In 2012, I decided to call the work To Warm the Bones a "community act," instead of using the word performance. To name is a crucial act, that is, it indicates how something lives. And, for me, it was quite significant to mark this work with what I consider to be a quotidian language, one used within my family. Also, in this year, I was completing a period of community service, which allowed me a more direct closeness with political and cultural practices previously unfamiliar to me. Although my thoughts about the community and the local come from a time before this, the act of learning from my closeness with the community organization of Totonicapán was a significant stimulus.
For me, to use the word "community" in certain artistic processes is like extending a bridge with life practices that are no longer seen as common and ordinary because we have grown apart from them, or because they are stigmatized for their indigenous origins, but from my point of view, they contain much wisdom about health, social organization, territory, intergenerational transmission of knowledge, daily work, politics, and aesthetics.
The community is a large weave, in which are included (for example): work sessions called by the corresponding committee to consider the topic of water, large meetings in community rooms to discuss and make decisions about the rise in the cost of electric energy, the development of committees to support the management of schools, resolution of family conflicts, caretaking and protection of the forests, the thermal baths, protection of historic documents, participation in political protests, party-planning, celebration of ritual. It is also necessary to know that the community has its shadows, its difficulties, its conflicts, paradoxes, and complexities.
To become progressively more conscious of the community context of Totonicapán and, more broadly, of the Altiplano of Guatemala and its cultural links with countries such as Mexico and Peru has led me to look for a synthesis of my artistic processes with the community, trying to go further than a notion of the community divided into "the rural/poor" or "the work that we do for the indigenous," etc. The community goes further, is a form of doing, is a cultural response, is a social reaction, is an organizational strategy, is a negation or a political negotiation in the face of practices and structures of an exclusionary, repressive, and racist state.
What ancient and new forms of art can we find?
What exchanges can develop between contemporary art, politics, health, and living-together from a community perspective in "urban" contexts?
What implications in the production of art can exist alongside the questioning derived from community practices and their collective, organizational processes, and their forms of being and naming?
To inquire, to incorporate or to practice the community, we have to make our way along paths less traveled, paths we least expect.
Reyes Josué Morales
Totonicapán, February 2017
Acto colectivo en el kilometro 169 en memoria de la masacre del 4 de octubre
Foto: Carlos Cano