AKI AORA en Tulum

Published by Revista192

by Danaé Salazar Published

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As I listen to Sally Montes, creator of AKI AORA, I get goosebumps. Her enthusiasm for the project is infectious. We were sitting on the beach, waiting for one of the final acts of the project, talking about the comings and goings of AKI and AORA, a project that, I'll be very honest, I had a hard time understanding at first.

Sally has lived in Tulum since she was three years old and has therefore seen the rapid transformation of the environment, its inhabitants’ activities and its visitors. She has transformed her house into the Aki Aora participating artists research home. The result of which this edition was eight contemporary artists in residence, who after two weeks of living and researching in Tulum, could present their new works to the public. AKI AORA is a temporary exhibition space that brings together different artistic disciplines into a common space. "I wanted to do this project as a counterbalance to everything that is happening in Tulum - the excess of electronic music parties, the art events that are not just inclusive but elitist, much of which is only designed for tourists and alienating for  those who live here every day. The only dialogue with the locals is in providing a service, that is why I wanted to make the Mayan community more present. "

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This edition is based on the question, 'can we achieve an utopia and create radical change in the world through social interventions?' Taking this a as starting point, and making use of the resources that Tulum and its surroundings can provide for the participating artists, they all created works that were then presented within a public programme framework over four days in different locations. "This project was a kind of synchronization, I wanted to explore the symbiosis between locals, foreigners and nature," says Sally. The first great example is a new work by John Arnold (b. Virginia, USA 1975), who is using the cenote in its purest state, at nightfall, when the sound is purely of the space itself, when the human has left it alone. He has created a 'dinner-concept' in which the artist, from conception to finish, created and cooked based on achiote as both a spice and a pigment. The resulting dinner, for a small number of guests, was presented alongside a screening by Baby Vulture (another of the participating artists). The scenery is so beautiful that it seems fictitious.

Over the following days I listen to Sally repeat the phrase, "we want to make the invisible visible", just as the sound of the cenote is unheard when people leave it with their plastic flippers and snorkels and the empty cenote becomes alive with the local fauna, these sounds were also presented in the mayan language and broadcast on the local Mayan radio station. "The Mayan language is disappearing, tourists here never hear it and young people do not want to talk about it anymore. I used radio as a bridge between community and art. The piece was broadcast live and I invited the opera singer Katinka Fogh Vindelev to perform the first Mayan aria," says the artist.

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Then I run into two Mexican artists, José Rodrigo García and Paloma Contreras, both active within the Biquini Wax collective (Mexico City) and who presented a piece along with Blake Shaw (USA) , about the Institute for the Study of Fascism. Strident and energetic, their audiovisual presentation combined elements of a conference, video art and poetry in format to give its audience tools they have developed to combat fascism poetically.


This first edition will be documented in a book. It will be a reflection of what happened in Tulum over this time and its possibilities for social interaction. AKI AORA as an art project and as a social experiment, will move to other parts of the world.


Near the end of the edition and with all the unexpected setbacks that an event of this nature can have, with limited resources, but a lot of excitement, Sally concludes: "AKI AORA is a project made with a lot of love, the people who work here do it because they want to be a part of it. It has been a challenge. I hope it is a beautiful reflection of Tulum, because I do not like what it projects at present. I think it is necessary to ask other kinds of questions. "

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Participating Artists : 
John Arnold (USA)
Jacob Kirkegaard (Dinamarca)
Sally Montes (México)
Blake Shaw (USA)
Paloma Contreras (México)
José Rodrigo García (México)
Invitado especial
: Robin Kahn (USA)

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