Marginalia is a monthly feature in which an artist, curator, or project is invited to choose a series of images related to their practice and interests for Terremoto’s virtual background. At the end of each month, we compile the images and contextualize them through writing.
For this issue, we invited an array of entities to create visual essays around the affectivity of images in our current context. Taking the pandemic as a parting point, these essays ask how can visuality stimulate or support the creation of mutual aid networks. This is a compilation of the six visual essays, and their respective explanatory texts, authored by the curatorial-artistic collective Nohacernada.org (MX), artist Daniel Escamilla (MX), artist Luciana Ponte (ARG), artist Jenny Granado (BRA), publishing house BRKN (MX), and the magazine CECLI (CL).
In Věra Chytilová’s 1966 movie Daisies, two young women—both named Marie—decide to, given the world’s corrupted state, embark on a series of pranks that consume and destroy the world around them. Occasionally they steal money from and ridicule people at a club; they dedicate themselves to gluttony; they scam moneyed men and incite them to pay their bills. In the final scene, they crash a luxurious banquet only to later attempt to clean up and fix what they broke, mockingly repeating: “if we are good, we will be happy, if we work hard, we will be good and happy.”
In 1979, the members of art collective The Offices consigned themselves to sell “art theory and practice to clients outside the art world;” they had the conviction that the “bifurcation of work and play, creation and recreation, obligation and leisure” should not exist.
A desire that hierarchical, alienating labor be replaced by creative and fulfilling work made way for new forms of control. As the eight-hour workday morphed into a demand for constant availability and perpetual self-management, labor became perilous once more and increasingly encroaching. Without meaning to, entrepreneurial efforts created a mold for the neoliberal subject in which notions of autonomy, creativity, and adaptability continued to sustain a utopian promise.
For us, the wordplay in Doing Nothing (no hacer nada) is key: while in logic, double negatives constitute a positive, in Spanish a double negative is actually a reiteration of negation. We like to play with the institutional and academic ambiguity that this phrase assumes, bringing to mind all of its possible significations. Doing Nothing is both resistance and contradiction. Given our specific conditions—facing confinement due to a global pandemic—we have come to once more think about notions of productivity, the occupation of specific spaces, and the roles that we play in light of this situation.
During confinement, social media has propagated viral images that promote productivity and condemn “wasting” these days in which you are not being “exploited” by work: there are no excuses for not being productive, as you have ample free time.
Some artistic movements of the twentieth century saw leisure as a subversive tool. While authorities demand the cessation of productive capitalist acts during the pandemic, we must remember that leisure is a privilege: the majority cannot stop doing; the majority cannot do anything.
Nohacernada.org is a project spearheaded by Carmen Huízar and Daniela Flores Arias. We practice curatorship as our own artistic practice. We think of what we do as actions, as they are temporally and spatially specific; we think of what we do as collaborations, as we form a team with the artists we invite. For us, the before/during/after of exhibitions is instrumental. Our virtual platform serves as an exhibition space for online actions and as an archive for offline collaborations, for which we seek specific physical spaces that contribute to and link with the project to be shown, be it through their context, location, or physical characteristics.
In an interview published by Forbes magazine in May 2017, economist Ernesto Piedras recounts how he had been asked to calculate the specific contribution of Mexican cultural production to the country’s gross domestic product and its relationship to the federal government’s annual budget allocations for cultural work. His calculations revealed that the cultural sector received 0.0002% of the country’s total budget; in exchange, culture made up 6.4% of the GDP.
When these figures were reported to the Treasury Secretary, he then asks: “If with so little they make so much, why would they want any more?”
Art was always lonely
Institutional abandonment? Academic frigidity? Commercial pimping? Job insecurity? Theoretical masturbation? Functional institutional critique?
No, tranqui, yo perreo sola.
This new apocalypse promises the destruction and collapse of outdated systems. Will it follow through with its pledge? Who knows…I am used to false promises.
Social distancing? I’ve danced that before. Nothing new under the sun. ART also knows the steps all too well :(:
Hasn’t art been, throughout history, an insular conversation? The same clique as always, talking about themselves for themselves and their incestuous friend group.
Sometimes I like to imagine that art (without any capitalization) is a vulnerable body. Yes, literally, I imagine art a person, who suffers through the bittersweet melodrama of rejection from a “wider audience” and its central node, the field officer. This is something that worries me; I am worried that they are alone, alienated, scorned, attacked by arrogant bullies, and fed up with being deliberately misunderstood and never invited inside.
But let’s pause for a second… Right now, we are all alone, isolated, gloves, and face masks at hand, missing communication with others. Something that never was, something that existed only as a figment. I think that art knows, somewhere inside themselves, that dealing with solitude is a virtue. Because one is never truly alone. Maybe we should get something out of this experience, stop romanticizing the people and structures that harm us, and resist through it all: we should move through the margins, where everything begins.
Be like water. Be like a meme.
Be like a virus.
This visual essay is composed of images from my personal motivational collection. Some memes are mine, some are found, some works are mine, others serve as references.
My portfolio and bio http://lalulula.com/
My public personal musings https://www.instagram.com/oh.no.lulu/
My fantasies about an emo art and its heinous audience https://www.instagram.com/arthasfeelingstoo/
My attempt at connecting with the public and my space for collective cooperation https://lalulula.tv/
How will we regain control of our lives?
THE VIRUS IS THE SYMPTOM; THE CI$TEM IS THE DISEASE.
Desculonización* transitions between artistic research and social labor. It is a transfeminist platform active since 2015/16 based in Brazil and Mexico. We trigger the implications of the racialization of non-white bodies in the framework of current neo-fascism. An anti-civilizing campaign for the celebration of a body that enjoys feels pleasure and perreo right on the ruins of order and progress, good manners, and traditional family structures. It arises from the force of occupation, invasion, and re-existence that focuses on our hips and resonates throughout the body. Desculonización is not a concept; it is a movement. We question everything that steals our lives.
Jenny Granado aka Kebra (Uruana, Brasil) is a visual artist, DJ and holds a master in conservation and archiving. Apart from her project Desculonización, since 2016 she curates Festival Anormal, of post-pornographies, feminisms, and dissident sexualities in Mexico City. Her art has been shown in Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala, Colombia, Finland, Switzerland, Argentina, Italy, Puerto Rico, China, and more. Her work is mainly focused on performance but with fluid experimentation in form. She proposes colonialism as an epistemic technological tool, and how it inscribes hierarchical binary fictions in human behavior, sexualities, and the territories we occupy.
*Desculonización joins the terms culo as in ass and descolonización, Spanish for decolonization. Cu in Brasil means anus. And it also takes shape in performances, workshops, lectures, collabs, and DJ sets.
Images sprouting on the surface
Terremoto invited us to think of images.
They also invited us to talk about our vulnerable bodies.
Our bodies as workers of the cognitariat.
And they asked us two questions.
What images are affecting us in our contemporary moment?
How can we create networks of mutual aid?
We thought about how images can affect us.
The news we see.
The statistics we read.
And that made us think:
What is an affected image?
How have images been affected in this context?
Are they quarantined like us?
How are these quarantined images?
Are they like this?
Do they have owners, prices, and usage-rights fees?
The commodification of efforts, wishes, imaginations?
Were our images of the future also quarantined?
No, because the future is not as Elon Musk and F*ceb**k predict.
The future is taking different paths to different places.
(I suppose we should also consider that in the future we want to be like fungi, distributing the forest and allowing it to communicate through us, helping it survive, helping it expand and protect itself, knitting roots from below and only sometimes appearing on the surface)
Any time that we think of other futures, we can create, retake or imagine
Images for these possibilities.
And these images will be free.
Images that circulate like memes.
Unrestrained wherever possible.
This leads us to the issue of meme circulation.
Memes, the only unconfined images of the present.
Images that leave home to try and find kinship.
Echoes of common uncertainties.
Memes can become kinship nodes that, in turn, create larger networks of support.
Networks that are both virtual and physical.
That seek public goods.
That circumvent the vulnerability of bodies and distance.
That exist somewhere beyond networks of capital.
In our country, they censor. They burn books, they burn people, they paint the town, they mute voices.
One year ago, @tlaxcalatres invited us (@cosaslindaseinutiles) to curate a display case with the theme “Objects and Walls.” We selected objects related to dictatorship. One of the objects we chose was a scorched book. We burned the book ourselves, to represent all the books burned in dictatorships worldwide.
Now, cloistered in our homes, some—or rather, many—books keep us company. Gifted books, inherited books, books bought at school fairs.
Books are inherently political. Bush knew this when he bombed the University of Baghdad (and, by extension, its library) in 2003. Our governors also know this. Books do not only give us words: they give us fuel for the fire, paper for food-wrapping, a surface that can become a table, drawings to decorate our walls, a shrine for secret messages. Books and other objects narrow gaps, transport us to other worlds or bring us, humbly, to the present; the present in which the virus prevented us from—amongst other things—voting on our new constitution on the previously accorded date.
The moment they begin to signify something else, our objects transcend their ordinariness. Six months ago, as we began a social revolt against our country’s unjust system, pots and pans became weapons. We registered this change in signification alongside the collective @diariosdeguerra, to document the fight’s material legacy: its uses outside the home. Now, those same pots and pans are being filled with food to nourish those who, unsupported by the state, suffer the virus’s most dire consequences.
Objects constantly cross the line between utility and uselessness to save lives, to save dreams. They stay inside with us, little reminders that there was another world—and many other worlds—before this one. And that the one that comes after is also going to be different. It will deal with other objects, and our objects will live in museums that will document the horror in their tin, paper, and ceramic bodies.
Tenderness is the opposite of everyday horror. The tenderness of a plate full of bread, of a book full of stories, of a pot full of charquicán, of a bandana and a raised fist.
—Centro de Estudios de Cosas Lindas e Inútiles [Center for the Study of Tender and Useless Things]