Echoes of the resistance

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“There is a type of drum that resonates as if several are being beaten at once. The same is true for certain voices and songs.” Achille Mbembe

Whenever one thinks about it, every political action – especially in the XXth Century – had to do with its vocalization. Our first element of protest, our reign of power is first and foremost our body, our voice. The student movements of 1968 throughout the world represented the vocalization of the student as a political figure, as an active and demanding member of society. The students took the streets and the public discourse. It was with the power of voice that a movement became a reality. Now, when we try to find more about the residues of the 1968 Senegalese Student Movement we are only able to find remains, minuscule particles of what once was a life, a vigorous and standing voice. We need to ask ourselves if we are not searching in the wrong place: in documents, in newspapers; because when a voice was so strong, as those of 1968 were, it must have left an echo behind.

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An installation of at least 8 megaphones was placed in front of the library of the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal. These  megaphones automatically reproduced songs of the archival material of the Association de Étudiants Sénégalais en France (AESF) from 1989. This installation was activated as a night walk for visitors to hear the voices of the protest songs while walking the university’s campus.

The aim of this installation was for visitors to appreciate and to ponder upon the UCAD’s history and past students by their own. By reproducing these songs the architectural and historical materiality of the premise allow for reflexion and the possibly for encountering echos of the former and present students of the UCAD.

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This installation was done as part of the Raw Material Company program for the OFF Biennale in Dakar, Senegal. This intervention was framed as part of the curatorial project The Revolution Will Come in a Form We Cannot Yet Imagine by Dulcie Abrahams Altass. 

Thank you to the support of the student association Karbone 14.

A white wall

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This project started with an empty and white room. A temporary living space that felt pretty much like a gallery, so to say hygienic. To turn that space a dash homelier I decided to bring along any branch, stone, seed that I would find sitting lonely while I walked down the streets of this strangely familiar city. This “objects” became my companions for a short period of time. Issa Samb, important Senegalese artist and thinker (who sadly died this year) said that objects many times decided where they wanted to go and –for doing so– they would talk to the passersby in a magical way. Samb suggests that whenever you pick up an object it is because you feel your-self reflected in it. A magical dialogue occurs between the human and the object; an intrinsic dialogue with the material world.

Ministère des rêves

Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird

That cannot fly. – Langston Hughes

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The Ministry of Dreams (Ministère des rêves) is an intervention/installation at the University of Cheikh Anta Diop located in Dakar, Senegal. It is a call to dreams, a built passage to find playfulness and dreaminess in a place where many times is not seen as such. In my walks through the university I have seen numerous advertisements for students to go abroad; an unspoken land of dreams is placed outside of the university perimeters, outside of Dakar, outside of Senegal. Once while having a dialogue with Congolese dancer Faustin Linyekula I asked him what was poverty for him; he answered with absolute confidence: the lack of dreams.

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Thanks to the support of Raw Material Company. Project developed during the Session 2 of the Raw Academy.

Handle with care

Mirror installation, 2017
Lagos, Nigeria

My body itself is a mosaic of heritages; my mouth, my hair, my skin color; not to say the language with which I express myself and my believes. We are thrown into the world with an inheritance and this inheritance is even more complex for the colonized. Franz Fanon insists that the colonized man is a political creature in the most global sense of the term and he couldn’t be more right. The history of many peoples was suddenly fragmented with a foreign language, political scheme, and Julia Kristeva emphasizes our innate foreigness. “Handle with care” is a warning to address our self reflections, our fragile identities, understanding that we are all already foreigners.

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This installation was set on an abandoned and rusty shipping container at the Nigerian Railway compound in the city of Lagos. It was inspired by one visit to a local market where I saw this mirrors, they had a tape around them which read: Fragile. Handle with care. I thought it to be a great way of framing a mirror. Our fragmented reflections, our fragmented histories and life stories have been marked by the complex dialogue of identity, globalization, colonization and locality.

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In some of the mirror I wrote quotes from Julia Kristeva’s book  Strangers to Ourselves.

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Lux mea spes

Numerous students living at the student houses from the Cheikh Anta Diop university in Dakar, Senegal; go out every night to study under the street lights of the campus boulevard. Every night they go to memorize and rehearse words; words meaningful to their future practices. Jacques Derrida understands the university profession – professors – to be intrinsically related to the religious act of professing. To profess is an act of faith. Studying is, as well, an act of faith. The murmurs and the slow movements of these students resemble praying acts. Movements allow for knowledge to be embodied. The public space becomes their private-communal space. Lux mea lex (“Light is my law”) is Cheikh Anta Diop’s motto; strangely enough most of these young people are law students profiting from public lighting. There is a hope for future, a hope projected towards knowledge as a means to materialize dreams. Most acts of faith are acts of courage; these students are definitely courageous.

A dance intervention in situ (Cheikh Anta Diop University) with the participation of Pi Krump, Inas Dasylva, Bienvenu Gomis, Khadim Ndiayea and Clarisse Sagna took place in the main boulevard of this university.

There is no king without a custom

The genealogy of politics has been closely tied with the animals’ nature. The sagacity of the fox, the fierceness of the tiger, the domain of the lion, the silent steps of the pigeon, the sneakiness of the mouse, the force of the rhinoceros.

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We have gradually lost our self-description as animals, as mammals. Plato says that humans were second rate animals, and that this disadvantageous situation could be seen in how our nails had become a mockery of claws. Our skin is also fragile, unprotected. We arm ourselves with the skin of the strong. Furthermore, it is with the animals’ horns, figurative phallus, with which men re-invigorate themselves to rule. There are no animal vaginas portrayed as powerful. How would the world look like when we are all –finally- naked? When we recover our own bodies and the phallus will no longer be erected as the sole monument of government.

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The power comes with garments, there are hierarchies of symbols and of clothes. The skin of the one becomes the crown of the other. Every political act is a performative act. 

There is no king without a costume. There are no queens without thrones. Does every political act need a stage for it to be believed upon?

Part of the “Multiple Gazes of a Country’s Photographed Past“, a publication by African Photography Initiatives – APhILink to the publication

Love letters for free

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Photo by Alessandro Grassi

“I do not understand love stories”, was the starting point of an investigation about romantic love; followed by an act of public writing. During three months I worked as a scrivener at the Santo Domingo public square in Mexico City. My scrivener duty was to write love letters, for free.
Scriveners are the professionals that write letters or documents for legal purposes, or for people who cannot read or write. Mexico City still maintains this dying tradition and a community, of approximately 40 scriveners, goes to work everyday at the arcades of the Santo Domingo public square. This square was founded in the 16th Century as part of the catechist and urban activities of the Spanish colonial period in the -at the time- recently conquered Tenochtitlán. Being a temporary scrivener was for me a nostalgic act and, as well, a means to have a direct interaction with passers-by. The scrivener writes in the public space and his or her writing is affected by the other, the client.

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As the philosopher Alain Badiou states, love must be reinvented, but more importantly, it must be protected, because it is threatened by many fronts. Mexico, and many parts of the world, is currently experiencing alarming social situations where violence and gore showmanship are the currency of exchange for public discourse. What then can be elaborated from a public and written call to reflect on our ideas about love? Is love something more than the “romantic”? Can we think of love as a daily action? As a social setting? As a conscious act?

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Photo by Julio Llorente

Cartas de amor desde la Plaza Santo Domingo

Creo fervientemente que el amor romántico ha destrozado mi vida y la de muchos otros. Ha creado un fantasma, una meta alegórica e inalcanzable que hace que todos mis días parezcan monótonos sin él. Imagino orgasmos mágicos, comprensiones milenarias, encuentros profundos como hoyos negros. Tengo 30 años y aun no entiendo de historias de amor. ¿Será que el amor como me lo han presentado es imposible? ¿Será que necesitamos desmantelar nuestras nociones de amor para poder, entonces, ser capaces de amar?

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Foto: Francisco Betanzos

Una reflexión pública y participativa de nuestra configuración del amor es necesaria. Como diría el filósofo Alain Badiou, el amor debe ser reinventado pero aún más importante, debe ser protegido, porque se encuentra amenazado por muchos frentes. México está pasando por situaciones sociales alarmantes en donde la violencia gore y su espectacularidad son la moneda de cambio del discurso público. ¿Qué implica entonces hacer un llamado público y escrito para reflexionar sobre nuestras ideas en torno al amor? ¿Es el amor algo más que el “romántico”? ¿Se puede pensar al amor como un acto político? ¿Cómo una acción cotidiana? ¿Cómo una configuración social? ¿Cómo un acto consciente?

Video by Francisco Betanzos

Se escriben cartas de amor gratis en la Plaza Santo Domingo. Jueves, Viernes y Sábado de 16:00 a 19:00 hrs.

Erasing my personal history

Developed in November 2014 at the Residency 108 (New York State, USA)


“If you have no personal history, no explanations are needed; nobody is angry or disillusioned with your acts. And above all no one pins you down with their thoughts. It is best to erase all personal history because that makes us free from the encumbering thoughts of other people.” Carlos Castaneda (Don Juan)

 

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I decided to write 29 sad memories, one for each year that I had lived. The words that Don Juan tells to Castaneda were more than challenging. What could be more radical that to erase your own history? Memory attaches itself to ego and desires, to expectations and sadness. Personal memory is a mirror upon which you look at yourself and formulate a self. Could I go around without history? Without sad memories? Would I be more open to life, to the worl without personal history?