Cambio de Armas | Adriana Berrio

Made in Colombia (a collective embroidery by women who have been through the drug war)

Cambio de Armas

Adriana Berrio

Read the artist’s submitted proposal in this PDF file. Follow the further development of the proposal below. Click here for an overview of all proposals.

On hold

It breaks our hearts to let you know that due to unforeseen circumstances imagine art after will be on hold until further notice.

summer break

We will have a summer break until September.

Feel free to update your proposals if you wish. Have a good August!

on spendig time with women (Thoko)

One of the most difficult task for this project, is about time… Women are not located at just one place; the goal is to collect as many testimonies as possbile, and to embroider them will take time. The thing is they dont have all the time I would need to, they have families, jobs, and they have to go to the place where we will gather to embroider. The idea is to make a workshop about memory, and then about embroidering, and it will take at least three days, the issue is that what la Casa de la mujer ( house of women, the NGO I will work with) they say is very difficult for them to give three days on an activity…
So, that is something to solve out in this project…
I have already embroider with one women and it took me about a complete day to give her the chance to speak out her pain, and to help her with her drawing, now, it will be very difficult, which is part of the magic… I think!
If i could I would stay as much time as possible, but one of my goals is really to make a big statement on historical memory, gathering as much women as possible…

Thoko, thanks for your reflections, I really appreciate them!

Cambio de Armas…

I think giving women the opportunity to go through a period of reflection will give the project more depth. Spending time with them will earn you their trust so they can open up about their experiences. I suggest that you spend at least two months living with them.

Don’t however get carried away and distract your audience by using too many characters. Rather identify and combine similar experiences from different age groups and ‘classes.’ To establish a permanent home of support for these women could be a good idea towards healing.

What do you think about using all three ‘tools’ that the women have used or use for expressing themselves?

memory as a place to create

Last meeting with Casa de la Mujer, was extremely interesting. I think I figured out the size of this task.
First because I was thinking to work with the women they will put me in contact with…but I didn’t want to make a special selection. I was not thinking over if I wanted to work with afrodescendants, indigenous, peasants, young or old women…. I wasn´t really thinking about it…. but they put the question right away over the table. I think is fair and interesting for me to give it a thought. I also have to consider very well how many women would take part in the making of this “memorial”.

So, I would like to cover a broad variety of women, afro, indigenous, peasants, etc… I will like to work with women between 25 and henceforth. I also considerer that it should be over 50 women even a hundred, nor less, because is in that diversity that one can make sense and make an statement, an stronger political act. Now, what frightens me is first having the strenght to listen, because that is what I am offering: listening and acompanny, of course I will also like to start an experience that they can continue without me: a space, a place to gather and talk about their lifes and sorrows and make something of it, something creative, rather than lamenting or ignoring it, it could be assumed as an stimulant to create.

Another fact I have thought of, is that threads won’t have knots at the begginings nor the ends, they will be loose and needles will stay attached to the fabric, as a signal of each women that have participated and also because it is a way to recall the fragility of memory and a way to say that what we do (embroidering) is vulnerable to change always to change.

to be continued…

Casa de la mujer// Cambio de Armas

Today I had a very interesting meeting with casa de la mujer. At first they asked what I expected of them. I told them my interest was their connection with women, and taking part of a process, and have some guidance for taking this project to this very particular women around Colombia. Also I feel that their experience is richful for me, with hardly any social experiences at all. They have been working for about 20 years and they have different work groups. One of them (the newest group in fact) is Historical memory; cambio de armas, would take part on the process of historical memory, as part of the development of their own projects. The other “tools” they used for historical memory, are photography, music and now emboridery.
The goal of historical memory, is to make history with a greater sense, and inclusion. To help women understand their role, their place, their compromise towards their situation.
Any way, their proposal is they would help if I include the project into their projects and process, but my proposal now is maybe I can star with them, and move on towards other groups of women, and make this project “by pieces”, and not, as I was conciving it : making the whole piece at once, making a single journey through the colombian territory. Maybe I can do it in pieces.
Now about funding, they can help me but until monday they would tell me what this implies… I think it is important to make a distintion between the place tin which that would put me… I am not sure, if i would be just somebody giving an embroidery workshop through historical memory, or me as an artist, this being a project that is born deep in my heart…. I would like to loose this place….

Now, they are very interest that I work with women that already familiarized with embroidery, which is interesting, although I would also like to work with women that have no experience with embroidering at all….
This is all, getting some shape, and I am very excited to work with women around Colombia!!

I’ll be telling you some more, next week after our next meeting with casa de la mujer!!

bit slow with getting back

it’s stupidly busy at this end – amongst many things, I’m still in the process of completing 5 films for my forthcoming show at Camden Arts Centre which opens on Thur 9 June. be great to see you at the private view!!!


I would like to know on which dates can we start to develop the project, I have finally set up a meeting with Casa de la mujer for this friday, because its a day when they are all here in Bogotá… But I have not a clear idea of when would the projects can take place, are they ment to be start next year, this year….??
I ‘ve been counting to start this project as soon as possible, meaning this year; because I know that if I posponed this project too much it would be very difficult to make it real…but I dont have clarity on the dates on which the projects should be develop…And I think I really must know this in order to organize it with Casa de la Mujer.

Now, I am thinking to use about 2 months to develop the project; because I have come to realize that I cannot simply come and make the participants embroider. They must go through a process of reflection, analysis, and development of what their experience has been. They also need to have confidence on the project, because there are many NGOs there, and people, and they mostly feel use… and also, see how much free time they have for this task.

I havent say anything until now, because I’ve been trying to get together with the women from casa de la mujer, with little success, they are constantly travelling around Colombia, and it’s very seldom they are altogether at the same time in their office; In order to ask them how are the women organized, how do they work with this women. From what they have told me, I know that for many of the women, it is difficult to talk about their experiences, but I also know that they need to do it, that they need to be listen and although I am not going to solve their situation, I would like to give them the space to speak up.
This friday we will fix the places, my goal is to travel south, north, east and west, to cover the colombian territory, but one or maybe two towns for each direction, although I feel Its better not to rush anything, and to stay in one place in order to get to know the people better, and understand the situation.
I would also like to be accompanied by a man I met recently, he has a broad experience in working with War “victims” ( one thing he says is that is not healthy to use this word), making workshops for reconstructing people’s dignity and sense of life. working with him could be interesting for me, because of his experiences, because I know before embroidering, there are other things that should take place, as I say before, reflection, and My aim is that this experience will be helpful and of course a healing experience for both parts: me and them.
I have give a lot of thought about this, offering my ears to listen, my heart, my eyes, my presence. I feel that the only way I can do something for war, and to deal with it, is by doing something like this, in a way almost forgetting about me, and giving them all the space and opportunity to express their deep sorrows. I have been preparing for this in a very spiritual way, because I think this is the only way to handle such a task, which is not an easy one.
I do hope I can make this project work out.

production time & place

what’s the ‘Cambio de Armas’ production time? how long will it take to make the 15m embroidery?

where will the production take place?

bit lost

On what to do with the project at this time of the process…
What are we supposed to do now…?
Sorry I’m a bit lost…


Ok! Cambio de armas will stay then! its better this way because I do feel better with the title because I definitely not want to sound like ” tráfico de armas”!

Last week I decided to come back to Bogotá, from the last place where I was living. There were some severe changes there, and I understood I had to continue my way. I am any way following the spirit of the journey, and looking forward to be ready to start travelling/embroidering.
The place where I was living is called El arca verde, and its like a logde where they receive guest who work for the farm in exchange.

It was a a GREAT EXPERIENCE. I was very into it. I had lots of rituals, did lots of yoga and medtiation and of course explore the land, the stones, the stream, the trees, and all nature around. It was very interesting and I feel I learned a lot, it open my conscience to levels that make stronger towards many issues I have to confront in my life. I also realized that “cambio de armas” Its like healing project somehow, I am preparing myself to get stronger spiritually.

At the moment I am heading to go to the coast. I am not exactly sure when to go. But i am working on a project, making an almanac that is guided by the “cosmic rythms” and lunar movements. Which has been a very interesting project.

This is what I am working at the moment. And I am living in Bogotá as a visitor because I am not looking forward to stay here, so I am staying in different houses, and working in some friends studio.

Thanks for the reflection on the title!


Arms trade = ‘trafico de armas’, so I don’t think you want to use that in this context.

You can keep the Spanish title ‘cambio de armas’ if you want? Or otherwise ‘a change of weapons’, or ‘a change of arms’ are both good.

Where are you now Adriana, are you still traveling through Colombia? Do you already have an idea of where you will travel for this project?

title: Arms Trade

Well the truth is that some native english speaker told me it sounded explicit to say weapons, because it didn’t have the connotation as ARMS do… and she also adviced me to use instead of change, trade. The original title comes from a book from the author Luisa Valenzuela, and the translation was : “Other weapons”, which I found good…Do you recommend me to go back to this title instead? because in spanish it is the same still: cambio de armas… The word in conflict would be Weapons… because it sound it a bit explicit….but I do not want to talk about weapons specifically, but more about tools or even arms that have this 2 meanings.
I would like to know what you can advice me on the English title.


Hi Adriana, can you say a little more about the title ‘Arms Trade’? You had another title earlier when you started thinking about the project in the dialogues: ‘Cambio de Armas’ (Change of Arms/Weapons). Somehow that seems to suit the project better. What do you think? What made you change?

Arms Trade proposal

Brief Outline
Arms trade wants to empower embroidery as an alternative “weapon” for women involved in the Colombian conflict and encourage them to take up needle and thread as the way to speak about their war experiences to make our history include stories never told. Arms trade will result in a collective embroidery approximately 15 meter long fabric made by women in 5 different territories in Colombia, where war has been or still is present. The work in progress will travel to these different regions. The imagery will be a threaded story, making it in a sober and formal expression. This will be collaboration with Casa de la Mujer (Women’s House) an NGO working with women’s rights in Colombia. The exhibition of the embroidered story will include the documented process (video and photographs).

Emotion Behind the Project
My initial contact with the conception of this project was my embroidered handkerchiefs of painful situations. Doing this was my only response to dealing with the pain I felt when being surrounded by so much violence. One of the reasons for doing this work is to situate myself as the victim on any side and to better understand each persons view point without any judgement; humanizing and understanding the internal conflict of those whose dignity and essence manage to carry them through to tell the story and care for those who are left. The amount of time that embroidery takes allows reliving and reflecting the story by expressing the reality in a poetic form; a healing process, overcoming the denial that set in. That denial; the inability to cry out in turn begins to deface the reality. The reality becomes governed by the empowered media. Recognizing the denial helps us move on in a real world without forgetting.

Principal medium: Embroidery
Location of production: Colombia
Production budget indication: between £3,500-£10,000