*The exhibition Caída Libre opened at the Alianza Francesa in Guatemala City 5 July 2017, including works by Manuel Chavajay, Jorge de León, and Carlos Perez.
"There is, in nature, perhaps nothing older than motion, concerning which the books written by philosophers are neither few nor small; nevertheless, I have discovered some properties of it that are worth knowing that have not hitherto been either observed or demonstrated."
Galileo, Dialogues and Mathematical Demonstrations Concerning Two New Sciences, 1638
In On the Heavens (350 BC), Aristotle's collected lessons consider the principles of movement. His is an inquiry into the conditions of physical objects and bodies. Indeed, in his Physics, which are a series of writings on nature, he defines nature as the inner principle of change and being at rest. These lessons have a double sense: that is, in the science of physics they offer a set of propositions, many of which have been hotly contested. But, as a philosophy for understanding movement, they also offer beautiful and resonant observations about heaviness and lightness, about the void, and about how elements are subject to generation or destruction. The absolutely heavy, he writes, "is that which sinks to the bottom of all things," and the absolutely light, is "that which rises to the surface." Lightness and heaviness are potent metaphors for daily experience in Guatemala; while Galileo famously challenged Aristotle's propositions about how bodies fall, we might see something poetic in Aristotle's suggestion that something heavy falls harder and faster from the sky. And there is much that is heavy here, a short 20 years after the signing of the Peace Accords, a year after public demonstrations removed Molina y Baldetti from office, a few months after the fire at Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asunción.
In Caída Libre, we look to that experience of being pulled sharply to the earth by gravity. That space between the start and the end of the fall, the intersticio entre cielo y suelo, is the space in which these works by Manuel Chavajay (San Pedro La Laguna), Jorge de León (Guatemala), y Carlos Perez (Guatemala/Viena) might best be understood. From the level of the personal to the national, each of these artists can attest to the heaviness of life in this place, in these days. While Galileo proved that the weight of an object does not increase the speed at which it falls to earth, we might consider that there is a weight to violence, to isolation, to memory that can trigger a fall, can remove the ground from beneath us, and can place us in a hard and fast downward spiral. And, yet, the physics of a free fall, as Galileo defined them, can also be a heartening reminder of resilience: a free fall in physics is any motion of a body in which the only force acting upon it is gravity. There are many kinds of motion and change, many directions in which a free fall can happen, not all of them necessarily in the direction "down." While an object moving upwards is not colloquially understood to be falling, it could be: the moon, which moves only by the force of gravity, is technically in free fall. Perhaps we are never in control of the point of gravity that pulls us, perhaps we cannot define the trajectory of our movements. But in the face of such heavy weights, these artists suggest that we might at least imagine ways of falling differently. We might imagine, instead, climbing, soaring, even finding rest in this perilous experience of being unmoored.