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Word-Building arises, in the first instance, as an attempt to answer the question that calls this project: a questioning about my possible relationship with the culture of indigenous peoples. Given this great question, the honest answer is presented clearly and simply, because this relationship has been virtually nonexistent, both in personal terms and in terms of the concerns that my work has dealt with over the years. Thus, under this initial honesty, it seemed important to propose (to myself) an exercise in which this reflection is incorporated into those matters that have kept me occupied on a permanent basis: the photographic image and its translation into manual means, observations on the ordinary and, more recently, the use of the written word.

The work takes as its starting point a short text that I wrote:

“I figured it was going to rain. Three days ago, it seemed that finally water would relieve the earth, but it has not happened. Slowly, tiny green stems began to sprout –barely visible at ground–, rising with effort. And though the sun is burning them, crushing them, I can only trust that they will resist until it rains. The earth dries out. I’m still waiting.”

Observing this ordinary situation has allowed me to create a meeting place, a common space in the simplicity of that waiting; the concern about the impending loss, its resigned acceptance and, above all, the hope that fate will be favorable; a quiet hope, where uncertainty doesn’t frighten those who know that life cycles are repeated and nothing is ever as permanent nor absolute.

The translation of this story to mapudungún (language of the Mapuche) –and its return to Spanish– allowed to incorporate subtle differences between the source text and the final result: turns that added small observations from that other place where I wanted to settle without major pretensions. Crosses between languages propose new, different images; without abandoning the direction of the road, certainly they enrich the journey.

The image that evokes the word was joined by that concrete one of three large cloths of wool felt in two shades of red, showing the branches of a tree. Beginning somewhat bare –on the left cloth– and ending showing signs of growth of some leaves –in the cloth on the right–. The games of translations between Spanish and mapudungún was followed by the ones of the image, which goes from the negative image of the tree in the first cloth –and the void caused by the hand-cut felt–, passing to a positive image in the central panel, and returning to negative in the latter.

Image and word in constant transformation seem to indicate that the answer ought to incorporate the instability as a central issue: the impermanence, the fragility caused by not really knowing what to expect; or perhaps it demonstrates that the answers can be many and most varied. The diversity of manifestations of the Mapuche language, which has raised a number of difficulties to some extent have become visible in this exercise, reflects the impossibility of certainty, while it evidence the complexity, but above all, the richness of the encounter.

  1. © 2017 monica bengoa

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