Urban codes, Crossings and Migration is a participatory walk that we created with The Walk Exchange in collaboration with Sitio-Seña. Symbols designed by the artists in Guatemala were dynamically used in the participatory walk to consider the use of visual codes in navigation of the urban landscape in New York City and to reflect on traditional and contemporary symbolism, transmigratory flows, and language.
We have collected our experiences from the walk on a website and we made a video that captures some of the moments from the walk experience.
Novel, Walis, Katerine and Lisa
The gallery space at The New School is currently occupied with artworks from emerging and established Guatemalan and US-based artists. In the hallway outside the gallery space you are introduced to a timeline that serves as a backdrop to Guatemalan history and art. The timeline is informative and helpful to give a context to an audience that might not be familiar with Guatemalan history and art. The amount of text seems to be overwhelming to some of its viewers, as they quickly continue to the exhibition space. However, some of its viewers are more patient with the content, and spent more time on the timeline. I noticed the same interaction with the text accompanying the artwork; the audience that was at the gallery space the opening night did not invest much time to read about the artworks.
Inside the gallery space a given amount of art pieces have been curated and collected, and the various artwork unfolds organically in the space. The gallery space is small, but the room manages to hold the artwork without the artwork cancelling out each other. As you walk through the space the textiles made by Sitio-Sena are an aesthetically strong contribution to the space, as well as the piece by Daniel Hernández-Salazar.
One piece that stands out in the room is the large table with the red and black traditional Guatemalan woven tablecloth. The table is a part of Jessica Kaire and Daniel Perera’s contribution to the exhibition. On Saturday, April 11th, they lead a televisual gathering via Skype, where a conversation between one group in New York and one group in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, took place. In two identical scenarios in two different locations, the two groups shared a meal. The conversation was in Spanish, so for non-Spanish speaking viewers, such as myself, the concept was a bit confusing at first. However, during the course of the meal, it started to make sense. A different way of being “together”, across cultures and counties, was playfully performed at the gallery for a few hours.
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.
I am a first year student in the Design Studies program. I was born and grew up in Oslo, Norway, where I have been working as a graphic designer in digital media for the last couple of years. My academic background is in Visual Communication, and Art and Design with a focus on textiles.
During my undergraduate studies I assisted a fashion designer, Peter Løchstøer, who at the time co-directed a project with a strong vision. He was working with the Sally Ann Project, a fair-trade project established in Bangladesh by a Norwegian couple in 1997. Together with well-known designers in Norway, they design and produce interior and textile products in Bangladesh, Moldova and Kenya. Working with design in this perspective awoke my interest not only in Fair Trade, but also in sustainable design. Sally Ann had a vision about a world with a sustainable development and justice, giving everyone a chance to reach their full potential. I believe a design process should not only encompass aesthetics and technical specifications, but it should also embrace environmental and social sustainability and responsibility.
The participatory approach and the cross-disciplinary forms to be found in Guatemala Después is just a few of the components making up this project, but it is essentially what drew me to the class, as well as my long-term interest for art, social justice and social responsibility. I look forward to learning more about curating, exhibition design, and working with artists and curators in Guatemala.