“A book is like an ax that breaks the frozen sea within us, wrote Kafka. “I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for”?
Like Kafka’s books, the interventions of urban artist Yescka are meant to provoke. To engage. And to break through the complacency of everyday urban life, by getting people involved in changing the urban spaces they live in.
As a member and founder of the collective ASARO, Asamblea de Artistas Revolucionarios Oaxaca, Yescka notes that their critical focus grew out of their involvement in the local social movements for justice and human rights in Oaxaca in 2006.
“Nos fuimos conociendo con algunos compañeros y cuando el movimiento se empezó a agudizar, la APPO (Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca) hizo un llamado para que se organizaran los diferentes sectores de la sociedad. Fue ahí donde sentimos que como artistas teníamos que “caminar” con el pueblo, escribio Yescka en su testimonio.
“We all started to get to know each other through friends, and when the movement started to intensify, the APPO (Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca) put out a call to organize all the different sectors of society. It was there that we felt that as artists we had to “walk with” the people,” wrote Yescka in his artist statement.
Artists have played an important role in the social movement in Oaxaca. Not only in the diffusion of messages and ideas, but by recognizing and challenging the way art has been used to “produce” and “market” Oaxaca as a tourist commodity, perpetuating grossly unequal social relations between wealthy tourists and the Oaxacan people. It’s clear from the promotional literature about Oaxaca that art can become a vehicle of commodification. One tourist website notes that because of its fantastic “tourism infrastructure” of museums, popular art and handicrafts, “Oaxaca is a paradise for the visitor.” Indeed.
Yescka notes that for many years, art in Oaxaca had become a tool of the tourist industry, complacent and lacking critical or political consciousness.
For this reason, Yescka and other artists from Oaxaca hope more young artists will join them on their path.
“Nacimos de las circunstancias. Somos un movimiento artístico espontáneo. No somos ni los únicos ni los primeros, pero creemos que es importante la difusión para que más jóvenes artistas se empiecen a organizar para hacer este tipo de arte con la visión que tengan” dice Yescka.
“We were born out of the circumstances. We are a spontaneous artistic movement. We are not the only ones, nor are we the first, but we believe it is important to spread the idea so that more young artists will begin to organize and create art with the vision we have,” says Yescka.
Yescka is embarking on his 2012 tour today: his first stop is San Diego, then on to San Francisco, Heidelberg in June, Stockholm and Mannheim in August. The interactive exhibition concept allows visitors and local artists to take part themselves–keeping the art in the street to give access to everyone, not just to a privileged few.
See more of Yescka’s work here.