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by Amanda Piña

Choreography as Curation, Curation as Cure

I speak in the plural instead of using the singular pronoun to invite you, reader, to listen to us, Women of Color, working and existing between worlds, or maybe to find yourself reflected as one of us, sharing experiences of art, migration, and diaspora.

We, Mestizas,[1] Cheje,[2] artists of mixed heritages and diasporic perspectives, have been painfully aware of the way in which Western art institutions in Europe or in the colonies have been traditionally part of the brutal pedagogies of Western modernity. Long before the blooming of decolonial discourse, we have felt this brutality in the flesh. We have nevertheless carried the places, mountains, forests, rivers, and pampas that once were home within our bodies to the so-called Global North. Drought, armed conflict, and the effects of the extractivism that fuels the Global North with wealth are part of the luggage we brought here. But also, the experience of other worlds of art and life, the memories of spaces in which the monoculture of the mind, its social and biological manifestations were not yet present.

Forest Monoculture
The brutal aspect of that set of values and systems of inclusion and exclusion, we here call pedagogies,[3] can be expressed in the image of forest monoculture: brought by European settlers to Latin America during the last 500 years, those monoculture forests (which are in truth plantations) are a manifestation of the monoculture of the mind that Western modernity has traditionally expanded through many different tentacles, Western art being one of them. They resemble a forest and appear as diversity, yet only one or two species are fostered.

The difference between a real forest and a monoculture plantation is something between ten species (plantation) to 1,000 (forest). Plantation forest monoculture’s main point is the extraction of wealth derived by the transformation of vegetal life through logging into oil, timber, or cellulose, and its existence in the south of Abya Yala [the American Continent] has continued to this day, in the desertification of the soil and the dispossession of indigenous communities from their communal lands, water reserves, and ancestral ties to their territory.

The monoculture of the mind has to do with the expansion of one world and with the destruction of alter-worlds, through extraction and enclosure. It is the monoculture of the mind that produces climate change. The Anthropos in the Anthropocene is that one world of sensing and meaning.

Engaging with artistic or curatorial practices for us has to do with allowing counter-worlds to exist, by enacting practices of re-membering, invoking, and embodying, and by proposing curatorial contexts that collectively practise those worlds, acknowledge and give them space to exist. To work with performance, in relation to those worlds, has to do with bringing them to live in the here-and-now, collectively proposing other ways of dealing with time, space, and with each other and others. This approach to art and curating is strongly influenced by a study of Amerindian practices from a perspective which does not reduce them to cultural belief but encounters them as practices of worldmaking and world-creating in the now.

Curing through Curating
Indigenous ontologies from the Wixarika[4] tradition of thought and practice propose curing [cura o curación] as a form of healing without need for disease. It is not an individual form of healing engaged with the self but collective endeavours of strengthening and blooming[5] together in a communal relation which involve humans and others alter- or counter-worldling, practised through ritual music, dance, and performance can be understood as curing since it proposes a form of conviviality which can prevent societal as well as individual disease. Our Wixarika teacher, indigenous elder Juan José Ramirez Katira, taught us about curing: “To cure is to support well-being before we or the world get ill, it is important to give continuity to curing, to offering, to dance and to ritual to strengthen ourselves in order to bloom.”[6]

The form of knowledge mastered by Ramirez is transferred orally and through embodied practices such as ritual offerings, dance, oral narration, and song. Its form of knowledge is performative and an arts-based happening through identification. The Ancestral knowledge of ritual dancing and sacred chanting present in Wixarika cultural practices, in relation to the ingestion of plants in ceremonial context, teaches forms of offering and ritually acknowledging of the maintainers.[7] These practices can be regarded as artistic and political forms or orientation in relation with other humans, with bodies of water, of earth, animals, people, and plants. Friendship and collective sense making are practised as a way of strengthening individual and collective bodies for blooming together.

In Ivan IIlich’s institutional critique, he analyses the way in which certain institutions invert the relation between means and aims, becoming aims in themselves. Mestiza artists curate on the basis of conviviality as proposed by Illich and of Sumak Kawsay [the plentiful life], proposed by indigenous thought and practice in the Andes. We think of artistic practices as tools that can be distributed equally to a diversity of peoples and communities. Our concern is a heart and a spirit that moves our doings. We are always smugglers. We speak to European, Canadian, or U.S American audiences, as we are always also talking with the ones at home. Working also for them, we represent them here.

Choreography as Curation
When one choreographs a dance or a situation, one starts by gathering people together, and in this way pre-proposing a living texture or environment from which the work-world will emerge. Curating people who come together is then a very common practice embedded in choreography, proposing a possibility of arranging relations and relationships by attuning to the emergence of a particular kind of collective.

The School of the Jaguar and The School of Mountains and Water are two of our projects and contexts in which the choreographic and the curatorial merge[8]. Both contexts are proposals as a form of rehearsal of an Ecology of forms of knowing, a diversity of voices. A place for counter- and alter-worlds of sensing and meaning to exist and to be practised collectively.

The School of the Jaguar[9] deals with the relation between humans, animals, and vegetables within Amerindian traditions of knowledge, art, and iconography. It proposes a safe space in which different forms of knowledge can enter in dialogue without the habitual hierarchies between them. It includes discursive, practical, pedagogical and performative spaces that co-exist within an installation. It includes a diverse group of people (among them are indigenous elders, artists, and scientists from different origins and disciplines) that take part together with the participants (students and the general public) in a process of unlearning modern universalism.

The School of Mountains and Water is a curated context around a performative walk in the mountains. The whole context includes discursive, pedagogical, and artistic practices from different origins and disciplines gathering around the idea of recognising mountains as living bodies active in the re-production of water. Both contexts are choreographic and curatorial at the same time. In them, we curate people around a topic and also encounters that can bring about a mutual strengthening of perspectives, intuitions, and propositions and blooming of the experience of being-with.

Amanda Piña, performance of Frontera / Procesión – Un Ritual del Agua, 2022. Photograph by: Christian Vignal. Courtesy of the artist.

Conclusion: Working in the Bowels of the Beast
As Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung writes, we, BIPOCS working at the centres of power and art institutions in Western capitals, are being digested by these institutions—the bowels of the beast—centres of colonial tradition from where the pedagogies of modernity and coloniality as art are exported. If we are being digested, he proposes that we can at least “cause an indigestion to the beast.”[10] This proposition is tempting. They eat us, metabolising our concerns for diversity, justice, and inclusion as theirs, using our ideas and including our perspectives, thus emptying them from their original spirit. Yes, we are being digested, but is being agents of indigestion our only agency?

If we move our attention away from the beast and its bowels (Western institutions) to society at large (global and local), is it mere indigestion that we can provide? Or can we induce process of purging in order to achieve cure? To cure the beast and its bowels might propose an uneasy and probably too naive task. Through indigestion and purging, choreography and curating could propose a form of curing, so needed in critical times not of the bowels of the beast but to the communities we engage with. To purge proposes a cleansing [limpia] of Western institutional spaces from their colonial habits through unmarketable spaces of conviviality and good living.

But why would Western art institutions invest in non-economical transactions? As Ivan Illich mentions, the move from the industrial and technocratic paradigm of growth in production and consumption is a dangerous project whose effects are here to stay. Toxicity and pollution, climate change, climate displacements, heat, fires, and drought are the current effects of that modern paradigm. In the transition from growth to a new paradigm amid environmental unbalance and global crisis, conviviality and good living are crucial keys. Arts as practices of knowing and being-with, which then promote epistemic justice, may move to counter act the monoculture of the mind.

Curing the Space, a Recipe:
We use copal for the task of cleansing colonial spaces from their assumptions of universality and purity, which are part of the monoculture of the mind. Copal is a tree resin related to the forest and not to plantations. Burning copal is an old practice to engage with air and with the invisible in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. Copal (nahuatlism of copalli, which translates as resin or incense in Spanish) is the name given to various aromatic vegetable resins in an intermediate stage of polymerization and hardening between the resin and amber. The most common and well-known copal comes from the trees of the Burseraceae family: Bursera aloexylon, B. graveolens, B. jorullensis, and Protium Copal.

Copal is a very important element in the medical and religious tradition of Mesoamerica since pre-Hispanic times, since the smoke it gives off when burned was used by the civilisations of this area as an offering to the entities and as a therapy for different physical and spiritual ailments. Even today, these uses are common within traditional indigenous medicine.


Two teaspoons of copal

One piece of charcoal

A recipient, preferable made of clay

Matches or a lighter

Light the charcoal; it can be a shisha charcoal, which is easy to find in Central Europe and very handy for this purpose. Make sure it is well lit; you will notice the amber spreading into the dark body of the charcoal.

Place it on the recipient.

Grind the copal, a small stone that fits in a teaspoon.

Place the charcoal in the recipient.

Take the copal, which is now a white powder, and place it on the well-lit charcoal using your fingertips.

Observe the smoke, breath it in, and proceed to cleanse the space with it; make sure you invoke all pre-colonial native entities you know, have heard, know, or can remember.


Amanda Piña’s work embodies the political and social power of movement grounded on indigenous forms of knowledge and worldmaking/maintaining. Piña is a multifaceted artist and curator working through choreographic and dance research, creating and curating artistic and educational frameworks, writing and editing publications around what she refers to as endangered movement practices. Her work is presented inside performing and visual arts contexts. Piña is Chilean-Mexican-Austrian and based in Vienna and Mexico City. Her work has been presented in institutions such as Tanzquartier Wien, Kunsthalle Wien and mumok Vienna, Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain (Paris), Kunstenfestivaldesarts Brussels, De Single Antwerp, Royal Festival Hall London, Museo Universitario del Chopo, Mexico, NAVE and Festival Santiago a Mil, Chile. From 2008 until 2022, she led and curated the gallery specialized in expanded choreography and performance nadaLokal in Vienna, Austria. Currently, she is working on the realization of the long-term project Endangered Human Movements, concerned with the re-appearance of ancestral forms of movements and cultural practices. Five volumes of research in the scope of this project have been already realized, which include performances, installations, videos, publications, curatorial frames (The School of the Jaguar and The School of Mountains and Water), workshops, and lectures. She is a research fellow at DAS THIRD, at the department of Theatre, Dance and Performance at Amsterdam University of the Arts. Currently, she is working on the creation of The School of Earth, a residency program in La Costa Chica de Guerrero, Mexico.



[1] Here, I refer to Mestiza in the sense of Gloria Anzaldúa’s definition of “The new mestiza”, as a new consciousness represented by a woman living in two cultures at the same time; this consciousness pre-supposes a decolonization of the self and of knowing. See Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderland/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1987).

[2] Here, I refer to Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui’s understanding of the Quechua concept Chi’ixi [in Spanish, cheje] as an alternative to mestizaje. See Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, Un mundo ch’ixi es posible (Buenos Aires: Tinta Limón, 2018).

[3] See the definition of pedagogies in Rolando Vázquez, Vistas of Modernity: Decolonial aesthesis and the end of the contemporary (Prinsenbeek: Jap Sam Books, 2020).

[4] "Curing is supporting us to be well, before we get sick or before the world gets sick; it is important to always be healing, to be offering, doing your dance, your rituals to strengthen us and to flourish." [Translated by the author]. Juan José Ramirez, conversation with the author, 12 June 2022.

[5] The notion of blooming together [florecer juntos] can be found today in orally transmitted indigenous knowledge from diverse origins in Mesoamerica. This notion brings the accomplishment of our living process in relation to vegetal life.

[6] These two metaphors, strengthening and blooming, which I take here from the Mesoamerican context, since Wixarika people speak an Uto Aztec language, but both metaphors are shared by different peoples of Abya Yala [the American continent] are in relation to social practices or ritual acknowledgment.

[7] The mantainers [los mantenedores] are a set of relations with those sustaining our living processes. Water, mountains, the sea, rivers, maíz [corn], animals and plants, invisible entities are understood as mantainers.

[8] https://nadaproductions.at/projects/endangered-human-movements/the-school-of-mountains-and-water

[9] Amanda Piña, “The School of the Jaguar,” Engangered Human Movements 3 (2019): 283–296.

[10] See Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, The Delusions of Care (Berlin: Archive Books, 2021).


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Issue 55

Curating Dance : Decolonizing Dance