Fiesta de Maguey
... with a contextualizing word by Alejandro de Ávila Blomberg, director of El Jardin Etnobotánico and a discussion with the audience.
Special thanks to: Talleres Comunitarios de Zegache: Camera- and display box - Salvador Pulido: Nube de Oro Garden Guide & InfoGraphics Alejandro de Ávila Blomberg, director of El Jardin Etnobotánico de Oaxaca de Juarez - La Mezcaloteca: Providing Mezcales.
When Patrick and Pacôme went to fix the mobile growing unit, they discovered a wild colony of honeybees hanging in the tree. Immediate action was required, and the glass sculpture "Capturing the Sun" was removed from its exhibition space. Would the bees move into this room, equipped with some fresh comb and honey? Maybe - if their potential house would be close to them, easy to get to?
A rope was reached around a branch and the exhibition piece hauled high up in the air.
However, the bees did not show any interest, for 2 days.
In a last effort, Patrick wanted to show them the way. He constructed a device with a blue plastic bucket and a Stanley knife attached to a 5 metre long pole. He wanted to cut the leaf where the bees were dwelling into the plastic bucket, using his new contraption.
Some attempts, then corrections of the tool, new attempts - we were invited to join Loes and Trudo to the mountains, to visit the community of weavers who had collaborated for the harvest of Maize at 3000 metres altitude - a unique opportunity.
The bees did not go anywhere. Neither did we.
Capturing the Sun was hung back on the three poles.
Since the beginning of the EITC initiative, FoAM and nadine are researching and exploring the two plants that are deeply embedded in Mexican culture. The plants are versatile in applications, have profound spiritual and mythical value as well as a deep importance in daily life in Mexico. Unfortunately, they face challenges in the near future. Fiesta del Maize Maguey uses the transformative power of art and culture to propose creative alternatives and a re-evaluation of their significance.
The exhibited works are the expression of ongoing processes and investigations, show the momentum of the present and the ongoing defining of their identities.
Exhibition open from Mon-Fri, 9am–3:30pm, Sat 9am–1pm. Guided tours in Spanish at 10:00, 12:00 and 17:00, in English on tue, thu, sat at 11:00.
Jardin Ethnobotanico, Reforma s/n esq. Constitución, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca
For more information, please mail firstname.lastname@example.org
or read the article in Spanish in El Jolgorio here: http://issuu.com/eljolgorio/docs/el_jolgorio_cultural_56
The main glass piece will be further sculpted by Christian Thornton (Xaquixe) according to the growth behavior of the maguey plant.
Early in the morning of the opening of the Fiesta, the piece was placed in the garden, close to the water block where many bees often stop to drink.
On the day before the Fiesta del Maize y Maguey exhibition was opened in the Ethnobotanic garden, we went to Don Pablo's apiary, to pick up the glass sculptures. There was a road block - announced already in the morning - due to a strike of teachers from Oaxaca. The obstruction was very local, but it effected precisely the one road leading to Don Pablo's place. Instead of 45 minutes, it took us over 2 hours in a collectivo taxi.
Finally, at the bees, we opened the protective box - and against all odds - they had decided to build! Some fresh, white wax comb on the top of the glass sculpture, and some at the bottom, sticking out through the opening! Fantastic.
The experiment had been successful, the honeybees had accepted the difficult material.
We took the sculpture off, and tried to chase most of the bees out of their newly built housing, but Don Pablo did not have much time, that day. So, we packed up and Don Pablo left us on the street corner to wait for a cab.
Jonathan, the photographer, An from nadine and me decided to wait some more for the last bees to leave and the road block to dissolve.
We sat in a little corner shop and ordered a beer. Not long, and the owner of the shop came with a jerry-can -we should try the Mezcal, a very special product from a friend of his- and poured some into a 0,2 plastic Coca Cola bottle that he had prepared for such occasions.
We tried - excellent stuff - thank you. Meanwhile, the bees slowly left the glass sculpture, the sun went down, and we took little sips of the Mezcal. The shop owner Lauro - meanwhile we learnt his name - drank with us, and had lots of questions. After repeatedly refilling the little plastic bottle from his jerry-can, he knew that we had to take the glass sculpture back to the Botanic Garden in Oaxaca. - No problem, he will close the shop in a few minutes anyways, and we can get a ride with him to town. An liked the Mezcal a lot, but got a bit nervous - Lauro was drinking with us, and would he then be the one driving us?
Some moments later, the sculpture in the trunk, and off we went - with Lauro driving. But he had to stop on the way at a friend's house - disappeared and came back with 2 beer cans and 2 glasses of Mezcal, a different Mezcal with Pericon, for the ladies ... a special one, we had to try.
On we went to the Botanic garden, feeling the strong aguardiente more and more, as we tried the new version, in a glass now.
We arrived safe at the garden, after dark, and quite tipsy. Lauro continued his journey alone, after giving us another little plastic bottle that he had in his jacket - for later.
In order to allow the agave to express his relation to light, and time, the piccolo (piccolo.cc) is used for agave leaf "writing". The simple 'drawing' is based on the data from a hibiscus glass solar cell acting as a light sensor that is transformed via arduino. The power system consists of sixty six natural dye sensitized glass solar cells -shaped after the seeds of teosinte (the mother of maize)- and two supercapacitors.
As soon as the growing agave stalk starts flowering, the agave will start writing on its leaves, as long as the cells provide sufficient power.
We had a delicious lunch on the way to Don Pablo, at a place called TierraNegra, and were warmly welcomed by Santa and Clemencia.
Then, we went to check the progress of the bees work in the glass. The glass was full of bees. However, there was not much building going on, at all. The season seems to be quite advanced, and the production of comb has already decreased. It was disappointing to see what had not happened!
On Wednesday, Ely from Studio Xaquixe came with a pick-up truck and the prepared glass sculptures to see us to Don Pablo, the beekeeper. The pick-up is a 2 seater, and 3 of our delegation of 5 - Patrick and Pacome from nadine and Jonathan the photographer - had to sit on the cargo area, in the back. During the 45 minutes ride, some preparations already happened and Patrick tried to get the solar panel working to feed the ipad. The idea was to use the ipad for a time lapse movie of the bees' work of the next 10 days.
At Don Pablo's house, we inspected the glass sculptures, drilled openings into wooden lids, picked up some suits and veils and went to his apiary. Don Pablo has been a beekeeper for 38 years and has 2 apiaries in the state of Oaxaca. When we explained the idea of putting glass sculptures on top of hives to let the bees build their comb inside it, he wondered how we would manage to place frames inside of the glass. Wildly built comb would not look good, he reckoned. And the impossibility of harvesting the collected honey also felt quite odd to him. But, he agreed to collaborate and he chose 2 good colonies for our experiment. The bees seemed to accept the new medium readily, and moved in.
However, the time lapse idea had to be dropped - the car charger that we found in a little shop in Oaxaca centre had too little of an output and the ipad could not be charged with solar power. The device was depleted within the first few hours after placing the glass.
The intensity of colours in Mexico is startling, and to no surprise it is reflected in the beekeeping outfits as well. Green and orange veils with very colourful hives.
The veils are kept on while driving as well - safety first!
Next visit at the bees is planned for Monday - to check how the building proceeds.
The concept of the piece is to capture the power of the sun by the work of honeybees in a vessel of glass, and once captured, there is no way out.
6 different glass sculptures were modeled in 2 afternoons. Some carry the stamp "Capturado", some are plain transparent quartz glass. The manufacturing consists of blowing, deforming and poking glass when it is 2000°C hot. Stamped panels are being attached and fused into the bubble before it gets its final shape, resulting in organically deformed and stretched letters. Then the piece goes into the cooling furnace overnight. Some sprinkles of beeswax at the inside make the material look immediately less cold and give it a culinary appearance like white chocolate.
The wax helps the insects to adapt to the material and appropriate it as their own.
Past, present and future of Maize and Maguey - translated into graphics
After visiting Oaxaca, Mexico in November 2011 for the kickoff of the project EITC; we realized there are a lot of artists/ graphic designers that spread their ideas, political thoughts, etc. through graphic prints with a specific visual language. Our main focus in EITC is on Maize and Maguey, and investigates the past, present and future of those plants. Results and findings are as well surprising as shocking.
The data visualization workshop want to try to translate all this information into speaking images that carry the powerful message drawn from the research. The workshop deals with questions like: how can we translate or visualize data into image? which visual (and or textual) language should be developed? how do people read these prints? what should our message be?
The workshop wants to tie together textual research and artistic practice. In the academic world data visualization is used as a way to structure and clearly visualize written texts. this workshop wants to take these figures a step further. The graphic prints are not only a representation of the research, but also an artistic interpretation/ translation.
Aim of workshop:
Transformation is ongoing - and creatives/the arts have a role on commenting on this.
The future is being shaped now and the role of arts is to shed light upon what is going on and upon what is being planned. This situation and transformation can be used as inspiration. The arts can become a platform that comments and proposes creative alternatives.
Contributions to new insights, methods, perspectives, approaches, within a local context, Oaxaca and further.
As means to understand these new futures we choose aesthetics, visualization, graphics, artistic expressions. Both the methods and tools, as well as the materials used can enhance the weight of the message.
Some reflections that arise during the process, and related images in the gallery.
A distinctive feature of agaves is the dramatic way they end their lives. Depending on the variety, they can live for anywhere from six to fifty years, and sometimes more. As the agave near the end of their lifespans, within few months, they sprout large stalks -powered by energy stored throughout their lives- that grow from the core of the plant up to eight meters high. (From the Research Gathering invitation, sent on Sept. 11, 2012_5:55pm)
The surface of a top glass plate needs to touch the surface of a bottom glass plate. In between there is a medium that keeps the energy going for a while. This medium is called an electrolyte, a strong salt solution without additives, such as an anit-diarrea solution for children. The studio glass plates are not smooth, so a typical liquid electrolyte used in the scientific/commercial world of natural dye sensitized solar cell technology, is not an option. The commercial electrolyte is very 'thin' and evaporates too quickly, reducing the life span of the cell an in turn creating nothing more that symbolic value. Hence, experiments with gel/paste type electrolytes that were started in Xaquixe studio in March 2012, have been repeated and enhanced.
Over Ado(r)ne > Aesthetics-On-The-Side
Let's keep focussed, when things get out of hand.
Another on the side, linking to the Venerative Artefacts Case Study -an sudden encounter during the Quest for Gas- with the 'Lower Countries Agave Patron Saint'. A male 'Virgen de Juquila' of the Lower Countries.
Grounding studiowork in the National Botanic Garden of Belgium (Meise), where the periferry hosts agaves in pot.
As for functionality of the experimental glass solar pieces with natural dyes as the active agent (in TiO2), multimeter testings are carried out.
Best results are obtained using a blueberry_hibiscus mix, with graphite/bee-wax carbon as a catalyst and most importantly an agar agar gelatine_children's electrolyte/mix (a mix that is used in the Temporary photoElectric Digestopians Labs). The gelatine has two consequences: one is to enlarge the life span of the cells (as opposed to liquid iodine used in most documented diy ndsc experiments). Second, two connect the two often uneven self-made glass pieces with less chance for empty space.
Top voltage value measured was 0,633 Volts (4-5pm, Sept 09). Three days after still 0,26V was measuredd. Amps in short circuit was approx. 0,03.
The other day, I came across a little booklet called "Beekeeping with the stingless bee, Melipona". Some thoughts that I find remarkable:
In Mexico the native, stingless bee - Melipona - has been kept since pre-historic times, especially by the Mayans. The honey that she produces tastes very different from the honey we know from our honeybees, and is highly esteemed for its medicinal value. The honey is watery in consistency and tastes lemony. A colony of Melipona only produces about a kilo of honey per season - not much compared to Apis mellifera. The melipona bee is much smaller than apis and the colonies are not so populated.
The Melipona bee is affectionately called colecab - lady bee - and holds a special place in people's belief, only topped by maize. Melipona is regarded as a holy animal, she has her own gods and distinctive ceremonies are connected with these bees.
The traditional way of handling the bees is intertwined with religious and spiritual rituals. The actual work with bees cannot be separated from the rituals that accompany it. These include making cords from sisal (agave sisalana) to hang little gourd bowls and preparing Saca, a gruel made from maize and water that will be sweetened with the first honey from the bees and hung into the gourd bowls.
The ancient ceremonies are performed with calling Maya bee gods to bless the bees in the presence of a shaman priest. The ceremony inlcudes preparing saca, balche (a mead in which the bark of the balche tree is soaked) and 13 cigarettes made by wrapping tobacco in husks of maize that had been soaked in balche. Hens have to be sacrificed, who first had to drink some balche and are then drowned. Masa seca is prepared with walnuts and made into tortillas, 9 stacked up and bound together with sisal. While smoking the 13 cigarettes, balche and soup is poured into each of the hives of colecab for blessing. The shamans are saying prayers 7 times and singing to invoke Maya god and 2 goddesses. The whole ceremony takes about 24 hours.
Beliefs have it that when a beekeeper dies, the bees have to be informed immediately of the death and be assured that they will be taken care of, otherwise, they will leave. Bees themselves must never be harmed and by no means killed!
Ceremonies are only performed for colecab, the stingless bee, and not for apis, the European honeybee, because only colecab is watched over by Mayan gods. However, when the first European honeybees came to Mexico, they caused a great deal of excitement. In comparison, they were so large, the colonies were so populous and they gathered so much honey that people were convinced that these were in fact the gods of colecab.
. Flor de Jamaica aka Hibiscus Flower
* same recipe at academic UNAM-source, but manduca is called 'ma'nduya'
According to the same source, The chatina language is related to the Zapotec, and is spoken in the South-East of Oaxaca state.
Between March x anz z 2012, a number of experiments are executed at enviroglas studio Xaquixe, 15km from Oaxaca city - between a burned down pencil factory and a newly built corn processing plant.
The experimental architecture for the light to electrical energy conversion in glass:
Glass plates, cut at different sizes, from 4x2cm min to 4x6cm max. are coated with various conductive materials for acceptable results. Silver is used, with gold, or selenium a.o. Also the most known formula using tin oxide is applied.
Most (stable) conversion of light into electrical energy is observed with a triple tin oxide coating of a 5x2cm piece of basic window glass.
Fiesta de Maguey November take-off with Oaxaca-observaciones and encounters, towards the multi-facet acknowledgement of the Maguey plant.
There are also legends which say that this Virgin (or another female Saint, e.g. the Virgen de Juquila in some cases) manifested herself; appearing on top of a maguey plant. Jansen, M.; Van Der Loo, P.; Manning, R. (1988) Continuity and identity in Native America: essays in honor of Benedikt Hartmann
Brill Academic Pub. p. 185
FoAM is a network of transdisciplinary labs for speculative culture > http://fo.am