I have been given the floor to speak about Benvenuto to all of you, the others. Here at the 35th Bienal de São Paulo, he, like some others, does not fit into the role of just an artist: he is a ritualist who summons worlds, underworlds, supra-worlds. Other possible worlds.
As, in the West, the action of someone hanging upside down is commonly related to the image of torture or execution, Chavajay’s action disturbs us. However, in the Mayan world, people who let themselves fall upside down dancing have much more to do with fertility and the celebration of dignified life.
Benvenuto stands on his head with a rattle that calls souls: but he is framed in a frame so that rituality, to those of us on this side, “appears as art.” Here, then, all the questions arise about the limits between the paradigms that make other existences invisible, turning humans, animals and spirits into pure merchandise (the concepts in which we move daily, classifying reality under parameters imposed by fire) and that which resonates within us, still… and in spite of 500 years.
Chavajay also presents himself as the son of illiterate people; this means, in reality, that he is heir to a lineage of those who do not know the symbolic logic of colonial domination and extermination. A territory, a community, a language, and a history of resistance dance with him.
Benvenuto Chavajay claims it as much as the lost honor of stones, sacred elements in many cultures on the American continent. Therefore, his performative actions are of great generosity: he mobilizes forces not as an empty spectacle, not as an eccentricity, but as a small fire that will dissolve the soul of stones.
Natalia Arcos Salvo
translated from Spanish by ana laura borro
Benvenuto Chavajay (San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala, 1978. Lives in Guatemala City and San Pedro La Laguna) is a mixed media artist, performer, activist and social worker. He is the co-founder of the Tzun-Ya Collective and the coordinator of the Chi-Yá Festival (San Pedro La Laguna). He has presented his work at several group exhibitions as well as personal exhibitions which were shown at venues such as Ciudad de la Imaginación (Quetzaltenango, Guatemala) e Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo (San Jose, Costa Rica). His work is featured in collections of several institutions such as The New York Museum (USA), Museo de Antioquia (Medellín, Colombia), Artist Pension Trust Collection (New York, USA), and Museo Reina Sofía (Madrid, Espanha).