Juliana Borrero is a Humanities and Language teacher in the Universidad Pedagógica y Tecnológica in Tunja, Colombia. She began looking for a degree in creative writing, but when she saw the way the low-residency MA in Individualized Studies program integrates the theoretical and the creative, she felt she had found her place. Since she completed her Goddard degree, her creative and research projects have changed radically.
Juliana: I came into the program asking “Can subjectivity play a role in research? Can my writing have a role in my academic work? Can academic language be more vital?” My larger question was: “What can be the relationship between academia and life?” I answered these questions in theory in my second semester; in my last two semesters I began to live them, to embody them. The main shift that happened for me at Goddard – and it changed everything – was away from “this is what I have to do” and toward desire and the body. I’ve always been a good girl, dutiful. In this program I was asked: “What do you want? What do you want to do with all this?” and then nurtured, inspired, pushed to take it forward in the bravest possible way.
As a writer, I recovered the possibility of play in language. Of loving to write. (One thing I never ceased being in awe of: there are amazing writers in this program, there is amazing writing being done.) I explored the unknown and scary: the question of woman, of mother, of pleasure. Goddard allowed me to work from my edge. I didn’t know the edge was so important for me.
Right now, I am making tunnels between embodiment, psychoanalysis, philosophy, art, and reflection on language. I am working to propose a conversation I feel everyone locked up in their little disciplines is evading. This is hard work, it requires understanding, shattering, and the thrilling construction of ways of bold, honest, and beautiful ways of knowing and being.
At the university in Colombia where I teach I have formed the Language and Peace project with a group of students. This project is based on the idea that if we are aiming at a community where things can be expressed and the recognition of difference is possible, then the conception we have of language and the relation that we have to it, must be drastically remodeled. As a group, we explore the questions we find in theory through the practice of writing; questions like: what does it mean to be incommunicated? what do we know about the other? what do we have to say about the experience of being women? what roads has writing from the body sent us down? We then take this writing ‘beyond the page’ in the form of installations, performances, and actions in order to incorporate the community in our reflections. These actions have been widely attended, producing passionate responses, silent awareness, and often harsh criticism, which has served to make us stronger and more mature as performers.
Within the university curriculum, I am now giving classes in epistemology that start with the questions “What do you love?” and “What did you know in the womb?”
Finally: I say at this moment that I am an artist at work, a writer and theorist, shyly but surely delving my tongue into performance art. My dream is to organize a living web of artists and writers who think like I do, that thought is inseparable from creation, that creation is inseparable from creating oneself – that this is the work, the most exciting work of all.
Excerpt from Juliana’s thesis, Autobiography of my tongue: towards a new language myth:
1. The making of an academic. Or the unmaking. This is the story of my evasions. The story of my rebellion. This is the story of coming into dialogue, into language, struggling for an academic existence committed to the social world, for a persona not detached from body, desire, life. It is the story of the explosion of certainties, the dynamiting of lies, the shedding of skins, the coming out into a theory and practice of language fresh and vulnerable and new- that is only beginning to show its moist, green bud. So much has been done, but almost everything is yet to be said.
2. Oh, dear, I had almost forgotten: I am a woman. I had never really stopped to think about it; I mean, I had never thought that it might have something to do with the sensation of being educated with a knowledge that never quite fit. I never thought it had something to do with the feeling of never being home, always being strange, foreign, stranger. Speaking in a language that always was like speaking in tongues. Crazy woman, opening up drawers inside herself and getting celebrated for those drawers. And what when I pulled them all out. What would I find there? Would I be bold enough to make sense of the air running through my hollows? With only these air holes, these empty spaces (not language), to invent, to reinvent, the self.
3. I am a woman thinking about language in academia. Anyone who wants to understand this quest will have to hear the story of the flood. How I had language and loved language, but the more I had it the more I wanted it to be true. I wanted powerful language, magical language, melodic language, and thus all the false words started to fall away, every day a new handful of them, until the distressful moment when I realized that the only word I still wanted was on the other side. I had spoken of breaking language in order to find a language for myself but I hadn´t reflected on what would happen if I pursued this mission beyond simply stating it as a kind of cheeky comment. Sailing through the walls like Alice. Learning that stillness is really movement. I became a sort of witch and when I arrived at the other side, I was all alone with my one word and no other. I was all alone and afraid, and alone, and lost and nothing made sense anymore.
4. A woman is walking in a thunderstorm under a red umbrella. Her face is completely placid, as if she knew home was far away, her feet were already wet and she was enjoying the drumming of the rain on the surface of the umbrella. Everyone else on the street is either taking a taxi, running hysterically, or locked up in their homes. Yet she walks on, like an angel of the times, an angel against the times, an art form, a performance, a cry, a complaint so sure of itself it is uninterested in others’ reactions. If this is what it means to be human, this hysterical running into taxis, this locking shut of doors, then I am with the rain. I am with beauty and I will offer no excuses for walking at my own pace. So let the thunderstorm come in. Let my language open up and swallow it whole. Let the storm come in, the contradiction. Let all the water in heaven come down, and make the grass grow, make the plants inside me grow. I want to open myself and show these words like wild flowers, this garden, and not have to argue, and not have to justify. It is all there. Look anywhere. Follow the tracks of the authors. It is written in the “corpus” of academia. There is the howl for a sense of living. For a return to what palpitates. Let this old form crack open, fall to the sides of me, and leave only the impossible text. Woman in a rainshower. I have been pressing these pages under my jacket, tightly against my breast, to keep them dry. It is impossible. I am all wet. When a woman writes with full knowledge of what it means to write as a woman, every single page gets soaked. The letters blur. Rivers run down the pages. The text overflows into a larger structure. The page is only one point in the constellation that is text. The rest is cosmos, forest, body, other, full-fleshed life force refusing to be ignored.
5. [Real, I say and dump a glass of cold water on his head. You are real she says and gently bites the tip of my shell. I know it´s real, he says, and her eyes well with his tears. Will we be brave enough to embrace what we want when it is in front of us? Will we be able to make home in the moving ground where it all comes together? Or will we consequently dissociate… multiply… dissolve? Will we be smart enough to re member the intelligence of affection? ]
With scars like tattoos. With language like rain. Silent rages and essential disbelief. And nothing but lies to redeem them. Language like eyes, piercing the masks we have so carefully fabricated. Its sound sonority, caressing all of our abortions like a plaster of wet herbs, all of our unknowing, our blindness, our imprecisions, our pretension, stories swallowed up and stored in boxes like teeth Only language, its soothing undertones, to woo to sleep this ocean of evasion. Language being filled with such desire for truth spelled out as love, embraced as life If only our words could be used to ask forgiveness for so much ingratitude. How will we know when the lying stops?