Ben Zawalich is a visual artist and educator originally from Boston, Massachusetts, who has been living and working in Santiago, Chile since 2015, and Cali Colombia since 2020. He received his BFA in Printmaking at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and his MFA in Painting from Boston University. In 2014 he completed an MA in Printmaking from the Royal College of Art in London. He has exhibited internationally at The Inside Out Museum in Beijing, The Intuitive Machine Gallery in Santiago, Chile, and with the Bloomberg New Contemporaries at the ICA London and World Museum in Liverpool.
Written on the 15th of July 2021 in Cali, Colombia as if written on the 24th of May 2021, still in Cali, Colombia.
This book showed up right around the halfway point of a bizarre two year stretch in which I became a permanent legal resident of three American nations, and then watched each of those countries burn themselves to the ground in one way or another. From the 19th of October 2019, up till today, the day I Fed-Ex-ed this book to Minnesota, I’ve experienced what seems to be a continuous, consistent, and escalating push toward a dark, inevitable, yet to be named, I don’t know, something or fuckin’ other.
Santiago was like being inside a giant fishbowl while the house came down around it. In Boston we watched it on TV as a whole family. Cali, however, has been something all-together different. It’s like it all culminated right outside my window, where I’ve been watching it now for a month, from 14 stories above the Portada Al Mar, along the Rio Cali, a few blocks from Siloe, where things have gone well past any of my personal metrics of understanding. Fed-Ex is still up and running though.
Over the course of this period, I also buried two well-mannered fighting fish (Cazimir The First, and Cazimir The Second), gained a West Highland Terrier, froze four human embryos, and chain-smoked my way through two property purchases that I’m pretty sure I’m now regretting. It seemed then, that this book that arrived blank, somewhere during the Boston phase of things, needed to be a kind of record that processed these events. So, I took what I’m sure you would agree were the obvious appropriate steps: Cocktails, Immigration Papers, and a Good Ol’ Fashioned Book of Hell Drawings.