ART IN DISCOURSE with Brus Rubio Churay and Ximena Alarcón

Some scenes and commentary from the inauguration event at Xapiri Ground.
Melanie Dizon
October 20, 2022


with Brus Rubio Churay and Ximena Alarcón

On the eve of October 7, 2022 the inauguration of "Lo que el progreso nos dejó" by Ximena Alarcón and "Viaje Amazónico" by Brus Rubio took place at Xapiri Ground. The curation process involved the pairing of both artists to discourse between third and first person perspectives on the premise of art, indigenous identity, cultural transformation, and personal questioning to what is progress.

Photo: Davis Torres

Brus Rubio is an artist of Bora-Murui descent who resides in his community of Pucarquillo  in the Ampiyacu river basin, Loreto in the Peruvian Amazon. Through the medium of painting he has chosen to deliver a message about "cultural transformation" where depictions of mythological and cultural tradition are realized in his style of "magical realism."

"My process is quite diversified through a historical one, I don't want to talk about the victimization of the Amazon, on the contrary, I want to talk about the sameness of all the cultures as equal. From the practices of the rubber boom, and later the church, then came the political part, and through all these accumulative influences, we have lost many things, we have lost the names of our clans, and so in my generation I began to investigate and search. Also, we are not unique, I mean, you can say we are not unique the Murui or Bora, we are ordinary people. We are all people that lack something, the human being is ignorant in everything. So I feel with this in point, that we are always traveling in cultural times".

Viaje Amazónico / Photo: Davis Torres

The painting "Viaje Amazónico" represents the journeys made by the clans along the Amazonian rivers in memory of their ancestors, as they travel on a tobacco leaf raft signifying protection. The water beings guide the journey as the characters respect and understand that one lives from these beings, giving reverence to life and empowering themselves through the awareness of all that the environment offers them. This is why they travel in community, from one village to another to celebrate and give thanks for nature's goodness. This journey is part of a mythological memory that is transmitted to the youth, educating in a conscious way that they respect the rivers and the Water beings.
This painting also holds further meaning, one that is a central part of Rubio's message around cultural transformation. Portrayed here is the human-nature assimilation in a journey "towards" a common place, a celebration of life where each character; represented in their own individual state of being, symbolizes the diversity of existence, creation, and tradition. Many of Rubio's paintings speak about "the journey"; a celebration in moving forward (not backward) alluding to the artist's belief towards progress, which very much is connected to how the youth are educated through the metaphorical language of his paintings.
Photo: Davis Torres

Ximena Alarcón is a Mexican artist (CDMX 1968) who shares her time between Peru, Mexico and France. Her installation work reflects upon social inequality, gender, racism and empathy. For this exhibition, she poses the question of the possibility of conciliation between traditional culture and the notion of progress as it is conceived today. This question was particularly intensified during a visit to the Bora community of San Andrés* close to Iquitos, where she witnessed a traditional ceremony staged for touristic purposes. Ximena's installation involves the use of the Bora festive skirt made of llanchama (tree fiber) as the backdrop for her inquisition.

Photo: Davis Torres

"So, my search in my relation to progress is that, it is a complicated relationship because I enjoy progress, I had access to education, to health, to living in France, I am privileged but I realize that this progress is detrimental to many things, and that part I do not like, and that part interests me to communicate because my indigenous side disappeared because of the need for assimilation, for the Mexicans of indigenous origin to westernization... For me, art means the possibility to find who I am and what I want to say, and what moves me to do what I do."

"As a native Mexican artist, I pose the question of the possibility of conciliation between traditional culture and the notion of progress as it is conceived today, how to articulate and avoid the disappearance of customs, and traditional knowledge that brings progress and its effects of assimilation and dominance?"

Photo: Davis Torres

We extend our thanks to Brus Rubio and Ximena Alarcón for sharing their perspectives with us at this intimate meeting of the minds, and to Estefanía Ortiz Morillo (director of Espacio Cultural Cordillera), for mediating the talk.

Photo: Davis Torres


are on exhibition at Xapiri Ground through the end of January 2023.