After producing interdisciplinary projects together with communities in the Colombian Pacific for a decade, the Colombian art organization Más Arte Más Acción is undergoing a process of reinvention and is currently preparing to participate in documenta 15 in 2022 in Kassel, Germany.
Leonel Vásquez, Auscultar un territorio de alumbramientos. Nuquí, 2019. Courtesy of Más Arte Más Acción.
Banco de Memoria Sonora: sonidos enraizados and the Cumbancheritos de Nuquí, Nuquí, 2020. Foto: Rafael Peña. Courtesy of Más Arte Más Acción.
Base Chocó, drawing by Joep van Lieshout, 2011. Courtesy of Más Arte Más Acción.
Más Arte Más Acción (MAMA) is a Colombian non-profit organization founded in 2011 by visual artist Fernando Arias and cultural manager Jonathan Collin. MAMA is a platform for interdisciplinary art projects involving collaboration with communities in the Colombian Pacific. Currently led by Ana Garzón, MAMA is in a phase of transition towards collective governance, where Alejandra Rojas will be in charge of the legal representation, as well as the production of the organization’s participation at documenta Kassel in 2022.
The shift to collective governance represents the transformation of the organization’s processes over the years towards a more horizontal structure and with a stronger focus on the processes based in the Colombian Pacific. This region, with its predominantly Afro and indigenous communities, is among the country’s most heavily affected by the armed conflict. It is also one of the regions with the greatest biodiversity, which is now being threatened by environmentally hostile megaprojects.
One of the main characteristics of MAMA’s work over the last ten years has been network building. Not only do the communities, collectives or organizations in Nuquí (Chocó), Buenaventura (Valle del Cauca) and Quibdó (Chocó) participate; their funding partners are also involved, such as the Goethe-Institut, the British Council or Pro Helvetia, museums, galleries, artists’ collectives or independent national and international artists, festivals and public institutions.
Más Arte Más Acción is part of the Arts Collaboratory (AC) network, consisting of 25 organizations from around the world and focused on artistic practices, processes for social change and community work beyond the field of art. In the same way, the dynamics of AC influence how MAMA relates to its peers in Colombia and the Pacific.
Ruangrupa, the Indonesian collective in charge of the artistic direction of documenta 15, selected the exhibitors based on what they consider lumbung values. This concept, and the central curatorial approach for the 2022 documenta, is based on collectivity, generosity, humor, trust, independence, curiosity, resilience, regeneration, transparency, sufficiency, and connectivity among a multitude of places or actors. What Más Arte Más Acción has built up throughout its history, and which the organization has named Chocó as a School (Chocó como escuela), greatly coincides with the lumbung concept.
The Base Chocó (Chocó Base) can be considered a transversal axis in MAMA’s processes. The base is a physical space designed by Joep Van Lieshout and located in the tropical rainforest in the Coquí district of the municipality of Nuquí. It has served as a place for reflection and meetings between artists, scientists, activists, writers and communities working on social and environmental issues.
Many relationships have emerged from this place and its surroundings with multiple Pacific-based agents, such as the En Puja Communications Collective, the Community Council Los Riscales, artistic and community organizations in Nuquí, and, specifically in Coquí, the “Corporaloteca” of the Technological University of Chocó, the Mareia Foundation, the Motete Corporation, the Puerto Creativo audiovisual collective, the Buenaventura Workshop School, Tura Hip Hop, and Yemayá, among others.
Likewise, organizations from other Colombian regions and cities are part of this lumbung, flowing together, sometimes on-site and sometimes through ideas and collaborations, in the rainforest, the Atrato River and the Pacific Sea.
Perhaps the best way to describe what this way of working represents is through the words of the participants. Fausto Moreno, inhabitant of Coquí, says: “This project is very important for our community, as it has brought to light the importance of conserving our values and our ancestry. It has helped us understand that art can be created bottom-up; that anyone can create art. Also, we have been able to consolidate the multitude of artistic strategies we possess, and which we never really considered art. Trades – such as fishing, agriculture, crafts, and cooking – are all part of an artistic system that allows us to understand the idiosyncrasy and history of each community.”
Jhoan David Paredes is an audiovisual producer in the Puerto Creativo collective and studies film in Cuba. He describes his participation in this Pacific lumbung as follows: “MAMA supports the processes of the Puerto Creativo collective. In 2017, we began the project Postales del Futuro (Postcards from the Future) with the aim to create a bridge of audiovisual communication between Nuquí and Buenaventura. Later, I enrolled in film school in Cuba and MAMA has sponsored my entire academic career.”
Thus, the inclusion of Más Arte Más Acción in documenta 15 signifies an extensive invitation to all the agents of this lumbung.
Base Chocó, Nuquí 2011. Courtesy of Más Arte Más Acción.
Spaces of thought as works of art
What Más Arte Más Acción hopes to bring to the documenta are the organization’s spaces for thinking, conversations and encounters and, especially, the products of these exchanges, without the products themselves being on display. This includes the entire experience of Chocó Base and four processes in which the different agents mentioned above have come together: Postales del Futuro (Postcards from the Future), an exchange project that promotes and shares reflections and visions through documentary film; Atrato [COLLABORATIONS], a series of collaborations between multidisciplinary artists based in Switzerland and artists whose work is based in or related to Chocó and the Atrato River in the Colombian Pacific; Impostergable (Non-postponable), three artist residencies with a meeting in Tribugá (Nuquí), aimed at strengthening ideas around citizenship and alternative development, and all linked to civil resistance; and Diálogos posibles (Possible dialogues), conversations focused on climate change and climate justice, involving indigenous peoples from the Amazon region, Chocó and Scotland leading up to and during the COP26 UN climate change conference.
MAMA’s ultimate aim is to keep the dialogue alive and to leave a legacy in the region, based on the recognition of local processes anchored in the Colombian Pacific.
Velia Vidal Romero is a Colombian writer, promoter of reading and cultural project manager and the director of the Motete Educational and Cultural Corporation.