Juliana Góngora Rojas – Arrullos

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Juliana Góngora Rojas’ work, Arrullos, is part of rivus the 23rd Sydney Biennale. She has woven a shawl from milk and draped it over an effigy of her grandfather’s crypt. When I wrote this blog post, I hadn’t seen the artwork, it was still caught at customs. But I heard the artist speak, whilst standing in front of the circular arena filled with lime, she had constructed to receive the work. She spoke about how in the culture of Machismo in Columbia, she takes sweet words to traumatic memories to re-remember them with love.

She has been working closely with Indigenous elders and has adopted the indigenous practice of healing – to bring sweet words to psychic wounds. She spoke of the importance of remembering. She spoke to us in a mellifluous Columbian accent, translating her thoughts into English for our benefit – a language that she acknowledged made her feel vulnerable as it is not in her native tongue. Her manner and her words were compelling. I received the offer of her words like a benefaction. The title of her work, Arrullos, translated to English means to coo or a lullaby – I am not sure what is lost or gained in translation. To make the work, she created threads from the unpasteurized milk of free-range cows. Juliana tried, in her prototyping, to make thread from the milk of factory farmed cows but the cow’s sadness alters their milk on a molecular level, and it refuses to be woven, instead it disintegrates. The gentleness, tenacity, and bravery of her understanding of her role as an artist – to contribute gestures that contribute to inter-generational healing remains with me.

Juliana’s words about her absent artwork, spoke to me of the presence of absence and how it matters what words we bring to these memories. Her artists talk – evoked in me, the “intersubjective possibilities of hope” (Jacob, 2008). Retelling her story has brought me closer to myself. I feel humbled by my encounter with her way of being in the world. Thank you, José Roca, artistic director of the 23rd Biennale of Sydney for the gift of Juliana Góngora Rojas, who spoke during one of the public programs dedicated to art, nature, environmental activism, and water-based ecologies – a sensitive, evocative, and timely call for healing – if we let it be.

The low, limed-filled, circular arena constructed to receive, Arrullos
Arrulos was release from customs and exhibited as planned at The Cutaway, Barangaroo 2022