Ko ta mapungey ka (Water Is Also Territory), 2020

Cons Gallardo and Raúl Moncada


Performative installation
Raw fabric textiles with cobalt blue pigment
White earthenware ceramic (alumina silicate, crystalline silica and feldspar) glazed with cobalt blue pigment
Eucalyptus and pine incenses
Commissioned for the exhibition Abundant Futures by TBA21 Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary

Ko ta mapungey ka (Water Is Also Territory) is a performative installation by Mapuche and non-binary artist Seba Calfuqueo. The work establishes a poetic and political relationship between water, the body, the Mapuche language, and the territory while it exposes the devastating effects of extractivism on Itrofill mongen (Mapudungun for “all forms of life”) in causing aridity and depletion. Using a combination of techniques, Calfuqueo traces a performative path that departs from the water toponymies in Mapudungun. As they meticulously paint the toponymies for temuko (temu water), kurüko (black water), likan ko (waters of the likan stone), luma ko (waters of luma) onto the white canvas covering the floor, they map the formerly overflowing and nowadays desiccated waterways onto the territory that today corresponds to Chile. Next to it, they place the sentence “Mapu kishu angkükelay, kakelu angkümmapukey” (The soil does not dry by itself, others dry it) onto the canvas. It encapsulates the suffering inflicted by the Chilean Water Code enacted in 1981 by the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, which controls the distribution of the country’s water resources by granting permanent water titles to private companies. As Calfuqueo raises one by one the large cobalt blue ceramic gallons, water slowly begins to seep from inside the vessels through the hollowed-out words “plunder” and “aridity,” both emblematic of the violent history of (neo)colonialism and the loss of indigenous sovereignty, thereby denouncing the geopolitics of the lack and scarcity that has been forced on indigenous peoples and their worlds. 

The Wüñelfe—the morning star, which rises in Chile and is the symbol of Mapuche resistance–, painted on their face and the use of Mapudungun acts as interpretative frameworks for expressing and recording the inalienable memory of the resistance, written into the drying waters. They state: “For me, language is a powerful tool to be able to see into the world of the other from a different sensibility. To recuperate is a reparative gesture, and to include Mapudungun in my work is my duty as a Mapuche subject. And, my lived experience as non-binary is also part of this act of resistance to dominant cultural scripts and norms.” Finally, the performance concludes with an act of ritual cleansing, whereby the artist, dressed in a white skirt with kaskawillas attached to its rim, holds a eucalyptus and pine censer in their hands (trees belonging to monocultures that damage the Itrofill mongen) and rings the musical instrument in their hands. The very subtle reparative act of closure is used, like the Wüñelfe star and blue color of the vessels, to activate and inhabit an imaginary aesthetic that is present in the Mapuche consciousness.

For this work, the artist collaborates with Spanish artisans to create a series of ceramic replicas of water gallons in different dimensions and shapes, which are activated during the performance. 

Kowkülen (Liquid being), 2020
Single-channel installation, HD video, 3:00 min.
Kowkülen (Liquid being) was recorded in the waters of the Cautín River, located in La Araucanía Region, in south-central Chile. It depicts Seba Calfuqueo lying naked in the river, semi-submerged in the running water. A bright blue rope, the color that represents all that is sacred according to Mapuche poet Elicura Chihuailaf, is tied across their torso. The bilingual subtitles accompanying the evocative images and the sound of the river’s flow, begin with the statement: “In Chile the 1981 Water Code written during Pinochet’s dictatorship is still ruling. Such document defines water in Chile as a marketable good.” In Kowkülen, Calfuqueo denounces this conceptualization of water as a commodity and criticizes the catastrophic repercussions the neoliberal law enforced during the dictatorship had on the Mapuche people and their territories. “Water is territory, neoliberal extractivism. The market over life,” the subtitles continue. 
In Macarena Gómez-Barris’s reading, Calfuqueo’s body is “the literal materiality of this settler extractive violence.” It is tied up, turned away from the viewer’s gaze, and lingers in a state that could be read as abandonment and communion with the river’s water. Ambiguity and liquidity break the barriers of ossified colonial modes of seeing and connect with Calfuqueo’s rejection of Western binaries that separate bodies and natural entities. “Non-binary waters […] To know that I am part of the territory / Ad mongen, Itrofill mongen,” reads the subtitle.
Kowkülen addresses the concepts of body, binaries, gender, sexuality, and the historical and political relationship between water and life, as well as its potential as a living space, necessary to the development and prosperity of all territories. The work formulates a solid critique of the neoliberal and colonial Chilean state, while proposing more sustainable and caring forms of living and inhabiting the planet based on Mapuche wisdom and cosmology.
Born in Santiago de Chile, Chile, in 1991. They live in Santiago de Chile.