Interview with Lili_Anaz: A body that knows itself ...

7 Noviembre 2017

Lili_Anaz's portrait. Photograph by Érika Vit.

"A body that knows itself knows that together with others it can generate a very strong force to hack any system."

Lili_Anaz (Liliana Zaragoza Cano) is an artist, communicator, photographer, writer and hackfeminist activist whose entire work is a feminist exploration about the crossroads between art, body, memory, resistances, sexuality, human rights, hacking, and free technologies. Her passions and activisms are the development of combat strategies to hack patriarchal and misogynist violence through feminist self-defence and collective care, and in generating safe spaces for battle, enjoyment and encounters, and in the incitement of free-culture ecosystems that can conspire, care for and defend the feminist internet as a safe territory built by women and non-binary identities.

Lili_Anaz is co-founder and coordinator of Laboratorio de Interconectividades (Interconectivities Laboratory). She created Mirada sostenida (Sustained gaze): a transmedia artistic project that approaches the personal and collective re-signifying of memory of the ten women survivors of sexual torture perpetrated by State forces in Atenco, and their fight to gain justice which took them all the way to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. After 11 years of struggle, their case will finally be heard November 16 and 17 this year.

Jennifer Radloff(JR): Tell us something about the Autodefensas Hackfeministas (Hackfeminist
Self-Defence) Project, the process and methodologies.
**

Lili_Anaz(LA): We are working with physical and digital feminist self-defence in an integral way for our everyday battles, to strengthen our combat strategies and collective care inside and out of the internet. We use combat as a form of resistance to work continuously to keep us strong, joyful and alive in the face of mass surveillance, espionage, persecution and the war against our bodies.

We use combat as a form of resistance to work continuously to keep us strong, joyful and alive in the face of mass surveillance, espionage, persecution and the war against our bodies.

We have developed a strategic methodology hybrid between martial arts techniques, feminist self-defence and digital collective care. In this process we do not dichotomise online/offline and work in a holistic way.

We propose a comprehensive online/offline security scheme with risk levels and methods of action, based on the participants’ personal experience and context, in order to generate action-reaction tactics against the situation of structural misogynist violence.

Comando Colibrí's portrait. Photograph by Balam-hamʼ Carrillo.

Laboratorio de Interconectividades and the Escuela de Defensa Personal para Mujeres Comando Colibrí (Hummingbird Squad’s Women Self-Defence School) began to conspire in the spring of 2015, integrating the way we understand, live and work from the political perspective of feminist self-defence, to generate a holistic process in the context of violence against women and at the same time, the whole situation of war in México. Each initiative works independently, but this project intertwines our struggles. The result? This incredible process of the Hackfeminist Self-Defence project.

In countries like ours where structural misogynist violence wants to break our bodies, a body that knows itself knows that together with others it can generate a very strong force to hack any system.

In countries like ours where structural misogynist violence wants to break our bodies, a body that knows itself knows that together with others it can generate a very strong force to hack any system.

What we are trying to do is connect with how the body can have the capacity to transform. How can we, through our bodies’ awareness and consciousness, truly be fully present in every single thing that we do in the context of a terrorist State - like México, in which bodies are considered worthless and war takes people's bodies as booty to create fear. These are policies of fear, trying to paralyse any sort of resistance or imagination around worlds that might be possible. So, I like to work on the issue of technology and feminisms as part of this possibility of going further in understanding digital security. We can do this through building collective knowledge and looking at technologies not just as tools, but as possibilities of co-creation, intervention and hacking those realities which just don't sustain us. We multiply cyberfeminisms to break expressions of patriarchal violence that range from harassment to feminicide.

JR: Why do you do the work you do?

LA: I love that big question. For example, in the workshops that the Lab does together with Comando Colibrí, I can see the difference when women see or feel the possibilities that their bodies hold, due to the workshop’s provocation. I have been involved and engaged in different social movements for the last 20 years. The question I work with is "Why do we take so long to understand that our body is our first strength and battle weapon, and that we must take care of it, inhabit and defend it as our first territory?” We completely deprioritse our own bodies, unless we are facing a life and death situation on the frontlines of violence.

The work I do specifically is an experiment to try and put the same level of importance around how we are feeling and how our bodies are, in a context of Mexico’s State terrorism. I am working with understanding the importance of our individual bodies, our bodies being together, in terms of memory, and how understanding and working with this will give us a different perspective of how we want to share and fight strategically. I am interested in not just this constant reaction in a situation of structural violence, but also as a way of choosing to live. Our work should not focus exclusively on survival all the time because there is no resilience in that, and because that is precisely what these States want: to wear us out, to break our body tissues and each of our networks. There is no resilience in it, and we have to find a way to build liberating technologies from the ability of bodies together.

I am working with understanding the importance of our individual bodies, our bodies being together, in terms of memory, and how understanding and working with this will give us a different perspective of how we want to share and fight strategically.

A feminist and artistic perspective crosses through everything I do. The hackfeminist gaze is crucial in this when we explore the territories that we want to inhabit, care for and defend, beginning with the possibilities of our own bodies as free territories.

JR: You talk about body having memory and have very creative responses to unlock that memory. Do you think that the body can let go of difficult memories and re-embody something which is more positive?

LA: It would not make sense to do what we are doing if we did not believe this. Accepting that there is a system that causes cracks and sometimes we just put some patches on these. The feminisms that I believe are not going to just point at the cracks and put a bandaid on them. Our work is looking at what new cracks have to be opened and how we can embody these, and at the same time, to imagine other worlds and possibilities narrated and created by us. So we first hack our body and the relationship with ourselves and then with others. The best way to intervene in our memory is to name it with all our different anxieties and pain, because if we know how to embrace this and we feel contained and held with others, then we have the possibility of reprogramming and rewriting ourselves and collectively.

Specifically, in the workshop we have developed, which is a collaboration between the Laboratorio de Interconectividades and the Comando Colibrí, one of the things we are trying to work on as a core issue is that to resist also means to combat. We are not just saying that combat is knowing how to fight but it also means how we do combat as reaffirmation of life and pleasure. When our bodies begin to recognise their own possibilities, then very likely they can synchronise so that there are synergies with others. So that strength then comes from a different place. It comes from trust, confidence, complicity and it gets transformed into collective care. Little by little we will begin to think with the body. This is a long term process. It is not just a one workshop process. The workshops are developed to provoke.

Our work is looking at what new cracks have to be opened and how we can embody these, and at the same time, to imagine other worlds and possibilities narrated and created by us. So we first hack our body and the relationship with ourselves and then with others.


Frame from the video: "Así vivimos el taller Autodefensas Hackfeministas en Oaxaca!" of the Hackfeminist Self-Defence Workshop. Video by Eugenia.

JR: Do you have tools you are developing that people can take with them?

LA: The process is completely experiential and lived. But there is some printed material and methodologies on our Lab's wiki which we've developed that can help you to continue. So if for example you have been in our workshops and want to continue to deepen physical self defence work with Comando Colibrí, or continue some hackfeminist self-defence and collective digital care with Laboratorio de Interconectividades or through these resources. Ever since we began we have connected to the processes of other allies, partners and collectives. This is so important to us.

JR: You are a collective of mostly young women. As a 56-year-old woman, I am interested if any older women are resistant to this kind of approach? Tell me something about who you work with.

LA: This project is also for whomever wants to draw close to it – women, trans* people, women human rights defenders, journalists, feminists, activists and sex workers: all these are bodies in danger. However, what you are saying is true: the profiles of women who connect with this are generally people who sympathise with feminism and the defence of human rights, and the majority are a certain age range of between 20-40 years of age. But it is not developed to exclude. As an example, one of the current processes that Comando Colibrí accompanies with a physical self-defence training is with sex workers, and they are of many different ages.

Now we are interested to speak to those other spaces that bodies transit through. One of the big challenges on the one hand is how to translate this workshop for youth and adolescents, because it is a whole different universe than for any older people who may be interested. So if we use the phrase “hack feminist” or “self-defence”, we are already making a certain determination of who might come. What we felt is that we could talk about this in a more artistic way for youth for example, and for people who do not come from such profiles so that it is more accessible. To use other words as descriptors and contextualising the training and accompaniment in certain circumstances. Something we have found that is common in many cases is starting with our bodies as our first technology and our first territory that we need to take care of and defend.

Something we have found that is common in many cases is starting with our bodies as our first technology and our first territory that we need to take care of and defend.

Something that is so important in this process is playfulness, and of course this is a learning we have from popular education and communication methodologies and from feminisms, and it is so essential in this process. When we actually give ourselves a chance to have fun, it does not matter who is the most techie or who knows how to fight or what type of body we have. What is important is what is built in this moment of time together. So that is what we are going to continue to do as we interconnect.


Autodefensas Hackfeministas Workshop, Oaxaca, 2016. Photograph by Eva Lépiz.

JR: So this process includes layers of physical, digital, emotional, psychological, spiritual and the whole dimension of having fun?

LA: Having fun but building knowledge collectively on our own terms!

In fact, we just released a video! We spend a lot of time in research and response and re-designing our workshop for different projects that we have as collectives. It wasn’t until relatively recently that we have been able to focus on documentation and systematisation. That is why it is so important to finally have this video. The filmmaker and the photographer are "compañeras" (friends) and were participants of this edition of the workshop. Also, we edited it together. We have been building knowledge and documenting this process even before the workshop, so the video is one part of a longer process. But for me and my particular experience, of doing a collective thing, I am focusing on writing this process in a poetic way.

We have been building knowledge and documenting this process even before the workshop, so the video is one part of a longer process.

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Footnotes

References

* https://lab-interconectividades.net/
* https://lab-interconectividades.net/autodefensas.hackfeministas/
* Escuela de Defensa Personal para Mujeres Comando Colibrí (Hummingbird Squad) https://comandocolibri.red

** The following interview was done with the help and interpretation by Erika Smith.

 

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