Reunión is a writing and listening experiment that I’ve been engaging with many other people since 2015. It results in the creation of books that intervene in urgent disputes and conflicts. Through face-to-face encounters, oral histories are written by hand, collectively edited, printed, read aloud in public events and distributed in local communities and beyond. The following paragraphs detail the procedure and the different series produced up to now. Reunión’s free circulation books are available online and in print.

—Dani Zelko

The Procedure

Some practices and formal decisions that have constituted the way Reunión works

I travel to cities, towns, borders and indigenous lands to meet people and communities. I invite them to make a book through a process in which words are transmuted from oral to written and from spoken to read as they traverse bodies and spaces. People speak to me and I write their words verbatim by hand. Each time they pause to inhale, I start a new line, creating a new verse. Recording is forbidden. In the following days, we read the text together and reach a final version that is then typed and made into a book. The full texts are read aloud by the participants in public events. Then the books begin to circulate: half the copies are distributed by communities in their own territories and half the copies are distributed elsewhere. Free digital and audiobooks are made available online. Each book necessitates its own distribution that accounts for the specificity of its territory, the political, social, cultural and ethical intentions of those involved, and the material conditions of the people they need to reach.

A brief history of Reunión:

First Seasons (2015 - 2017)

At the beginning of this project, I traveled aimlessly and invited random people to participate in Reunión. Publications were in the form of zines that were printed with my backpack printer, a small backpack with a desktop printer inside. Each zine contained around 16 pages that featured the words of one participant. Once the zine was printed, neighbors, family members and friends were invited to a public event, where each participant read the full text while seated in a circle made of nine chairs. Everyone who came to listen received a zine as a gift. Later that same act was extended to other places, where the poems were read by spokespersons: people who lent their bodies to read the poems of an absent person in a circle of nine chairs. During this phase the procedure was consolidated in this way: “At first, in an encounter, spoken word is transformed into written word. In the end, the poems make possible a get-together in which word becomes oral. The poems are happy: they are at last between two persons instead of two pages.”

Over this period, 18 zines were created among participants aged 8 - 73 in different parts of Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico and Paraguay: Akim Chan Kayún Mendez, Andrés Neuman, Gerson “Montaña” Rodriguez Irala, Rigo, Patricia Bautista Roa, Edson Trujillo, Melina Abigail Nuñez, Vicente Grandos, Juana Petzey, José Luis “Crespo” Jacobino, Lucía Emilia Gomez Sheng, Pirge, Cath, Miguel, Freda Gonzalez Portieles, Luis Ángel, Francois Dave Junior, and Carina Juarez. Carina Juarez.

Ediciones Urgentes (2017 - ...)

In 2017 Reunión ceases to move at random and starts to work among communities and people that are being constructed as public enemies and that are suffering explicit violence like murder, eviction, criminalization, stigmatization.
Reunión becomes an intervention intoIt starts to intervene in concrete moments of grief and tension, where the ways of the powers-that-be collide with counter-hegemonic potencies of life.
The procedure begins to be made available to those who need it. The encounters open a shared temporality for awareness, collective self-reflection and the mutual exploration of strategies to continue living. Books become an experimental object of direct action. The backpack printer is no longer used; now the books have at least 50 pages and a minimum of 1,500 copies per issue are printed. Altogether these Urgent Editions set up a present-time archive of counter-narratives.

¿Mapuche Terrorist? (2019-2022). After 150 years of genocide, a new generation of Mapuche people that were born in impoverished neighborhoods get together and say: “We are not poor, we are Mapuche, we will recover our ancestral lands, our language, our ceremonies, our authorities.” They are leading a process of political spirituality that has no precedent in what is now called Argentina. They are being marked as internal enemies and as terrorists by the State and the mainstream media. In this book Mapuche community Lof Lafken Winkul Mapu tell for the very first time their own version of how the State security forces murdered Rafael Nahuel and they make it known widely that a new Machi is rising in the community, the first one in the Puel Mapu in almost a hundred years.

North Border (2017-2018). In the midst of the firsts migrant caravans traveling towards the United States, 13 people who were forced to flee their countries in the Global South seek a new life in North America.“Migrants are being constructed as political enemies.” “Migrants are being incorporated into the discourse of war.” “Migration is the very dispute of what we call borders.” “Migrant caravans are an uprising! a rebellion!” “To migrate is to begin a new story for your life.”

Juan Pablo by Ivonne: A counter-narrative to the Chocobar doctrine (2018). On December 8, 2017, in Buenos Aires, police officer Luis Chocobar shot and killed Juan Pablo Kukoc, an eighteen-year-old who had stolen a camera from a US tourist. Macri’s government portrays Chocobar as a hero, inviting citizenship to “take justice in its own hands” and kill all “pibes chorros”, non-white youth that wear hats, sport cloths and listen to loud music. The State take this murder as a slogan and start to call its repressive policy Chocobar Doctrine. This case marks a turning point in the post-dictatorship period in Argentina: a neoliberal government once again questions the limits of State violence and stresses the collective process for Memory, Truth and Justice.

Earthquake (2017). On September 19, 2017, an earthquake struck Mexico City. The earthquake took place on the same day as the one in 1985. During the next days I set up a table with a computer and the backpack printer in different boroughs of the city, with signs that read: “Memory Collection”, “Talk to me and read yourself”, “Print your voice for free”, “Self-journalism”, “The present is confusing”. People spoke to me, I read to them their texts aloud in that same moment and they took as many copies as they wanted to spread their word.

Four Legendary travestis in the Gondolín Hotel (2021). Hotel Gondolín is a hotel created and run by travestis in Buenos Aires that for decades has served as a refugee for trans people that migrate to the city. Four of their legendary funders, that fought against police violence and struggle to get the first national rights for LGBTIQ+ community, pass their memory to those who are inventing themselves as transgender people today.

Movimiento X la Lengua (2020 - ...)

Movement X Language is a new series that brings together people and communities that are fighting for, through, with language. In these books, language is not only the tools and means that carries out the action but also the focus of the texts. In the midst of a global exacerbation of the narratives of hate, terror and homogenization through which hegemonic powers weaponize worlds and shape our relationship with language; how do resistances live, think, perceive, use and dispute language?

Language or Death (2020). At the beginning of the pandemic, the Spanish state provided health care via telephone, i. e. through orality. Migrants in Madrid who didn’t know how to speak Spanish were abandoned to death. In this book the Bangladeshi community recounts the death of Mohammed Hussain due to lack of medical attention despite insistently calling the medical services, organize a network of volunteer interpreters that offer free oral translation, and cast their dispute for the right to live in their own language.

A Text I Walk (2021-2022). Caístulo lives in Territorio Indígena Wichí, near the border between Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay. When he was 80 years old and pandemics were just starting, he fell into a coma in the monte. After eleven hours he woke up and started to sing the messages of the mothers, what we usually call trees. It was the very first time he sung. He has not stopped.

The Dream of Sound (2020-2023). Soraya Maicoño is a Mapuche woman who has been carrying out a compilation of the ancestral chants of her people for twenty-five years. She has been the spokesperson for the most radical communities of the Puel Mapu, mapuche land in what is now called Argentina. She also has the spiritual role of Pillan Kushe: a wise woman who sings the sacred chants in ceremony. Through these different manifestations, her voice gives continuity to knowledge practices that the State tried to exterminate and charges the present with a new form of political spirituality.