Duen Sacchi breaks down the old drawers of the colonial history file, reduces the computer furniture to splinters and sets them on fire. From the ashes comes something new because each document left its imprint on the brazier, and that which does not disappear even with fire is the repressed of history, which can not be redeemed.
His writing is rhizomatic, it moves with its underground roots evading linear narratives. At the same time, it sprouts high and disperses as spores with the imagination, taking shape in characters that also imbue themselves with organic elasticity.
Lying in the hammock of the Duen Sacchi exhibition in La Virreina, we leaf through his artist’s book Organoleptic: we look with conquering eyes on the sacred trees of the Gran Chaco (where Sacchi grew up), we visit the Shroud of Turin chapel next to a group of students, we consult Renaissance sheets of wounded or syphilitic anatomy, “cured” with “instruments of torture”. From the museum of Turin’s anatomy, with its eviscerated venus and its phrenological heads, where science was associated with morbidity and invention, we turn to the anatomical spectacles of nineteenth-century Barcelona, related to fair halls and freak shows.
Q- Your practices are transdisciplinary: botany, linguistics, anatomy, art, myth and history … From all this, you take pieces to narrate your counter-chronicles. Your researches and literary utopias (“Pathogenic Fictions”, “Organoleptic”) are crossed by your clinical history, why a history of the organs? Are the organs enemies of the body, as Artaud said?
I love that quote from Artaud, my first steps are closely linked to theater and philosophy. And Artaud was in those days very important to me. I would say that we share some obsessions, the enunciation scene and the body in that scene are some of them. I remember a text where he expresses an absolute hatred towards “realist” theater, in a frantic search to show what he calls “body”. We also share our obsession with the organs, but where Artaud sees a body I see a series of historical, economic, technological, linguistic, territorial processes … We have different “bodies of view”, I look from my “parts of the Indies”, he does from his (western) body without organs.
Yes, somehow we can say that the organs are enemies of the body, when some belong to the Crown, the Nation or the Corporations (for example, the uterus belongs to the Nation, as Paul B. Preciado’s work shows). In Argentina, the wombs are currently prisoners of the Argentine State when it denies the Right to the voluntary interruption of the pregnancy to many bodies. Also the organs are “enemies” of the Nation, of the Crown and the Corp. when they resist to fit in their catalogs and classifications, for ex. when the State has to accept that its classification of bodies as (genitals) organs observable at birth is obsolete and may be discriminatory, or in cases of labor rights related to pregnancy and upbringing for pregnant transgender men.
In “Pathogen Fictions” I reviewed my medical history posing questions (that have always gone through my artistic and theoretical work) about the relationships between Body-Colonization-Discipline, organ-Colony-Nation. In my first works, I was interested in subjectivity through language and genderization. Then, I understood that the language and gender relations were difficult in situations of colonization. Therefore, also the body and the organs. Now I could say that the Nation-State of the ex-colonies does not submit the womb of Western women but still manages “parts of the Indies”: most speeches just talked about saving “the poor woman”, a euphemism for referring to impoverished women due to the structural difference produced by racism and internal coloniality.
I reviewed my medical history to analyze the vicissitudes of how and why a small bulge in my neck had become a great clinical and family concern; I discovered and tried to show that it was also a concern of the Nation: to order the “parts of the Indies” in the image and likeness of the Western anatomical body. And that ultimately the skin had been and is for the colonized bodies the organ in dispute, control and resistance.
In “Organoleptic” the organs are thematized but I am more interested in the present and in the erotic subversions carried out by the trans, cuir, queer, lesbian, transvestite, non-binary spirits, children, old people, the sisters of native peoples, anatomically non-hegemonic bodies, or with functional diversity with respect to that norm.
In FP I was interested in how an organ came to be part of a body of the former colonies, in Organoleptic I am interested in putting strain in the relationship between Western organic body and “parts of the Indies” in the contemporaneity, to investigate the transformative possibilities of eroticism and, both, of the politics and the aesthetics that produce certain bodily and emotional memories that intervene on the western history of organs. Personally, I am interested, after telling the story of a surgical intervention on my body, how many bodies have created legal, aesthetic, political and technical technologies to intervene on organs that belong to the State’s tutelage, and also to ask me about new strategies of struggle in current problem areas such as the relationship between corporations, colonial states and our hormones or our DNA.
Q- Together with Magda De Santo, in “What do they do with our bones?”, you followed the route of Henry LaVaux, who at the end of the 19th century, with the complicity of Perito Moreno and local authorities, exhumed the remains of a Mapuche in Patagonia and sold them to the Museum of Man in Paris. Today, the French museum continues to ignore the claims of its descendants. How did all this volume of documentation come together as a result of your encounters with indigenous people, interviews with taxidermists, etc … in an exhibition?
We are concerned about the devices of showing, whether the white box of the museum or the black box of the theater and how these artifacts of the exhibition have been involved in what we call the construction of the “Free Nation of the Indies”. In the 19th century, the Nation-State of Argentina was formed, and it is a moment where we believe can be understood the role played by these institutions as instruments of internal colonization.
In “What do they do with our bones?” we follow the clues of how museums, national archives and governments work together to justify the genocide of the original communities that inhabit what we now call Patagonia. We are interested in how the image of the extinct “Indian” is constructed and how an imaginary is created where that extinction is necessary for the Nation, as well as a political and cultural project that continues to have effects today. For the exhibition, we investigate three practices: counter-expedition, declassification and desecration. In front of the expedition, which is a trope of the S.XIX and especially of the incursions in Patagonia, we made a kind of disarticulation of the forms of the anthropological expedition: in the first instance, making the journey upside down, going to the archives of the Library National of France, the Museum of Natural Sciences and other archives, telling it later in an audio without visual images, only those that evoke our voices where we explain the whole process of exploration.
The expedition of De La Vaulx concluded, among other things, in an exhibition of more than 80 photographs in the zoology room documenting the desecration of tombs and the theft of objects. At the same time we declassify this information, avoiding the magic box of the academy where researchers access the archives and convert this vital information into texts that are inaccessible to the main stakeholders, so the information collected went directly to the people who needed those files for the claim of their relatives. For the general public, we exhibited a large mural in La Capella collecting a large amount of material.
Then, we practice an inverse profanation: before facts that still expect justice as the restitution of desecrated bodies, we elaborate a process of “desecration” of Count De La Vaulx’s memory that was to inscribe his grave epitaph giving an account of the crimes committed with the sponsorship and financing from the French and Argentine states. Everything is meticulously documented, like every administrative act of the State. We walked the plaque through the places where they were and are exposed or even are kept the desecrated remains as French patrimony. It was interesting how people recognized the plaque and when asking, it was possible to tell them the story. This plaque will continue to circulate after being in the Capella de Sant Roc in Valls Museum.
Q- Desecration of tombs, plundering, trafficking of bodies … have been large businesses in the name of science. They are themes that appear in several of your works, already in “megafauna” and “white elephant” (also with De Santo), in which the wild or “extinct” acts as a metaphor for the colonial process of fetishism/exoticism for later entrance to the museum/mausoleum. Now you expose what was the palace of Viceroy Amat, one of the many enriched in the colonies. How has this place influenced you in the approach of this exhibition?
I had fantasized and I continue to fantasize about this building, maybe even in a fetishist sense. I speak of the building as a historical place and what Viceroy Amat represents for the history of South America, especially for those who were born and raised in what was the territory occupied by the Viceroyalty of Upper Peru. Since I arrived in Barcelona in 2013, I thought I would like to intervene in that historical archive, especially I was obsessed with Amat’s relationship with the so-called “caste paintings”. The South American Baroque painting had not only had academic interest for me but had also been part of my daily visual education in the north of Argentina, and the particular place where I grew up in Bolivia, where you can still see paintings (most of them are not restored) in Indians and settlers churches, with arcabuceros angels and portraits of castes. Even in everyday life many of the racial classifications proposed by these paintings are still used.
The proposal to exhibit in the small room of La Virreina seemed great to me, its architecture reminded me of a reliquary or the central nave of a South American colonial church, narrow and high ceilings. While we mounted the serigraphies I could see that there is an even smaller room where there is a reproduction of a viceroy Amat’s portrait whose original is in the National Museum of Catalonia. Without knowing this, I had decided to draw the viceroy and hang it on the wall, along with the women who accompanied him or were part of his life: her Spanish wife, to whom he built the palace (when they married he was no longer a viceroy), and Pericholi, her wife in the colonies. I wanted his skin to appear on the walls, I wanted the story that wove us to be within reach on the skin of the museum. And to give me the opportunity to tell the story every time someone asked me what that man was doing there. I also play with colorism and metaphorically use the idea of “organoleptic properties” that says that in a shared background color variations tend to intensify between one another, the big seems small, the opened seems closed … and directly affects our internal senses, our organs … like memory.
Q- The theme of the fetish (in its colonial etymology is linked to the “spell”), the enchantment … are themes that you invoke. The Portuguese called “feitiços” the ritual objects and “demonic” practices of conquered peoples. Likewise, could we say that you review the etymology (the “sonqo” that not only means “heart”, the autochthonous way of naming the trees …) to recover lost sonorities, devalued worldviews?
The prohibition of sodomy in contexts of European colonization is associated with ceremonial, epistemological and linguistic religious prohibition, especially used to marginalize bodily practices either of community or of intervention on the individual body and evidently related to the control of economic and sexual-racial traffic. They can not be separated from each other, so my practice often seeks to expose these relationships, that is, my sorcery is more about that than a kind of magical act outside the order of things.
It would be to make use of things to invoke their power to account for what was erased by the concrete practices of naming, doing and trafficking of the colonial sovereign order, and their effects on the current orders of the government of bodies. For that, of course, I invoke knowledge and practices that have resisted in the daily memory or in the daily forms of memory Western modern ideas about the body, intelligibility, sensation, spirituality. In this sense, rather than revise etymologies, I turn on the shelves of resistance epistemologies.
The fetish is one of those files. I am interested in it as a practice of revolutionary resistance in the indigenous and black uprisings in the Americas, I am interested in my own daily history of South American popular or native practices and specific religious, and especially when it lives through the erotic practices of queers, trans and lesbian South American migrants cultures. I am interested in it as a symptom of colonial thought in Marx, Freud and Foucault, and as an effect of coloniality in the exoticization of non-white bodies, among other things. My sorcery goes there.
Interviewed by Anna Adell
Duen Sacchi, Organoléptico
La Virreina Centre de la Imatge, Barcelona
curator: Valentín Roma
until 3th March 2019