CANOAS, CAYUCOS Y BALSAS (CANOES, CAYUCOS AND RAFTS)
Diego de la Cruz Gaitan, MAOF (Materiales y Oficios, or materials and crafts)
Javier Arbona, Assistant Professor
Canoas, Cayucos y Balsas is a materials and process research project for the construction prototypes of a fleet of Caribbean nautical vessels utilizing materials form natives trees constructed with techniques from pre-Columbian times to the present. Our research intents to re-frame our current knowledge of materials and crafts in search of multi-vectorial interactions with other islanders. This research will allow MAOF to reactivate practices of the original inhabitants of the Caribbean archipelago, with the intention of returning the gaze and body to the sea and broaden the understanding of an island that has finite resources. The results and findings of the expedition will be published periodically through notebooks/publications and a website, which will function as a logbook and reference material for other artists and craftsmen.
It’s that time of year – the run-up to the American Association of Geographers conference, with a flurry of paper calls and session organizing. I’m really happy to announce something that Melissa Fernández and I have been cooking up as part of a larger collaboration that she kindly initiated with enormous energy.
The collaboration starts with the idea, one could say, of “de-exceptionalizing” the crisis. That is, if unilateral colonial administrative decisions —here, we started thinking about the fiscal control board the U.S. Congress imposed on Puerto Rico— are presented as exceptional measures to avert a “humanitarian” crisis, then what are the actually-existing, common contexts of such governmentalities? We focused a lot of our attention on how such crises function beyond the legal jargon that underpins them. What are the emotional sensibilities that transform the abstraction of calculable debts into something material — something present in people’s lives that they understand through crisis logics and not merely as an individualized effect?
Secondly, we also had many hours of discussion around the importance of crisis in urban transformations, and started to talk about many communal and artistic modes of resistance that took the urban condition as a right to fight for. However, the paper call is not strictly urban by any means and in fact, we hope to bring attention to many geographic contexts where crisis-modes transform, restrict and violate rights, belongings, and relations.
Last but not least, we also spent a lot of time talking about the circulation of notions of home/land; the transposition of home to diasporic contexts, given the migration of dispossessed subjects to find a base elsewhere… And the ways in which imaginations of home worked to manage labor discipline, political participation, moral obligations, gender norms, and acceptable identities in new wage contexts for crises exiles.
Anyway, the call explains best what we came up with…
In “Ecologies of Practices in a Post-Military Cinema,” an essay for the exhibition catalog, I draw on my research with artists in Puerto Rico working internationally. Here, I discuss the relationship between walking practices in post-military landscapes and the video art of Beatriz Santiago Muñoz (BSM).
For several years, I participated in “walking seminars” (and hope to do so again) with Santiago Muñoz and artists, students, and many other makers, farmers, and activists.
In this essay (published in English and Spanish), I think about the ongoing, in-process creations that BSM fuses into video but that are not limited to the medium. In the activities of walking and art-making, a process of worlding (a term I borrow from Marisol de la Cadena) emerges. In this worlding, learning, making, and translating into art are intermixed beyond the point of being separable again — new worlds are created within the husk of the expired colony.
I also took this writing as a chance to think more deeply about the politics of walking and about the methodology of sensing through the activation of space—an activity that I argue is productive of new modes of life. There’s a lot more to explain, and the essay itself creates more questions I want to keep thinking about, but anyway, I’ll post a PDF of the essay after the exhibition closes later this year.
The catalog is a gorgeous publication in its own right, designed by Olga Casellas / Tiguere studio, and includes writings by the artist and curators. It can be ordered here. My huge thanks to Bea for inviting me to work on this project and asking me to join the walking seminars; and thanks to: María Elena Ortiz, the exhibition curator, who provided excellent feedback on the essay, and she also supervised copy edits and translation by Cherry Pickman into Spanish. Thank you!
Nibia Pastrana Santiago, choreographer and dancer, sends her new zine, “maniobra, bahía o el evento coreográfico.” Nibia’s work as a movement artist frequently scrutinizes the biases, knowledges, and metaphors of geographical thought. One often sees in her work a desire to trouble choreographic practice by playing it off of ideas about making or marking territories—and often trying to transcend or break these controls by doing, as she says, nada (nothing) or as little as possible, practicing “immobility,” in her dance.
In this small notebook, Nibia documents some kayaking trips to understand the operations of the port of San Juan. Additionally, she collects different documents and images in a low-fi format to try to archive some of the activities of the port, “a definite volume but no fixed shape,” as she suggests in this 2015 performance.
Navigation and choreography, compared. On this page I landed on (reading is also navigation), she is thinking about time, distance, velocity… How these are situated and established. What outlooks and sensibilities do these impose?
Relatedly, one might look at this expansiveness of field work as part of a performance practice to think more about what Shannon Mattern is cautioning in this new, must-read, exciting piece, “Cloud and Field,” for Places. But at least on a quick pass, this sort of field work that Pastrana engages in produces more of what Mattern calls “those aberrations” in the “cloudy vision” of the infrastructures around us. Rather than a didactic orientation of the manufactured world, Puerto Rican artists are exploring ways of disorienting; of uncommoning what’s common in their everyday.