Antigone, diary of rituals
Lara, Venezuela, 2012- 2014
In the absence of burial rites when a loved one is disappeared by the state, how do those left behind cope with grief under conditions of political oppression and silence? —Livia Daza-Paris
Antigone, diary of rituals are site-specific performative and poetic interventions, each lasting from 4 to 12 hrs. With them, I marked the land on the last route my father took before his political disappearance. Participatory actions also took place as collaborations with the people from the land.
The title references Sophocles' Antigone, who defied the established power so that her dissident brother would have proper funeral rites. Like Antigone, I performed these burial rites for my politically disappeared father, Iván Daza, despite state restrictions and a lack of family support. With Antigone, diary of rituals, I began what has become a long process of interdisciplinary artistic investigation that has taken my work into complex web explorations with my practice in Poetic Forensics.
Guided by the feminist premise that "the personal is political", "I" becomes evidence, and "self" implies where the story begins. Indeed, an undeniable proof of my father's existence is myself. This is particularly relevant as official documents remain unavailable, and personal records are sparse. In the videos, cadence of movement, visual pacing and spatial relatedness develop visual poetic narratives on complex relationships where the autobiographical is embedded within a larger context of human-rights themes.
This project moves away from perspectives of victimization and delves instead into notions of self-determination. The resulting artistic works document my quest through the landscape of non-official history, memory and land.
Personal acknowledgments: many thanks to Alba Daza, Michael Poetschko and Xi Feng for their editing insights. I am especially grateful to the campesinos participants in Lara, Venezuela, who offered to join me in the performative rituals and interventions and to René Peralta in the town of El Tocuyo. Finally, for their encouragement and generous advice, many thanks to Jean Marie Casbarian and Michael Bowdidge. Also special thanks to Albeley Rodríguez hosting curator at the MAC, Caracas, Venezuela. The work also merges my interpretation on ritual-instructions generously given to me by artists and friends.
Antigone, diary of rituals was created with the support of the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, Fundación Museos Nacionales-Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas, Alcaldía de Morán, Venezuela, Ministerio del Poder Popular para la Cultura de Venezuela and the Canada Council for the Arts.
The work has been presented at: A Space Gallery, Grieving Empire, Toronto, Canada, 2017; Currents New Media Festival, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2015; Sierra Nevada College, US, 2015; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas, Venezuela 2014; Main Film, Montreal, Canada, 2013; and Atelierhof Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany, 2012. For more information see:
White Thread began at the contact house where my father was last seen alive. From this point I traced a thread of white oil paint over the concrete bridge that nowadays spans the river my father waded across the night before he encountered the military ambush and was subsequently disappeared.
Having met with the sole survivor of the ambush, Faustino, I learned that the area in which my father was disappeared is called Ridge of Silence. I went there and saw that it is at once both beautiful and eerie. The waters of the ridge are stagnant and silent, just like the story is silenced from Venezuelan official history. For this ritual I brought the letters my mother had written to me —about these events and their impact in our lives. I made very large format photocopies and placed them in the ridge. In retrospect, I realized that I had created a conversation between this eerie place and the nonofficial history that my mother, Irma Paris, attempts to reveal in her letters.
For the ritual Crosses and White Fabric I expected only three men from the village to climb with me to the place of the ambush, clearing the way with their machetes; instead, many more came along. I brought a bolt of white fabric of 100 meters long and they brought crosses forged in metal to mark the site and the deaths. I asked: “Why have you come here with me?” One of them said: “Because, we are looking for revolutionaries!”
At the End, the Beginning took place at the foot of the mountain in the valley of Anzoátegui, Lara from where my father, Iván Daza, departed on foot towards Sanare —as I found out during the making of this work—on January 1st, 1966. He was disappeared 23 days later near the town of Cocorote.
The spontaneous and charming help of Eliana, a girl from this valley, allowed me to accomplish my last ritual: to bury myself in the place of my father.
Installation at Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, 2014. Caracas, Venezuela.
Video installation. HD video-registers projected sequentially onto a large two-sided screen rendered as a single channel split screen. Dimensions variable. Images from solo exhibition “On the Steps of Antigone” at Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas, Venezuela.
Atelierhof Kreuzberg, 2012. MFA exhibition. Berlin, Germany.Photo credits: Livia Daza-Paris