Permission to Return Home: Clarissa Tossin Interviewed by Mariana Fernández
Moving between installation and video, Los Angeles–based artist Clarissa Tossin’s work traces alternative narratives of place that excavate the past and reimagine the future. Her latest film, Mojo’q che b’ixan ri ixkanulab’ / Antes de que los Volcanes Canten / Before the Volcanoes Sing (2022), continues her exploration of appropriated Indigenous cultural motifs in modernist architecture by looking to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Sowden House in Los Angeles, built in 1926 at the height of the Mayan Revival style. Through a combination of documentary filmmaking and video-performance strategies, the film uses language, dance, and music to resignify the house within a Pre-Columbian architectural lineage.
Clarissa has been working on this project for the past four years, and from the script editing and translation work I collaborated with her on a few years ago, it has been fascinating to see the film morph and evolve as a result of her many collaborations. The contributions of contemporary Mayan artists Tohil Fidel Brito and Rosa Chávez reinscribe the house within the present Maya community, while the film’s incredibly complex score—developed with 3-D–printed replicas of Mayan wind instruments held in US and Guatemalan museums—reflects on what Pre-Columbian ritual objects can offer us despite numerous processes of displacement and translation.