photo courtesy of Natalia Arcos, Acteal 2016

We are fragments of light that prevent everything from becoming night | Curators Natalia Arcos, Mao Mollona

Open / Abierto 15 – 30 September 2021, Mo-Sun / L-D 10:00 – 22:00 Location / Lugar Centro Cultural La Corrala – Museo de Artes y Tradiciones Populares, Calle de Carlos Arniches, 3, Madrid

photo courtesy of Natalia Arcos, Acteal 2016
photo courtesy of Natalia Arcos, Acteal 2016

The title of the exhibition is from the commentary to the film “Acteal 10 años de impunidad” (2008) made by Tzotzil filmmaker José Jimenéz Peréz to commemorate the infamous “massacre of Acteal”, in December 1997, when forty-six Tzotzil were gunned down by paramilitary militia, marking the attempt by the Mexican state to repress the Zapatista insurgency. By Embodying the memory of the massacre, the film is a form of struggle against state violence and institutional forgetting. Candle-burning in Mayan cosmology celebrates the world of shadows, and the human struggle against darkness and historical oblivion. In the Popul Vuh, a foundational sacred narrative of the K’iche’ people, it is argued that before the creation of the world – before the first true dawn – there was a flickering of “light from behind the sea”.  Subcomandante Marcos would often tell the story of Hunahpe and Xbalanque, the twin heroes of Popul Vuh, who defeated the Evil in the House of Darkness by keeping alive a candle and two cigars helped by a bright red macaw and an army of fireflies. The image of the candle, as a collective force consisting of fragments of beings fighting against the darkness of racial and patriarchal capitalism, returns in the communique that Zapatista women issued after their international meeting in 2018. Our proposed exhibition revolves around the dialogue between indigenous and revolutionary aesthetics in filmmaking in Chiapas, and the idea of cinema as material, spiritual and political assembly.

Fragmentos show not only the convergence between the revolutionary and the indigenous symbolical horizons – the milpa cycle as cycle of life and death, the reproduction of ancestral knowledge as a form of anticolonial struggle, and the entanglement between linear history and the circular temporality of the cosmos – it also highlights the modalities of assembly, communal decision-making and collective production – captured in the ethics of autonomia – that have historically sustained both revolutionary urban and peasant struggles and their aesthetics.  “Somos Fragmentos” reflects IRI’s commitment to revolutionary cinema, that is, a cinema of prefiguration and construction of a post-capitalist and decolonial imaginary and life. The idea of the assembly is replicated in the gallery space, which is divided in three cosmopolitical spaces – three journeys and forms of gathering of Zapatismo, from the EZLN’s base in the Lacandon jungle, to local indigenous villages, ending into the space of international solidarity. 


SPACE A is constructed as a space in the forest, and exhibits three distinctive periods of Zapatista Cinema: The films that mark the underground in the jungle, which for technological reasons were only heard, were seen without audio or were narrated between militiamen: these are mainly Bruce Lee films that were recreated by the insurgents who had once been able to see them, or the Vietnamese movie “Tie Point”, which caused great identification among the insurgent peasants. A second moment of the exhibition is given by films provided by PROMEDIOS Agency, the American-Mexican organization that trained audiovisual promoters among the Zapatista support bases, during the years 1998 to 2008. Third, the period of development of autonomous revolutionary aesthetics: the films that, today, are being made by the communication promoters TERCIOS COMPAS, the EZLN’s media area. Each of these phases also represents the path that goes from the formation of the guerrillas, with certain objectives, to the practice of self-government in the current administrative and territorial autonomy of the Zapatistas. Since some of these films were seen in the jungle, technical limitations meant that they were often shown with no video or just narrated orally. Space A is conceived as a forest in which echoes of these films may be heard without images. The visual material are in conversation with textual material (mainly Zapatista communiques and fragments of texts by Subcomandante Marcos) with the aim of creating a space of quasi-cinema – a term coined by Helio Oititica in relation to his work on the decorporealization of images – and which Subcomandante Marcos refers to as “images without video” in his communiqués “Leer un Video” (2004). José Jiménez Pérez film screening is a lbridge to the following intimate space.


SPACE B presents the films of indigenous filmmakers from Chiapas, as Liliana K’an Lopez, Delmar Penka Méndez-Gómez, Maria Sojob – revolving around the thematic of women’s struggles against extractivism; ancestral knowledge; and the tensions between memory, tradition and historical change. Special guest is Francisco Huichaqueo, a mapuche from southern Chile who also worked in Chiapas.  All this selection is a spiritual reminder of all these cosmogony cultural aspects living beside the struggle.


SPACE C presents two films by Mia Eve Rollow and Caleb Duarte Piñon. Mia Rollow and Caleb Duarte are two American artists who traveled to San Cristóbal de las Casas from California in 2008 to settle there. In this context, they invited Emory Douglas, Minister of Culture of the Black Panthers of the United States, to carry out projects with the indigenous communities of Chiapas. From this encounter, ZAPANTERA NEGRA was born, an integration of the imaginaries of the Afro-American and Zapatista peoples in resistance and in organizing a new life in autonomy and freedom.

Expo at La Corrala, Madrid September-October 2021