The holes in the water. Current art of native peoples

This is the book published with the support of the Americas Research Network and Museo Amparo, which seeks to expand discussions that transcend the artistic field and lead to a critical review of the official account. The book arises from the homonymous exhibition presented at the Chopo University Museum in 2019, which brought together a selection of artists who work with the complex reinvention of their present and with the legacies of cultures prior to the arrival of the Spanish colonizers in the territory that today makes up the Mexican Republic. The presentation will take place on Thursday, September 29, 2022, at 6:00 p.m., with free admission, in the museum cafeteria.

The reflections gathered in the publication point to other ways of understanding the social, the political and, of course, the artistic. The publication includes texts by personalities from various disciplines: activists, sociologists, anthropologists, academics, linguists, gallery owners, filmmakers, and visual artists. the environmental destruction due to the concession of their territory by the State, the annulment of their autonomy or the racist violence to which they have been subjected.

Itzel Vargas, curator and editor of the publication, points out that the question that triggered the interest in holding the exhibition was, does contemporary indigenous art exist? Regarding the word indigenous, it is a category that was avoided throughout the process, for having been imposed and rooted in oppression, whose meaning implies the condition of being colonized and marginalized, as several authors have pointed out, including Guillermo Bonfil Batalla.  

Today the Mexican Republic continues to be a scenario rooted in unequal relations between the original peoples and the State. Thousands of people have died from drug trafficking, femicides, and extreme poverty. Many are killed for defending their land against the implementation of state-backed privatization megaprojects and a large sector does not have fundamental rights, such as access to health and education in their own language, he explains. How to approach the artistic production of authors related to identity communities immersed in such problems? The research began in 2018, based on the proposal to listen to the voices of creators and promote a link with the communities for which the Museum works.

The publication is illustrated with images from the work of Octavio Aguilar, Gabriel Ávalos, Tlacolulokos (Darío Canul and Cosijoesa Cernas), César Catsuu López, José Chi Dzul, Abraham Gómez, Humberto Gómez Pérez, Sabino Guisu, Ana Hernández, Martha López López, Juana López López, Reyes Joaquín Maldonado Gamboa, Carlos Martínez González, Noé Martínez, Andy Medina, Maruch Méndez, Fernando Palma, Mauro Pech, Baldomero Robles, José Ángel Santiago, Maruch Sántiz Gómez and Zapantera Negra. In addition, it contains the exhibition catalog and pieces commented by the participating artists.

José Luis Paredes Pacho, director of the Chopo Museum, comments in his text "A museum of encounters", that the site has been characterized by having a diverse program that disrupts margins and disciplines, sometimes linked to various gender movements, citizens and subcultural, as well as emerging artists who go against the current of the recognition of official culture; that coexistence of universes has allowed a mutual influence between disciplines. With the intention of revitalizing that foundational vocation, the Museum has been understood not only as a place for exhibiting art, but also for experiences, as well as for the production of culture and knowledge.

Since 2012, the Museum has established a line of reflection around indigenous cultures that places them within contemporary culture, far from mere folklore. The publication presents a minimum sample of works, approaches and problems that concern native peoples with a view to encouraging future research.

In her article “The water holes”, Itzel Vargas Plata comments that the pieces gathered in the exhibition are permeated by a series of positions, revisions and reformulations related to an ancestral past and a present derived from 500 years of denial and domination; that is to say, they are the product of resignifications of the communities themselves and of certain cultural intersections. Most artists deftly transition from one medium to another: video, sculpture, embroidery, installation, photography, painting, printmaking, artist books. They are inhabitants of a contemporary world where artistic disciplines have long since lost their borders and express themselves, for the same reason, in different media.

The Guatemalan curator Maya Juracán in her text “Art on the edge of the ravine, LAATZ’”, points out the differences between the native languages ​​and Spanish. In the cultural context, he considers, it is important to address these issues and stop using folklore as a banner for dialogue with the communities.

“Art as a path towards emancipatory internationalism”, by the anthropologist Francisco De Parres Gómez, presents a reflection on the concept of art, since being a practice of “rupture” implies the exercise that links it to the political sphere. This is seen in the construction of exclusionary categories such as crafts or folklore, which allude to the art that modern, white, enlightened, patriarchal and racist man does not perform. Far from being smooth or harmonious, he explains, art is a winding terrain full of struggles that can function as an exercise in domination or as an exercise in liberation, depending on the intention of the person who produces it.

John Burstein W., founder and director of the MUY gallery in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, in his text "Reflections on contemporary and indigenous art" reviews the exhibition Los hollows del agua in which he finds different modalities of presentation of the participating artists, which oscillate between the spectacular and intimacy, individuality and collective authorship. What leads the viewer to question what does "indigenous art" mean today?

The filmmakers Luna Marán and Xun Sero in their article "Let's talk about Kaxlan cinema and indigenous cinema" refer to the stereotypes and stigmas that cinema has created around indigenous people, presenting them as victims or responsible for the vices of the Mexican. What is not addressed are the battles they have waged for their rights, nor for their heroes and warriors. And they beg the question: how many stories does it take to meet our heroes and heroines, for our sisters and cousins ​​to see female characters that inspire them and make them proud of who they are and where they come from?

Meanwhile, Tajëëw Beatriz Díaz Robles, anthropologist and activist; and Yásnaya Elena A., linguist and activist, in “Notes on the idea of ​​miscegenation, dispossession and indigenous peoples”, refer to the neo-extractivist projects that communities have historically faced, which go hand in hand with the processes of dispossession. These actions affect both the territory and natural assets, as well as aesthetic and cultural manifestations. The miscegenation discourse has been functional to hide phenomena of misappropriation, forming a hegemonic narrative that relativizes the processes of cultural dispossession of peoples.

“Communality and sharing: a conversation” is the title of the talk between Jaime Martínez Luna and Eduardo Abaroa, who highlight the term communality, understood as the individual will to be a community. The term is also applied in the urban environment where an organizational scheme based on relationships of respect, work and reciprocity can be created. Caring for the territory and natural resources is fundamental in the community, but in the global world context there is resistance from a capitalist system that bases its wealth on the exploitation of nature.

Fortino Domínguez Rueda, research professor at the Department of History of the University of Guadalajara, in his essay "Indigenous displacements in independent Mexico", makes a historical review from independent Mexico where the State established equality for citizens, but persisted racism as the axis of the social, economic and political life of the country to this day. It argues that a process of reproduction and reorganization of the previous Iberian colonialism has been established, despite the fact that academic discourses and policies define that we live in a decolonized and postcolonial world. These conditions have influenced the displacement of indigenous communities.

“Racism and women of the original peoples” by the sociologist Judith Bautista Pérez, emphasizes that racism and sexism continue to be a constant and a crucial point in the gear that makes the capitalist system operate. The reproduction of both mechanisms of oppression adopts specific objectives and forms directed at women from indigenous peoples. Although these practices are currently denounced and have been raised in different discussion spaces, the consequences in the lives of the people and communities of native peoples are relentless in the reproduction of inequality.

The presentation will take place on Thursday, September 29, 2022, at 6:00 p.m., with free admission, in the museum cafeteria.

The book The holes in the water. Current art of native peoples Is available in

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