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 and context, 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. The publications took 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 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: “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 by 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.

Urgent Editions (2017 - present)

In 2017 Reunión ceased to move at random and started to work among communities and people that have been constructed as public enemies, suffering explicit violence like murder, eviction, criminalization, stigmatization.
In this current ongoing phase, Reunión intervenes in concrete moments of grief and tension, where the workings of the powers-that-be collide with the potency of resistances.
The procedure becomes 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. I stopped using the backpack printer; now the books have at least 50 pages and a minimum of 1,500 copies of each 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 who were born in impoverished neighborhoods got together to declare: “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, the Mapuche community Lof Lafken Winkul Mapu tells 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 a new wave of migrant caravans traveling towards the United States, 13 people who were forced to flee their countries in the Global South seeking a new life in North America share their experiences. “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 portrayed Chocobar as a hero, inviting the citizenry to “take justice in its own hands” and kill all “pibes chorros,” non-white youth that wear caps and sports clothes and listen to loud music. The State took this murder as a slogan and started to call its repressive policy the Chocobar Doctrine. The case marks a turning point in the post-dictatorship period in Argentina: a neoliberal government once again pushes the limits of State violence and strains 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 terrible earthquake of 1985. During the following 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 transcribed their voices and read the text aloud to them in that same moment. They took as many copies as they wanted to spread their words.

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

Movimiento X la Lengua (2020 - present)

Movement X Language is a new series that brings together people and communities that are fighting for, through, with language. In these books, language became not only the tools and means to carry out action but also the focus of the texts. In the midst of a global exacerbation of narratives of hate, terror and homogenization through which hegemonic powers weaponize worlds and shape our relationship with language; how do communities in resistance 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, left to die. In this book, the Bangladeshi community recounted the death of Mohammed Hussain due to lack of medical attention, despite insistent calls to the State medical services. The book chronicles how the community organized a network of volunteer interpreters to offer free oral translation, and launched 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 the pandemic was just starting, he fell into a coma on the monte. After eleven hours he woke up and started to sing the messages of the mothers – beings we usually call trees. It was the very first time he sang. He has not stopped.

The Dream of Sound (2020-2023). Soraya Maicoño is a Mapuche woman who has been making 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 sacred chants in ceremony. Through these different manifestations, her voice gives continuity to knowledge practices that the State has tried to exterminate and charges the present with a new form of political spirituality.