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Virtual Sanctuary for Fertilizing Mourning


Nuno Cassola, Gabriel Alayza and Hermanos Magia, Diego Vizcarra

Video, VR, drawing, sound, installation

Virtual Sanctuary for Fertilizing Mourning was created with the intention of commemorating the deaths of indigenous leaders and environmental activists assassinated in recent years in Peru, while defending their territories from deforestation, mining, and drug trafficking.  Over the course of a year and a half, we worked together with their families and communities to create virtual tours of the areas they strove to protect, now hosted in a website called Luto Verde. Every tour is different, trying to reflect each community’s own universe, uniquely shaped by its territory, collective activities, and more-than-human bonds. Oral histories, remembrance, songs, and all the information that the communities found suitable to share, were used to develop portals into ways of life that are now threatened, but also to convey the invisible and affectionate threads sustaining them. The recorded material additionally shows the effects of extractivism and corruption in places where nature is treated merely as an infinite source of resources and profit. Besides the website, Virtual Sanctuary for Fertilizing Mourning is constituted by its research activities, texts about its work with the different communities, sound pieces, drawings, and a site-specific installation at the Berlin venue silent green. The project was developed after being selected by the German initiative Driving the Human, as one of the Seven Prototypes for Eco-Social Renewal. This funding allowed me to work with the Peruvian filmmaker Diego Vizcarra for a first research trip to two of the chosen communities, and to work permanently with the Portuguese filmmaker Nuno Cassola, with whom we traveled to the four chosen communities in January and February 2022, August 2022 and now again in February 2023. In this way, the communities first welcomed us, organized communal assemblies where we presented the project and gave their permission for us to record images and conduct interviews in their territory. Then they watched the work in process in August, gave their feedback, and now finally they'll see the last part of the work which resulted in the website Luto Verde. For contacting the communities we counted with the help of each of their leaders and the social scientist Carmen Loyola, who was a permanent advisor, especially in the area around Pucallpa. To work in Unipacuyacu, Puerto Nuevo and Sinchi Roca, we counted with the guidance of a young student of the Kakataibo Indigenous ethnicity, Yuliza Meléndez. In Nuevo Amanecer Hawai our guide was mainly Víctor Pío, an Asháninka person and son of the murdered leader Mauro Pío.  The team in charge of the 3d assets, web design and VR development is the studio Hermanos Magia, directed by the Peruvian artist Gabriel Alayza, who works with several collaborators. The sound and post production coordination were in charge of the Greek collaborators Nickos Myrtou and Dion Christodoulatos. Driving the Human platform offered mentoring sessions with a diverse group of experts from the fields of anthropology, science and arts, such as Xandra Van der Eijk, Sarah Donderer and Biao Xiang.

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