antioquia: Past, Pres­ent and F ­ uture),16 coordinated by Pilar Riaño-Alcalá and ­Suzanne Lacy with the support of the municipality of Medellín, Corporación Región, the Corporación Presencia Colombo-­Suiza (Colombian-­ Swiss Presence Corporation), and the Caja de Compensación Familiar Comfenalco (­Family Compensation Fund Comfenalco). The second key proj­ect was “C´undua: Pacto por la Vida” (2002–3) (C’úndua Proj­ect: Pact for Life), developed by the Laboratorio de Artistas Mapa Teatro (Map-­Theater Artistic Laboratory) with the backing of the municipality of Bogotá, the Program for Development of the United Nations, and a collective of intellectuals working in and around the administration of Mayor Antanas Mockus.17 The two proj­ects share three essential ele­ments: a coordinated effort by dif­f er­ent local, national, and international agencies to help in the reconstruction of memory in a given community and the city; the promotion of active participation by local citizens in public, participatory, and performative experiences that involved civic organ­izations and the use of multimedia resources and documentation; and the creation and preservation of documents, images, and objects that activate and elaborate on the methodological discussions and reflective dialogues that occurred between artists, social workers, and the community in each proj­ect. Each of the proj­ects engaged a specific community and lasted from three to four years. Now I ­will analyze each of ­these initiatives. 2 2 4   •   d av i d g u t i é r r e z c a s t a ñ e d a

“Skin of Memory, Barrio Antioquia: Past, Pres­ent and ­Future” “Skin of Memory” tried to respond to the discontinuity and emptiness that characterize the pres­ent of Medellín’s barrio Antioquia by means of art, rituals, and community commemoration.18 It was dedicated to revising the collective construction of memory and mourning in communities stigmatized by drug trafficking and the vio­lence of military and paramilitary groups in the city of Medellín. For this proj­ect Suzanne Lacy and Pilar Riaño invited m ­ others, youngsters, and elders to visit their neighbors to elicit testimonies about the pain caused by vio­lence and death in each ­family. They collected material vestiges of that pain and wrote anonymous letters that explained the significance of t­ hese objects. The objects ­were then placed in a museum-­bus that traveled to dif­fer­ent corners of the neighborhood for a period of ten days. Instead of paying for a ticket to board the bus-­museum, local residents w ­ ere required to write anonymous letters about the objects on display, addressed to anonymous members of the community. The letters from the objects’ ­owners and the neighbors ­were presented during a carnival that took place during the last day of operation of the bus-­museum. In a parallel proj­ect, Corporación Región invited the leaders of youth organ­izations to plan and produce dramatic plays and urban interventions using the objects to mark the sense of absence and loss left ­behind by vio­lence in the urban space of the barrio. The proj­ect lasted ­until 2001, but Corporación Región continues to support other community-­based proj­ects to this day. Or­ga­nized into juvenile gangs, crime organ­izations, urban militias, and drug-­trafficking networks, the youth of barrio Antioquia ­were identified as the generators of terror, especially between 1989 and 1993, when Medellín was the stage for one of the most cruel and violent moments that ­ eople Colombia has experienced.19 The murdered bodies of ­these young p ­were scattered through the city. Besides being constantly stigmatized by the country’s violent imaginary, most of them ­were men from low socioeconomic backgrounds who made a living as hit men. They ­were the armed bodies ­behind a complex spiral of crime and revenge. In the mid-1990s this dynamic reached catastrophic levels in Medellín. Something had to be done. In an ethnographic and statistical review of “Skin of Memory” between 1999 and 2001, historian and social worker Mauricio Hoyos states that the proj­ect originated as part of a “nonaggression” pact between street gangs. ­These ­were groups of armed young ­people from the Antioquia and Trinidad neighborhoods who placed the lives of the residents of each A r t a n d S o c i a l P r a c t i c e s i n C o l o m b i a   •  2 2 5

neighborhood in constant peril.20 Jorge García, a social man­ag­er in barrio Antioquia, remembers the situation around 1997: “The young ­people, who ­were gathered in armed gangs, ­didn’t know or recognize the roots of the conflicts in which they played a central armed role.”21 Even though ­there ­were intensive efforts to establish peaceful coexistence pro­cesses in several neighborhoods, the young p ­ eople could only live in harmony for a short period of time. The nonaggression pacts, encouraged by the city’s public administration, ­were constantly ­violated despite g­ reat effort. During ­these years, Pilar Riaño refused to accept the argument that vio­lence and terror had become an inherent and unchangeable feature of ­human be­hav­ior in Medellín: “This conceptualization creates indifference and individual suffering, it victimizes and denies the ability of p ­ eople.”22 In her doctoral research in social anthropology at the University of British Columbia in Canada, Riaño sought to identify ways in which the residents of barrio Antioquia could recover the memory of their violent past and collectively rebuild it with individual stories that conveyed communal information about relevant moments in the community’s life. “Skin of Memory” was or­ga­nized, beginning in 1998, by Riaño, Lacy, and several organ­izations in the city of Medellín. Their goal was to catalyze memory, and the loss of memory, as part of a public action in the neighborhood that could provide space for a grieving pro­cess that had been cut short. “Skin of Memory” attempted to alleviate and exorcise the painful memories of barrio Antioquia’s inhabitants, memories that had survived through more than fifty years of armed conflict.23 On the basis of Riañ­o’s research, memory was selected as the proj­ect’s core concept. This was, at the time, seen as a rather odd focus for the proj­ ect. In part this was ­because ­there had as yet been no public initiatives that took memory as a vital dimension of social relationships, but also ­because no one recognized that the p ­ eople of barrio Antioquia w ­ ere sensitive enough to reproduce or retain memories. For Riaño the role of memory in the proj­ect was not only to create a social action but also to provide the ethnographic conditions for her doctoral dissertation. Riaño understood memory, in a retrospective way, as a ritual: The role of memory [is to serve as part of an] art ritual-­like engine to create collective grief and particularly as a device to rebuild the trust bonds of society. That is how cultural responses and social interventions through art, memory, and culture can question the categorical distinctions between repre­sen­ta­tions and experiences emerging from 2 2 6   •   d av i d g u t i é r r e z c a s t a ñ e d a

t­ hose binary constructions such as victim–­victimizer, that ­don’t necessarily show the complexities and contradictions of how vio­lence is experienced.24 In Riañ­o’s view, the ritual mobilization of memory and grief would be most effective if they ­were set within an artistic platform. This equation, between art and memory, would be the foundation through which the initiative achieved ­legal approval and institutional support, and was also central to the community’s ability to manage the possibilities opened up by the proj­ect for their own situation. The proj­ect was coordinated and supported by four institutions in the city, which worked with community leaders to create a Revitalization Group (Grupo Dinamisador) with thirty young ­people, a majority of whom ­were ­women. The ­women ­were commissioned and trained to perform activities in order to help or­ga­nize the neighborhood. All this was ­under the direction and supervision of Pilar Riaño and the art direction of Suzanne Lacy, who came to the city twice between 1998 and 1999. The Revitalization Group was a heterogeneous unit—­a team of ­people from the barrio that made up the participatory core of “Skin of Memory”—in other words, the “direct beneficiaries of the intervention.” The team members ­were dif­fer­ ent ages, with no higher education or college degrees (most of the young ­people ­were in high school, while the older ones e­ ither never finished high school or ­were attending certificate programs in administrative studies). Each of t­ hese persons worked as an integral part of the proj­ect throughout the planning pro­cess, which involved several workshops and other related activities. They ­were direct intermediaries who w ­ ere capable of making decisions, acting, and managing vari­ous parts of the proj­ect. “Skin of Memory” began in June  1998 with a series of workshops in which Lacy and Riaño worked with a team of agents to create an initial sketch of the installation-­museum and a final celebratory action for the proj­ect.25 The Revitalization Group worked throughout the following year on another series of workshops as part of a pedagogical pro­cess led by Mauricio Hoyos, which consisted of devising a system by which objects could be collected to be exhibited in the bus-­museum. ­These workshops helped the participants raise awareness about the proj­ect in the neighborhood. It was not about them being professional artists or historians, it was not about generating masterpieces for posterity or literal or episodic reconstructions of their community’s history. It was about allowing them to discover the ele­ments necessary to symbolize the life-­affirming pro­cesses A r t a n d S o c i a l P r a c t i c e s i n C o l o m b i a   •  2 2 7

that they perceived in their community, in such a way that all their “peers” in the neighborhood, as well as the city’s inhabitants, could see and read in this public event their own history and a way to represent it.26 In this sense, the workshop did not promote art education as a form of social transformation. It did not educate artists. Neither did it expect to inject the discourse of ­human rights into community culture, although in the long run it was expected that a concern with ­human rights might emerge as part of the proj­ect’s long-­term effects. The workshops w ­ ere a space for experimentation as much as ethnographic training. ­After 1998, Riaño began to promote the interdisciplinary proj­ect as a form of applied and collaborative anthropology. As she wrote: “Like an epistemic energy and strength. The Revitalization Group visited some neighborhood’s homes, collected the objects that represented a significant memory, [and] realized dialogues-­interviews with the families about the meaning of the stories that ­every single object evocated.”27 This action contributed to a concept of mnemonic objects that Riaño terms “memoristic.” The Revitalization Group members ­were encouraged to approach the proj­ect as if they w ­ ere con­temporary archaeologists discovering t­ hese memoristic objects by making visits to the community, one home at a ­ ese dialogues ­were vital ­because they ­were the initial source of time.28 Th the memory experience that opened up a space for residents to begin to work through their grief: “­These conversations helped the residents to establish bonds between the objects and places within the material world, as an or­ga­nizer of daily life that establishes continuous connections with the past.”29 Eventually, five hundred objects ­were collected and exhibited in June 1999 in an installation in the memory museum, ­housed in a public ser­ vice bus from the 1950s that had served for years as public transportation in the neighborhood. The residents selected the objects ­because they reflected impor­tant memories in their lives, in the neighborhood, and in the city. In the second part of the proj­ect, one thousand young p ­ eople distributed two thousand letters written by community members whose homes had been visited by the Revitalization Group, while ­others ­were written by t­ hose who came to witness the objects in the traveling museum. Th ­ ese letters expressed wishes of hope for the ­future of the neighborhood’s residents and ­were written anonymously. The letters ­were delivered in an action at the end of the proj­ect that took the form of a carnival with mimes and choreographed bicycles with Chirimía m ­ usic.30 The proj­ect had two foundational aspects according to Riaño: “Verbal, executional and artistic 2 2 8   •   d av i d g u t i é r r e z c a s t a ñ e d a

12.1.  ​“La Piel de la Memoria” (Skin of Memory), Barrio Antioquia, Medellín, 1998–1999. Courtesy of Suzanne Lacy and Pilar Riaño-Alcalá.

expression of the wealth of local popu­lar culture and a centrality of the streets as space for socialization, circulation and interaction.”31 That is why the bus-­museum had to be able to move throughout the spaces of the neighborhood, in addition to the fact that the symbolic bound­aries of the armed groups did not allow the neighborhood residents themselves to move safely into other areas. This platform created a space that could activate the pro­cesses of collective and individual grief, thereby allowing individual participants to imagine a ­future characterized by the princi­ples of pacific coexistence and reconciliation, as well as a new sense of identity and belonging. Cúndua: Pacto por la Vida The proj­ect “C’undua: Pacto por la Vida” was implemented by the Laboratorio de Artistas Mapa Teatro (Map Theater Artist Laboratory) and an extend group of intellectuals operating in the second administration of Mayor Antanas Mockus in Bogotá.32 Its aim was to promote discussion and reflection about the place of art in sites and situations where social existence touches its external limit (poverty, extreme poverty, social in­ equality, ­etc.). In more concrete terms, it looked at the results of the physical destruction, and subsequent evictions, of the Santa Inés barrio by the municipality of Bogotá. This neighborhood, better known as “El Cartucho,” A r t a n d S o c i a l P r a c t i c e s i n C o l o m b i a   •  2 2 9

was the scene of sharp social contrasts and drug trafficking, and was the living and working environment of hundreds of informal waste recyclers. The city’s eviction and de­mo­li­tion operation was the preliminary groundwork for the construction, through gentrification, of what is ­today known as the Parque Tercermilenio (Third Millennium Park). Mapa Teatro led the artistic pro­cess for three years, creating several public interventions in the city, an installation, a theater piece, and a book, and working u ­ ntil the end of Mockus’s administration. They continued by themselves for another two years creating a multimedia installation and another theater piece. Mapa Teatro, which consists of the brother-­sister team of Heidi and Rolf Abdelharden, called their community work “Laboratorio del Imaginario Social” (Laboratory of Social Imaginary), in direct reference to the work of the German playwright Heiner Müller (1929–1995). They used a method centered on symbolic intervention and the expansion of artistic agency to catalyze a reflexive dialogue among the inhabitants of El Cartucho. Using creative and experimental pro­cesses and techniques such as workshops, collective writing, video recorders inside p ­ eople’s h ­ ouses, and video interviews, they generated a dialogue in which mythical histories, narratives, and experiences ­were contrasted with the lives of the participants, and with the extended population of Bogotá. The pro­cess created a space in which a significant event (the evictions) could be acknowledged. The proj­ect also provided an opportunity to symbolically discuss the repre­ sen­ta­tion of recyclers and the homeless who lived in the neighborhood of El Cartucho, and who w ­ ere usually stigmatized by the inhabitants of the city, creating visual evidence and commentary about their lifestyles, stories, and tales of why and how they came to live in this part of town. This was one of the first proj­ects to approach memory work in Bogotá. We can understand the Mapa Teatro initiative as an exercise that engages a certain other, a dweller in an endogenous territory, in poetic dialogue. Exactly thirteen local ­people, who, through this pro­cess, w ­ ere now linked to the dynamics of Mapa Teatro, managed to document and imagine the life of this place. In the context of this dialogue, permeated by an artistic intentionality, the autonomous thinking of this other was mobilized. The reinterpretation of the pres­ent by this other was also mobilized. The method of the Laboratorio del Imaginario Social (Laboratory of Social Imaginary) in Mapa Teatro seeks to unleash a critical historiography that exposes the forms of vio­lence operating in El Cartucho, while asserting a po­liti­cal stance within the framework of collective creation in Colombia, and in synergy with organ­izations and po­liti­cal parties. The analy­sis and 2 3 0   •   d av i d g u t i é r r e z c a s t a ñ e d a

reinvention of individual myths (for example, that of Hercules) allows the participants to or­ga­nize themselves in a new pro­cess of creation that is oriented ­toward a reflection on social life. In the Mapa Teatro per­for­mances, each participant is asked to use the myth to act through a reflection on a personal experience in their lives. Yet a critical distance is maintained. Mapa Teatro does not pres­ent the participant in the first person; rather, they narrate their own existence through a reinterpretation and updating of the myth itself. Mapa Teatro’s per­for­mances are typically understood as examples of an art practice operating within a sociopo­liti­cal dynamic that is distinct from institutional policy. This has led to the Laboratory of Social Imaginary being interpreted both as a work in an expanded theatrical tradition and as an example of per­for­mance art.33 Furthermore, Mapa Teatro developed a kind of performativity often associated with experimental community practice and what they term “the practice of the imaginary.” H ­ ere the interaction between art and real­ity is not staged so that documents of po­liti­cal or social conflict can be presented with a testimonial authority. Rather, Mapa Teatro’s concern is with the way in which real­ity is unveiled in the context of a crisis, in a manner that fosters an open imagination about what has happened to our collective social life. Within the extended pro­cess carried out by the Laboratory of the Social Imagination—­nearly six years of work and more than six proj­ects of collective creation—­Mapa Teatro has combined methodologies from dif­fer­ ent artistic disciplines in order to establish a dialogue with the inhabitants of Santa Inés, who have been banished from their homes by the urban policies of the Bogotá City Council. In “Re-­Corridos”34 (Re-­Transits, 2003) and “Limpieza de los Establos de Agías” (Cleaning the Augean Stables, 2004), the group’s creative pro­cess involves the documentation, classification, and arrangement of objects and testimonies in interactive installations—­ metonymical spaces of meaning that seek to produce the experience of this social displacement in the spectator. In “Re-­Corridos,” the artists constructed thirteen dif­fer­ent, interconnected spaces in the Mapa Teatro headquarters, in the center of Bogotá. In each space, the artists arranged recycled objects, videos of ­people in the neighborhood, derelict radios, ­tables, recycling carts, audio testimonials concerning the healing of knife wounds, and descriptions of ­people living in homes in Santa Inés. Each of ­these objects and videos was connected to the ­others in the vari­ous space by points of common meaning: they ­were arranged in such a way as to be interpreted, in this par­tic­u­lar case, as A r t a n d S o c i a l P r a c t i c e s i n C o l o m b i a   •  2 3 1

12.2.  ​Mapa Teatro, “Re-­Corridos,” 2003. Courtesy of Fernando Cruz.

a testimonial of the inhabitants of Santa Inés. Thus, as visitors walked through the thirteen spaces, they would recognize a continuum of testimonials sharing how ­people lived in one of the h ­ ouses of the neighborhood, how the ­house was eventually demolished, what the itinerary of the recycling man was in each context, how the body was affected in the streets, and what the stories of the ­people inhabiting this place ­were. The focus was dif­fer­ent in “Limpieza de los Establos de Agías.” For this proj­ect two spaces w ­ ere interconnected, not by the associations arising from specific objects, but by the evidence provided by images, projected si­mul­ta­neously in real time, and the incentives to interpretation proposed by the work’s title. The first space was a darkened room on the third floor of the Bogotá Museum of Modern Art. On one of its walls an image was projected, repeated three times: an image of the fence marking off the building site of the Park of the Third Millennium, where the ­houses of the 2 3 2   •   d av i d g u t i é r r e z c a s t a ñ e d a

Santa Inés neighborhood once stood. Without his or her knowledge, the viewer in the museum was being filmed, and ­these images ­were si­mul­ta­ neously appearing on three tele­vi­sion sets installed in a second site: the fence around the park. This second transmission was punctuated by testimonials taken from the inhabitants of the neighborhood. In the pro­cess, Mapa Teatro contests the building of the Park of the Third Millennium as a public space, drawing a parallel between a classical myth and the po­liti­cal narrative that justified the construction of the park. In the heroic myth of Hercules’s Twelve L ­ abors, the protagonist cleans out King Augeas’s filthiest stables, an impossible task that up u ­ ntil then had brought misfortune to many mortals: this establishes his glory in the eyes of Eurystheus, and restores him to the royal position that Zeus had decreed for him. This narrative was used to question the local administration’s attitude concerning the public sphere in the park’s construction, and to point out the arbitrary and meaningless character of the displacement of the neighborhood’s inhabitants. I would like to consider t­ hese two installations as metonymical devices, which leads us to the following question: Can the spatial distribution and installation of objects and testimonials enable us to assign pos­si­ble meanings to the social displacement of the Santa Inés community? The installations “Re-­Corridos” and “Limpieza de los Establos de Agías” ­were conceived, in the context of the Laboratory of Social Imagination, as part of an artistic pro­cess that would make it pos­si­ble to locate vital experiences, focused on a specific place and po­liti­cal circumstance, in a public space. Together, Mapa Teatro and the community of recycling men and street vendors of Santa Inés engaged in a dialogue; they researched and selected objects and facts which, via the mechanisms of spatial devices and technological links, made pos­si­ble the creation of discursive and gestural referents in the vari­ous circumstances of the exhibit, with direct allusions to the building of the Park of the Third Millennium. ­These referents, as expressions of the experience of displacement, bore witness to the social circumstances experienced by this other being, the inhabitant of Santa Inés, in the public sphere. Thus, the installations are conceived as pro­cesses in two systems of relations: in relation to the Santa Inés community, and in relation to the public visiting the exhibit. In ­these two process-­artworks we find a crucial ele­ment of Mapa Teatro’s poetic approach, which, in the context of creation with the community, allows us to consider how thematic centrality, in a social environment, empowers readings and reflections on life itself through the installation’s A r t a n d S o c i a l P r a c t i c e s i n C o l o m b i a   •  2 3 3

performative capacity. The objects selected, the spatial disposition, the documentary images and voices presented, the technological links, and the discursive connection among the titles locate within the spectator’s body, thanks to his or her mobility through the real or meta­phorical urban space, the paradoxical enunciation of a series of vital experiences identified with the immediate and contradictory memory of the inhabitants of the Santa Inés neighborhood. The transit of this ex­pec­tant body involves the sensorial creation of an experience in relation to this living memory. In this context, we may consider memory as the ability of social subjects to construct coherent narratives, in the pres­ent and in the past, about their identities and their forms of life. In this sense, living memory is the social subject’s collective consciousness aimed at constructing the trace of a pres­ent, imperative, and contradictory circumstance. This involves the creation of a narrative that, from the standpoint of the ­here and now, is considered crucial for life’s ­future meanings. The pro­cesses of creation perform this living memory insofar as it can consciously connect with the contradictions of everyday life and empower symbolic forces in relation to them. What I have called metonymical devices are linked with Mapa Teatro’s ability to conceive alternatives of meaning and experience based on ­these narratives, as constitutive of social pro­cess in the use of spaces, objects, and documents in their installations. “Re-­Corridos” and “Limpieza de los Establos de Agías” can be understood t­ oday as attempts to accomplish this. In his essay “Laboratory of the Social Imaginary” from 2003, Rolf Abderhalden develops a critical perspective on this approach and situates it in the paradoxical context of what might be called direct action in art: The Proj­ect C’undua always tried to maintain a distance from the municipal administration. Its goal was never to implement a policy of recreation or sociocultural animation, nor [was it] directed t­ oward a determined socio-­therapeutic practice but, rather, it intended to interpret, from a critical and in­de­pen­dent position, and in the specific context of art, the ideas of a demo­cratic civic culture. . . . ​For this reason, the C’undua proj­ect permanently went through the complexities and inquiries about the relationship art [and] governance. . . . ​The effects may well have been restorative, dignifying, and thus therapeutic or socializing, but this was not its purpose. The results w ­ ere the nonsubjugation to a conclusion of a unchained pro­cesses of experimentation. The lack of finality in art implies the noninstrumentalization of t­ hese pro­cesses. 2 3 4   •   d av i d g u t i é r r e z c a s t a ñ e d a

My job as artistic director of the proj­ect was to imagine an artistic pro­ cess within a specific community, from a founding myth or a story capable of generating the production of narratives and images ­toward subjectivity construction.35 Differing from government initiatives, where ­there is often a demand that artistic practices remedy the conditions of ­people in situations of marginality, Mapa Teatro does not redeem or compensate ­people against the crisis. At the same time, their artistic production involves the generation of enunciative pro­cesses and the reimagination of memory work. That work can hardly be instrumentalized in a preconceived order or through social work. This implies for Mapa Teatro some artistic autonomy. Furthermore, the public presence of t­ hese images and events opens social discussions about the repre­sen­ta­tion of p ­ eople’s lives and memories about their situation. Making Art/Making Life The proj­ects of Mapa Teatro and Lacy and Riaño cannot be understood as long-­term federal government–­funded programs operating within social and artistic realms, even though they ­were supported by public institutions. They are, instead, exceptional cases—­within a determined period of time—­for the development of artistic pro­cesses, ­human rights initiatives, and memory creation by the local administration in the two cities. At the same time, ­these kinds of proj­ects have been very impor­tant and influential for po­liti­cal and social movements, compensation funds, and ngos that design and implement their own public policies and cultural initiatives apart from national institutions. It should also be noted that, in some cases, when a specific po­liti­cal pa­norama makes it pos­si­ble, ­these social actors have communicated about their actions to national po­liti­cal administrations, in order to generate a new institutional structure for cultural rights.36 ­These two proj­ects meet the four imperatives I have identified at the beginning of this essay about interactions between art and social pro­ cesses. (1) They allowed collective enunciative pro­cesses, ­either within a given neighborhood or in the public spaces of the city, by developing artistic practices with communities on their own terms. (2) They activated public space in order to generate encounters between p ­ eople that would not have occurred without the pro­cess of artistic assemblage. (3) They operated in the context of social organ­izations and public policy communities A r t a n d S o c i a l P r a c t i c e s i n C o l o m b i a   •  2 3 5

in a way dif­fer­ent from conventional welfare programs. (4) They generated memoristic narratives about places, p ­ eople, and specific events that allowed specific communities to consider new imaginary modes and forms of solidarity. In both proj­ects, workshop mechanisms ­were produced and sustained for several years. While “Skin of Memory” was committed to a pro­cess of resilience in a specific community, in order to encourage interactions between inhabitants of that same community, Mapa Teatro is committed to research and to generating images and events that may expand and give more density to public discussion about the destruction of an entire neighborhood. While the artistic pro­cess in “Skin of Memory” generated a series of activities that w ­ ere conducted socially, Mapa Teatro created images and an enigmatic presence in public spaces that questioned the construction of collective memory. Above all, each of t­ hese initiatives followed a consistent methodological approach and did not claim to follow the one established by existing community-­based programs. Their experimentation was predicated on a deep knowledge of the social context in which they operated. ­These initiatives ­were developed in Colombia before the rapid expansion of initiatives concerned with the politics and poetics of memory around 2005 and 2006. At that time the po­liti­cal issues raised by the question of reparations for victims of the ongoing conflict led to significant changes in governmental policies, including the recognition of the victim’s civil rights, the creation of laws and institutions concerned with reparations, and the promotion of the perplexing concept of “symbolic” reparation.37 Since then, a significant number of social and state organ­izations have sought to promote artistic proj­ects that attempt to frame specific communities as victims of the armed conflict. It is too often the case that po­liti­cal organ­izations misinform the public regarding the poetic potential of ­these proj­ects, as they seek to generate a sensitive and affective reordering of the discourse of vio­lence in Colombia. As a result, the nature of ­these proj­ects—­our expectations for them and how they interact with communities and produce collective agency—is one of the most impor­tant concerns in the complex field of memory in Colombia ­today. Notes 1 Marco Palacios, Entre la Legitimidad y la Violencia: Colombia 1875–1994 (Bogotá: Edición Norma, 2003). 2 David Gutiérrez, Mapa Teatro 1987–1992 (Mexico City: Edición Libros de Godot, 2014). 2 3 6   •   d av i d g u t i é r r e z c a s t a ñ e d a

3 Pilar Riaño, Jóvenes, Memoria y Violencia en Medellín (Medellín: Universidad de Antioquia, 2006), 276. Also see Pilar Riaño, “The Archive Is the Witness: Documentation in Settings of Chronic Insecurity” (2010), unpublished document in Suzanne Lacy’s archive. 4 Daniel Pécaut, Guerra contra la Sociedad (Bogotá: Edición Norma, 2001). 5 Riaño, Jóvenes, Memoria y Violencia en Medellín, 30. 6 María Barbara Gómez, Tiempos de Paz: Acuerdos en Colombia, 1902–1994, cata­ logo de exposición en el Museo Nacional de Colombia (Bogotá: Alcaldía Mayor de Bogotá, 2003), 149. 7 Riaño, Jóvenes, Memoria y Violencia en Medellín. 8 Pécaut, Guerra contra la Sociedad. 9 Daniel Pécaut’s concept of experience is based on a phenomenological perspective, drawing on the work of Maurice Merleau-­Ponty. From Merleau-­Ponty’s perspective, Pécaut insists on analyzing the perception of everyday vio­lence as it is oriented ­toward social action, citizenship, and everyday be­hav­ior. 10 The most impor­tant texts on the subject are Myriam Jimeno et al., Las Sombras Arbitrarias: Violencia y Autoridad en Colombia (Arbitrary Shadows, Vio­lence, and Authority in Colombia) (Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 1996); Myriam Jimeno et al., Violencia Cotidiana en la Sociedad Rural: En una Mano el Pan y en la Otra el Rejo (Everyday Vio­lence in Rural Society: Bread in One Hand and in the Other a Scourge) (Bogotá: Universidad Sergio Arboleda, 1998); María Victoria Uribe, Enterrar y Callar: Las Masacres en Colombia 1980–1993 (To Bury and Keep Quiet: Massacres in Colombia 1980–1993) (Bogotá: Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, 1995); María Victoria Uribe, Matar, Rematar y Contramatar: Las Masacres de la Violencia en el Tolima, 1948–1964 (To Kill, Finish Off, and Counter-­Kill: The Massacres of la Violencia in Tolima 1948–1964) (Bogotá: cinep, 1990); María Victoria Uribe, Antropología de la Inhumanidad: Un Ensayo Interpretativo del Terror en Colombia (The Anthropology of Inhumanity: An Interpretative Essay about the Vio­lence in Colombia) (Bogotá: Norma, 2004); and Daniel Pécaut, En Guerra contra la Sociedad (War against Society) (Bogotá: Norma, 2001). 11 Riaño, Memoria y Violencia en Medellín. 12 Suely Rolnik’s perspective on micropolitics, framed in collaboration with the thinking of Félix Guattari, is not concerned with the politics of the micro, the domestic, or small-­scale politics. Rather, it is about the po­liti­cal forms that have no place or repre­sen­ta­tion in the usual exercises of power and management, such as the economy and justice systems, but are influenced by t­ hese forms. In that sense, experience and emotional transmission from one person to another, their effects, and the construction of new imaginaries are part of a micropo­liti­cal discussion. Suely Rolnik and Félix Guattari, Micropolíticas: Cartografías del Deseo (Madrid: Edición Traficantes de Sueños, 2006); and Elsa Blair, “Violencia e Identidad,” Estudios Políticos 18 (July–­December 1998): 137–58.

A r t a n d S o c i a l P r a c t i c e s i n C o l o m b i a   •  2 3 7

13 Jimeno, Las Sombras Arbitrarias. 14 The investigation was called “State of Consciousness: Artistic Practices and Social Pro­cesses in Colombia.” It sought to frame the current state of affairs and historical research about the role of artistic practice in community proj­ects. 15 Memory in the pres­ent Colombian context is summarized this way: “The goal of the debates about memory, in this context, is not the construction of a posttraumatic demo­cratic order in which cultural rights are guaranteed to all the population, but the establishment, in the midst of war, of a social and po­liti­cal order in which the exercise of individual and collective memory level is not associated with criminalization and death. In the Colombian context, t­ here is still no such temporal distance, however slight, between the violent past and pres­ent pacified. . . . ​Consequently, the character of memory, naturally controversial, which in postwar circumstances appears as a public debate between two or more interpretations of the past, in which the construction of a ‘more demo­cratic’ society not only plays, but is the reconstruction of individual and collective identities, is part of the conflict itself in Colombia.” William López, Museo en Tiempos de Conflicto: Memoria y Ciudadanía en Colombia (Bogotá: Edición Sistema de Patrimonio y Museos—­Cuadernos de Museología Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 2010), 138. 16 The “Piel de Memoria” proj­ect has been thoroughly documented. ­There are many texts about the dynamic and methodology implemented. The main sources are Mauricio Hoyos Agudelo, Piel de la Memoria: Barrio Antioquia: Pasado, Presente y Futuro (Skin of Memory. Barrio Antioquia: Past, Pres­ent, and ­Future) (Medellín: Corporación Región, 2001); Pilar Riaño, Suzanne Lacy, and Olga Agudelo, Arte, Memoria y Violencia: Reflexiones sobre la Ciudad (Art, Memory, and Vio­lence: Reflections about the City) (Medellín: Corporación Región, 2003); Pilar Riaño, “Encuentros Artísticos con el Dolor, las Memorias y las Violencias,” (Artistic Encounters with Pain, Memory, and Vio­lence) Iconos: Revista de Ciencias Sociales 21 (January 2005): 91–104. All ­these texts are available online. A documentary video about the pro­cess can be seen h ­ ere: http://www​ 17 The C’undua Proj­ect has been thoroughly documented. (www.mapateatro​ .org/mapa.html). The cata­logue of the proj­ect is available in book format as C’undua: Pacto por la Vida (Bogotá: Alcaldía Mayor de Bogotá, 2003). ­There is also an article about the proj­ect by Rolf Abderhalden, “El Artista como Testigo: Testimonio de un Artista” (The Artist as Witness: An Artist’s Testimony) at​ _artist.html); and by the same author, “Pequeño Laboratorio del Imaginario Social” (­Little Laboratory of the Social Imaginary), in Arte y Localidad: Modelos para Desarmar (Art and Locality, Models to De-­Assemble) (Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 2007). Other articles and books include “C’undua” by José A. Sánchez (​ 2 3 8   •   d av i d g u t i é r r e z c a s t a ñ e d a

18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

31 32

/­Cundua.pdf); Natalia Gutiérrez Ciudad-­Espejo (Mirror City) (Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 2009); Ileana Diéguez, Escenarios Liminales: Teatralidades, Per­for­mances y Política (Liminal Stages, Theatricalities, Per­for­mances, and Politics) (Buenos Aires: Atuel, 2007); David Gutiérrez Castañeda, “Interview with Rolf Abderhalden in C´undua: Pacto por la Vida. Perspectivas del Laboratorio del Imaginario Social” LatinArt​.­com (fall 2008) (​ .cfm?id=398); Miguel Rojas Sotelo “Caminar, Explorar, Olvidar” (To Walk, to Explore, and to Forget), in Ensayo sobre Arte Contemporáneo en Colombia 2006–2007 (Essays about Con­temporary Art in Colombia 2006–2007) (Bogotá: Universidad de los Andes, 2007); and David Gutiérrez Castañeda, “Después de Omega” (­After Omega) ( A number of documents, theatrical works, and an interactive installation about the work can be seen online ­here: Artes Escenicas, http://­artesescenicas​.­uclm​ .­es, accessed November 13, 2015. Riaño, “Encuentros Artísticos con el Dolor,” 9. Hoyos, La Piel de la Memoria, 16. Hoyos, La Piel de la Memoria, 15. David Gutiérrez Castañeda, “Interview with Jorge Humberto García,” digital recording. Bogotá Colombia, November, 2013. Pilar Riaño, “The Skin of Memory: A Place of Remembering and Envisioning the ­Future” (2001), unpublished document in Suzanne Lacy’s archive, 3. Hoyos, La Piel de la Memoria, 14. Riaño, “Encuentros Artísticos con el Dolor,” 11. Riaño, “The Archive Is the Witness,” 9. Hoyos, La Piel de la Memoria, 71. Riaño, “The Skin of Memory,” 6. Riaño, “The Skin of Memory,” 5. Riaño, “The Skin of Memory,” 6. Chirimía is a Colombian folkloric musical genre. It is characterized by its very festive and popu­lar qualities. Its origin comes from an instrument that shares its name. This instrument is part of the oboe ­family, and its sound is similar to that of bagpipes. Riaño, “The Skin of Memory,” 5. C’undua is the place where we ­will all go a­ fter death, according to the Arhuaca my­thol­ogy of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, Colombia. “C´undua: Pacto por la Vida” was an artistic action with several components involving the community of the barrio of Santa Inés in the center of Bogotá. The dif­fer­ent components or actions of the proj­ect included “Los Libros de la Memoria” (The Books of Memory) (2002), “La Casa en la Calle” (The House in the Street) (2002), “Prometeo Acto I y II” (Prometheus Act 1 and 2) (2002–3), “Limpieza de los Establos de Agías” (The Cleaning of the Augean Stables) (2004), and “Testigo de las Ruinas” (Witness of the Ruins) (2005).

A r t a n d S o c i a l P r a c t i c e s i n C o l o m b i a   •  2 3 9

33 The Colombian section of the exhibition “Arte no Es Vida: Actions, Artists of the Amer­i­cas (1960–2000),” curated by Deborah Cullen for the Museo del Barrio in New York and presented in several museums in Latin Amer­i­ca. A cata­log and timeline was developed by Maria Iovino. ­There Iovino includes the Laboratory of Social Imaginary as one of the actions that launches per­for­mance art in Colombia. From another perspective, we can consider the work of Alvaro Villalobos, Horacio del Grupo Mapa Teatro (Bogotá: Trilce Ediciones, 2011). 34 ­There is not a good translation of “Re-­Corridos,” which involves the linguistic play Mapa Teatro has utilized. It is often translated as “transit,” but it would be more accurate to say “­running to cross” but intensified by the body’s presence in the action. 35 Rolf Abderhalden, “El Laboratorio del Imaginario Social,” in Proyecto C´úndua (Bogotá: Edición Alcaldía Mayor de Bogotá D.C., 2003), 27. 36 One of the most in­ter­est­ing cases in Colombia has involved the articulation of the social movements for memory in the municipality of Bogotá, which created spaces for the museological, artistic, and po­liti­cal construction of memory. One such space is the Centro Memoria, Paz y Reconciliacion (Center for Memory, Peace, and Reconciliation). 37 The pro­cess of reparations for victims of the armed conflict in Colombia has four axis points: land restitution, financial compensation, restoration of rights, and symbolic reparation. The last refers to a set of practices used by the state to publicly acknowledge that it is ­handling reparations cases for victims and to socially express the recognition of the cases.

2 4 0   •   d av i d g u t i é r r e z c a s t a ñ e d a

Chemi Rosado-­Seijo


PROJ­E CT DESCRIPTION marina reyes franco Most of Chemi Rosado-­Seijo’s work can be summed up as having an interest in working within and alongside a community—it may be a par­tic­u­lar borough or a group of skaters—­and interweaving the history of art with the history of skateboarding. He has described himself as “a socially engaged collaborator, a community based cultural activist, and an artist who makes paintings and collages from life at specific sites.”1 He is interested in history, art, and local knowledge, especially if it relates to design solutions and community organ­izing as well as architecture, having at one time wanted to become an architect. Once Rosado-­Seijo gets to know the community that interests him, he develops an aesthetic proposal with p ­ eople from where the proj­ect w ­ ill be taking place, while also bringing in other ­people who become collaborators, volunteers, and participants in what is usually a long-­term engagement. Rosado-­Seijo (Vega Alta, Puerto Rico, 1973) studied painting at the Puerto Rico School of Visual Arts and graduated in 1997. In 1998 he started working alongside curator Michy Marxuach to open a gallery that ­later became M&M Proyectos, a nonprofit organ­ization that developed an impor­ tant residency program and three in­de­pen­dent biennials that prioritized production and interaction between local and international artists and curators. The resulting exhibitions and exchanges shed light on the local

scene, exposed young Puerto Rican artists to other con­temporary artists, and brought together new collaborators who in some cases have stayed close throughout the years. His artistic endeavors have a par­tic­u­lar take on the life expectancy of art works and proj­ects, often revisiting and reviving old ideas in new environments. Rosado-­Seijo’s body of work is exactly why we so often use the word “proj­ect” instead of artwork or piece. Starting in the late 1990s and continuing ­until ­today, “Tapando Para Ver” (Covering to See) is Rosado-­Seijo’s longest series of works. In it, he takes material from newspapers, billboards, tele­vi­sion, and bus stop ads, as well as radio transmissions, and carefully selects which parts he wants to cover up or obscure in vari­ous installations, videos, and collages of varied dimensions. Like a cryptographer who r­ eally ­doesn’t trust mass media, he intends to reveal other coded messages by leaving only certain parts of advertisements and news headlines uncovered. The exercise of selectively covering up print media or making video collages suggests what’s ­really impor­tant, what we should be paying attention to, or leaving out what’s excessively presented. The work unveils messages that had gone unseen, being po­liti­cal while also highlighting a recurring humor and wordplay. Also sprawling over a de­cade is the “History on Wheels” series, which constitutes a body of work that is also a commentary on the aesthetic relationship between art and skateboarding, the feedback from its urban environment, and how it also intervenes within a city. The resulting works establish a parallelism between art history from the fifties to the pres­ent and the history of skateboarding. Th ­ ese diverse works include books with used skateboard trucks and wheels installed on their back covers, skate ramps painted white so that their surfaces are scratched through use and become “paintings,” maps tracing skateboarding routes, and a publication that, through collage, exposes a theoretical and aesthetic link between skateboarding and art. In the skateboard ramp wall pieces, the artist collaborates with other skaters in order to build a ramp that functions as a sort of blank canvas. Although originally intended to reference the abstract expressionism movement, each ramp is unique and reflects the par­tic­u­lar skating styles of the collaborators. Another skateboarding-­ related proj­ect is the La Perla Bowl, an oceanfront skateboarding bowl and weekend pool built in 2006 in partnership with legendary Puerto Rican skateboarder Roberto “Boly” Cortés. Rosado-­Seijo’s relationship with La Perla, a community just outside the Old San Juan colonial walls, started when he was a student at the School of Visual Arts, just a stone’s throw 2 4 2   •  m a r i n a r e y e s f r a n c o

away from the neighborhood, and that relationship has only deepened since then. The bowl was completed with the help of neighbors, skaters, surfers, and other friends, mixing cement with materials gathered on site. Facing the Atlantic Ocean, the bowl has become a go-to place for skateboarders from all over the island and the world, ­after gaining recognition from skateboarding magazines. Like most of his proj­ects, the fact that it’s “done” ­doesn’t ­really mean it’s done. In 2014 Rosado-­Seijo invited fellow artist Federico Herrero to paint the bowl, and he has plans to keep inviting artists to intervene at the spot. Also in 2014, La Perla was the site of the “1st Portrait of La Perla Kite Festival,” which consisted of several workshops to create original kites and an event in which to fly them from within the neighborhood, as opposed to ­going to the more traditional kite-­flying spot beyond the wall in El Morro. The event, attended by ­people from La Perla and beyond, served to open the neighborhood to visitors, communicate artisanal practices, and, through the kites, “soar” above the city walls. Starting in 2002 and still ongoing, “El Cerro,” a collaborative work with the residents of El Cerro community in Naranjito, Puerto Rico, is by far Rosado-­Seijo’s best known proj­ect to date. “El Cerro” consists of painting the ­houses in dif­fer­ent shades of green, evoking the mountain around which the h ­ ouses are built, and paying homage to the way their homegrown architecture is in harmony with the topography of the mountains where it stands. According to Rosado-­Seijo, the proj­ect quotes Modernist abstract painting, superimposing t­hose figures onto inhabited buildings. Originally a part of m&m Proyectos’s 2002 biennial, titled “[En Ruta],” Rosado-­Seijo brought together a team of community members, volunteers, curators, artists, and his own social worker m ­ other, Professor Luisa Seijo-­Maldonado, in order to negotiate and carry out the proj­ect. Indeed, ­there was a lot of negotiating g­ oing on, as green is generally thought of as a color representing the pro-­independence party in Puerto Rico. The proj­ect also included several workshops for ­people of all ages on topics such as art, skateboarding, medicinal plants, self-­esteem, and the law. Other proj­ects and events ­were also carried out, including the creation of a temporal museum by Pablo León de la Barra, film screenings by María Inés Rodríguez, and a community newspaper by Raimond Chaves. Resumed in 2012 with renewed energy and funding, over one hundred ­houses have been painted over the years. For Rosado-­Seijo’s latest proj­ect, the premise was both s­imple and complicated at the same time: exchange the functions of a classroom at the Rafael María de Labra School for t­hose of a museum gallery at the C h e m i R o s a d o - S e i j o   •  2 4 3

Puerto Rico Museum of Con­temporary Art. The proj­ect “Salón-­Sala-Salón” (Gallery-­Classroom-­Gallery), proposed by Rosado-­Seijo, was done in conjunction with other artists and educators in collaboration with Rita Duprey, a ninth-­grade Spanish teacher, and her students between the months of August and December 2014. Rosado-­Seijo was interested in how architecture would affect the students’ experience, and how students would affect the museum experience. The proj­ect was intended as a necessary meta­phorical bridge between the two institutions to make explicit the work of the museum and its duty within its urban environment. Students reclaimed the old building: “Salón-­Sala-Salón” literally opened a door and created a passageway between the institutions. Through the exchange of spaces and functions, a daily direct connection was established between the inhabitants and visitors of the two buildings. It’s as Luis Camnitzer has already said: “The museum is a school. The artist learns to communicate, the audience learns to make connections.” This exchange was not limited to the architectural space, but also ­included a shake-up of the educational perceptions and p ­ eople’s relationship to the buildings. Numerous workshops ­were conducted during the school semester with guest teachers such as Rafael Vargas Bernard, part of the museum’s educational team, artists Jesús “Bubu” Negrón and Antuán Alzaga, and kite maker Luis Santiago, as well as Rosado-­Seijo. Several themes from Duprey’s Spanish class w ­ ere addressed through weekly art workshops focused on drawing, collage, and sculptural proj­ects using the museum’s resources and the building itself, as well as on language and mass media communications in Puerto Rico. This exchange presented an opportunity to emancipate the teaching–­learning pro­cess from many attachments. Having a constant student presence in the museum is a start. This was both an artistic experiment that stemmed from the building’s history and place in the community, and a social experiment: a desire to lessen the gap between art and Puerto Rican public education. Once established by the artist, this relationship is slated to continue in the coming years—if not through him, then directly between the museum and the school. Rosado-­Seijo seems to have drawn out his plans a long time ago, with proj­ects that are never-­ending and constantly evolving while integrating new partners along the way.

2 4 4   •  m a r i n a r e y e s f r a n c o

AN INTERVIEW WITH CHEMI ROSADO-­S EIJO,   DECEMBER 16, 2014 sofía gallisá muriente, marina reyes franco, and beatriz santiago muñoz translation by paloma checa-­g ismero

beatriz santiago muñoz: I would like you to talk about your current proj­ects. chemi rosado-­s eijo: We recently “finished” “Salón-­Sala-­Salón (Intercambio en La Labra),”2 a proj­ect based on a physical exchange between the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico3 and the José M. Labra School, that is just ­behind it. The museum’s building was the school’s original location, but it eventually fell out of use and its activities w ­ ere transferred to a more modern building. The restoration of the (old) building, now the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo’s venue, began in 1992. Once it was finished the museum was brought h ­ ere, and since then the two spaces have remained divided without direct communication between them. As part of the exchange of classrooms and museum galleries, the students from eighth and ninth grades come to take their Spanish classes in the museum, which is where their classroom is now placed. Moreover, we offered a weekly creative workshop with ­those students who ­were coming to take their Spanish class in the museum. ­These workshops ­were related to the space: to the school, to the building, to their history and their functions. We also addressed topics such as their own language, and we created a dictionary of jargon spoken by youngsters, a dictionary of words in common usage not included in the official language but which are used on a daily basis. This workshop was directed by Antuán Galarzaga, a friend who is an artist and an educator. In this proj­ect we not only exchanged a physical space for another, a classroom for a gallery. We also got doors and gates from both institutions to remain open during the ­whole semester. In addition to this, we keep working at the community of La Perla.4 The first proj­ect I carried out ­there was “El Bowl,”5 and ­we’re now busy with the Festival de Chiringas “Retrato de La Perla.”6 For this proj­ect I invited community residents to or­ga­nize a festival, kite workshops, and a series of activities with the idea of “drawing” or elevating La Perla over the old colonial wall! This proj­ect takes place in collaboration with a group of Community Council C h e m i R o s a d o - S e i j o   •  2 4 5

members and other La Perla leaders, traditional Puerto Rican kite craftsmen, friends, and volunteers from La Perla and elsewhere, as we say in the neighborhood. bsm: Could you begin by describing a bit the context for the proj­ect at La Perla? crs: La Perla is a community built by its residents; it’s a favela, a small slum, a quita y pon7 settlement, as they would say in Cuba. La Perla is erected on the skirts of the Viejo San Juan8 mountain, which is the old Spanish walled city. Th ­ ese areas out and around the ­castles and the city have been populated since. At the beginning they ­were inhabited by workers at the slaughtering ­houses, by soldiers, and by ­free black men, but it l­ater became intensely populated ­after the American military government’s arrival, and much more in the 1920s and 1950s, when the basis of t­ oday’s community was set. This gorgeous neighborhood is just on the Atlantic shores, beyond the Viejo San Juan’s walls, just next to the most popu­lar kite-­flying enclave in all Puerto Rico: the fields across the Castillo del Morro,9 near the ­house of the governor of Puerto Rico, and the most visited historic and touristic area in the island. La Perla is an emblematic community in Puerto Rico, and it’s representative of other marginal areas in the islands of Puerto Rico. It has been mentioned in books and novels, as well as in very popu­lar songs like “La Perla,” written by Tite Curet Alonso and sung by Ismael “Maelo” Rivera, or “La Perla,” a song by Calle 13 with Rubén Blades. Adding to this complex situation, La Perla is also a community stigmatized by vio­lence, drug addiction, and drug trafficking, an image that media and government actively foment. Another impor­tant f­actor that worked as a point of departure for the proj­ect is that La Perla is commonly known as El Hoyo10 or El Hueco.11 ­People say “­going down t­ here,” meaning that they go to La Perla. What’s just too specific or site-­specific12 in this proj­ect is that the area where p ­ eople fly their kites now is the same place where they w ­ ere flown fifty years ago and where festivals ­were held a hundred years ago. When I was first participating in neighborhood meetings a neighbor brought me a document where, among other ­things, t­ here was a picture showing six ­people with kites. ­There ­were some torta13 style, and the caption describes ­those in the images as visitors to a festival celebrated in La Perla in 1914, a hundred years before our first festival. 2 4 6   •  i n t e r v i e w

13.1.  ​“La Perla Portrait Kite Festival,” 2014. Courtesy of Hugo Hernandez.

bsm: You have been working at La Perla for some time, correct? crs: We have been working in La Perla since 2005. That year we proposed to build a swimming pool that could also double si­mul­ta­neously as a skateboard ramp using materials found at the site. This was suggested to me by my collaborator Roberto “Boly” Cortés, a skater since the 1970s, with whom I had worked with at my skate park-­ studio some years before “El Bowl.” Once that skate park-­studio closed, our surfer friends from La Perla asked us to build a ramp in the neighborhood. So once we picked the location with the residents, we built a wooden ramp that we all knew would deteriorate soon, but that would help us get an idea of the function a real one could have in the community. We l­ater went on to fabricate the bowl C h e m i R o s a d o - S e i j o   •   2 47

in concrete, by hand, using debris from the area. That first year we received help from the neighborhood, as well as skaters, surfers, and friends from all parts of Puerto Rico. And now it’s working ­great; it’s maintained by neighbors and it is being used e­ very day. Sofía Gallisá Muriente: And how did the relation with La Perla start? crs: I attended the Escuela de Artes Plásticas14 of Puerto Rico, that’s just across the Castillo del Morro, next to La Perla. To study in Viejo San Juan was impor­tant for me. The school was in the old downtown, where the entire punk scene gathered, so it happened that while living the street on the street I developed a good relationship with a community that was surrounded by all this my­ thol­ogy of crime and drugs. And, well, within my own experience with drug experimentation, I had a curiosity that led me to La Perla and what I found was very dif­fer­ent. ­There w ­ ere plenty of aesthetic stimuli, from murals to old stairs that took you nowhere, and ­people who questioned purposeless rebellion, which led me to question my own ideas. Besides, I came across a community that welcomed us as equals; that’s how I got to start learning t­ hings in La Perla. It’s from all t­ hese experiences that emerged a desire and a ­will to pay back what I learned t­ here, with my art and my actions. bsm: In your work you pay attention to materials and pro­cesses, as well as their relation within the space. Please, can you explain to us your work methodology with more detail? crs: I’ve realized that my work originates in a conceptual and aesthetic idea that we bring to the community and ­will ­later be altered, and from ­there we move on to the concrete. We work all this on site (in the space), as if it ­were a painting or a sculpture, but within a collective and communal real­ity. It’s clear to us that social impact and interpersonal relationships are the most impor­tant part. . . . ​ My favorite works, let’s say in con­temporary art, are earthworks.15 And I try to follow that line, but within the social, with an interest on space and its ­people, in what happens ­there, in what­ever it represents for the neighborhood and the community. . . . ​­We’re in a permanent dialogue with t­ hose who are or w ­ ill be part of the proj­ ect: residents, collaborators, friends, e­ tc., and I see that dialogue as the most impor­tant part of any proj­ect. 2 4 8   •  i n t e r v i e w

bsm: So you think of work pro­cesses as organic, natu­ral, and social evolutions. What happens in a space: how do ­people work, what materials do they use, which are the poetics of a place? . . . ​ crs: Yes, and I try to add the least I can. I am interested in recognizing ­things that already exist and that I understand every­one should see and admire. I like to add the least I can, to get close to the ready-­made. I like to share an idea and from ­there see what happens, how that “social painting” takes shape; let’s say, how we negotiate ­things. . . . ​ Marina Reyes Franco: How do you face that negotiation pro­ cess, and then get to that point in which ­people ­don’t think ­you’re imposing your ideas? crs: It may sound cliché, but we achieve that organically [empathetic laughter]. I normally propose something and p ­ eople ­either agree or not. I’ve no issues with it not happening. In the case of “El Cerro,” the proj­ect we started in 2002, I proposed painting the community’s ­houses green, but if they go and say no, it’s fine. I’m more interested in the pro­cess than in the result. El Cerro is a community informed by its geography, with h ­ ouses built on the sides of a mountain at the gates of the town of Naranjito, in Puerto Rico. Getting ­there is a gorgeous aesthetic experience, at least for me. With this proj­ect I also want to honor the way in which t­hey’ve kept their topography and dealt with design prob­lems inside the community, built by them through the years. The “El Cerro” proj­ect develops specific identitary topics for the neighborhood: it’s about reconsidering the mountain and how proud—or not—­they can be of being from the mountain—­being a community of ­people who live on the mountainside.16 The po­ liti­cal issue is very pres­ent, as in Puerto Rico colors are associated with dif­fer­ent po­liti­cal ideologies: green relates to the in­de­pen­ dentist party, blue to pro-­state, and red to the one defending status quo or ­free associated state. Since ­we’re a colony, most neighbors in El Cerro are pro-­state, so painting the h ­ ouses helps escape a bit from the issue of color in relation to politics. And it’s ­great, ­really, to have a bunch of ­houses painted green, and it not just being about “po­liti­calities” [deceptively speaking of politics]. mrf: I think it’s in­ter­est­ing that the sites of all ­these proj­ects, both “El Bowl” and the kite festival at La Perla, and “El Cerro” at Naranjito, C h e m i R o s a d o - S e i j o   •  2 4 9

13.2.  ​“El Cerro” proj­ect, 2015. Courtesy of Thais Ilorca.

are located on hills. I see the painted h ­ ouses in “El Cerro” at Naranjito as a proj­ect that makes a community vis­i­ble by making it invisible, by blending it with the landscape. I see it a lot in connection with the context of the government of ­those years, in that it happened more in “special communities,” for example.17 That’s why I always saw it as a proj­ect that helped make a community vis­i­ble by rendering it invisible, as it remarked on how neglected it had been. crs: Even that point has a formal part. But again, that belongs to the initial stage of conceptual aesthetics. A group of p ­ eople say: “Yeah, let’s go paint that hill.” It’s that vitality of painting it green . . . ​it blends in and dis­appears. And I find it in­ter­est­ing, but camouflage does never ­really get to happen. I mean, yes, it did attract p ­ eople from outside and from within the government, at the very least the mayor came and promised some stuff. ­There ­were ­people who ­couldn’t resist their curiosity and came up to ask why ­houses kept being painted green. None of ­these social gestures would have happened without the proj­ect, and ­they’re what interest me the most. . . . ​ Its formal/social dimension interests me as a form of practice. Seeking methodologies for a social practice within the methodologies of art, or ­those that I see more related to art, has been effective 2 5 0   •  i n t e r v i e w

for the type of art with a social impact that ­we’ve achieved. For example, g­ oing to a community and asking them to let us paint their ­houses green; getting inside their ­houses and climbing to their neighbor’s roof. For my mom, who is a direct collaborator in the proj­ect, as well as also being a social worker and teacher, this type of interaction has been amazing. In less than a year we’d already achieved a direct relation with the neighborhood and the community: a trust. From the viewpoint of her professional experience, that’s a very short time. bsm: Why do you think this social methodology can help forge relations with a neighborhood, entering the space as an artist with a clear idea of what you want to accomplish? Do you think it would be pos­si­ble other­wise? crs: One of the ­things I think happens ­here is that I ­don’t come with the idea of painting the neighborhood [green] ­because it’s a nice color. I come and propose a color that I believe has to do with specific issues within the neighborhood. . . . ​ For example, in the case of “Trampolín para el Puente Dos Hermanos”18 (2000), what we did was to place an ele­ment, a trampoline that’s already acknowledging what’s ­going on in the neighborhood. This historical action turns the bridge into a platform from where to jump into the lagoon below! Paraphrasing my m ­ other: art has to contribute to society or individuals, but I feel like ­people are also waiting to be invited to do ­things. bsm: The gesture is then recognized as elegant and intelligent, and ­people like to know that t­ here’s that recognition too. For example, to set up a trampoline is already a gesture that acknowledges a place: “it’s for this, ­here w ­ e’ll do this, and I’m giving you something that’s barely anything,” like you said not long ago. It’s the most minimal, intelligent, and elegant gesture I can recognize. I’m not gonna give you a fucking social realist monument that costs a ton of money. It’s an acknowl­edgment of this quality within this gesture. You leave it open so it can be used. crs: Yeah. . . . ​[every­one laughs empathetically] bsm: You said you w ­ ere studying at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas, and that was your first encounter with La Perla. But could you speak about any influences or artists that interested you? crs: First, my ­mother and ­father, who are socialists (yes, one can say this nowadays). My ­mother is a social worker, a teacher, a feminist, C h e m i R o s a d o - S e i j o   •  2 5 1

and a pretty active activist! My old man is very critical, so t­ hey’re a good mix. Art was always encouraged at home. I thought I would be an architect but, lucky me, Old San Juan, punk, and all that made me forget about architecture. So that clash of social interests met the art of Robert Smithson, Félix González-­Torres, Jenny Holzer, Lygia Clark, Zilia Sánchez, Gordon Matta-­Clark, Francisco Oller. . . . ​ That mix of antecedents gave me a basis to ­later think: “And now, what should we do? How to contribute to such a history of excellence in arts and politics?” Th ­ ose w ­ ere my conceptual worries back then, around the same time when I met you, Beatriz, close to the year 2000. From ­there it went ­toward more direct influences, like Colectivo Cambalache, which impacted me a lot. It was very impor­ tant, and it was encouraging to get to know artists like Carolina Caycedo, Raymond Chaves and his proj­ect “Dibujo 24 Horas,”19 and other colleagues with similar interests in Latin Amer­i­ca. bsm: You have very specific and directly explicit po­liti­cal goals. crs: Of course. I see myself as an anarcho-­socialist, to speak in terms of a po­liti­cal agenda. By this I mean I d ­ on’t believe that politics, as it has been carried out, can solve anything ­today. At least not that idea of a total revolution, where p ­ eople share a similar par­tic­u­lar ideology. I believe in social and po­liti­cal balance, and b ­ ecause of this I believe in ­people gathering and crafting our utopias, or as some phi­los­o­pher once said, “micro-­utopias.” ­These are the ones that look to me like pos­si­ble revolutions nowadays. We could call it ephemeral politics [laughter]. bsm: I think that you mean ­there are ­things that can be identified as having a social impact. This has to do with recognizing the knowledge and aesthetics of any par­tic­u­lar site. And we recognize ­those ­things by ways we live, think, and build. If ­there can be a social change ­there, it’d have to do with acknowledging what can happen when a group of p ­ eople turn that knowledge into part of a broader culture. crs: Yes, it’s basically that. Th ­ ere’s a utopia ­there, a politics that wants to activate itself and foment. ­There is also knowledge to exchange in order to achieve a balance between neighborhoods and academia. It’s this way that we can start building a better city, making it dif­fer­ent, organic, loved and a hundred p ­ ercent functional. In my understanding, this is what communities built by their own residents have in common, like El Cerro or La Perla. Academia also

2 5 2   •  i n t e r v i e w

has a certain awareness of what communities need or can use to improve their quality of life or to create access to improved economic conditions. That’s what I think it’s all about! mrf: How do communities get to understand art? When you get to a place and pres­ent something as art, how do you think they end up understanding what y­ ou’re d ­ oing as art? How do they get to the place where they themselves understand that it’s not just an individual work but that the work includes collaborators (other artists, writers, social workers), volunteers, and even themselves? crs: I think that just the fact that it’s art already opens dif­fer­ent kinds of doors in community practice; it’s an advantage, it brings certain freedoms. In the cases of El Cerro and La Perla it was impor­tant to joke around and raise awareness about the fact that what we ­were making was an art work. Besides, art is associated with beauty. In neighborhoods it has been nice to understand it as art, as beautiful, as most ­people do not understand it that way. Still, most ­people perceive the neighborhood (the slum) as ugly, and a general idea of “modernity” as the pretty or correct alternative to it! mrf: In the proj­ect you mentioned at the beginning of the conversation, “Salón-­Sala-­Salón” in the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, the school is ­behind the museum but the two places have had minimal relations. How do you think the two groups understand this as a “work” of art, as well as their role inside the work? crs: In the case of the school w ­ e’re dealing with teen­agers: ­people who’re expecting some sort of acknowl­edgment, and who are willing to engage in the exchange and be creative without fear. ­They’re just not scared, they act fearlessly, as it should be. What ­these kids had was a g­ reat advantage. They understand that art can be anything, that it can have an economic and po­liti­cal value, and that in ­these dimensions they can still find their own perceptions about art and life.

Notes 1 Chemi Rosado-­Seijo, “500 Words,” Artforum, December 16, 2014, http://artfo​ 2 “Living Room-­Room-­Living Room: Exchange at La Labra.” ­These and all other proper names are kept in their original Spanish. A translation of their meaning is provided in the footnotes when pos­si­ble. 3 Puerto Rico Con­temporary Art Museum.

C h e m i R o s a d o - S e i j o   •  2 5 3

4 The Pearl. 5 “The Bowl.” 6 “La Perla Portrait Kite Festival.” 7 Removable. 8 Old San Juan. 9 Morro’s ­Castle. 10 The Pit. 11 The Gap. 12 In En­glish in the original. 13 Cake. 14 Fine Arts School. 15 In En­glish in the original. 16 Historically in Latin Amer­i­ca, ­there are several class issues involved in recognizing this distinction, as mountain regions surrounding the central “established” city are generally new, “informal” neighborhoods consisting of recent immigrants. 17 Comunidades Especiales was a proj­ect started by Sila María Calderón, at the time mayor of San Juan. It sought to promote self-­management and empowerment in San Juan’s poorest communities. ­Later, when she became governor, Calderón founded the Office of Special Communities, extending the initial proj­ect to the rest of the country. The proj­ect’s goal was to rehabilitate the infrastructure of 686 disadvantaged communities in Puerto Rico, as well as to facilitate their self-­management by community members. 18 “Trampoline for the Two ­Brothers Bridge.” 19 “24-­Hour Drawing.”

2 5 4   •  i n t e r v i e w

Part IV Indigeneity

The complexity of the term “indigeneity” within the Latin American context is reflected in the near impossibility of its direct translation. In En­glish, the term has an almost anthropological association, along with con­temporary intersections in the fields of cultural, environmental, and po­liti­cal studies. In Spanish the term indigenismo has a dif­fer­ent meaning and carries a myriad of historical associations. The most concrete of t­ hese is related to the broad early to mid-­twentieth-­century art and cultural movement that valorized indigenous history and culture, but also tended to romanticize ­those same communities. This difference in perspective is not only a linguistic one, but is reflective of our dissimilar regional histories and our vastly dif­fer­ent day-­to-­day encounters with indigenous communities and realities. It is also worth noting that all three of the following essays deal with both collaborative working methodologies and ancestral relations to history and territory. The ties the bind history and the environment have been central and long-­standing concerns within modern indigenous thought. This connection manifests itself in myriad ways, including the recouping of ancestral knowledge as a form of subjective formation and community building. This work is often directed ­toward historic knowledge emerging from

ecological and spiritual spheres that are bound together in con­temporary terms, among other ways, in order to combat environmental degradation and promote po­liti­cal autonomy. The artistic proj­ects presented in this section seek to unpack the relationship between artistic and activist actions with con­temporary indigenous communities in the Amer­i­cas. Alberto Muenala and Pablo Sanaguano are both artist/activists from Kichwa communities in Ec­ua­dor who have been working for the past several years in the same region. Their vastly dif­fer­ ent modes of engagement reflect the diversity of approaches in the field of con­temporary collaborative art. Muenala is a filmmaker from Otavalo whose films on indigenous issues have been screened internationally. His artistic work also extends to his involvement in several local and international organ­izations that support community video and filmmaking among indigenous ­peoples. For this book Muenala reflects on the challenges of starting an ambitious national program for locally driven media development, and what the establishment of this communication network means for the ­future of ­those dispersed communities. Sanaguano is a former seminary student of Monsignor Leonidas Proaño of Riobamba, a theologian and fervent supporter of Liberation Theology. Sanaguano’s artistic work with Kichwa communities consists in the recovery and reenactment of ancestral knowledge through communal walks and critical dialogue. For this book María Fernanda Cartagena interviews Sanaguano about his practice, the pro­cess of t­hese reenactments, and their importance for indigenous communal identity and po­ liti­cal solidarity. Muenala and Sanaguano share a central concern with envisioning a more just f­ uture for indigenous p ­ eoples, including valorizing ancestral knowledge while in dialogue with o ­ thers outside their community, intergenerational exchange, and the importance of community organ­izing. The Ala Plastica collective is an art and environmental ngo based in Río de la Plata, Argentina. For the past twenty years the group has worked bioregionally and internationally with a range of collaborators including artists, scientists, and environmental activists. Since 1991 they have been undertaking experimental initiatives that interweave local knowledge, economies, and frameworks with ecological concerns that seek to operate at a bioregional scale. They practice a collaborative methodology, working closely with local communities through research and dialogue on what they term “pro­cesses of formation and transformation.” This book features 2 5 6   •  P a r t I V

an interview with Ala Plastica in which they reflect on the history of their practice, with a focus on key community-­driven proj­ects with the Kolla, Ayoreo, and other native ­peoples of the region. Significantly, Ala Plastica’s proj­ects have also involved extended, reflective walks and perambulations (as in the “Salt Trail” proj­ect with the Kolla).

I n d i g e n e i t y   •  2 5 7

This page intentionally left blank

Ala Plastica


PROJ­E CT DESCRIPTION fabian cereijido The artist collective Ala Plastica began its activities in the coastal areas of the Río de la Plata in Argentina and now works in several regions of the  world. It was founded in 1991 by Alejandro Meitin, a ­lawyer, eco-­ activist, and artist from La Plata, Argentina, and its composition changes, expands, and contracts according to the dif­fer­ent initiatives on which it embarks. Using what they term “the artistic way of thinking and acting,” Ala Plastica promotes alternative development models for critical regions in long-­term engagements with communities and their institutions.1 They seek the development or enhancement of collaborative forums in which to imagine, evaluate, plan, and archive environmental and social actions. They sustain a theoretical and po­liti­cal opposition to the “techno-­political” models of development and integration promoted by governments and big conglomerates that only consider the speed and ease with which natu­ ral resources can be extracted, transported, and sold. If indigenism can be said to be a general conception and practice which centers on, and advocates for, the self-­determination and land rights of indigenous ­peoples, Ala Plastica is, among other ­things, an indigenist art collective. The initiative “Junco: Emergent Species” from 1995 is one of Ala Plastica’s most emblematic works ­because of its territorial, interdisciplinary, and temporal scope, and b ­ ecause of the way in which “the artistic way of

thinking and acting” permeated all the components of the initiative, starting with the meta­phoric activation of the junco. The proj­ect was at the same time an event localized in time, and the initial spark and matrix for many long-­term collaborations. Like all emergent plants, the junco or reed, which looks like ­giant blades of grass, grows in w ­ ater, but its blades pierce the surface so the tops “emerge” and live in the air. It is a natu­ral filter and purifier of pollutants, liberating the w ­ aters downstream from the effects of toxic waste. Its roots weave rhizomatic networks in the soil that lay claim to, and stabilize, extensive areas. Its proliferation encourages soil sedimentation and, in the long term, the emergence of firm, stable land where other species can share space with the junco and thrive. In a sample of soil from one of the many banks of junco that dot the Río de la Plata, it is pos­si­ble to see recombined traces from throughout the Río de la Plata basin. Junco’s natu­ral antagonism ­toward pollution, its panregional solidarity, its exuberant proliferation, and long-­term plans of cohabiting ­were frequently brought up and discussed among the members of Ala Plastica. “Junco: Emergent Species” was launched in December  1995 with a month-­long series of meetings, events, talks, site visits, and discussions in and around the Río de la Plata area. Local communal representatives, artists, national and international scientists, naturalists, environmentalists, fishermen, basketry weavers, officials, and students discussed t­ hings as general as the social and environmental crisis and human/nature relationships in the costal systems of the river, and as specific as the history and viability of the local basket-­weaving trade. The group also established long-­term platforms in which all the participants could continue the dialogue and coordinate ­future actions. The long-­term dialogue established was (and is) such that it played a prominent role in the coordinated strategies the local communities implemented to denounce and limit the environmental damage produced by an oil spill by Shell four years ­later. A central event of this gathering took place on the sandy river banks of Punta Lara, a small town on the Río de la Plata. ­Here Ala Plastica or­ga­nized an exercise in which the participants planted junco and other emergent plants following an inductive protocol, ­under the guidance of Dr. Nuncia Tur of the Botany Department of the University of La Plata. Ala Plastica’s “artistic way of thinking and acting” has an unguarded romantic ring to it. Yet b ­ ehind the imprecision and sway of the term, the collective pursues a subtle, diversified indigenism. They focus not on the drift of polysemic dispersal, nor on the self-­evident truths exhibited by nature and ­people in their own contexts, but on their vocations and ­futures, 2 6 0   •  f a b i a n c e r e i j i d o

on the changing institutions and narratives they generate, on the way they create re­sis­tance. In their practice the members of Ala Plastica commit their contextual experience to sustained dialogue and better ­futures for ­people and nature. OTROS-­N OSOTROS: AN INTERVIEW WITH ALA PLASTICA,   NOVEMBER 8, 2007, AND AUGUST 20, 2011 grant H. kester translation by annie mendoza, fabian cereijido, and grant h. kester

grant h. kester: You have worked largely in the Río de la Plata basin. Can you describe the area briefly? ala plastica: The Río de la Plata basin has an expanse of 3,200,000 square kilo­meters, approximately one-­third of the area of the United States and almost equal in size to all of the countries that make up the Eu­ro­pean Union. It stretches into Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay. The basin consists of a dense network of streams, tributaries, and smaller rivers, which eventually meet up in two rivers—­the Paraná and the Uruguay—­whose ­waters pass through a delta of 14,000 square kilo­meters. ­After traveling 320 kilo­meters through g­ ently sloping ground, they enter the estuary of the Río de la Plata through fourteen dif­f er­ ent river mouths. The ­whole river and lake network of the Río de la Plata basin forms a kind of feedback system, which charges and recharges the huge Guarani aquifer. The basin is at the center of many discussions related to the pro­cess of privatization, and the geopolitics involved in the expropriation of w ­ ater resources by cap­i­tal­ist enterprises. It has been home to tens of millions of ­people, including many of the native populations of the Amer­i­ cas, which dwell in the area of the Andes (Kolla) and the dry lands (Toba and Huichís) and the lower regions and coastal jungle.2 The basin is also home to Eu­ro­pe­ans, who first arrived at the time of the Spanish conquest. Beginning in the late nineteenth c­ entury, subsequent waves of immigration brought settlers from Spain, Italy, Germany, Poland, and the ­Middle East. ghk: I know ­you’ve worked regularly with willow cultivation in the past. What is the history of willow or wicker crops in the area? ap: In terms of the cultivation of wicker, this crop develops primarily in the area of the lower delta and on the fringe of the southern A l a P l a s t i c a   •  2 6 1

coast on the estuary of the Río de la Plata. Th ­ ese crops ­were introduced more than a ­century ago to attract the settlement of Eu­ro­pean colonists in the coastal areas, where they reproduced ancestral practices from their countries of origin. Over time they gradually transformed ­these landscapes into what we might define as “neo-­ecosystems.” In addition to willow cultivation in the areas of the delta and the estuary, other forms of agricultural production are practiced all along the river basin, which invigorate the local economies. ghk: When did the government first become interested in the “development” of the Río de la Plata? ap: The Western perspective on t­ hese territories has always centered on mining or extraction industries. To clarify this point it is enough to note that the toponym “Río de la Plata” [River of Silver, first used in 1516] reflects the fact that this river was the point of entry into the two main rivers to the silver mines of Potosí.3 Since then the extractive imperative has been applied without ­interruption throughout the region. In the last de­cade a new extractive conception, which treats the vari­ous ecosystems of the planet as part of a “global factory,” has taken root. This concept has already produced an expansion of industrial agriculture and forced the displacement of ­people at a level never seen before in the region. This situation clearly reflects a power strug­gle that is at the center of the debate on globalization, as the nation-­state loses power to transnational corporations. For many, the pro­gress of the globalization pro­cess is such that nation-­states are not only getting weaker: they are disappearing altogether. What is less clear is what ­will replace them.4 In 2000 the twelve Latin American presidents agreed to initiate the Proj­ect for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South Amer­i­ca [Proyecto de Integración de la Infraestructura Regional Sudamericana] or iirsa, an ambitious plan for the implementation of physical proj­ects as well as changes in laws, rules, and regulations, to facilitate regional and global trade. The iirsa initiative stems from a strategic business vision generated years ago (1996) in the corridors of corporate banking institutions, and was based on an assessment of the productive capabilities of vari­ ous territories in the region, along with the physical infrastructure (transport, energy, and telecommunications) needed to support 2 6 2   •  g r a n t h . k e s t e r

ghk: ap:

ghk: ap:

business opportunities. iirsa is a state and private coordinator for a wide range of proj­ects that already existed and that have now been given a regional framework linked with the imperatives of neoliberal globalization. Is ­there a history of or­ga­nized po­liti­cal re­sis­tance in the Río de la Plata basin? The answer to this question is “yes”; however, this “yes” is multidimensional. The first dimension is at the micro­regional scale, for example, on the southern fringe of the estuary or on the delta. ­These areas are characterized by a postindustrial situation. Many of the inhabitants of t­hese areas have developed physical and intellectual activities closely related to the ecosystem and have, over the years, and in accordance with the very peculiar history of Argentina, embraced dif­fer­ent forms of organ­ization and po­liti­ cal reor­ga­ni­za­tion, associations, ­unions, po­liti­cal parties, ­etc. A second dimension concerns po­liti­cal re­sis­tance within the territorial state. Argentina in par­tic­u­lar has a rich history of re­sis­ tance and civil achievement associated with the strug­gle of t­ hese or­ga­nized groups. We can analyze a third dimension beginning with the impact of the transnationalization pro­cess on the region, in the ser­vice of economic operations aimed at revitalizing the global economy. ­These began during the military dictatorship of the 1970s and evolved further during the 1990s. Currently, most of the initiatives being proposed by the new “progressive” governments in Latin Amer­i­ca as part of the iirsa are identical to ones that local governments tried to implement in the last de­cade of the twentieth ­century during the apogee of neoliberalism in the region, particularly in Brazil and Argentina. At that time the towns in the regions of Brazil and Argentina affected by ­these initiatives or­ ga­nized protests against them, as part of a widespread pro­cess of public debate and dissent. As a result of ­these protests, they ­were able to stop, or at least hinder, ­these initiatives. How did your work develop over time in relationship to this history? During the 1990s ­there was a big shift in the “tradition” of po­liti­ cal re­sis­tance strug­gles that had emerged in Argentina since the coup d’état in the mid-’70s. That was a very tragic event, especially in our city of La Plata. Do you remember the work at the La Plata City Zoo, which we started in 1991? We reclaimed the library, A l a P l a s t i c a   •  2 6 3

abandoned for thirty years, as a center for communication, and we brought in other artists to “deconstruct” old jail facilities in the area. This proj­ect was designed to recuperate public space and generate an active dialogue that could capture the social gestalt of the community ­after years characterized by fear of the outside and the deep feelings of apprehension left b ­ ehind by the dictatorship. What did this local re­sis­tance to the experience of privatized and fragmented life lead to? In the mid-’90s, with the proj­ect “Junco: Especies Emergentes” [Reeds: Emerging Species], we began to articulate dif­fer­ent visions for the region with the communities along the estuary of Río de la Plata. One of t­ hese visions involved challenging the “techno-­political” mindset of corporations and governmental agencies by exploring new, creative ways to develop and apply alternative social and environmental profiles for coastal development. We reclaimed local community centers as bases of re­sis­tance to the mega-­construction proj­ects then being imposed on the region (dams, bridges, ­etc.). A research team composed of civil actors from the area was constituted in response to the Shell oil spill in the Río de la Plata delta in 1999. It assessed the spill’s impact through participatory diagnostics, it generated mitigating actions, and it denounced the oil spill and the actions of Shell in the local, national, and international media. ­These actions helped to open up a dialogue on alternative energy and climate change in Argentina. From ­there we arrive at the social explosion that occurred in 2001, in response to the economic crisis following Argentina’s debt default. Across the country ­people protested and emphatically rejected neoliberalism. Workers throughout the country took over abandoned factories, and many cooperative enterprises ­were formed. One of t­ hese cooperatives was the Costa de Berisso. We collaborated with them in the development of new strategies for the use of wicker, improving production techniques and incorporating new perspectives about sustainability. In all ­these cases, and in many ­others we ­can’t describe ­here, what we did was part of this broader re­sis­tance movement. We operate at a panoramic distance from urban conflicts that, by their nature, demand exemplary and almost theatrical action. Instead, we have ended up working in the outskirts of the megacity of Buenos Aires, a place where you can feel the encroachment of the concrete mass ­under 2 6 4   •  g r a n t h . k e s t e r



ghk: ap:

ghk: ap:

your feet. Pressed against the river, we see the soft re­sis­tance of the natu­ral order as it challenges the walls that try to contain it and, furthermore, generate new territories of life. It was ­here that we learned that it is impor­tant to resist, not only as part of the natu­ral pro­cess of survival, but also in response to a fundamental obligation to transform real­ity. You often use meta­phors when you describe your work (rhizomes or root systems, weaving, e­ tc.) that are derived from nature. Do you think it’s pos­si­ble to derive po­liti­cal insights from the natu­ral world? The emergence of a new, historically vital movement first occurs in the form of an imaginative transfiguration of real­ity, and oftentimes this cannot be defined using a structure of scientific certainty. The organic references that we employ are conceptual tools that begin to establish a web of similarities and reciprocities, but the new system that w ­ ill ultimately emerge w ­ ill also be produced through the unpredictable adventure of social pro­cesses. We maintain the right to cultivate new senses and new forms of subjectivity in our work in order to contribute to the emergence of a new form of life. Current proposals circulated by the iirsa focus primarily on the extraction of natu­ral resources, is that correct? Yes, the government’s plan is basically to encourage the large-­scale extraction of natu­ral resources (through mining, industrial farming, transgenic monocultivation, timber, ­etc.), along with large construction proj­ects associated with transportation, energy, gas, ­water, e­ tc. U ­ nder this mandate the concept of regional integration is reduced to the pro­cess of preparing physical territories for the ­free movement of all ­those ele­ments that might have a market value, and the streamlining of administrative f­ actors (lifting the bureaucratic or regulatory restrictions of states or territories). Are ­there other plans or proposals being developed to challenge this vision? Nothing that can compete on that scale. In the territory of the Plata basin t­ here are significant operational differences in terms of the resources available to ­those who are working to support an integrated model of neoliberal globalization and t­hose who support the territorial integrity of communities in the region, who face significant challenges. In 2005 we began holding a series A l a P l a s t i c a   •  2 6 5

of ­meetings with a groups and organ­izations from Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina that are active at several levels, in the emblematic city of Asunción. This followed an initiative by “sobrevivencia-­at-­Paraguay” [Survival at Paraguay]. In t­hese meetings we discovered that we had a common interest in monitoring the actions of iirsa in the region, and in confronting its vision with an alternative model of integration based on emergent conceptions generated by the local p ­ eople and on activities that preserve and nourish the network of life in the region. We want to strengthen the argument against the iirsa from a socio-­ecological perspective, in order to c­ ounter the unilateral techno/po­liti­cal descriptions of the area’s real­ity being put forward by the government and corporate sector. This collaboration was established in order to develop, implement, interpret, and publicize new and creative social and environmental models for the Río de la Plata basin, based on the systematic collection of information regarding sustainable practices in local communities (micro experiences, life stories, existing initiatives, flows of ideas, artistic creation, ­etc.). Our goal was the creation of spaces and platforms for sharing information and generating ideas, with dif­f er­ent, complementary levels of collaboration with ­those groups and individuals that had already begun to devise models of integration based on the positive evolution of the basin’s territorial identity. ghk: I know y­ ou’ve developed a number of dif­f er­ent proj­ects and initiatives over the years. Can you give us a rough chronology? ap: In response to this question we created a graphic timeline of our initiatives. We also added a sketch of a ­mental map that we hope can illustrate our working dynamic, its continuities and relationships. As this map suggests, we understand our work at three levels or scales: Hidroamérica, Basin, and Estuary. U ­ ntil 2005 our work focused on the delta and the Río de la Plata estuary. L ­ ater it expanded, as we began to form relationships with other organ­ izations working in the basin, which ­were interested in our work. They in turn began sharing their contacts with us, so that we could foster connections between prob­lems and pos­si­ble solutions at the bioregional level. Currently, all of our proj­ects are developing si­mul­ta­neously. They are like a web that is constantly being woven. Our status as an ngo operating in the basin, and interna2 6 6   •  g r a n t h . k e s t e r

14.1.  ​Map of our dynamics, their continuity, and relations, 1991–2008.

tionally at dif­f er­ent levels of discussion and action, gives us a very active and diversified public profile. ghk: Are the vari­ous proj­ects located in dif­fer­ent areas? Or do you always involve the same group of participants? ap: Actually, we ­don’t consider all of our all activities within the category of “proj­ects.” The idea of “projecting” [in Spanish the verb proyectar means “to plan”] presupposes a fixed objective or goal defined beforehand. This would constrain the potential of our interaction with the social groups that we engage, as well as the unexpected developments generated by the interchange itself. We prefer to speak of “initiatives,” and within them of vari­ous “exercises” that multiply, involving ­people and groups with whom we establish dialogues and develop actions based on princi­ples of reciprocity. With some groups we build lasting relationships and stay connected through new stages of collaboration. Ala Plastica consists of an “otros-­nosotros” [literally: “others-us”], which is, A l a P l a s t i c a   •  2 6 7

ghk: ap:

ghk: ap:

in turn, part of an emerging movement in the community. While participants vary, at this point we can say that t­here is a fairly large transdisciplinary network that understands and shares the heuristic form of our work, and with whom we regularly share and build our practice.5 How ­were your proj­ects and ideas presented to communities in the region? And how ­were you perceived by t­ hese communities? We have never felt, nor w ­ ere we ever perceived, like intruders in the places that we carry out our work. Our attitude does not arouse suspicion or lack of trust, but rather interest and curiosity. ­There are times when we must approach a situation in an indirect manner, for example, installing an apparently decontextualized object in a public place, as in the case of the “white t­ able” we placed in a park in Hamburg.6 The most in­ter­est­ing aspect of this exercise was the fact that we d ­ idn’t know a word of German. Nevertheless, we had previously undertaken a thorough investigation of community sensibilities along the river Wandse in Hamburg, which gave us a certain perspective that made the sincerity of our interest in the area evident. Our method of working is characterized by a distinct and impor­tant ele­ment. Simply put, we identify ourselves as emerging from the community, as developers of a self-­ organizing dynamic, and not as therapists who “descend” upon the community. We share the experiences of the community with a profound interest, we learn from the experiences of o ­ thers, and we re­spect the diversity of the community’s singularities. Is ­there ever any suspicion or distrust of your intentions? The distrust exists primarily between us and the “men in gray” who look askance at us for operating in discursive and institutional spaces that, while ostensibly “public,” they are used to treating as their own private domain.7 They ­don’t trust us ­because they see that we have placed ourselves in a critical relationship to a zone of conflict, or ­because they ­don’t like ­people who intrude into or investigate spaces that they have been accustomed to controlling. Fortunately, this is not the situation with p ­ eople in general. Our presence generally makes p ­ eople in positions of power uncomfortable, no ­matter what type of power we are talking about. It made the representatives of the Shell Com­pany uncomfortable on the coast of the Magdalena. It made the secretaries of mining—­who wanted to disrupt the formation of a cooperative of

2 6 8   •  g r a n t h . k e s t e r

salt workers in the Andean Plateau, privatize ancestral lands, and destroy local economies—­uncomfortable. It made the corrupt municipal representatives, with whom we publicly debated the need to develop systems of participatory bud­geting, uncomfortable. In all ­these situations Ala Plastica is annoying, and if they could make us dis­appear t­ oday they would. In fact, they try to dis­ appear us all the time, from the media, from the spaces we occupy, from the opinion of the community. As Eduardo Molinari writes, “The long shadows of state totalitarianism and terrorism still cast themselves on the streets of the neighborhoods.”8 ghk: How did you negotiate your relationships with indigenous groups? How did you earn their trust? ap: To give one example, our introduction to the members of the Kolla community and their representative institutions (the Aboriginal Community Council) came through the Network of Health and Plants of Argentina [the Red de Salud y Plantas of Argentina] and the experimental plant nursery El Albardón, with which we share a long friendship thanks to our work in the estuary. The Kolla live in the area of the western headwaters of the Río de la Plata basin, in the Andes. We wanted to work with them to recover ancient trails in the region. The plan was to redraw t­ hese paths through an intense walking experience, in order to create a new understanding of the chaotic space/time juxtapositions that have characterized northern Argentina for the past five hundred years. This work was intended to generate a new, more harmonious, cognitive itinerary, and to explore the contradictions of ­these places, providing guidance to the young who d ­ on’t know the land of their ancestors. It also facilitated dialogue at vari­ous nodal points along the rediscovered trails. Th ­ ese are key events in the production of subjectivity, aimed at preserving the spirituality of life. They are also useful tools for exploring, step by step, the territorial strategies of the state. In the case of our connection with the Ayoreo culture from the northern Paraguayan Chaco, this was facilitated by the Amotocodie Initiative.9 This is an organ­ization that unites anthropologists, geographers, and phi­los­o­phers. It was born out of the rapid expansion of the borders of Western civilization and the concrete threat that expansion has posed to both the “silvicola” groups of the Ayoreo ethnic group, one of the last communities in the A l a P l a s t i c a   •  2 6 9

Amer­i­cas to remain in voluntary isolation from modern society, as well as for the still-­extensive forests with which they coexist.10 Iniciativa Amotocodie is one of the organ­izations that form the Walamba Group. The Walamba Group is a forum for the continuous production of synergies and the exchange of experiences among groups that are working to support the sustainability of the Gran Chaco. ghk: Can you give specific examples of the “communication programs” you create in your work and how they function? ap: Initially, we get some indication of which issues w ­ ill awaken our sense of commitment to a topic through a po­liti­cal analy­sis of the territorial and social situation, and by reading social policy and planning documents related to the area. We also approach local actors and discuss with them the historical real­ity, the climate changes, and the topography, hydrology, and productive modes of the areas in which they live. From ­there, over the span of several conversations, we explore the utopian visions of the inhabitants and the potential of the dif­fer­ent areas of the region; something emerges which we define as the “vocation of the place” or a “local calling” [vocación del lugar]. Then we develop workshops to engage local residents, who deeply value resources that give them a sense of their “power to do” [su poder hacer].11 From that point on, we begin to share images, model for the photo­graphs, or other­wise integrate ourselves into the situation; this is only the first step. Our documentation and recording equipment is very low-­tech; we ­don’t define our creative strategies through it. We use reflex cameras, folders with photos, small scraps of paper with fragmentary texts, films edited with basic software tools, photocopied maps, articles and books, some satellite images, recordings, ­etc. In contrast to ­these technical “limitations,” the material itself is the product of a thorough investigation that crosses diverse areas of knowledge and precisely defined concepts. This material is aimed at elaborating the situation of a par­tic­ul­ar community in relation to the conflicts, threats, and potentialities that confront it. A ­ fter we establish the context of a given public space, we propose some kind of refunctioning or redisposition. In each case we work collaboratively to help improve the place, and thus begins the sharing of more intimate experiences. Once we are more aware of the real­ ity and the utopias, libraries are or­ga­nized, videos and magazines 2 7 0   •  g r a n t h . k e s t e r

ghk: ap:



are edited, public lectures are offered, and workshops are held, as well as fairs, exhibitions, pre­sen­ta­tions, and proj­ects in which, by now, we are coparticipants. From that moment on, new forms of collective action and creativity are mobilized which challenge unidirectional visions of real­ity. At this point we can say that community is being created. What effects do ­these workshops and other events have on your collaborators? In what way ­were they transformative? The first ­thing that is transformed is ourselves. Our perceptions change e­ very time we enter into contact with o ­ thers with whom we develop activities. The result is not an invention over which Ala Plastica could or would want to claim copyright, but something that we consciously help to catalyze, taking a cue from our friend Ian Hunter.12 Another effect involves the development of a diversity of actions that involve natu­ral, cultural, and economic pro­cesses, and that publicize and give visibility to local forms of knowledge. For example: the improvement of crop production techniques for forests; new uses for wicker and nonstandardized designs to develop sustainable strategies based on renewable coastal resources; the installation of thirty-­two solar panels obtained in an unorthodox way, ­etc. The final effect involves our participation in the creation of fronts or alliances of civil re­sis­tance that challenge mega-­engineering proj­ects, such as the planned Punta Lara–­Colonia bridge and dams, and that seek to revalorize territories in the basin and enhance connectivity among vari­ous groups ­there, leading to new and in­de­pen­dent actions. Can you talk in more detail about your work with the Kolla [“The Salt Trail,” or Camino de la Sal]? What occurred during the a­ ctual walks along the trail? The participants w ­ ere Severiano Lamas, Narciso Gutiérrez, Carlos Gustavo Gutiérrez, Mario Felipe Mendez, Jesús Cari, Carlos Salas, Jesús Corimayo, Matilde Zucaro, Ivonne Galatoire, Marcelo Miranda, and Alejandro Meitin of the Vivero Experimental El Albardón and of Ala Plastica, respectively. We gathered very early in the morning in the Community Center of the Hornaditas locality in the Quebrada de Humahuaca [Humahuaca Ravine]. The entire town helped in the preparations. Before we departed we carried out prayers to the Pachamama, asking for good fortune for the walkers and their families who stayed ­behind. ­After this A l a P l a s t i c a   •  2 7 1

the rock of the walker’s faith was raised.13 The journey began by climbing trails that extend in a southeast direction along the Andean Salto-­Jujeña foothills with the Salinas Grandes (a salt desert in northwestern Argentina), beyond the administrative reach of the state. Crossing slopes, clearings, and ravines, the walkers immersed themselves in the world around them, and ­were welcomed in the villages along the way by ­women, men, ­children, and young ­people. This initial greeting would be followed by long conversations with community members relating to themes of common interest. The conversations ­were focused on communal organ­ization and production, issues associated with w ­ ater access and mining, and the maintenance of community health practices in their ecological, hygienic, l­egal, spiritual, and botanical dimensions. The walkers would often reflect on the importance of interconnections among peasant community organ­izations. Before our departure, certain Humahuaca products like quinoa and dried fruit w ­ ere left ­behind in exchange for the lunch we received during our stay. ­After this the march was resumed. ­After many days of walking, late-­night conversations, and sleeping ­under the open sky, we arrived at Salinas Grandes, a unique ecosystem and an impor­tant ancestral center of life, culture, and history. H ­ ere we met with the inhabitants of the Tres Pozos Sanctuary, the last settlement before arriving at the salt mines themselves. The “Cambalache” is also held ­here. This is a meeting where ­family farmers exchange products from vari­ous regions and where the customs of their ancestors are practiced and celebrated. Afterward, the Assembly of the Tres Pozos Sanctuary Indigenous Community Council takes place, among both men and ­women. ­Here the walkers ­were recognized for their role in mobilizing interest in the cultural practices and politics of the Kolla community. As a result of all t­ hese meetings and conversations, ­there was growing interest in the formation of a new indigenous cooperative. L ­ ater on, representatives of the mining and the environment offices for the province of Jujuy participated in a public meeting and ­were questioned about provincial proj­ects geared ­toward the privatization of the salt mines, and about delays in the awarding of community land titles by the state. Afterward, an impor­tant group that included the walkers and neighbors headed ­toward Salinas Grandes, where prayers ­were offered and the rock 2 7 2   •  g r a n t h . k e s t e r

14.2.  ​The salt miners make their return. Courtesy of Matilde Zúcaro.

of the walker’s faith was deposited on an apacheta or rock formation.14 The next morning the walkers began their return trip to the Quebrada de Humahuaca. ghk: How did the walks affect the Kolla community and the young ­people in that community? ap: The native Andean Kichwa and Aymara communities are committed to the idea of a multidimensional encounter with the world, sustained through princi­ ples of re­ spect, harmony, and equilibrium with all that exists. This equilibrium must be produced through practice, through the creativity of action. In this re­spect, the Salt Trail/Camino de la Sal walk produced an experience of integration. “Man is a part of the earth that walks,” according to a Kolla proverb. Thus walking is related to a communitarian pedagogy in which every­one, especially the youth, understands the multidimensional nature of life, and the sacred nature of quotidian experience. Every­thing related to walking is part of a single action, through which you begin to develop a unique sense of communication between ritual and politics. The act of walking has the effect of reactivating life. Dignity, sovereignty, and the cosmos combine to promote one of the most ancient insights of the high A l a P l a s t i c a   •  2 7 3

Andean communities: the communitarian paradigm of culture and a life that is well lived. ghk: Can you talk in more detail about your work with the Ayoreo in the Gran Chaco in Paraguay? What kinds of initiatives have you developed ­there? ap: The Ayoreo travel from one place to another along the old meandering trails or through ancient river beds that still carry some ­water.15 Despite the fact that ­people rarely have contact with them, their presence can be felt in the landscape, and in some cases they ­will suddenly appear from afar among the low, brushy forests. The first contact between the Ayoreo and the surrounding society began around 1945 in Bolivia and around 1960 in Paraguay. Th ­ ese contacts ­were traumatic and often fatal. In many cases the Ayoreo of the mountains ­were hunted and forcibly removed from their natu­ral spaces, deported to missionary settlements, where they became sedentary and where they experienced some of the worst economic, sanitary, educational, and environmental conditions in Paraguay. Over two thousand of them w ­ ere forced to abandon their home in the dry Chaco against their ­will. Modernization also affected their habitat. The long, meandering trails, which had been the vertebral column of their way of life, ­were destroyed or interrupted by new agricultural roads and the leveling and clearing of the ground. ­Today more and more of the ecosystems of the Chaqueño dry forest are being destroyed, condemning the descendants of the Ayoreo community to a ­silent holocaust. Our goal in working in this area was to reveal some aspects of a culture and an environment that is truly magical and worthy of preservation, but which f­aces a profound threat to its survival. We deci­ded to not make direct contact with the Ayoreo groups, which have deliberately chosen to remain isolated. We sought instead to identify signs of their presence in the countryside and to monitor the ways in which encroaching society had begun to alter the spaces of Ayoreo life and culture in the Amotocodie zone, occupied by the local Ayoreo group known as the “Totobiegosode.” This work was carried out through a variety of dif­fer­ent methods, including the use of satellite imagery. ghk: Do you feel that ­there is a danger that you ­will romanticize your collaborators when you work with indigenous communities like the Kolla or Ayoreo? Is it pos­si­ble that you ­will overlook your own 2 74   •   g r a n t h . k e s t e r

power and authority in relationship to relatively less empowered communities in this work? ap: If we approached our work with the intention of romanticizing ­these communities, our practice would be para­lyzed and it would be impossible to approach them in a productive manner. Native communities like the Kichwa and Aymara are characterized by a level of organ­ization, thought, spirituality, economic wisdom, and culture that have allowed them to resist pro­cesses of extermination and devalorization for more than five hundred years. Their cultures have evolved in response to, and in spite of, a history of displacement and disconnection at the bioregional scale. Our involvement with them came about in reaction to the specific forms of territorial identity created by ­these communities, which provide an impor­tant model for the harmonious interconnection of nature and culture. In regard to our encounter with the Ayoreo world, the objective of the proj­ect was to support the activities of the Amotocodie Initiative, which sought to maintain the spiritual energies and the integrity of their way of life and their traditional spaces, which include the natu­ral hydrologic resources of the dry Chaco and the forest paths and trails. As a result of the pro­cess of displacement, and the role of the state in supporting “modernization” efforts in ­these areas, many of ­these indigenous groups have been unable to defend their rights and their territorial autonomy. ghk: How did the nationwide protests and actions in 2001 surrounding the debt crisis in Argentina affect native ­peoples? ­Were ­these ­protests and actions primarily urban or w ­ ere ­there rural actions as well? ap: The events of December 2001 occurred ­after a long journey that began in the periphery and moved to the center of Argentine society. Along the way it acquired a more urban and more vis­i­ble character, but it ­didn’t begin that way. The Movimiento Piquetero [“Picketer” Movement], for example, had its origins in the provinces of Neuquen (in the Plaza Huincul of the city of Cutral Có) and Salta (in the General Mosconi area of the city of Tartagal). The demonstrators ­were made up primarily of descendants of the native communities who had become salaried workers in ­these areas. They led a series of unpublicized strikes in the mountainous zones of the north and in the Patagonian Desert in the early 1990s, due to the growth of unemployment and the deterioration A l a P l a s t i c a   •  2 7 5

of living conditions in t­ hose areas, where conventional industries ­were at the center of community life. This was the first movement that dared to confront entrenched local power and shatter the illusion of pro­gress associated with neoliberalism. Other groups or­ga­nized themselves in the mid-’90s in the urban peripheries and rural areas, defying the limitations of the system and generating moments of strategic re­sis­tance that differed radically from prevailing models in Argentine society. Th ­ ese protests came in response to the absence of any ­legal protections and the dismembering of the state by the banks and corporate sectors. Notwithstanding the extreme experiences of the time, they generated highly creative states of freedom and autonomy as p ­ eople began to take new positions in the face of an existential crisis. When in 2001 the m ­ iddle class took to the streets of the major cities, primarily motivated by the corralito, it was able to join forces with all of ­these preexisting actions, which had been developing on the periphery, but that did not yet have a global reach.16 It was at this moment that a new, heterogeneous subject emerged in Argentine politics, which would demonstrate to the world the crisis of capitalism in our country, and the failure of the po­liti­cal class to address it. This is epitomized by the phrases popu­lar at the time: “piquete y cacerola la lucha es una sola” [“picket, pots and pans, ­there is only one strug­gle”] and “que se vayan todos” [“every­one out” or “every­one must leave,” i.e., all the corrupt politicians, bankers, etc. must go].17 Notes 1 From the pre­sen­ta­tion “Urbanismo crítico, intervención bioregional y especies emergentes” (Critical Urbanism, Bioregional Intervention, and Emerging Species) given by Alejandro Meitin at New York University, New York City, 2009. 2 In Argentina the term Kolla or Collas is generally used to refer to anyone of Kichwa-­Aymara origin. 3 Potosí in Bolivia was one of Spain’s main sources of power and wealth during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Enormous silver deposits w ­ ere discovered ­there in 1545. 4 See, for example, Gerardo Evia, “La República de la Soja: Las Alegorias de la Globalizacion,” Agropecuaria​.­org: http://­www​.­agropecuaria​.­org​/­analisis​ /­EviaRepublicaSoja​.­htm. 5​­ ­These practices adopt an interdisciplinary and transcultural perspective, intermingling ethics and aesthetics. We encourage dialogues between knowl2 7 6   •  g r a n t h . k e s t e r

edge and power within dif­fer­ent social and artistic groups. In this “living-­ together,” the concepts of idiolect and idiorythmics suggest the possibility that the individual can find his or her personal rhythm within a larger group. This insight could be extremely useful in artistic practices centered on intersubjective exchanges across the bound­aries of dif­fer­ent languages and cultures. See Alicia Romero and Marcelo Giménez, “Arqueología de lo Sensible: Artes Comunitarias, Colectivas y Participativas Contemporáneas en Argentina,” www​ .­deartesypasiones​.­com​.­ar​/­03​/­docartef​/­2006​-­VIII%20IHAAL​-­1​.­doc. 6​­ For more information, see http://­alaplastica​.­mwsysteme​.­de​/­. 7​­ We take this phrase from Eduardo Molinari’s 2008 essay “Tras los Pasos del Hombre de Maíz” (Following in the Footsteps of the Corn Man). See http://­ archivocaminante​.­blogspot​.­com. 8​­ Molinari, “Tras los Pasos del Hombre de Maíz.” 9 For more information, see http://­www​.­iniciativa​-­amotocodie​.­org. 10​­ The term Silvicola refers to indigenous groups that have consciously sought to avoid contact with modern society. It is estimated that t­ here are around one hundred surviving Ayorea families living ­today in the mountain interior, preserving their nomadic style of life and traditions. 11 This concept comes from John Holloway’s work. See Change the World without Taking Power: The Meaning of Revolution ­Today (London: Pluto Press, 2002). In Holloway’s words, “­doing” means creating or building. 12 Ian Hunter and Celia Larner are the found­ers of Littoral, an impor­tant center for engaged art research and practice in the UK. See http://­www​.­littoral​.­org​.­uk​/­. 13​­ The Aymara and Kichwa nations believe that every­thing in the world, all forms of existence, derive from two sources: Pachakama or Pachatata (­Father Cosmos, cosmic force or energy) and Pachamama (­Mother Earth, terrestrial energy or force). 14 ­These are artificial mounds of dif­fer­ent sized rocks, more or less conical in shape, erected in honor of the Pachamama. They are often situated on the sides of paths and roads in the Andean mountain range. Travelers w ­ ill offer prayers at ­these sites to remove misfortunes (chiknis) from the path, and for a healthy journey. The apachetas are dynamic objects, as they grow by the addition of rocks from other walkers. As a result, their size is directly related to the level of traffic in a given area. 15 The name Ayoreo (Ayoréode) can be roughly translated as “true men.” It refers to the culture and way of life of hunters and gatherers. Thus, the Ayoreo refer to other hunting and gathering communities as “other true men.” They refer to sedentary populations, ­whether or not they are indigenous, as cojñone (“­people without a correct way of thinking”). See Bernardo Fischermann, La Cosmovisión del Pueblo Ayoréode del Chaco Boreal (in publication). 16 In Argentina the term Corralito referred to policy introduced by Argentina’s Economic Minister Domingo Cavallo in December 2001, which froze bank

A l a P l a s t i c a   •  2 7 7

a­ ccounts and cash withdrawals in order to prevent a bank run. ­These mea­sures severely limited any type of economic activity by abruptly restricting the movement of money, paralyzing commerce and credit and asphyxiating the “formal or informal economy” upon which the daily subsistence of a significant portion of the population depended. 17 At this time p ­ eople across Argentina would bang pots and pans (cacerolas) on the corners of their neighborhoods and carry out pickets (piquetes) in the streets and ave­nues. As Naomi Klein has noted, “their message was ­simple enough”: You—­politicians and ceos huddled at some trade summit—­are like the reckless scamming execs at Enron (of course, we ­didn’t know the half of it). We—­the rabble outside—­are like the p ­ eople of Argentina, who, in the midst of an economic crisis eerily similar to our own, took to the street banging pots and pans. They shouted, “¡Que se vayan todos!” (“All of them must go!”) and forced out a pro­cession of four presidents in less than three weeks. What made Argentina’s 2001–02 uprising unique was that it w ­ asn’t directed at a par­tic­u­lar po­liti­cal party or even at corruption in the abstract. The target was the dominant economic model—­this was the first national revolt against con­temporary deregulated capitalism. [Naomi Klein, “All of Them Must Go,” The Nation (February  5, 2009). See articles/2009/02/all-them-must-go.]

2 7 8   •  g r a n t h . k e s t e r

Interview with Pablo S­ anaguano


marÍa fernanda cartagena, October 19, 2011

Local geographic and historical contexts are central to artist and educator Pablo Sanaguano’s practice (Riobamba, Ec­ua­dor, 1964). The discrimination he witnessed as a young man by mestizos against indigenous Kichwa in his hometown of Riobamba, in the Chimborazo province of Ec­ua­dor, marked his interest in situating art as a medium for social transformation. Implicit in his artistic pro­cess is the methodology of seeing, judging, and acting of the Christian Youth Missionary (Juventud Obrera Cristiana), as well as the dialogical pedagogy of Paulo Freire, which he learned in base community organ­izing, from 1982 to 1988, while accompanying one of the pioneers of Liberation Theology in Ec­ua­dor, Monsignor Leonidas Proaño. His studies in Eu­rope allowed him to connect art with activism—in 2000 he received a fine arts degree in Quimper, France. Sanaguano’s work questions and expands the Eurocentric notion of culture through diverse methodologies in rural and urban zones. His work operates within the recuperation and recreation of traditional ancestral knowledge and wisdom with diverse groups and communities. Sanaguano guides workshops where drawing, storytelling, text, walking, photos, ceramics, or mural painting are used to encourage decolonized pro­cesses of reflection on individual and collective cultural realities. The materialization of popu­lar and indigenous culture are approached through the knowledge

of elders, the history and the memory of the community, re­spect for the Pachamama (­Mother Nature), strengthening community ties, and facing the challenges of globalization. Listening and dialoguing are fundamental ele­ments within his profoundly humanistic body of work. The communal walkabout with groups along footpaths (chakiñanes) is a common practice where the artist dissolves the opposition between nature and culture. Sanaguano is a pioneer in employing visual art resources and the tradition of Latin American liberation pedagogy in order to restore the values of the indigenous worldview within social life, including the role of the collective, the communal, nature, ancestral wisdom, and popu­lar traditions. In this sense we can assert that his practice activates aesthetic, pedagogical, and intercultural pro­cesses. The current po­liti­cal constitution of Ec­ua­dor (2008), among its princi­ ples, promotes sumak kawsay, or “good living,” and interculturality. Sumak kawsay is centered in the indigenous worldview, and it aims at overcoming the Western model of individualist thought and the dominant concept of development centered in the market. This new epistemology of life is sustained by the recognition of diversity and harmony with community and nature in order to reach a shared ­future. Interculturality as a concept or proj­ect begins first with the recognition of the logic of colonial domination and discrimination, in order to then promote a fair, symmetrical dialogue between dif­fer­ent values, knowledge, and cultures. Interculturality occupies a po­liti­cal rather than an anthropological space. Sanaguano’s work constitutes an impor­tant experience and reference point for considering sumak kawsay and intercultural pro­cesses coming out of the arts and education. The following is a conversation with the artist about his most recent communal walkabout with the Kichwa community in La Moya to the Chimborazo volcano’s ice mines (2012). marÍa cartagena: Let’s see, Pablo, how did you end up working on art with indigenous communities in the province of Chimborazo? pablo sanaguano: Well, I come from a province that is at more than 2,000 meters of altitude with a lot of mountain—­snowcapped mountain—­landscapes, and with dif­f er­ent cultures. I have a strong visual memory as a young boy of the buses that came from the indigenous communities parked at the Plaza de Torros in front of my ­house. They came into the train station, and just next door was my ­house. My parents’ ­house is still ­there t­ oday. And the image I remember is of the indigenous ­people that arrived weighed down 2 8 0   •  m a r Í a f e r n a n d a c a r t a g e n a

with their goods, animals, vegetables, and with their clothing of vari­ous colors, multicolored. But ­there was a strong contrast between this scene and the injustices that occurred ­every market day. A group of p ­ eople, the majority mestizo, always of five or six, would approach and surround an indigenous individual that came to sell his lamb or goods. And I watched from my win­ dow how they used a manipulative language of deceit in order to obtain the indigenous individual’s product, paying him only what they wanted to pay, and they would throw money at him, they literally threw the money at him. They would say, “How much does it cost?” “Two sucres [monetary unit of Ec­ua­dor] per chicken.” “Ah, two sucres, no, not that, take this. Half.” And they would throw it at him. And this was repeated quite often. I observed this for many years, in my adolescence, and I d ­ on’t want to put it into adjectives, no. But it made me feel very bad. And in the depths of my being, I asked, Why? I think that for me this was the trigger to say that at some point I wanted to share what I had seen, and what I had lived. I loved cartoons. And I began copying cartoons from newspapers, from shops, papers that we collected from hair salons when they ­were no longer usable. And I saw an artistic form that I found humorous, and I identified with that humor, and then again with that certain irony employed to treat prob­lems within a given situation. And as I was growing up I said that, that at some point I wanted to be with the p ­ eople who suffer. I want to go over t­ here to make artwork with this community. This first period of my life required a pro­cess of sensitization through the ­family experience, the living experience of my neighborhood. I began g­ oing out to the countryside when I began working with the Church, and with Monsignor Proaño, with whom I studied. He told me that he liked to draw, and I told him that I liked to copy cartoons, so ­there was something harmonious between us. But he also told me that one has to draw the dignity of ­people. And I understood him, I understood what he was trying to say, and I think that, well, that’s how it happened, you know? It is not just drawing on paper, but instead drawing the dignity of p ­ eople. And with this uneasiness I began my work in indigenous communities. I began by ­going to see the festivals, the life of the communities. I would speak a lot with ­people ­there and this excited me. Afterward I began a w ­ hole I n t e r v i e w w i t h P a b l o S a n a g ua n o   •   2 8 1

construction pro­cess of relating myself with the entire mountain sector. And my development happened in this way. First, by being pres­ent in the festivals and learning first from their arts, especially in ­these power­ful moments. I am referring to the festivals staged as part of their agricultural calendar; I refer to the cele­ bration of when they bury their dead, which is something totally dif­fer­ent from what we are used to. So I somehow began breaking away from the ways of thinking that I brought with me from the city, and this began to nourish my social and cultural imaginary. mc: And at the pres­ent, how do you select the groups and communities that you work with, and what are the characteristics of ­these groups? ps: In order to pick up where we left off a l­ ittle: which with a bit of this attitude of indignation, I began asking, “Why in large impoverished areas is it still not permitted, or why are we still not allowed, to have the possibility of studying the arts?” And so this was the first question. How do I arrive, with this ­little worm of an idea of ­going out and sharing this dream of the arts? I began knocking on the doors of friends who w ­ ere very involved in the Catholic Church, and I asked them, “How could I host a ­little art class with ­people from your sector?” I took advantage of the open door they offered me, so I took advantage of the intermediaries, you know? ­People who had power and had a certain influence, or a big influence, within t­ hese communities or in t­ hese neighborhoods. So I would go directly to ask permission from the neighborhood leader or from the parish priest in the communities. And, what ­were the characteristics of my classes? Well, the characteristics ­were that I was interested in the communal, and it’s curious ­because when they said “over t­ here we have a group of c­ hildren,” they felt like they ­were ­doing me a ­favor. “Look, ­don’t bother us anymore, ­we’re ­going to give you a l­ittle group of ­children, and ­there you’ll stay.” That’s how I began [laughs]. But I w ­ asn’t just interested in working with boys and girls, I was interested in the entire community, or the neighborhood. That’s how it happened. At first I looked for intermediaries, and then I moved on to the act of positioning myself in the plaza or in the m ­ iddle of the community festival, to draw. I began to draw but not with the idea of showing off . . . ​I ­don’t show off. No, it was the idea of starting something, and the p ­ eople approached and it was a hook, when 2 8 2   •  m a r Í a f e r n a n d a c a r t a g e n a

t­here w ­ ere one or two ­people that wanted to dialogue. I would then say, “What do you think?” I would even say: “Hey, listen, why ­don’t we think about something e­ lse, like a visit?” Oh, they would say, “That’s no prob­lem, come, come, I invite you to my community, come to the community, let’s go to my neighborhood.” So, in this second phase I no longer had to rely on intermediaries. I began to work directly with the public, and ­after having this direct contact with them I received invitations to visit their communities. So I went and a contact of dialogue began, first with ­those who invited me ­after visiting the public spaces—­markets, fairs, plazas—­and requested a dialogue with a larger group of interested ­people. mc: Could you speak a ­little about the proj­ect with the ice miners of Chimborazo? ps: ­There’s a TV program that I’m not sure if y­ ou’ve seen, it’s called Real Heroes [Heroes verdaderos]. The program invites national artists and musicians to the show. They invite t­ hese p ­ eople and they film them when they visit an impoverished person. Well, it sounds like a total hit. They go, they visit, they spend a few days with this person and their f­ amily. I think the positive t­ hing about this show is that it reveals a familiar real­ity, but one that is not well known by many ­people. It shows the misery, the misery of this person who is visited by the artist. So the artist shares the lives of ­these ­people a ­little, a lifestyle that is extremely bad. And in the end, then, they invite them to the tele­vi­sion station, they want the “heroes” to come—­the poor ­people. And they give them ­things—­Oh, you ­don’t have a refrigerator? Well, they give them one. Oh, who ­doesn’t have a bed ­because seven ­people sleep together? Well, they would give them three beds, just like that. That’s the context. And they presented a program called “The Last Ice Miner of Chimborazo.” Why am I telling you this? For me, it touches on many princi­ples. And the memory of the ice miners of Chimborazo brings to mind the 1979 documentary by Igor and Gustavo Guayasamín made h ­ ere in La Moya. Th ­ ere is also a community tradition in Chimborazo of honoring the ice miners. And we went, supported, in this case, by a French priest, with a friend, and he says, “Let’s go, let’s develop a workshop, let’s go.” We initiated a workshop with the p ­ eople ­here in La Moya near Chimborazo to talk about how they view the ice miners, b ­ ecause the community wanted to create a space of memory and identity. We I n t e r v i e w w i t h P a b l o S a n a g ua n o   •   2 8 3

said, “Well, we are g­ oing to enter into a pro­cess of reflection,” and this friend says, “Let’s begin with presenting the recent TV show with the ice miners.” We presented it. The first phase was that they saw p ­ eople from their own community, but their conclusion was that “they d ­ idn’t say their names. The ­people are ­there, but our names a­ ren’t ­there, and neither are the names of our community.” One w ­ oman from the village said, “Yes, that’s how they used us . . . ​ used every­one. The foreigners [gringos] come,” she says, “to film us when ­we’re harvesting, when w ­ e’re slaughtering animals, when ­we’re performing healing rituals. . . . ​And we ­don’t even see what ­they’ve been filming. And the ­others ­don’t even thank us.” Well, so you see: you are e­ ither a subject or an object of a pro­cess of re-­creation, of memory from the arts. So ­there was the tele­vi­sion show of the ice miners of Chimborazo. And now, what do we do in response to this? What is the real­ity that ­we’re seeing? First: ­there is only one ice miner. The oldest. So we look around and ask why is t­ here only one ice miner? We see the real­ity. And we judge. And why is ­there only one ice miner? And what do you bring the ice ­here for? “We used to bring the ice to make ice cream for the community, for the festivals and parties.” “Oh, how nice.” Then we act.1 “And what would you think if we re-­created this experience, of g­ oing to the mountain (where the ice is located)?” “No, no, no, how are we ­going to go?” We worked for three months with another comrade, another female volunteer. Listen, it happened. Twenty-­ seven of us went, a ­whole community went. It’s the first time that any of them had actually gone on the ice-­mining journey. So you see, it challenged their old way of thinking. That mode of thinking of individualism—­“Oh it’s the ice miner that has to go, only he goes.” You know? It’s one person, like it was presented in the media. It’s only one person and he’s the last one. And he’s from our community. We said, “Why ­doesn’t the ­whole community go?” “Let’s go as a community.” They said, “We’ve seen it ­there in this video. But they d ­ idn’t even acknowledge our names. So that means ­we’re what?” Listen, they went. Twenty-­four adults, four ­children, eight burros. The burros have names also. They said, “The burros have to be shown, the names of the ­little burros.” Yes. Do you see how it ended up unfolding? We all went. Well, they invited along a cameraman from the tele­vi­sion station, a producer, and we ascended the mountain. 2 8 4   •  m a r Í a f e r n a n d a c a r t a g e n a

15.1.  ​The community of La Moya ascending Chimborazo. Courtesy of Pablo Sanaguano.

It was a very intense experience ­because you had many points of reflection from this artistic proposal. First, what is the relationship with the mountain? It’s not just religious—­a sort of spirituality related to nature. ­There is not much ice anymore. We arrived at the ice mine. Not much ice remains. So that means making connections. Oh, global warming. OK, now let’s not speak abstractly, let’s speak about the terrain, why ­isn’t ­there any more ice? Third, why do ­people in the city no longer want to consume the ice from h ­ ere? So I suggest many questions—­which is also a form of provocation—­ but at the end of the day, the ice was extracted, it was brought down from the mountain, and the ice was put away, and this prompted much storytelling about where they used to keep the ice, so a lot of questions emerged, and the ice was kept to make ice cream. The next day, the majority of ­those who participated in the walkabout began to break up the ice, and they made fruit ice cream [helado de paila]. And t­here was a strug­gle, ­because every­thing ­isn’t romantic, you know? Th ­ ere was a strug­gle: ­there w ­ ere ­people who said: “The ice cream is only for ­those who went.” Let’s see, let’s see, now but . . . ​what value is ­there in that? What makes us I n t e r v i e w w i t h P a b l o S a n a g ua n o   •   2 8 5

dif­fer­ent from ­those who we are criticizing? Oh yes, we criticize, that the dominant groups, that the “michos” [mestizos] come to dominate, to take advantage. And the act of saying, ­we’ll only share with some—is that ­really sharing?—­among us, we must ask ourselves. So it ended up that ­after a lot of conversing, the ice cream was made and of course ­there was extra and ­people began to shout in the ­middle of the plaza, with the pots: “­There is ice cream for the ­whole community, come on, come on, come on.” And the ­people started coming over. So the ice cream was shared. Ice cream, as a final product, savored, with ­people sharing, ­because some brought sugar, o ­ thers brought blackberries, o ­ thers brown sugar, and every­ thing ­else. They kept bringing t­ hings to break up the ice, which the ­children did with their hands—­and that ice burns. So I believe it was a communal pro­cess, from this artistic proposal of the recreation of the memory and identity of this sector. And we could all enjoy the ice cream. And you might say, well, look, you can make ice cream. But respecting nature, knowing that we can only bring down the amount of ice that we can use right away, and not bring down too much, which is a counterpoint to the attitude of tourists who come and say: “Let’s see, we want to film Taita, he’s the only ice miner, ­we’ll film him, OK?” [laughter] We film and he cuts the ice, and afterward the ice remains ­there, cut. So ­there ­were many points of reflection within this pro­cess of educating ourselves through the arts, of saying: Point 1: re­spect nature. Point 2: what is our position t­ oward the p ­ eople who did not go? Point 3: what is this attitude or experience of walking? ­Because we walked three hours up and three back; six hours in total. The other point: that of the other generations that did not know. They ­didn’t know, some of t­ hose who live in the same area where the mines ­were located, and they ­weren’t interested. So it was a reinsertion of this memory, that only Taita remains, and then Taita said that he hoped that what they had seen—­that what he experienced since he was a child—he hoped that they ­didn’t lose it. That is what the last Taita said. And that’s how the re-­creation of the experience of ­going to the ice mine unfolded. What brings us back to the original cultures, of ­going to extract ice, which is not solely done in Chimborazo? In the region of the snowy mountains, in Peru and Bolivia, ­there is still a ­whole ritual for ­going in search of ice. So that was in­ter­est­ing, and a new video was made. And to 2 8 6   •  m a r Í a f e r n a n d a c a r t a g e n a

finish up, the video was produced. We went to pres­ent it to the community three days ­later. The ­whole community was t­ here. You had to be ­there, ­there was this sense of excitement. The excitement of feeling like the protagonist. And ­we’ll see how ­things go afterward. ­Later ­we’ll see if ­there’s something to connect with. So it’s the act of you stepping back and no longer being the spokesman, but instead allowing it to be the ­actual Kichwa comrades who participated, the protagonists who w ­ ill say what they want to do with this. But if we want to give it another life and show it to ­others, I hope I w ­ ill be able to accompany them, one or two p ­ eople from ­there who should be ­those who pres­ent this. The video is an hour and ten minutes long and it is still kept in the community. I said no, no, no, I ­don’t want to appropriate it. The p ­ eople in the village also or­ga­nized the script for the video. I said, “We are g­ oing to make a movie.” But they said, “Only if it’s ours, from the p ­ eople, from the p ­ eople.” They said, “Look, the w ­ omen ­will act ­here.” So the ­whole pro­cess started with the ­people who participated. They said, “So then, is art just painting? Is it just drawing?” ­Here it is also. One of the most impressive scenes in the video is cutting the ice, ­because it is communal. We c­ an’t portray one person cutting the ice, ­because that is what they presented on the Real Heroes tele­vi­sion show, the image that remained with the majority of ­people who watched that program ­here in Ec­ua­dor: the last ice miner, the poor guy, so they gave him ah ­ ouse, and all of that, and oh, they gave him this and that. . . . ​ But it was the community that was impor­tant in our video, and you see them around, and when a young man spoke he said, “I had never seen how to cut ice or load a burro. And I feel bad ­because ­we’ve been right next to someone who knows and who can share with us and who has something to do with our identity as indigenous ­people, as a culture, and with seeing.” The perspective is from Chimborazo. But that is an example of community building, of re-­creating the significance of what it means to go and bring back ice in order to l­ater share it through what is ice cream. Ice cream. This was my impression in response to them saying: “Our names d ­ on’t appear t­ here, and neither do t­ hose of the community.” mc: How do you think that colonialism is manifested in the indigenous communities, especially at the cultural level? I n t e r v i e w w i t h P a b l o S a n a g ua n o   •   2 8 7

ps: Even ­today on this journey of mine, the weight of colonialism is very strong from more than five hundred years ago. We c­ an’t simply say: “Well, let’s not continue with this same old story, it’s so far in the past.” It is still very strong. In what way? The poor ­people, the impoverished, say: “We c­ an’t.” That already blocks you. Second: “We ­aren’t capable.” The Kichwa is even more power­ful, you know? They say to them, “indio manavali,” “Indian y­ ou’re worthless.” A concrete example is that t­ here are sectors where the elders still greet you with this phrase, which was imposed by a large sector of the dominant Catholic Church, they w ­ ill say, “Good day, taita amito alabado santisimo” (praise the most holy). ­These are four terms that are attributed only to God, speaking theologically. But, of course, this is a residue from a sector of the clergy who imposed this form of greeting in order to mark the separation between indigenous and the Eu­ro­pean very clearly. And to greet you, upon giving you their hand, they d ­ idn’t just give you their bare hand, they cover it with their poncho. ­There are places where they cover their hand with the poncho in order not to spread their filth to you, and they speak in a lowered voice. We also see the weight of colonialism in their attitude t­ oward the arts: “No, this belongs to ­those who know their letters.” So knowing how to read, saying: “I’m illiterate and you are the one who knows the letters.” So being literate was another sign of power. Confronted by this situation, this ­mental colonialism that is still so strong, especially among the generations of ­those who are fifty or sixty years old, you still see it, you still hear it. It is one of the saddest realities of being in contact with p ­ eople from the indigenous communities. It hurts, it hurts physically b ­ ecause with the types of memories that are still t­ here, and the blockages, it is so hard to transform realities. So, at the level of language, at the level of education, it is very strong, despite the fact that intercultural bilingual education has made a g­ reat effort to resist the residues of colonialism and to create alternatives. At the cultural level, every­thing that is language, every­thing that is the arts, at the level of clothing, at the level of the power of orality, this re­sis­tance is still very fragile due to the attitude, “every­thing indigenous is worthless, it’s better to join the dominant culture . . . ​it’s better to be an imitator than to be scorned.” So it’s kind of along t­ hose lines that I understand it. 2 8 8   •  m a r Í a f e r n a n d a c a r t a g e n a

mc: I want to follow up a ­little more with your analy­sis of the stigmatization and silencing of indigenous thought and practices. What contribution would the restoration of t­hese practices make to con­temporary life and culture? ps: I think that the cultural re­sis­tance movement within indigenous communities, particularly h ­ ere in Ec­ua­dor, corresponds to education. They have continued resisting in their forms of education, and also in their artistic reflections and practices, which are totally dif­fer­ent from t­hose we are familiar with in the Western sphere. For example, we study math, and it is believed that math is what we learned in high school from that Western formation. What ­isn’t talked about, or what p ­ eople ­don’t want to hear about, is the tradition of Indian [runa] math or Indian teaching, as they say. And so one sees that t­ hese are contributions to h ­ uman knowledge that we must know how to listen to: Indian pedagogy, Indian math, ways of mea­sur­ing, that still exist t­ oday. And it’s in­ter­est­ing to see, at the level of medicine, at the level of poetry, at the level of m ­ usic, at the level of dance, well, they have been pres­ent in all ­these activities. I believe that the prob­lem is that we have not wanted to see it, or the dominant culture has not allowed us to see it. The real­ity of living in an intercultural country does make us much more willing to say: t­ here are other forms of expression, other manifestations, other ways of thinking and practices, you just have to discover them. Some ­people speak of the practice of indigenous justice, but look how they represent it. One would have to see how it is presented from within the same indigenous worldview and not from the mestizo perspective, ­don’t you think? ­There is also the practice of seeing how food is distributed, how nature is treated, how the elders who are beginning to dis­appear are cared for. ­These are practices that still have a lot to tell us, practices that confront the prob­lem of global warming. What is our relationship with ­water? What is our relationship with nature? ­These are practices that carry with them a power­ful way of thinking. mc: Tell us, what are the objectives of the work that you are d ­ oing? What methodologies are you employing? What is the general sense of your artistic practice with the communities? What are your goals and how do you develop them? ps: Well, I believe that life is ­simple, and I believe that we should create other forms of solidarity. And what interests me is the idea of a I n t e r v i e w w i t h P a b l o S a n a g ua n o   •   2 8 9

15.2.  ​Giving thanks to the Pachamama for sharing the ice. Courtesy of Pablo Sanaguano.

social fabric constructed with artistic ingredients, you know? Well, that’s the idea a grosso modo. Methodologically it is an opening that places a lot of value on speech. I believe that participation, and thinking that we are all protagonists in a pro­cess is fundamental. The other is dialogue, a dialogue that has a dimension of equality. I believe that an au­then­tic dialogue about how what I learn takes place among equals, not between asymmetries—­not in terms of power. So for me dialogue, this act of creating protagonists, of strengthening a relationship of protagonists to which we can all contribute, and be convinced of, that is essential. It’s impor­tant that we can all contribute to a proj­ect, in this case an artistic proj­ ect, that we all esteem ourselves and we all have an artistic attitude. In 2004 a group of volunteers came to work in Chimborazo, and it just so happened that ­there ­were two artists with them who ­were just finishing up at the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Bilbao. We ran into them and said, “Well, let’s talk, let’s see.” We said, “We dream about ­doing a proj­ect in which we can unite north and south in terms of interculturality.” And that was how the proj­ect was born. It was called, “¿Y tú qué pintas?” (And you, what do you paint?); it’s 2 9 0   •  m a r Í a f e r n a n d a c a r t a g e n a

like saying “And you, what role do you play in this society?” And it was in­ter­est­ing ­because it was exactly about putting our ste­reo­ types out in the open, theirs as well as ours. Is ­there an ingenuous art, is ­there an art that is superior? Even the issue of the artist’s status, ­etc. played a role in ­these discussions. And over ­there in Bilbao, they accepted it ­because they said, “Spanish does not interest us.” They said, “Oh yes, it’s a dif­f er­ent culture, the Kichwa, yes. And in Ec­ua­dor only Spanish is spoken, correct?” Just like us ­here, we think that in Spain only Spanish is spoken, and they said, “No, it’s not Spanish, it’s Castilian.” And we responded that it’s the same ­thing ­here, ­there are other languages and other cultures. So it allowed us to make that link between our two contexts, ­there is the Kichwa culture, but ­there was also the mestizo culture, and that was dif­fer­ent. This was the first step. It was an exchange that was supported by specific artistic practices, ­there was video, short stories, and works of drawing and painting. But the proj­ect ­didn’t only involve familiar art practices. B ­ ecause it is exactly ­there in ­these communities that we see other types of artistic practice, like knitting, like ­music, but a ­music from the mountains with a dif­fer­ent type of instrument, with a dif­fer­ent logic, and every­thing that is related to the stories, the traditions. mc: Pablo, could you elaborate a l­ittle about the concerns of your work? To what extent is your practice informed by aspects of public education and Liberation Theology? ps: The first power­ful reference for me was the theology of liberation, due to the fact that I was implicated in a pro­cess of coming to consciousness that unfolded in Chimborazo, in my place, where I was, where I grew up. Also, I was attracted to the idea of showing one’s indignation, in order to not fall into the role of a pamphleteer. So it was a power­ful challenge, you know? I remember in the streets by my h ­ ouse ­there w ­ ere ­these walls painted with the name of the Communist-­Marxist-­Leninist Party of Ec­ua­dor. The arts can also allow us to forge a dif­fer­ent form of protest, of revealing what was inside my world. So the theology of the revolution, with this power­ ful belief that “No man, no ­woman has to be dominated by another” was very influential to me. It is a general princi­ple that we all have the right to a dignified and happy life. And the other t­ hing about public education, which is a humanist force, right? is to say, “Look, ­every person has the right to be f­ree and to create their freedom, I n t e r v i e w w i t h P a b l o S a n a g ua n o   •   2 9 1

more than anything—to create their freedom.” So ­these two t­ hings ­were power­ful references. But I would add a third, which was the formation that I underwent in France of an art that aimed at taking risks that w ­ ere totally dif­fer­ent. And the idea that one does not become a product of un refrito, which is to take a bias from h ­ ere, and another bias from t­ here. Instead, one must know critically what values to go by, what is yours, what you build, and what you defend. In terms of concrete influences from the theology of liberation? Well, many p ­ eople passed through Chimborazo thanks to the invitation of Monsignor Proaño—­from Gustavo Gutiérrez to Federico Carrasquilla to Leonardo Boff. And ­people who w ­ ere not only connected to the Church but ­people who ­were also very socially and po­liti­cally engaged visited. For example, I now love to use as a reference Guaman Poma de Ayala, a colonial-­era traveler who visited the towns, to see a ­little, and tried to illustrate the life of t­hese villages through his drawings. This fascinated me. For me, Guaman Poma de Ayala is a power­ful reference, for his ability to reveal a dignified irony in his drawings. The ­thing about the Spanish influence ­later on is debatable, but for me it’s very power­ful b ­ ecause I also use [Peter] Brueghel as a reference, the old man, you know? He would travel with his materials. He went to the village festivals and he drew what he saw. So, as I said, this relates to my affinity with the p ­ eople that go to the mountain. I’m interested in ­these walking artists, who travel in order to have an encounter with ­people, in order to be between the center and the periphery, t­ here and back. It is impor­tant to nourish oneself from the two sides, but also, l­ ater, to socialize the pro­cesses that occur in t­ hese encounters. I’m interested in every­thing that makes up the experience of walking or traveling in this way; knowing how to carry every­thing essential in your backpack, ­because you ­can’t take every­thing with you. Not even mentally, ­don’t even think that you can carry every­thing. . . . ​That is the essential t­hing about the encounter with the other. So for me that is impor­tant. I’m very animated by the actions of p ­ eople who have created alternative spaces of education in order to raise consciousness and to support social transformation, beginning from where we are. mc: How do you think the Christian youth movement’s methodologies of seeing, judging, and acting relate, or ­don’t relate, to the artist’s practice? 2 9 2   •  m a r Í a f e r n a n d a c a r t a g e n a

ps: I see a lot of affinity, at least in my case, yes, a lot of affinity, adding something ­else, which is “feeling.” I’ve also learned the importance of acting, seeing oneself act, and coming also from an attitude of joy ­because ­there is hope. ­Those are the two ­things that I learned. For me feeling or sensing is fundamental. The World Bank sees, and they drown us with facts, you know, that t­ here is this much poverty, e­ tc. Many ngos see and act. But how we feel, to what point do we feel, is equally impor­tant. We are sensitive in the face of a situation of injustice ­because ­there are certain cir­cuits that are denied to other p ­ eople—­cultural, artistic cir­cuits—­these are denied to millions of p ­ eople who are made invisible, who are negated, blocked. What is our position? Is ­there sensitivity or not? So it’s for this reason that I add feeling to seeing, judging, and acting. Yes, I believe it is fundamental, as well as the ethical demand of ­those who are passionate about art. This is exactly our small contribution. ­Because if not, one can become very cold, you know? If you focus only on facts, facts, facts, you fall into being cold. mc: Could you give a small example of how this feeling through art is manifested? ps: Yes. Look, an exhibition was or­ga­nized about the poncho. We have all seen the poncho. I’ve grown up seeing the poncho, but what is b ­ ehind the poncho? Seeing that real­ity, but seeing it through dif­fer­ent eyes. But how could one see it through dif­fer­ent eyes without ­going out in search of it? One knows certain par­ameters of what a poncho is, of what clothing is, from the information that has more or less been given to you in your education, right? But the encounter with the Kichwa world allowed me to listen and to learn what is b ­ ehind the poncho. So my perspective changed. Then I had to go and see, not just for myself, but also to see by listening to other ­people, in this case to Kichwas. I see a poncho, I judge: “Well, how pretty is the poncho, how nice is the color.” No, no, but, what is t­ here? What ­else is ­there? When I was talking about sensitivity before, the act of saying: “Look, the poncho has aw ­ hole history that involves the entire f­ amily.” Oh, it’s not just the weaver? No, and that kind of insight transforms you. And why the ­family? Look, who begins to take care of the lamb? The ­children, the c­ hildren care for the lambs. L ­ ater, who removes the wool? Afterward, who washes the wool? So t­ here is a w ­ hole chain, you know? Who washes the wool? Who prepares it? Who spins I n t e r v i e w w i t h P a b l o S a n a g ua n o   •   2 9 3

it? How do you get the balls of yarn? Who is g­ oing to dye it, you know? ­There is a ­whole world of relationships. So ­there you begin to feel, and when we talk, ­there is the possibility of talking with all of the protagonists, ­until you create a work of art. You ­don’t just see a poncho any more. ­There’s a weaver, but you see that ­there is a w ­ hole way of being within the ­family and community. Each step has a protagonist that oftentimes remains anonymous, and each person forms part of this experience of the construction of an object-­artwork that is a poncho. So that moves me ­because we are talking with a ­whole ­family who is in charge of the creation of a poncho. And you say, now it’s no longer seeing—if we see the real­ ity of a poncho, judging—­well the poncho is a sign of re­sis­tance made by a weaver—­and acting. One must socialize the fact that a poncho educates. Well, a poncho educates, good, but one must also take into account t­ hese other ele­ments. ­Because if someone puts a poncho created industrially in front of you, we w ­ ill have a very dif­ fer­ent perception. ­There is a l­ ittle bit of the sensitivity, you know? mc: Continuing with this line of thought, how does the Andean worldview conceive of the relationship between symbolic manifestations and life? If we operate from a much more holistic perspective, how can we distinguish the Andean worldview from the Western concept of culture? How do you position yourself in relation to ­these two traditions? And how do you mediate between t­ hese two universes in your work? ps: The impor­tant ­thing, not only in my case, is that one is already responding to mestizaje. What is fundamental is that it is the mestizaje that we must claim responsibility for, and not oppose the Western perspective to another type of worldview or cosmo-­vision, nor does it imply placing two worldviews or two types of vision in opposition to each other. I believe that they nourish each other, when ­there is an attitude of openness and of ethical responsibility. It’s an issue of recognizing the contributions of both sides, or of vari­ous cultures. ­There is also the mestizo culture that still remains invisible . . . ​the indigenous in relation to the Western. Listen, I did not remain in the m ­ iddle, like I was in limbo. . . . ​I think that this has to happen. Then t­ here is also the strug­gle in my practice. . . . ​I’m not interested in ­doing a w ­ hole proj­ect in the indigenous world in order to say: “How cool, right, every­thing ­here is g­ oing well, and we are g­ oing to dig deeper into this.” That’s all well and good, but t­ here remains 2 9 4   •  m a r Í a f e r n a n d a c a r t a g e n a

for me a power­ful challenge, which is how one can see with fresh eyes and re-­create and reinvent mestizo culture, to which I am ­indebted, drawing on t­ hese lessons from h ­ ere and from t­ here. So, for example, what fascinates me about indigenous culture? The humor, wow, a humor that when confronted with death, ­they’re laughing. ­There is a time to cry, t­ here is a moment for crying, and afterward comes the humor. They say, OK, now we must be joyful. But it’s a sense of humor that they pass on to many ­people, within daily life, in many cultural demonstrations, including protests, even when they are ­going on strike. If they cut off the highway, they do it with humor. ­They’re joking around, and you say, wow, ­they’re laughing and joking around over ­there. And I tried to understand this, you know? Trying to connect t­hese two visions, what one has absorbed from ­these cultures, from ­these worldviews. For example, this humor for me is fundamental. ­Because I believe that it also responds to a need to remove the burden of internalized colonialisms, or of internalized neo­co­lo­nial­isms, that we carry with us. The other t­ hing that I love, for example, about Western culture is this attitude of walking. I’m talking about our cities in Latin Amer­i­ca, for example—­it’s very hard to walk around. But walking, and knowing how to walk, and giving yourself time to walk, to reflect. So, when I make the connection to the countryside, it’s also about walking. We go walking, and one walks for two, three, four, five hours, but you ­don’t walk in silence. We go along conversing. So this is also then a moment for exchange. And it ­doesn’t ­matter if I walk a l­ittle ahead, if one wants to be in silence, but this gesture, this h ­ uman gesture of walking is essential. So I recovered it when I was over ­there, for example, in Eu­rope. Over ­there ­people walk a lot. So ­there are spaces ­there that have long trails for walkers that are two, three hours in length. H ­ ere in Chimborazo t­ here are no official trails, but t­ here are im­mense paths to walk. But the walkabout as a sign of contemplation, of getting to know yourself, of dialogue, of forging ideas, of sharing them, of beginning to construct something, of preparing something, of walking. mc: What is your perception of the work done by ngos in the province of Chimborazo? And do you see a type of transformation in their politics? All of t­ hese development proj­ects, what is your general opinion about them? I n t e r v i e w w i t h P a b l o S a n a g ua n o   •   2 9 5

ps: You mention the ngos . . . ​well, the majority of them have a logic that is known, written, and described by several sources. They have a very concrete objective, which is responding to very urgent needs. So they respond to a very urgent need in an immediate manner. The majority of them do this and the question is, how is this a contribution to the active participation or involvement of protagonists, to the dignity of ­people? Or does it strengthen a dependence—be it economic, be it cultural—­that can come about and that has come about through the work of the majority of the ngos? From what I know, it has been more common to encounter this second aspect, strengthening dependence. This can render the internal community pro­cesses useless ­because if you say, look, what do you need? A bridge. OK, we build them the bridge. What is debatable is not the bridge. What is debatable is the fact that ­there exists an opportunity ­here, so that the bridge can serve as a pretext for public education. The ngo responds to something immediate and that breaks with the organ­ization of the p ­ eople who, since they ­were ­children, have been participants in the pro­cess of fulfilling a need like the bridge, which is fundamental, but in which every­ one felt involved. It gives you joy when the proj­ect is completed ­because every­one, or at least the majority, participated, and that brings with it a sense of dignity. But t­ here are very few ngos that fit within this spirit of the p ­ eople and value the pro­cess of listening to the ­people. So then, the majority of them aim at strengthening dependence within a very power­ful atmosphere of paternalism that is, in essence, supporting a system of domination. Note 1 Though the “see-­judge-­act” method was enthusiastically embraced by the Liberation Theologians and has endured as a relevant pedagogical tool to this day, it has older roots. It was pioneered by Belgian Fr. Joseph Cardijn in the early twentieth ­century as part of his outreach to young workers and the movement he founded, Young Christian Workers. The idea is to see current social realities, to judge them in light of the Church’s social teaching, and then to act to make ­those realities more just. In Liberation Theology teaching, “see-­judge-­act” is understood as a meta­phor for lay empowerment and social engagement [editor’s note].

2 9 6   •  m a r Í a f e r n a n d a c a r t a g e n a


The Empowerment Pro­cess of Community Communication in Ec­ua­dor alberto muenala

During the 1980s–90s the indigenous p ­ eoples of Ec­ua­dor staged a series of national and international demonstrations. One of the most impor­tant of ­these uprisings took place in 1990 and involved marches, blockades, and the occupation of government offices across the country. The demonstrations led the country’s indigenous groups to make a series of demands on the Ec­ua­dor­ian government, and effectively increased their access to the country’s governing structures. As a result, ­there have been some significant changes in the state structure itself. Ec­ua­dor now recognizes its diverse and multinational identity, a recognition that w ­ ill inevitably influence public policy decisions so as to strengthen intercultural relations. In the area of communications, ­there is impor­tant work being done in the field of ideological decolonization. Through vari­ous exercises, like the recovery of oral history, conversations with elders and leaders, and the application of Kichwa philosophical princi­ples, we are encouraging the reconstruction of meanings that are central to the indigenous strug­gle, and that demonstrate the po­liti­cal and ideological value of a dif­fer­ent type of work, established through communal communication. The participation of social movements from the communities and indigenous nations has been a fundamental catalyst for reflection and change in the demo­cratic life of this country. Our participation in the new Constitution of the Republic

(2008) is one result of ­these changes. It has also led to the introduction of impor­tant legislation, such as laws protecting the right to intercultural communication. Article 16: ­Every person, individually or collectively, has the right to: Unrestricted communication that is intercultural, inclusive, diverse, and participative in e­ very scope of social interaction, by any means or form, in one’s own language and through one’s own symbols. Article 17: The state w ­ ill foster the growth of plurality and diversity in communication, and to that effect: ­ ill facilitate the creation and the strengthening of all public, private, W and community-­based mediums of communication, including universal access to information and communication technologies, especially for individuals and collectives that lack said access or have limited access. These articles signal an interest in strengthening communication ­ among ­those sectors of society that previously lacked that right. In theory this law is very clear; but the real­ity of its application remains uncertain. First, indigenous groups and nations lack access to technical media of community-­based communication. ­There is currently no entity in the country that can address this prob­lem. As a result, content from indigenous groups and nations rarely appears in the national media, and the production of programs in official languages (Kichwa and Shuar) is almost non­ex­is­tent. This absurd real­ity is an obstacle to indigenous development. Only a decisive change in the politics of communication ­will allow for the diffusion of the thought pro­cesses and realities of the nondominant sectors in this country. We should vow to never again occlude ­these indigenous communities and nations, with all of their cultural and artistic wealth, their science, laws, and unique histories. We should recognize the universal right of unlimited access to communication of all kinds—­ intercultural, inclusive, diverse, and participative—in ­every medium and in any form, and above all in our native languages. The use of radio and tele­vi­sion by indigenous groups and nations provides an effective tool in advancing this right, in­de­pen­dent of the alienating effects of mass communication more generally. ­These local media outlets form a communitarian network of alternative communication, supporting pro­cesses of reclamation and collective demands (regarding land use, territory, autonomy, education, cultural and linguistic diversity, e­ tc.). 2 9 8   •  a l b e r t o m u e n a l a

In some provinces, radio serves the role of spreading news as well as informing and educating indigenous groups in their own languages. But this is still insufficient b ­ ecause radio frequencies are limited, and ­those stations that do broadcast in indigenous languages often do so illegally, as pirate stations. Very few national indigenous organ­izations have access to a wide-­frequency radio station—­licenses for t­ hose stations have been limited for vari­ous po­liti­cal reasons, including the government’s desire to maintain absolute control over their use. ­These and other reasons have led us to search for alternative strategies of in­de­pen­dent communication. One such initiative is the Community-­Based Communication Systems1 currently taking shape in two provinces that have a large population of Kichwa-­speaking ­people. Through this proj­ect we hope to develop media platforms that can sustain forms of communication and education that reach indigenous communities, and provoke debate and collective discussion.2 One of our initiatives, rupai (Runa Pacha Sapi, Man’s Root in Time and Space), consists primarily of Kichwa professionals and focuses on the areas of communication, education, and intercultural and bilingual investigation. One of rupai’s main priorities is the generation of public policies that w ­ ill open up access to the media, so that organ­izations can gain access to the technical instruments they need to strengthen themselves. Recently, we began supporting our indigenous communicators with training courses and workshops based on the values and visions of the indigenous worldview. Our research program has focused on two key areas: Cosmo-­living:3 Learned ­people and other elders of the communities speak about their knowledge, visions, customs, philosophies, and the respective languages of each of the pertinent groups or nations. The recovery of original languages is impor­tant ­because it allows for the initial recovery of the true histories of the indigenous nations, and helps them defend their cultural values and identities. Technological knowledge: We provide management and basic knowledge of existing communication and media tools to encourage greater visibility for sectors of the indigenous community that have been marginalized by the mass media. This ­will help facilitate the construction of a broader Community-­Based Communication System. ­ ese initiatives ­were born out of my experience traveling through vari­ Th ous countries and sharing wisdom related to film and video with dif­fer­ ent indigenous groups and nations across the continent. My experiences C o m m u n i t y C o m m u n i c at i o n i n E c ua d o r   •   2 9 9

with ­these ­peoples have given me much to be grateful for, as well as many cherished memories. I have ­great re­spect for them. In 1992, in my first experiences as a facilitator, I was invited to run a workshop or­ga­nized by cric (Cauca Regional Indigenous Council) and unesco, meant to teach indigenous delegates in Popayan, Colombia, about fiction filmmaking. Around twenty young ­people participated, and one of them came from the ranks of the guerrilla group Quintin Lame. At the end of the course, this same young man deci­ded to lay down his weapons and embark on a new path with a camera u ­ nder his arm to document and denounce the social inequalities and ethnocide in his region and country. Since that period, I have run workshops and courses that advance a methodology that was designed to respond to the needs of each region. In this pro­cess, I have had the opportunity to learn the histories of many ­peoples and nations, of complex lives, and of ancestral depth, some of which are implausible from the perspective of other nations. One time, I arrived at Ixhuatlan in Guatemala, where the inhabitants did not want to abandon their community, which had been destroyed. The community was sinking more and more ­every day as the result of natu­ral disasters. The elders, more than anyone ­else, did not want to relocate. They simply could not abandon t­ hose who had died. In 2008, we initiated the “Drive t­ oward the Construction of an Ec­ua­ dor­ian System of Intercultural Community-­Based Communication.”4 This proj­ect supported indigenous communicators in the areas of video, radio, and multimedia. Forty young p ­ eople from indigenous groups and nations in Ec­ua­dor participated, all supported by their respective organ­izations and communities. Through our work with young p ­ eople, we developed a collective and participative methodology that deepened their technical knowledge of radio, video, and multimedia. We assessed and critiqued the central theme of cosmovivencia, or cosmo-­living, and recorded interviews with learned men and ­women, professionals, and grandparents. This work was undertaken in order to help the students appreciate their culture’s oral history, recognize themselves in t­hose narratives, and re­spect the culture of re­sis­tance and the importance of life. We did so in the hope that ­these young communicators would revalue themselves and then proj­ect this renewed subjectivity in their work. We wanted them to feel like subjects of their own thoughts and actions rather than objects of the dominant culture. This methodology of applied learning, working at the intersection of professional and interpersonal subject formations, promoted the value of belonging and the cosmo-­vision of the Andean ­people. With twenty 3 0 0   •  a l b e r t o m u e n a l a

students working on radio and multimedia, and twenty students focused on video and photography, we attempted to break ­free from defined ways of thinking, and prioritize the knowledge and princi­ples of the Kichwa ­people. Given the success of ­these workshops, we now want to develop them in other provinces, in order to revalue and revitalize communal and subjective identities, with the participation of t­ hose most familiar with the life of indigenous communities. We believe that the recovery of language, of ancestral knowledge, and of con­temporary lived experiences, which have many times alienated old traditions and customs, ­will allow us to advance in the construction and reconstruction of original cultures, ­free of ideological colonialism and f­ree of prejudices. Exhibition and distribution is an impor­tant ­factor in this pro­cess, for which we have successfully established permanent workshops in the bilingual schools of Imbabura and in two dif­fer­ent traveling festivals in communities, villages, cultural centers, school theaters, cultural centers, theaters, and village squares. One of t­ hese is the ñawipi Festival,5 which facilitates the production of dif­fer­ent images, customs, myths, creations, values, and messages of dignity of native groups. During the second ñawipi Festival (October 17–19, 2009), we issued a call for participation that resulted in forty-­three submissions. The festival was only the second venue in Latin Amer­i­ca to exhibit experimental and fiction films by indigenous filmmakers, rather than simply featuring indigenous ­people as subject ­matter. The festival is planned by a coordinating committee composed of a representative from each province with contacts with local organ­izations. The coordinating committee traces out an orga­nizational map of the festival, and the committee members, working with their contacts, put every­thing into operation at the local level. The committee representatives carry out the necessary meetings, gatherings, and alliances with dif­f er­ent social sectors and organ­izations, the provincial man­ag­er of culture, the provincial man­ag­er of bilingual education, cultural centers, and community meetings with leaders, and so on. Site visits and community meetings are scheduled to determine appropriate sites for local screenings. The first year, we reached an audience of approximately three thousand ­people. In 2011 we raised awareness about rupai films and other material that brought the festival an audience of over seven thousand ­people in forty communities and more than fifty educational centers. We have also provided copies of the material produced in the last few years to the dineib (the National Director of Bilingual Education) to be distributed in schools and other sites of C o m m u n i t y C o m m u n i c at i o n i n E c ua d o r   •   3 0 1

learning. ­These include short fiction films in Kichwa and films that are entirely produced by the students themselves. We also produce radio shows, without any major financial resources, which are broadcast on vari­ous community and educational radio stations. It is especially impor­tant that we train ­people in multimedia technologies. To this end we work with a Kichwa Purwa technician (within the Kichwa nation, ­there are thirteen groups, one of which is the Purwas). This technician has developed media and information technology training modules for indigenous groups. The students who took this course now find themselves creating their own blogs, and in some cases designing web pages for their own organ­izations. This work is consistent with our broader goal of forming indigenous audio-­visual production centers in vari­ous regions across the country. ­These centers can become the foundation for a new Communitarian and Intercultural Communication System of Ec­ua­dor, at the governmental level. They can also help to facilitate the recognition of Kichwa and Shuar (among o ­ thers) as official languages. Fi­nally, it’s imperative that our work in communications infrastructure advance indigenous demands involving natu­ral resources. ­These include the right to food sovereignty, equal land distribution, the creation of a national land fund, and the strug­gle to achieve the Law of ­Mother Earth and holistic development, as is currently ­under way in Bolivia. This pro­cess can also contribute to the strug­gle to reclaim historically indigenous land and to achieve balance and equality in national coexistence with other ­peoples, ­whether mestizos, Afro-­Ecuadorians, Montubios,6 or whites. October 25, 2012 Notes An earlier version of this text was delivered in 2010 at the inaugural international conference De la Educación Liberadora a la Teología de la Liberación (From Liberation Pedagogy to Liberation Theology) in honor of Monsignor Leonidas Proaño, sponsored by the Ec­ua­dor­ian Ministry of Culture and or­ga­nized by María Fernanda Cartagena. 1 Sistemas de Comunicación Comunitaria. 2 For example, runacinema is a collective made up of vari­ous Kichwa farmers from Imbabura. As a result of this collective’s work, the first Kichwa feature film, titled Killa Ñawpamukun (Before the Moon Rises), is being produced. 3 The term cosmovivencia is often translated as the living experience of the cosmos and is associated with Andean cognitive systems of interpreting nature and real­ity. 3 0 2   •  a l b e r t o m u e n a l a

4 The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ec­ua­dor (conair), the Latin American Film and Communication Coordinator of the Indigenous ­Peoples (clacpi), and the rupai Foundation of Ec­ua­dor initiated this professionalization workshop series. 5 Festival de Cine y Video de los Pueblos Originarios Ñawipi/Traveling Film and Video Festival of the Ñawipi Originary ­Peoples. 6 Montubios are an officially recognized ethnic identity of coastal p ­ eople of mixed-­race and indigenous descent.

C o m m u n i t y C o m m u n i c at i o n i n E c ua d o r   •   3 0 3

This page intentionally left blank

Part V Migrations

The role of migration has always been central to the Latin American cultural and po­liti­cal experience. Ever since the first Eu­ro­pean contact, the question of what constitutes a Latin American identity has been debated. Many have argued that modernity and Modernism in the region are defined by the ongoing migration of Latin American artists and intellectuals between Eu­rope and their homeland. From Rubén Dario’s reflections on modernismo in Nicaragua at the turn of the twentieth c­ entury, to Antropofagia in Brazil, to the School of the South in Uruguay, to the current globalizing trend t­ oward gradu­ate studies abroad, the concept of modernity in Latin Amer­i­ca has been one of a dialogue with the world at large. The fluid state of Latin American immigrant populations in the United States continues to challenge fixed cultural identities and po­liti­cal borders. It has also called into question modern scholarship’s traditional focus on national bound­aries as the starting point of any regional investigation. Th ­ ere is the obvious fact that immigration occurs continually within Latin American countries and regions among vari­ous ethnic groups, and that ­these communities can be found in all corners of the globe. At the same time, this book is directed at an English-­speaking audience in the United States. The importance of the migratory experience in defining po­liti­cal subjectivity and community, and the frequent lack of understanding of that experience,

made the choice to focus on practices that engage t­ hese issues an easy one. Given ­these conditions, the section of the book on migration and the Latin American diaspora focuses on two proj­ects that address the movement of bodies to the United States: the community-­based programming of the Queens Museum of Art in New York (2002–2010) and Electronic Disturbance Theater/b.a.n.g. lab’s proj­ect entitled “Transborder Immigrant Tool” (2007 to pres­ent).1 The Queens Museum of Art is located in the largely working-­class and immigrant borough of Queens, New York. qma’s community arts programming was co-­led by its director Tom Finkelpearl and its educational program director Prerana Reddy (Finkelpearl has since left the qma and the program is now run by Reddy), in conjunction with a host of community organizers and collaborators. Their work in neighborhoods like Corona, a community overwhelmingly composed of Ec­ua­dor­ians, Peruvians, Mexicans, and other Latino groups, offers a case study in how local museums can successfully meet the demands of a changing population that is struggling to balance a new, hybrid cultural identity with a strong attachment to their countries of origin. The essay, written by Reddy, entitled “How Three Artists Led the Queens Museum into Corona and Beyond,” highlights proj­ects undertaken by the museum over the past ten years. The Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0 (edt)/b.a.n.g. lab collaboration, “Transborder Immigrant Tool” (tbt), received broad national attention in the winter of 2010 when right-­wing groups learned of, and protested against, the proj­ ect. The tbt was developed as a form of “electronic civil disobedience” by a collaborative team consisting of edt (Ricardo Dominguez, Brett Stalbaum, Amy Sara Carroll, Elle Mehrmand, and Micha Cárdenas) working in ­conjunction with the b.a.n.g lab research center at the University of California, San Diego. The proj­ect centered around the creation of a device that would allow immigrants crossing the Southern California desert to find ­water easily, using inexpensive and readily available technology. The essay entitled “Of Co-­investigations and Aesthetic Sustenance: A Conversation between Colectivo Situaciones and Electronic Disturbance Theater/b.a.n.g. lab,” is a bilingual conversation between edt/b.a.n.g. lab members Amy Sara Carroll and Ricardo Dominguez and members of the Argentine-­based art collective Colectivo Situaciones.

3 0 6   •  P a r t V

Note 1 Both proj­ects ­were accompanied by some controversy. The “Transborder Immigrant Tool” was widely denounced by right-­wing po­liti­cal figures and media outlets, leading to some online death threats. For an overview of this response, see Leila Nadir, “Poetry, Immigration and the FBI,” Hyperallergic (July 23, 2012),​ der-immigrant-tool/. Tania Bruguera’s “Immigrant Movement International” proj­ect, which was cosponsored by Creative Time and the Queens Museum of Art, received some backlash from mainstream art-­world commentators who objected to its ostensible collapse of aesthetic autonomy into the exigencies of social work. See Chris Mansour, “On the Fallacies of ‘Useful Art’: Tania Bruguera’s Immigrant Movement International,” (December 10, 2011),​ -art-tania-brugueras-immigrant-movement-international; and Caroline Ana Drake, “Tania Bruguera Still Detained in Cuba, but Her Art Proj­ect Lives on in Queens,” Animal New York (March 18, 2015),​ /tania-bruguera-still-detained-cuba-art-project-lives-queens.

M i g r at i o n s   •   3 0 7

This page intentionally left blank

Of Co-­investigations and ­Aesthetic Sustenance


A Conversation

Colectivo Situaciones and Electronic Disturbance Theater/b.a.n.g. lab What is a collective situation, situations? How do we rehearse collaboration in ways that challenge our own formulations of collective action? Colectivo Situaciones (cs) (Argentina) and Electronic Disturbance Theater (edt)/ b.a.n.g. lab (U.S.) in­de­pen­dently have been experimenting with the “collective situation.” In January 2011, group members from each collective met to talk.1 This “interview”—­one collective to another—­emerged out of that initial conversation. It consequently represents another kind of exercise in collaboration. First, members from each collective composed and sent members from the other collective two assemblages-­of-­inquiry (each assemblage preserved below in its original language of exchange, i.e., in the case of cs in Spanish; in the case of edt/b.a.n.g. lab in Spanish and En­glish). Members of each collective answered the other’s queries (in the case of cs the entire collective composed the questions and answers; in the case of edt/b.a.n.g. lab, Amy Sara Carroll and Ricardo Dominguez wrote on behalf of the collective). Fi­nally, we remixed our responses to alternate voices. Our goal with this interview was never one of generating perfect ­correspondence. Rather, we sought to plumb the limits of mismatch, of mistranslation; to spelunk together “caves of desire”—­political, aesthetic, and Other­wise. The result: a disjointed call and response, arguably two

languages that exceed the literal limits of any given Spanish or En­glish, approximating instead the proximity and distance we respectfully maintain in our conceptualizations of art, life, and politics (certainly situated works-­ in-­progress). Put differently, sometimes our imaginary languages below overlap; at other times they perform “dissensus”—­the better to conjure joy and the intersubjective in the timespace of the almost post-­neoliberal. edt/b.a.n.g. lab: The pro­cess by which Colectivo Situaciones (cs) embodies the constitution of its collectivity-­as-­research from within the event of love-­friendship that is excessive in its experience of the “common” is part of the central counter-­method of what ­you’ve come to call the militant gesture. What intimacies or encounters occurred that led you to “fall in love” with each other? What ­were the spaces and circumstances that facilitated the passing of critical maté (a drink drunk in a group from a gourd that is passed from hand to hand back and forth) to happen? Some of us in edt 2.0/b.a.n.g. lab might describe our own relationality as “queer,” perhaps amplifying the definition of that term, perhaps respecting its original reappropriation as some equivalent of the realization of a gift.2 Some of us are fixated on the prefix “trans-­,” its multiple applications, its function as a critical applet for our own recent proj­ect, the “Transborder Immigrant Tool” (tbt). Do “queer” or “trans-” hold any resonance, command any traction, for cs? El proceso por el cual Colectivo Situaciones (cs) encarna la constitución de su colectivo-­como-­investigación dentro del acontecimiento de amor-­amistad (y que es excesivo en su experiencia del ‘común’) forma parte del contra-­método de lo que ustedes han llamado el gesto militante. ¿Cuales intimidades o encuentros ocurrieron que les dirigió a “enamorarse” uno con el otro? Algunos de nosotros en el laboratorio de edt 2.0/b.a.n.g. lab describimos nuestra propia relacionalidad como “queer,” a la vez cambiando la definición de este término, respetando quizás su reapropiación original como algún equivalente de la realización de nuestro “regalo.” Algunos de nosotros estamos enfocados en el prefijo “trans-­,” sus múlti-­aplicaciones, su función como un applet crítico para nuestro propio proyecto reciente, the “Transborder Immigrant Tool”/“La Herramienta Transfronteriza para Inmigrantes” (tbt). ¿La palabra “queer” y el prefijo “trans-” tienen algunas resonancias para cs? 3 1 0   •  C O L E C T I V O S I T U A C I O N E S A N D E D T / B . A . N . G .

cs: En el surgimiento de la experiencia del Colectivo Situaciones resulta determinante el contexto. Corrían los últimos años del siglo XX y en Argentina se resquebrajaba el orden neoliberal. Un conjunto de historias y de materialidades sociales que parecían haber sido neutralizadas definitivamente volvían a emerger, con el aspecto salvaje y la potencia de lo excesivo. Por entonces nosotros participábamos de un grupo surgido en la Universidad, independiente de los partidos políticos, pero que no había podido ir más allá de las nociones tradicionales de la política revolucionaria. Fue entonces que operamos un gesto de ruptura (un quiebre de cintura, si nos permiten la metáfora deportiva), tanto en lo que respecta a la academia y sus formatos de construcción y validación del conocimiento, como en lo que hace a la racionalidad militante y sus pretensiones vanguardistas y ordenancistas. La inspiración para llevar adelante tales desplazamientos surgió, ante todo, de una serie de encuentros con movimientos y colectivos sociales que estaban reelaborando en ese entonces sus propios principios de constitución y de pensamiento. Cada una de estas experiencias de co-­investigación, significaron a su vez la vivencia de lazos afectivos de nuevo tipo, otras tantas imágenes de una nueva comunidad posible, post estatal y post mercantil. Especialmente significativo fue el vínculo con grupos de desempleados que se autoorganizaban en la zona sur del conurbano bonaerense, para arrancarle al estado una renta básica y desplegar así un nuevo principio de cooperación en las periferias desindustrializadas, llegando incluso a trastocar las nociones estándares de “el trabajo.” En cada una de estas situaciones latía un desafío: atravesar los umbrales subjetivos previstos por las instituciones y por la propia ciudad, como condición de una nueva productividad social. Experimentando un tipo de composición política que no fuera “orgánica” ni “funcional,” porque se animaba a crear su propio modo de valorar. En este sentido, podríamos decir que la co-­investigación ha sido, en sus momentos más poderosos, una experiencia de cruzar fronteras. O, dicho de otra manera, un intento por saltar los lugares asignados y aquellos controles policiales que los resguardan. La co-­ investigación nos permitió diluir binarismos que tienden a convertirse rápidamente en corsets y a confirmar identidades: intelectual y movimiento social, construcción territorial y creación conceptual, pensamiento y lucha, palabra y acción. C o - I n v e s t i g at i o n s a n d A e s t h e t i c S u s t e n a n c e   •   3 1 1

El momento de crisis masiva que vivió nuestro país durante 2001 y 2002 fue un impulso decisivo para esa demo­cratización de la potencia discursiva y de la dinámica callejera que salía de los barrios, de los movimientos de desocupados, de las asambleas barriales, de la lucha renovada de los derechos humanos, de las fábricas recuperadas. Pero si la crisis se vivió como un momento de expansión de las potencias populares, fue gracias a un trabajo previo, paciente y delicado, de varios años, durante los cuales se había ido tejiendo una resistencia práctica al neoliberalismo, aquí y allá. Esas experiencias de enamoramiento que alguna vez postulamos como “método” (en una clara provocación para los expertos, pero como un intento veraz de nombrar esa experiencia amorosa), se inscriben en la historia política reciente de Argentina como parte de un proceso más amplio que podríamos llamar, un poco desmesuradamente, de transmutación de valores. Las experiencias sociales que convocaron, promovieron y atravesaron la crisis neoliberal hicieron lo que se creía imposible: cuestionar y destituir los valores del mercado como autoridad máxima para la organización de lo social. Y, en ese movimiento, anularon una división de esferas que en sí misma también conservadora: la distinción entre el campo de lo social (donde se formulan demandas) y el ámbito de lo político (donde se determinan las respuestas). Las resonancias trans provienen para nosotros de esa experiencia de la crisis que disuelve las segmentaciones. A casi una década, ella sigue siendo una materialidad presente, un capital de imágenes, un conjunto de dilemas, una experiencia sin conjura posible. Lo queer no ha sido un término usual entre nosotros, pero sí podemos decir que el cs ha experimentado cierta potencia de lo inclasificable. Cuando, por ejemplo, nos preguntaban insistentemente: ¿quién escribe?, ¿por qué el anonimato resulta una política?, ¿cómo definirían lo que hacen? La confusión que siempre rodeó, al menos en nuestro caso, a términos como “investigación militante,” lo difícil que fue explicar cierta dinámica de “encuentros” y la complicidad que se han logrado con algunos colectivos y movimientos, así como la imposibilidad de “tematizar” estrictamente lo que hacíamos, ha sido un signo de que algo de lo “raro” de nuestro trabajo tenía su clave en esa capacidad de indefinición. cs: En el caso de la “Herramienta Transfronteriza para Inmigrantes,” están en juego trayectorias vitales muy distintas que se vinculan 3 1 2   •  C O L E C T I V O S I T U A C I O N E S A N D E D T / B . A . N . G .

en torno a las posibilidades que brinda el gps para eludir las barreras impuestas por los Estados. En ese sentido, la eficacia que se logre en el uso de la herramienta es de vital importancia. Y, sin embargo, la idea de introducir poesías con información ambiental, histórica y cultural, de por sí indica una vocación por trascender el universo linguístico que el dispositivo en sí mismo impone. Además, el hecho de que la herramienta pueda ser usada en muy distintos contextos fronterizos, implica una vocación fuertemente cosmopolita. ¿En qué sentido piensan ustedes que las relaciones entre los migrantes y las propias redes de activistas puedan politizarse, más allá de las típicas imágenes de una “ayuda solidaria” o de una intervención espectacular pero localizada? edt/b.a.n.g. lab: The “Transborder Immigrant Tool” (tbt) is an artivist gesture that water-­wicking operates on multiple frequencies. A collaboration among us (Amy and Ricardo), Brett Stalbaum, Micha Cárdenas, and Elle Mehrmand, it questions the relationship between borders and globalization, focuses on the risks immigrant ­labor takes crossing borders, and amplifies the need for border safety during the pro­cess of crossing. The proj­ect especially foregrounds the long-­term efforts of ngos on the Mexico-­U.S. border who seek to help the undocumented entrant, or indeed anyone, who is lost or in physical danger in the inclement borderland zones of California and Arizona. Two other aspects of tbt merit mention though: one, tbt dislocates and disturbs the aesthetics of the hard border architecture, of bigger and longer walls, of the U.S.’s attempts to use edge technologies (virtual walls, drones, e­ tc.) in its construction. Utilizing a counter-­aesthetics of more readily recognizable (than the poetic) ubiquitous everyday technologies (cell phones, gps, ­etc.) tbt recomposes the border as an “aesthetic proj­ect,” underscoring the possibilities of poetry as navigation and sustenance; two, tbt insists on outing the “trans” afforded to us in the proj­ect’s name, the “trans” that queers the layers of crossing over, of code-­switching, of walking as an act of remaking gender, nation, and code. All of ­these layers co-­locate undocumented entrants as the “trans” communities that displace the sovereignty of neoliberal globalization, its “New World Borders.” The undocumented in this scenario bring forth the poetics of trans-­citizenship (that harbors some cultural kinship with the “cosmopolitanism” you reference C o - I n v e s t i g at i o n s a n d A e s t h e t i c S u s t e n a n c e   •   3 1 3

17.1.  ​“Transborder Immigrant Tool,” showing working tool and a screenshot from Nokia e71, 2012. Courtesy of Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0/b.a.n.g. lab.

in your question) at the scale of the local or site-­specific, as such, tbt echo-­relocates trans-­militancies contained within the histories of revolutionary citizenships, a current that electrifies and makes pos­si­ble the impulse between the code and the speculative gesture. A coordinated network of research—­tbt on the one hand functions within the cir­cuits of failed power grids; on the other hand, it sings social bodies electric. The “politicization” you frame resides in a ­future anterior, in the sheer weight and force of the tides—­those who cross and ­those who meet the undocumented outside of the enclosures of costs and revenues. While this may be only hinted at in tbt, we have been working with ngos, like ­Water Station Inc. and Border Angels, in the last ­couple of years, negotiating with ­these groups about the question of what tbt means within and outside the frames of activism and humanitarian aid. ­These encounters have reinvigorated our thinking about relationships between art and (electronic) civil disobedience. At one end, as our collaborator Micha [Cárdenas] has pointed out recently, the “activist may be the prob­lem” (a certain type of activism), they may shut down or block militant aesthetics since it falls outside of how ­things are done; at the other end, t­ hese activist groups often share the protocols of activated speculative gestures that become something more than activism, crossing into the liminal zones or 3 1 4   •  C O L E C T I V O S I T U A C I O N E S A N D E D T / B . A . N . G .

borderlands of per­for­mance and conceptual art. Immigrants contribute to this dialogue, they are living-­researching new zones of life, life without borders. They practice fluid attachments between coming and ­going that resist refinancing the debt of a being/nonbeing binary. edt/b.a.n.g. lab: The “Transborder Immigrant Tool” (tbt) is a cell phone gesture that seeks to ask the question What is sustenance? in relation to the catastrophe of immigrants’ deaths in the Mexican-­U.S. borderlands. We often find that our proj­ects are part of a wider endeavor that we frame as a politics, an ethics, an aesthetics (or poetics) of the question as opposed to the “Politics of the Answer.” In our estimation, the former creates the possibility for unexpected encounters and the conceptual echoes that follow, while the latter, which ostensibly renounces performativity, (state/commodity) aesthetics, and the possibilities of alternate economies of language, finance, and gesture, peddles final freeze-­framed absolutisms (global bankruptures). We note that your recent work also focuses on a humanitarian crisis apropos the treatment of immigrants or the undocumented in Argentina and the Southern Cone. What questions have began to emerge for all of you from within this “collective situation”? How have t­ hese questions enabled cs to continue to traffic in, engage with “conceptual images”? How have ­these reengagements led you to redefine the meanings you assign to “conceptual images” in general? How do you, or do you not, relate, hyphenate, or enjamb the po­liti­cal, the ethical, and the aesthetic in and through this “state of emergency” and emergence? Please feel f­ ree to relate the latter to o ­ thers you have encountered and your previous work’s responses to ­those situations (or not). The “Transborder Immigrant Tool”/“La Herramienta Transfronteriza para Inmigrantes” (tbt) es un proyecto que usa teléfonos celulares para preguntar ¿Qué es un sustento? en relación con la catástrofe de las muertes de los inmigrantes cruzando la frontera entre México y los Estados Unidos. Pensamos que nuestros proyectos forman parte de un esfuerzo más grande que encuadramos como una política, una ética, una estética (o poética) de la pregunta, en contraste con “la Política de la Respuesta.” En nuestra opinión, lo primero crea la posibilidad para encuentros inesperados y ecos conceptuales que dejan su huella, mientras lo último, C o - I n v e s t i g at i o n s a n d A e s t h e t i c S u s t e n a n c e   •   3 1 5

que renuncia aparentemente a lo performático (lo estético del estado de mercancía) y a las posibilidad de economías alternativas del idioma, de la finanza y el gesto, vende los absolutismos congelados (rupturas bancarias global). Notamos que su trabajo reciente también se enfoca en la “crisis humanitaria” a propósito al tratamiento de migrantes en Argentina y el Cono Sur. ¿Qué preguntas han comenzado a surgir para ustedes desde esta “situación colectiva”? ¿Cómo estas preguntas han permitido CS continuar negociar su compromiso con “imágenes conceptuales”? ¿Cómo les han dirigido estes re-­encuentros a redefinir los significados que ustedes asignan a la idea de “imágenes conceptuales” en general? ¿Cómo relacionan ustedes, o no, lo político, lo ético, y lo estético adentro de y a través del corriente “estado de excepción”? Siéntanse libres a relacionar el último a otros que han encontrado y con las respuestas de su trabajo anteriores a esas situaciones (o no). cs: En algunas de las relaciones más recientes, con compañeros y compañeras que vienen de Bolivia, ha surgido la idea de problematizar la condición migrante en cuanto tal. Para nosotros aparece, entonces, la posibilidad de investigar y desplegar en qué consiste una experiencia de atravesar fronteras en un nuevo sentido. Ya no sólo están en juego los límites fronterizos impuestos por los estados nacionales, sino también el sistema de trabas y de confinamiento urbano a que se ven sometidos quienes llegan de otras regiones. Hace poco publicamos un trabajo con un colectivo de jóvenes bolivianas y bolivianos (Simbiosis Cultural), del que participaron ex trabajadores de talleres textiles clandestinos (maquilas a la argentina, podríamos decir), intentando abrir la pregunta sobre qué significa la ciudad hoy, qué nuevas jerarquías laborales se resisten y, de modo más complejo, qué tipo de cálculo vital impulsa esos desplazamientos, esos proyectos, que incluyen la aceptación de ciertas condiciones muy duras de trabajo y obediencia. El libro titulado De chuequistas y overlockas, se desarrolla en un diálogo intenso y desafiante con la socióloga boliviana Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, a quien también hemos editado.3 Cada tanto hemos apelado a términos como “inactualidad” o “anacronismo” para nombrar ese momento de encuentro entre lo ético, lo estético y lo político. Una in-­actualidad situada. Podemos llamar a ese sitio de intensidad productiva como excepción, respecto del modo en que ciertas instituciones o modos habituales del hacer-­pensar social 3 1 6   •  C O L E C T I V O S I T U A C I O N E S A N D E D T / B . A . N . G .

tratan los problemas colectivos. Cuando hablamos de “imágenes conceptuales” hacemos énfasis en el malestar que nos producen las interpelaciones victimistas, paternalistas o puramente consignistas, que impiden la concreta emergencia de una subjetividad resistente, siempre compleja e irreverente. En los hechos, confiamos en una capacidad de problematización desde abajo, capaz de reabrir cuestiones que las representaciones tienden a cerrar como “política de las respuestas” que ustedes con acierto nombran. La política de la pregunta (que nos concierne) nunca es retórica, sino un registro práctico de la auto-­afirmación activa de los sujetos sobre sus propias condiciones comunes de existencia. cs: Sabemos que hace varios años vienen trabajando en distintas iniciativas que intentan hacer un uso crítico y resistente de las tecnologías más avanzadas, asumiendo incluso el altísimo nivel de conflicto jurídico y político que implica este tipo de intervenciones. Hasta donde entendemos, ustedes despliegan básicamente dos modalidades de acción: el boicot y la puesta disposición de las herramientas para su utilización por los movimientos insurgentes, o por personas en condiciones ilegalidad. Quizás ustedes hayan experimentado otros procedimientos y nos gustaría saber cuáles son. Pero en cualquier caso, nos interesaría mucho también que explicitaran cómo piensan que se politizan los vínculos entre prácticas sociales y tecnologías. Cómo, por ejemplo, el boicot deviene sabotaje. O cómo el uso se convierte en profanación, interviniendo el sentido que la herramienta posee, o incluso abriendo la posibilidad de una reapropiación social de la técnica y sus creaciones. edt/b.a.n.g. lab: Electronic civil disobedience (ecd), as in the case of civil disobedience (cd), can be used by in any individual, group, or community—­the gesture itself is ideologically neutral—as long as it is nonviolent. Both types of gestures also participate in the liminal spaces among boycott, blockage, and trespass that can be read on some occasions as sabotage, of stopping the flow of machines, the streets, and buildings. It has often been put forth that edt should be concerned that a group or party, like the Aryan Nation, would use our code against communities that we support. That indeed may occur some day, but the strange history of ecd since the ’90s has been that t­ hese right-­wing and extreme r­ ight-­wing C o - I n v e s t i g at i o n s a n d A e s t h e t i c S u s t e n a n c e   •   3 1 7

groups have refused to use the Zapatista FloodNet or its code to do any of the their actions—­because, in their words, “the code is tainted with the stink of brown bodies.” They read our ecd gesture as commingling with specific types of bodies, which is exactly the type of code-­switching aesthetic we call for—an intimacy between data bodies and real bodies within a larger performative matrix. Concomitantly, right-­wing (and neo/liberal) punditry often ridicule/s, dismiss/es another “aesthetic” facet of our methodology. Namely, one of the technologies that edt (1.0, 2.0, 3.0 . . . ​) consistently has deployed is that of the code-­switch, of the ­poetic—­a paraliterary bound to the tenets of Henry David Thoreau’s and ­others’ formulations of civil disobedience. This is a decidedly ­lo-fi, diy, ubiquitous technology that operates in the bandwidth of Jacques Rancière’s commonsensical pronouncement that “The real must be fictionalized in order to be thought.”4 Like pollen in the “Arab Spring” (Achoo!), this poetic misrecognizes bound­aries; it covers ground supposedly inhospitable to seed. Not the stuff of hushed line breaks (of the stanza or the state), this poetic sight-­ reads refrain (“How can a ­people and a land be made, in other words, a nation—­a refrain?” Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus) ad infinitum.5 A repeat per­for­mance bound to the enjambed aesthetics-­politics of the postscript (a la the Zapatista communiqué), the poetic ­here emerges out of sometimes queer or transitive declarations, i.e., the renouncement of one ­poetry in the name of another. Consider Javier Sicilia’s gut-­wrenching April  2011 open letter to Mexico’s government and narco networks that sparked massive demonstrations across Mexico. Sicilia speaks from the Antigonean position of grieving both the death of his biological son and the deaths of countless sons and d ­ aughters of Mexico, often the so-­called “collateral damage” of escalating domestic vio­lence, the state’s uncivil “War on Drugs.” Even as Sicilia claims he can no longer write poetry, he signals “lower frequencies” of the poetic that his addressees are incapable of registering. Sicilia asserts, “­There are not words for this pain. Only poetry can come close to it, and you do not know about poetry.”6 What is this poetry that is and is not, that is illegible, inaudible, intangible, indeed indigestible, to and for formal and informal hegemonics? What is this poetry that resists, but resides in the gaps of literal and symbolic 3 1 8   •  C O L E C T I V O S I T U A C I O N E S A N D E D T / B . A . N . G .

economies? What “privileges of unknowing” make it inaccessible to powers that be, but render it perennially dormant, totipotent to and for Other campaigns devoted to cultivating inner ears to hear peace and just us? The left’s leftovers in the Global North, post/Modernisms’ literary and artistic orphans and orphaned lines too must suspend disbelief ­here, must listen for soundings of the “anti-­anti-­utopian.” Then perhaps the pres­ent ­will come in like a radio station from inner space. Witness the poetic in Tahrir Square, January 2011. Elliott Colla writes (and his observations are worth quoting at length): I ­don’t mean “poetry” as meta­phor, but the a­ ctual poetry that has played a prominent role in the outset of the events. The slogans the protesters are chanting are couplets—­and they are as loud as they are sharp. The diwan of this revolt began to be written as soon as Ben Ali fled Tunis, in pithy lines like “Yâ Mubârak! Yâ Mubârak! Is-­Sa‘ûdiyya ­fi-­ntizârak!” (“Mubarak, O Mabarak, Saudi Arabia awaits!”). In the streets themselves, ­there are scores of other verses, ranging from the caustic “Shurtat Masr, yâ shurtat Masr, intû ba’aytû kilâb al-’asr” (“Egypt’s Police, Egypt’s Police, ­You’ve become nothing but Palace dogs”), to the defiant “Idrab idrab yâ Habîb, mahma tadrab mish hansîb!” (Hit us, beat us, O Habib [al-­Adly, now-­former Minister of the Interior], hit all you want—­we’re not g­ oing to leave!). This last couplet is particularly clever, since it plays on the old Egyptian colloquial saying, “Darb al-­habib zayy akl al-­zabib” (The beloved’s fist is as sweet as raisins). This poetry is not an ornament to the uprising—it is its soundtrack and also composes a significant part of the action itself.7

It is not enough to flarf or speak of the “allegorical” or “conceptualisms” in the abstract: civil disobedience and its paraliterary has been, is, and ­will be rooted in place, in trade routes among places. The shortest distance between points A and B is not necessarily computable via a Global Positioning System. Rather, per Laura Borràs Castanyer and Juan Gutiérrez’s repurposing of the acronym gps as a “global poetic system,” we’d submit that the poetic’s base materialisms function as search and rescue engines8 as readily as they cause the right wing no end of consternation, i.e., Glenn Beck’s declaration that tbt’s explicit poetry threatens to “collapse” or “dissolve” the nation (the United States).9 C o - I n v e s t i g at i o n s a n d A e s t h e t i c S u s t e n a n c e   •   3 1 9

Notes 1 So many thanks to Brian Whitener for facilitating this meeting. 2 Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri write, “The ­will to be against ­really needs a body that is completely incapable of submitting to command. It needs a body that is incapable of adapting to ­family life, to factory discipline, to the regulations of a traditional sex life, and so forth. (If you find your body refusing t­ hese ‘normal’ modes of life, ­don’t despair—­realize your gift!).” See Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), p. 216. 3 Colectivo Situaciones y Colectivo Simbiosis Cultural, De chuequistas y overlockas: Una discusión en torno a los talleres textiles (Buenos Aires: Tinta Limón, 2011). 4 Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics, translated by Gabriel Rockhill (New York: Continuum, 2004), p. 38. 5 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizo­ phre­nia, translated by Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987). 6 See http://­www​.­narconews​.­com​/­Issue67​/­article4346​.­html, accessed April 5, 2011. 7 See http://­www​.­jadaliyya​.­com​/­pages​/­index​/­506​/­the​-­poetry​-­of​-­revolt, accessed January 31, 2011. 8 See http://­www​.­hyperrhiz​.­net​/­hyperrhiz06​/­19​-­essays​/­74​-­electronic​-­literature​ -­as​-­an​-­information​-­system, accessed October 10, 2010. 9 See Glenn Beck, Fox News Channel, September 1, 2010, and http://­www​ .­theblaze​.­com​/­stories​/­ucsd​-­professors​-­want​-t­ o​-­dissolve​-­us​-­give​-­g ps​-­phones​ -­with​-­explicit​-­poetry​-­to​-­illegals​-f­ or​-­border​-­crossing​/­, accessed August 6, 2011.

3 2 0   •  C O L E C T I V O S I T U A C I O N E S A N D E D T / B . A . N . G .


How Three Artists Led the Queens Museum into Corona and Beyond prerana reddy

Part I. Maria Teresa Ponce and the “Mudanzas” Proj­ect Night is falling on a balmy August evening in 2004. Corona Plaza is bustling with foot traffic as the Number 7 train rumbles overhead, screeches to a halt, and disgorges scores of p ­ eople onto Roo­se­velt Ave­nue ­every ten minutes or so. One of the main commercial corridors of the neighborhood, Roo­se­velt is chock full of restaurants and stores with names that evoke the home countries of the mostly new immigrant communities that reside ­here—­Tulcingo Mexican Bakery, Mitad del Mundo Ec­ua­dor­ ian Bar & Grill, and Chifa Peruana La Union. Even the Korean-­owned delis are pumping out reggaeton and ranchera ­music hoping to catch your attention. The modest asphalt triangle called Corona Plaza between 103rd and 104th Streets features a small pocket park and provides parking—­not only for local shoppers, but also for moving vans of vari­ous sizes emblazoned with the word mudanzas (moving ser­vices). They are attended by moving men who can be hired on the spot for cash. ­Because they occupy scarce parking spots, t­ hese trucks are often described as a nuisance by civic leaders who wish to revitalize this commercial strip. But they provide an essential ser­vice to the steady flow of Latino immigrants (around 60 ­percent of Corona’s population) who first arrive to

crowded multifamily homes, and then, if they manage to save enough, find apartments of their own.1 The community is on the move, and the mundazas help keep it that way. Corona is a feast for the senses, a multilingual aural symphony, a bouquet of aromas steaming out of food carts and restaurant vents, an urban ballet of pedestrians, street vendors, gypsy cabs, bicycles, baby strollers, and commercial trucks. Sometimes this sensory overload obscures other dynamics that course through Corona: the exhaustion of long work hours new immigrants endure to get a foothold in their new city, while sending hefty remittances back home to Puebla or Gualaceo; the quieter presence of refugees who have fled po­liti­cal vio­lence in South and Southeast Asia; the fear of xenophobia, hate crimes, and for some, la migra. ­There is the loneliness and nostalgia that most immigrants face, most acutely when their immigration status prevents them from reuniting with loved ones and long-­cherished landscapes. ­Behind all this, t­ here are vestiges of the Italian American and African American communities that called this neighborhood home, the uneasy transitions of urban flight and po­liti­cal displacement that typify Amer­i­ca’s cities.2 At nightfall one eve­ning many hundreds of Ec­ua­dor­ian immigrants are walking up Roo­se­velt Ave­nue ­after attending an Ec­ua­dor­ian Festival in nearby Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Beaming with the joy and pride that comes from celebrating their culture in a ­grand public space, they are returning to their familiar neighborhood with t­hose familiar mudanzas trucks parked at Corona Plaza. However, t­ here is something dif­fer­ent this time; crowds are watching a video being projected onto a mudanzas truck. Scenes of urban and rural Ec­ua­dor­ian landscapes are flashing by, accompanied by the voice of a ­woman telling her story in Spanish, of how she had hired a coyote to smuggle her into the United States. En­glish subtitles (in the same typography as the lettering on the truck) translate the narration, though it hardly seems necessary. The video images are wistful evocations of Ec­ua­dor. In contrast, the voice evokes the trauma endured in leaving that land. The audience is visibly moved. The projection propels a common personal experience into a shared, social space. Some begin to weep at the sight of their native villages and mountains; o ­ thers wince at the hardships that the narrator’s story brings back to mind. ­People are also climbing into the back of the truck. Inside, where countless loads of furniture had been moved for itinerant families, ­people are watching video letters sent from the ­family to the owner of that truck. The videos w ­ ere shot in the interior 3 2 2   •  p r e r a n a r e d d y

space of his ­family home, and the back wall of the truck seems somehow transformed into the interior of that ­house by the familiar tele­vi­sion set. As the video plays, the image becomes progressively smaller, seeming to recede from the viewer and the truck, highlighting the illusory intimacy of this communication. Video letters are a common means of exchange between Ec­ua­dor­ian families. They document cele­brations, achievements, ­children growing, ­houses being built, and material possessions being acquired—­all orchestrated into a shared narrative of pro­gress, leisure, and of a “being ­there” that belies the nature of toil and absences that permeate their lives.3 For the past twenty years, economic crisis in Ec­ua­dor has forced more than 10  ­percent of the country’s population to migrate, mostly to New York and Madrid. Many villages in Azuay and Cañar provinces near Cuenca have migrated almost completely to New York, and to Queens in par­tic­u­lar, leaving b ­ ehind towns populated only by c­ hildren and grandparents. Communication with relatives has become an essential part of their lives, but u ­ ntil recently limited access to the Internet along with an unreliable postal system and high illiteracy rate limited their means of communication to telephones and the occasional video letter. It was this communication strategy and its related set of emotions and fears that Maria Teresa Ponce’s “Mudanzas” proj­ect sought to address. As an Ec­ua­ dor­ian immigrant herself, Ponce understood all this, though she has been lucky enough to have been able to travel back and forth. According to the artist, the proj­ect began with the notion of creating an image of Ec­ua­ dor­ian migration to the United States through photo­graphs of individuals and the spaces immigrants have created in Queens. She took t­ hese images to Ec­ua­dor and gave them to the ­people’s relatives, and vice versa. But soon p ­ eople wanted to speak to one another, so she switched to video. The proj­ect morphed into an exchange of videos and a documentation of places ­people wanted to see. Soon enough she was approached by her subjects’ friends and friends of friends, a ­human chain that led her from ­family to ­family, as Ponce became an unofficial, artistic post office. One of Ponce’s subjects was Leo, the driver of the mudanzas truck that contained the videos. She visited his ­family in Ec­ua­dor, gave them videos of Leo, and videotaped their response, and also shot the city he was from so he could see its current state. Leo worked the crowd that eve­ning, explaining the communication to anyone interested. He became an active spokesman for the proj­ect. Q u e e n s M u s e u m i n C o r o n a a n d B e y o n d   •  3 2 3

According to Ponce, the “Mundazas” proj­ect was emotionally trying, and the ­human drama overcame her aesthetic motivations: You absorb many p ­ eople’s sadness. Delivering the videos and making them was a very big responsibility and as it grew, so did the anxiety to deliver and shoot every­thing. Fulfilling my responsibility became more impor­tant than my own art work. ­Towards the end of the projection in Queens, Mexican truck ­drivers approached me and asked me to do the same ­thing with Mexico, something I would love to do some day. . . . ​I ­don’t close proj­ects, they all still live, sometimes they are just waiting for the right conditions to come along in order to wake up.4 For the Queens Museum of Art (qma), the proj­ect came at the right time. We had agreed to sponsor the event, but it was Ponce who had i­ magined it, who had been working on the site, in the community, and in Ec­ua­dor for quite some time. With multiyear funding from the Ford Foundation, we ­were just launching a youth arts and activism program called the Leadership through the Arts Program (ltap), in which young adults from Queens participated in workshops led by local civic and social justice organ­izations, as well as working with professional artists to create media and per­for­mance proj­ects that addressed social tensions. One key need identified by the youth was the necessity of challenging negative ste­reo­ types of new immigrants.5 Ponce’s proj­ect proved a perfect opportunity for the ltap contingent to use their newly acquired expertise and knowledge base. ltap youth, many of whom came from mixed-­status immigrant families themselves, worked with Ponce to execute, promote, document, and interpret her proj­ect, using their audio and video recording skills to conduct interviews with audience members. Their presence added an extra layer of energy to the event and seemed to open up streams of discussion among the audience members. Part II. Corona Plaza: Center of Everywhere, Miguel Luciano,   and “Pimp My Piragua” Although it was not necessarily apparent to us that night, Ponce’s proj­ ect, its engagement with public space in Corona, and the interactive work done by the ltap youth marked a turning point for the Queens Museum’s community engagement. The event demonstrated the potential of Corona Plaza, a relatively modest space in Queens, as a place of ­great potential. It is literally a crossroads, the meeting point of the commercial strips of Corona Ave­nue and Roo­se­velt Ave­nue, and it has a subway stop in the m ­ iddle. 3 2 4   •  p r e r a n a r e d d y

­ eople flow through it continuously, so drawing a crowd is never a prob­lem. P All that needed to be done was to make this pedestrian nexus into a psychological and social focal point of the community. That night also coincided with a long period of self-­education for the museum. “Mudanzas” was the beginning of a two-­year pro­cess of working with local young adults in the ltap—­many of whom remain active in community-­based organ­izations or are pursuing creative or social justice ­careers. Their work gradually revealed to us a set of under­lying community tension points, needs, and hopes. ltap youth engaged in photo, video, and interactive public art proj­ects, as well as a grant-­making pro­cess that involved visits to thirty local community-­ based organ­izations, religious institutions, and schools. Si­mul­ta­neously, the museum began literally to open its doors by providing complimentary use of our space to numerous small nonprofit community groups for their meetings, cultural cele­brations, and fund-­raising events. Several nights a week our theater would be filled by Colombian, Ec­ua­dor­ian, Dominican, or Uruguayan cele­brations. Once a month we welcomed cinemarosa, a mostly Latino lgbt film organ­ization. In so ­doing, qma began to develop relationships with the organ­ization’s members and leadership, allowing us to have frank conversations about their orga­nizational challenges, which included lack of financial resources and space for their activities and for greater visibility outside the communities they serve. At this time the Queens Economic Development Corporation was also becoming interested in Corona. With a small grant they initiated the Corona Community Action Network (Corona can), mostly centering on the concerns of local businesses. We joined the co­ali­tion, and our role was to expand it out to the nonprofits, churches, and parent groups. Weaving together what we heard at the Corona can meetings, our experiences with the ltap youth, and our growing interconnection with organ­izations that ­were using our space, we deci­ded that of all the concerns we heard, the museum could make some headway on health and wellness, cleaner and safer public spaces, developing more cohesive neighborhood identity, and the promotion of community assets. It was also becoming apparent that we needed new expertise. ­After some consideration, we realized that it was imperative to hire a community or­ga­nizer who was fluent in Spanish to be “on the ground” in Corona, and we have remained committed to having someone in this position since late 2006. The skills of community organ­izing—­active listening, the fostering of co­ali­tions, mutual creation of actions to address local concerns—­are dif­fer­ent from traditional museum “outreach,” which simply seeks to draw new audiences into the Q u e e n s M u s e u m i n C o r o n a a n d B e y o n d   •  3 2 5

­ redetermined programming of the museum. The community or­ga­nizer p has been key to ensuring the forward momentum of our initiatives in Corona, keeping open the dialogue between qma and Corona stakeholders, and developing and strengthening partnerships. The co­ali­tion built with the community or­ga­nizer Naila Rosario deci­ded to launch an initiative called Corazon de Corona, or the Heart of Corona Initiative, which aims (optimistically) to create a safe space for newcomers to “come to the ­table” to learn from and engage in dialogue with longtime residents and businesses about civic engagement, while they work together to improve health in the community and re-­reframe a public space that w ­ ill benefit all. One proj­ect central to the Heart of Corona initiative was “Corona Plaza: Center of Everywhere.” With funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Ser­vices (imls) in 2007 and 2008, qma commissioned four emerging artists each year to produce temporary, site-­specific art in Corona Plaza. The name of the proj­ect itself was a challenge to the commonplace idea that Corona was somehow a peripheral neighborhood existing solely to h ­ ouse workers who provide invisible ser­vice l­ abor to Manhattan, which automatically assumes the position of the center. Proj­ects like “Mudanzas” allowed us to see another potential spatial paradigm, one in which Corona is the node that connects New York City to a variety of locations throughout the world. Moreover, it allowed us to see that ­these vectors ­were bidirectional, with ­labor, goods, language, families, cash, and culture moving back and forth in a dynamic cir­cuit. We wanted to envision Corona as a center for formulating a productive rather than reductive notion of globalization and diversity. For example, it may be obvious that immigrants come to New York for economic opportunity, and that their remittances serve to support the home country eco­nom­ically, both by supporting ­family members in the village and by circulating much-­needed foreign currency on the national level. However, if one observes the inflows and outflows in New York City, we can see that immigrants are also crucial for the city’s continued social and economic health. Like other cities in the United States, a large number of ­people leave New York during the course of any year. But New York is dif­fer­ent from the other northern industrial cities that have seen dramatic net population loss over the last fifty years. It is a traditionally welcoming entry point for immigration (both as an ethos and practically through a network of established social ser­vices and advocacy agencies), and ­there is an existing social infrastructure established by earlier immigrants from their home countries or who speak the same language. ­These ­factors allow for newer waves of immigrants to more eas3 2 6   •  p r e r a n a r e d d y

ily establish a foothold, to exist in a familiar world, at least part of the time. I am not simply stressing the tolerance for difference that exists in New York City, or the interdependence between cities or countries resulting from global capital flows. Rather, I am highlighting the ways in which the same pro­cesses actually increase or multiply difference, allowing for niche identities and lifeways to be forged, sustained, and even commodified alongside ­others in dense overlapping physical formations. At the heart of our proj­ect is the role of Corona as a laboratory for addressing certain dilemmas inherent in the social framework of this networked era of market capitalism: Who and what is a community? How does one go about developing a system of decision making or governance that re­spects and includes such diversity, especially when the constitution of the population shifts constantly and significant barriers to communication exist? Or, more fundamentally, how must our theories of equitable social change and modes of action be reformulated when shared values and commitments are not taken for granted but must be continually negotiated? How could we see Corona as more than just as an under-­resourced area in the context of New York, a place for “prob­lems” to be solved on the one hand, or on the other hand, as simply an aquarium-­like exhibit of cultural diversity to be on display for adventurous cultural tourists? Rather, could we take a more ecological view of the place as one with a potential to become a self-­sustaining, complex, decentralized space in which a variety of social actors can effectively propagate and circulate ideas, innovations, and resources in creative patterns of relational coordination?6 What is the role of art institutions, artists, and cultural producers in creating new modalities of interaction that would create a fertile environment in which this type of diversity could thrive? Accordingly, “Corona Plaza: Center of Everywhere” artists ­were asked to develop proj­ects that would integrate with the specific conditions of the plaza and Corona, resulting in works that value audience participation, fun, generosity, and community engagement. The community or­ga­nizer played a key role in orienting the artist to the neighborhood, brokering partnerships and proj­ect locations, and facilitating public interaction. This pro­cess differed substantially from other public art initiatives in which artists are asked to find community partners. We already had a well-­established co­ ali­tion with scores of partners. The artists ­were not assigned the difficult task of wading into unfamiliar territory, but ­were given ­free rein to explore with the community or­ga­nizer as an expert con­sul­tant. If you wanted to work in a beauty salon or at Western Union, an introduction was made. Q u e e n s M u s e u m i n C o r o n a a n d B e y o n d   •  3 2 7

Additionally, the museum hired a curator each year to manage the proj­ ects. An accompanying exhibition at the museum described, documented, and centralized the public artworks on view and performed around the plaza. As part of the experience of the exhibition, visitors had access to a map that encouraged them to explore Corona’s diverse dining options, unique retail shops, historic sites, and recreational spaces. During the proj­ect, qma or­ga­nized several street cele­brations and bilingual tours so that community members could interact directly with the artists, and in several cases participate in the production of an ongoing work. The street cele­brations, which drew thousands of p ­ eople, became a focal point for a number of the artists. In 2007, curator Herb Tam invited Shaun Leonardo to develop a proj­ect. Fluency in Spanish and his own in-­depth knowledge of Queens (where he is a longtime resident) gave Leonardo a head start. His per­for­mance began with an interactive publicity campaign for a lucha libre wrestling event in which he would assume the role of El Conquistador—­meant in Leonardo’s words to “manifest the ongoing tensions between my desires to represent male virility and the vulnerabilities within my identity developed by t­ hese images of power.”7 qma’s community or­ga­nizer helped Leonardo hype his event through such strategies as a vigorous postering campaign in local storefronts, autograph sessions, and wrestling workshops with Corona schoolchildren. By this time, the health and public space ele­ments of the initiative w ­ ere well u ­ nder way. Whereas qma supported Ponce’s proj­ect with the youth videographers and so on, Leonardo’s proj­ect unfolded within a day-­long festival that included t­ ables set up for blood pressure and cholesterol screening, immigration counseling, ­family art-­making proj­ects, and more. When El Conquistador entered the ring to wrestle the invisible man, the large crowd had already been entertained by musicians as well as dance groups from local Mexican and Dominican organ­izations. Leonardo’s art-­world fans mixed with the local residents. Sadly, the invisible man prevailed in the wrestling match, and El Conquistador ceremonially retired by removing his mask. Leonardo’s per­for­mance mixed modes of public relations, street theater, and high-­impact con­temporary dance. It also attracted a large crowd, some of whom subsequently availed themselves of the social ser­vices on hand. It w ­ asn’t exactly po­liti­cal art, but art with a social consequence, and one which took a familiar pop cultural phenomenon and used it to ask questions about machismo and power in Latin American culture. Each year’s programming culminated in a closing ceremony in which documentation produced over the five-­to six-­month period during which 3 2 8   •  p r e r a n a r e d d y

18.1.  ​Shaun Leonardo, per­for­mance “El Conquistador vs. The Invisible Man: The Homecoming” at Corona Plaza, Queens, NY, 2007. Photo courtesy of the Queens Museum.

the proj­ects w ­ ere developed was displayed inside the mudanzas trucks parked in Corona Plaza. In homage to Ponce’s catalyzing proj­ect, the trucks ­were transformed into temporary community gallery spaces. We invited mariachi bands to sing songs that reflected themes investigated in the proj­ects, and community members who collaborated on the proj­ects, the artists, and the general public reflected on the entirety of the pro­cess. Sara Reisman, the 2008 curator of “Corona Plaza: Center of Everywhere,” wrote that the artists w ­ ere asked to “engage the public, both from the community and elsewhere, in reciprocal exchanges that highlight the construction of urban mythologies, visual perception, and everyday artistry.” Inevitably, the works engaged in a dialogue about what it means to be American in a neighborhood where over 65 ­percent of residents are foreign born. One proj­ect that seems to have fulfilled Reisman’s vision and responded to the unique setting was Puerto Rican–­born Miguel Luciano’s “Pimp My Piragua.” It was multimedia, mobile, public art work that combined nostalgia and urban fantasies in a modified street vendor’s pushcart. Piraguas (or raspados, rasparillos, or frio frios, depending on the country) are conical cups of shaved ice doused in brightly colored flavored syrups popu­lar throughout the tropics on hot summer days. Piraguas ­were introduced in New York by Puerto Ricans as early as 1926, and the distinctive wooden pushcarts Q u e e n s M u s e u m i n C o r o n a a n d B e y o n d   •  3 2 9

are an iconic throwback to the town squares of the Ca­rib­bean. “Pimp My Piragua” commemorated and reinvented the ­humble piragua pushcart and turned it into a low-­rider fantasy, a meta­phor for “bling culture” and the accumulation of wealth. Luciano was inspired by the then-­popular mtv series Pimp My Ride, set in Southern California, in which a car is restored and customized to suit the own­er’s personality, transforming it into a fantasy-­ mobile, usually with chrome details and built-in electronics. He had been looking for the right time to execute his idea. Luciano’s work typically examines the long and complex relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico through si­mul­ta­neously playful and pointed appropriations of consumerist iconography and pop culture. In Corona, with its vibrant street economy of Latin immigrants, Luciano fi­nally found the right community context and received just enough financial support from the museum to build the cart of his dreams. Luciano ­didn’t just design it, but spent three months casting the fiberglass shell of the pushcart, painting it a bright metallic orange, and fitting out the cart with a booming sound system and flat-­screen video displays, including a built-in retractable dvd player with touch-­screen monitor. He also worked with local hip-­hop artists from QueTV to come up with his own theme song and promotional video, which was played in local shops leading up to the cart’s debut. The tune blasted on the cart’s custom sound system while Luciano rode around the neighborhood. For weeks, the artist sold ices, often making his own flavored syrups, to hundreds of ­eager customers, using the interactive opportunity to engage in in­ter­est­ing conversations with Corona residents and other vendors. Luciano recounts that p ­ eople regularly lined up to buy piraguas and engage with the ­music and video, sometimes dancing in the streets. The proj­ ect was more a novelty in the neighborhood than direct competition; other piragüeros and street vendors ­were supportive. He made sure to avoid any coveted locations or competing street corners, instead preferring to roam the neighborhood, stopping when hailed. He recalls that the number one question he received from both customers and vendors was “How much did the pushcart cost, and where can I get one?” Almost no one presumed that he had built the cart himself, which gave him the opportunity to initiate a dialogue about art and the museum context of the proj­ect. According to Luciano: In the gallery the cart was an alluring multi-­media sculptural object, but its activation in the community was its real power. I liked that it blurred 3 3 0   •  p r e r a n a r e d d y

the lines between high art, popu­lar culture and community. And I loved the idea of taking art out of the museum and into the neighborhood, shifting the priority ­towards community and demo­cratizing the experience of art. The proj­ect definitely extended conversations about art and culture, and hopefully intrigued folks about the museum’s programming as well. I learned vari­ous t­ hings through this proj­ect, from practical issues of planning and collaborating with vari­ous partners to expanding my performative practice and technical abilities. I also learned a lot about nyc street vendor politics and permitting. I never acquired any official permit as a street vendor. The proj­ect was educational in this regard, as I learned just how difficult the pro­cess is. Piragua carts are among the oldest self-­made businesses for Latino immigrants in New York. I found an image in the archives of a Puerto Rican piragüero on the west side from the 1920’s. In spite of its nostalgic history and tradition in the community, it has never been a licensed or regulated business practice. Piragua vendors unfortunately operate at their own risk.8 Outside of the Corona context, the proj­ect continues to travel each year to dif­fer­ent museums, galleries, and communities. Per­for­mances are routinely commissioned at museum events both indoors and outdoors. It has been featured in the New York Times, Art News, and a new book titled Velo: Bicycle Culture and Design (published by Gestalten Berlin). When the pushcart ­isn’t traveling, Luciano still takes it out from his Bushwick, Brooklyn, studio and performs with it locally in the summertime. Like Ponce’s “Mudanzas” proj­ect, Luciano’s “Pimp My Piragua” was a generative moment. Of course, street vending is a part of life in Queens. Staff members often grab a taco or tamale on their way from the subway to the museum, but we had rarely made the plight of the vendors a serious topic of discussion. We had already been made aware of some of the vendors’ issues by the young p ­ eople in the Leadership through the Arts Program, who had made a short documentary examining public opinion about the practice, but it had never blossomed into a full-­fledged initiative or campaign. Luciano’s proj­ect highlighted the importance of food vending as an economic opportunity for new immigrants, the ways in which food vendors contribute to the quality of ­human interaction on the city streets, and the hardships that vendors face on an almost daily basis battling the city bureaucracy. It was literally food for thought. With this in mind, the following year qma began a relationship with Street Vendors Proj­ect, an organ­ization with more than 750 active members who are working together Q u e e n s M u s e u m i n C o r o n a a n d B e y o n d   •  3 3 1

to create a vendors’ movement against nyc’s “quality of life” crackdown, which includes aggressive ticketing, banning of certain locations due to complaints by business groups, and denial of permits. In 2009 we hosted their popu­lar annual fundraiser, the Vendy Awards, where the city’s top food vendors compete for coveted titles, while si­mul­ta­neously raising awareness about street vendor issues. Around a thousand p ­ eople showed up and sampled the wares of a dozen of the city’s top food carts. During that event, qma’s Immigrants and Parks Fellow Gabriel Roldós met Cesar Fuentes, coordinator of the Red Hook Food Vendors Committee (rhfvc), a co­ali­tion of Latin American artisanal food vendors that has been hosting a weekend open-­air market for over thirty years in a corner of Red Hook Park soccer fields, a remote and historic corner of Brooklyn. As gentrification has made Red Hook more of a destination, the weekend market at the ball fields became an instant hit among foodies citywide who trekked out for the most au­then­tic pupusas, huaraches, and ceviches. The New York City Department of Health and the Parks Department, which for years had turned a blind eye to the activities in the park, suddenly became very interested in making sure all of the vendors’ permits ­were in order. Visibility and popu­lar success threatened the vendors. A ­ fter the vendors or­ga­nized and rallied with the support of the public and local politicians, they came to a temporary agreement that would allow them to continue operating, but only if they complied with city codes that limited vending to food trucks on the perimeter of the park. In response, the rhfvc enlisted the ser­vices of Architecture for Humanity of New York to help solicit designs for an open-­air marketplace.9 Fuentes and the rhfvc enlisted the help of Queens Museum of Art to or­ga­nize a public exhibition to showcase the designs and or­ga­nize a review pro­cess to help select a final design. We convened a roundtable including representatives from relevant city agencies, Pratt Center for Community Development, Proj­ect for Public Spaces, the Street Vendors Proj­ect, New York Immigration Co­ali­ tion, elected officials, and other stakeholders and experts in place-­making, to choose the winning design and create a strategy to bring it to a­ ctual completion. The issues highlighted through Luciano’s proj­ect came to the forefront of the group’s discussion: how cultural marketplaces can help improve neighborhoods, spur local economic development, expand opportunities for immigrant vendors, and celebrate diversity through our public spaces. While I was accompanying Luciano as he was selling his piraguas outside the museum near the Unisphere, a gigantic steel globe built for the 1964 World’s Fair, we envisioned how wonderful it would be if all the 3 3 2   •  p r e r a n a r e d d y

currently unpermitted immigrant food vendors in the park ­were able to participate in an open-­air market encircling the Unisphere on weekends. Two years l­ater, I hope that if the Red Hook Food Vendors Marketplace is built, it ­will provide a framework for our dream to come true in Corona and other public locations in New York City as well. Part III: Tania Bruguera and Corona Studio Upon the completion of “Corona Plaza: Center of Everywhere,” we took some time to collect feedback from the community, collaborators, and artists. First, the proj­ects deemed most successful, both by community members and the artists themselves, ­were ­those by Spanish-­speaking artists. Feedback also indicated that real meaningful participation of the community in the proj­ects would necessitate longer residencies, with greater research and preparation time in par­tic­u­lar. Some artists wanted access to a dedicated physical space within Corona. Based on our reflective dialogue, we went back to the drawing board to develop the next generation of proj­ ects in Corona, “Taller Corona,” or “Corona Studio,” with support from the Rocke­fel­ler Foundation’s nyc Cultural Innovations Grant. Neither a traditional residency nor a commission, “Corona Studio” w ­ ill collect a roster of eight proposals from which two to four artists ­will be selected to participate in a project-­based residency, meant to unfold over the course of an entire year, based in and engaging with community partners in Corona. Si­mul­ta­neously, qma is developing a partnership with nearby Queens College to develop a master’s in fine arts program in social practice that would reach beyond the traditional space of the studio and directly into the public arena and everyday life. “Corona Studio” artists’ proj­ects would provide up-­close examples of social practice that students can experience and participate in directly. At the beginning of 2011, the first of ­these year-­long artist proj­ects began, in collaboration with the veteran public art organ­ization Creative Time. Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, who works primarily in what she terms “be­hav­ior art” (arte de conducta), per­for­mance, video, and installation, w ­ ill use “Corona Queens” as the launch point for a multiyear, multisite proj­ ect, “Immigrant Movement International.” Bruguera w ­ ill live and work in the neighborhood with a base of operations in a 1,500-­square-­foot studio/ event space on Roo­se­velt Ave­nue, just a few blocks from Corona Plaza. At the time of this writing, Bruguera was still in the research phase of her proj­ ect. With qma’s current community or­ga­nizer, Jose Serrano-­McClain, she is connecting to local elected officials, immigrant ser­vices and advocacy Q u e e n s M u s e u m i n C o r o n a a n d B e y o n d   •  3 3 3

organ­izations, immigrant law specialists, and leaders of vari­ous immigrant communities. As I write, her studio space is hosting a theater group composed of members of New Immigrant Community Empowerment. Bruguera’s work often concerns itself with power, as well as ­people’s participation in and re­sis­tance to it, and how be­hav­ior is the physical manifestation of ­these pro­cesses, made vis­i­ble through provocation of viewers and institutions alike. Often, the audience is also performing or part of the performative aspect of the piece, and as such is the coauthor. For example, her controversial work Tatlin’s Whisper #6 (Havana Version) (2009), literally set the stage for viewers at the Havana Biennial to stand at a podium and deliver one minute of “­free speech,” in an ironic quotation of a famous 1959 speech by Fidel Castro, complete with a trained white dove that actors in military garb would place on the speaker’s shoulder. The piece questioned both the idea that a chosen individual could represent the ­will of the ­people, and that an art proj­ect in a biennial could open up a libratory space. The Cuban authorities confiscated the artist’s official documentation of the forty-­five-­minute long event, but video taken by audiences on their mobile phones continues to circulate, further blurring the bound­aries of authorship and control, as well formal versus informal systems of discourse and critique. Bruguera’s initial questions include w ­ hether the avant-­garde in the realms of art and politics can actually meet. This is exactly the challenge that the museum has been attempting to address. Can a proj­ect si­mul­ta­ neously address aesthetics and concrete social goals? This is a constantly evolving pro­cess, one that must be responsive to shifting demographics, economic conditions, po­liti­cal ­will, unplanned crises, and a constantly unfolding definition of art. Unlike the confines of the gallery or a contracted set of artistic ser­vices rendered in nonmuseum spaces, engaging in complicated social relations in the “real world” involves a surrender of control over outcome as well as some amount of risk. However, if one is receptive, such proj­ects provide invaluable input in the context of a long-­term experiment in local knowledge production. I have ­here attempted to situate three artist proj­ects not only within the community context but also within a specific institutional context. Th ­ ese proj­ects exist within a triangular set of relational dynamics among the museum, the artists’ proj­ects, and audiences. As t­ hese examples have shown, participatory public artists often have an initial set of ideas, as well as aesthetic and discursive strategies that they would like to put together, and are often waiting for an appropriate context in which to implement 3 3 4   •  p r e r a n a r e d d y

them. Museums also have their own curatorial and social questions that motivate the commissioning of such proj­ects: the changing nature and utilization of museum spaces and extra-­museum spaces; the development of new species of artist residencies within museums as labs for investigation, mutual education, and dif­fer­ent modes of interaction; the changing understanding of the mission of museums and their responsibility to the cultural vitality and health of local communities; the visibility (or invisibility) of participatory art practices and their relationship to traditional gallery exhibitions and experiences; and the role of documentation, pre­ sen­ta­tion, and new digital and interactive technology in the life and dissemination of such emerging practices. At times the dialogues function solely among two of the three entities in the museum–­art proj­ect–­audience triangle, but at times ­there are temporary catalytic cir­cuits that alter each of the three entities (the points of the triangle) as well as the bidirectional relations between any two (the legs of the triangle). ­After the momentary interaction, artists continue their practice, proj­ects continue in dif­fer­ent forms and contexts, and new proj­ects emerge based on the skills and insights learned through their interactions with both the community collaborators and the museum. The community that participates in t­hose proj­ects might shift their perceptions about what art is and what roles it could play in social life, what types of personal transformations it could bring about in terms of self-­perception, new social interactions, and po­liti­cal possibilities. Speaking from the perspective of a museum employee who is deeply involved in t­ hese proj­ects, it has been transformative for our institutional culture, how curatorial and programming departments interact, what new sets of skills and backgrounds we find useful to bring to our staff, how new sets of unforeseeable partnerships and proj­ects develop as a result of the interactions initiated by participatory artists. It is difficult to even understand the impact of such proj­ects in the short term or to define the time frame and/or the set of p ­ eople or physical locations that are eventually the beneficiaries of such proj­ects. Consequently, exit interviews, final reports, surveys, and the like represent a very small slice of what takes place in a participatory art proj­ect, somewhat like a single frame in a serial scan of a longitudinal social pro­cess. Six years ­later, I am still discovering the legacy of Ponce’s initial proj­ect. Three years ­after Luciano’s proj­ect, we are still considering the role of street vendors in our park, and most likely some of the same collaborators and viewers I met then ­will participate in Bruguera’s proj­ect in the ­future, creating yet another dif­fer­ent and dynamic community nexus. Q u e e n s M u s e u m i n C o r o n a a n d B e y o n d   •  3 3 5

Notes 1 Demographic data used in this essay are based on information made available by the New York City Department of City Planning (http://­​ /­planning) based on 2000 census data in Queens Community Boards 3 and 4, as Corona straddles both. Special thanks are due to Arun Peter Lobo of the Population Division of the New York City Department of Planning for helping the qma to understand the demographic trends of Corona, and of Queens more generally. 2 A detailed account of Corona’s history and demographic shifts, as well as a focused study of quality of life ­factors in and around the area of Corona Plaza, can be found in the final report made by students at Department of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College, who undertook a two-­semester studio in the fall of 2003 and spring of 2004, supervised by Professors Tom Angotti and Lynn McCormick. The report is available for download at http://maxweber​ 3 Video documentation edited by Maria Teresa Ponce can be viewed on qma’s vimeo channel at 4 Taken from e-mail correspondence between the author and Maria Teresa Ponce in February 2011. 5 In addition to Ponce’s proj­ect, ltap youth participants collaborated with several artists, including Judith Sloan and Warren Lehrer, Pedro Lasch, and Chankika Svetvilas, on the topic of immigration. Brief descriptions of ­these collaborations can be found on qma’s Community Engagement blog: /working-​with-artists-on-reframing-discourse-on-immigrants/. 6 While I was an Asia Pacific Leadership Program fellow at the East-­West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 2010, I was fortunate enough to have been introduced to Peter Hershock, an educational specialist and phi­los­o­pher, whose writings on diversity beyond traditional notions of multiculturalism and its implication for equitable social change draw from such diverse sources as systems perspectives in ecol­ogy, as well as Buddhism. While I had not read his work as qma was developing its community engagement initiative in Corona, I found that what I was learning about diversity through Corona found resonance and lucid enunciation in his writings. His article “Higher Education, Globalization and the Critical Emergence of Diversity” contains many of the insights which he shared with me through group discussions, and it is available at http://www2​ 7 The quote comes directly from the artist’s statement on Shaun Leonardo’s website: 8 Taken from e-mail correspondence between the author and Miguel Luciano in February 2011. 3 3 6   •  p r e r a n a r e d d y

9 Information about the Red Hook Marketplace design competition and designs from the first two phases are available at fhttp://­afhny​.­org​/­news​/­news​.­php​?­id​ =­34. qma’s exhibition included 3D models of the final four winning designs, videos of which are available at qma’s YouTube channel:​ .com/queensmuseum#p/u. ­After the exhibition and stakeholders roundtable, the Red Hook Food Vendors Committee deci­ded to move forward with Mateo Pinto and Carolina Cisnero’s Food Fence/Field Fence design.

Q u e e n s M u s e u m i n C o r o n a a n d B e y o n d   •  3 3 7

This page intentionally left blank

Part VI Institutional Critique

In contrast with the more recognized, art-­historical concept of “institutional critique,” the work presented in this section is less focused on a symbolic or aesthetic analy­sis of power relations within art institutions, and more concerned with the methodology of community-­ specific ­collaborations. The “institutions” being critiqued ­here include civic or governmental organ­izations, artists’ spaces, and the disciplining confines of a prison. The four artists featured in this section view the perceptible framework of relationships between p ­ eople and institutions as an opportunity to reimagine and create new frames of understanding and association using a variety of tools—­both theoretical and practical. Th ­ ere are generally few aspects of t­ hese par­tic­u­lar institutions that mark them as “Latin American”; nevertheless, the methodologies t­ hese artists employ to tackle their respective issues speak to their unique context and social conditions. The proj­ect “Con la Salud si se Juega” (You Can Play with Your Health) took place between 2001 and 2002 in the La Plazoleta neighborhood of Caracas with the aim of promoting discussions in the barrio regarding the relationship between the La Plazoleta community, local public health agencies, and the institutions of art. An intensive series of workshops and per­ for­mances ­were carried out by psychologist Zurisaday Cordero, community

leader Victor Cardenas, and visual artist Juan Carlos Rodríguez. The essay included ­here, “The Tournament: Nodes of a Network Made of Undisciplined Knowledge,” written by Rodríguez, recounts one of the three central components of the proj­ect: a community-­driven ball game tournament that demonstrates the artists’ methodology for working within La Plazoleta. The La Linea collective, based primarily in Tijuana, has contributed a reflection on their 2008 collaborative proj­ect “El Proyecto de las Morras.” For months the group, composed of five w ­ omen artists and writers, orchestrated writing workshops at the ­Women’s Center for Rehabilitation El Mezón, in Tijuana. The intensive sessions involved w ­ omen of all ages and w ­ ere structured around collective reading, writing, and sharing, even ­under the glare of constant security surveillance. La Linea writes: “the purpose of the exercise is self-­knowledge, to have a solid foundation from which to start to write.”1 El Colectivo 2 from La Paz was initially formed by several young artists, writers, and social researchers, along with their professor, Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, an Aymara sociologist, historian, and activist, to create a writing journal in 2008. Having acquired a plot of land in 2010 in order to establish a new cultural center in La Paz, the group deci­ded to rebuild a crumbling adobe structure already on the site, and named the proj­ect “El Tambo Colectivx.” The space is a site for transdisciplinary workshops and creative programming. Cusicanqui speaks of awakening a “cellular memory” through manual ­labor and the physical learning that takes place through experimental forms of pedagogical work rooted in ancestral community knowledge—­a decolonizing proj­ect that puts into practice Aymara ritual and knowledge along with academic theory. The Mexico City–­based La Lleca Colectiva works within the prison communities of their sprawling city. In this essay, originally written in 2008, the collective describes three central aspects of their methodology when working in Mexico’s Centro de Readaptación Social Varonil Santa Martha Acatitla (ceresova). The center for social rehabilitation is located in Mexico City’s Iztapalapa, where the prison holds approximately 320 male youths between the ages of fourteen and seventeen. In this and other proj­ ects, the group discusses their methodological concerns, which include feminism and the critique of institutions and Mexican politics. In this collectively written essay, they share how they approach the institutional interfaces they must navigate, the inmates with whom they build relation3 4 0   •  P a r t V I

ships, and the discursive framing of their proj­ect as an intervention into public knowledge. Note 1​­ http://­elproyectodelasmorras​.­blogspot​.­com​/­2008​/­10​/­el​-­sbado​-­27​-­las​-­internas​ -­de​-­el​-m ­ ezn​.h ­ tml.

I n s t i t u t i o n a l C r i t i q u e   •  3 4 1

This page intentionally left blank

Lurawi, ­Doing


An Anarchist Experience—­Ch’ixi lxs colectiverxs

In August of 2010 we received a gift from the pacha. El Colectivo 2 was with the famed musician Gilkawara Céspedes, and we accompanied her in a heartfelt tribute to her ­mother, the ­great actress Matilde Garvía.1 This meeting also had another effect: Gilkawara deci­ded to share a plot of land with us that she had in the Tembladerani area of La Paz. The plot of land had strange characteristics, including a partially demolished adobe ­house, which barely remained standing among a pastureland of kikuyu, trash and debris. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was full of life, and flowers grew among the ruin and abandonment. From the beginning it was clear to us that this could be a beautiful space in which to do many ­things. We also understood that it was up to us to rebuild the h ­ ouse, and that this could be our opportunity to recuperate a relationship with the materiality of the space. We began, then, in August of 2010, with a fertile waxt’a that predicted unpre­ce­dented challenges and possibilities. ­Under the technical and moral tutelage of master builder Gabriel Alberto Ramos, we w ­ ere filled with strength and enthusiasm, and we threw ourselves into the task of becoming construction workers, with much naïveté and many dreams. We made pro­gress l­ittle by ­little in collective work encounters. First, cleaning the terrain and reclaiming the earth; ­later, leveling the ­house’s partially destroyed attic and rebuilding its foundations. A year ­later, upon finishing

the second floor, roofing the ­house, and planting fruit trees in the two gardens that we recovered from amid the debris and trash, we felt as though the earth was full of life, presenting us with food and flowers. Between the akhullis and toasts for the pacha, we have experienced more than a year of sarnaqawi. The space that we inhabit has been transformed and has transformed us. The dialogue with plants, birds, wood, stone, and clay has provided us with valuable lessons about the significance of writing, the subversive power of silence, and the maturation of language through the action and experience of “placing your body.”2 What is explained ­here in such a superficial manner has been a long and detailed pro­cess of small, sequential, quotidian events. H ­ ere we share with you a polyphonic, chaotic, and irreverent chronicle of every­thing that this pro­cess has meant to us. Th ­ ere are neither cutting-­edge nor missionary aspirations in ­these pages. It is only a tribute to the pacha, to life, and to the Tambo Colectivx, providing ourselves with the keys to an imaginary map on which we trace the complex journey of this new collectivizing realization. Th ­ ese pages are also a tribute to the city builders: ­those anonymous construction workers who do not sign their work and who ensure that every­thing that we inhabit is impregnated with their energy, their qamasa, and their love for the work. The master anarchist Jacinto Coarite, whose apprentice when he was young was our teacher Gabriel, has transmitted to us how practical teaching, patience, and a sense of humor continue to intermesh learning and generate a power­ful group force. Combining teaching with friendship, uniting memory with a detailed experience of the pres­ ent, we can say that the teachings of the “Mastroy”3 have in part turned us into a vital energy chain that transcends generations and eras and that ­will continue to give of itself in the ­future, in a qhipnayra logic that comes from the wisdom of our own bodies and the blood of our grand­fathers and grand­mothers. As “colectiverxs,” our experience in the Tambo has meant our maturation and growth as a group. By confronting the material, concrete, and tangible pro­cess of construction, we have learned to develop other tools and other modes of knowledge production. The acad­emy has distanced us so much from materiality that we forget about the gifts that it provides us. In our case, we believe that the princi­ple has to be the work ethic that we have been generating along the way. The detail, the rigor, and the commitment that manual work demands, the practical intelligence involved in each technical decision, in each movement or routine, are something like a secret, indescribable link between all of us. Jaime Sáenz translates 3 4 4   •  l x s c o l e c t i v e r x s

this experience into the perspective of a ch’ixi character, an individual of a thousand trades, just as much his as he is ours: You must be coming to the realization that we only learn with our hands, and ­because of this we know all kinds of trades. We are hunters, construction workers, and travelers, potters and stonemasons, and also warriors, and we are witches and miners, and we have discovered the veins of Totoral formed by the earth. And we also know how to plant, to sew, to spin cotton, to turn on a lathe, and to weave, and we raised up our h ­ ouses and sewed our clothes ­because we are Bolivians and we know how to work, and ­because of this we do not want any type of chemistry books in order to earn money.4 Curing Myself of Blindness and Forgetfulness,   by Marco Arnez Cuéllar Who builds the ­houses in which we live? Who fabricates the garments that clothe us? Who cultivates the food that we eat? Normally we do not ask ­these questions. I once thought that, perhaps, manual l­ abor was invisible. I think that the enjoyment of every­thing that we have within our reach invokes less and less frequently the hand of the artisan who made it pos­si­ ble and c­ auses the devaluation of the magic that this s­ ilent “act” converts into sculpted or ­shaped material. Midway through 2010, I regarded with a devoted smile—­I must admit my skepticism—­how each time the idea of having a cultural center for our activities emerged, it was elevated beyond our vision like a kite possessed by the wind that appeared to be out of our reach. At first I could not believe that anyone who we barely knew would give us a loan for such a magical space; I could not imagine where we would get the resources to raise up this h ­ ouse; but the worst of all is that I could not imagine how we could do it with our own hands. Half a year ­later, I realized that manual ­labor is not invisible, it is just the result of a selective blindness, aggravated by a stagnant memory, which says a lot. Perhaps, seduced by the comfort of the abusive consumption of that which is ephemeral and disposable, ­things appear to us as if by magic. We avoid the discomfort of thinking that the shoes we wear w ­ ere stitched together by a semi-­slave boy in Singapore or that the living ­labor that went into such and such a building ­will only gain importance if several tons of concrete bury a group of twenty laborers. But the comfort of the “lifestyle” that this system brings to us also plays with the memory, so much so that I had forgotten that my grand­father was a shoemaker and factory worker; L u r a w i , D o i n g   •  3 4 5

that the majority of the clothing I wore was fabricated by my grand­mother or ­mother; that I spent many years of my childhood playing with mud, clay, and stucco, fabricating my alasitas h ­ ouse;5 that I helped straighten out old nails, and I sometimes handed tools to a master mason while my ­family’s ­house was being built—­which was never completed. ­Today, in order to cure myself of the blindness and forgetfulness, I enjoy each moment of manual l­abor, beyond the operational demands, as a highly creative and constructive exercise. I enjoy learning the minutiae of masonry, but I enjoy even more the work ethic that Master Gabriel teaches us, his anecdotes, his never-­ending life stories, complicities, and his confidence. I can see physical ­labor as a potential liberator of the body. Someone told me that by building our ­house we ­were taking work away from a laborer, but the purpose of this undertaking is far from that. It is, above all, an ethical exercise: to understand the value of manual l­abor and to question ­whether we have sufficient moral standing to speak in the name of the laborer or farmer while we take refuge in our lifestyle, ­because we do not want to be the intellectuals that “think for the other” . . . ​ and we do not want to feel ashamed—or incapable in the least—of cultivating our food, building our ­house, or sewing our clothing. That Perpetual Pres­ent That Is the Tambo,   by Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui Still suffering from the ch’akhi ­after having presented the dissident cata­ logue Principio Potosí Reverso in Madrid in July of 2010, we underwent a few weeks of uncertainty and obstacles, during which time the meetings failed, debates stalemated, and every­thing appeared to fall apart. For me, a decisive moment in the transformation of that state was dancing “morenada” in the festival of Tata Santiago in Chicani, out of gratitude to the pacha for the gift that she had bestowed upon us: that lovely book that one can still reread ­today. This appeared to announce that a kacharpaya was still on its way for that year and a half of journeys through the outskirts of Lake Titicaca and the valleys of the old Larecaja, which allowed us to rethink Andean religiosity and the role of images in the colonization/decolonization of souls. ­After presenting the book, as the plane took off on a clear Madrid night, a lightning storm saw me off. It was as if Tata Santiago had applauded us for the work that strengthened us as a group: El Colectivo 2. But it was a dif­fer­ent lightning storm that marked a shift in my personal relationship with the Tambo. Up u ­ ntil then, I felt pretty useless, ­because I 3 4 6   •  l x s c o l e c t i v e r x s

only made the food and akhullikaba with “lxs compañerxs.”6 When Master Gabriel and “varixs colectiverxs” began to remove the debris and prepare the brackets for the buttresses—­a task that I felt was too difficult for me—­I discovered that the garage door, with several layers of deteriorated paint, could be scraped and sanded down in order to spray it with linseed oil and revive the wood. The glass pieces piled among the trash around the h ­ ouse ­were the ideal tool. L ­ ittle by ­little, my hands began to harden, at the cost of cuts and wounds that took a long time to heal. I looked for some leather gloves and spent three weeks dedicated to that experimental sanding. In the meantime, December’s gazolinazo7 ended up turning me into a vegetarian, and upon sharing my food with the group, the culinary ­labor became a creative and loving act, a way of contributing to the energy of the work, which helped the h ­ ouse grow day by day. Then the hail fell, preceded by a spectacular display of lightning and thunder, as if Tata Santiago had entered into a crazed dance. The work-­d ays intensified, more ­people began to come each day, and what appeared to be an endless proj­ ect began to seem more attainable. An im­mense mountain of pine tree branches covered the entire space of what would ­later become our Huerto Planetario (Planetary Garden). B ­ rother René8—­who had already given us a beautiful wisu—­brought a machete and saw, and the work that I undertook with ­these tools brought to my memory the Apolo experience in the ill-­fated year of 1971.9 ­Every day I perfected my skills and felt less useless; my hands no longer needed gloves, and the wounds ­were healing without my noticing. The group working consistently at the Tambo, whom we baptized as la pesada (the insufferable) also underwent a transformation. We began to think seriously about the design, about the necessity of saving material and recycling every­thing that was on the land. By then the idea of making a second floor and a mezzanine for the library in one of the rooms had emerged. One morning, Álvaro brought a drawing of the mezzanine, and an attic for the library. El Maestro brought two alternative proposals: a roof with two peaks or only one. I had also stayed up late imagining the ­house’s recycled win­dows. With the certainty propelled by action, I proved that it was pos­si­ble to make the lintels of all the win­dow frames with the thickest and straightest pine wood that we found, and predicted a complementary asymmetry that would ultimately result in symmetry. We also realized, around that time, that the ­house we ­were constructing looked like the book Principio Potosí Reverso and like the last issues of our magazine: L u r a w i , D o i n g   •   3 47

19.1.  ​Building el Tambo Colectivx. Courtesy of Marco Arnez Cuéllar.

it had a center/taypi that was like its stomach/puraka, an academic and rational right/kupi that would be called Cátedra Libre, and the creative and intuitive space of the left/chiqa, governed by the ideas of art/recycling/ multimedia. My next task was to put up fences for the garden space, which had previously been a trash dump full of debris and the filth of dogs. In the back part of the ­house, the team of volunteers from Wednesdays and Sundays had already cleaned, plowed, and fenced in a portion of terrain with sticks. With this model in mind, I had the idea of making portable fences that could be assembled and disassembled depending on when we expanded the garden adjacent to the western wall. That was a lesson in design, an introduction to aesthetics, and a discovery of ­those subjects that we call objects. I had to learn how to dialogue with the wood, how to receive its messages and establish a relationship of complicity with it during my construction of the fences. Adapting the design to the form of each stick—­ whether it had more curves or more straight lines—­and overcoming my aversion ­toward metals and pliers, I dedicated myself to combining the firmness of the wire ties with the beauty and curvature of the sticks with their dif­fer­ent lengths and thicknesses. By pragmatically realizing—­like Pasteur in his laboratory in Lille—­the relationship of coming and ­going 3 4 8   •  l x s c o l e c t i v e r x s

between my body, the wood, and the plants, we have all been transformed, and this transformation ­will still become qhiparu in that perpetual pres­ent that is for me the Tambo Colectivo.10 I Felt That It Was an Unattainable Undertaking,   by Mario Murillo Aliaga It must have been August 2010. Silvia and Gilkawara had mentioned a piece of land and a ­house in Tembladerani to us, where we arrived at midday to perform a waxt’a in order to ask permission of the environment and to say goodbye to Matilde. When I crossed through the entry­way, I was profoundly surprised. Up ahead, a destroyed h ­ ouse barely remained standing. It was surrounded by land full of trash and decay. I who, when it comes to physical ­things, am somewhat of an ass and full of false eagerness, felt immediately that it was an unattainable undertaking. Nevertheless, t­ here was something in the ceremony and the commitment of “lxs compañerxs” that made me realize that I could be wrong. The following Thursday I signed up as a volunteer. I found myself with Maestro Gabriel for the first time. He asked me to move a mountain of wood from one area to another. The piled-up pieces of wood formed an enormous structure. I began with enthusiasm and ­after fifteen minutes could go no further (my arms w ­ ere trembling, my chest was struggling for air), and I had not even accomplished one-­tenth of the task. I suffered in silence, thinking about every­thing that I still had ahead of me. It was then that I realized something that has been taking on more force as time has passed. Material work is something that must be done, yes or yes. It cannot wait. The material cannot be molded u ­ nless it is with true work. Modernity has made us believe that we are working, but in real­ity we are only playing office, screwing around in front of a computer while we think that what is truly impor­tant is ­behind the desk and not in the space that sustains us (be it rural or urban), where one dialogues with the earth so that it ­will continue to nourish us, or in the scaffolding, where one dialogues with the material so that it ­will continue to protect us. That is what I want to talk about: some of the vital teachings that this pro­cess of building the Tambo Colectivx has presented to us. More than cynicism or theoretical interpretation, I would like to talk about certain ­things that we have learned from ourselves when we have been able to see ourselves reflected in the material. About the gifts that this committed and gratifying physical ­labor has presented us with in the midst of friends and joint proj­ects. Modernity makes us negligent. I can dispose of L u r a w i , D o i n g   •  3 4 9

t­ hings anywhere ­because someone ­will take care of picking it up for me. I can dirty every­thing in my path b ­ ecause someone w ­ ill pick up the trash for me. The trick is money. We think that, since we are “paying” for something, we deserve that someone do the work for us (we ­don’t even realize the artificiality of that pro­cess, and we forget how difficult and trying real, everyday travel through this world is). Money, just as Georg Simmel states, transforms us, and also transforms our way of understanding real­ity. ­Because of this, preoccupied with the new con­temporary “god,” a large group of us have forgotten the importance of physical l­abor and only concentrate on the fantasies created by the market and in our strange form of interacting as a species.11 Within this frame of mind, with this group of friends, ­after over a year of molding the wood and the earth, recycling the refuse and resolving issues of design and aesthetics, we have learned several t­ hings collectively. Between long chores of weariness and happiness, accompanied by akhullis (“express” and “de rigeur”) and toasts with beer, we have come to a form of conscientization about how work can teach us many aspects of ourselves, of our group, and of the world. We have understood that a certain work ethic and rigor should be the beacons that guide our actions at all costs. Now that t­ here is ­little left to accomplish before the ­house is finished and we accompany our meals with the products that our garden provides us, ­there are few places where I feel as happy as I do when I converse with the material—­inexpertly and tentatively—in the Tambo Colectivx. Accompanied by wood, cement, earth, and vegetables, a group of ­people concentrates silently on its work. While some are high in the air, “tightrope walkers of the sun” (papirri), nailing enormous pieces of wood together in order to support the roof, ­others are bent over the earth, cleaning it and removing plastic bags, kikuyu, and debris. In the back, another group is sifting and preparing the earth that is returned to the garden, now ­free of trash. I hear the call of Maestro Gabriel summoning up an akhulli. We all stand up to come together again. What a plea­sure to live. I Like to Work with Joy, by Gabriel Alberto Ramos It has been a very beautiful experience, working like this, with university students. I feel content ­because they are learning; perhaps they have never in their life touched cement, clay, or stucco. So it’s very nice, ­isn’t it? This experience that I have had working with them. At the beginning I said, “maybe I ­will have to suffer a bit,” ­because being the assistant is something ­else, you know. Someone who is recently starting out is dif­fer­ent, so one must be patient, one must keep that in mind. Perhaps they have never 3 5 0   •  l x s c o l e c t i v e r x s

worked as construction workers, so they are learning, and I believe that we all pass through that phase, working. No one begins already knowing, no one w ­ ill come in saying, “I know how to do it that way.” Life itself teaches us with the same experiences we acquire. The errors we commit ­today teach us, so that tomorrow, with that knowledge, we do something better. Considering how much we have been able to advance, we are making pro­gress; the ­thing is to do it well, to make sure ­things are right, so that they last; we also need to be satisfied with the work we are ­doing. We pro­gress in direct correlation with what they are learning. They begin to understand and to enter into the rhythm of the maestro, and they already know. It is enough to know the maestro for three months to understand his character. A lot also depends on the maestro’s familiarity with each person’s character, how he/she reacts, how he/she works, what he/she likes, what he/she ­doesn’t like. The maestro should know this, he already knows them, he already knows what angers them, and he continues to know them. I like to work with joy. That is a rhythm that I have always had in my previous jobs with my assistants. Take breaks. I ­don’t like to overexert them—­even when I work alone I still always take a break; it also comforts you ­because what would you do working at that nonstop pace? You would get sick. And you d ­ on’t enjoy it as much. Construction is a very good trade, it is the best when they recognize you, when you have made a h ­ ouse and you have turned it over to the owner. They make a ch’alla and you are the principal actor. The boss says, “he has made the ­house for me,” and then your chest swells with pride. If you have done well your chest swells, but if you have not done well, the best ­thing is that you dis­appear ­because every­ one ­will watch you and you’ll be screwed. Another ­thing: one does not do construction just for the money, but rather b ­ ecause you enjoy the work, you see how ­things begin to shape up, how the proj­ect takes on a certain beauty, or in other words, you see the daily pro­gress and it motivates you, you plan and you arrive at work with that anxiousness. It is a joy. I have occasionally worked ­under contract; money h ­ asn’t mattered to me; it has been out of pride, in order to demonstrate how beautiful it can turn out. Sometimes, even the owner says, “just do it this way.” However, I believe that one always needs to try to do ­things well, that is to say, how it has to be. In the end only the flaws stand out. They appear, they stick out, and you look bad. “I should have taken a ­little more time,” you say. For me El Colectivo 2 has demonstrated to me the possibility of being together. It is always pos­si­ble, and when ­people are conscious, ­there are no barriers that prohibit us from having a conversation or from getting to L u r a w i , D o i n g   •  3 5 1

know each other. And it is even better if p ­ eople have dif­fer­ent ideas; I can throw out a somewhat “Indianist” idea and ­others can propose dif­fer­ent ideas. Uniting ­these ideas is beautiful. It is the truth. Friendship is what I most remember about this place. The boys and the girls. It is ­because of this that I say: “When I pass by ­here, I ­will come over to greet them.” It has to end someday; it is g­ oing to end, it ­will be beautiful, but one must not forget the friendship one has formed, what we have done with every­one. No ­matter how many times they meet me in the street, ­there ­will always be that friendship; I think that is the most impor­tant ­thing, to form a bond. ­Because of this, I feel like I am part of this Colectivo. A Break in the Work to Perform a Waxt’a,   by Beatriz Chambilla Mamani On March 31, 2011, we called a halt to the construction activities of the Tambo, with the purpose of nourishing the relationships between “los colectiverxs” and the communities of the pacha (achachilas and awichas). In order to realize our hopes, our individual and collective goals, we went to visit the Achachila de Sisasani. This is where the yatiris Roberto Guerrero and Francisca Paye also summoned the Achachila Baldor, who is said to protect and orient scholars and university students in the realization of their academic tasks. We set off in a minibus from the city of El Alto, at approximately 9:45 in the morning; it was René, Mario, Marco, Álvaro, Bea, Meche, Silvia, ­ other Doña Diego, Vivi, Horacio, the yatiris Roberto, Francisca, and her m María. We ­were among the jiliris (elders) and sullkas (minors), chachas (men) and warmis (­women), yatichiris (Silvia, Roberto, and Pancha, maestros in their respective fields) and yatiqiris (students). During the three-­hour trip, ­after a ch’alla with alcohol and “coquita” dedicated to the alcachilas and awichas of the road, animated conversations, jokes, proj­ects, ideas, commentaries on readings, and critiques of movies began to form in the minibus—­there was even a moment when a comrade read aloud a text of Jaime Sáenz to us. This is how I learned a l­ittle more about “lxs colectiverxs.” For example, I discovered that Mario is a docent in vari­ous universities and that Álvaro’s great-­grandfather is from a community next to Sotalaya (on the shores of Lake Titicaca), which is why when we passed by ­there, he sighed and remembered his childhood with his great-­ grandfather. We made this journey accompanied by a pijchu of coca, and ­every once in a while we took sips of a delicious chichi from Cochabamba; which is to say, nothing was missing! 3 5 2   •  l x s c o l e c t i v e r x s

While my ears enjoyed the conversations, my eyes delighted in the view of the plains full of yellow flowers, interspersed between fields of potatoes, beans, ulluco, quinoa, and lupin, at the foot of the imposing Andes mountain range and Lake Titicaca, whose sacred name is Mama Q’uta. When we fi­nally arrived at Sisasani field, we loaded up with our backpacks, firewood, beer, and food and headed for the peak of the Jach’a Apachita Sisasani. The fresh breeze of the lake embraced us, as if it ­were giving us a welcoming hug. L ­ ittle by ­little, the rest of “lxs colectiverxs” arrived. But the most in­ter­est­ing moment was the arrival of the chauffeur of the minibus, who kneeled down with a ­little ­bottle of alcohol and “coquita” in his hand, making a cross in the dirt and greeting the altar, ch´alló, invoking the Jach’a Apachita and Mama O’ucha several times. He did this in the direction of two stony mountains that are now called Sleeping Dragon (Dragón Dormido; in Ramos Gavilán’s chronicle it is called Killima Hill) and his partner, and to some im­mense rocks in the form of toads and snakes. He then stood up and said to us, jallalla, jallalla! With this attitude he demonstrated, in accordance with Andean belief, that every­thing that exists in nature and the cosmos is sacred; it is only conceived of in mutual interrelation, and b ­ ecause of this it is given a respectful treatment full of affection for t­ hese beings, which are considered achachilas and awichas (grand­fathers and grand­mothers in ritual language). We sat down within a circle of rocks that the last visitors had possibly left ­there; it was as if Jach’a Apachita had been awaiting us with open seats so that we could prepare our offering to her. In an awayu the yatiris Roberto and Francisca began to prepare the first dessert ­table, ch’allaron with alcohol, over the white paper used as the base of the offering. The sprinkled alcohol formed a series of motifs on the paper that Don Roberto interpreted as the figure of a dragon. I saw clearly that it was very similar to the dragons that ­were along the lakeshore; it seemed then that they showed themselves and they accompanied us. With all of this, I corroborated that in the Aymara view every­thing is equal, every­thing is clear, vis­ i­ble, and evident: Jach’a Apachita and Mama O’ucha, the Dragon and his partner, the lake and the mountain range. Farther ahead, in the central area where the waxt’a was being prepared, we yatiqiris put down our papers: indexes and titles of the ­theses and papers we ­were writing. “Lxs colectiverxs” who ­were absent had also sent us theirs, so that at the moment of praying for their successful completion, nothing was missing. Our minds combined our individual desires with the collective ones (concluding the t­ heses, finishing the Tambo, protection for L u r a w i , D o i n g   •  3 5 3

Maestro Gabriel), to the slow rhythm of the prayers, throwing back the sweets and opening the nuts, akhullikando, and sprinkling beer and alcohol. Don Roberto also intervened for the driver Don Simón, asking that he not face any mobility prob­lems, while the chauffeur himself, without knowing us, also prayed for us and our studies. In this moment that feeling of totality that manifests itself through a sense of collectivity stood out: we ­were all brethren, we felt complete, nothing was missing! ­After preparing the second dessert t­able, and a­ fter holding the first paper-­covered ­table to our chests for a few seconds, to transfer our fervent prayers and desires, we approached the altar. We ­women positioned ourselves on the left, alongside Doña Pancha, and the men ­were on the right with Don Roberto. Then the yatichiri Silvia and the yatiqiri René collected the offerings in the name of all of “lxs colectiverxs,” to invoke the mountains and the lake. Then, as Jach’a Apachita de Sisasani served herself the ritual food that we had offered her, we retired from the space and sat down in a circle to eat a delicious apthapi, made up of foods from the three ecological levels (“yungas,” valleys, and the high Andean Plateau). Don Roberto ate the first course before anyone ­else in order to invoke ­those who are absent and t­ hose who cannot eat, and giving thanks, he asked permission for us all to serve ourselves. With this we learned that the purpose of the apthapi is not only to satisfy the need of hunger; it is also retribution, re­spect, and responsibility of all for the sacred environment. During the course of the apthapi we got to know the chauffeur Don Simón a ­little better. He told us that he was the leader of the community near the lake. This helped us understand his generous attitude t­ oward us, and his knowledge of the prayers and protocols of the waxt’as to the Andean deities. This is due to the fact that being a community authority brings with it the responsibility of protecting and watching out for the balanced coexistence of ­people, nature, and deities, thus guaranteeing the continuity of life. During the preparation of the t­ ables, he invoked the achchilas in Aymara in a low voice and asked for them to protect us, for us to finish our t­ heses, and with much re­spect he addressed Don Roberto, calling him amawta. How beautiful it was to hear ­these words from a stranger! With his words and attitude, Don Simón taught us a ­little more about what the jiwasa (we) is, that is to say, to live and coexist in community, which for us is the experience of El Colectivo 2. At dusk we deci­ded to pick up the nylon bags, soda and wine b ­ ottles, and all of the trash that the previous visitors had left, and before begin3 5 4   •  l x s c o l e c t i v e r x s

ning our return trip, we also said goodbye to the companions of the Jach’a Apachita: the enormous toads and snakes that appear in Ramos Gavilán’s seventeenth-­century chronicle, which he considered “monstrous” rocks and objects of idolatry. The fact that his cult is alive to this day is something magical, b ­ ecause of this I say and I repeat: in the Jach’a Apachita of Sissani, nothing was missing! Is It Pos­si­ble That the Body Has a Memory? by Julio Cesar Mita The day that I arrived at the Tambo Colectivo was a Sunday a long time ago, I d ­ on’t remember the exact day or month . . . ​this tends to happen to me frequently. I think that the most impor­tant ­thing to remember is to capture the prolific moments that take you back to other moments outside of time, where the pres­ent and the past fade to become nothing, or perhaps they become every­thing. Upon arriving at the Tambo I felt like it could be the appropriate place to make use of that name. The tambo was usually that place of refuge where one could rest and stock up on supplies in order to continue walking. I feel like that being ­there, I feel like I can rest from this world . . . ​my world filled with papers and never-­ending errands. I also feel that I supply myself with memories and that I am si­mul­ ta­neously challenging the body’s memory. In the ­middle of my first task, which was to make a lintel out of a trunk recycled from our old tree for the win­dow of what w ­ ill be our audiovisual room, I began to test my body’s remembrances, the memory of my body. But is it pos­si­ble that the body has a memory? In this instant in which we are trying to create a collective self-­portrait in the ­middle of laboring over the “casa-­tambo,” where many of us are putting our work and life ethic to the test, how does one avoid separating manual l­abor from “intellectual” ­labor, or hierarchizing it? . . . ​I asked myself, what is the solution to uniting ­these three postulates? I think that I have found the partial answer. We should only redefine our viewpoint, extending a dialogue between the “­things” and the “authorship” of ­these t­ hings. This also entails looking at ourselves and asking ourselves: What are we authors of?12 What did we do in our walking-­wandering through life? And from t­ here, we must see the living work and the mother-­nature that surrounds us, and we must be conscious of it. As a result, I address this piece of writing to every­thing that can re­unite oneself, that can reflect with its hands: How are t­ hings ­going ­today? To what point have we hierarchized our work above that of ­others, and how L u r a w i , D o i n g   •  3 5 5

have we erased (or distanced) the authorship of t­ hings?13 (Authorship that is mainly derived from nature, ­because the ­human being depends on it and not the other way around: an Aymara premise.) B ­ ecause in real­ity we all think and do; ­because of this the ­union of the postulates also implies a question of horizontality and of sharing knowledge among ­humans and a re­spect ­toward nature. But the reunion also introduces possibilities of conflict, of drifting in your d ­ oing and your speech, of constant contradictions between awareness of and practice t­ oward the ­future. . . . ​But the hand knows! That is, the body’s memory knows. The manual memory of a construction maestro, of a female weaver, of a locksmith, or a q’ipirapita can speak directly to you in your ear. It depends on how willing you are to listen to your body and to know of that of ­others. This also passes through a double postulate of dérives, reunions, and knowledge. Reuniting oneself with the body-­memory also characterizes “the traces of movement” in certain circles of life, like myself with masonry. This is why I am not authorized to speak about the construction of the casa-­ tambo, but the memory is ­there and my body carries it, just like your own story. . . . ​When I was about to finish the wood lintel, I looked at my hands carefully ­because they had been bothering me throughout the proj­ect—­ they ­were blistered. A long time ago, when I was in military ser­vice in the barracks, an official gave us the order to cut down a tree with a machete, and I also got blisters then. Thus, when I made the lintel out of pine for a win­dow in the Tambo and I got t­ hose blisters I already had the memory of them inscribed in my flesh: my body remembered them, they w ­ ere a part of my history. The body is a map of our memories where our history and way of life is written, branded with fire. The body’s exercise, training, and flexibility help us to move in dif­f er­ent worlds, but this knowledge of the body is a constant learning of predispositions, enclosures, and sensitivities. To open ourselves and to inscribe in our body the knowledge that does not pass through the scientific canons of power; to learn from the construction maestros, the locksmiths, the mechanics, cooks, porters, to learn from our ­mother nature, could save us from thinking that every­thing is reduced to relationships with objects (fetishes) and to bring them into a plane of subjects. Maestro Gabriel often says work makes you love; the truth is that work and a sense of life would become impoverished if someone like Maestro Gabriel did not pres­ent it to you in ­those terms. 3 5 6   •  l x s c o l e c t i v e r x s

Beyond the Cartesian Binary, by Violeta Montellano Loredo To think is something beautiful, but when theory does not lead to action, it makes no sense. Theories without a body are dead words. “Faith without action is a lie,” Susy Wu said about Taoism while she was living in Ec­ua­dor. Out of the need to abandon theory without action, I have made some decisions in my body related to the consumption of certain foods and products from the market. Since I have returned to La Paz, the Tambo has been a “gift from the pacha,” as we say among “lxs colectiverxs.” We begin from our own bodies in order to carry out a micropolitics that gives meaning to our thinking. Of course, getting involved in the construction of a h ­ ouse has frightened me a ­little, ­because I was coming straight from the writing desk. Maestro Gabriel and “lxs colectiverxs” who had already started the work of recycling a ­house had the patience to explain to me the simplest of ­things related to the use of tools. And at some point I realized my own “machismo” when I expected that a male coworker would do ­things for me. As such, one begins questioning how far thought can take us and how far we can take ­things by taking action. ­Little by ­little both men and ­women have taken on certain tasks at the Tambo. We ­women have become interested in working with wood and in the garden. When I arrived at the Tambo in January, what is now our Huerto Planetario (Planetary Garden) was a mountain of kikuyu whose roots had emerged amid a mountain of debris: blocks of cement, bricks, trash of all types, and shit. A piece of land that functioned for more than twenty years as a trash dump; at a certain point it seemed impossible to clean. During that period I found all kinds of objects: nails, packaging for products that h ­ aven’t been on the market for years, a chess piece, a black plastic pistol, a green toothbrush, a box of condoms, pill b ­ ottles for vari­ous medi­cations, a shoe insole, fabric, stockings, plastic bags of all colors and sizes, batteries and more batteries . . . ​I have found so many ­things. With all of ­these objects we ­were able to create a history of the ­people who had passed through ­there, their lifestyle and their attitude ­toward the land. As a microcosm, this makes me think about my own daily waste, that of our city and the world. In thinking about the garden as a microcosm, I love sensing that the color and smell of the land is changing, its humidity and its freshness emerging out of the depth of the earth that we turned over. A part of the garden now produces vegetables L u r a w i , D o i n g   •  3 5 7

19.2.  ​Building el Tambo Colectivx. Courtesy of Marco Arnez Cuéllar.

from which we nourish ourselves, as if we w ­ ere collaborating in an entire cycle of rebirth. Even with the uselessness and the learning of our hands, work has every­thing to do with the act of touching the increasingly clean earth and thinking that it breathes, as we say in the garden. Out of this piece of Huerto Planetario, as some Mexicans who passed through ­there baptized it, our micropolitics, our individual dream, has become collective. In this way we defy the hegemony of the Cartesian binary that has educated us to divide the body from the mind, and we are one. More Than a “­Thing,” Trash Is a Way of Seeing ­Things,   by Diego Loayza It must have been two or three days a­ fter the Tōhoku earthquake of March 11, 2011, a date that Japan ­will remember as another massive tragedy that it was forced to endure as a nation. I saw a news story on the bbc channel where a reporter was standing in front of one of the zones affected by the tsunami. The reporter said, in histrionic British En­glish, that what we had before our eyes was what remained ­after the catastrophe, and then he emphasized the following word: “nothing.” Nothing had remained, according to him. I sat in front of the tele­vi­sion thinking that the reporter was evading the issue: the best ­thing for ­those inhabitants 3 5 8   •  l x s c o l e c t i v e r x s

would be for nothing to be left. Believe me: we are so blinded that we think that all of this debris is the same ­thing as nothing, and that is very false. “Nothing” would remain if a Sioux town or an African bushman community was shaken by an earthquake; the survivors would begin again from zero, starting from nothing. The case of Japan seems very dif­fer­ent to me. What the bbc reporter had ­behind him was not nothing; it was, more precisely, a mountain of trash. In that moment I thought that, as a civilization, modernity would leave a very messy legacy. Contrary to the Tiwanaku, the Mayas and the Incas, the Egyptians and Rome, contrary to the ­great Chinese dynasties or the Classic Greeks, the globalized world ­will leave a planet of trash as its legacy. Trash of ­every type, diabolically intermingled and of an implacable re­sis­tance, keeps accumulating, like throwing ­water on a drowning planet. ­Because in the end, what is trash? Trash is a m ­ ental concept more than anything, and just like any symbolic scheme, it materializes. Trash is a concept that is born out of the idea that nature can be used and that it can be trashed, that it can be bought and then discarded. Trash is a necessity of the modern worldview that implies the demystification of nature and the commodification of life. Without that worldview, without t­ hose schemes, trash ceases to exist. As I was turning ­these ideas around in my head, I met El Colectivo 2, a group whose proj­ect at the time was the construction and opening of a cultural center. ­There is nothing new in that; ­today four out of ­every three collectives aim to construct a cultural center. However, something about this specific case appealed to me in a special way. The aforementioned cultural center was being built by the members’ own hands using the materials they ­were recycling from a doubly demolished ­house that, like any uninhabited space of our beloved metropolis, had turned into a trash dump. It was precisely my encounter with that group that had shown that trash, more than a “­thing,” is a way of seeing t­ hings. Trash is negligence and a lack of attention t­ oward the use of t­ hings; it is the consequence of a phallocentric and warlike vision against nature and against the idea of material as the carrier of sacred or consecrated senses. Once sifted, the earth from which we are extracting beans, potatoes, radishes, and orchids ­today has been restored and separated from every­thing that was, before, trash. In the case of a planetary catastrophe, where the big metropolises ­will remain like t­hose ominous Japa­nese spaces, the f­uture inhabitants would be forced to follow the steps of this collective: instead of transforming what is not trash into trash, they w ­ ill have to proceed in the opposite L u r a w i , D o i n g   •  3 5 9

direction: transform trash into its opposite, that which does not have a name, or should we simply say: t­ hings, ­houses, bricks, earth, bags, containers, clothing . . . ​in the end, t­ hings. A Plurality of Events Worthy of Naming, by Walter Rocha Aguilar If I breathe deeply, if I take a break, if I take a l­ittle time to remember and reflect about the experiences that I have lived in the “Tambo Colectivo,” my mind throws out an endless series of images and truly extraordinary moments. I remember how the possibility of counting on a space where we could realize our activities spread joyfully among us. And I remember how, assisted by ­people nearby and ­others from farther away, we localized this magic place in the town of Tembladerani, near the headquarters of our group’s emblem: the old bus called Colectivo 2. Thus we arrived at our first workdays, around the ­middle of 2010, which we dedicated entirely to cleaning and recycling. At the back end of the plot of land, ­there was a small dwelling, so eroded by the passage of time and the weather that it was near the point of disintegration. In ­these initial visits we made decisions about how we would administer the space. Guided by Maestro Gabriel, we inspected the construction installations meticulously in order to figure out what we could rescue, thus giving new life to this site. ­There are many events worth naming during our workdays; the rituals we performed, the visits of dif­fer­ent friends from dif­fer­ent countries who came to help us out of complete selflessness, the breaks we took to akhullikar, the kitchen rotations and the diversity of food and drinks that we consumed, our chats, the luck that we had to suffer only minor accidents that became fun anecdotes, and our eve­ning gatherings. All of ­these events combine with the construction work, to provide the space we call Tambo Colectivx with an identity, a place that reveals to us the importance of using one’s hands to create, where each workday is an opportunity to create ties of ­brother and sisterhood between “colectiverxs.” A Day in the Tambo, by Mijael Rolando Pinaya Pérez One Sunday last year I found out that a group of friends, “colectiverxs,” was ­going to meet up on Jaime Zudañez Ave­nue to initiate the weekend workdays. ­These days ­were insufficient to make noticeable pro­gress, since the rainy season threatened the adobe construction. It is b ­ ecause of this 3 6 0   •  l x s c o l e c t i v e r x s

that Maestro Gabriel Ramos Ramírez sought two full-­time assistants for the work, and upon assembling the group deci­ded that we would incorporate Álvaro and his ­brother as ayucos (assistants). For an assistant, the day begins at 6:00 in the morning, carry­ing out his/her chores in the ­house. Minutes ­later, he/she heads to work, and with their work clothes already on, they get ready for the akhulli de rigueur. ­Today they are working on cutting the trusses for the skylights for the ­future library. The work goes on, and you can hear voices: “pass me the hammer,” “mea­sure the laths,” “one of you, help me with the ladder,” “where are the nails?” e­ tc. The sun was on them, half the workday had gone by, lunchtime arrived, and every­one headed to the ­little room; it was our ­Sister Silvia’s turn to cook. As they served themselves, the usual question came up in our conversation: “Maestro, when are we roofing?” A few tired glances and silence are the only response. A ­ fter a short break, the work continues. The memory of the beginning of the proj­ect remains in their mind: chopping, digging, digging, and more digging where the brackets, buttresses, and cement foundations are now; brick a­ fter brick, the partition, in order to finish the walls. ­Today they can admire the results of the completed building phase, and the day they have waited for so long ­will arrive shortly. One can feel the fatigue, the laughter, the chatter, and the playful insults that are part of the workdays, between the hammering, between the sounds of the handsaw and the drill, the day comes to a close, yet another day that I witness the Tambo. The Tension Is Somehow Almost Imperceptible, by Álvaro Pinaya I find it so hard to write something about my experience in the building of the Tambo Colextivx. I would like to refer to the signs, the wounds that my inexperience left me with, but t­hose are already part of my body. I ­will therefore speak about how the construction of the Tambo allowed for both of us, paradoxically, to build ourselves. I learned from the entire pro­ cess. The tension is somehow almost imperceptible; perhaps I did not want to see it, but it played an impor­tant role. On the one hand, our commitment to completing the work on the roof; on the other hand, the complicity and the consequence that our ­labor began to articulate in the entire group (sometimes alone, other times accompanied, but without being understood). Who knows what effect this combination has? Even if you ­were ­here, you would not easily understand the sacrifice that construction requires. L u r a w i , D o i n g   •  3 6 1

I Think They Have Made a Bet So That I ­Won’t   Put the Door In, by René Pucho Alejo ­Sister Lucia guided the construction of the ecofriendly bathroom. All of the Tambo’s colectiveros and colectiveras worked for a day or a half day to help with the completion of the bathroom, which is ecofriendly ­because it ­doesn’t use ­water. To build it we recycled materials that ­were not in use, like wood, beams, wire (mesh) fences, beer ­bottles. We sorted the debris from the dirt and S­ ister Silvia prepared the clay with an infusion made out of prickly pear stalk, which turned into a very strong cement. In order to form the foundation of this bathroom, we dug down thirty centimeters. And in order to enclose it, we used planks, corrugated metal, cans, and beams, into which we deposited rocks, b ­ ottles, and then the prepared cement with sand. ­After finishing, something happened to me related to the door, which at first did not fit well. I took it off to make some changes, and I put in a lath of thin wood. I was making space for the hinge, but that day had been Maestro Gabriel’s birthday, so we deci­ded to celebrate it with all of the “colectiverxs.” We toasted with some very good beer since it was a very special day, which is why I did not put the door in that day. It remained unfinished. The next week I arrived at the Tambo in the after­noon with the objective of putting in the door. When I arrived, they had been working on the roof with Maestro Gabriel, Álvaro, Marco, Nicolás, and the ­sisters w ­ ere also ­there, or the “international reinforcements,” as we called them jokingly, ­Sister Molly (from the United States), and S­ ister Julia (from Switzerland). In the akhulliku, Maestro Gabriel told me jokingly, “young René, pick up that door now, I d ­ on’t think you ­will put it in ­today,” and I replied: “Maestro, I am g­ oing to put the door in.” A ­ fter the akhulli I came back to continue with the work. However, ­after a short time, they called me to toast the arrival of the ­sisters Molly and Julia. It was Julia’s birthday also, and ­because of ­those special circumstances I was once again unable to put the door in that Monday after­noon. I arrived the next week and went to put the door in, saying, “Yes, this after­noon I w ­ ill put the door for the dry bathroom in.” I had been dreaming about it all week, so I was feeling a ­little worried. I said to myself: “The ­sisters must be complaining, saying that René cannot put the door in.” Upon my arrival that after­noon, Master Gabriel, Álvaro, and Marco told me, smiling: “We ­don’t think you ­will put the door in this after­noon,” and I told them jokingly: “I think that you have made a bet that I ­won’t put the 3 6 2   •  l x s c o l e c t i v e r x s

door in,” and they laughed. This was b ­ ecause that Thursday after­noon they had finished roofing the h ­ ouse. Very enthusiastically, we collected change in order to buy some very good beer to toast the roof that all of the “colectiverxs” had waited and longed for. It was for this reason that I did not put the door in once again that after­noon. That Sunday, to celebrate the roof of the Tambo Colectivx h ­ ouse, I arrived very excited to install the door to this ecofriendly bathroom. That morning b ­ rother Mario, ­Brother David, and ­Brother Julio César gave me a hand; with them we fi­nally put the door in. For me, it is an incredible anecdote; you could say that ­there is a connection between the Tambo Colectivo ­house and the ecofriendly bathroom, since the door was put in place just in time for the cele­bration of the roofing of the Tambo ­house, during which it became clear that the Pachamama had prepared a very special day for us all. The most impressive t­ hing for me is the work accomplished in the Tambo Colectivo on Sundays. They are voluntary jobs, where we also share some apthapis and akhullikus among all of “lxs colectiverxs” and visitors. It is ­there that I see all of the energy and affection that Maestro Gabriel, ­Sister Silvia, and the rest of us have for the Tambo Colectivo, building our h ­ ouse and transforming it slowly into a cultural space open to the ­people. Glossary Achachilas

Grandparents. Andean deities from the mountains. They are considered to be the communities’ ancestors.

Akhulli, Akhullikar

Act of chewing on coca leaves in a group or in a ceremonial manner.


A community meal to which all of the diners or guests contribute Andean products that are at their disposal.


Grand­mothers. Female deities who can inhabit the hills, lakes, or mines.


Hangover. Corporeal discomfort ­after festive days.


A sprinkling of alcohol and coca that is carried out to celebrate the acquisition of a good or the culmination of a job.


Gray. A color composed of blobs of white and black that are mixed together. A form of mestizaje that acknowledges the indigenous traces in that subjectivity.

L u r a w i , D o i n g   •  3 6 3

Gasolinazo de Diciembre

In December of 2010, the government of Evo Morales declared an almost 100 ­percent increase in the price of gasoline. Massive public protests forced him to revoke the decision a few days ­later, but since then disillusionment appears to have replaced the fervent support that his leadership had received previously.

Jach’a Apachita Sisasani

A hill in proximity to the town of Carabuco where ritual offerings are performed.


The continuation of a holiday in the days following its official date(s) of cele­bration.


A place or site of work.


Apocopation of Pachamama, Mother Earth, the deity of the underworld.


A ball of coca that a person keeps in his or her mouth.


Vital force or energy.


Further ahead, in the ­future.


Literally, future-­past; refers to the revitalization and recentering of the past and its projection ­toward the ­future through the acts of the pres­ent.


Loader or porter. A trade usually carried out by rural mi­grants in urban markets.


To walk or to wander. It refers to the paths or roads traveled, and meta­phor­ically to life.


An ancient space used by indigenous communities as a market and for lodging in cities and along the roads.

Tata Santiago

The Apostle Santiago, who is usually represented as mounted on a white ­horse that is trampling the figure of a Moor. ­There are hundreds of churches and chapels dedicated to his worship, since he is considered the patron of hail and lightning.


An offering made to the deities of the hills and to the Pachamama, made up of sweets, seeds, coca, and other ritual ingredients.

3 6 4   •  l x s c o l e c t i v e r x s


Andean foot plow of pre-­Hispanic origin.


Ritual specialist.

Notes The term colectiverxs refers to the members of the Tambo Colectivo in a collective, gender-­neutral manner by not relying on the masculine -­o or feminine -­a. The use of “x” emphasized the irrelevance of gender to the identity and unity of the group. Any words employing the gender-­neutral “x” w ­ ill be left in their original Spanish to convey the meaning ­behind it. 1 This tribute is annexed to issue No. 4 of the magazine El Colectivo 2 (August 2010), and is titled: “Sumaj Qhaniri Chuyma Manqharu: Tú que iluminas el fondo oscuro del corazón.” 2 The translation of poner el cuerpo refers to the idea that one must learn ­things more directly, through action. 3 A term of re­spect and endearment we, “los colectiverxs,” use to refer to teacher Gabriel. 4 Jaime Sáenz, Los papeles de Narciso Lima Achá. 5 Alasitas is an Aymara festival of abundance where crafts are created in miniature. 6 The comrades. 7 The gasolinazo was a dramatic increase in gasoline prices provoked by the government’s cancellation of fuel subsidies on December 26, 2010. Five days l­ ater, the government was forced to rescind the decree ­after thousands took to the streets in protest. 8 The terms “­brother” and “­sister” are employed throughout ­these chronicles to refer to the relationship of camaraderie between the “colectiverxs.” The titles do not refer to a religious position or to ­actual familial ties. 9 The 1971 coup that brought dictator Hugo Banzer Suárez to power in Bolivia (1971–78) was financed by the Nixon administration, acting with the full knowledge of the State Department, when it authorized nearly half a million dollars ­toward the effort. ­Under Banzer’s rule, more than 14,000 Bolivians ­were arrested without a judicial order, more than 8,000 ­were tortured, and more than 200 ­were executed or dis­appeared. 10 ­These reflections arose from the reading of the book ¿Tienen historia los objetos? El encuentro de Pasteur y de Whitehead en un baño de ácido láctico, edited by Álvaro Pinaya at Piedra Rota, our brilliant publisher. 11 I say this thinking of La Filosofía del Dinero by George Simmel. In his reflection on the way that social institutions dominate ­humans despite being of their own creation, the ­human being, from its individual creative consciousness, creates

L u r a w i , D o i n g   •  3 6 5

complex structures that end by killing him. What ­else are money and the laws that mistreat our existence? 12 How conscious are we of listening to the manual ­labor that passes silently in front of our eyes? 13 Not in the sense of private property, but rather in trying to develop a sensitivity related to the other and their work, to stop thinking that every­thing passes through inanimate manufacturing.

3 6 6   •  l x s c o l e c t i v e r x s

Con la salud si se juega


PROJ­E CT DESCRIPTION fabian cereijido “El Juego de pelota” (the ball game) was a series of coordinated, community-­ based, health-­related participatory actions implemented between 2001 and 2002 in the popu­lar La Plazoleta neighborhood of Caracas. The initiative, undertaken in the early years of the Hugo Chávez era with the financial support of several private foundations, was the fruit of the coordinated efforts of three individuals with markedly dif­fer­ent backgrounds and specializations: the psychologist Zurisaday Cordero, the community leader Victor “Cuni” Cardenas, and the visual artist Juan Carlos Rodríguez. Assisted by Cardenas’s community activist work at a local hospital, the common goals ­were to promote public discussions in the barrio regarding the relation of the Plazoleta community to the institutions of health, to advocate for the right of the local ­people to be healthy, and to promote the use and expansion of civic discourse within the community. The three main coordinators of the proj­ect also teamed up to write a book, Con la salud si se juega (You Can Play with Your Health), which chronicles and gives a theoretical framework to the actions in La Plazoleta. The book includes an introduction by Cordero and Rodríguez, two chapters by the former, two by the l­ater, and a fifth chapter that transcribes a dialogue the two undertook with Cardenas at the end of the experience. Cardenas, as the introduction explains, “provides the perspective of one

of the Plazoleta’s neighbors for whom feeling constitutes the core of the everyday life of the barrio and its transformation.” Cardenas describes the outcome of the experience as positive since it has contributed to the integration of the community and to the deepening of what, for him, is the main engine of the barrio, love. Indeed, the chapter is called “El despertar del amor comun” (The Awakening of Communal Love). Cordero and Rodríguez are more mea­sured in their assessment: they think that by activating three types of “knowledge” (psycho-­social, artistic, and popu­lar) the intervention did produce or help produce modest goals, but they regret that ­there was no more decisive follow-up of the actions and discussion within the community. The proj­ect included three main components: “La Cama” (The Bed), “Las Pizarras” (The Chalkboards), and “El Torneo de pelota.” All three components ­were conceived as interventions that, according to Cordero and Rodríguez, disrupted the everyday by producing a defamiliarized public spectacle, triggered the communal production of disparate meanings, and created conditions for the “politicization of real­ity” by meta­phor­ically transferring private experience to public space and institutional discourse. In addition, they fostered a conception of health, art, and politics rooted in the life of the community. Since Con la salud si se juega challenges the assumed “normalities” of the institutions of health and art, it resonates with the tradition of institutional critique in the arts, a tendency that from the 1960s on has questioned the power structures and exclusionism hidden in the purported aesthetic in­de­pen­dence or nonaligned status of traditional art forms and institutions. The authors define their practices not as tools to “research the communities,” but as tools to “reflect, discuss, and create with them and from them their/our ‘life world’ and . . . ​help them re­create themselves, question, and inform their emancipatory pro­cesses.” They emphasize the reconceptualization and politicization of health through “the discursive capacities of the group” and the “mobilization of the intimate as a public issue.”1 No so­cio­log­i­cal, economic, or health-­related data was collected, projected, or discussed with the community or included in the book. For “La Cama,” a bed was placed for a day in the public space of the community and then, also for a day, at the entrance of the local hospital. The bed produced an initial surprise and a subsequent discussion regarding, among other topics, the private and public realms and the poor heath ser­vice provided by the institutions. “Las Pizarras” consisted of the placement and display of 3 6 8   •  f a b i a n c e r e i j i d o

blackboards in highly vis­i­ble places within the community on which local residents ­were invited to write comments about health. In “El Torneo de pelota de goma,” the young members of the community ­were invited to participate in a tournament of a popu­lar, informal version of baseball played in the center square of the community. The pizarras with health-­related messages could be seen from the square. Three teams ­were formed for the tournament. Each rubber ball used for the games was inscribed with the name of a hospital on one side and the name of a museum on the opposite, and the writing on the balls was read aloud. Between innings a member of ­either team related a personal experience he/she had had in a hospital or a museum or commented on the relation between art and health. A concern for the proj­ect, ­later articulated within this essay, was to make pedagogical links between issues found within art discourse (issues of authorship, art’s autonomy, the relationship between art and activism) and what the artists term the “psycho-­social camp,” which includes youth organ­izations and the vari­ous communities’ knowledge of their public spaces and resources. The youngsters participating ­were invited to come up with names for their teams that playfully integrated t­ hese topics. Prominent in the experience was the health-­and art-­related meanings of the term “curator” and “to cure.” In fact they ­were asked to play with three specific terms: health, art, and community. The teams ­were called arte-­sanos, salud-­arte, and san-­arte.2 ­These experiences ­were implemented with a general conception that places g­ reat value on the transformational and bonding potential of productive defamiliarization, semantic play, and open-­ended communal interchange. THE TOURNAMENT: NODES OF A NETWORK   MADE OF UNDISCIPLINED KNOWLEDGE juan carlos rodríguez Knot: n.m. (Lat. nodum). Entanglement of one or more flexible bodies, such as rope, string, ­etc., which is made to hold, bind or join them together. Larousse Dictionary

Before Tying the Knot In general, the specialized lit­er­a­ture on community-­based artistic proj­ects developed with specific groups of ­people makes it difficult for the reader to analyze the socio-­contextual function or dysfunction of t­ hese encounters.3 C o n l a S a l u d s i s e J u e g a   •  3 6 9

This is b ­ ecause ­these accounts do not typically provide the reader with any understanding of the narratives, intentions, and social circumstances that have determined and s­ haped the inception and development of a given proj­ect. ­There are endless examples of ­these omissions, even in cases where the artistic experience is directly and explic­itly defined by the interaction of an artist with a specific context. This is true even in the case of the lit­er­a­ture on the Parangolés series by Brazilian artist Helio Oiticica.4 We are faced with a never-­ending saga of omissions, and even if it sounds dramatic, with the eternal exclusion of the Other in art writing. This omission is fundamentally linked to the objectified and objectifying understanding of the work of art within Western culture. I say “objectified” ­because this approach does not consider, nor does it make evident, the way the artist engages relationships with, and within, a given community context. It does not take into consideration the “aesthetics” of the dialogic pro­cesses and the visual subtleties of community-­led artistic actions. It reduces the artistic experience to its final visuality, to its appearance as a thing-­product. I say “objectifying” b ­ ecause even when the works and the texts might acknowledge ­these ­people within its visual material, they rob them of their subjectivity or pres­ent them as subalterns. They treat them as objects, as means to deploy meta­phors that are only significant within the field of art and, above all, as tools for the ideological purposes of the author. Having said all that, it is impor­tant to point out that the neighborhood-­place-­community from which I have drawn my initiatives, is above all a world of senses, a world-­of-­life practiced by its co-­habitants.5 Any artistic gesture “brought” or produced “­there” has to be critiqued in terms of the role it plays in that specific context, and its capacity to react to, and establish dialogical rapport with, the aforementioned “world of senses.” Tying Knots The purpose of this chapter is to pres­ent the reader with “El Torneo de pelota de goma” (The Rubber Ball Tournament), celebrated at the La Plazoleta community in Caracas. This proj­ect attempted to produce and tie together in a single situation artistic, psychosocial, and popu­lar knowledges, bridged by a common theme: health. For this pre­sen­ta­tion I have devised a text with two parallel narrative lines. The first line is a nonchronological account of what happened in the course of the proj­ect, interwoven with some dialogues, comments, descriptions, and sensations. This narrative is an attempt to reveal a body of experiences and reflections by 3 7 0   •   j ua n r o d r í g u e z

20.1.  ​“Las Pizarras,” La Plazoleta, Los Rosales, Caracas, 2001. Courtesy of Juan Carlos Rodríguez.

rendering them as memory traces. It comes from the dense pulp of memories and a patchwork of audiovisual material we ­were able to obtain during the course of the proj­ect. The second line, which functions like images interspersed within the text, consists of comments about the issues discussed in conversations with dif­fer­ent ­people during the “Torneo” and brief reflections about what happened. Its purpose is to make vis­i­ble the knots or nodes with which we tied and held together the threads of the dif­fer­ ent disciplines and knowledges engaged during the actions at La Plazoleta, particularly ­those threads found within the field of art. It is impor­tant to point out two aspects of “El Torneo” at the outset. First, “El Torneo” was the third “moment” of the larger proj­ect “Con la salud si se juega” (cssj) (You Can Play with Your Health), and it originated in conversations with the barrio’s youngsters during two previous works: an action called “La Cama” (The Bed) by Grupo Provisional and an action called “Las Pizarras” (The Chalkboards).6 Second, the tournament was or­ga­nized and facilitated by t­hese youngsters. I intervened frequently to guide and encourage them since they had never before or­ga­nized a community-­driven event of this sort. “El Torneo” aspired to generate, beyond the competition within the sport, associations and meta­phors that could inform a critical assessment of the dif­f er­ent institutions touched upon by the proj­ect: hospitals, museums, and communities. The youngsters became not only C o n l a S a l u d s i s e J u e g a   •  3 7 1

the players of the tournament, they w ­ ere also the organizers, hosts, and community. They even took it upon themselves to explain to teams from other communities the word pairings that characterized the event: health-­ hospital, play-­communities, and art-­museums. La Plazoleta was the place-­ relation where we produced the events herein narrated. Rubber Narration of a Ball Game

A rubber ball game can take place in almost any street or plazoleta (­little park) of Caracas. Its adaptability to any type of terrain is one of the characteristics that differentiate it from conventional baseball. The rules of the games are consensually and contextually agreed upon according to the physical location: if the ball hits Petra’s home it’s a foul. The maximum height for batted balls (players bat with their hands) is the purple stripe on Teresa’s home, and so on. Play Ball

The fans rooting for each team are or­ga­nized into cheering squads, a “radio station” is set up to provide the play-by-play, along with commentaries on good plays by the favored team. Borderline calls are argued vociferously; the crowd waves national flags even when nationality is apparently not at stake. P ­ eople discuss idealized tournaments of the past. The locals prepare refreshments for the visiting team; the parrot is brought out to the patio so she too can enjoy the event. Whistles are heard, the smell of grilled meat wafts through the air, and men of the Guardia Nacional are seen passing by, visibly surprised by the entire scene. M ­ usic is heard coming from dif­fer­ent directions. During a break between innings one of the youngsters, with the help of a loudspeaker, introduces some rubber balls inscribed with the names of a museum and a hospital (Frame 1). Far away in the distance p ­ eople from surrounding barrios are seen in their balconies looking on. They seem puzzled and curious about the commotion.

frame 1:

The rubber ball is an indispensable device for the production of this street ritual so common in Venezuelan barrios. In this relations-­based game, it seems as if the ball, moving from hand to hand, disputed, desired, sought ­after, caught, and batted as it draws or makes vis­i­ble in its journey ­those relational networks that the world-­of-­life in the barrio generates and is generated by. “El Torneo” became distinctive by introducing some small alterations of the traditional game, which turned it into a ­great 3 7 2   •   j ua n r o d r í g u e z

meta­phor for health and art institutions. One such alteration was the inscription on each ball—­the name of a hospital on one side, the name of a

museum on the other—­and the way each ball was announced and added to the game between innings. For each ball the names ­were read and then somebody, using a loudspeaker, ­either told a personal story involving one

of ­these institutions or gave her own take on how torneo-­salud-­hospital-­ museo related to each other. ­These balls-­devices function by reknotting or tying together, within the participant’s conversations and reflections, two institutions that ­today appear to us as being alienated from each other: the hospital and the museum. In this way, the small inscriptions on the balls allowed the traditional game to become a public experience of reflection and expression about the way museums and hospitals work.

Mrs. Tata’s monkey jumps and scratches at a sign installed on their balcony that reads “curador” (curator) (Frame 2). Mr. Luis Cabeza proudly shows each of the guests a yellow sign hanging from his balcony that reads “curaduria” (curatorship). But Mr. Eleazar expresses his opposition to the sign by saying: “curators are not from the barrio, they are from the museums.” Other such yellow signs, hanging from balconies and walls, catch our attention: curandero (medicine man), cura (priest or cure), curación (cure, recovery from injury or illness), curando (curing), curar (to cure, to curate).

frame 2:

For the benefit of ­those not initiated in museological practices it is necessary to point out that a curator—­a term featured in one of the signs—is the specialist who in a gallery or a museum creates the conceptual frameworks for the exhibitions, chooses the works to be exhibited, and confers a certain reading of them. He or she is, thus, an overseer and manipulator of symbolic material.

frame 3:

The signs as visual devices, just like the balls, elicit reading pro­cesses, interpretations, and resignifications both in the world of art and in the community, triggered by the words written in each of them (cura, curador, curación, curar, curaduría, curando, and curandero) and by their spatial disposition. The impact of ­these signs, hung from ­every balcony in the Plazoleta, was made evident by the questions, commentaries, and conversations they triggered. The reaction was such that the team could only archive part of it.

C o n l a S a l u d s i s e J u e g a   •  3 7 3

juan carlos: How could we link the hospital and the rubber ball game? joclin: I am beginning to like this idea of making meta­phors [she says this ­after recalling a previous discussion regarding the creation of meta­phors to link the rubber ball game and the situations ­people experience in hospitals]. juan carlos: Well, both the hospital and the rubber ball game have rules. You ­don’t go to the hospital and do what­ever you please, nor can you play ball d ­ oing what­ever you please. If you hit the ball you cannot go straight to second base. You d ­ on’t do that b ­ ecause ­there are rules. joclin: ¡Coño! [Shit!], that Víctor has made my head spin with meta­ phors: now the bullpen is a projectile, a rocket, a suppository! I like this business of meta­phors [this comment was made a­ fter listening to me, but also in reference to the previous discussion regarding meta­phors] [Frame 4].

frame 4:

The members of the team promoting the experience had a series of meetings with local youth. ­After ­these introductory meetings, the young ­people took it upon themselves to make the “Torneo” happen. In ­these meetings we discussed meta­phors, their capacity to elicit reflection about our social experiences, and how we use them in our daily lives without even realizing it. The deliberate introduction of meta­phors, as a topic of consideration, made it pos­si­ble for the community, especially for the youngsters, to participate actively in the construction of meaning, tying the institutions of hospitals to museums, and above all to the institution of community itself. Among the most recurrent meta­phorical reflections ­were ­those that made the hospital a game, the community was ­imagined as a soccer referee, the museum as a hospital or a morgue, and the hospital as an Olympic game. ­These meta­phors produced by the  community functioned like actions and images of institutional critique. The daily images used in the construction of illness and the roles and beliefs that had been socially sustained and reproduced in the community such as, for example, the notion of patient ­were denaturalized.

jonathan “monín”: Well, in the game ­there is a first base and in the hospital, first aid kits. 3 74   •   j ua n r o d r í g u e z

jimy: In the ball game we have the “hot corner” and in the hospital they treat ­people with third-­degree burns. joclin: That guy is something e­ lse [she is referring to Victor, the storyteller who talked to her about meta­phors] ­because this enlightens my mind. If you start to list every­thing that happened to you at a hospital you get in a sour mood, you get pissed off, b ­ ecause if I tell you, you’ll start crying, ­because ­going to a hospital is like ­going to the Olympics. many ­p eople: How is that? joclin: Look: to get into the hospital you have to get past the guard, you have to invent some story. You know what that’s like? It’s like pole vaulting. If you want to use the only functioning elevator in the ­whole hospital and ­there is a big crowd that wants to go up too, what do you do? The hundred-­meter dash. Then, if you are visiting a sick relative and one of ­those vicious nurses wants to kick you out, what do you do? Wrestling. When you have to buy the patient her medicine, it’s like a marathon, b ­ ecause just to find it you have to walk miles and miles. When you arrive at the emergency room it’s like the hundred-­meter hurdles ­because you have to jump over the crowd, the patients and so on . . . ​ In a very vis­i­ble corner of the barrio, a signboard is installed. It reads: Con la Salud Museo Comunidad . . . ​sí se juega With your Health Museum Community . . . ​it is OK to play The signboard reminds some p ­ eople of the time when The Chorroman had been installed in the Plazoleta (Frame 5).

frame 5:

The Chorroman was an interpretation of the artwork Man as Fountain by the U.S. artist Bruce Nauman. It was painted on shower curtains and installed in the Plazoleta during the Fiesta del Agua (­Water Festival, 1998), a community cele­bration in which Grupo Provisional (of which I am a member) participated.

C o n l a S a l u d s i s e J u e g a   •  3 7 5

The presence of Man as Fountain in the context of the Fiesta del Agua was, just like the signs, part of a strategy of linking community cele­

brations and the field of art. If we ­didn’t use images of this sort it would have been difficult to understand—­from the field of art’s perspective—­ the artistic practices generated within a community context. But the use of ­these images has its risks. The art world might only concentrate on them and ignore the rest of the experience. It might see the experience constituted in ­these images. This possibility represents a challenge for alternative modes of circulation for creative practices and at the same time a tension that could bring about a redefinition of art.

In one corner, a female psychologist from the proj­ect support team is talking to p ­ eople from the barrio and guests from the Universidad Central de Venezuela about the relevance of visual meta­phors in her discipline. A bit ­later, another conversation takes place. A group of attending artists asks if the experience should be read as a public or a site-­specific work (Frame 6).

frame 6:

It is nothing new for artists to create their works in public spaces. The notion of public art is very old. As centuries went by, the art form that became the most traditional form of public art was sculpture. ­Later, the notion of public art was reformulated. The formal and conceptual attributes of the monument are no longer expected from public art, and the interest switches to context and site-­specificity. I mention this ­because the practices I have been describing—­co-­implicated interdisciplinary practices—­ have ­things in common with site-­specific art, but they also have a major difference. While site-­specific art centers on space and place, ­these creative practices that involve the community put the accent on the relational and the co-­experiential. One of the youngsters from the Plazoleta defines the experience thus: Mainly, this is about a group of ­people who share with each other. This instantiates the relational and co-­experiential nucleus from which the life-­world of the barrio constitutes itself, which, as Alejandro Moreno rightly points out (1998–1999)7 has its most primal register in the mother/child bond. Site-­specific practice functions as part of an interpretative and/or evocative operation that engages senses or meanings that have become sedimented within certain places, emanating from an ac-

cumulated history of relations (among institutions and between ­people and institutions). Its mode of operation involves functions in places or 3 7 6   •   j ua n r o d r í g u e z

20.2.  ​“El Torneo,” La Plazoleta, Caracas, 2001. Courtesy of Juan Carlos Rodríguez.

spaces that are taken as determinate objects. Co-­implicated transdisciplinary practices that involve the community operate from a dif­fer­ent perspective. The “place” now becomes the shared forms of coexistence embedded in the quotidian relational network of the community, in its life-­world. It is from this setting that meta­phorical, object-­based, and contextual productions are generated. And as they develop they are consumed, and enjoyed, in and by the community, and tied in dif­fer­ent ways to constituted forms of knowledge. This convivial procedure prevents the reproduction, inside the community, of the individualist, objectifying, and supposedly universal mechanisms of the art world.

Farther up the street you could see groups of c­ hildren ­running ­behind a soccer ball, while ­others threaded through on tricycles. ­Later, another visiting artist told me he read the experience of this proj­ect from a radically dif­fer­ent position, as a total disaffection with institutions. He told me he did not see the need to establish links with the field of art (Frame 7).

frame 7:

To discuss this issue further I want now to return to the idea of ties/

nodes. Experiences that exceed the limits of ­those already instituted require ­these types of ties/knots to stay in dialogue with, and bind them

C o n l a S a l u d s i s e J u e g a   •  3 7 7

to, the social contexts they are oriented ­toward. ­These procedures are not produced as an absolute radicalization or a utopian anarchism opposed

to any and all institutions. But just as some expect radicality, ­others expect to return every­thing to “its proper place.” This was the case with one of the members of the community who was opposed to the use of the term “curator” in the public space of the barrio ­because “curators belong in museums.” Not surprisingly, this criticism came from an official of the

National Library, who appeared to take the institutional weight of his own professional experience upon his shoulders. I think the previous pronouncement regarding the need to maintain a dialogue or what we could call the relation-­tension-­rupture, with the instituted corroborates something Daniel Mato said following Bordieu: “social actors learn to do what they have to do, which is to say what is right.” This, according to Mato, means “they learn to do what institutions allow and not to do what they forbid. In the best of cases they cautiously cross the instituted bound­aries.”8 Even if this sounds harsh or at odds with the intentions of voluntarism, ­these quotes are impor­tant in that they help us realize that transgressions always operate by reference to the already instituted. This applies to museological conventions like the practice of organ­izing retrospectives of certain artists, and to religious and social cele­brations in the barrio as well. Transgressions need legibility to gain traction. Without legibility they risk becoming mere fancies condemned to solitary exclusion. It is pertinent to point out that ­these “controlled transgressions” are valuable for art as well as for community actions. In both cases, when the instituted is transcended, ties and nodes become imperative; far from limiting the possibilities of artistic practices, they maintain their tension and creative potential.

But as soon as we started to discuss ­these issues, two young men from the Plazoleta approached us. One of them—­El Gocho—­threw us a comment he seemed to have been ruminating on as he neared. “I would like the same experience in a museum as in a hospital. When you go to a hospital, it’s infuriating ’cause they ­don’t have a damn ­thing. You have to bring alcohol, gauze, thermometers, and all sorts of medicines, some of them r­ eally expensive. Can you imagine you arrive at a museum and they tell you: ‘Good after­noon, how are you, what can I do for you?’ You trip out and say ‘well, I want to see the exhibit,’ but they answer, ‘that’s fine but you have to bring your own paintings and hang them b ­ ecause we ­don’t have any paintings ­here.’ What a laugh!” 3 7 8   •   j ua n r o d r í g u e z

joclin: Or what if you are playing baseball, you hit a line drive down center field and when you get to first base t­ here ­isn’t a base at all and they call you out? You complain and they tell you “we have no bases, you have to bring your own.” Comments like ­these are heard during the games: Nike, Lotto, Reebok, Puma, and Adidas are some of the brand names we see when we look down at the field. Somebody says, “the official sponsor of the game is Nike, Ni-ke” (“not even if” in Spanish). “Not even if you make magic ­will they take care of you at the hospital.” Los Artesanos (the artisans, one of the home teams) discuss the many potential names they rejected ­because they ­were related to maladies. adrian: can you imagine the crowd shouting, “­Here come the Asthmatics”? Or how about “­here comes the Tuberculosis team” or “­here come the aids infected!” Forget it! jonathan monín: How about “­here come the hemorrhoids”? That’s crazy! [laughs] [Frame 8].9

frame 8:

The pro­cess of naming the teams developed slowly in the midst of the planned and spontaneous dialogues at the Plazoleta. The pro­cess was in-

deed slow ­because it was difficult to describe being healthy in terms of health and not in terms of illness and medicines. This difficulty in naming health was surprising. The names of medicines and illnesses ­were introduced during the conversations, but the youngsters did not identify with them. They deci­ded spontaneously to drop them. A period of silence ensued. For a while it seemed impossible to find a name. Noting the per­sis­ tent block, I intervened in the decision-­making pro­cess. I invited them to play around with three words: Heath, Art, and Community. In the follow-

ing days they had already found the names: arte-­sanos, salud-­arte, and san-­arte. The term “community” was substituted for each of the names

of the communities involved so they became Los Artesanos de La Capilla (The Artisans of La Capilla), San-­Arte de Los Cocuyos (To Cure You of Los Cocuyos), and Saludarte de Ezequiel Zamora (To Greet You of Ezequiel Zamora). The fact that the vocabulary associated with maladies is so neat while

the vocabulary associated with health is almost non­ex­is­tent reveals the extent to which medical discourse has penetrated the imaginary of the community. In this medical discourse the characterization of pathologies

C o n l a S a l u d s i s e J u e g a   •  3 7 9

amplifies the meaning of the terms we use to describe them. For example, the word “dysfunction” is not simply the opposite of “function.” The augmentation, increased complexity, and diversity of application gained by the term “dysfunction” reveals the accent placed on organic and behavioral alterations in clinical studies. So to make health happen is to

produce ways of naming it, saying it, using it. But even more so, it is a po­ liti­cal act against the obscurantism of medical discourse and the power structures associated with it, so it is also a challenge to normativity.

­ ere ­were complaints about the breach of duties agreed upon during the Th twelve preparatory meetings held over a month and a half: assemblies where ­people talk over each other regarding implicit and partial agreements and restrictions imposed on the participation of w ­ omen in activities related to the rubber ball game. zurisaday: I felt uncomfortable ­because I realized I was not d ­ oing anything ­there. I could not find a way in. Also, I think that the boys, when they are talking about their ­things, like the ­little rubber ball, feel they are talking about guy stuff. W ­ omen do not exist in t­ hese situations. This in a way reveals the character of certain relations in the community. ­Women in general operate from the ­house. The maternal figure is very impor­tant in the regulation and sanctioning of be­hav­ior and relations within the community. But what w ­ omen see of what happens in public space is generally through win­dows. ­Women d ­ on’t get directly involved in public space, this is beyond her reach. We could even say she is not welcome out ­there. cuni: But remember that ­women are the queens and the godmothers and that every­thing is made to honor them. zurisaday: Yes, but they cannot decide anything, they can hardly speak. It is not that they d ­ on’t say anything. They say something and it is not taken into account. It is as if the comment was never made. juan carlos: I felt something similar regarding my presence ­there. But it is b ­ ecause they feel it is their t­ hing. I think it’s fine. In any case we should reflect on your comments ­because they are related to the types of relations and roles we have in the neighborhood and how we perceive them, right? ­After this feeling of exclusion, the boys in the neighborhood approached me in dif­f er­ent places of 3 8 0   •   j ua n r o d r í g u e z

the Plazoleta and asked me questions like How do you think this is g­ oing? Can you help us with such and such? Can you help me explain the health and rubber ball game proj­ect to so and so? Spontaneous conversations, recordings can only register some of them, greetings, gestures, the rubber ball game, as an opportunity for the boys to show off. They know their girlfriends and admirers are watching. The older ­women who give their blessings and follow the developments from their balconies, their win­dows, and their open doors. Some neighbors complain that they have to keep their cars away from the Plazoleta, which is now a ballpark (Frame 9).

frame 9:

The Plazoleta is a public space, multifarious and diverse. It is the main

stage where dif­fer­ent groups within the community dispute their roles. The dispute involves groups mainly identified by age. Some see mechanisms of exclusion in ­these disputes. Each group uses La Plazoleta according to its interests and forcefully protects its claimed territory. The Plazoleta is sometimes a rubber ball park and sometimes a stickball park. It can also turn into a basketball court, a place for volleyball and kickball. It occasionally serves as the site of a domino and bingo club. It is also a site for musical shows, first communion parties, and pre-­K recreation. It has

occasionally been a funeral home, a ballroom for ­family and community cele­brations, an auditorium, a platform for street preachers, an auto body shop, and a parking lot. But it is always a place to meet.

timbalero: This t­ hing makes you mad [he is talking about the neighbors’ complaints]; p ­ eople think you c­ an’t do anything, that y­ ou’re worth nothing. They see you involved in this and they say, “Oh, no . . . ​this is bullshit,” but this is precisely to show ­people that we can, that we can do it, you get it? And besides, the place ­doesn’t belong to them, the Plazoleta belongs to every­body. The reasons ­behind the implementation of the game, the sensations created in the heat of competition, the intentions and objectives of each action, and the thoughts they seek to express are constantly discussed. Jokes, funny stories, laughter, hyperbole, gossip, stares, and commentaries seem at first glance to enact a general dispersion or to create an intensity that defies analy­sis. “What I want to do is play,” says Sr. Edgar’s son. C o n l a S a l u d s i s e J u e g a   •  3 8 1

gocho: Yes, but remember this is a tournament about health. Some youngsters write comments about health on blackboards mounted on the walls. C ­ hildren join the writing with proverbs and random words. Some who are too shy to write themselves send notes for o ­ thers to write them on the boards.

frame 10:

­ hese boards ­were part of a strategy to show neighbors’ comments about T health that had been compiled by the research proj­ect “La construcción social de la salud en el contexto comunitario” (The Social Construction of Health in the Communitarian Context) by Zurisaday Cordero. The ­research proj­ect sought to stimulate public reflection on this thematic area. ­These blackboards are also related, although not in an explicit way, to the blackboards used by German artist Joseph Beuys. The Beuysian postulates, frequently scratched onto ­these boards, suggested to me the possibility of establishing a double knot, a knotting or tying together of art and community. The blackboards ­were devices the community was familiar with. The only difference was that in this case, instead of being installed in an educational or artistic institution, they ­were placed in the public spaces of the community with the objective of bringing out the expression of experiences and ideas about health that had been, up to that moment, private.

More Comments

cuni: This is what we need: Games like this one so p ­ eople realize that in the hospitals they should play the role of umpires. ­Things are so bad ­there. It’s not that you can necessarily dictate the game, but it is within your power to expel a man­ag­er. You can make the rules count. ­ ere is a fleeting conversation with a group of ­women regarding the posTh sibility of having communal oversight of health institutions, and the fact that the situation is not favorable yet for the establishment of long-­term ­labor agreements with health care workers. The conversation topics change and recur. As soon as I hear the end of Olga’s comments on hospitals, I turn, and Gocho, looking directly at one of the signs, asks me: gocho: Can you just walk into a museum? (Frame 11). 3 8 2   •   j ua n r o d r í g u e z

frame 11:

This question shows the extent to which the art institutions are absent from the life of many, which casts doubts on their capacity to offer a space for social recognition. It is not that the idea of art institutions is

devoid of meaning for them. It is just that with its remoteness, art has lost relevance for their everyday experience. I could verify that the notion

had traction in the community. For the Fiesta del Agua I mentioned above, the use of the word “Museum” in the title (Museo Casa del Agua) brought more understanding and involvement than the original title: Casa del Agua. We should research more thoroughly what seems to be a double relation of the community with the notion of museum. It seems to be part of the community’s imaginary, and at the same time is perceived as a distant and inaccessible institution.

juan carlos: Yes, you can. In fact, we could think together about how to pres­ent something in a museum related to what we are d ­ oing ­here. gocho: I thought that it was like intensive therapy or the morgue, where you ­can’t get in without authorization. ­ ere is lots of enthusiasm, but the activity and the general disinterest in Th collective reflection hinders the possibility of getting together as a team to review what we are d ­ oing. Cuni thinks we need to coordinate an action to stimulate collective reflection by appropriating the everyday conversational nature of the Plazoleta. A semi-­planned conversational practice ensues, and we revisit themes like the meaning ­behind the names of the teams, the situation of the hospitals, the role the community should play in regard to the hospitals, the notion of health, the introduction of the game, the potential benefits of linking the rubber ball game with health and hospitals with the art museum (Frame 12).

frame 12:

I am interested in this model of working ­because it involves the engagement of the everyday dynamic of the neighborhood; it involves the delib-

erate engagement with everyday conversation in the neighborhood as a site for politicization and for collective reflection on the life of the barrio. Implementing such practices reinforces and enriches the bonds of community organ­izations with the rest of the neighborhood ­because they go beyond the formalities of “meetings,” “workshops,” and “encounters.”

C o n l a S a l u d s i s e J u e g a   •  3 8 3

cuni: This is what health is: to play, to enjoy ­things together, and to be united even if we sometimes fight. The neighborhood is a lot like a game of rubber ball. Punctual and fleeting appointments. Sound equipment that gets quickly installed. A female member of the cssj team, picking up on an idea from a community leader, comments on the need to or­ga­nize and defend patients’ rights in public hospitals. zurisaday: Look, Cuni, every­thing ­you’ve been telling us about how someone should try to resolve the multiple prob­lems she f­ aces in a hospital—­because ­there are no available beds, ­there are no medicines, the medical equipment is out of order, or maybe she has an argument with a doctor—­all that information can be sorted out and distributed so that p ­ eople can be better prepared to deal with ­these issues. How do we or­ga­nize all this information? How do we communicate it? How can we create a dynamic and agile patient network? That is what we have to work on, b ­ ecause you d ­ on’t get very far by r­ unning from prob­lem to prob­lem by yourself. mary: What happens is that Cuni likes to do every­thing herself. cuni: No, it is just that when you see ­things and, fuck, you have to do something about it. I heard that ­people are saying that the Pérez Carreña [hospital] is all right, that every­thing is fucking ­great. That’s bullshit! Just go, you’ll see it still has the same prob­lems. zurisaday: Yes, you say that when you “see” something you have to do something, but you also have to see how this can work even when you are not ­there literally “seeing” it. cuni: That is why I think we have to have a community office in the hospital with p ­ eople who know what needs to be done and d ­ on’t charge you for their ser­vices. As this conversation continues, several ­mothers approach Cuni to propose the replication of the tournament, but for kids. Several days a­ fter this, the team Los Sociologos de la Plazoleta (Sociologists of the Plazoleta) makes its appearance. The Sociologos have the image of a pitcher throwing a ball stitched to their baseball caps. juan carlos: Why did you call the team Los Sociologos? ninoska: ­Because we are all like sociologists. We like social ­things, we like to socialize, we like to observe and plan effectively in a group, in the community. 3 8 4   •   j ua n r o d r í g u e z

­ ere are ­children and youngsters from other communities coming and Th ­going. One of the organizers of the team from the adjacent community, Los Cocuyos, comments: leonardo: ­Because of all this activity we have reactivated the “We W ­ ill Fight Together” Cultural Center. We’ve been getting together during the eve­nings to find consensus on what we want to do [Frame 13].

frame 13:

The study of orga­nizational pro­cesses is, by academic definition, part of communitarian social psy­chol­ogy and other disciplines associated with social experience. Nevertheless, from my undisciplined perspective, this

area is of vital interest for ­those of us who ask ourselves about the dif­fer­ ent ways in which we can articulate artistic experiences in/from the livedin life-­world of the barrio. To put it more broadly: this study is also vital for questioning the dif­fer­ent ways we can implement practices of cultural creation outside of the dichotomist, schizo-­bourgeois conceptions that

are so frequent in art, at least in the art of Venezuela. The impetus given by an experience like CSSJ to the formation of an unplanned community-­ based organ­ization makes evident the real possibilities of such practices. This is the case even when we cannot, when it would be senseless to consider the CSSJ experience as an artistic experience, it can be articulated

as a practice within culture, as a practice capable of relating to the social world and sustaining a dialogue with it. If we are living within the life-­ world of the community, it makes no sense to separate—at least in the context of living within—­what we consider to be relevant for the world of art from what we ­don’t. So we participate in the entire ­thing.

To respond to the interest of ­those talking to him, he explains: leonardo: “Juntos Lucharemos” is an old cultural and athletic organ­ ization within the barrio that had been inactive for the previous seven or eight years. More discussions on the playing of the rubber ball game. The youngsters from Los Cocuyos are annoyed by the lack of coordination regarding the rules of the game. They argue that the rules ­haven’t been approved by every­one, and that proper procedures for consensus w ­ ere not respected. They disqualify La Plazoleta and announce an upcoming tournament in “their neighborhood.” C o n l a S a l u d s i s e J u e g a   •  3 8 5

capitán: We ­will or­ga­nize a tournament in our neighborhood to show ­these ­people from Plazoleta how to or­ga­nize a tournament. Final Inning

The Arte-­Sanos lost. The San-­Arte of Los Cocuyos produce the last out and defeat the youngsters of the Plazoleta. The Salud-­Arte from the Zamora del Valle barrio had been disqualified before. Some celebrate, every­body is engage in conversation, and somebody with the Zamora del Valle team asks: “What is this w ­ hole t­ hing about the rubber ball game, the hospitals and the museums?” In the Dugout

cuni: Gallina told you: “You fight a lot.” You d ­ idn’t notice that the youngsters from Los Cocuyos always kept calm, even when they made ­mistakes. The worst is that La Plazoleta had never been defeated by Los Cocuyos before, not even at playing marbles. Shit! zurisday: I have been saying they lack cohesion and that cohesion is something you can learn. They are together but they find it hard to act like a team. This can be solved with reflection and evaluation. cuni: Yeah, but look what ­these ­little fuckers just did. zurisday: Yes, but this is something we have to work on from the beginning. We have to come up with ways of being self-­reflexive together as a team, If we ­don’t, what’s the use? This ­won’t work. joclin: Let me tell you, nothing has been lost h ­ ere. Tell me, when have the youngsters, myself and every­body ­else, ever or­ga­nized anything like this before? Never, right? This is what health is, this is the payoff, but sometimes ­people screw up. You tell ’em I said so, Caliche! It was impossible, as much as we tried, to get together again to analyze and evaluate the tournament, its achievements and limitations. A ­ fter losing the final game, the boys of La Plazoleta’s team did not want to discuss the rubber ball tournament as a group, so we talked to each player individually. However, many of them got involved in other experiences like the production of the theatrical play La Salud en Pelotas.10 This play was staged by ­children and involved, among other ­things, ideas and situations that had emerged during the rubber ball tournament.

3 8 6   •   j ua n r o d r í g u e z

Notes 1 Victor Cardenas, Zurisaday Cordero, and Juan Carlos Rodríguez, Con la salud si se juega (Fundación Arte Emergente, 2006), 11. 2 The single word artesanos means “artisans.” The two terms separated by the hyphen, arte and sanos, individually mean “art” and “healthy ones.” The single word saludarte means “to greet you.” The two terms separated by the hyphen, salud and arte, individually mean “art” and “healthy ones.” The single word sanarte means “to cure you.” The two terms separated by the hyphen, san and arte, individually mean “saint” and “art.” 3 The key word in the original Spanish title of this essay, “Nudos de una red de indisciplinados saberes,” and in its opening paragraph (nudo) can be translated as both “knot” and “node.” This double connotation should be read into the meaning of the proj­ect. 4 The Parangolés series originated in the mid-1960s when Oiticica moved to the Mangueira favela, a shantytown in the margins of Rio de Janeiro, and began making art in dialogue with the place and its ­people. The Parangolés ­were colorful capes that sometimes bore po­liti­cal slogans, designed by Oiticica for par­tic­u­lar wearers. 5 Alejandro Moreno Olmedo and Pedro Luis Luna, Buscando Padre: Historia de vida de Pedro Luis Luna (Valencia, Venequela: Universidad de Carabobo, 2002). 6 “La Cama” (2001) was an action in which a bed was placed at two dif­fer­ent sites: in a public space within the community and at the main entrance of the local hospital. The Grupo Provisional consisted of Juan Carlos Rodríguez, Felix Suazo, Domingo de Lucia, and David Palacios. 7 Moreno Olmedo and Luna, Buscando Padre. 8 Daniel Mato, “Studies and Other Latin American Intellectual Practices in Culture and Power,” in Studies and Other Latin American Intellectual Practices in Culture and Power, ed. Mato (Caracas: CLACSO / ­faces / UCV, 2002), 25. 9 See note 2. 10 “La Salud en Pelotas” figuratively means “health in a squalid state” or “health in such a dire state its testicles are showing.” Literally, the phrase means “Health in Balls.”

C o n l a S a l u d s i s e J u e g a   •  3 8 7

La Lleca Colectiva


PROJ­E CT DESCRIPTION elize mazadiego La Lleca, meaning “the street” in Spanish, is a fluid collective of individuals involved in an artistic and social intervention in Mexico’s prison communities. The group was formed by artists in 2003 in response to Mexico’s sociopo­liti­cal structures generated by nafta and in an effort to rethink the relationship between art, politics, and activism. Since 2003 the proj­ ect has collaborated with a larger network of individuals and communities including former prisoners, writers, dancers, psychologists, and sociologists. La Lleca’s work took shape in 2004 with an intervention led by group members and per­for­mance artists Fernando Fuentes and Lorena Mendez. The initial proj­ect focused on building a relationship with prisoners and personnel in Mexico’s Centro de Readaptación Social Varonil Santa Martha Acatitla (ceresova). The Center for Social Rehabilitation is located in Mexico City’s Iztapalapa, where the prison holds approximately 3,200 male youths between the ages of eigh­teen and fifty. Over a series of conversations with the prison’s Subdirección de Prevención Social, La Lleca proposed an ongoing proj­ect that would foster a dialogue with prisoners through vari­ous media to actively address issues that correspond to their lives. Furthermore, La Lleca sought to generate critical reflections on the personal, sociopo­liti­cal, and economic prob­lems that affect prison communities as an alternative to existing prisoner per-

sonal development and readaptation programs. Through continual visits to ceresova, the members of La Lleca made a series of proposals that incorporated a range of participants who brought their individual skills to the proj­ect. Beginning in 2005, La Lleca collaborated with Mexican per­for­mance artist Quetzal Belmont, along with the poet, researcher, and editor Brian Whitener and visual artist Rodrigo Hernández, on a per­for­mance entitled “Collective Marriage” that consisted of enacting a marriage between organizers and participants. Through a series of matrimonial rituals, the group engendered a diverse set of meanings that ­were par­tic­u­lar to each participant, while also creating a symbolic ­union among the group. La Lleca’s collaboration with the communication collective Centro de Medios Libres produced the ­free media radio program Radio Kanero. The group designed a series of workshops around learning to operate and produce a radio show, while introducing programming formats such as the radio interview, chronology, and promotion. The main objective of this proj­ect was to provide prisoners the tools to access and use mass media communications. With this platform, prisoners constructed their own self-­ representation and w ­ ere able to broadcast it outside the confines of their prison. This proj­ect worked to ­counter popu­lar media’s often-­negative portrayal of Mexico’s prisoners. Juan Mena and Saúl Sandoval became part of the collective and are presently active members of the group. Over the following de­cade, the collective took new shapes, with vari­ous collaborators joining the group and new collaborations with over forty artists and activists emerging over that period, including choreographer Cristina Maldonado. Each participant incorporated their own practice into the proj­ect to formulate a workshop with prisoners. The number of prisoners that La Lleca worked with expanded from five in 2004 to eighty. While La Lleca represents a collaboration of numerous artists, professionals, and prisoners, the proj­ect is also interested in the collectivity produced among the prisoners and their families. Through performative practices including a range of physical activities and creative proj­ects, prisoners bring their individual experiences to group activities with the intention of fostering positive relationships between inmates and ­family members or other social exchanges. One example of this was the proj­ect “Juegos de Niños.” La Lleca member Lorena Mendez gathered a group of participants from ceresova to play a series of ­children’s games such as Hangman or Charades. In a version of Spin the ­Bottle, participants ­were asked to pose a meaningful question to the person that the ­bottle pointed to. In a rather L a L l e c a C o l e c t i va   •   3 8 9

unexpected way, the game prompted prisoners to share accounts of their personal histories. La Lleca describes the game as a strategy for creating personal and physical closeness, a playful manner of entering into contact with the participants and, as well, a good pretext for surpassing the conventional limits regarding affection and contact with prisoners (one of the principal objectives of “La Lleca” in general). The fact of creating in the ceresova prison a “horizontal” space (although only momentary) where persons are treated like h ­ umans (once again) as regards their cognitive, affective and intellectual capacities. This proj­ect has been one of our best actions, placing into practice strategies that create an environment of trust and self-­acceptance amongst the participants.1 Additionally, the game revealed a curiosity among the inmates, initiating a pro­cess of learning about each other and building community. An extension of La Lleca’s objective of fostering understanding and establishing healthy relationships is an exercise called “Fotohistoria.” La Lleca designed workshops that encouraged prisoners to create their stories using materials available to them within their environment, such as plastic ­bottles, food residues, and toilet paper, to construct a personal history. Other proj­ects work with prisoners to fashion a self-­portrait through text, drawing, or photography. Much like Radio Kanero, the intention of ­these proj­ects is to activate the prisoners’ agency in developing their own voice and repre­sen­ta­tion. Over four years dedicated to the proj­ect, La Lleca received support from Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (fonca), Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, and Fundación/Colección Jumex to publish a book based on the proj­ect. The 2008 book Como Hacemos lo que Hacemos compiles La Lleca’s work into three parts: art and politics, affect, and radical education. With an assortment of writings and interviews from the collective, the publication shares the group’s theoretical models, reflects on their proj­ects and their outcomes, relates their experiences, and incorporates photography and documentation from the proj­ect. La Lleca’s proj­ ect further extends itself beyond the confines of ceresova with multiple pre­sen­ta­tions and exhibitions. Since 2005 they have introduced their work to audiences at universities and cultural institutions throughout Latin Amer­i­ca, Eu­rope, and the United States. In their many discussions, La Lleca presented their work as a collaborative proj­ect among artists and imprisoned youth with a central focus on art, ac3 9 0   •  e l i z e m a z a d i e g o

tivism, performativity, and pedagogy. In the exhibition of La Lleca’s proj­ ect at the Centro Cultural Casa Lamm in Mexico City, the group showed graphic works produced by ceresova’s prisoners. The show was based on the theme of representing the complex social and po­liti­cal situations within Mexico’s prison system, which are reflected in the daily lives of the prisoners. With a collection of thirty-­three drawings, the exhibit let the prisoners voice their realities to a larger public. Additionally, in attendance at the exhibit w ­ ere the families of prisoners and former prisoners who ­were able to see the fruits of their work on display. At the end of the exhibit the works ­were auctioned off to fund the materials for f­ uture proj­ects. Currently, the collective is developing a substantial archive of the proj­ ect and a magazine titled Revista La Lleca. Additionally, since 2010, with newer members of the collective including former inmate Adrián Arenas and psychologist Romina Cabrera, the group started a new intervention in the jails for adolescents at the Dirección General de Tratamiento para Menores en Conflicto con la Ley Penal. La Lleca recently published two booklets/manuals: Adolescencias, masculinidades y antipatriarcado (Adolescents, Masculinity, and Antipatriarchy) and Cuerpos, afectos y pedadogía feminista (Bodies, Affects, and Feminist Pedagogies). With ­these booklets the group intended to “share the way we work and open a discussion with other groups, collectives or individuals who are confronting the militarized Mexican State.” EXODUS TO LA LLECA: EXITING FROM “ART” AND   “POLITICS” IN MEXICO La Lleca Just a few days ago, the so-­called fncr (Frente Nacional Contra la Represión—­National Front against Repression) discovered that the march it had or­ga­nized to Mexico City’s Zócalo could not be held ­because an ice-­ skating rink was taking up the square. The fncr did not protest against that deprivation of a right, it simply took the demonstration elsewhere. A ­ fter all, ­there was no reason to interfere with the New York spirit with which Mexico City is now imbued . . . ​or with the sale of skates in large shopping malls. The reaction to the eviction of families from the Tepito neighborhood was silence or a superficial, servile reasoning: “it’s a crime-­fighting mea­sure,” an intellectual and failed candidate to lead the administration of the unam (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) stated, and a front-­page newspaper photo­ graph showed a girl sitting on the few pieces of furniture her ­family was able

L a L l e c a C o l e c t i va   •   3 9 1

to save following the eviction. The Rudolph Giuliani philosophy, imported from New York (like the ice skating rink) by López Obrador ­under the guise of “the poor come first,” had now become an intellectual argument: that girl was a potential drug trafficker, and now she is . . . ​nothing. —­subcomandante marcos, “Ni el centro, ni la periferia I” 2 Critique is always of some instituted practice, discourse, episteme, institution, and it loses its character the moment it is abstracted from its operation and made to stand alone as a purely generalized practice. . . . ​ Its relationship with ­those categories is “critique” in the sense that it does not consist of complying with them, but rather in establishing a relationship with them that questions the field of categorization by referring, at least implicitly, to the limits of the epistemological horizon within which such practices are formed. The idea is not to refer the practice to a previously given epistemological context, but to establish critique as a practice that fully exposes the limits of that epistemological horizon, making the contours of the horizon, as it ­were, be placed in relation to its limits for the first time. —­judith butler, “What Is Critique?” 3

We call the La Lleca4 proj­ect an artistic-­social intervention in order to point out two of the proj­ect’s aims. The first is that the purposes of the proj­ect to go beyond the field of art, which means that our idea of intervention is flexible and contextual: it changes depending on the conditions ­under which we are working. Our second aim is to look for ways of exiting or moving beyond the sphere of repre­sen­ta­tion, the symbolic. Intervention is thus our approach and the way we have been working from the outset of this proj­ect. Starting from the chaos of everyday life in Mexico City as a means of working on the go (sobre la marcha): what we want is to change and occupy numerous spaces and sites, both virtual and real, by forging new links between ­people and ourselves (i.e., our approach is not avant-­garde) and generating new forms of knowledge and knowing. From a specific situation, which for us is an institutional place (the prison), we seek to reveal the horizons of that situation and the limits of the possibilities for acting in it (in the manner Butler indicates in the quotation above). The way we critique, i.e., reveal the horizons of the prison system and the discourses that support it, is what we call an intervention. By calling this proj­ect an artistic-­social intervention, we want to point to a certain genealogy or affinity with certain artists or groups. The historical roots of our practice are in the late 1960s and ’70s with the Situation3 9 2   •   l a l l e c a c o l e c t i va

ists, second-­wave U.S. feminist artists like Martha Rosler or Suzanne Lacy,5 and the Grupos movement in Mexico, including the very impor­ tant work of feminist artists such as Mónica Meyer and Maris Bustamante and her group Polvo de Gallina Negra. But by intervention we also refer to the work of our con­temporary colleagues, such as Etcétera, Mala Calle, Grupo Arte Callejero, BijaRi, and Frente 3 de Fevereiro.6 We believe we are all working in or with something that has been or could be called “intervention,” which sometimes means working in the streets, sometimes with specific communities, and sometimes with a long-­term commitment and/ or on social-­political-­economic issues. In very general terms, intervention means seeking social change, engaging in criticism, and generating awareness, which means we cannot r­ eally put our fin­ger on it, but we recognize it when we see it, just like all the good ­things in life. The idea of intervention as a critical practice of po­liti­cal art is closely linked to what we have experienced h ­ ere in Mexico over the past decade—­ and all the more so in Mexico City—­with the change from a welfare state to a neoliberal state, from the national to the postnational, and with all the economic and institutional vio­lence implied by that change. Our work stems from critique: reflecting on the economic and po­liti­cal situation that shapes the context of Mexico City. As our Grupo de Arte Callejero friends say, all po­liti­cal art work begins with denunciation, but does not stop ­there. The need to engage in proj­ects of intervention has to do with a kind of nausea, a sense of we ­can’t take it any longer, with re­spect to the official world of Mexican art and Mexico’s social and po­liti­cal environment. However, it also implies a desire to reaffirm, to take action, and, rather than waiting for someone to save us, to start right h ­ ere and now with what we have at hand. In other words, the work of La Lleca stemmed from with being fed up with ourselves, with our contemporaries, with the lack of commitment, with all our society’s ways of thinking and d ­ oing. This goes hand in hand with a desire to react, to respond, and to not cease taking a stand against a terrified city, in a nauseatingly neoliberalized country, with a worn-­out, fragmented, impoverished, over­burdened population that is being pushed and pulled from one side to the other of our dysfunctional city. However, we do not merely indulge a melancholy for a city that is no longer what it used to be and stop ­there; instead, we act, knowing that the only way of remaking the pres­ent is by politicizing it. We should mention that La Lleca and its approach to intervention cannot be viewed merely as an instrument of artistic practice. La Lleca refuses L a L l e c a C o l e c t i va   •   3 9 3

to be just another example of artistic production. The proj­ect’s aims are: first, social change, and second, the micropolitical transformation of institutions (the prison system, in our case). What we mean to say is that by criticizing the role played by art and culture in the capitalism of semiotic production, the proj­ect seeks to have an effect on fields other than the world of art by addressing issues that stem from other areas of experience, from other disciplines and fields of knowledge. Another way of showing the scope of the proj­ect is by marking its distance from the interests of the art market. Take Duchamp’s quest to create a work of art that was not a work of art. We view this as a philosophical proposition more than anything ­else. We want to go beyond merely philosophical considerations in which the validity of a urinal or another object as an artwork is just an ontological issue, which implies (for us) continuing to think from the perspective of art itself. Rather, we must view the artwork from a so­cio­log­i­cal, po­liti­cal, or other perspective by constantly exiting and entering the world of art world per se. Our work is directed ­toward non­artistic spaces, which come from a desire to shape another, less nauseating world. This may seem rather obvious at first glance, but it is nevertheless worth pointing out. La Lleca, conceived as an intervention, arose out of having to face the times in which we live. We started by criticizing the Mexican institutional art scene, which currently and for the past ten years has shown a distressing lack of critical reflection on the Mexican po­liti­cal and social setting. We do not mean to say that nobody is fighting, b ­ ecause obviously ­there are ­people d ­ oing so, but it is impor­tant to point out that the field of art has seen few serious responses to globalization, nafta, the city’s dangerous growth, the precariousness of daily life in Mexico, and the Mexican po­liti­ cal situation. Worse still, we have seen that noteworthy groups, mostly working without resources, have been ignored by official histories and by the centers of institutional power in the Mexican art world. It seems that the field of art—­here we are referring to Bourdieu’s7 notion of the cultural field—­has ­little interest in thinking of art in relation to social or po­liti­cal issues. Following Alain Badiou’s line of thought, we believe “It is better to do nothing than to contribute to the invention of new formal ways of rendering vis­i­ble what the Empire already recognizes as existent.”8 Since the advent of nafta, Mexico is no longer outside the Empire but part of it, and that deserves reflection: t­ here has been no strong criticism of the impressive influx of global financial capital during the past five years into the Mexican art market, for instance, or of the mechanisms used to extract surplus capital from the Mexican upper classes (such as maco).9 As 3 9 4   •   l a l l e c a c o l e c t i va

Nina Möntmann writes, pointing out the influence capital has had on the institution of art: Late cap­i­tal­ist enterprise structures flow into the institutions’ management policies and modes of working, requiring new personal qualifications and skills at the same time. Thus the director of a larger institution must demonstrate the qualities of a man­ag­er on the one hand and ­those of a populist politician on the other. Conversely, the constitution of the subject within the cultural field is a po­liti­cal pro­cess, which serves as a role model for the late cap­i­tal­ist enterprise culture. The assumption of precarious social situations and survival strategies such as self-­management, permanent creativity, flexible and mobile lifestyles like ­those practiced, more or less voluntarily, in the art field, has already taken place in the pro­cess of the development of the New Economy and is continued in the establishment of com­pany structures and the drafting of philosophies of ­labor and living in the neoliberal business world.10 What we saw four years ago (with the arrival of globalized mega-­art expos in Mexico as a site of surplus capital extraction) was simply a used-up framework of art, a cap­i­tal­ist, American-­Eurocentrist, and consumerist framework (of course, t­ here is nothing new in this). We felt the need then to understand how this resonated in our practice and how it reframed our understanding of the practices of the Grupos of the seventies and the work from the groups of the 1980s and ’90s in Mexico. The tradition of po­liti­cal art had to be rethought, redirected ­toward other goals, and guided by other desires. La Lleca was a response to ­those economic and art institutional conditions, but it also responded to one of the most severe po­liti­cal crises in Latin Amer­i­ca and in Mexico City: the rise of a new right-­wing ideology that has taken advantage of poverty in order to reinforce a state of control, one that seeks to displace the po­liti­cal with the ­legal (with the strict fulfillment of positive law). In June 2004, the upper classes and the less favored classes (as con­temporary po­liti­cal discourse calls them) went out on the streets dressed in white to protest against delinquency.11 Some 250,000 ­people demonstrated in what was, in that moment, the largest demonstration in the history of Mexico City. They demanded solutions that would come from state power to combat the so-­called plague of insecurity. For us, that marked a fundamental change in the politics of Mexico; it let us see the extent of the emotional and intellectual framework constructed by government and right-­wing institutions to explain social and economic phenomena such as poverty, hardship, and L a L l e c a C o l e c t i va   •   3 9 5

the daily strug­gle of survival in terms that hid the roots of t­ hose prob­ lems, which are ­really political-­economic ones. The solutions offered by the new right wing in its superficial manner w ­ ere not social programs—­ which would require rethinking from the bottom up the transformations that the rapid growth and ­free trade agreement have caused in our city. What is offered instead are more jails, more “security,” more police, or in other words, more state power, more control: they tell us “Welcome to the United Neoliberal States of Latin Amer­i­ca.” Up against t­ hese conditions, and the question, “what now?” we deci­ ded to go work inside the prison system, with the idea of seeing how the new politics looked in practice, and to find a way to transform part of the system, the ­people within it, and ourselves. We thought of the proj­ect as a starting point for analyzing this transformation and as a space from which to begin thinking about how to transform the interior of that system. We arrived with the idea of observing what was happening with the new politics and with the idea of working with ­those who w ­ ere being dis­appeared by ­these con­temporary policies: the inmates and their families. They are the ones who are crushed with all the strength of the new system and yet ­were never respected, represented, or considered in the w ­ hole discourse about poverty and repression. La Lleca, then, is a proj­ect of interventions, of multiple interventions—­interventions that come from distinct areas, with distinct objectives that emerge from the conditions and hardships that we have encountered during our years of work in the prison system. Moreover, it is impor­tant to note that the proj­ect in itself is not something fixed, but rather always in flux, transforming itself. As we learn more and more about the real­ity of the prison, we can think of new interventions for new prob­lems, and other ways of working out prob­lems that we had never noticed before. The critical function of the idea of intervention is its opening onto transversatility. Deleuze and Guattari deployed the term “transversal” in their book A Thousand Plateaus,12 but the original use of the term was developed by Guattari during his time at the La Borde hospital in France. For Guattari, the “transversal” was a tool for the reor­ga­ni­za­tion of the institutional practices of psychiatry. Guattari used the term “transversality” as a conceptual tool to open logics and hierarchies that w ­ ere closed and to experiment with new relations of interdependence, to produce new assemblages and group formations. We use the concept of transversality to explain the effects of the interventions that we carry out through the La Lleca proj­ect and as a guide that helps us think about how we cross and 3 9 6   •   l a l l e c a c o l e c t i va

merge institutional structures to produce new collective subjectivities that break with the distinctions between the individual and the group. In what follows, we discuss some of the characteristics of the proj­ect, in what can be read as a descriptive account and not a theoretical one. We take this approach in part due to the influence of feminist practices on our work, and b ­ ecause the purpose of ­these lines is not to theorize the effects or achievements of our work (which would be another text completely), but rather to create a device that can generate other forms of work in another places and times. With this objective, we have deci­ded to give below (in the lineage of Clifford Geertz) a “deep description” of our work in La Lleca. Out of all of the interventions encompassed by the proj­ect, we want to highlight three that ­will give an idea of how the proj­ect finds new ways of occupying and changing prison space, and the relations and practices that are localized t­ here. First is the intervention we carried out at the institutional level in ceresova (a prison in Iztapalapa), which we visited once or twice a week for seven years to work with inmates. E ­ very day that we entered, we passed through the same guard checkpoints, the same administrative and judicial offices, where we would stop to see the secretaries of the director or government (if we had time), and then we would descend into the general population. Just as we physically traveled through the prison space, the proj­ect travels through the institutional space. In ceresova we encountered dif­fer­ent sites that enable the functioning of the institution. ­These included the administrative section of the penitentiary system, the judicial administrative apparatus, the security apparatus or guards, and the penitentiary technicians. The administration is composed of ­people like the director, secretaries, e­ tc. The guards are the representatives of the police, of state power within the prison, and they usually have the majority of the power inside. The technicians include p ­ eople such as social workers, psychologists, ­lawyers, educators, ­etc. They barely established themselves nine years ago as a type of support to mediate between inmates and guards. They exert a type of indirect control, and thus they make up a new force but not a destabilizing one, since they continue to work within the institutional framework. When we first entered ceresova, we had no idea which groups had the most power, nor what the relationships ­were like between them. But we found out quickly enough, and part of what we do is to always cross, surpassing the institutional framework that defines ­those groups and L a L l e c a C o l e c t i va   •   3 9 7

that monitors their powers and duties. We entered the prison from the outside with a noninstitutional point of view, and we tried to make the institution work in another way. In this traversing of the institutional, we tried to aggregate ­those groups into new formations, creating new clusters and opening new spaces for dialogue and exchange. One transversal space we have tried to create is for discussing the construction of gender and the construction of relationships (personal, f­ amily related, institutional) in our society. Opening up ­these discussions has caused actors in the prison to reflect on how preconceived ideas about t­ hese issues affect us, ­because prison is, above all, a space of rules, a space whose function “should be” conserved, with its hierarchies and modes of control. Any force that runs c­ ounter to all of that always obtains quite in­ter­est­ing effects. The proj­ect always, b ­ ecause of its nature of exceeding what institutionalism establishes, on the one hand, ­causes confusion, discussions, uncertainties, disagreements; and on the other hand, it provokes demands for more control, while having the effect of joining p ­ eople in new formations and opening them up to the other and to the unexpected. The other side of the proj­ect’s intervention at an institutional level concerns the division that sustains the prison as an institution: the division between the outside and the inside. This division, the cruelest division, shreds the social fabric and makes pos­si­ble e­ very sad and difficult ­thing we have seen inside the prison system. Hence, we work in formal and informal ways to recover relationships and reconnect p ­ eople on both sides. We do the informal work almost accidentally; b ­ ecause we move everywhere inside the prison, this always results in communicating something between an inmate and the director, or we see someone who has an injury, but ­doesn’t have money for treatment, and then we take charge of the ­matter and call his f­ amily, ­etc. But we also work in a more methodical manner, as we place a specific emphasis on reconstructing social bonds through a series of groups made up of the families of the inmates that we have gathered together and with whom we have worked. With ­these groups, we discuss topics and prob­lems that arise when a f­ amily member is imprisoned, through sharing and constructing awareness from and about imprisonment. In this way, we try to extend the proj­ect into a more public sphere and to continue to find ways to reach beyond the institution—­ doing something e­ lse with it, opening it up to other groups and discussions that the prison has to dominate and silence in order to maintain its culturally specific form and role. 3 9 8   •   l a l l e c a c o l e c t i va

21.1.  ​Workshop in CERESOVA, Iztapalapa. Courtesy of La Lleca.

The second overall intervention has to do with how we work with the inmates, how we accompany them (realizar un acompañamiento), and how we try to create spaces in which they can share and construct knowledge. This is how we look for solutions, the most basic, ­whether they are ­simple or complicated, in order to better their lives inside. La Lleca is a proj­ect of duration, in contrast to the works of artists who prefer to enter a space or community only for the time they need to take a photo­graph or rec­ord a few minutes of video. What interests us is to occupy a place, not in a warlike sense, but to see what effects we can achieve by staying ­there and working for a long period of time, and even more importantly, to learn to think about the objectives of the proj­ect through the needs of the p ­ eople we work with. The purpose of the La Lleca intervention is not achieved at the level of repre­sen­ta­tion, but rather in the situations and the dynamics that we encounter in a specific place and in specific persons’ lives. We establish ourselves in the artistic plane only at the level of transformation. When we first arrived in the prison, we w ­ ere stunned by the conditions that we found t­ here, above all, by the dehumanization of life, of the lives the inmates who live ­under a system that is oppressive and violently against any L a L l e c a C o l e c t i va   •   3 9 9

form of ethical ­human coexistence. A system that piles up to twenty inmates in one cell, leaving many to sleep moored against the bars. The worst part, if it can be said that way, is not the conditions, but how they affect the p ­ eople who live in this state of enforced emotional impoverishment. It affects all of their relationships and their way of being, to the point that even the word “rehabilitation” becomes a cruel joke. In tackling this situation, we deci­ded that since we could not change the material situation, we would try to work on the affective level; so the second intervention stays on that plane, attempting to ease, change, and better the lives of our peers and companions. We did the least that we could do; we looked for ways in which ­those who wanted to could ease a bit of the stress and escape everyday life on the inside. In our quest to see what we could do, since our bodies ­were already inside, we quickly realized two t­ hings: first, between the inmates t­ here was a strong lack of h ­ uman connection, that what they ­were missing most was to be with p ­ eople who w ­ ere still “humanized.” We believe the proj­ect can serve as a space for them to construct knowledge, as a point of reflection about life inside and how to manage relationships with their families outside. We also saw that the young men inside each faced the same prob­lems, but since the dehumanizing conditions of prison impede the construction of emotional relationships or communication, t­ here was no way in which they could meet to share knowledge or construct strategies to survive. Since the start, we have developed the proj­ect as a series of workshops in which we create spaces for the construction and sharing of knowledge. In the workshops, we strive to continue seeking new ways to form and reinforce group relations between the young men. Since the proj­ect is constructed as a collective (that is, the power is shared among every­one horizontally), shared knowledge about the life they live inside is generated. From all of the workshops that we have done with the young men, which touch on t­ hese thematics, we would highlight the following: “The Secrets of Marta,” a video program where the guys write questions and every­one answers as if they w ­ ere on a talk show like Cristina or Oprah; and “Collective Marriage,” a program in which we spent four months working on the topics of gender and the social construction of f­ amily relationships, finishing with a collective wedding between the participants of the proj­ect (which was truly something very special and moving). As we noted at the beginning of this piece, ­there is a lack of information about the new Mexican politics, the conditions and institutional practices that are found in the prisons, and the lives of ­those who live ­there or of ­those who have a ­family member inside. The third intervention of La Lleca 4 0 0   •   l a l l e c a c o l e c t i va

21.2.  ​Workshop in CERESOVA, Iztapalapa. Courtesy of La Lleca.

is an intervention on the informational plane; that is, ­here we think about the proj­ect and the work and knowledge that we generate as a way of working against the repre­sen­ta­tion not only of “delinquents,,” but also of the idea of poverty and its ­causes and effects. This is an intervention into the public sphere that is dominated by a spectacularized or nouveau riche perspective dedicated to the city’s program of neoliberalization. When we are invited to do a pre­sen­ta­tion, or give a talk, we are also working on this informational level. For us that is the most difficult intervention to navigate, ­because we do not want to be the representatives of that information, of that base of facts and counter-­representations, nor of the young men or their families. Therefore, we think though any pre­sen­ta­tion or publication with the guys who make up La Lleca, to make sure that each part of the pro­cess is shared and collaborative (as we do with every­thing we write). Notes 1 (November 16, 2011). 2 Subcomandante Marcos, “Ni el Centro ni la Periferia. I.—­arriba, pensar el blanco. la geografía y el calendario de la teoría.” This text was read at

L a L l e c a C o l e c t i va   •   4 0 1



5 6



9 10



the first International Colloquium in Memory of Andrés Aubry at San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, México (December 2007). The text can be found at Judith Butler, “What Is Critique?” Revista Brumaria 7 (Madrid, 2006), translated into Spanish by Marcelo Expósito and revised by Joaquín Barriendos. It can also be found in the third issue of the multilingual web journal transversal, a proj­ect of the Eu­ro­pean Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies (eipcp​ .­net): http://transform.eipccp./transversal/0806/butler/es. “La lleca” (an inversion of “la calle” or “street”) is a Mexico City working-­class slang term to indicate “the outside”; it is used widely in prison contexts to refer to the outside beyond the walls. For further information, see,, and For further information, see,,, and http://­www​ .­frente3defevereiro​.­com​.­br​/­. “As a system (created during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries along with the development of the bourgeoisie) governed by its own laws, regardless of politics, economics, and daily life.” Nestor García Canclini, “Introducción: La Sociología de la Cultura de Pierre Bourdieu,” translated by Martha Pou, Sociología y Cultura (Mexico City: Grijalbo-­Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1990), 18. Alain Badiou, “Fifteen ­Theses on Con­temporary Art,” unpublished but available online at several sources, including José Manuel Springer, “Review of Carlos Amorales exhibition,” Art Nexus 6, no. 66 (2007): 132–34. Nina Möntmann, “The Enterprise of the Art Institution in Late Capitalism,” translated by Aileen Derieg, http://­eipcp​.­net​/­transversal​/­0106​/­moentmann​ /­en. A demonstration was held in June 2004, convened by Mexico United against Delinquency, among other ngos and civil associations. In addition to the demonstration in the capital, more arose in other cities such as Tijuana, Monterrey, Puebla, and Aguascalientes, among ­others. Around 250,000 ­people participated (as reported in the newspapers). They came from the Angel of In­de­pen­dence to the Zócalo dressed in white, where they all sang the national anthem. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Mil Mesetas (Capitalismo y Esquizofrenia) (Valencia: Pre-­textos, 1998). This was published in México as Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Rizoma: Introduction (Mexico City: Ediciones Coyoacán, 1994).

4 0 2   •   l a l l e c a c o l e c t i va

La Línea


PROJ­E CT DESCRIPTION elize mazadiego In 2002, at the U.S.-­Mexico border, five ­women formed into one collective called La Línea. The line that literally divides the United States and Mexico figuratively collapsed ­under this binational, feminist collaboration between Esmeralda Caballos, Lorena Mancilla, Miriam García, Abril Castro, and Kara Lynch. They each bring their par­tic­u­lar background in art, lit­er­a­ture, and philosophy together to produce artistic work that addresses aspects of life on the border. Their collaboration began with the publication of a journal, also titled La Línea, and their work has developed into interventions throughout Tijuana and the globe via written and visual texts, per­for­mances, and pedagogy. By 2006 the group launched a blog that archives their many proj­ects. Central to each work is language and text. They intersperse Spanish and En­glish to enunciate, represent, describe, and reimagine the many dimensions of the border. One such example is in the proj­ect “Poem Lines on Phone Lines.” In 2006 La Línea’s members recorded their poetry on voice messages for listeners to hear when they called the Museum of Con­ temporary Art San Diego’s phone line. The poems ­were performed again the following year during a poetry festival in Monterrey, Mexico. At the same time this work was in production, La Línea took their poetic texts to the streets of Tijuana in “Caution Proj­ect.” The group decorated parts of

the city’s public space with bright yellow caution tape printed with phrases like “¿Como suena el cambio del momento?”1 Member Abril Castro explains: In my case, I produced a sequence near the Zona Rio. I chose this space ­ ecause besides being the most urbanized area in Tijuana, it also cenb ters around the two centers of government (state and municipal), the oldest and successful shopping center, and the border crossing to San Ysidro. Such territories have definitely marked the history and the urban identity of the city.2 In subsequent years, La Línea continued to engage language and text through vari­ous media such as video and lectures. Their collaboration also extended beyond their five members to include other Tijuana and U.S.-­ based artists. By 2008 their practice took shape in the form of “El Proyecto de las Morras.” For three months La Línea orchestrated writing workshops and lectures at the ­Women’s Center for Rehabilitation El Mezón. The rehab center is located in the Colonia Francisco Villa, a small neighborhood in Tijuana, and h ­ ouses approximately seventy w ­ omen at a time. “Las Morras” are the w ­ omen within this center, ranging between seventeen and thirty-­five years of age, who are recovering from drug abuse. La Línea’s intervention in this environment was to create a dialogue through language and text among las Morras inside and outside the center. By also identifying themselves as Morras, the w ­ omen of La Línea blend the many distinctive voices within the proj­ect in an effort to expand their collaboration beyond their initial group of five w ­ omen. La Línea, in “El Proyecto de las Morras,” began to encompass the group of w ­ omen in rehabilitation, as well as the artists invited to participate in the workshops. The members of the collective first held fourteen sessions at El Mezón. ­After introducing the proj­ect, the following exercise, titled “Ejercicios de Autoconocimiento, Relajación y Cuestionario de Proust,” asked las Morras to write their answers to a long series of questions known as the Proust Questionnaire. The questions include: What is your favorite virtue? What is your main fault? Who are your favorite prose writers and poets? The ­women took part in sharing their answers in front of the entire group, which the group then responded to. According to their blog documenting the proj­ect, “the purpose of the exercise is self-­knowledge, to have a solid foundation from which start to write.”3 One unanticipated result of the session involved the group learning just as much about their fellow Morras as about themselves. 4 0 4   •  e l i z e m a z a d i e g o

The third session combined a number of reading and writing activities. In this case, two members of the collective, Miriam García and Margarita Valencia, led the workshop and determined the vari­ous activities. Some exercises had the Morras write a description of their feelings and thoughts during the meeting. Following this they conducted a reading and analy­ sis of Guatemalan writer Augusto Monterroso’s short story “La rana que quería ser una rana autentica” and Jose Emilio Pacheco’s “La Reina.” Subsequent sessions continued to depend on the written word to engage the group and bridge a conversation across experiences, but they also evolved into new stages that cultivated the larger collective’s writings, resulting in the publication of a fanzine. However, they never lost sight of their foundation, as explained in Miriam Garcías’s blog entry: We always think that the two hours of our workshop must become a pause: to laugh, to play, to listen to the voices of ­others in the lit­er­a­ture, to explore worlds; to remove them from this period of “guards” and the cries of (constant) surveillance. The proposal was to build a pause for the imagination and creation.4 During the development of their workshops, the w ­ omen of La Línea recognized an emergent sense of collectivity among the ­women of the rehabilitation center. The bridge that La Línea sought to build across spaces and communities was beginning to take shape over time. This collective expanded in ­later sessions with invited lecturers to collaborate with a larger group of incarcerated w ­ omen at the center. Some participants, including Roberto Castillo Udiarte, Carlos Sanchez, and Olimpia Ramirez, lectured and workshopped with Las Morras to generate texts. Another extension of the collaboration was with the collective research proj­ect “Proyecto Cívico: Dialogos e Interrogantes,” which accompanied the exhibition “Proyecto Civico” at the Centro Cultural Tijuana. Las Morras from La Línea, along with ­those from the El Mezón, presented the work of “El Proyecto de las Morras” on December 6, 2008. They introduced themselves as a collective of ­women ­under one proj­ect, but also opened up their dialogue to the larger space of the cultural center, its organizers, and its audience as a civic engagement. Their talk coincided with the end of the proj­ect’s three-­month duration, and induced several reflections about the achievements of their work and their desire to continue their work together. Miriam García reveals their attempts to always maintain a cohesive and equal collaboration: L a L í n e a   •  4 0 5

Estos meses de planeación también nos sirvieron para identificar los retos que un proyecto de esta naturaleza implicaba y para establecer que buscábamos entablar un diálogo con mujeres iguales a nosotras y no con objetos de investigación. Este principio ha sido fundamental para el desarrollo del proyecto, pues partimos del reconocimiento del trato digno y horizontal que merecemos bajo cualquier circunstancia y ha contribuido a que las morras, ellas y nosotras, hayamos logrado respetarnos y sobre todo comunicarnos.5 ­ ese months of planning also served to identify the challenges that Th a proj­ect of this nature implied and to establish that we sought to enter into a dialogue with w ­ omen equal to us and not with objects of research. This princi­ple has been fundamental for the development of the proj­ect, ­because we begin by recognizing that we deserve to be treated with dignity and equality u ­ nder any circumstance and this has contributed to the morras, both we and them, being respectful and, above all, communicative. ­ ere García explains the ways in which the proj­ect utilizes language and H text as a means of forming community. The proj­ect resumed in 2010 with workshops and the publication of las Morras’ writings in magazines and newspapers. Most activity continued at El Mezón, but the proj­ect was also reproduced at Nueva Esperanza, a ­women’s rehabilitation center in Tijuana, and a youth detention center in Hermosillo, Mexico. A larger compendium of the proj­ect’s writings ­will be published in a forthcoming book. La Línea is currently working on the publication and continues to stay in contact with las Morras through the proj­ect’s blog. THE MORRAS PROJ­E CT Interdisciplinario La Línea/La Línea Interdisciplinary Group: Abril Castro, Esmeralda Ceballos, Kara Lynch, Lorena Mancilla, and Sayak Valencia-­M iriam García Who am I?

The villa, the apartments, the room secluded but never isolated, the cold of the morning and the heat of the night; the red Marlboro cigarettes, the white ones and the Camels; the Victorias, the Coronas, the Tecates, the ashtray on the ground; one desire or another, failures, defeats, Glenh’s broken arm. The concerts, the agualoca [alcohol], the 4 0 6   •  e l i z e m a z a d i e g o

roosters, the burned apples that are sweeter than caramels, the smiles, the slam; black b ­ elts, the pink one and even the blue one. Plaza Rio, the paintings, the makeup, the choco­lates, theft, and the tardeada [block party or street fair], the man­ag­er and the camera, the jumps, the hops, the acid, and the lights. Screams and silence, intense and heartfelt songs. Open eyes, closed ones, swollen ones, and black ones: long and bitten nails, silver rings and St. Jude’s medallion. Cakes without ­recipes, controlled medi­cation; in­ven­ted disputes, days without a calendar, the days that are numbered, the summer schedule, sleep never fully achieved. Mexico, the Spanish, the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Basilica, the Alameda park, inherited nostalgia. The airport and its thousands of hallways, the pain of my departure, the consequences. (Naydali, 2010, fragment) El Mezón [sic] is not a hospital, but it has an extensive first aid station with medi­cation of dif­fer­ent doses and a rigorous administrative schedule. It ­isn’t a jail, ­there are no judgments or sentences, but once it is determined how long one w ­ ill remain inside, the only recourse for early release is to escape. It is not a ­house, but it has dormitories, a kitchen, tv room, bathrooms and showers. It is not a school, but it has a gymnasium, computer room, director’s office, and daily meeting hours. El Mezón is a rehabilitation center, located on the summit of one of ­those l­ittle hills that Tijuana converts into informal neighborhoods/slums. The building is made up of three ­silent, orderly, clean floors. It is in the heart of the Pancho Villa neighborhood. Within El Mezón live w ­ omen addicted to drugs and alcohol, adolescents, adults, and old ­women deposited ­there by their own families as a disciplinary action, and still ­others who are referred to as “ungovernable.” The border is the ideal space to talk about exceptions. We, its residents, are Mexican citizens, but our rights and obligations are dif­fer­ent than ­those of the rest of the country’s inhabitants. We count on the fiscal benefits of the ­Free Trade Zone and we suffer the ­human costs of the fence that protects ­those benefits. Constant, perpetual, absolute consciousness of the limit, the city limit, the space of cultural, territorial, and poetic transition. We arrived at El Mezón seeking the state of exception within the state of exception: writing and ­women. If our rights and obligations as inhabitants of the borderlands w ­ ere dif­fer­ent than t­ hose of the rest of the country, then t­ hose of a person interned in a rehabilitation center are not only dif­f er­ent, but rather null, minimal, reduced, and as basic as their blue L a L í n e a   •  4 0 7

uniforms. Marginalization and silence imposed on their addictions. This is how we brought a proj­ect of literary activism to the morras, with the idea of activating the micropolitics of writing. The morra as a female entity is undefinable for us. A morra can be a young, immature w ­ oman: “­don’t pay attention to her, she’s very morra,” a girlfriend, “she’s my morrita,” or any w ­ oman in general, “that morra over ­there.” Luis Humberto Crosthwaite states, “I d ­ on’t know where the word morra came from, it exists since I have existed and surely before then. Could it come from the word ‘love’ [amor]? It could be, taking into account that it is a word that you direct to your girlfriend or to youth: morra, morritos.” This is the word most frequently used in the center; all of the ­women refer to each other, in singular and plural, as morras. The word ­“woman” has a dif­fer­ent context, chica is very chilango (slang from Mexican City), chava even more so, ruca is very violent, jaina is for girlfriends. In general, one only calls someone who is young morra. Despite the fact that ­there are ­women in El Mezón who have been in twenty-­three rehabilitation centers, ­others in thirty, it is the first time that the majority of them have faced confinement. They range from age fourteen to sixty-­six; some are ­mothers or grand­mothers, office workers, gang members, students, deported ­women, Mexican Americans from Los Angeles lost in Tijuana. . . . ​ Despite their differences, no one calls anyone ­else jefa, niña, señora, doña, muchacha (boss, girl, ­ma’am, Mrs., teenage girl). Horizontality and equality are derived from the same word that identifies them, including the navy blue color of their clothes, or their hairstyle; a bun that holds all of the hair at the nape of the neck and about which Roberto Castillo, one of the writers invited to collaborate with the proj­ect, told them, “I had seen you in photos, I recognize some of your ­faces, but when I saw you, instead of feeling like I was ­going to a rehabilitation center, I felt like I was ­going to a school of modern dance, ­because of your hairstyle.” The proj­ect establishes contact between the morras from outside (us) and ­those inside the center (them), through workshops given by members of La Línea and invited writers who presented their work or that of other authors, ending each session with a writing exercise. El Mezón has a strict routine of confinement, work, and anti-­addiction therapy, but t­ here is no recreational, cultural, or playful activity. Upon noting this void, it was impor­tant to us to address the absence by proposing a literary workshop that was in­de­pen­dent of therapy or research. We never sought to bring about encounters between the healthy and the sick or between subjects and objects. The objective consisted in searching for a way to establish dia4 0 8   •  l a l í n e a

22.1.  ​Workshop in El Mezón, Tijuana. Courtesy of La Línea.

logues among equals so dif­fer­ent from one another through writing, an exceptional space of creation for ­women in general. The prison must be the microcosm of a perfect society in which individuals are isolated in their moral existence, but in which they come together in a strict hierarchical framework, with no lateral relation, communication being pos­si­ble only in a vertical direction. (Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 1976) This nonlateral framework, and the absence of nonhierarchical communication, was one of the ­things that the proj­ect was able to break up, with optional sessions where the morras ­were not required to identify themselves as addicts in order to speak and express themselves in what­ever way they wanted. This offered them a distinct space of coexistence in which they can know the thoughts, emotions, and experiences of the ­others, and explore imaginary worlds through reading. ­There ­were more than a few obstacles: morras who did not know how to read or write or who ­were a ­little more advanced, new arrivals and departures, ­others who simply w ­ ere not ­there . . . ​entry denied to men, the rigorous control of pencils and pens that could not leave the space and L a L í n e a   •  4 0 9

time of the workshop. . . . ​But we encountered our biggest prob­lem in the figure we call power. That figure in charge of El Mezón is a kind of patriarch, dictator, jailer. He decides every­thing for every­one. From what is served to what is said, who goes out and who comes in, who deserves an insult, who deserves several insults, who receives visits, who is crazy, who needs a ­little bit of air or a ­little bit of isolation. His voice is the morning alarm clock and the only one with license to yell. He is an addict of rehabilitation, similar to the majority of the ­people who operate ­these centers with no regulation other than their own authority. Due to the fact that the rehabilitation centers are not regulated, ­there are no individual guarantees or h ­ uman rights that mean anything, and this situation is manifested to varying degrees within Tijuana’s countless centers. Even though the morras of El Mezón have relatively good living conditions, part of their treatment includes submission, silence, work, and obedience. The collective, therefore, entered into this play of forces accompanied by constant threats, conditioning, and blackmail from ­those in charge at the center (­things are done his way, or not at all), with whom we had to negotiate the possibilities and conditions ­under which the dialogue would take place at all times. I breathe, open my eyes, ­after one month and eleven days it’s still hard for me to believe where I am. It hurts me to accept it and it hurts even more not knowing how long it ­will last. A morra, 2008 In El Mezón life moves forward without time, at the slightest slip one day turns into the same day ­every day. The morras observe themselves in an imaginary mirror and try to store that image in their memory. H ­ ere, inside, a name gets lost between the walls on occasion, and it is sometimes hard to find. The first workshop carried out in El Mezón throughout 2008 allowed us to identify the challenges a proj­ect of this nature implies. The beginning was fundamental ­because it demonstrated to us the difficulties we must face in order to come to re­spect each other and communicate among ourselves, maintaining dignified, horizontal treatment no ­matter the circumstances. With this knowledge, “The Morras Proj­ect” was repeated in 2010, this time with two workshops. One was given in El Mezón and another in Nueva Esperanza. Session ­after session, we con4 1 0   •  l a l í n e a

tinually rediscovered the complexity of rehabilitation and readapting to society for the ­women with whom we worked. This pushed us to reflect on the possibilities of lit­er­a­ture as micropolitics, on our limits as a collective, and on the importance of ceasing to be passive observers, and of exploring what the possibilities of our artistic practices are in the construction of gender and social relations, establishing an open dialogue in which all actors are pres­ent. When we began “The Morras Proj­ect,” we did not anticipate how enriching it would be for all of the participants. Now, nearly three years a­ fter its beginning, ­after having sat for hours planning sessions, ­after dozens of workshops, hundreds of readings, hundreds of texts, we have been able to publish the book, El proyecto de las morras, El tiempo desde el cuerpo (The Morras Proj­ect: Time from the Body), which bears witness to the shared experiences of the morras in the centers and ourselves. “The Morras Proj­ ect” workshops took the so-­called War on Drugs as context, a state policy carried out by the Mexican government, aimed at reducing the high levels of vio­lence and drug trafficking, even though the numbers of the dead and other victims between 2008 and 2011 numbers in the thousands in the country. Baja California experienced an unpre­ce­dented period of vio­lence between 2008 and 2009 as a consequence of this confrontation, which obligated the population to seek refuge in private spaces and to explore communication practices via social networks on the Internet. The participants in the workshops and their families count among ­these victims of the war on drugs. The texts generated in “The Morras Proj­ect” became testimony to this war, to the possibility of producing new meanings and strategies of survival and subversion. This proj­ect highlights for us the urgent necessity of opening up multidisciplinary dialogues and doorways that encompass every­one, in order to propose comprehensive recovery alternatives to ­those who strug­gle with narcotics abuse and to bring ­these alternatives to the public policy stage. I listen to the noise on the street. I look at my companion, she looks at me. I ­don’t know what to write, my mind is blank. I hear a dog bark and see that every­one is writing, so I do the same. Sometimes I cannot make sense of the moment, but now it is the opposite, I make sense of it, I feel my heart beating along with the rest, I listen to my thoughts and write and write and I laugh to myself and think . . . ​I feel peace, and I think. A morra, 2008 L a L í n e a   •  4 1 1

Notes 1​­ http://­lalineainterdisciplinario​.­blogspot​.­com​/­2006​/­12​/­textos​-­devastados​.­html. 2​­ Ibid. My translation. 3​­ http://­elproyectodelasmorras​.­blogspot​.­com​/­2008​/­10​/­el​-­sbado​-­27​-­las​-­internas​ -­de​-­el​-m ­ ezn​.h ­ tml. 4​­ http://­elproyectodelasmorras​.­blogspot​.­com​/­2008​/­10​/­las​-­morras​-­slo​-­quieren​ -­divertirse​.­html. 5​­

4 1 2   •  l a l í n e a


gavin adams is a visual artist. He was born and raised in São Paulo, but went to Britain in the late 1980s to earn a B.A. with honors in art and a master’s degree, also in art. Back in São Paulo, he got his doctorate as he joined the art collective boom ­after the year 2000, including ­those around the Prestes Maia occupation. Puzzled by the contradictions within such a scene, he got closer to po­liti­cal groups and more interested in po­liti­cal theory. The effervescence of the June  2013 demonstrations found him working with libertarian groups rather than with art groups. His first involvement in politics took place in the early 1980s, with the creation of the Workers Party. T ­ oday he seeks positions between classic Leninism and Deleuzian politics. mariola v. alvarez is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Con­ temporary Art at Colby College in Maine. From 2012 to 2014 she was an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Humanities Research Center at Rice University in Houston, Texas, and taught in the Department of Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American Studies. She completed her doctorate in the history, theory, and criticism of art from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). She has published writings on Ferreira Gullar’s non-­object poems and Cla­ris­sa Tossins’s con­temporary art prac-

tice focused on Brasília. Her current research analyzes the work of the Brazilian-­Japanese artist Manabu Mabe, which developed from a paper presented at an aah 2015 panel, “Navigating the Pacific: Latin Amer­i­ca and Asia in Conversation.” She also served as cochair for the caa 2016 session, “New Geographies of Abstract Art in Postwar Latin Amer­i­ca.” gustavo buntinx is an art historian, critic, and in­de­pen­dent curator, and director of the Cultural Center of the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (Peru). A gradu­ate of Harvard University, where he studied lit­er­a­ture and history, he completed postgraduate studies at the Universidad de Buenos Aires. He has been professor in art criticism history, Latin American art, and twentieth-­century art at the Universidad de Buenos Aires and the Universidade do São Paulo. In Lima he directed the Italian Art Museum and the Universidad de San Marcos Museum of Art and History. He has been the curator of more than a dozen exhibits in Peru, Uruguay, and Mexico. His essays have been published in art criticism anthologies released in Eu­rope and the United States. maría fernanda cartagena lives in Quito, Ec­ua­dor. She is an art researcher, man­ag­er, and curator. She is currently director of the Casa del Alabado Museum of Pre-­Columbian Art. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in art history from the American University in Washington, DC, and holds a master’s in visual cultures from Middlesex University, London. Her fields of research are the relationship between art and politics, art and anthropology, community-­based art practices, critical pedagogies, and spiritualities in culture. She is the former editor of the bilingual, online journal LatinArt​.­com and has taught at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ec­ua­dor, Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, flacso, and Universidad Central del Ec­ua­dor. She has carried out vari­ous education proj­ects and curatorships for museums in Ec­ua­dor. She is currently participating as a researcher of art practices linked to social pro­cesses within “Talking to Action” for Otis College, part of the Getty’s “Pacific Standard Time LA/ LA” initiative, taking place in Los Angeles in 2017. She held the post of executive director of the Fundación Museos de la Ciudad (City Museums Foundation), 2014–2015. She is a member of the Red Conceptualismos del Sur (Southern Conceptualisms Network). david gutiérrez castañeda is a sociologist at the National University of Colombia (2006). He earned a master’s degree in the history of art at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in the con­temporary art 4 1 4   •  C o n t r i b u t o r s

area in 2011, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in art history at the same institution. His is also a member of the research group Workshop Critical History of Art (since 2006) and the Southern Conceptualisms Network (since 2008). He has been a professor at the National Pedagogical University of Colombia in the bachelor of visual arts program (2008–9), a research professor at the Panamericana University (2007–8), a researcher at the master’s program in museology and heritage management at the National University of Colombia (2006–9), and a teacher at the Mexican Acad­emy of Dance (2013). He received a Mexiquense College Scholarship from the Ford Foundation for the program “Lay Liberties Research” for research in secular art and politics at the College of Mexico (2006). Castañeda was the winner of the National Art Criticism Award of the Ministry of Culture of Colombia in 2010. His research proj­ects include Looking Beyond, ­G oing In: Arts and Social Interests in Colombia (National University of Colombia, 2006), Gathering: Cultural Pro­cesses and Movements for Self (Panamericana University, 2007–8), Con­temporary Art Practices as Source for Significant Learning (National Pedagogical University, 2008), and Mapa Teatro 1987– 1992 (National Autonomous University of Mexico, 2009–12). The author of several articles on con­temporary art practices and social pro­cesses in Latin Amer­i­ca, he lives in Mexico City. fabian cereijido is an artist, art historian, and professor; he was born in Argentina and has lived in the United States since the 1980s. He received his doctorate in art history, theory, and criticism from the University of California–­San Diego in 2010. His field of study is the engagement of context and the extra-­artistic in modern and con­temporary Latin American art. As an artist he initially worked in painting, then ventured into single-­ channel video, and ­today most of his works are video installations involving milk. He has shown in Latin Amer­i­ca, the United States, and Eu­rope. He is currently the director of education and art history instructor at Art Division, a not-­for-­profit professional training program for underserved young adults of Los Angeles, and he teaches con­temporary Latin American art at the California State University–­Long Beach. His teaching experience in art and art history includes art classes and guided tours for ­children at the Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico City (1980–1982), art for K–12 c­ hildren in the public schools of New York City through the outreach programs of the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art (1999–2003), art history lectures on con­temporary Latin American art at the Museum of Con­temporary Art in San Diego (2006), and teaching engagements at C o n t r i b u t o r s   •  4 1 5

the University of California–­San Diego (2011 to the pres­ent). He has been involved in Latin American politics since the 1980s and is currently a member of La Cámpora, an Argentine po­liti­cal organ­ization supporting the governments of Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and the unpre­ce­dented upsurge of the left in Latin Amer­i­ca. paloma checa-­g ismero is an art critic and student in the Ph.D. program in art theory, history, and criticism at ucsd. She is also a member of field editorial collective. Trained as an artist, her work has been exhibited in venues such as the Manifesta 8 Biennial and Matadero Madrid. As the man­ag­er of in­de­pen­dent art institutions, she has worked at core Labs Beijing and rampa Madrid. As an art critic, she has been a permanent contributor for the Barcelona-­based online publication A-­Desk since 2009, and has written for publications such as La Tempestad (Mexico), caa Reviews (U.S.), and Concreta (UK-­Spain). In 2014 she was a guest writer for the arco Madrid Art Fair, and has recently penned “Moments of Self-­ Definition,” a cata­log essay for Los Sujetos, an exhibition featured in the Spanish Pavilion of the 2015 Venice Biennale. Her gradu­ate research examines the inclusion of community-­based art practices in art biennials, with a focus on two case studies taking place in Cuba and the Mexico-­U.S. border in the 1990s. kency cornejo is Assistant Professor of Modern and Con­temporary Latin American Art at the University of New Mexico, where she specializes in con­temporary art of Central Amer­i­ca, its diaspora, and decolonial methodologies in art. She received her Ph.D. from Duke University, her M.A. from ut–­Austin, and her B.A. from ucla. Her work explores the intersection between race, gender, and coloniality, and considers issues of femicide, immigration, prisons, transnational gangs and visual culture, indigenous rights, and epistemologies. Her recent publications include “The Question of Central American-­Americans in Latino Art and ­Pedagogy” for Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies; “No Text without Context: Habacuc Guillermo Vargas’s Exposition #1” for Art and Documentation/Sztuka i Dokumentacja; and “Indigeneity and Decolonial Seeing in Con­temporary Art of Guatemala” for fuse Magazine. Her work has received support from the Fulbright-­Hays ddra and the Ford Foundation, among ­others. Currently, she is working on her first book manuscript based on her dissertation, “Visual Disobedience: The Geopolitics of Experimental Art in Central Amer­i­ca, 1990–­Pres­ent,” which critically analyzes twenty-­five years of con­temporary art in postwar Central Amer­ 4 1 6   •  C o n t r i b u t o r s

i­ca. Kency was born in Los Angeles to Salvadoran parents and was raised in Compton, California. raquel de anda is an in­de­pen­dent curator and cultural producer based in Brooklyn, New York. De Anda began her c­ areer as associate curator at Galería de la Raza, a con­temporary Latino arts organ­ization in San Francisco, California (2003–10), and has continued to support the production of socially engaged artwork in both Mexico and the United States. She holds an M.S. from Parsons School of Design, with a focus on integrating cultural equity in the field of arts and culture. Recent exhibitions include “Shattering the Concrete: Artists, Activists and Instigators” (Proj­ect Row Houses, Houston, TX); “The ­Ripple Effect: Currents of Socially Engaged Art” (Art Museum of the Amer­i­cas, Washington, DC); Art in Odd Places Intervention Festival (New York); and overseeing creative production for the historic ­People’s Climate March (New York), with hundreds of artists and four hundred thousand ­people participating. Raquel is contributor to and Arts in a Changing Amer­i­ca, and in 2014 was a member of the Laundromat Proj­ect’s Artist and Community Council. She is an active member of the PCA Collective (­People’s Climate Arts), a group of artists and activists who produce art for social movements. The collective was recently awarded the Robert Rauschenberg Artist as Activist Fellowship to continue their work in New York City. bill kelley  jr. is an educator, in­de­pen­dent curator, and writer based in Los Angeles, whose research focuses on collaborative and collective art practices in the Amer­i­cas. Bill has written for such journals as Afterall, p.e.a.r., and Log Journal and is the former director of the online bilingual journal LatinArt​.­com. He currently holds the position of Assistant Professor of Latin American and Latino Art History at California State University–­ Bakersfield. He received his Ph.D. in con­temporary art, theory, and criticism at the University of California–­San Diego. He was most recently co-­curator of the 2011 Encuentro Internacional de Medellín (mde 11: Museo de Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia, 2011) and is currently lead researcher and curator of “Talking to Action” for Otis College of Art as part of the Getty’s “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA” initiative. grant h. kester is Professor of Art History in the Visual Arts Department at the University of California–­San Diego. His publications include Art, Activism and Oppositionality: Essays from Afterimage (Duke University Press, 1998), Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern C o n t r i b u t o r s   •  4 1 7

Art (University of California Press, 2004), and The One and the Many: Con­ temporary Collaborative Art in a Global Context (Duke University Press, 2011). suzanne lacy is an internationally known artist whose work includes installations, video, and large-­scale per­for­mances on social themes and urban issues. One of her best-­known works to date is The Crystal Quilt (Minneapolis, 1987), a per­for­mance with 430 older w ­ omen, broadcast live on public tele­vi­sion. During the 1990s she worked with teams of artists and youth to create an ambitious series of per­for­mances, workshops, and installations on youth and public policy, documented by videos, local and national news broadcasts, and an NBC program. Her work has been funded through numerous local and national foundations, including the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim, Rocke­fel­ler, Surdna, and Nathan Cummings Foundations. Also known for her writing, Lacy edited the influential Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art, published in 1995 by Bay Press, a book that prefigured current writing on po­liti­cally relevant per­for­mance art. She has published over sixty articles on public art. Lacy is the Chair of Fine Arts at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. From 1987 to 1997 she was Dean of the School of Fine Arts at the California College of Arts, and in 1998 she became Founding Director of the Center for Art and Public Life. In 1996–97 she cofounded the Visual and Public Art Institute  at California State University at Monterey Bay with artist Judith Baca. ana longoni is a writer, researcher with conicet (the National Scientific and Technical Research Council), and professor at the Universidad de Buenos Aires in Argentina. She received a B.A. in lit­er­a­ture and a Ph.D. in arts from the Universidad de Buenos Aires, where she currently lectures in gradu­ate and postgraduate courses. She also teaches at the Programa de Estudios Independientes (In­de­pen­dent Studies Program) of macba (Barcelona) and other universities. Her research specializes in the crossroads between art and politics in Latin Amer­i­ca since the 1960s. She has published, alone or in collaboration, several books, including: Del Di Tella a Tucumán Arde (From the Di Tella Institute to Tucumán Arde) (Buenos Aires: El cielo por asalto, 2000; and Eudeba, 2008), Traiciones (Treasons) (Buenos Aires: Norma, 2007), El Siluetazo (The Silhouettes) (Buenos Aires: Adriana Hidalgo, 2008), Roberto Jacoby. El deseo nace del derrumbe (Desire Rises from Collapse) (Barcelona: La Central, 2011), and Leandro Katz (Buenos Aires: Fundación Espigas, 2013). As a playwright, her works include 4 1 8   •  C o n t r i b u t o r s

La Chira (2003) and Árboles (2006). She is also an active member, since its foundation in 2007, of the Red Conceptualismos del Sur (Southern Conceptualisms Network). As curator, she coordinated the exhibitions “Desire Rises from Collapse” (2011) and “Losing the ­Human Form” (2012), both at the Reina Sofía Museum (Madrid). rodrigo martí is a visual artist based in Toronto, Canada. His installation and sculpture is focused on forms of shared ecstasy found in group experiences—­dance clubs, po­liti­cal protest, or dream analy­sis; his drawings, which develop a system of meaning from a personal visual language, extend his exploration of ­these phenomena. He received his mfa in public practice from Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles in 2012. elize mazadiego is an in­de­pen­dent art historian of global modern and con­temporary art, specializing in postwar art, the avant-­garde, and transnationalism in the Amer­i­cas and Eu­rope. She earned her Ph.D. in art history, theory, and criticism in the Visual Arts Department at the University of California–­San Diego. Her essays and interviews have been published internationally, and she is a contributing writer to Frieze magazine. annie mendoza’s research focuses on the crossroads of race and gender throughout Latin Amer­i­ca, in par­tic­u­lar as it pertains to Colombia, the Ca­rib­bean, and Afro-­Latin Amer­i­ca. She is the author of Rewriting the Nation: Novels by W ­ omen on Vio­lence in Colombia (ailcfh, 2015). She is an Assistant Professor of Spanish in the Department of Modern Languages at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania, where she teaches courses on Latin American lit­er­a­ture, film, and language. Mendoza received her Ph.D. in lit­er­a­ture at the University of California–­San Diego in 2010. alberto muenala (kichua) is a filmmaker from Otavalo, Ec­ua­dor. He is a gradu­ate of cuec (Centro de Estudios Cinematográficos) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City, and has directed a number of documentary and dramatic videos on subjects impor­tant to indigenous communities in Latin Amer­i­ca. His most recent fiction, ­Mashikuna/Comrades, about the lives of two Native American boys who face racism and oppression at an early age and become leaders of indigenous rights movements, premiered at the 1995 Native American Film and Video Festival in New York City, and was screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 1996. In 1997 he served as a guest selector for nmai’s Native American Film + Video Festival. He is currently working on a fictional reconstruction C o n t r i b u t o r s   •  4 1 9

of the life of the sixteenth-­century indigenous leader Atahualpa and the re­sis­tance movement in colonial Ec­ua­dor. prerana reddy has been the Director of Public Programs and Community Engagement for the Queens Museum since 2005. She organizes screenings, talks, festivals, and per­for­mances, a third of which are developed in collaboration with diverse local community organ­izations and cultural producers. She is also in charge of the museum’s community engagement initiatives, which combine arts and culture with social development goals in nearby neighborhoods predominately made up of new immigrants, such as museum’s offsite immigrant arts and education center Immigrant Movement International and the design and ongoing programming of Corona Plaza. She also oversees the museum’s suite of artist ser­vices, as well as a collaboration with Queens College (cuny) for a social practice concentration in their master of fine arts program. Reddy earned a master’s degree in cinema studies from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and was a film programmer with the South Asian film and video collective 3rd i NY, Alwan for the Arts, and the New York African Film Festival. In 2015, she was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio to serve on the advisory commission to the Department of Cultural Affairs. Marina Reyes Franco (Puerto Rico, 1984) is an art historian and independent curator. She received a B.A. in art history from the University of Puerto Rico and an M.A. in Argentine and Latin American art history from IDAES-UNSAM, Argentina. Her research interests include the work of concrete poet Esteban Valdés, the alternative circulation strategies of graphic art, artistic and literary manifestations in the frontier of political action that spill over into popular culture, and how to make sense of postcolonial theory in a twenty-first-century colony. Her curatorial work takes a hands-on approach to museum studies and exhibition making, with a focus on the importance of agency and community. She is also a cofounder and former director of La Ene, a contemporary art museum and residency program that acts as a critical intervention in the Buenos Aires art scene, and a member of Brigada PDT, a group that works with kids and teens in the Puerta de Tierra neighborhood of San Juan, reactivating abandoned spaces to foment problem solving through community engagement. pilar riaño-­a lcalá (Ph.D. in anthropology, University of British Columbia, 2000) is an associate professor at the School of Social Work and Faculty Fellow in Residence at the Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of 4 2 0   •  C o n t r i b u t o r s

British Columbia, Canada. From 2008 to 2013, Pilar was also a researcher with the Grupo de Memoria Historica in Colombia (Historical Memory Group of the National Commission on Reparations and Reconciliation) documenting emblematic cases of war-­related vio­lence and the origin and ­causes of the war in the country. She is currently engaged in an advisory capacity with the creation of the National Museum of Historical Memory in Colombia. Pilar´s research work explores themes related to the lived experience of vio­lence and forced displacement, the politics of memory and witnessing, and the ethnography of suffering and social repair. Pilar is the author of Dwellers of Memory: Youth and Vio­lence in Medellín, Colombia (Alexandria, VA: Transaction, 2006); guest editor with Erin Baines of the special issue on “Transitional Justice and the Everyday,” International Journal of Transitional Justice (November 2012); and editor of Arte, memoria y violencia (Art, Memory, and Vio­lence) (Antioquia, Colombia: Corporación Region, 2003). She has published several articles on community public art with artist Suzanne Lacy, and specifically on the proj­ects “Skin of Memory” (1999) and “Skin of Memory Revisited” (2011). Pilar has collaborated with artists, cultural workers, and community organ­izations in a number of public art proj­ects that have taken place in settings affected by mass vio­lence and social suffering. In t­ hese cultural practices, she has interrogated art’s potential for the production of a public pedagogy that confronts the past through aesthetic experience, mourning, and storytelling. Pilar’s other area of scholarly and educational interest centers around knowledge organ­ization and critical research methodologies that foster interactive, process-­based, and creative forms of inquiry and South-­to-­ South knowledge exchanges. As part of this line of exploration, Pilar led the development of methodological strategy and resource material for the documentation of historical memory in zones of armed conflict. juan carlos rodrÍguez studied at the Cristobal Rojas School from 1984 to 1989. He began studying at the ubl in Caracas in 1994. Since 1997 he has been working with the Interim Group, producing artistic events that included the “Artquimia Lounge” (Valencia Edo. Carabobo, 1997), “The ­Water Festival” (La Bandera, Caracas, 1997), “The Paradox of Plaque or Recognition” (Sala Mendoza, 1998), “High W ­ ater and Wet Flag” (at the Per la rete costituzione Gave a fra In­de­pen­dent Organismi d’art, Italy Pavilion, XLVIII Venice Biennale, 1999), and “Born in America/Seven American Artists” (Mujabo, 2000). He has participated in vari­ous group shows, including the Third and Fourth Bienal de Guayana (1992 and 1994), the R Lounge C o n t r i b u t o r s   •  4 2 1

Pirelli (1994), the First Biennial National Tobacco Landscape (macmma, 1996), “Re-­Ready Made” (mao, 1997), “Artists in Trance” (Rice University, Houston, TX, 1997), “Street ­Children: US-­Them. A Reading from a Distance” (Mujabo, 1999), “Demonstration Room: Ideal House” (University of Illinois, Chicago, 2002), VI Hall cantv Youth with fia (Ateneo de Caracas, 2003), and “Venezuelan Art of the Twentieth C ­ entury” (maccsi, 2003). Since 2001 he has developed transdisciplinary proj­ects associated with issues of community health through seminars, publications, and exhibitions.

4 2 2   •  C o n t r i b u t o r s


0100101110101101 group, 187 Abelharden, Heidi, 200, 230 Abelharden, Rolf, 200, 230, 234–35 Aboriginal Community Council, 269 Abramović, Marina, 54 Abrelatas (Can Opener), 141 Achachila Baldor, 352 Achachila de Sisasani, 352–55 acmstc (Con­temporary Art at the Roofless Downtown Movement, or Arte Contemporânea no Movimento dos Sem Teto do Centro) exhibit, 153–57 “A Comer” initiative, 64–66 Adams, Gavin, 114, 149–64 Adolescencias, masculinidades y antipatriarcado (Adolescents, Masculinity, and Antipatriarchy), 391 Adrianzén, Eduardo, 38n2 AenR event, 93–96 A Galinha collaboration, 191, 194–95 agonism, 10 Ai Weiwei, 54 akhullis, 344, 350, 361

Ala Plástica collective (Argentina), 1–2, 10, 142, 256–57, 259–78; communication programs of, 270, 276n5 alasitas ­house, 346 Alcoholics Anonymous program: Tijuaneados Anónimos (2008–9) collaboration based on, 114, 119–29 Allende, Salvador, 5 Alliance for Pro­gress, 5 Almeida, Pablo X., 130 Alquimia (Ec­ua­dorean rock group), 139 Al Sur del Cielo (South of Heaven), 138–39 alternative media collectives, 47 Alvarez, Mariola V., 114, 117–29, 186–97 Álvarez, Miguel, 117, 125–29 Alvarez, William, 218n2 Alÿs, Francis, 2 Al Zur-­ich art festival. See Encuentro Internacional de Arte Urbano al Zur-­ich “ambiential art” program, 189 Américas Summit, 73 Amotocodie Initiative, 269–70, 274–75 Andean Regional Initiative, 205 Andralis, Juan, 3, 58, 76n7

antiterrorism laws, Grupo Etcétera collective protest against, 70–71 Antropogagia movement, 305 apacheta (rock formations), 273, 277n14 Arab Spring, 14, 161, 318–19 Árbenz Guzman, Jacobo, 5 architecture: artistic collaboration and, 168–69, 175–79, 182–83; BijaRi collaboration and, 196; memory recuperation and, 200–201; museum experience and, 244 Architecture for Humanity of New York, 332–33 “Architecture of Exclusion” collaboration, 168–69, 175–79, 182–83 Area 13 collective, 140 Arenas, Adrián, 391 Arenas, Jacobo, 16n13 Argentina: abductions in, 128; artistic activism in, 98–111; bicentennial of in­de­pen­ dence in, 111; current artistic practices in, 110–11; Etcétera collective in, 20; “new social protagonisms” movement in, 105–7; normalization pro­cess in, 73; terrorism in, 99–102 Argentina Arde, 20, 105–7 Argentina vs. Argentina (escrache), 59–60, 105 Argueta, Lucy, 80, 82, 84, 87–91 Aristide, Jean-­Bertrand, 179–80 Armando Maradona, Diego, 78n29 arms trafficking, in Brazil, 171–72 Arnez Cuéllar, Marco, 345–46 Arquitetura Inflavel (2010), 196 Arteaga, Susan, 86 Artebiene, 59–60 “Arte no Es Vida: Actions, Artists of the Amer­i­ cas (1960–2000),” 240n33 artificer, definition of, 40n16 art institutions: capitalism and, 393–401; changing demographics of, 48; in Ec­ua­dor, 140; power relations in, 339–41 Artistas en Resistancia collective, 3, 20, 79–97; current artistic practices and strategies of, 93–96; formation of, 80–81; popu­lar response to, 90–91; ­women’s role in, 88–91 Art News, 331 art practices in Latin Amer­i­ca: colonization and, 4–10; overview of, 1–4 art theory, collaboration and, 188–97 Asamblea Popu­lar (Popu­lar Assembly), 106–7 Asociación Civil Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Civil Association of Grand­mothers of the Plaza de Mayo), 128

4 2 4   •  i n d e x

Asociación de Esperanza contra la Impunidad y las Desapariciones Forzadas (Association for Hope against Impunity and Forceful Disappearances), 125–26 Aspiro ao grande infinito (Oiticica), 188 “Assemblea Infinita” (Infinite Assembly) proj­ ect, 62 Aula Dialogica (Dialogic Classroom) event (Colombia), 213–15 authority: art collaboration and, 153–57; collaboration and, 153–55 “The Autonomous Intergalactic Space Program” (Rigo 23), 54 Avanzada Aparte (Unallied Avant-­Garde), 132 Ayala, Pablo, 130 Aylwin, Patricio, 6 Aymara community, 273, 277n13 Ayoreo culture, 277n15; Ala Plastica and, 269–70, 274–75 Babilonia group, 100 Bailando y lavando ritual, 31–32 Banzer Suárez, Hugo, 365n9 “barefoot economics” model, 8 Barriga, Pablo, 141 Basurama collective, 142 Bautista, Hugo, 82 Bay, Hakim, 157 The Becoming World of Brazil, 184 Bedoya, Fernando “Coco,” 64–65 “be­hav­ior art” proj­ects, 333–34 Belmont, Quetzal, 389 Benazir, Sarita, 124, 129n5 Benjamin, Walter, 36, 151 Berardi, Franco (Bifo), 69–70, 72–73, 77n22, 77n24, 78n26 Berenstein, Paola, 188 Bérgamo, Mônica, 155 Beuys, Joseph, 188 “Bicicletas a la China” or “Bicycles for China” per­for­mance, 100 Bienal de Venecia de Bogotá (Venice Biennale of Bogotá), 142, 147n6 Bienal Internacional de Cuenca, Ec­ua­dor, 131 Bienal Internacional de Per­for­mance, cita a ciegas, Cusco, Perú, 131 Bifo. See Berardi, Franco (Bifo) BijaRi proj­ect, 114, 142, 186–97, 393 bilingual education, indigenous community initiatives for, 301–2 Bishop, Claire, 10, 151 Black Panthers, 53–55

Black Panther newspaper, 55 Black Week of Tijuana vio­lence, 123–29 Blades, Rubén, 246 Blancarte, Araceli, 117 Blanco, Griselda, 207 Blandino, Bayardo, 80 blindfolded march, 32 Boal, Agusto, 81 body: collective art and use of, 100–101; memory and, 355–56 Boff, Leonardo, 292 Bogotá Museum of Modern Art, 233–34 Bolivia, U.S. intervention in, 365n9 Bonafini, Eva de, 78n29 bope ​(Batalhão ​de ​Operações ​Policiais Especiais), 174–75 Bouazizi, Mohamed, 14 Bourriaud, Nicolas, 10, 151 Bozzo, Laura, 23, 38n3 Brandão, Mauricio, 186–97 Brasil Negro Salve, 167, 181–82 Brazil: Antropofagia movement in, 305; artistic activism in, 114, 149–64; colonization in, 180–81; drug and arms trafficking in, 171–72; economic growth in, 169–71; mass incarceration and punishment in, 176–77; military police and corruption in, 172–73; myth of post-­racialism in, 165–69; Olympic Games and World Cup events in, 169–71; paramilitary groups and militias in, 173–74 Breton, André, 100 Brown, Todd, 49 Brueghel, Peter, 292 Bruguera, Tania, 2, 333–35 Bryce, Fernando, 38n2 bulbo collective, 114, 117–29. See also Galatea Audio/Visual Buntinx, Gustavo, 15n6, 19–20, 21–38, 38n2 Bush, George W., 73, 78n28 Bustamante, Maris, 393 Butler, Judith, 392 Caballos, Esmeralda, 403 Cabrera, Romina, 391 Caçambas Verdes ​(Green ​Dumpsters), ​2009, 195 cada (Colectivo de Acciones de Arte), 35, 41n42 Café Guancasco, 81 Café Paradiso, 80, 84 Caja de Compensación Familiar (Comfenalco), 218n2, 224

Calderón, Sila Maria, 254n17 “calendars of absence,” Argentinian artistic proj­ect, 109–10 Calle 13, 246 Cambalache exchange, 272 Camnitzer, Luis, 244 Canclini, García, 141 capatco (Colectivo de Arte Participativo Tarifa común) (Participatory Art Collective Common Rate), 77n15, 99–102 capitalism, art institutions and, 393–401 Carbajal, Paúl, 82 Cárdenas, Micha, 306 Cardenas, Victor “Cuni,” 339, 367–87 Cardijn, Joseph (Fr.), 296n1 Cardona, Medardo, 80 Caretas magazine, 30, 34 Cari, Jesús, 271 Carrasquilla, Federico, 292 Carroll, Amy Sara, 306 Carvalho, Caio Luiz de, 158–59 Casa por la Memoria (House of Memory) (Argentina), 110 Castillo Udiarte, Roberto, 405 Castro, Abril, 403–4, 406–11 Castro, Fidel, 334 Catholic Church, populist politics and, 9 “Caution Proj­ect,” 403–4 Cavallo, Domingo, 277n16 Ceballos, Esmeralda, 406–11 “Celdas Perceptuales” (Perceptual Cells) (2005), 143 Central American In­de­pen­dence Day, 81 Centro Cultural Casa Lamm, 391 Centro Cultural del Sur (South Cultural Center) (Ec­ua­dor), 138, 146 Centro Cultural Tijuana (cecut), 120–29, 129n2, 405 Centro de Medios Libres collective, 389 Centro de Readaptación Social Varonil Santa Martha Acatitla (ceresova), 340–41, 388–91, 397–401 Centro Ecuatoriano de Arte Contemporáneo (Ec­ua­dor­ian Center for Con­temporary Art; ceac), 132 Cerejido, Fabian, 62, 98–111, 120–29, 259–78, 367–87 Cervantino Festival, 50–51 Céspedes, Gilkawara, 343 ch’akhi, 346 Chambilla Mamani, Beatriz, 352–55 Chaves, Raimond, 243

i n d e x   •  4 2 5

Chávez, Hugo, 6, 11, 39n8, 79 Checa-­Gismero, Paloma, 245–54 Chiapas, psychogeography of, 44 Chimborazo miners, Sanaguano’s work with, 283–96 Chirimía musical genre, 228–29, 239n30 ch’ixi character, 345 Christian Youth Missionary (Juventud Obrera Cristiana), 279 “Cidade Espetáculo” conflicts, 175–76 cinemarosa organ­ization, 325 citizenship, bulbo’s focus on meaning of, 119–29 Ciudad Múltiple de Panamá5 (Multiple City of Panama), 142, 147n5 civic reimagining: edelo’s vision of, 48–49; Lava la bandera as, 29–30, 33–36; memory recuperation initiatives and, 203–19; Skin of Memory proj­ect and, 211–12; tactical art and, 4, 15n6 civil society, community-­based art and, 10–11 Clark, Lydia, 188–89 cleanliness meta­phor, in Lava la bandera collaboration, 25–30 cloud mobilization, 157 Coarite, Jacinto, 344 Coca, Claudia, 38n2 cocaleros of Putumayo, 7–8 cognitariat, Berardi’s concept of, 77n24 Colectivo Siempre (Forever Collective), 108–10 Colectivo Situaciones, 306, 309–20 Colectivo Sociedad Civil (csc), 3, 11, 19–20; civic spirit of, 35–36; collaborations with, 24–30; collective citizens’ portrait of, 38n2; Cose la bandera (Sana tu país). Sew the Flag (Heal Your Country) ritual, 36–38; groups included in, 38n2; harassment of, 26–27, 31; Lava la bandera proj­ect of, 24–30; Lava la bandera ritual and, 25–30; overthrow of Fujimori-­Montesinos dictatorship and, 21–38; po­liti­cal and cultural transformation and, 33–35; self-­censorship and, 22–24 Colectivo Teatral Entretelones (Backstage Theater Collective), 132 collaborative art practices: authority and, 153–57; collective acts of literacy, 210; edelo embrace of, 46–48; expansion of, 10–14; Kester’s degrees of, 152–53; limitations of, 157–60; memory recuperation and, 208–10; production and, 153; in São Paulo, 149–64; social reconstruction in Colombia and, 200, 220–40

4 2 6   •  i n d e x

“Collective Creativity” proj­ect, 188 collective identification: Brazilian artistic activism and, 149–64; po­liti­cal efficacy of, 32–33 “Collective Marriage” per­for­mance piece, 389 Colombia: art and social practices in, 200, 220–40; memory recuperation proj­ects in, 199–201, 203–19; vio­lence in, 127–38 Colombia Plan (United States), 205 colonization: in Brazil, 180–81; community-­ based art practices and influence of, 49; indigenous communities and, 287–96; Latin American artistic production and role of, 4–10 “Comision de la Verdad ¡Ya!” (Truth Commission, Now!), 37 communication, indigenous community initiatives for, 297–303 Communitarian and Intercultural Communication System of Ec­ua­dor, 302 community-­based art practice: empowerment pro­cess in, 297–303; environmental proj­ ects and, 51–52; expansion of, 10–14; Latin American art production and, 3–4, 15n3; memory recuperation in barrio Antioquia and, 205–19; neighborhood history retrieval, 200–201; network nodes in, 369–87; subjectivity of Colombian vio­lence and, 220–24; vio­lence in Colombia and, 220–21 Community-­Based Communication System (Ec­ua­dor), 299 Como Hacemos lo que Hacemos, 390 Complexo do Alemão (Rio de Janeiro), military invasion of, 177–79 comprador class, repression by, 5, 15n8 Comunidades Especiales, 254n17 Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ec­ua­dor (conair), 303n4 “Con la salud si se juega” (You Can Play with Your Health), 339–41, 367–87 Conora demographics, 336nn1–2 Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 390 Constitutional Guarantees Tribunal, 23 Constitution of the Republic (Ec­ua­dor), indigenous participation in, 297–303 Contando con Nosotros (Recounting on Us), 190 contemplation, memory recuperation and role of, 208–10 Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (National Coordinator for ­Human Rights), 37 Copa Libertadora (Brazil), 167, 181–82

Corazon de Corona (Heart of Corona) Initiative, 326 Cordero, Zurisaday, 339, 367–87 Corimayo, Jesús, 271 Cornejo, Kency, 20, 79–97 Corona Community Action Network (Corona can), 325–26 “Corona Plaza: Center of Everywhere,” 326–35 “Corona Studio,” 333 corporaciones, 199–200 Corporación Nuestra Gente, 200 Corporación Pasolini, 200 Corporación Región, 200, 218n2, 225 Corrado, Fernando, 135–36, 140 corralito economic mea­sures (Argentina), 60–61, 277n16 Correa, Rafael, 6, 79, 149n9 Cortés, Roberto “Boly,” 242–43, 247 Cortez, Karina, 130 Cortolar, Hersalia, 49 Cosas Finas (Fine ­Things) collective, 143 Cose la bandera (Sana tu país) (Sew the Flag [Heal Your Country]), 36–38 cosmo-­living initiative (cosmovivencia), 299–301, 302n3 Costa de Berisso, 264 Costuras Urbanas (Urban Stitches), 102 cqfd14 publication, 75, 78n30 Creative Movement of ’77, 77n22 Creative Time Summit, 61 cric (Cauca Regional Indigenous Council), 300 criminalization of poverty in Brazil, 175–76 criminalization of social movements in Brazil, 169 crisi (Commune of Research for Inclusive Social Imagination) proj­ect, 62 Crosthwaite, Luis Humberto, 408 Cruz, Pavel, 81 Cuban revolution, 9 Cubo (2005) collaboration, 195–96 Cucaño group, 99–102 Cuerpos, afectos y pedadogía feminista (Bodies, Affects, and Feminist Pedagogies), 391 Cullen, Deborah, 240n33 cultural autonomy, Grupo Etcétera collective advocacy for, 70–71 “Cultural Hunger” proj­ect, 64–65, 72 Cultural Industry (Argentina), 73 cultural overthrow of dictatorship, 23 cultural patrimony, Ec­ua­dorean collectives’ focus on, 138–39

cultural re­sis­tance movements, indigenous communities and, 289–96 “C’úndua Proj­ect: Pact for Life” (C’undua: Pacto por la vida), 200, 224, 229–35, 239n32 Curet Alonso, Tite, 246 Dalgo, Patricio, 143 Dalton, Roque, 90, 96n4 dancing museum, capataco creation of, 101 Dario, Rubén, 305 De Anda, Raquel, 43–57 Declarations from the Lacandon Jungle, 43 decolonization, liberation theology and philosophy and, 9 de la Rúa, Fernando, 60–61, 76n9, 104 Deleuz