Ways of Being In the World

August 10, 2020

Fig. 1

Latin America must give up the Western concept of time so that inquiring about the past is no longer considered impertinent because it is not; quite the opposite. It is a question relevant in the present moment.

Today our panorama for the future seems to be dictated by the hydra-system of the present—a many-headed system—a world with fewer resources, hungrier, thirstier, and more violent.[1] The future will be, therefore, a continuous time in which there is no other option than to fight against the devastation of our worlds.

My Rarámuri friends from the north of Mexico say, "You have to dance so that the world won't fall apart."[2] Meaning, the future lies in understanding movement and its instability, cycles, and uncertainties; the future lies in our understanding of the connection between individuals and the collective. It emerges by virtue of accepting the place we occupy in the cosmos.

Fig. 2 

The hydra-system is the world of hungry beings, a world of perpetual lack in which the hunger for power, recognition, hoarding of goods, and convenience tries to fill itself up but proves insatiable. All that exists on Earth, and the Earth itself, is seen merely as a resource. The hydra-system implements hierarchies of wisdom, which aims to obscure multiple knowledges; it attempts to destroy forms of knowledge that do not belong to it or that do not prove useful for its purposes of domination.

Worlds connected to the Earth are those that conserve nature maintaining equilibrium between human and nonhuman agents, and that demonstrate a greater understanding of what yields a natural, spiritual, and social wellbeing. These worlds are always under attack by the world of hungry beings.

Worlds of re-encounter are those that, although invaded at one time or another by the world of hungry beings, were never completely adapted to their domination. The relationships that the hydra-system failed to destroy between people and the Earth, sprout back up in places that, little by little, begin to construct a new system.

Fig. 3 

These worlds are always struggling with the virus of hunger, which does not cease its tireless onslaught toward domination. These worlds do not have specific borders; they overlap with one another and create temporal intersections. We can be born in one world and relocate to another—by will, in the best of cases, or by necessity, in most cases; we can also live between two worlds when possible.

I agree with the Zapatistas' call for "a world in which many worlds fit." Worlds united by respect can reach an equilibrium of coexistence. This, however, cannot take place if the zeal for dominance prevails.

I imagine a horizontality where the only acceptable domination is that imposed on ourselves to control our fears and protect us against any impetus to dominate other human and nonhuman beings, material and immaterial agents. I imagine a horizon in which our governing principle is care and empathy for all beings with whom we share the earth. The Ecology of Knowledge suggested by Boaventura de Sousa Santos points us in one direction: the more varied and diverse forms of knowledge we can acquire, the better prepared we will be to face the adverse challenges of an exhausted Earth.[3]

Fig. 4 

What direction can we take?

Recovering ways of seeing and being in the world, ways of relating that are distinct from hegemonic designs, open up new possible paths to being in the world.

This is why my project Ways of Being in the World aims to recover, using pre-Hispanic objects, cosmogonic conceptions of the body that appeared to be lost. It also seeks to recover the place of a person's body within these indigenous conceptions of the world.

For the Rarámuri, there is a limited number of possible states of being: "There are only six positions that the Rarámuri consider to be possible in space: seated, standing, lying down, stretched out, on all fours and hanging from or clinging to the wall, as with the static contents of a receptacle (liquids, powders or grains)."[4] This speaks to a measure of humanity in which specific actions, such as climbing, "are preferably to be avoided" in order to preserve the fragile equilibrium of the cosmos.

Ways of Being in the World listens from the body, from my own woman's body to the knowledge that has been made invisible, dormant, rooted in the past, and latent in the present. To cure the coercion imposed on our subjectivities and bodies, I recover different concepts of the body from pre-Hispanic sculptures that break from the hegemony of the masculinized dictum, "I think, therefore I am".

We must engage in a free and self-critical search for what is ours, for the intimate, for the social, because what is ours has not had the same opportunities for distribution as those that have been rendered hegemonic. We must abandon the hierarchy established by colonialism, in which one cultural product is considered superior to another by virtue of being sanctioned by the taste of those in power. Latin America must look into a local aesthetic, one visualized from tiny fragments of various broken clay pots and reconstructed through extraordinary acts of care.

Fig. 5 

Objects are testimonies of our worldviews and the social context in which they are created; within their forms, they hold ideology, perspective, and politics; they are dialogues between people over the course of time. The impossibility of knowing the meaning of some of our most precious pre-Hispanic objects is a testament to the epistemicide produced since the 16th century.

I think a lot about the Tzotzil concept of ch'ulel, which is present in the constitution of the individual. Each one of us is linked since birth to one or several animals, as well as to certain natural phenomena. The nature of this linkage is sacred. As the root of the word ch'ulel indicates, when something happens to one of your corresponding animals, it also happens to you.

Fig. 6 

Through this lens, we can better understand our mysterious human psyche and realize that ecosystems are not resources at the service of man. By being in the world following the concept of ch'ulel, we can eliminate anthropocentrism and become collaborators linked with all agents around us, always in constant exchange, communication and interdependence.





Curing Exercises

María Sosa was born in Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico. She studied art at Michoacán University of San Nicolás de Hidalgo. Upon completion of her university studies, she relocated to Mexico City, where she undertook dis-educational studies of Epistemologies of the South, Mexican Anthropology and Feminisms of the South.

Her work comes from a search for the colonial past and the ways in which it establishes contemporary occurrences and social dynamics. It emphasizes the processes that emerged from the colonization of the Americas, such as the epistemicide of pre-Hispanic worlds, racism, sexism and erasure of non-Western knowledge and ways of life.

Her artistic practice is based on her research on the Ecology of Knowledge as well as the exploration of the production techniques for pre-Hispanic and contemporary ritual objects.

Notes for a Horizon-tality: Toward the Possibility of Becoming Together as an Assemblage is a project that responds to our multiple and seemingly multiplying emergencies. Since the growing uncertainty of living in a world in crisis seems to continuously threaten the possibility of the future, this editorial initiative seeks to contribute to the growing scholarship on this topic from the perspective of Latin American contemporary art.

[1] I borrow the term “hydra-system” from the Zapatistas, who define the capitalist system as “the capitalist hydra.” I understand this concept as a many-headed system that at the same time encompasses various strata of the organization of reality, both social and subjective, with the final objective of exploiting the human and the non-human for its surplus benefit. For more on hydra-capitalism, see the Sixth Commission of the EZLN, Critical Thought in the Face of the Capitalist Hydra. Chiapas, Participants of the Sixth Commission of the EZLN, 2018. http://geopolitica.iiec.unam.mx/sites/default/files/2018-11/Hidra-EZLN.pdf

[2] The Rarámuri are an indigenous community who inhabit the Sierra Madre Occidental in northern Mexico. “Rarámuri” means “light-footed,” which in and of itself evidences the backbone of their ontology: the duty of humans is to walk correctly, to walk the path of Onoruame. In 2015, I visited the communities of Chineachi and Huisarorare in the Carichí municipality of Chihuahua in order to collaborate, along with Noé Martínez and Jorge Scobell, on a project called The Word of the Cave, which was highly enriching to my life, thanks to the extraordinary experience and the host of knowledge that the Rarámuri culture has preserved and looked after over the course of centuries. The project allowed me to develop a friendship with María Luisa Chakarito and her family, which I maintain to this day despite the distance between us.

[3] Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Reorganization of the State in Latin America: Perspectives from an Epistemology of the South (La Paz: Plural editores, 2010), 43.

[4] Abel Rodríguez López, “Proximate Concepts and Distant Interpretation: Space and Time in Rarámuri Thought,” Annals of Anthropology vol. 49.11 (2015).

Image Captions

Fig. 1 Joined anthropomorphic ceramic figures from Western Mexico, Jalisco. Artist unknown. 200 BC–400 AD. Minneapolis Institute of Art, The Putnam Dana McMillian Fund. Digitally reproduced as digital collage by María Sosa, 2017.

Fig. 2 Female anthropomorhpic figure from Western Mexico. Origin and date unknown. Museo Colección Rufino Tamayo Oaxaca. Photograph and digital collage by María Sosa 2015–2017.

Fig. 3 Contortionist (Cómala). Colima, Western Mexico. Date unkown. Digitally reproduced—from the book, El antiguo occidente de México. Arte y arqueología de un pasado desconocido, p. 34—in digital collage by María Sosa 2017.

Fig. 4 María Sosa, Ways of Being in the World, 2017. Performance still. Photo: Noé Martínez.

Fig. 5 Female anthropomorhpic ceramic figure from Western Mexico. Origin and date unknown. Museo Anahuacalli, Mexico City. Photograph and digital collage by María Sosa 2017.

Fig. 6 Female anthropomorhpic figure from Western Mexico. Origin and date unknown. Museo Colección Rufino Tamayo Oaxaca. Photograph and digital collage by María Sosa 2015–2017.