Juan Fernando
Duque Restrepo

The way how bodies and systems interrelate is very much a reflection of the society we live in. The interconnected nature of our world has become increasingly evident: we can feel in our bodies the actual collapsing of the Western capitalist system. Social, environmental, political, economic and technological structures are rapidly rearranging ideas, practices and meanings of identity, resistance, activism, togetherness and art.

I wonder, in the praxis of curating, what would be the repercussions of the embodied experience of physical distancing after the covid19 pandemic? For an ‘otherwise’ to emerge, it is required that the different agents involved - the art works, the artists, the exhibition spaces, the curators and the communities - re-imagine the curatorial as a ‘yet to come’, as an unfinished, constant knowledge experience in the present.

If there is a local preoccupation in implementing decolonial practices in order to critically rethink the political, economic and sociocultural actual conditions at the global south, why still the discursive formation grounded in Western methodologies of exposing, presenting, educating and civilizing through formats such as the exhibition?
How do we practice communality, care and friendship without first questioning the systems of oppressions class/race/gender/sex which had been imposed on the universal category of the body? If the individual has been divided from the collective in the West, how to make community when we are detached from human and non-human forms?

In the following text I propose to interweave personal memories of paths that I have already experienced through my artistic practice, passing through places that perhaps remind you of, or evoke other places experienced, emphasizing three corporal actions: Situating oneself, Narrating and Approaching/Getting Closer. These actions I consider to be a fundamental part of the practice of a traveller like me, who tries to build a way of thinking and knowledge while walking.

First Action - Situating oneself.

To get closer to what we really value as important, many times we need to distance ourselves first.

I belong to a generation that grew up very fast. The changes that Colombia, and the world in general, was going through during my childhood and youth had a direct impact on the body, they made you act:

On a global level, the financial crises of the 90's and their neoliberal accelerationism, that had a terrible impact on the contexts of the global South the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the cold war, the Gulf War and the televised bombings, the intensification of the war with the drug trade, the hordes of people displaced by the conflict that arrived in the cities impacted by an indescribable violence,
the great question of how to deal with the 500th (five hundredth) anniversary of the encounter between two worlds, which is commonly known as the discovery of America in written History (with a capital H), the change of millennium fuelled by the haste and modern fallacy that by changing the clock we would all automatically disappear or enter another dimension called the future, the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers in the USA,
the global war against terrorism and its disastrous consequences with migratory groups and human beings displaced by internal wars around the world.

I ask myself, how can we be prepared to prevent the consequences of shock if we have always lived in this state, if it is already an internalized, latent condition? Perhaps ‘immediacy,’ as the ability to respond to the destabilizing character of the instant, is a positive condition, characteristic of my generation.

Of all these events, there is one that has definitely fed my critical position. I remember that when I was at school, of all the celebrations and civic events of the academic year there was one in particular that we all knew very well, but that paradoxically, we did not understand at the time why it was important to commemorate.

October 12, 1492, called 'the day of the Discovery of America' and known today as 'Day of the Race'.Every year at school a different class of students set up a performance for the whole school. The teacher on duty divided the group of students into two - the Spaniards on one side and the Indians on the other - and suddenly your best friend was on the other side acting out and interpreting what was written in the history books.

We all knew by heart who the Catholic kings were, Christopher Columbus, de Belalcázar, Pizarro, Cortez... as we knew their costumes, their weapons. Playing these characters was an honour reserved for the students with the best grades and condition to recite from memory.

Playing an Indian was a special headache for parents, who at that time only had as a visual reference the folkloric interpretations of the gringo cowboy films.

My grades were good, but my memory was not. I wondered why the group of students who played the indigenous people had to be barefoot, sitting on the floor in silence at the feet of these figures who spoke in a tedious way, marked by monologues recited in an imposed language, not to mention the ridiculous myth of the exchange of mirrors for gold with which that disastrous supposed 'cultural exchange' was sealed.
The silence of all those seated, repeated the ignorance that has existed for more than 500 years.

The years around 1992 were years in which I began to understand that there was nothing to celebrate, but much to unlearn in order to rebuild the foundations of Western culture.

Second action-Narrating.

My physical journey began in 2001. At that time, I left home for the first time, I wanted to know more about the world, I had the privilege of being able to choose my destination and I emigrated without knowing exactly when I would return. I arrived in a city where everything was alien, where neither my language nor my studies were relevant, I entered a culture of constant validation where I have always been tested.

At that time, two million Poles, half a million Spaniards, hundreds of Latin Americans and then Greeks also emigrated to Northern Europe, and those who were most affected by the wars in the Middle East and Africa. The economic South and its whole paradigm of exoticism, a category imposed by the policies of developmentalism of the global North, has expanded to the point that it is now at the very door of central Europe.

A Europe that has entered into an epistemic crisis and that solves its problems by creating more infrastructures and protocols without providing a basic solution. A Europe where individualism lacks the affective tools to understand its social relationship of empathy, after the crisis of the subject, a product and object of the forms of singularisation that modernity has caused.

The ideologies of the political parties tell us that we all advance together towards progress, that we build a better country together, that innovation applied to state-of-the-art technology in enterprising hands will save us all equally...

The collective horizon is a cultural construction that Western modernity has imposed on us as a way of thinking so that we do not stop moving. According to this slogan we should always be moving forward.

I wonder, how to move forward, if we have not understood that the horizon is shaped by the sum of different points of view where everyone and everyone matters.

I have always felt interested in visiting cities that have been created or have been divided. Not because I have a specific interest in contexts resulting from binary thinking, but because the void that this division generates is really a potential. Between one difference and another there are countless possibilities, of greys, of shades, nothing is totally one or the other in nature.

When we travel - with whichever means of travel - we are consciously or unconsciously drawing lines in space. We know by geometry that every line is composed by an infinite succession of points in movement and the displacement marks the distance between point and point. That distance will be then the material of life itself, the potential condition of all that organic or inorganic material that moves through space, generating places.

If we observe and listen carefully to our bodies we will understand that everything is interconnected. Although apparently ‘moving' is an intention, a desire that underlies the individual subject.

The reverberations, waves, rhythms and arrhythmias of everything around us, are what really put us in constant flow. Our desire to move will always have a collective root, according to which I exist and move, because you and everything else, is there too, moving.

The Cartesian, individualistic sentence that explains the condition of the being that is and that exists because it thinks, must be rethought; we are beings in constantly evolving relationships, we build ourselves in the 'joint becoming' with everything that surrounds us.

The space of the trajectories between points, that void that exists between the things that surround us, is composed of experiences. Perhaps that is why in western culture we are so terrified of the action of stopping which is directly associated with death, but which from other epistemologies is just another condition of movement, of the eternal flow of things.

To stop the chronological time of the West, to stop the march of the road, can then be a great act of protest and politics 'par excellence'. But from another perspective, stopping the journey is also the right moment to slow down and actively observe our environment, in order to better assimilate, decant and feel in our bodies how everything passes through us, what the void between the bodies and the things of the world that really conforms us.


According to the latest news about COVID19, my street woke up red today.

The houses in front, and those along the avenue are (covered) in red.

On the global map, my whole neighbourhood is marked as red.

The whole city where I live for over 5 years, today has to be thought of conceptually as a big red spot.

Double red for me and for many other non-Europeans who have grown up in contexts where red is not just another colour.

Third action – Getting closer.

To get closer, you also have to distance yourself. As a preventive measure against the spread of what is already a pandemic, the social - or physical - distancing imposed by the different political and health authorities at the global level, has generated the separation and destruction of social and community tissues that before the appearance of the virus had consolidated and agreed upon, seeking to strengthen and lessen the impacts of the capitalist system. That physical detachment, today, should be transformed after careful observation into: approaching what is really primordial.

I think this implies:

To distance ourselves from the oppressions and hegemonic forms imposed by all kinds of Neocolonialism.

To distance ourselves from mass consumption, a consumption that objectifies (our) bodies, affects and territories.

To distance ourselves from the imposed subjectivities that transform our bodies, leaving us unable to have an opinion about them.

To distance ourselves from seeking explanations in epistemologies built on the same sources and hegemonic forms of knowledge.

To distance ourselves from seeing only productivity in our

environment without evaluating its consequences on bodies and their territories.

And so, a number of distances will be necessary to be able to really approach in a collective way, to listen to our common sense, our

dreams, affections and feelings respecting and understanding all our differences.

I think we have to get closer, in order to agree with those who are really important to us and with whom we will be creating some more dignified ways of being together, ways of living towards a good life.

Waman Puma de Ayala who, as Ch'ixi [1] mestizo, was confronted by contradictory identities, the Indigenous and the Spanish. In his ‘Primer Nueva Coronica y Buen Gobierno’ 1612-1615, a letter with illustrations written in a combination of Quechua, Aymara and Spanish languages, addressed to King Philip III of Spain, Puma de Ayala narrated the injustices of colonial rule.

What keeps this document relevant today --beyond historical value--- is its decolonial intention. It is in this train of thought through embodied experiences that this work proposes a different epistemology as narrative of the world from the perspective of the other. At the time, in order to attract the attention of Europeans, chroniclers were describing the ‘New World’s rarities’ narrating what they heard, enhancing and distorting with the intention to exoticize and capitalize ‘the other’. What it is remarkable about Waman Puma is the methodology he implemented for the production of knowledge, his desperate intention and desire as the internal force to communicate what he thought was the ‘real true’ to the king, make him to rely on his most near tool for gathering knowledge, the sensorial experience of his own body and the memories its produce.

According to the Aymara/Bolivian feminist sociologist and subaltern theorist Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui (2015) Waman Puma through his senses, practiced verbs for a method in movement: to walk, to know, to create, in order to register what he saw, heard, remembered and felt, she call this process ‘sentipensar’ (visceral thinking), would be a near translation). Through constructed images in his body, Waman Puma made sense of what he named el mundo al revés (the world upside down), a truly reflective and communicative practice based on the desire to recover one's memory and corporeality. Such a memory is not only action but also ideation, imagination, thought and desire (amuyt'aña in Aymaran language), (2015, p.28).

Inside the Western canon inherited knowledge is based on power structures that bias perspectives, historical categories, sequences, disciplinary validations and objectified proofs. Brought to curatorial practices, I wonder what could we learn from these other epistemologies based on embodied experience as a knowledge production? Moreover, what other curatorial formats are possible to incentivize ways of knowledge that foster a sense of embodied knowledge in order to critically reflect on the spatio-temporal and social-political structures in curating? How could these other ways of doing, thinking and learning through curatorial practices, diverse collaborations and critical pedagogy contribute to debates in the arts and cultural institutional domain?

With the intention to expand these questions implementing the trasdisciplinary approach that constitute the curatorial, in the following pages I would like to present as propositions a series of scores through text and image for otherwise curatorial situations to emerge.

This speculations in the curatorial understands scores as a tool for creating curatorial situations where all the participants artist, curator, the production of art objects, situations and institutions could be involved by playing different roles (shifting the relationships between subjects and objects) setting in motion dynamics that challenge hierarchical power relationships which constitute the political structure of the curatorial.

The aim of these scores is to stimulate the character of embodied knowledge as the practice of experience concerning what things do to us, what objects and situations does to our body and how that embodies experience shapes our reality affecting other people's realities.

This proposal aims to contribute to the theory and praxis of curatorial modalities through embodied experiences. The purpose of these scores is to create the conditions for collectivities to emerge, by allowing the contradictions and differences in all the constitutive elements involved while curating (i.e., artists, art works, curators, institutions, audiences). It opens space for conversation about the possibilities and problematics raised through alternative ways of being together.

By focusing on the poetic agency of art as a way of making counter-narratives visible and offering otherwise to daily ways of fascism which transverse our bodies, the underlying premise of these scores is to question the notion of ‘usefulness’ of art in the current cultural policies of neoliberal capitalism. If curatorial situations can generate spaces for critical knowledge production, how could curating as a praxis based on embodied experience contribute to this discourse?

If there is a local preoccupation in implementing decolonial practices in order to critically rethink the political, economic, sociocultural actual conditions at the global south, why still the discursive formation grounded in Western methodologies of exposing, presenting, educating and civilising through formats such as the exhibition?

If the individual has been divided from the collective in the wester, without first questioning the systems of oppressions class/race/gender/sex which had been imposed on the universal category of the body, how do we practice communality and friendship? how to make community when we are detached from human and non-human forms?

[1] From the Aymara language (and cosmology), Ch'ixi literally refers to the marbled grey, formed from an infinite number of black and white dots that are unified by perception but remain pure, separate. It is a way of thinking, speaking and perceiving that is based on the multiple and the contradictory. Ch'ixi epistemology consists of opening and widening a third space made of the weaving of two opposing worlds into a dynamic and contentious web, in which both interpenetrate without ever merging or hybridizing. This in-between zone is also a space structured by lived experience where theory and practice are intertwined, where the self-poetic community is becoming with the context, conforming their own landscape through the sole energy of desire. The Ch'ixi is thus where contradictory categories define ‘we’.

Rivera Cusicanqui Silvia, Sociología de la imagen Miradas Ch'ixi desde la historia andina, Tinta Limón. 2015.

Scores as a tool for creating curatorial situations.

Chinese Whispers.

‘Let us not consent to a single narrative and simple solution. While we need to keep our hands clean for the time being, may we, in infectious times, be epistemically unhygienic.’

Zairong Xiang

I am intrigued by how the ‘misunderstandings’ in transferring a message, how language that supposedly allows to communicate, can be distorted by bringing up ‘other meanings’ in a sort of translation. What can we learn from ‘confusion’ and ‘incomprehensibility’ and moreover: how, out of difference, could we make something that can put us together in collectivity?

This performance requires a small group of participants, no more than 12, paper or paper cups, tape, ten chairs. The idea is to perform this activity on an open neutral space.


. The first participant using a paper or carton tube (previously constructed) will read into the ear of another participant selected paragraphs from a text written by the writer, thinker and curator Zairong Xiang about other epistemologies.

. For five minutes, the second participant will try to remember what the text was about, writing on a piece of paper what (s)he could memorize, passing this message to the next participant. This activity will be repeated consecutively until all participants have passed on the message.

. The activity will be repeated five times.

. At the end of the activity, we as a group will share our experiences, reading out loud in a sort of reading group, the fragments of the text and comparing them with the original.

. Gather all the text material written for the participants with the intention of writing a short essay, distributing it back to all the participants, including Zairong Xiang, by email.

Score for a collective curatorial situation to be performed in group.
You all have to discuss and agree what defines the group

The time of this activity is set up by the group

The group should find the ways and formats to play with the score

Let decisions taking to be follow by intuitions

If someone wants to stop, they should express how she/he/they feel.

Processes of daily life are welcome

Act according to the weather

This is a task full of failures, a trip of desires and embodied affections.

Breathe your own horizon

Allows the surroundings to get very close

Unfold your bodily presence in the immediate

Cast the silence of your own extinction

Reach the land inhabited by the shadows of your outlined body

feel the air between your fingers and the sensual flesh of discarded objects

Let your body in standing position shape other bodies in movement

‘Think’ of your Limbs like pole for a flag made of perceptions

Where do you feel?

Your spine remains in place meanwhile all the fixed structures around your body are dismantled, your body is in action …

N-ON movement made of infinite sensorial perceptions

Place the many bodies that comprise yourself in the gap between the clash of people’s thoughts.

Your body movements are the ground for people’s future positions

Construct a ‘site’ for social body reconfigurations.

Think of collective bodies performing individual daily choreographies.
Score for a group reading session to be performed by 26 participants.
Distribute the following score between all the participants

Each participant should select a word in any language following the alphabetical order starting with a letter from the alphabet (write it down don’t share it)

Splitting letter by letter from the selected word the participant will read out loud the paragraph that correspond to each letter using text-list.

The other participants should follow the reading linking the letters (by reading the paragraphs) in order to identify the selected word.

The participant will choose the next person following her/his intuition

The activity ends when all the letters of the alphabet are included.

A. The sunlight clashes into my eyes, there is a large glass window in front of me, and at the nearest distance I perceive the volume of roofs like gigantic shells, mechanical constructions to keep dreams and delusions.
B. I can hear that somebody is giving instructions to my body, my body is re-acting and re-shaping. He orders me to communicate through sign language.
C. The last photons are slowly fading away, I breath on a sea of green yellow…
D. The first lights of the un-seen appear, it is the down from a long sunny night.
E. A conflict in my head: how to cope with the response of my brain to the actual fact of being blind.
F. The dynamics of sound are creating all what I thought was the space, my cerebral frontal lobe is looking for devices.
G. My trembling hands are touching cold structures, I feel they are all around me and this spatial awareness makes me think of Francis Bacon’s human cages – I scream in silence – my body refuses to be dispersed.
H. Steps, stairs? I am in the library of my mind. I wonder where are the books of  my reason?
I. The architect Bernard Tschumi’s entry for France’s national library proposed a new type of library, one that combined the pursuit of modernity with the pursuit of knowledge and the athlete with the scholar. The program was about circuits and movement—movement for scholars, books, and visitors—and so the entire architectural scheme was developed around a constant dynamic.
The library is designed with the assumption that the athlete of the 21st century would be an intellectual and that the intellectual of the 21st century would be an athlete. Needless to say, the project lost the competition.

J. Colors are back to my mind, on the lift that is transporting people’s bodies I can since machines operating faster; all this is located to the right side of what I still think is my body.
K. To myself, my unconscious is murmuring in Dutch and French: plezier, plaisir
L. The sound of the steps that are approaching reminds me of my best friend, she loves hand carved wooden clogs; Her favorite pair have a ‘black widow spider drawn on the heel, the spider is facing back’ while she walks. She always thought she was the black widow herself -embodying -
M. Now I can hear a constant beep - beep ultrasound. it sounds like the noise I can hear when I am swimming under the water… it makes me feel dizzy because It was the light greyish blue of his eyes and all the lost promises …
N. My thoughts again… and the question that is there on my prefrontal cortex since that Sunday morning a few months ago.
O. I am back in India walking again blinded at the ancient city of Fatehpur Sikri  re-enacting with my memories the sacred temple task which follows: You have to walk blinded and reach the red column at the center of the square acting with resolution and determination, if  you doubt you won’t reach the goal of your actions.
P. Perhaps it was the sound of the steps of a man’s soils passing very close by. Suddenly I am back to old memories, images, flashes of fragments: it was that early morning, the naked body of a recent lover, light pink trembling flesh, blue and green veins… I could clearly remember the outlines of his drawings they are made of dark charcoal pressed against the soft surface of a sharp white paper, he has a passion for crows because they are deep black, same as his hair, his naked body laying down on the wooden floor is keeping one shoe with the sock on while he is having sex…Then the rush, the noise, the water…. We were all collapsing.

Q. The primal question is back to me: I am standing on the ground; and my shadow is reaching the future and I advance into a land made of vectors, a field made of simultaneous repositions. Then I say to myself: The primordial cloud is on the ground, split in two for a frozen moment appears a gap made of thoughts.
R. The task of the writer is to bring rooms full of words into the wide space of the mind. I am now walking on the corridors and hallways in between.
S. Cold frames again.
T. Finally my mind expands but my physical body disappears.
U. The gentle voice of my savior is here, he helps me to recover the outline of what I do call my body.
V. Walking with a book over my head, I am dancing a ritual Noh dance and I’m not afraid anymore.
W. It is the centered stiffness of my spine, the electric central corridor of my energy – I was there but now it feels like I am here.
X. There was a sea of milk in front of me … Jonah’s whale
Y. My fingers are wooden sticks that slowly open up what I call the view and I recall a fragment of that song…
‘The skies always had little fluffy clouds; they went on forever. I replied: there were lots of stars at night when I lived in Arizona.

I used to look at them all the time when I was little

fluffy clouds …

Z. What were the skies like when you were young?

Text material produced by a selected artist.

Johan Mijail

Todavía no me duelen los órganos, pero me molesta el cuerpo, más bien, me molesta la historia, el contexto histórico en el que mi cuerpo ha sido depositado.

Me duele el cuerpo entero, no mentiré: también me duelen algunos órganos, el corazón me duele, el cuerpo entero me duele.

Me dicen “señor”, “caballero” y mi cuerpo colapsa, el corazón y el ánimo se mueren dentro de mí. Acudo a la sabiduría y digo: no hay depresión, sino incomprensión. Imagino a mi ajayu entrando y saliendo de mí, tocando mis órganos, sacándolos y haciendo una nueva isla particular, aligerando el dolor material y simbólico que arroja mi cuerpo y el de mis amigas a la parte más violenta de la gramática, de los sustantivos.

“La heterosexualidad es el lenguaje”, recuerdo. “Hombres” nos siguen diciendo y nos duele todo. Nosotras no somos hombres, eso lo sabemos. Después hablo de mi conexión con la cultura yoruba y “bruja” me dicen. No soy una bruja, tampoco un hombre.

Me duele todo. Le digo a mi amante que me toque el cuerpo con sus manos, lo hace. Yo toco el suyo, con las yemas de los dedos nos tocamos y se vuelve todo menos doloroso en esta cama con una sábana azul. Le digo amante pero en realidad ha sido mi refugio biopolítico en esto de la migración. Sus abrazos son la identidad nacional que no tengo.

Sus besos la casa deconstruida que alivia un poco la neurosis del sujeto colonizado. El dolor es menos, cada vez menos, el dolor histórico y el simbólico se disminuyen, con nuestras manos tocándose mientras vemos todo sobre la vida de Marsha P. Johnson en internet. El cuerpo de Marsha nos duele a todos, a todas, a todes nos duele el cuerpo de Sylvia Rivera y el mío, todos nuestros cuerpos adoloridos en el flujo del régimen heterosocial. Eso es lo que realmente nos duele, la heterosexualidad como posibilidad única de vida.

Nos duele el cuerpo que no se quiere ubicar en la línea recta que sustenta la arquitectura de la vida heterosocial donde nosotras no podemos existir como colectividad, como las humanas que somos. Marsha muerta y yo muriendo simbólicamente por su cuerpo depositado en un río.

Busco agua y me baño con ellas dos, en mi mente, en un departamento, que no es mío, en el centro de Santiago de Chile. A dos cuadras del metro Santa Isabel, Marsha entra en mí y Sylvia, también y ahora somos cuatro: Marsha, Sylvia, mi ajayu y yo en una tina con agua invocando nuestros cuerpos en un presente utópico, en esa idea revolucionaria de que no hay futuro pero a pesar de saberlo no queremos perder la esperanza.

Imagino que nos encontramos las tres en cualquier esquina, de cualquier calle, para hablar del dolor que tenemos en el cuerpo, mientras el movimiento homosexual olvida su potencialidad política en una fiesta neoliberalizada, transfóbica y racista.

Merecemos otra escena como en Stonewall.

Johan Mijail

Links to relevant online discussions on dissident bodies, performativity, intersectionality and postcoloniality.