ESTE ES MI EJÉRCITO
(This is my army)
Solo Exhibition at Firstdraft, Sydney
As a Venezuelan woman living in Sydney, I constantly stay informed with the politics of a country in collapse. On April 1st, 2017,Venezuelans participated in mass national and international protests in defence of their constitutional rights, particularly the right to free and direct elections. Although protests continue to this day, in the first four months, they resulted in the violent deaths of one-hundred and fifty-seven people, the detention of two-thousand and injury of over fifteen thousand as well as the international repudiation of an oppressive dictatorial regime.
What does the imagery of protest look like? Among theVenezuelan demonstrators are a violinist, cuatro players, a woman dressed in white standing in front of an army tank, Señor Papagayo (Mr. Kite), and young men with shields made of wood. Some of these individuals, photographed, documented and shared, became icons of the protests, a collective memory of the on-going resistance, an army of people moved by their beliefs, protecting the intangible querencia.*
*Querencia is a metaphysical concept in the Spanish language. The term comes from the Spanish verb “querer”, which means “to desire”. Querencia describes a place where one feels safe, a place from which one’s strength of character is drawn, a place where one feels at home. Also, the subject and title of song “Mi Querencia” by the late Simón Díaz, admired Venezuelan composer and preserver of regional folkloric traditions.
“If my “querencia” is the bush
and the araguaney flower;
How could I not have,
how could I not have,
so much desire to return”
- (A personal translation of a verse from Mi Querencia)
Through objects of personal and cultural significance, my work speaks to the concept of army through the lens of querencia. In a time of global political cataclysm, I use my personal understanding of culture, heritage and identity, as a poetic tool to dismantle, question and explore the meaning of an army as a weapon of the state and reconstruct it as the will of the individual.
Memories, photographs from my last trip home, documentation of current events, historical research, folk art from the walls of my grandparents’ house, autochthonous fruits and vegetables, family relics, popular music, Youtube videos of religious festivities, on-going conversations with my mother, all inform my personal construction of an army.
THIS IS MY ARMY (ESTE ES MI EJÉRCITO) is a reflection on place and displacement through my own diasporic experience.