A possible road forward where activism for indigenous right and its imagery move in unison with the language and canon of contemporary art. That is what “SILVER RIGHTS” suggests, and what I would argue, performs.
Elena Mazzi is an artist that in her artistry is driven by curiosity and a genuine drive to create new alliances, whether on an institutional level or through true and long-lasting friendships. SILVER RIGHTS, a project that Mazzi authors with spiritual leader Mauro Millán and artist Eduardo Molinari, is no exception. It also brings several contemporary art institutions together, ar/ge kunst in Bolzano, Italy and Södertälje konsthall in Södertälje, Sweden, as well as BIENALSUR and Castello di Rivoli – Museo d’Arte Contemporanea – through presenting SILVER RIGHTS as an exhibition and a book, to a larger audience. During the thick of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Elena Mazzi managed to finalise the first part of SILVER RIGHTS, mainly because of her vast and powerful network within art and art activism globally.
Although well known to visitors of biennales and international residencies, Elena Mazzi is an artist that is not always quickly recognizable through visual means, as her work is process oriented and she therefore uses the materiality and the very abstractions she finds fitting for the project at hand.
SILVER RIGHTS stems from the many layers of corporate and cultural hypocrisy that Elena Mazzi encountered during an artistic endeavour in Treviso, a city that is also the home of a clothing company branded as “The United Colors of Benetton”. While working in Treviso Elena became aware of the fact that the design company funded many of the city’s cultural institutions, bringing forth a strong socio-political message but also a heavy dependency upon one corporate entity whose mandate and mission was as driven by economic growth as it was around a possible future guided by multiculturalism. This might not have become an issue if it had not been for the fact that the clothing company was at the time, involved in an extensive lawsuit around land use in the region of Patagonia in Argentina. Patagonia is also in the very heart of the physical manifestation of nature as the home of Mapuche people, a people that share its spiritual origin and land in a district that is made up of areas in the two countries Chile and Argentina.
During a journey to Patagonia Elena Mazzi became aware of the museum of Leleque, an anthropological museum belonging to and created by the Benetton family that describes the Mapuche people in mythological ways. This works to make them seem as if they are a people of the past rather than an active agent in the telling of their own, contemporary and historical culture. In the installation that we encounter in Södertälje konsthall the museum of Leleque becomes a symbol of colonial vestiges and we are given the opportunity to understand how naively, and unknowingly villain certain elements of contemporary culture and businesses perform an ongoing colonization of people, sites and cultures.
SILVER RIGHTS uses oral tradition in alignment with the tradition of the Mapuche people, but through the latest technology of sound and in a rigorous, written and performed intellectual discourse. The accompanying jewels and flags that have been made for the exhibition stand in direct relationship with the visual imagery of Mapuche culture, suggesting that western culture is welcome to share the sacred symbols of indigenous people and cultures, and should not shy away from an active dialogue with past and present practices.
SILVER RIGHTS is about dreaming with eyes and ears open. It is about informing yourself about the indigenous rights that you may have on your doorstep, understanding that others might use the imagery and tales of the earth, that belongs to all of us, for personal gains. More than anything else, SILVER RIGHTS wants us to understand that the struggles of finding a way forward for shared cultural growth is a possibility and responsibility belonging to all of us.
Joanna Sandell, director Södertälje konsthall