San Gabriel, 2019
photograph printed on polyester canvas, 2 prints sewn together
Wanaawna Meets Salty Waters, 2019
photograph printed on polyester silk
Wanaawna (Santa Ana), 2019
photograph printed on cotton canvas
Serpent River Book and Serpent Table, 2017
72-page accordion fold, offset printed canvas hardcover artist book and table
Numbered edition of 250
From the Bottom of the River, 2020
hand-painted blown glass, artisanal fishing net and lead weight
Ume – Vindel, 2018
marker on Canson paper (facsimile)
Yuma, or the Land of Friends, 2019
Courtesy the artist
Presentation at the 23rd Biennale of Sydney was made possible with the generous support of Andrew Cameron AM and Cathy Cameron and generous assistance from the UK/Australia Season Patrons Board, the British Council and the Australian Government as part of the UK/Australia Season
Working as an artist and deeply engaged as an environmental activist, Caycedo has developed an extensive body of work around rivers – and more precisely about the forces, physical and political, that impede their flow. Her ongoing project Be Dammed includes works in a variety of media ranging from psychedelic “portraits” of waterways, large-scale composite murals made of satellite views of river basins and dams, sculptures made with fishing nets she calls Cosmotarrayas, documentary video essays, publications, and performances she calls Geochoreographies, enacted by her and others, often with the participation of the public.
Describing this project, Caycedo has said: “In Indigenous cosmogonies of the Americas, all bodies of waters are connected. Rivers are the veins of the planet, their waters associate communities and ecosystems. Be Dammed investigates the effects that large dams have on natural and social landscapes in several American bio-regions. More than 250 large hydroelectric dams are projected or under construction by transnational corporations in Latin America, signifying the transition of public bodies of water into privatised resources. At the same time, the U.S. is the leading country in dam removal, allowing for the restoration of river ecosystems. In Be Dammed, aerial and satellite imagery, geo-choreographies and audio-visual essays intersect social bodies with bodies of water, exploring public space in rural contexts, and conjuring water as a common good.”
River and waterfall images are mirrored, altered and remixed to create a series of portraits that conjure bodies of water as living entities, and as active political agents in environmental conflicts, rather than resources for human extractivism. The fabric as surface becomes a fluid and malleable structure, that allows for diverse installation forms. The textile imagery builds upon Indigenous medicinal and shamanic visions, inviting the viewer to experience and find their own images; calling for a decolonization of the gaze by un-learning euro-centric and patriarchal artistic formal formats, such as the landscape, a chance to challenge our relationship to ‘nature’. The three water portraits seen here depict three rivers in Orange County in southern California.
Serpent River Book is a 72-page accordion fold artist book that combines archival images, maps, poems, lyrics and satellite photos with the artist’s own images and texts on river bio-cultural diversity, in a long and meandering collage. The fluctuating publication can frame many narratives. As a book it can be opened, pleated and read in many directions, and has a performatic potential to it, functioning as a score, or as a workshop tool. Serpent River Book gathers visual and written materials compiled by the artist while working in Colombian, Brazilian and Mexican communities affected by the industrialization and privatization of river systems.
From the Bottom of the River asks us to reflect on our bodily perspective in relation to other living river entities such as fish. Here the net envelops a set of conical blown-glass pieces that resemble a pair of eyes, as if staring back at us from the bottom of the river. This underwater perspective also references the thousands of disappeared people who have been murdered for defending their territories, and whose bodies remain submerged in rivers throughout Latin America. For Caycedo, it is this gaze that holds us accountable and asks us to inhabit the perspectives of those who have lost their lives in the struggle for environmental justice.
These hand-drawn books have an accordion format and the originals are hand-bound by the artist. Their style is inspired by children’s books, to entice younger audiences into environmental subjects. They interpret Indigenous rituals and myths of rivers in dispute. The riverbed is used as the central element of the written and visual narration. Some of them are based on actual events and describe the political context of these riverine ecosystems.
Yuma, or the Land of Friends is a mural combining satellite imagery from the construction of the El Quimbo dam, which is the first dam built with transnational capital in Colombia, over the Magdalena River, the Yuma River. It also incorporates black-and-white aerial photography from the geographical institute in Colombia, as well as the cartographic maps of the zone affected by the construction of the dam. In this case, this mural looks to subvert and also criticize that view of power, that perspective of power over the land, that view from above, which is the militaristic view, that possesses, intervenes the territory, but is not capable of admiring or understanding the life that develops in that river, in that forest, in that land.