:: WALKING THE BEAST ::
:: A Project by Caleb Duarte and EDELO Migrante ::
January 4 (6pm – 9pm)
Art Hop @Fres/Co
1918 Fresno Street, Fresno CA 93721
(next to the Crest Theatre)
“Walking The Beast” is a collaborative investigative art project with current Central American refugees traveling through Mexico.
For 3,000 miles Central American refugees ride on the train, also known as the “Beast” in hopes of making it into the United States. The frequency of kidnapping, extortion, human trafficking, rape, and homicide puts Central American migrants’ plight in Mexico atop the list of the Western Hemisphere’s worst humanitarian emergencies. It is reported that six out of ten women are raped, over 20,000 immigrants a year are kidnapped, and over 70,000 were reported missing in the last six years. In June of 2014 it was reported that an unprecedented 50,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America had arrived at the U.S. border escaping extreme violence and economic hardship. Like the present situation in Europe, refugees from Central America were demonized as invaders. The root causes of this migration remain hidden from our current news feeds and circles of discussion. The root causes of their flight remain largely unchanged. El Salvador is experiencing violence not seen since their civil war and is on track to unseat Honduras as the murder capital of the world.
In October of 2014, Caleb Duarte along with three other artists traveled to two-immigrant refugee safe houses at the Mexican southern border. For one month they lived at a rehabilitation center for immigrants suffering from lost limbs and serious injury caused by riding on the freight train called the “Beast”. They worked at El Buen Pastor in Tapachula Chiapas and at La 72 in Tenosique Tabasco, where the two train routes begin and acted out collaborative performances with over forty participants based on their recent lived experiences and together painted two murals in the refugee homes. They also visited the Suchiate River that divides the Guatemalan and Mexican borders and collaborated with Central American children crossing by raft in a public performance. They saw that commercial goods crossed freely between borders and as a response painted their bodies as attractive products as to act as consumer goods in an attempt to embody an accepted form of movement.
By working with communities in movement, materials and subject matter used to encourage individual expression are materials and symbols readily available within that particular community. Visual language, through theatrical performance, construction/farming materials, nomadic tents, and mural painting are introduced through a lens of familiarity. Through this approach, art takes the invaluable role of demonstrating the depths of human expression while avoiding the dangers of imposing techniques and aesthetics not familiar to this particular community. The artist personal experiences as an immigrant and economic exiles has led them to create collaborative art on the issues of human migration and social mobility with communities in Honduras, California and throughout Mexico. They have developed a sensitivity to a certain artistic language that reflects a loss of cultural memory; due to evangelical movements, forced migration, civil war and the homogenization of an entire region.
As facilitating artist, they have a specific line of aesthetic values that they gravitate towards. And through workshops, interviews, and intimate conversations we collectively navigate towards a visual language that makes sense to us all. It is bold, unapologetic, site-specific and surreal in the Latin American tradition that it injects magic into a not so logical moment of violence and uncertainty. Here, art does not sensationalize, romanticize, or simply illustrate the suffering of people; but art, created by people, demonstrates the extraordinary qualities humans’ possess. If indeed art can create real social change, it is precisely when it demonstrates the ability for human beings to feel. By exposing not just the strength and endurance of humans in migration, but also the current inhumane treatment of the most vulnerable amongst us, we can then open up the space for the possibilities for change by enacting a dignified rage and a level of empathy not visible until the arts participate.
In the fall of 2009, over one hundred displaced indigenous community members occupied the offices of the United Nations, located in San Cristobal De Las Casa, Chiapas Mexico. The offices were taken over in hopes of gaining international attention from humanitarian organizations. After a few months of the occupation, the United Nations simply decided to find another building and moved.
A few months later, Caleb Duarte and Mia Rollow, disillusioned with the institutional purpose of art, wished to believe that art could be a radical form of communication, and soon moved into the building and begin an experimental art space and an international artist residency of diverse practice. They began to invite artists, activists, cultural workers, inventors, gardeners, PhDs, jugglers, and educators to take part in creating an experiment on art and social change. This group of artists, disenchanted by the continuing linear path of art history, came to EDELO in favor of art as a vehicle for possible transformation.
Inspired by the 1994 Indigenous Zapatista uprising, where word and poetry are used to inspire a generation to imagine “other” worlds possible, EDELO has retained the name of the UN. It is a part of an investigation of how Art, in all its disciplines and contradictions, can take the supposed role of such institutional bodies: in creating understanding, empathy, and to serve as a tool for imagining alternatives to what seems to be a harmful and violent system that we have come to accept.
Since 2015, EDELO has become a nomadic collective realizing project with communities in Mexico City, Ayoztynapa, San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, Canada, Oaxaca, Fresno CA, and Chiapas. They followed the immigrant trail through Mexico and opened up a temporary Embassy of the Refugee in Berkeley CA. EDELO migrante is currently forming a performance network of Mexican indigenous and US performance artist and is continuing with the Zapantera Negra project.
Fres.Co is a grassroots space for conscious cultural workers, movement builders, entrepreneurs, and artists to share their gifts with the community and vis versa. Whether it’s co-locating for our “9-5” jobs or offering workshops on art making, policy/research, or spoken word we hope to create a physical location where minds can meld and dreams can manifest into reality.