The artistic group, formed by Latin American migrants with diverse sexual and gender identities, creates anti-racist and decolonial actions using text and artistic practice. C&AL spoke with the collective about their show at the Frestas Triennial of Arts in São Paulo, Brazil.
Ayllu Collective, View of the exhibition Devuélvannos el oro (Give us back the gold), Matadero Madrid, 2018. Courtesy of Ayllu Collective.
Ayllu Collective, El Caníbal (The Cannibal), original lithograph produced in collaboration with the Australian Print Workshop. Courtesy of Ayllu Collective.
Ayllu Collective, Don't Blame Us For What Happened. View of the Installation at the 22nd Sydney Biennale. Courtesy of Ayllu Collective
A bond of resistance, symbolic and affective, unites the art collective Ayllu. In the original Quechua language, the name means “family”, and while it does not necessarily refer to a kinship by blood, it can also indicate other types of families.
The group consists of five artists and researchers who come from different territories and contexts, or what they call the Abya Yala, the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
Alex Aguirre Sánchez and Leticia/Kimy Rojas Miranda from Ecuador; Iki Yos Piña Narváez from Venezuela; Francisco Godoy Vega from Chile and Lucrecia Masson from Córdoba, Argentina, met in 2017 and created this “family by choice” that also represents a safe space for those migrant bodies and sexual dissidents who break with the codes of gender, sex and race.
Their artistic interventions are a call to break the silence and to interrogate history by use of texts, performances and decolonial activism. The group carries out acts of resistance to racism, colonialism and heteronormative sexuality, but also extends an invitation to transform and to collectively heal the wounds left by the conquest and the colonial system upon the bodies and territories throughout Latin America.
C&AL: What is the story behind the creation of the Ayllu Collective and what are its principles?
AC: The Ayllu Collective began as a weaving of subjectivities dissident to the white heterosexual regime and peripheral to the heterocentric racial politics, which is articulated between activism and artistic practices. The collective is a community of dissidences wishing to escape the system of individual creation and to break with the artistic disciplines and Western aesthetics. Our forms and aesthetics do not dialogue with the codes of white supremacist art.
We are a family in the diaspora, a family of choice dissident to the white and heterosexual civilization project. We are a family of indix-descendants and afro descendants embedded in the racist Spanish state.
C&AL: In what ways does the collective confront the colonial, racist, heteropatriarchal and capitalist order?
AC: We try to confront a world that has functioned historically on the basis of the extermination of non-white and non-heterosexual bodies, by using our voices, poetics and bodies. The heterocolonial project is unstoppable. The very fact of living already places us in a war that began 500 years ago; as the poet Audre Lorde put it: “They did not expect us to survive”.
From survival, we generate strategies of resistance that move without borders between art and housing; poetry and food; performance and protest; education and chosen family. Our forms pervert the disciplinary limits of art in order to understand artistic production as a way of life and as a form of healing. We form anti-racist and sexual dissident spaces that connect our diverse and separate memories with our sisters in the diaspora in Spain (for example, Abya Yala and the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, etc.).
Ayllu Collective, Don't Blame Us For What Happened. View of the Installation at the 22nd Sydney Biennale. Courtesy of Ayllu Collective.
C&AL: Tell us about some of the actions are you going to present at the Frestas Triennial of Art in Brazil
AC: We are developing a technology of self-preservation of our bodies in the form of texts and images, departing from the principle of “seven thousand rivers connect us”. Here, we are quoting the Afrotravesti philosopher Abigail Campos Leal, who has been our “mediator” so to speak in this edition of the POPS (Program Oriented to Subaltern Practices) that we started for Frestas in late 2020.
This is a material archive of an epistemic community that was born out of POPS; a space of collective creation and critique, where we would meet once a week over the course of four months. This process will be given physical form in the shape of a newspaper, which will travel through time and is composed of multiple creations by thinkers, artists, and creators from different places in Abya Yala and the Caribbean.
The participants came from Brazil, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Argentina, Chile, Mexico and Colombia, building a community of tributaries that converged in virtual meetings to create a dialogue for our knowledge on how to inhabit the metropolis and the colonial wounds, the white ideology of miscegenation, ancestral sexualities, trans epistemologies, the politics of Black flesh, and uncommon worlds and futures, among others. The bilingual Portuguese-Spanish newspaper, which will be available in print copies at the exhibition, will also be available for download on the Triennial’s website for international circulation.
C&AL: In several countries across Latin America, anti-racist and anti-colonial movements and collectives are opening a discussion about the region’s colonial past. How do you think the artistic actions of the Ayllu Collective can help rehabilitate those dynamics?
AC: We titled one of the POPS’ public sessions at the Triennial “Perhaps Rewriting History is Our Only Form of Reparation.” This is a quote by Saidiya Hartman from her text “Venus in Two Acts.” We are inspired by the idea of imagining and recreating a different past; one “that has not yet been written” as well as many (im)possible futures. In this sense, our creations can trace other escape routes from the hegemonic, white, heterosexual and cisgendered narratives by which we have become intoxicated
Rewriting history does not just mean “rewriting” in a literal sense. It also means opening collective spaces of circulation of voices and embodied narratives, of the memories of our grandmothers, of food, of smells, of memories that we did not even remember we had because the white project has always demanded their erasure.
C&AL: What are your plans for the future?
AC: We plan to continue producing POPS in a self-managed way or with the support of cultural institutions. This year, we have been invited to participate in the group exhibition Raíz at the Contemporary Art Center in Quito, Ecuador with an installation we presented in March 2020 at the Sydney Biennale titled: Don’t Blame Us For What Happened.
We will be part of the rearrangement of the collection at Reina Sofia in Madrid, and we are invited to the Kochi Biennale in India, although it is currently paralyzed by the pandemic. In 2023 we plan to participate in the project Antifurista cimarrón, curated by Yuderkys Espinosa.
Ana Luisa González, who conducted the interview, studied literature and works as a cultural journalist and freelance reporter in Colombia.
Translation from Spanish by Zarifa Mohamad Petersen