al lado, afuera. // beside, outside. (2018)

Still from video  al lado, afuera. // beside, outside. ; Guatemalan women’s demonstration with subtitle “Two hundred thousand Guatemalan refugees living in camps three kilometers from the Mexican border in Chiapas.” Source footage from  When the People Lead  (Dir. Merran Smith & Michael Simpson, 1993).

Still from video al lado, afuera. // beside, outside.; Guatemalan women’s demonstration with subtitle “Two hundred thousand Guatemalan refugees living in camps three kilometers from the Mexican border in Chiapas.” Source footage from When the People Lead (Dir. Merran Smith & Michael Simpson, 1993).


My research-creation dissertation (York University, PhD in Visual Arts, 2018) investigates the question 'how are human rights enacted/performed?’ by examining solidarity activism in Guatemala and the hemispheric networks that enable it. The essay film al lado, afuera. // beside, outside. (2018, 21 min.), a synthesis of interviews with contemporary activists looks at human rights accompaniment—the process of situating oneself as an unarmed volunteer, assuming a physical presence alongside social activists who are victims of political threats, in order to dissuade violence, bear witness, and activate international solidarity networks. The performative repertoire of accompaniment activism is explored upon the backdrop of the LAWG (Latin American Working Group)’s collection of solidarity documents (1965-1997) and a large wall drawing that maps networks of solidarity activism, thereby contextualizing this little-known embodied activist practice and exploring entanglements between the material archive and the ephemeral repertoire.

A poster series created from selected LAWG documents highlights the material and historical foundation of today’s accompaniment activism in Guatemala. By continuing to scan these documents in the gallery space as a durational performance throughout the exhibition, I highlight the labour performed in solidarity activism, and the ‘change of state’ from paper materials to digital files, thereby mirroring of the trajectory from pre-Internet campaigns of letter-writing, info bulletins, flyers and posters, etcetera to today’s digital forms of solidarity mobilization, and the various temporalities of solidarity and performance.  

In transforming the collection from a material to a digital archive, I am creating an open source online repository of these crucial materials, as well as a gallery installation and a publication that highlights the aesthetics and materiality of pre-Internet solidarity activism, posing the question how does the materiality of solidarity evidenced in the LAWG collection work in tandem with embodied performances of solidarity activism?

Dissertation Paper: “al lado, afuera. // beside, outside.: The performance of solidarity between archive and repertoire in Guatemala and Canada” PDF

Photos by Eva Kolcze, 2018.

al lado, afuera. // beside, outside. Credits:

Directed by Zoë Heyn-Jones

Editing by Zoë Heyn-Jones, Terra Long, & Eva Kolcze

Sound design by Zoë Heyn-Jones & Terra Long

Found footage (in order of appearance):

Keepers of the Wampum Prod. Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs, 1974. Video.

When the People Lead Dir. Merran Smith, Michael Simpson. Prod. Variations on a Wave & Canadian International Development Agency, 1993. Video.

Senses of Man. 1965. Educational Film.

The Sexually Mature Adult. Prod. John Wiley & Sons. 1973. Educational Film.

The Skin as a Sense Organ. 1975. Educational Film.

Wings to Guatemala. Prod. Pan Am. Dir. Jean Oser. Written by Robert Hertzberg. c1950. Travelogue Film.

Vamos a Guatemala. Prod. International Film Bureau Inc. & Pan American Union. 1956.

Under the Gun: Democracy in Guatemala. Prod. Icarus Films (New York, NY). Camera, Burleigh Wartes; editor, Marcello Navarro F.; music, Leslie Steinweiss, 1987.

Guatemala 1968. Camera: James Mondloch, PhD. 1968.

“Rios Montt Trial.” Democracy Now! 19 April 19 2013. Television.

The Man Behind the Badge: The Case of the Priceless Passport. Prod. Bernard J. Prockter. 1955. Television.

In the Company of Fear Dir. Velcrow Ripper. Prod. Jill Sharpe & Reel Myth Productions, 1999. Video.

Still Photographs:

Accompanier photos: Pam Cooley, personal archive.

CPR community portraits: NISGUA photo archive, photographer unknown.

Additional Super 8 footage by Zoë Heyn-Jones

Much gratitude: NISGUA | ACOGUATE | Terra Long | Eva Kolcze | friends at LIFT, in

particular TJ Ediger | Karl Reinsalu | Justine McCloskey | Celeste Mayorga Urbina | AMPD

(School of the Arts, Performance, Media & Design), York University | Janine Marchessault | Nell

Tenhaaf | Laura Levin | Carlota McAllister | Dot Tuer | CERLAC | Nathanson Centre on

Transnational Human Rights, Crime & Security, Osgoode Hall Law School | Octavio Castro

Gallardo | Miki Heyn | Bill Jones | Corinna Heyn-Jones | Pam Cooley | Gaby Labelle | MISN (the

Mining Injustice Solidarity Network)