2017, 16 mm to HD video, sound, 9’46”
Coyolxauhqui is a searing evocation of femicide in rural Mexico. It recasts the dismemberment of the Aztec moon goddess Coyolxauhqui by her brother Huitzilopochtli, sun, human sacrifice and war god. A visual poem about the cyclical nature of traditional myths and rituals, Coyolxauhqui is part of a trilogy that proposes itself as an act of political resistance, exploring the connection of current Mexican femicides to larger cultural formations.
Coyolxauhqui begins with colourful cactuses; the camera meanders to the hectic rhythm of an improvised percussion ensemble, capturing blurred snapshots, images of fruits and vast landscapes. Halfway through the film, an eerie zoom of the rising moon with a soundtrack of ghostly female voices alludes to the violent murder of the Aztec moon goddess, Coyolxauhqui, by her own brother, Huitzilopochtli. The final minutes of the film refer directly to contemporary Mexican femicides—gender-based murders of women—by showing images of sandals scattered around the ground, a pad over a patch of dry branches, underpants creased between stones, and bras hanging from the dry branches of a bush. The film takes place in the deserted area of La Mixteca, where there are numerous textile maquilas—manufacturing assembly plants of duty-free components for exportation. Here, the original femicide of Coyolxauhqui connects with the horrific wave of femicides that began in Ciudad Juárez among young women employed by the maquilas.
This perceptive symbolism of the myth is intrinsic to an agrarian society that lives within a cyclical vision of the universe based on duality and repetition. The violence against women is ingrained in the landscape, waiting to be reawakened. Footage from La Mixteca was shot five years ago and appears in two earlier films, which are not part of this trilogy: Abecedario, M (2013) and Medea (2014). Crossing references between films, thus tracing temporal links between them, is a common practice within the work of Los Ingrávidos. It is precisely this system of afterlives and reincarnations that suggests a broader discourse, one that surpasses the limitations of spatio-temporal coordinates, creating relational images. What happens in Juárez is connected to what happens in Mixteca—and what happened to Coyolxauhqui—because they take place within patriarchal neoliberal capitalism. The rewriting of the myth of Coyolxauhqui is radicalized with a deliberate superimposition of discourses mixing both mythical and historical time. Its fictional reconstruction is combined with first-person handheld camera footage questioning historical truth.
Coyolxauhqui is one of the three films made in 2017 by Colectivo Los Ingrávidos that speaks directly about gendered violence against women in Mexico: one from the perspective of the mothers (¿Has Visto?), the other of the daughters (Sangre Seca), and Coyolxauhqui from the disappeared victims. While Coyolxauhqui uses landscape and objects, the other two films use footage from protests in a public space. ¿Has Visto? shows the Mexican Mothers March that takes place annually on May 10th to protest against the disappearances of civilians, and Sangre Seca the protests from International Women’s Day on March 8th, 2017. All three are filmed with expired film stock, which produces the washed out colours in ¿Has Visto? and Coyolxauhqui and the characteristic pinkish tone of colour fading, combined with a degraded flaky surface of the 1959 Kodachrome used for Sangre Seca. Working with obsolete stock speaks directly to the scarcity of filmmaking in Mexico while it also reflects on the political Mexican landscape and the precariousness of the working class’s living conditions. The permanent sense of danger, risk and contradiction that emerge from the government’s neoliberal politics are conveyed in Los Ingrávidos’ medium and working processes.
Colectivo Los Ingrávidos is invested in using the capacity of the filmic medium to determine the experience of the image as an entity in itself, performed in the audience’s space. Flares, fade-outs at the beginning and the end of the reels, grain and other qualities become intrinsic parts and evidence of the film as object. The surface of the screen and the materiality of the medium are as important as the images and the sound. The apparatus becomes a central element that works in relation to the image instead of being a simple carrier of images. Los Ingrávidos are invested in making the viewer aware of the medium, proposing a radical empiricism in which perception and knowledge are not necessarily the same thing. Form is content and content is form. The films of this trilogy are more than a straight documentation of the protests or the space where the murders take place. The femicides are not a question of particular moments in time and space, what is at stake is the intervals between space and time, which connect all the actions as part of larger cultural formations.
In Sangre Seca, three different temporalities collapse: the eroded celluloid is the present tense of the audience, the images are from the March 8th protests from 2017 and in the soundtrack, the poem Oscuro, written and read in 2012 by María Rivera, documents the violent repression of female protestors in San Salvador Atenco (2006) carried out by the police. Rivera’s “poesía documental” records experiential accounts of personal history. Her poetry is not an aestheticized use of language, rather a direct and sincere intervention that records historical situations, like the attacks in Atenco, which are denied by the government or purposefully obscured or erased. Rivera’s poetry describes the reality of what happened while simultaneously denouncing the official discourse.
Poetry and visual experimentation in Los Ingrávidos are tools to dismantle the discourse that legitimises homicidal misogynistic violence. Each of the films of the femicide trilogy is a form of political resistance as they each capture the emergency, spontaneity and energy of direct political action as spaces that are both lived and conceptual.
Film: Colectivo Los Ingrávidos
Sound: Gustavo Nandayapa y Patrizia Oliva