The phrase that gives this drawing its title - “No pasarán, los venceremos mi amor” (“They won't get through; we'll beat them my love”) - comes from a song by the Nicaraguan musician Carlos Mejía Godoy. Many of his songs became associated with the Sandinistas, the guerilla movement in Nicaragua named after the former national hero Augusto Sandinista. Having a Republican grandfather, who was exiled from Spain and grew up among the cries of protest, these became everyday phrases for Sandra Vásquez de la Horra.
Your works often relate to ancestral, spiritual energies as well as magicism. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I have experienced the rituals of different shamans and religions. I sought them out because I got to a point where I believed that simple artistic performances were no longer profound enough. Performances seemed empty to me after coming from a context of social violence, criticism, and political inconformity. I had the feeling that they were not real, not vital; there was no need for them. They were rather something visual. I did not feel that there was a bottom line, that anything had changed after having lived through the protests in South America, especially after having lived close to what the guerrilla fighters did in Peru. I experienced this very closely when I traveled there at the age of around twenty-two. I had a very traumatic experience regarding violence.
So I went to several countries to share experiences with different tribes, with different societies and religions. The different shamans whom I met took me by the hand, showing me the way of much mystery and many truths. For that reason, it was so important for me to also participate in the rituals of the Santeros, one of the main religious groups in Cuba. Meeting them taught me what the cosmic order was again. Returning to this order was important when they did a cleansing ritual. There was a sacrifice of an animal that was going to be eaten later, and then delivered to nature. This chain of survival made sense to me as a chain of solidarity in which a person’s aura was cleaned in order for it to be able to heal.
Several of your works are currently exhibited at the Venice Biennial. Curated by Cecilia Alemani, the exhibition is said to introduce a “New Surrealism” that transcends future visions of human bodies and technology. Your works are equally characterized by surrealist sceneries and human bodies that seem to spring from another world. What do they want to tell us?
The vision is ancestral to the stories of the Yoruba as well as the stories of the Indigenous people of the Americas, the Hopi, the Diné, the Aymaras, and the Mayans. The four stories teach us another way of seeing the universe, another order, an order that has a lot to do with magic. It has a lot to do with the discovery of the world through the eyes of a child. Every time I look, there are two universes. I rediscover the height. I rediscover the universe and make it richer, more complex, and more powerful. This power is healing because it shows that there is a world that makes much more sense than the world that I had imagined. It makes me deeply understand the human being.
The psychological terror exerted in the time of Pinochet still affects me psychologically.
Your video work "Hemispherios" shows your left and right hand trying to draw a mirrored figure in parallel movement. What are you attempting to show us here?
In the video work "Hemispherios", I am drawing with both hands and my eyes are closed, blindfolded like the statue of justice. With a mirror, I try to match the right hand with the movement of the left hand. With this movement I wanted to recapitulate something that has been difficult for me to understand, which I have decided to process. The political currents in my country have always been as extreme as the country itself. The right and the left have never agreed, and it seems that they will never agree on a way to unite. This work is my way of healing myself and maintaining the political dialogue.
Does the same apply to your work titled "No pasarán, los venceremos mi amor?" Is it also a way of healing yourself?
I have a Republican grandfather who was exiled from Spain and grew up among these cries of protest. In my life, phrases such as No pasarán, los venceremos mi amor became everyday phrases. The cry of protest is what you believe, and they are all the same, in the sense of seeking democracy and not being crushed by the dictatorship.