by Luisa Martínez
I’m having a difficult time choosing between two forms of documentation I see valid. Not that there’s necessarily a need to choose, they can coexist, but they might seem slightly contradicting.
I believe documenting in the sense of creating an as-unaltered-as-possible record of an event/action/project/etc. is very important in relation to the creation of history, and the way most people process time and truth. I think today it is very urgent to be able to show people what has happened, what has been made, what has been experienced, in the clearest way possible, as a transmitter of stories. This particular form of documentation is also useful in attempting justice within the flawed judicial system we have at our disposal.
Another way of documenting I personally also find very urgent, and which to me also transmits truth, but which might make others uneasy, is translating or interpreting. We are used to it with language, because language is in some ways almost mathematical, we allow ourselves to believe it’s precise, so we are trained to interpret or translate language in a way that’s culturally specific, or neutral. But true translating or interpreting could not happen without the subjective decision making of the individual doing the work (I know googletranslate is getting “close” but it still sounds weird). So, if translating/interpreting language requires subjective decision making, why are we weary of that process in other media? Therefore, documenting can be a process of interpreting stories/people/beliefs through diverse media. In understanding this, we can understand art as a documentation practice. Art creates a record of what surrounds it. Art is truth telling.
As Jack Tchen says in an article I cannot cite at the moment, “curating” has as a latin root the word “curare,” which means “to care”. Today everything is a job, as it has been for many years, but if we step away from capitalist-driven definitions (as I wish to do so for all of my words, for the rest of my life), what other reason could one possibly have to research, try to understand, group, and put in conversation the work, the labor, the love of others, than because one cares. Curating is to care. Curating is to care so deeply about others, that the work of others is the center of your practice. Not because you want to share the stage, but because it breaks your heart that the theme and the work is not being addressed. Curating is genuinely taking on others’ burdens, it is sharing responsibility. Curating is creating space out of ideas.
What weight we put on words! Political engagement could be a joke, if we interpret those words within the framework of liberalism. But I will not use others’ sickening definitions, I will make my own, I will defend words. Political engagement is the honest relation between community and individual, between structure and citizen. When I say this I do not think of any form of tired government, I think of people living within a shared infrastructure. Political engagement means to enact one’s human responsibility towards others. Political engagement means understanding that the self does not end at the skin, that I am, only to the extent that we are.