Rodrigo Velasco




Xopan cuicatl;
Algorithmic poetics, a living repository of Nahuatl memory.





How can a writing process — that combines formal logic, and poetic expression — offer a new perspective on indigenous Nahuatl culture, principles, and aesthetics? And in return, how is it that the principles of Nahuatl poetry 'in xochitl in cuicatl' (with flowers and songs) — expand our perspective in the study of algorithmic poetics?





Inspired by « cuicamatl » [trans. « song books », a concept that intimate poetry and song books as living repositories of knowledge. « Xopan cuicatl » it is part of an ongoing process of reimagining Nahuatl poetry through writing code. Embracing Nahuatl 1 principles to expand our perspective in the study of algorithmic poetics, exploring forms of coding that transform how we experience the web, unfolding time by writing functions, algorithms that make sound and visual frequencies vibrate.

« Niyolpaki » and « Niyolchoca » are artistic works based on poems written by various «cuicapicque» (songwriters, poets), originally published by Miguel León Portilla in « Quince poetas del mundo Náhuatl ».2 « Niyolchoca » explores four poems, each of which is a constellation exploring a symbolic universe strongly associated with Nahuatl culture. Combining visual poetry and electronic literature, the algorithmic interpretations are living repositories of Nahuatl memory. « Niyolchoca » means « my heart is sad ». It is a possible answer to the question: « Tlen ki ijtoa mo yolotl? » « What does your heart say? » This is a trace of the importance of « speaking and living with the heart » in Nahuatl culture. « Niyolchoca » echoes a previous work also part of this research-creation, 'Niyolpaki', which means « my heart is happy ». « Niyolchoca » explores four poems, each of which is a constellation exploring a symbolic universe strongly associated with Nahuatl culture. Combining visual poetry and electronic literature, the artwork activates non-linear processes and visual representations of spirituality in Nahuatl culture.

This research-creation is a study of reimagining Nahuatl memory, creating abstract worlds and emergent multiplicities of non-linear flows, greatly inspired by « cuicamatl » [trans. « song books », specially by the freedom of writing and reading differently each single time. These explorations are an opportunity for drifting through each of these worlds in the making. In the web you can click here, but it has also been taken out into the world. In September 2019 Niyolpaki has been presented in Montreal as part of the exhibition « Codex _ Traversé du silence », at the « Salle de diffusion de Parc-Extension » and from February 20 to March 28 « Niyolchoca » has been exhibited at TOPO, Digital Writings Lab, exploring the reconquest of roots and inheritances, through questions about memory and death.

[1] Nahuatl is a Uto-Aztecan language spoken by approximately 1.5 million people in Mexico. Most speakers live in central Mexico, including in Puebla, Veracruz, Hildago, San Luis Potosí, Guerrero, Mexico City (Distrito Federal), Tlaxcala, Morelos and Oaxaca, as well as El Salvador. There are fewer speakers of Nahuatl in the rest of Mexico and parts of the United States.

[2] León-Portilla, Miguel. "Quince poetas del mundo Náhuatl", Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas, 1994.