I started sewing and designing my own clothes when I was around 11 years old. Having the influence of my mother, who sewed and sold clothes at the local market. She used recycled materials that were bought at the pacas. Las pacas (a spanish appropriation of the english word “pack”) are the american trash clothes that are sent as charity to third world countries in huge bundles. When the big paca arrives, people buy it without knowing what it contains exactly. Wait it is a matter of belief: they hope to get a nice big pack, una paca, with good sellable clothes inside. Soon after, the buyer resells the content of the paca (mostly clothes) at a permanent garage sales (that take the name of paca as a place) or in the market, pacas shops are everywhere. Often in a sort of volcano-looking dispositive made of clothes, where one has to dig deep until you find your treasure.
Most of the pacas have a considerable amount of XXXL size clothes. My mother, Yolanda, bought very large size clothes to use the fabric only, in order to make new clothes. This was a clever move to get cheap and good quality fabrics, instead of buying expensive roll of new one. We often went to make the paca’s tour and explore its content till we found the very big XXL clothes.
I grew up wearing my older sister’s clothes, the pacas clothes and the clothes that my mom did specially for me. Yolanda was not a professional seamstress. She didn't have an official education, neither her mother. Everything she knew was self taught, like sewing clothes. She was fascinated by the textures and combinations of patterns, colours and forms. I frequently used the remains of the materials she didn’t need. She had only one machine, a manual “Singer”. I used her machine with not much instruction. I could use it when she was at the market working. The first challenge was to transform to my size some of the ultra big clothes that I got at the pacas. In the process I did so many mistakes, that I thought I had no future with the sewing machine and I went to sew by hand. With time I learnt little by little to make my clothes by hand and with the machine, always using recycled materials. I made clothes for theatre during my studies at the theatre school. At that time I was hired to work as a model in fashion shows. I met the gay scene and many Guatemalan designers. I started to work in my first collection for the runway after the first show I had worked as model. After the presentation of that collection, a Guatemalan Newspaper got interested and asked me to send them pictures of my clothes. I didn't even had a camera. I decided to shot the collection and I organised that some friends could assist me during the shooting. I borrowed two cameras, one digital and one analog and asked a friend to be the model. She was a psychology student. We meet early in the morning at another friend’s place, who lived very near the cemetery. The cemetery was next to the public hospital where my mother has given me birth. It is surrounded by funerary shops. At my friend's place we continue to drink Guatemalan hot chocolate together with Champurradas while I was explaining the concept of the photos and my intentions. A week before our photo shooting, I was looking for a location. I talked to the owner of a funeral shop around the corner, near the hospital. I asked him to let me use his space and one coffin for my fashion shooting. He agreed, he didn’t care too much and didn't even ask what were for. I liked that funerary place, I liked the palette of colours, the way the coffin installation was placed, the old calendar forgotten in the wall.. Ale, my model, my friend, was a bit in shock with the idea of visualising herself in a coffin. We talked for hours about the representation of women, of death and of course about the clothes. We smoked. Ale wasn't too convinced. She knew I had lost one of my sisters and a near friend as well. (Yolanda was still alive at that time.) She did understand my curiosity to work with the image representation of something we couldn't in fact visualise from a real self experience. But was worried about the subconscious impact of the image of herself, dead. Even if was a game, a fashion shooting, a theatrical setting, was anyway an image that evoked an end. An oneiric image. The last image? Could the pictures at the funerary shop, transport us to that last vision, even if is a constructed vision? In Guatemala we are used to sensationalistic newspapers that show everyday images with ultra violent ends. Since very young we have the idea of death very present. We are exposed to death, or to the idea of a very potential violent death. Everyday when you leave your home, you go without the certitude of going back. You know that everything could happen. You plan ahead but in fact you live by the day. It feels like is always present. That there is no future. Get killed is very easy. You can easily die in the hands of a marero, from a lover in anger, or die in a natural catastrophe, an earthquake, a landslide, a subsidence. In gunfights, even if you don't use guns, from machetazos, in a crash, by negligence, in the bus, in an extortion. By illegal substance consumption, by intoxication, by not being assisted at the hospital, by gas inhalation or just because of a misunderstanding. My friend, Ale, liked the clothes and the fact that I have made them with recycled pacas. She finally felt comfortable with the idea and we went to the funerary shop. When we arrived, she immediately said she felt a bad energy. She didn't want to make the pictures in that funerary shop. We took a car and went to make a funerary tour. We were looking for a funerary shop not only with a nice setting and coffins but one with good vibe. We ended up out of the city, in San Pedro Sacatepéquez . There, we eventually found a nice funerary shop, run by indigenous women. They were kind and were happy to lend us the space and a coffin for the pictures. The setting, the makeup, the hair, the light, the clothes, my friend. Every detail was planned. Inspired by the notion that the body is in transition, is decaying. Is impermanent. With those pictures I could deal with my worries about belonging, the body and the impermanent. All together in contradiction, in a juxtaposition. Yes, the body belong to us but only for a limited period of time…
Images, setting & clothes by Anne Brand Galvez
Model Alejandra Taracena Ramirez
Assistant Mahat Brol Masjid Higginbotham & Ernesto Arredondo
San Pedro Sacatepéquez Guatemala 2005
About The Agency for Spiritual Guest Work in the Service of Visualizing //////////////////////////////////////////////// The "Agency" is a curatorial agency based in Zurich, run by artists. We produce research projects towards exhibitions and collaborations with cultural producers in different fields. Committed to experimenting in artistic and curatorial formats, models of presenting critical discourses, socially and also politically engaged art practices. Implicated in the process of research and production, not with a fixed methodology towards an organic construction of concepts and dispositves.