SECOND WALK: Assembled meanings for home

Excerpt by Lois Klassen
From Poetry Battles - the Drag (
Vancouver, Friday, September 23, 2011
Photo credit: Patrick Bleaser

" (...) I also think that all of us in the crowd appreciated the frankness of the other guy on the street who disrupted Guadalupe Martinez’s conclusion to her day-long walk through the streets around The Gam Gallery. For SECOND WALK: Assembled meanings for home she had spent the day (and days) leading up to the performance gathering bits and pieces from the decaying and dis-regarded environs. She seemed to be collecting things that --like Benjamin’s Dialectical images or objects-- held some kind of an ecstatic charge. Her late-night performance in the gallery concluded what was a kind of ordeal with a live re-arrangement of the broken bricks, fencing, sticks, paper crown, small stones, feather... She was finally offering to the place and the things, a song: La Pomeña (an Argentinian folk song, popularized by Mercedes Sosa). While she was singing, a forceful voice from the street yelled into the room a declaration of this being NATIVE LAND. Randy Gledhill, LIVE’s artistic director, returned the shout with an invitation to the intruder to participate, but that that he would have to “shut up” and listen. That set off a predictable diatribe. Martinez quieted her song in the midst of this, but then returned to it without hesitation. It was an enormous tribute to the place, its dispossession and the possibilities that it carries for the artist. La Pomeña tells the story of the “poetry battle” or the “coplas” traditional of rural Argentina. In the story, the beauty of a muse, Eulogia Tappa, and her intense affiliation with the disenfranchised land becomes a common motive for two duelers to produce an heroic utterance. The resulting song monumentalizes the beauty of rural women, and especially their connection to the place. Martinez’s ability to offer deep respect for the place, despite her displacement, and obvious attachment to rural Argentina, produced the kind of resolution to the nomadic evening that the crowd of local and international audience could understand and appreciate.

The DTES is indeed NATIVE LAND, and it is also the land upon which many of us project our histories and imaginations. It seems to me that DTES residents, the LIVE Biennale, and some of Vancouver’s most energetic and productive artists are very well situated for endless “poetry battles” that happen also to be a tradition within these streets."