When I first met Arlan, he was more of an anarchist and more confrontational, although always friendly and with his measured way of seeing, thinking and acting. It was 1996 and Colombia was in the midst of devastation, bloodshed everywhere, paramilitaries and guerillas kidnaping and killing, corrupt governments focusing on their pockets and image, and we art professionals still somehow transfixed by contemporary art, the white box and the international scene. Arlan’s contribution to the national Salon of Colombian Artists that year was a kettle of black vultures, which he painted on the cornices, corners, borders and edges of the exhibition space. The title of the piece was Phoenix, 1995-1996.
A few years later, we saw each other again in Manizales, a small colonial city (in every sense of the word) embedded in the central mountain range of the Colombian Andes. Arlan was a professor at the National University there. He was still the same, dressed in black, as anarchist as ever and even more outspoken politically. His light came on when he was in good company. Surrounded by brilliant minds, many of whom he helped polish, Arlan was, as much as anything, a jeweller, with great intuition and always in search of raw gemstones. Always sharing everything and commit- ted to his gregarious role, he worked for the benefit of the crowd so that others would shine, while he remained behind the scenes.
We met again in Havana in 2006. Both of us had been expelled from Colombia. He had served tables, washed dishes and done odd jobs in NYC until he grew tired and moved, undocumented, to Toronto. I had learned carpentry and plumbing amongst other things, which I never had a use for in the arts, but proved useful for life. In the heat of Cuba, Arlan never stopped wearing black, not there nor in Merida, Yucatan, at 40 degrees in the shade (although he did take off his Converse, replacing them with Mayan sandals).
I think that it was in Toronto where Arlan perfected his method. He couldn’t have been in better company: Julieta, his brightest star, a piece of the Caribbean in the cold North. He rapidly built a network. Exile brings about the best of you (sometimes also the worst). His America became clearer, his interests expanded: New media, art that is socially and politically committed, work that is carried out in networks, horizontally and collaboratively. Along with Julieta, he founded e-fagia. These spaces that were created digitally (with one’s fingers, as we say in the south to underscore an element of precarity in this work) are testimony of his commitment.
After our encounter in Havana, we saw each other repeatedly. Always with clear objectives, without excuses, we would act, build, collaborate. Arlan was clear about something: the ones who have survived and have possibilities are in debt to the ones who have none, who have no voice. We dedicate our efforts to the ones who have been made subordinates. With humility, without mediation, with the heart.
Compa, as the Phoenix — until next time,
– Miguel Rojas-Sotelo
On Thursday 23 May 2013, Arlan Londoño, the co-founder and curator of e-fagia organization, passed away suddenly in his home in Toronto. Arlan has been one of the pillars of our organization and an inspiration to all of us. As an artist, curator and activist, he struggled everyday in the arts to create projects at an impossible rate; projects that established a dialogue with their social context and were rooted in the real experiences of daily life. He was a friend like no other — always acting as a bridge, linking diverse communities, artistic disciplines and activists around his projects.
His activities in these last few years are almost too many to list: co-founder of e-fagia; co-founder of No Media Collective; originator of interdisciplinary art projects like DystoRpia, Sub_version, In_dependence and Displacement; organizer of new media exhibitions like the Digital Event series (2006–2013), Videophagy (2009) and Pan-Americas (2010); editor of numerous publications with e-fagia and of the web issue of Disfagia Magazine; photography and video workshop facilitator; web developer; member of the board of di- rectors and programming committee of the aluCine film and media festival; collaborator of the Colombia Action Solidarity Alliance, to name only the most significant ones.
As the architect for the sym- posium on Decolonial Aesthetics of the Americas, Arlan was deeply invested in thinking through the meaning of decolo- nization as linked to culture, politics and aesthetics. We watched his enthusiasm in initiating this project, and it is in his hon- our that we bring it to fruition.
As his friends, we will always remember him as a generous, endless conversation partner, a frustrated dancer, a polemicist, a drinker of coffee with rum, a music and film enthusiast, an insatiable and imaginative reader, a joker, a confidant. We will miss his smile, his laughter and his way to challenge us with his honest criti- cism. Goodbye, Arlan. You will always be in our hearts.
– e-fagia organization
A donation in memory of Arlan Londoño can be made here: https://www.paypal.com/ca/cgi-