Discovering What RemainsSunday, November 29, 2020
Compiling the many questions that emerge from the project Worldmaking Practices: A Take on the Future, this text is a proposal to plot connections between the diverse provocations assembled in the debate. Moreover, it is an invitation for us to become time travelers, nomads who shoulder many worlds.
Beneath the asphalt that blankets the road lies the gravel that my grandfather carried.
El Tejero is a straight highway that crosses the oil-producing states of Monagas and Anzoátegui in Venezuela. For the first twenty-five years of my life I traveled that route. I will not forget the huge pipes that spanned the desert, comprising a large portion of the trip, nor the gas flares from some of the refineries we passed. We made that journey many times, whether amid the industrial heat of the oil fields, or while dodging rain showers whose pattering, on many occasions, lulled us to sleep.
The story of my grandfather Chúo is one that I have unearthed in bits and pieces. I remember my excitement when I learned that he helped construct that very road we passed through every year. If I have never given thought to my family tree, it is not because I deny my roots, but rather I have learned to extract and transplant its cuttings. My grandfather was taken from his home at the age of five when his mother passed away. I know very little of what happened before this period, but that past has already sunk into the depths of an elusive place.
The years I've spent living in Mexico City widen the distance of time since I have returned to the country where I was born. I have been able to evade nostalgia, although this is a conscious decision I make on a daily basis. If I recall the towns along the highway that my grandfather helped build, I imagine them as crumpled ghosts. Those places where he traveled with his red truck suffer countless forms of neglect. The ethereal intensity of that memory convinces me that forgetting is preferable.
But something does remain. For that reason, I have discovered that I must allow myself to remember.
I question how to look at the past. I am not looking for the clarity associated with the notion of belonging, but rather an illumination of those connections that allow me to learn to disobey.  In the introduction to Methodology of the Oppressed, Chela Sandoval—noted theorist of postcolonial feminism—explains how primary impulses of critical theory and interdisciplinary thought emerged in the twentieth century through a transformation of the dominant forms of perception by ‘oppositional consciousness’ . As Sandoval writes: "One purpose of this book is to lift dominant forms of repression, to allow us to remember." 
The project Worldmaking Practices: A Take on the Future provides an opportunity to think about the paradoxical journey of time from the perspective of art. In these contributions, there is a decisive commitment to a Latin American future, acknowledging also that what we consider "Latin American" is fundamentally anachronistic. These readings propel us to an earthly beyond, where our lives and our times intertwine—dependent on each other, impartial and cruel—in a process that creates worlds rather than nations. 
The artists assembled in this project share a common insistence: to allow themselves to remember in order to transform hegemonic perceptions. Such is the case of Érika Ordosgoitti when she recalls the risk involved in her performance Fotoasalto (from the series Misión León) in Caracas. Undressing herself in a public space has made her consider her own body as the moral root of suspicion. A target tracks Érika as she climbs onto one of the city's sculptural lions, and follows her as she descends into the city's filthy sewers and rivers. What is the secret behind this artifact that gazes at her? She herself does not know, but the threat to her body is enough to suspect that "nobody escapes from alienation...We all drink from the spring that makes the dead speak through our own mouths." Recognizing the weight of the past—with its painful burden—is critical in sharpening perception.
Sandra Monterroso, for her part, awakens when her grandmother bequeaths her last breath to her. Monterroso's Mayan past was not always present for her, nor did she expect it in the form of a static object. But ultimately, it became a voyage that she herself decided to embark on: "The ancient Maya and the Aj'quijs, spiritual guides, say that our eyes are disjointed, for one looks toward the past and the other toward the future. This was the nature of my voyage, both backward and forward. Circulating in the past opened a trajectory toward my future." For this reason, it was important for Monterroso to reclaim surviving gestures, words, saliva, and tears in the preparation of tortillas in her work Lix Cua Rahro / Your Tortillas, My Love.
Chela Sandoval writes that the "differential praxis" is a key to understanding displacements, transformations, and breaks in personal and political identities as forms of resistance against "technologies of power," as opposed to seeing them as forms of "tactical essentialism." In other words, we must reconcile ourselves to the commitment of metamorphosis while rebelling against what is imposed.  For Sandoval, scouring the past is not a confinement, but a shape-shifting opening onto a search for an ethic. Only in this manner can resistances, against the various technologies of power that confront us, come together in a world where oppression is gradually democratized.
Excavating the past does not yield it intact. This is Roberto Guerrero's conceptual proposal when he coins the term archeo-loca-logy—archaeology of the loca, or queer archaeology—to dig into his past and reinvent memory. In this process, the universe encompassing his language, memories, and affections realigns in celebration, "a personal celebration through seemingly irrational connections." The past, although it remains, changes alongside us as we learn to look more closely at ourselves.
Deploying a similar strategy, Elektra KB opens the portals between her past and a future world that arrives to save her, as she writes: "Living in this dystopian world at war, I discovered that there were many worlds." To inhabit the space that is invoked, she must face resignation: to recant both nation and gender. Only then may the symbiosis between body and machine bring interspecies healing. The young girl who grew up in a hospital in Boyacá addressing everyone as "sumercé"—or, "your mercy"—is now an intergalactic warrior. In her work, neither of these two versions of herself is less true than the other.
The way in which temporal and visual relationships are drawn in the project Worldmaking Practices: A Take on the Future pushes the question of reality toward its representational forms. The disruption that art engages on history is decisive in its ability to introduce the critical condition of perception, as Sandoval suggests.
The Lebanese artist and filmmaker Jalal Toufic also believes that art, in the face of a "surpassing disaster," must respond as a community. He defines this disaster as a point in which a culture has been "withdrawn," when tradition is no longer available to artists, and they instead must resuscitate it themselves. Hence, an artist must always be attuned to their own time—neither avant-garde nor behind their time—because they must excavate what has previously been denied to them in order to "resurrect" it.  The significance of this task will depend solely on the anachronistic collaborations in which other artists of the future will engage with this work.
What exactly is being resurrected? Certainly not tradition fulfilling the "domain of the genuine," but rather, its function "as a counter to the state of affairs that led to the surpassing disaster."  Among the many different stories we tell ourselves, the identities we decide to inhabit, and the spaces we construct to make the future habitable, the artist's excavation of the past is a fight against catastrophe, tuned to what Chela Sandoval coins, the "oppositional consciousness": a persistent inquiry into forms of resistance.
Worldmaking Practices: A Take on the Future highlights the ability to imagine different times and spaces around the vestiges of various cosmogonies. Therefore, we are time travelers as Alan Poma proposes in his Andean futurist opera Victory Over the Sun. This commitment to a past, a workable material for an artistic practice that imagines other worlds, is critical in unveiling multiple horizons. Catastrophic emergency, technological dystopia, and entrenched identity recede in the face of coming together: it is a form of technological resistance. The world does not end, but rather, it is reassembled from its many representations.
The past tends to emerge like lightning before the start of a downpour. For me, that moment came at a dinner in Mexico City, when a friend suddenly turned and asked me:
—Can I ask you something about your family? Sometimes, I perceive fragments of someone else's history— he prefaced, before explaining that it was a gift that he inherited from his mother's family.
—Your grandfather worked on something related to transportation, or roads. Am I right? I just felt it.
This coincidence, or acuity, scared me. More than a fortune-teller, it seemed as if an historian were speaking to me: this is one of the things that has made it possible for you to be where you are today.
One of the last times we took a ride in my grandfather's red truck was to see a newly-formed lake. A journey through mountains and winding curves revealed a sunken landscape that only those who once lived there could remember. This was not the product of a natural catastrophe, but something very common: when dams are built, they intentionally flood nearby lands. This small town now submerged in water was once called Clavellino.
—That was where your grandfather was born.
For a moment, I imagined myself as a diver, visiting his home, the church, and the Plaza Bolívar. The industrial sprawl of the oil fields did not extend here, rather it was a green valley far removed from that black gold. However, there runs a common genealogy: the streets of Clavellino, if they were still above ground, would beam like those towns next to the highway that my grandfather helped build.
Clavellino seems to be at peace in its watery grave. Here, they abandoned my grandfather after his mother's death, and who knows how cold it must have been during those countless nights without a home. There are memories that suddenly spring to life, even if they are not entirely ours, stones that vibrate under asphalt or surface from the bottom of a lake as if they were enchanted. Those remaining fragments of the past challenge us unrelentingly. We just have to learn to look at them.
This exercise is the result of the dialogue sustained between the participants assembled in this project. Their ideas, artistic practices, and theoretical provocations elicit common questions that allowed me to return to a surviving place from the past, and to seek strategies of connection between many worlds.
The following is a series of questions that, when considered collectively, is a proposition to pursue the dialogue beyond these digital texts:
- How do we become travelers between past and future resistances? Let us imagine beyond the dichotomy of utopias and dystopias, and toward possible futures based on time and Latin American histories.
- With whom do we imagine the possibility of existing in the future? Our survival will depend on the alliances that we knowingly construct between different worlds.
- What types of spaces will we occupy in the future? Let us think about the histories that define the spaces in our present moment, and the ways in which we can challenge them to locate our place in the future.
- How can art deploy hope to counter the sense of emergency? Artistic practices are crucial in imagining other possible worlds outside of hegemonic systems.
 Walter Benjamin suggests a notion of justice that seems very much like sensuality: "Truth is not a process of exposure which destroys the secret, but a revelation which does justice to it." Benjamin, Walter. The Origin of German Tragic Drama. Taurus: 1990, p.13.
 Sandoval, Chela. Methodology of the Oppressed. University of Minnesota Press: 2000, p. 6-7
 In this text, I will cite Chela Sandoval and Jalal Toufic, and although they are not explicitly mentioned in the project Worldmaking Practices: A Take on the Future, their theoretical approaches are in dialogue with the project's contributions.
 Ibid, p. 62.
 Toufic, Jalal. The Withdrawal of Tradition Past a Surpassing Disaster. Digital edition by Jalal Toufic: 2009, p. 14.
 Ibid, p. 29.