This year’s Young Latinx Artists exhibition in Austin’s Mexic-Arte Museum explores the concept of “buen vivir,” featuring work from 12 different artists from around the country that challenge colonial systems and notions of wellbeing. The exhibit, titled “Buen Vivir/Vivir Bien,” is the museum’s 24th annual Young Latinx Artists show (previously referred to as Young Latino Artists).
The exhibit was curated by Tatiane Santa Rosa, the creative director at New York’s AnnexB’s residency program, an institution that connects and supports Brazilians in the arts. AnnexB also puts together public programming throughout the year. Santa Rosa is currently a Critical Studies fellow at the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program. She told Austin 360 last month that she was explicitly presenting decolonial narratives and ideals through the lens of buen vivir, a move toward the good life. “It may be possible to vivir bien if we seek to practice decoloniality day by day in our trivial actions but also considering decoloniality as part of our life goals and dreams. We shall insist, despite everything, on claiming our right to live and our right to live well.” Specifically, the exhibit seeks buen vivir as a response to global capitalism.
Sylvia Orozco, Mexic-Arte’s executive director and one of three of its founding members, told the publication that it’s clear that artists have been creating work that embodies buen vivir because we’re living through a time where the things that really support well-being are out of balance. “It’s a good issue because we’re seeing the effects of (not being in harmony),” she said. “If we abuse the Earth, it affects the balance. We’re having 100-degree weather, tornadoes, and we just need to talk about it and bring it to the forefront. Our ancestors lived in harmony with nature.” Orozco founded Mexic-Arte in 1984 with fellow artists Sam Coronado and Pio Pulido to support and preserve Latinx art and culture.
The ideals of buen vivir are by no means new, though they may very well be an effective antidote to our modern, overarching woes. Buen vivir is sort of a codified version of an indigenous understanding of the world and our place in it, something that the Quechua call “sumak kawsay.” The Conversation described buen vivir as the opposite of conceptions of wellbeing that use economic markers to describe when communities are or aren’t living well: “[The] subject of wellbeing is not the individual, but the individual within a community in relation to a specific cultural-natural environment.” Like other sustainability movements, buen vivir isn’t calling upon communities to return to historical ways of life but rather to embody the ideals that kept our ancestors living well, to reframe what colonial powers have discarded as “primitive” and to recognize the timelessness of living in harmony with nature, cultural values, and real production rather than simple profit.
“Buen Vivir/Vivir Bien” runs through August 25th.