During the Mexe festival in Porto in September 2017 ICAF were introduced to the work of Jorge Vargas from Mexico. Jorge is artistic director of Teatro Linea de Sombra, an internationally renowned multidisciplinary art organisation that has been around since 1993. The company consists of theatre makers, musicians, visual artists, and researchers. Characteristic of their work is a profound social engagement and a very careful and participatory way of working during the development of performance projects about such sensitive issues as immigration, violence and human rights. Thus, in 2016 Linea de Sombra collaborated with residents, young actors and visual artists in a very impressive project in popular neighbourhoods of Xalapa in the state of Veracruz, a city deeply affected by drug-related violence. The title of this enterprise was ‘el puro lugar’ [the pure place]. It employed a method that Vargas himself called ‘archeological autopsy’ of a community: precisely, discretely and sensitively digging for tangible and intangible material (including stories) in various spots in the city and subsequently sharing them with a small, invited audience through intimate site-specific theatre scenes and art installations.
‘El Puro Lugar’ benefited from a very strong aesthetic, something which is not always a given in community arts. In addition to artistic reasons, the form of ‘El Puro Lugar’ was also determined by ethical and security-related considerations. Frequently, journalists and other outspoken critics of drug violence are murdered in Veracruz and elsewhere in Mexico. Discrete, intimate, participatory art is one of the few ways left to address this delicate subject and does so by transforming areas where death and destruction rule in pure places with poetic means. The unusual, extremely careful and caring way in which Teatro Linea de Sombra develops their project on the basis of research, experiment and profound ethical and aesthetic sensitivity contributes to the innovation of the community arts field.