Having worked for more than two decades at the intersection of art, de-colonial politics and ecological justice, art historian T. J. Demos has consistently theorized and written about art as an experimental practice of “world making”, based on speculative knowledge creation and posed against racial and colonial capitalism, emerging in the dialogical encounter between artists and various communities of action and social movements. Demos’ vision of “ecology as intersectionality” locates revolutionary agency at the crossroad, and, as an articulation, of different, socio-political, and economic fields, and out of the labour of connection, mediation, and recuperation of shifting and diverse “uncommon grounds”. In conversation with Mao Mollona, Demos will discuss contemporary practices of de-colonial and anti-capitalist artistic engagement, particularly resurgent forms of black and indigenous activism. Besides, in line with recent IRI’s iterations, he will also discuss his involvement with the Zapatista political experiment in Chiapas, considered as a form of anti-colonial and anti-capitalist socio-political experiment, a revolutionary indigenous aesthetics and an experiential practice of land-based autonomy and self-determination.
What is the role of revolutionary art in times of distress? When Emory Douglas, former Minister of Culture of the Black Panther Party, accepted an invitation from the art collective EDELO and Rigo 23 to meet with autonomous Indigenous and Zapatista communities in Chiapas, Mexico, they addressed just this question. Zapantera Negra is the result of their encounter. It unites the bold aesthetics, revolutionary dreams, and dignified declarations of two leading movements that redefine emancipatory politics in the twentieth and twenty-first century.
The artists of the Black Panthers and the Zapatistas were born into a centuries-long struggle against racial capitalism and colonialism, state repression and international war and plunder. Not only did these two movements offer the world an enduring image of freedom and dignified rebellion, they did so with rebellious style, putting culture and aesthetics at the forefront of political life. A powerful elixir of hope and determination, Zapantera Negra provides a galvanizing presentation of interviews, militant artwork, and original documents from these two movements’ struggle for dignity and liberation.
EDELO (Where the United Nations Used to Be)
In the Fall of 2009, over one hundred displaced indigenous community members occupied the offices of the United Nations, located in San Cristóbal de las Casa, Chiapas, Mexico. The offices were taken over in the hope of gaining international attention from humanitarian organizations. After a few months of the occupation, the United Nations simply decided to find another building and moved.
A few months later, Mia Eva Rollow and Caleb Duarte, repurposed the building. It is a part of an investigation into how Art, in all its disciplines and contradictions, can take the supposed role of such institutional bodies to create understanding, empathy, and to serve as a tool for imagining alternatives to a harmful and violent system that we do not have to accept.
Inspired by the 1994 indigenous Zapatista uprising, where word and poetry are used to inspire a generation to imagine ‘other’ possible worlds, EDELO has retained the name of the UN office. From 2009 to 2014, EDELO, Where The United Nations Used to Be, was an artist run project in Chiapas, Mexico that created sculptural performances and community events through relational aesthetics, social practice, and social sculpture. EDELO centered its practice as an intercultural artist residency of diverse practices and an ever-changing experimental art laboratory and safe house. The work at its core focused on the lessons and use of art by the EZLN, the Zapatista autonomous indigenous movement in Chiapas, Mexico that has used art as a main tool to demand immediate and drastic social and economic change as a response to 500 years of invisibility, oppression, and neglect. The works consisted of artist residencies in Zapatista territory as well as at our art center and gallery. The emerging aesthetic was one of urgency in the face of the continuing clash between colonial and Mayan Mexican indigenous worldviews.
EDELO Migrante 2014 – Present
Once an experimental intercultural art space and residency of diverse practices inhabiting the building of the former UN, Edelo is now nomadic collectives creating works with diverse communities in the Americas.
Our work is of urgency. It is theater, sculpture, social practice, dance, painting organizing festivals in the spirit of true collaboration and shared authorship with the communities and art spaces that we work with. URGENT ART is a specific working methodology that collaborates with artist from different disciplines in the development of art. It encourages us to listen to what communities are expressing and turning that into a visible living experience. This augments the possibilities of converting experienced moments of tragedy into situations of healing.
The Zapatismo Movement breaks in many respects with traditional forms of politics. It does so by opening spaces at a creative distance from the State, and by constantly experimenting with innovative ideas and strategic perspectives. In this session, I will give an insight on the organic role that aesthetics and poetics have played in the politics of this revolutionary movement. In the first part I will provide a general overview on this theme. Some of my views are informed by the fieldwork that I conducted in Chiapas, México, between 2013 and 2020. Then, I will talk and show my experience of curating two exhibitions on Zapatista art in Nottingham, England (2015) and Havana, Cuba (2018).
Natalia Arcos (Santiago de Chile, 1979) has a Degree in Theory and Art History from the University of Chile and a Master in Contemporary Art from Paris IV-Sorbonne University, where she was the first latinamerican accepted. As an independent curator, she has done twenty exhibitions in Chile, Argentina, Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Cuba, England and Greece. From 2008 to 2013, she was Programming Director of the Chilean Television Channel specialized in art, ARTV. From 2013 to 2020, she was member of GIAP (Grupo de Investigación en Arte y Política) based in Chiapas, México, where she also directed the center for artistic residencies. Natalia was collaborator on the books “Los latidos del corazón nunca callan: poemas y canciones zapatistas” and “Para una estética de la liberación decolonial”invited by Professor Enrique Dussel. Actually, she follows a Master Degree in Sociology of Art at CESMECA Institute of University UNICACH, México.