More than gaining a privileged access to what’s behind the veil, or what it’s like or mean to be
a National Artist, I was more interested in the circumstances in which his poetry somehow landed
on my lap, like a message in a bottle, or a mysterious note that I am now tasked to decode, as an artist.
There is something characteristically anarchic about zinemaking, it’s about bypassing traditional gatekeepers in the guise of editors, publishers, etc., and really about being very critical about
our perception of authority, which is relevant now and always. It was important for me that the project reflects that sense of freedom, spontaneity, and irreverence. “
“After reading the fragment that was given to me, many times over, I decided that I wasn’t going
to fabricate a direct visual counterpart to Bautista’s words. I felt that the complexity of Bautista’s imagery would render any attempt at a visual representation fundamentally unsatisfying.
Finally, what gave me the idea on how to approach the project was Bautista himself.
“In The Archipelago he wrote, “For the word is not the bone of poetry, it is the flesh.”
He proceeds to write about the “principle” of poetry as “[beginning] under the skin,”
“with numbers in its muscle till its spouts out bone.”
I guess that is where I eventually found myself, my own body, inside the text. ”
“The text had to come alive through me, my own lips, my own voice.
With regard to the formal composition of the project, I was very much inspired by the evocativeness of Bautista’s language; I included several of those passages in the zine.
For example he wrote about “sad wordlessness”, “the curse of light more real in darkness”, “incandescent teeth”, “a thin breath of ice”, etc., these passages and others informed both the mise en scene and visual direction of the project, which I decided to call “Godhood”. It’s a word that Bautista himself uses in the text: “What/ is the proof/ of pain the text/ of godhood.” I actually only found out later on, eventually reading more about The Trilogy of Saint Lazarus as I was wrapping up the project, that Saint Lazarus
was what the Spaniards called this land when they came.
I was interested in this history of conquest at the heart of the text, in particular how this conquest was believed to be sanctioned by God, or done in His name,
and how this contentious notion of godhood – who is He? What is divinity? – will ultimately shape the history of a people, even centuries after the first declaration of that name.
I can only hope that the viewer will see in the work several of the things I found exhilarating about reading Bautista: a sense of mystery, grief, and longing,
all unfolding in a poetic landscape that eerily feels both intimate and universal.”
As with any other project, especially commissions with a very specific premise or parameters,
the challenge was looking for a touchstone in a material that was unfamiliar. A unique opportunity granted by reading Bautista in this way is encountering him not as an untouchable figure,
but a complicit collaborator.
In another time I might have met him as somewhat of a celebrity or even a mentor but here,
he is just like another unassuming audience member, listening to familiar words that,
unbeknownst to him, are his own. There are lines in The Archipelago that I found reflect this time perfectly. Bautista wrote, “the burden of the silent year they had to bear”, and elsewhere,
“far away in a private sea.” For me there was something very evocative in those words,
working in this time of the pandemic. Those words provided me with a beautiful image
and a way to think gracefully about adversity and isolation. “