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Edgar Calel (in collaboration with Fernando Pereira dos Santos)

Venues: KW Institute for Contemporary Art, daadgalerie, 11th Berlin Biennale c/o ExRotaprint

Edgar Calel (in collaboration with Fernando Pereira dos Santos)

Edgar Calel, born 1987 in Chi Xot, GT – lives and works in Chi Xot
Fernando Pereira dos Santos, born 1984 in São Paulo, BR – lives and works in São Paulo

Adopting as a starting point the cosmovisions of his Maya Kaqchikel people, Edgar Calel develops ancestral communication technologies using the language of contemporary art. The video Sueño de obsidiana [Obsidian Dream, 2020], made in collaboration with Fernando Pereira dos Santos, follows a ritual for the recognition of Indigenous land that Calel enacts inside one of the icons of Brazilian modernist architecture: the 1954 São Paulo Biennial Pavilion in Ibirapuera Park. Entering the void of this concrete body, Calel wears a jaguar pelt, his spirit animal in Mayan cosmology. As if participating in an ancestral procession, he also sings and shouts, calling for the feline spirit’s return to the territory. The tarp that he unfurls on the bannister of the structure’s curved ramp brings to the space the echo of the “kit, kit, kit” sound used by his grandmother to call the birds in her backyard. For Calel, this has become a chant for communicating with the elders and the spirits. Shown with the video, drawings from the series Ni Ch’itiloj Ri q’aq [Phonemes of Fire, 2020–ongoing] adopt diverse formats, styles, and languages, while combining representations of reality with dreams and ancestral divinities from the Guatemalan territory, such as the Rilaj Mam or Revered Grandfather. Traces of fire are evoked by the artist’s use of charcoal and graphite. In Calel’s words, “we all have a relationship to fire. We heat up our spirit and our food to free our words, our ideas, our walking.”

On display at daadgalerie, B’atz tejido constelación de saberes [B’atz Textile Constellation of Knowledges, 2015] is the blue sweater worn by Calel during the ritual. It is accompanied by two photographs of him wearing it in the middle of a corn plantation. The sweater is embroidered with the name of the twenty-three Indigenous languages that are spoken in the Guatemalan territory—knowledges that have helped the artist and his people resist the colonial onslaught.

Beatriz Lemos

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