Creative and subversive: a proposal to sustain the struggle
Written by: Gabriela Paz López- Program Officer, El Salvador
From August 16-18, 2019, the 1st Feminist Art and Technology Gathering, “Creative and Subversive” was held in Panajachel, Guatemala. The objective of the gathering was to promote reflection, collective learning, and recognition among young artists who, through multiple creative platforms, carry out artistic work and digital activism as part of the feminist struggle.
This gathering was sponsored by the Fondo Centroamericano de Mujeres’s (Central American Women’s Fund – FCAM), organizing and facilitation support from Enredadas por el Arte y la Tecnología (Tangled Up in Art and Technology) from Nicaragua¹ and Colectiva Amorales² (Amoral Collective) from El Salvador.
Invitees included FCAM grantee partners that work through diverse media, such as theater, music, poetry, audiovisual production, film, photography and participatory communication (radio, television, and social media communication). Twenty-six young activists from 22 organizations and collectives from throughout Central America participated. They are diverse young people with powerful political goals, that in many cases utilize the street to discomfort and daringly rebel from the periphery against a staunchly machista, classist, racist and heterosexist society.
Group reflection sessions identified that artistic work in Central America is highly precarious, goes without recognition, and spaces for learning and professionalization are scarce. Creativity through art and construction of political proposals for the feminist struggle leads them to represent a triple militancy: as artists, as young people and as feminists.
The contexts in which they carry out their activism in the region are increasingly more aggressive and authoritarian. They face daily structural violence and violence perpetrated by repressive branches of the State, and they also face violence and criminalization of their roles as human rights defenders and activists, making their way of life even more precarious.
The gathering also created a space for recognizing other forms of political growth through sessions focused on collective healing. They shared that the art they make emerges from rage and indignation, and provides a creative and transformative capacity to see themselves from a place joy.
Adaptation among young feminist generations to put communication technology to use in their activism has been important over the course of the past 15 years. They have appropriated technological tools that were created to exercise control, social vigilance and neo-colonial processes, and used them to generate popular participation that can spread information about a given problem at a global scale. This has closed the gaps imposed by borders, promoted agendas and strengthened ties across the continent. It recognizes new spaces to create tools for self-defense by making cyberspace a place that is safe for political participation.
The gathering included a workshop called Political Bodies (Cuerpos Políticos) that focused on performance and song, and was facilitated by Colectiva Amorales as a space created for synergy and collective creativity. The goal was to situate the body and cultural constructs about the body in a way that denounces and occupies public spaces to break down these cultural constructs from a place of questioning and discomfort. The workshop Photo Feminism (Foto feminismo) enhanced recognition of the struggle, as well as strategies to increase visibility of collective organizing efforts. This session also created a space to recognize the capacity for resiliency among the groups.
Another important component of the gathering was the workshop on cyberfeminism and digital empowerment, led by Enredadas por el Arte y la Tecnología. This session created a space for recognizing the conditions in which organizations and collectives are working, and the strategies for adopting communication technology for activism, digital security needs, and protection of their work that needs to be done – especially considering the violent conditions that exist throughout the region.
The gathering gave us a space to recognize the capacities and the subversive creative energy of young activists to sustain the struggle.
¹Visit their digital magazine: https://www.laquimerafeminista.com/
²Learn more about this group: http://amoralesfeministas.blogspot.com/2016/02/quienes-somos.html