Performances, installations, paintings, drawings by Kaqchikel artist Edgar Calel evoke memories of his family and pay homage to the indigenous communities of the midwestern highlands of Guatemala. His works can be understood as visual chants, embodied poems or as Naoj, closest concept related to art in the Mayan language spoken in the artist’s hometown San Juan Comalapa, encompassing the broader scope of «knowledge-wisdom-understanding». Calel’s works not only reflect Mayan cosmovision, habits and beliefs, but also question contemporary representations of indigeneity permeated by fetichization and preconceived expectations inherently discriminatory and violent.
One of the strategies of the artist in this sense is precisely to foreground the invisible, the untranslatable, the ungraspable: all of which resist prejudice and Western epistemologies centered in rationality and materiality. These are central questions to Calel in the context of his 3 months online residency at Tropical Papers, started in december 2020. What are the potentialities of language, memory and presence in times of self-isolation, social distancing and physical absence? How can relationality and synchronicity be conceived and reconsidered in a digital and physical realm in a (post-)pandemic world? Edgar Calel’s « knowledge-wisdom-understanding » appears as an invitation to approach fluid conceptions of body, territory, ancestrality and community as thresholds in constant movement and transformation.
Edgar Calel, 1987; Lives and works in San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala. His recent shows include the 11th Berlin Biennale (2020), Continuous Fire | Feu continuel, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario (2019) and Virginia Pérez-Ratton. Centroamérica: deseo de lugar (desire for place), MUAC Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City (2019). His works are part of the collections of Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain; Fundación TEOR/ética, San Jose, Costa Rica, and Fundación Demolición/Construcción, Córdoba, Argentina.
For more information on his work:
Olivia Ardui for tropical papers