The art of textile and textile tradition in Guatemala has in spite of years of conflict remained authentic. Maya textiles are, and have been, a significant factor in the culture and ethnic identity of Guatemala. Weaving with the garments that came out of it, but nonetheless the act of weaving itself represents and embodies knowledge passing through generations. Artists of younger generations working with textile as a medium, such as Quique Lee, have however an approach to the medium that has less to do with traditional Maya Textiles, and more to do with the story of Guatemala during the years of conflict. In an interview last year he described his work with textiles in relation to memory: “One of the recurrent topics in my pieces is memory, and how an individual remembrance relates to a collective sub consciousness. I express myself through textiles and embroidery. Therefore my war-related works might seem superficial, but they reflect another point of view, sometimes forgotten, of what I see as a collective memory.”
For the exhibition at the New School I am a part of the group working with the textile artists in Sitio-Seña, where one of the members of the group is the artist Quique Lee. Sitio-Seña are working with quilts and codes to tell the story of how symbols allegedly were used to guide transmigrants from Guatemala to the United States for the exhibition in New York. The artists in Guatemala have been working with their project for a long period of time, they have gathered a great amount of work, both research, artwork and specific plans for the exhibition. During our conversations and with our correspondence we have narrowed our contribution to be an activity outside the gallery space, a walking experience in the city. The walk will be designed by The Walk Exchange, and both Sitio-Seña and The Walk Exchange are interested in arranging a walk in Guatemala as well.
As Guatemala has a long tradition in textiles, and artists in Guatemala currently use textiles as a technique to express their artwork, this has become to be something I would like to learn more about. In addition to Sitio-Seña and Quique Lee, I also found Jessica Kaire’s work with textiles in her project CONFORT Series to be interesting as it addresses the violence that occurred in Guatemala as an antithetical proposal. The CONFORT Series is a fictional brand of soft and warlike sculptures in textile. According to Jessica Kaire in her talk at our class-session, her work is addressing the violent history in a different manner than artists from earlier generations; the seriousness is still there, but amongst younger artists a there is also a sense of humor that was not present earlier.