Useful Art for Communities

Dayana Rivera (Quito-Ecuador 1978) has fifteen years of experience in contemporary art, education, and yoga for social transformation. She is graduate in Plastic Arts and master in Artistic Education in Social and Cultural Institutions, as well as a yoga teacher certified by the Kundalini Research Institute (New Mexico), with specialisation in Humanology and Mental Sciences for Leadership and Success, and certified healer in Sat Nam Rasayan. She has curated art exhibitions in Spain and Ecuador and has experience in audiovisual education, having been internationally awarded for her contribution to the latter.

Carlos A. Segovia interviewed her for UAC in Matadero, Madrid, in March 2019.

C: Thanks a lot for agreeing to this conversation. Let’s start with what you are doing precisely now.

D: Thank you very much for the invitation. I am a yogini, an artist, and an educator, and I combine these three fields in different ways. Right now I am working on a couple of projects. One of them is about motherhood. I meet with a friend of mine who has decided to have a baby on her own. I have decided not to have children, so through different artistic practices we explore what is it that we discover in our intimacy through these decisions. We are asking ourselves if these are our decisions, where do they come from, and how are they conceived within us. I am very much concerned about childhood and that’s also another field I am working on right now. 

C: I had a chance to assist in Matadero Madrid to the final part of the WAPSI project that you have organised. Could you please tell us what was it about? 

D: I worked with another artist, Laura Valor. Wapsi means atmosphere in Kechwa, a language that comes from an Andean region of Ecuador, where I come from. And wapsi is an atmosphere which is conveyed by a character called auca, somebody who cannot be tamed. This character was leading certain activities that helped us bring ourselves back to our breath, to our bodies, and to the consciousness of these bodies. We are in relation with everything all the time. Thus, in WAPSI we tried to explore our identity that is not related to the ego. This is also what I explore in all my other activities: how to relate to an identity that is not always trying to defend to be something or to achieve something.

C: An identity which is more transversal, rich, more open to relationality, more constituted by openness and dialogue with other voices?

D: An identity that is built up of all these voices. If I pay attention not to myself or to you but to what is happening between both of us in this space, which is probably not visible to our eyes, I notice the richness of what is happening. In this way identity is not built by what I have and I don’t have, by what I believe in and don’t believe in, or what I know and I don’t know. My identity is based on the life-force that is within me, within you, within this table—in this vibration.

C: It is circulating.

D: Yes. Everything is alive. We were exploring this shared identity of everything vibrating by life-force with 3-year olds. It is very important for me to change the communities that I work with because if I feel that if I am always constrained by adulthood, there is so much richness messing around. If I am always worried about human beings, there is so much wisdom that is missing there. In this times when feminism is so important, de-colonialism is so important, how do I transmit this discourse to a 3-year old? Do I want to share resentment, anger, guilt with a 3-year old? I absolutely need to change my approach, and in this approach I say: “Ok, what should we do with all this mess that we are in?” Let’s start with paying attention, with gaining some space in our bodies and in our minds, in order to be able to perceive. Because if we are not able to perceive, then we won’t be able to give an answer, an answer to what is going on, an answer to react in a way which is coherent with this vibrations, with this identity that is common to every being. I was lucky that my dad taught me to meditate when I was 4 years old. I know by experience that it is a very easy tool to relate to when we are children. And this is what I share with children. 

C: You found a particularly receptive audience to connect and to tune with in these children, I presume.

D: Absolutely, absolutely. 

C: Actually, children can be said to be the first colonised in many, many possible ways, so I find that what you do with them is something extremely interesting and extremely convenient for them not to drop potentialities which they can develop, which usually happens through mainstream education. 

D: Yes, absolutely, education is so violent, it is so violent. The way you enter a classroom, the way things are structured—it is all the time building these walls. 

C: Violence of space, violence of time, violence of gesture. Very interesting. I would like to connect these universes that you have mentioned so far: motherhood on the one hand and children on the other. What is care for you? 

D: Care is a need, it is a natural state when I am relaxed, when I give space, when I open space to feel myself and to feel the other beings around me. I naturally find ways to express this sensation of wanting to care. Care is a responsibility, is a right and is a must, I think, today.

C: Especially for transforming communities.

D: Yes, especially. And I think we need to find ways to remember this over and over again. Since we are developing so many habits all the time, these habits are destructing us from certain actions that we urgently need to take and one of them is care. 

C: I am going to mention other terms and I will be very happy if you allow your first immediate reactions to come forth: North-South.

D: I come from the South [laughing]. I think there is so much wisdom there that needs to be taken care of, recognised and positioned with respect to extractivism. The South keeps alive ancient ways of thinking and relating to ourselves, the world, and life. We can all learn from that. My father was born in the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador in a little town called Chigüinda. My mother comes from the Andean highlands of the Ecuador from a town called Guaranda. There are certain things that are so alive today in these indigenous cultures that are very useful to relate to the world in a way not to get so lost and so violent. I am not idealising indigenous cultures, I am recognising how important this wisdom has been especially for myself and how important is this relationship to nature of not being separated from it but recognizing again this oneness. It is not a wisdom belonging to the South, it belongs to all the traditions and cultures. 

C: But cultivated and preserved more in the South. 

D: Yes, especially.

C: In connection with this then: earth.

D: Everything: provider, generosity, abundance, care. We have to take care of this home, shelter, and light. I am trying to find ways to relate to how violent we are being to the Earth in a way that does not put me down and bring me into a depressed, down state… because what we are doing is horrible. In the messages that the Earth gives us I find answers to this: we are not separated from the Earth, it is a single life-force that keeps us all alive. When I realise this I can see how my cells can regenerate, when I relax and breath and open my body a little bit I allow some circulation into it. I can then bring some trust and hope and happiness and love to the world. These terms some times can sound even strange today, but in Earth there is room for all these terms.

C: Maybe they sound strange because we have become strangers on Earth. 

D: Yes [laughing]. The Earth is a reminder that I don’t need to fight in order to belong to something.

C: Because you already belong in here. 

D: Yes.

C: It reminds me the very wise voice of a Yanomami shaman Davi Kopenawa who says that the problem with the words of the white people is that they always distract them from the forest. People then.  

D: People, earth. We will all go to dust and, thanks God, we will be recycled [laughing]. Possibilities. We are a way in which this infinite force expresses itself in this complex multiplicity, diversity, so people also… I think there is a mission with being, having this kind of human experience that comes with it. If we have been equipped with this body, with this mind, with this motion, with this sensations, with this complexity, there is something that we have to do with this life-force that is being manifested in this way of being people. One of the things is probably to tame the ego that comes with who we are; tame it and be more open to that oneness to which we belong. We are able to share through words, movements, through this very interesting creations that we do, through speech, art. There are so many ways of sharing. 

C: Which is today the role of art in terms of social transformation? 

D: Art can serve anything, just like any other human activity. The art I am interested in is a type of art that can help us relate to the unknown. Within this relationship to the unknown, art can be a tool to reach certain states that in the yogic tradition are known as shunia y suni-e. shunia means silence and suni-e means deep listening. Art has to have different worlds, and it has to make society uncomfortable, to be confrontational. These are very important things. Let’s try to do art that tries to serve this reconnection to oneness; not as something imagined but as something that is already happening. Art can be a way to remember and it can remember in so many ways: through being playful, imagination, dreaming, fantasies, through so many things.

C: Maybe through helping us recovering the senses as well? Since art is something that has to do with sensitivity and sensation. 

D: Absolutely, absolutely. In the yogic tradition we are equipped with different things. One of them is manas. Manas is an aspect of the mind that is related to your senses. Our senses are the windows that allow us be aware of this connection to the oneness. Also, we have our centres of energy, our chakras. Art has to do with the second chakra, the force of water—fluidity, emotions— and also with the throat chakra, so If we relate our sexuality, our capacity to communicate, we then put in relationship our own tools that we are equipped with to express this oneness. This is the type of art that I am interested in developing and relating to. I think it is also important to give space to different expressions of art so it is also a field of freedom of enunciation, of languages, of materials but being aware that it can also become very easily a tool for entertainment, for destruction, for being superficial, for being eaten by this art system, by ego. Art is so much held in the institution of the ego, and we need to try to produce art which helps to destroy this sense of ego.