A text by ma̱lidi/Mercedes Webb.
Photo by Chelsea Yang-Smith.
Daniel Bejarano ‘chud whistle’
A tomb for the land, still present, plant life classified—by those who don’t understand native plants—as ‘weeds’, stamped out when they rise from breaks in the concrete, small patches of grass and earth kept bare, for fear of letting ‘wildness’ lurk into a ‘pristine’, ‘civilized’ city.
Daniel Bejarano’s ‘chud whistle’ emerges from his observations of absence in the city currently known as Calgary. Absence here is not a mistake, it abounds, infests and constricts. Tightly girdled creativity. By-laws to create animosity between those impacted by trying to exist visibly and trying to run a business that doesn’t offend the city by-laws. By-laws that are financially punitive and restrictive.
Although Bejarano’s primary visual example of the city by-laws is buffed out graffiti, that is just the surface, entry level attuning to the enforced absence we’re surrounded by. What does it mean when absence defines a city, is something a city is proud of and what does it mean to misplace blame on the city rather than those who enforce, create. We each have a choice as to the level of our compliance and resistance with these by-laws despite the punitive measures taken when they’re disobeyed.
Many spaces inhabited by those in the so-called western world, are influenced by carceral design, particularly that of Jeremy Bentham’s prison design later brought into a behavioural space by Michel Foucault and further related to the design of slave ships and expands on types of surveillance by Simone Browne in Dark Matter: On the Surveillance of Blackness. The surveillance we are under is not just those in uniforms but engrained in each of us. Some surveillance we have agreed to, explicitly and tacitly. Our phones don’t need to tap our calls, we just have to keep clicking, searching, liking, saving, sending.
Bureaucracy can stamp out the creative spirit, can be the death to seeds not yet bloomed. To be brought to value control over freedom, ‘cleanliness’ (emptiness), over expression, truth, discomfort, presence, is to create shades of complicity between believing these constructions are natural and those who start to feel unsettled by them and defy them.
This text was written in conjunction with the Prairie Crocus exhibition chud whistle by Daniel Bejarano, from September 3rd to 30th, 2021.