On 26 March 2020, Mohammed Hossein, a Bangladeshi-born resident of Lavapiés, contracted COVID-19 and died in his home after attempting to contact the healthcare services by telephone. He didn’t speak fluent Spanish.
Artist, poet and publisher Dani Zelko spoke to Hossein’s family and friends by phone while under lockdown in Buenos Aires. Their voices are assembled in this book, Lengua o muerte (Language or Death), which rails against a death that could have been avoided, relating it to the urgent need for interpreters in the healthcare system and all administrative bodies. This assertion is backed by Hossein’s friends and migrant and social organisations regarding everyone’s right to express themselves in their own language.
In mid-March of this year, Zelko had planned to carry out a series of actions and presentations in Madrid in collaboration with Museo Situado, a network made up of different collectives and associations from Madrid’s Lavapiés neighbourhood, and the Museo Reina Sofía. The healthcare emergency caused by COVID-19 disrupted these plans and Zelko had to return to Buenos Aires, where he has remained under lockdown ever since.
His practices in Meeting are not designed to be done remotely, in a process that emerges from an encounter, from the proximity of bodies, yet the exceptional circumstances of the current situation and the urgency to pay heed to what is happening means the rules of engagement have changed. Lengua o muerte is available in PDF here.
Dani Zelko is an artist, poet and publisher from Argentina. His work is made up of words and people joined through a process which generates publications and events, whereby political tensions and language experiments feed into each other.
His publications include the books Frontera Norte, Juan Pablo por Ivonne - El contra-relato de la doctrina Chocobar, ¿Mapuche terrorista?, Las preguntas completas de Osvaldo Lamborghini and Selección sudamericana por la muerte, some of which have been translated into English and Portuguese. Furthermore, he has held exhibitions in Argentina, Paraguay, Cuba, Mexico, the USA and Canada.