Events

Fiesta del EITC - the Homecoming
26 Oct 2013 - 29 Oct 2013
Fiesta del EITC -the homecoming; in Between Gallery
The artists and artisans from Europe and Mexico are closing the cycle of their two year collaborations with an exhibition and public presentations followed by a book launch and movie preview. The two year journey of the EITC project results in a co-created artistic show of diverse works and replicas from transformative processes between art, crafts, technology, ancient beliefs, contemporary cultural exchange and visions for alternative futures.

We welcome you to the event in Art Space In Between, Chaussée d'Ixelles 211, Brussels on 26th of October!

16:00 Doors open

17:00 - 18:30: Introduction and Stories

18:30 - 19:00 Publications' Launch

19:00 - 21:00 Vernissage with drinks sponsored by the Embassy of Mexico

 

21:30 Movie-Preview "Memories of Development by Dougald Hine and Nick Stewart at Plateau (rue du Berger 30 Herderstraat, Ixelles)

The exhibition stays open from Oct 27th to 29th 2013, from 12:00 to 18:00. 

 

Two years ago, in Oaxaca, a group of artists and artisans from Europe and Mexico set out on a journey into each other’s worlds. This October, as the cycle of the Euroaxacan Initiative of Transformative Cultures comes to a close, we gather in Brussels to share the fruits of our journeying and to make sense of what we have brought home with us. Our first steps together were taken during the festival of the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and the ongoing presence of the past has shaped our collaborations. Following the invitation of the Mexican thinker and activist Gustavo Esteva, we have tried to find our way ‘back from the future’. The heroic rocket-thrust of modernity becomes the cautionary tale of Laika, the space dog, drifting to a lonely death. In its place, we look for other stories whose heroes know that getting far out is the easy part, it’s finding your way home that is the real challenge. Among the experiences of pilgrimage and economic migration, can we find our own paths home – wherever home might turn out to be – to a place where the exponential projections of industrial time fold back into a more rhythmic sense of temporality? This Homecoming is a chance to gather the fragments and share the memories of the past two years, in the many forms they take. An exhibition of the sculptures and installations made by FoAM, nadine, the Talleres de Zegache and Xaquixe. A launch of The Crossing of Two Lines, the book produced by Dougald Hine and Performing Pictures during the project. A screening of part of Memories of Development, a film centred on a dialogue with Gustavo Esteva. And an evening of stories, ideas and conversations in which the European and Mexican partners reflect on what we have learned together and where it has led us. Join us for Euroaxaca: The Homecoming on Saturday, 26 October, 16.00 onwards.

Participating artists are bartaku (BE), Christina Stadlbauer (BE), Various Artists (BE), Pacome Beru (BE) and Patrick DeKoning (NL), Performing Pictures (SE), Transfer Studio (SE), David Cuartielles (SE) , Dougald Hine (UK/SE), Christian Thornton (MEX), Daniela Porras (MEX), Luis Canseco (MEX) and La Piztola (MEX).

Fiesta del EITC - the Homecoming; in Between Gallery
Fiesta del EITC - the Homecoming; in Between Gallery
Fiesta del EITC - the Homecoming; in Between Gallery
Fiesta del EITC - the Homecoming; in Between Gallery
Fiesta del EITC - the Homecoming; in Between Gallery
Fiesta del EITC - the Homecoming; in Between Gallery
Fiesta del EITC - the Homecoming; in Between Gallery
Fiesta del EITC - the Homecoming; in Between Gallery
Fiesta del EITC - the Homecoming; in Between Gallery
Fiesta del EITC - the Homecoming; in Between Gallery
Nube de Oro - Research Gathering #2
22 Jun 2013
Nube de Oro_dormant and active nodes
Christian Thornton and Bartaku showed dormant and active Nube de Oro nodes at "El Jardin Etnobotánico de Oaxaca de Juarez".

... 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 JuarezLa Mezcaloteca: Providing Mezcales.

Nube de Oro Box
Nube de Oro Box dormant solar cells and part of Glass Plotter
Nube de Oro Box dormant solar cells
Audience & Bartaku Q&A
Wall, People, Box
Nube de Oro Box
Nube de Oro Box Glass Plotter (detail)
glass plotter (detail) operated by agave final energy
Glass plotter and piccolo (digi cnc writer) on agave leaf
Glass plotter, dye sensitized solar cell ingredients, agave leaf
Glass piece pulling up plotter with agave force
Speech by director of Jardin Etnobotanico
Glass plotter on agave stalk (quiote)
Survived the quiote fall glass piece
Nube de Oro - Research Gathering #2
Christian Thornton (L) and Alejandro de Ávila Blomberg (R)
Left over Nube de Oro
Research gathering audience
Transmedial spaces, transmedial stories: Co-creating religious artefacts
17 Jun 2013 - 21 Jun 2013
Professor Karin Becker and Geska Helena Brecevic's paper "Transmedial spaces, transmedial stories: Co-creating religious artefacts " has been selected for the ICA 2013 pre-conference on Transmedia Storytelling among the top 15 selected papers.

The paper traces the collaboration between Performing Pictures and the Talleres Comuniatrios de St. Ana, Zegache St. Ana, and the co-production of a video animation of the local patron saint St. Ana, mother of Mary. It examines the narratives of locality, religion and artistic practice that the animation gives rise to as it moves across different media platforms and locales. Religious (re-)inventiveness has played a crucial role in the cultural resilience of the indigenous population of Oaxaca. The venerative practices of Zapotecos, Mixtecos and Nahuas, though firmly Catholic in their faith, have repeatedly challenged the sacrament-orientated hierarchies of the Hispanicized clergy.

Today the church of Santa Ana Zegache constitutes the artistic, cultural and spiritual landmark of the town. Twenty years ago, this 16th-century building, and all of its artwork, was in ruins. The Community Workshop of Zegache was established to train local women in various techniques of conservation and restoration. A decade later these local people had restored the the church to its past splendor - a masterpiece of "Indian Baroque" – and the community workshop had grown to 17 members, both men and women.

In 2008, the Stockholm-based video artists, Performing Pictures started a long-term collaboration with the Zegache artisans. Several inter-active video shrines with animated saints and apparitions are the result of this artistic, cultural and technical exchange. Together they have shaped new outlets for venerative practice that combine crafts with media technology, electronics and animation.

The paper examines the meaning of these works first, for the artists and artisans, and second, for other residents of Zegache, as they encounter the animated figure of St. Ana in different spaces and media formats. Its point of departure is the production of the video animation of St. Ana in November 2011, and its first local showing as an iPhone app. The second phase of the project involved building a small, solar powered chapel at the entrance of the town, to house the video-animation. Phase three is a workshop in digital story-telling to be carried out in March 2013, asking both children and adults to record their own stories of the meanings St. Ana has for the town. Plans are being developed to extend the project to include members of the Zegache expatriate community living in Oregon.

Amor Es Un Lugar
30 Mar 2013 - 3 Aug 2013
Amor es un lugar

love is a place

& through this place of

love move

(with brightness of peace)

all places

yes is a world

& in this world of yes live

(skillfully curled)

all worlds 

 

e. e. cummings

 

Saturday March 30, at 12.00 Performing Pictures inaugurates Espacio Zegaches new gallery space on Plaza Lucero, Calle 5 de May # 412, Oaxaca, Mexico with the exhibition Amor Es Un Lugar. The solo exhibition features 13 new works that have been conceived in collaboration between Performing Pictures and Talleres Comunitarios de Zegache, Sta Ana.

Exhibition Fiesta del Maize y Maguey
25 Nov 2012 - 23 Jan 2013
Exhibition on Explorations around Corn and Agave at the Ethnobotanic Garden of Oaxaca

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 fiestamaizemaguey@gmail.com
or read the article in Spanish in El Jolgorio here: http://issuu.com/eljolgorio/docs/el_jolgorio_cultural_56

invitation flyer
Fiesta del Maize Maguey - Conference and Exhibition Opening
24 Nov 2012
Exhibition opening of works related to corn and agave conference with presentations of experts and artists

This final event summons the research and explorations done around the two plants that are deeply imbedded in Mexican culture. In a workshop at the beginning of November, graphic translations were explored in co-creation between artists from Europe and Oaxacan visual artists and artisans. In the following weeks, works are produced that combine various techniques, arts and crafts, resulting in installations, graphic works and visual art pieces. The exhibition focuses on the process and the ongoing investigations rather than on finished products and art pieces.

Maize Maguey Data Graphics
5 Nov 2012 - 7 Nov 2012
The 3-day Workshop investigates data on the two plants and the translation of this information into visual expressions.

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.

Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Maize Maguey Data Graphics
Research Gathering "Nube de Oro"
17 Sep 2012
Research Gathering "Nube de Oro"

With 'Nube de Oro' Christian Thornton and Bartaku investigate the subtle energetic and communicative properties of the agave power plant. This project brings glass and natural dye-based solar technology into relationship with the agave's living system. The agave has had a long and fragile relationship with humans, who have used almost all parts of the plant in some form - for textiles, paper, shelter, sowing, cooking and, most famously, for drinking (mezcal/'tequila') - and more recently as a biofuel. A distinctive feature of agaves is the dramatic way they end their lives. Depending on the species, they can live for anywhere between six and fifty years, and sometimes more. As agaves near the end of their lifespans, they sprout large stalks that grow from the core of the plant up to eight meters high. Powered by energy stored throughout their lives, adorned with flowers and seeds, this dramatic flowering can sometimes spark the same process in neighbouring agaves as well. After having transformed the landscape in this epic outburst of virility, the stalks collapse onto the now-shrunken and depleted leaves.

In the research gathering at FoAM Brussels, the ongoing explorations are presented together with first results of the marriage of glass work and photovoltaic cells. In a further step, the energetic sculpture will meet an agave at the plant garden in Meise, Belgium.

Presentation and research at the Kizhi Museum
19 Jun 2012 - 22 Jun 2012
kizhi euroaxaca performing pictures
EITC project coordinator Geska presented Performing Pictures' work with venerative artifacts at the XVI Annual International Scientific-Practical Conference ADIT-2012 “Cultural Heritage and Information Technologies” in The Republic of Karelia.

The annual conference has been held since 1997 and is one of the key All-Russian activities on promotion of information technologies among museums and other cultural institutions that facilitates the development of museums and exchange of regional experience. The conference was organized by the Kizhi State Open Air Museum, which arranged a day long visit to the museum, which started functioning on the island of Kizhi in 1951 and currently contains about 87 wooden constructions.

The most famous of them is the Kizhi Pogost, which contains two churches and a bell-tower surrounded by a fence. Since 1951, a large number of historical buildings were moved to the island. They include the Church of the Resurrection of Lazarus from Murom Monastery, which is regarded as the oldest remaining wooden church in Russia (second half of 14 century), several bell-towers, more than 20 peasant houses, mills, barns and saunas.

There are about 1000 icons of 16–19 centuries which includes the only in Russia collection of "heavens". There are also church items, such as crosses early manuscript of 17–19 centuries.

Image: The Church of the Resurrection of Lazarus

Tradition says that the church was built by the monk Lazarus in the second half of the 14th century. The church became the first building of the future Murom Monastery located on the eastern shore of Lake Onega. Over time, the church became the main attraction of the monastery as it was reputed to miraculously cure illnesses. The clergy announced the monk Lazarus as a local saint, and every summer, on 23–24 June, the church was attracting pilgrims. The building is 3 meters tall and has a perimeter of 9×3 m. The original two-tier iconostasis of the church is preserved; it consists of 17 icons of 16–18th centuries.

 

Zegache stories at the Digital Narratives & Visual Knowledge Symposium
15 May 2012 - 17 May 2012
Performing Pictures' Geska Helena Brecevic and prof. Karin Becker of Stockholm University will present the "Zegache stories" from the EITC project at the Digital Narratives & Visual Knowledge Symposium hosted by The Nordic Research Network for Visual Digitality.

The NNDV has invited a small group of researchers and PhD students primarily from the Nordic countries to participate. In this forum the intention is to create good conditions for dialogue and understanding of what digital narrative and visual knowledge mean and to identify relevant issues and critical points that are important for the participant's individual research projects as well as the theme for the symposium.
The basic idea for the three days is to “ground up” the theme “digital narratives & visual knowledge” from participants’ projects, experiences and ideas. The aim will be pursued by creating a creative frame for the symposium that invites the participants to bridge the gap between individual experience, ideas, projects. The intention is to come to a common understanding and unifying points in relation to the theme.

Changing Places: A Visit[ation] to Zegache
2 Feb 2012

The research project ”Changing Places” takes as its point of departure events that capture the attention of publics in different parts of the world. Focusing on events which are transmitted via public screens, we investigate how people communicate (or not) using these media, including the expressive forms they employ (image, text, sound) as they remediate their experience to other people and places. Several very different kinds of events are included in the project, from the sport mega-event of the 2010 Football World Cup and the royal weddings in Sweden and England to micro-events involving collaborative art installations for public space. Using primarily ethnographic methods, the research explores how these events are recorded and remediated through social and cultural practices that come into play as large format and handheld screens are used in arenas of public life.

This seminar reports on fieldwork carried out in November 2011, around the production of a video animation of St. Anna, the patron saint of Zegache St. Ana, a municipality in Oaxaca, Mexico. The work itself is part of a collaborative design process between Swedish artists Geska Brečević and Robert Brečević from “Performing Pictures” and the Zegache-based Talleres Comunitarios, an artisan workshop specializing in restoration and the production of religious artefacts. Merging media technology with a tradition of venerative artefacts, the animation will be housed in a chapel at the entrance of the town. There the interactive video shrine will “mediatize” a public space, as secular and sacred rituals become intertwined. In the meantime, the video animation has already appeared in other forms, including as an iPhone app.

In the seminar, the focus is on the collaboration involved in “animating St. Anna” through to the occasion when the work made its first appearance “on screen” in Zegache.  The documentation will be used to address questions about participatory or collaborative art involving artists from different parts of the world and the introduction of new media forms into traditions of venerative art. This in turn raises questions about mediatization and globalization of cultural practices and beliefs, in a specific local context and with possibly broader implications.

Stockholm University, Higher Seminar  / Thursday, February 2, 10-12 a.m.

Changing Places: A Visit[ation] to Zegache 
 
Department of Media Studies, JMK / Karlavägen 104, 5th floor, Bang-salen
 
Karin Becker and Geska Helena Brečević
 

 

TEDxOaxaca
5 Nov 2011

On November 5th, the final day of the Oaxacan Forum on Social Innovation, I was invited to speak at the first TEDx Oaxaca. It was a strange thing, to stand up and talk about a project at such an early stage, but it was also a good opportunity to think through what "transformative culture" actually means to me. Here is a slightly-edited transcript of the talk I gave.

 

1. Once upon a time…

Me llamo Dougald y soy narrador de historias.

Every story begins as a journey. Every journey leaves a map, which others may follow or take as a warning to try a different route.

Sometimes my stories become words in a book. Sometimes, they become communities of people, coming together to make something happen. The process is not so different.

Let me tell you about two cases.

At Brixton Village in south London, my friends and I told a story about how twenty empty shops in an indoor market could become a hub of social and cultural life, a space where people would start new independent businesses that grew out of their passions. It caught people’s imagination, and within a year, the market was full for the first time in a generation.

School of Everything is a website, but also a dream: what if we could index the human library? Because when you develop a new interest – in comic books, or philosophy, or 1920s jazz – the chances are that there’s someone living in the next street or the next town who got interested in it a few years ago and from whom you could learn. We wanted to make it really easy for you to find each other and meet up. It became a network with thirty thousand members around the world, organised around the idea that everyone has something to learn and everyone has something to teach.

These projects are like fungi: visible and colourful, but the connections between them are not so obvious. What is the link between an educational web startup and a project to regenerate a local market? Like fungi, the connections are below the surface, in the mycelium: the web of ideas and stories that I have been talking and writing about for years.

And, interwoven with this, the network of conversations and friendships, spaces for thinking together, sharing and probing, playing with our ideas, which make up the cultural context from which these projects have grown.  I think of the Truth & Beauty evenings taking place twice a week at the new Hub Westminster; or Luminous Green, the gathering in Belgium last year at which I met many of the artists who would make up the European end of the Euroaxacan Initiative for Transformative Cultures.

If I try to make sense of what “transformative culture” could mean, then I have to start with gatherings like these and the conversations they make possible.

 

2. The Power of Culture

Before I come to our collaborations in Oaxaca over the next two years, I want to say something about the power of culture: how we often underestimate it, and why it is particularly important at this moment in history.

Culture is a complex word: sometimes we use it to mean arts and literature; at other times we use it to refer to the whole range of beliefs, traditions, jokes and stories, customs and practices which make up a way of living.

In modern societies, we tend to have a geological model of the role of culture. We treat it as a soft surface layer of human existence, on top of the hard material and economic realities which determine our lives. Culture is treated as superstition or as entertainment, a way to distract or protect ourselves from those serious realities which we can do little to change.

But this is misleading. When I tell a story, I am not just entertaining you: I am drawing your attention to particular things, and away from other things. If I tell a new story about a situation, and that story makes sense to you, then you will see the situation differently, and you will feel and act differently, as a result, in ways that may change the economic and material realities of that situation.

The owners of that market in Brixton had a story about it: it was a problem; there was no demand for all those empty shops, and the local community wouldn’t allow them to redevelop it. Our task was to tell a different story, which said that there was no real shortage of talent, energy or ideas within walking distance of that market, that there were people who lived locally who had money to spend but didn’t spend it on their own doorstep, and that a community which wants to keep a building you own doesn’t have to be a problem: if you take the right attitude, it could become a supporters club, that wants the market to succeed.

Telling a story is as powerful as drawing a map: it is a way of reframing a situation, bringing new possibilities into view. Even our economic system – which is often presented as a natural phenomenon, governed by rules as fixed as the laws of physics – is more like a collection of stories, or a set of maps, full of cultural assumptions, drawing our attention to certain possibilities for how we live together as humans, pushing other possibilities out of view.

All of this matters right now for two reasons.

First, because our societies are lost: the maps we have been following have led us into a whole lot of trouble. The world is on fire, and our leaders don’t know how to put it out. I do wonder how much longer it will seem credible for experts from Europe and the United States to come to countries like Mexico and tell stories about social innovation and economic progress, when our own societies are in turmoil and our governments are going cap in hand to China to support lifestyles and social structures we can no longer afford?

We need new maps and new stories to make sense of this situation. Meanwhile, my experience has been that the decision-makers who control sources of investment, funding or political support are still operating to those bad maps which got us so lost. Not because they are stupid, but because they are in an incredibly difficult situation. A bad map seems better than no map at all.

What this means for me is that the cultural domain feels like a more powerful place to operate than the domains of business or social innovation. Rather than pushing to scale the projects I’ve created and build them into larger businesses or organisations, I choose to concentrate my energy on helping to make new maps.

The second reason why it makes sense to operate within the cultural domain right now is the power of networks. Today’s technologies make it possible for stories and ideas to spread without permission from the centres of power, and without building businesses or organisations.

Last week, someone sent me an aerial photo of this year’s Burning Man festival, covered with red dots. Each one marks the location of a hexayurt: over 500 of them, scattered across the Playa. The hexayurt was invented by my friend, Vinay Gupta. It is a free open source shelter design that can be built for a hundred dollars a unit from materials already in the supply chain all over the world.

Back in January, some friends of ours built a hexayurt village on the banks of the main canal in Brussels, a connection which came about through that same Luminous Green gathering I mentioned earlier.

Meanwhile, the same kind of shelters are being built in Haiti and Sri Lanka, and by the Pentagon’s appropriate technology team. Not long ago, the World Bank funded an Alternate Reality Game called Urgent Evoke, which pictured a scenario later this decade in which the hexayurt has become the default shelter solution for disasters around the world.

What you have here is an innovation which is spreading around the world, but it’s not spreading the way that a business, a social enterprise or an NGO expands; it’s spreading the way that a joke or a story travels. And is there much difference between that and what we are seeing right now, with the Occupy movement?

So here’s how I see it: we’re living in a time when the transformative power of culture is needed, because of the mess the world is in, while, at the same time, networked technologies are amplifying this kind of cultural power.

Yet I want to be cautious about the power of these technologies, too: they offer new ways for stories to travel, but they do not help us to tell good stories. At best, they may help us reveal the bad maps and false stories by which our leaders are operating, but that is only the first part of the process of change, and by no means the hardest part. If we’re to make a decent job of living through the difficult years ahead, we need to look deeper into the roots of the stories we have been telling ourselves. To ask how we ended up with such bad maps in the first place.

 

3. The Lost Hero

One story has fascinated me more and more over the past couple of years. An archetypal story; a story that echoes around the world, and whose echoes may be caught in the most unexpected places.

‘The Hero’s Journey’ is really the skeleton of a story: a pattern described by Joseph Campbell, one of the grand theorists of mythology. He believed that this pattern could be found in the epic stories of cultures all over the world.

It is a story of a quest: of a hero who sets out from his home, leaving behind the world in which he has grown up, in search of a sacred object or to fight a great enemy. He goes through adventures, meets strange beings, passes tests and reaches his goal – but the story never ends there. It always turns out that the hardest part comes afterwards. The most dangerous bit is not getting to the giant’s castle or the depths of the underworld, it’s making it home again, because so often the bag of gold will turn to dust as you cross the last hill and your village comes into sight.

At one level, this makes for a gripping story, keeping up the suspense right to the end. But it also reflects a deeper truth about human experience and about what happens when we acquire knowledge and wisdom. The hardest part of the journey is not acquiring new knowledge, but integrating it into the social reality you left behind: weaving the old and the new together, without losing the meaning of one or the other.

I’ve been thinking about this story, because it feels like one of the ways that modern societies have ended up with such bad maps is that we have forgotten the challenge of the journey home. We’ve fallen into the habit of celebrating the half-finished journey, seen getting “far out” as an achievement in itself, when — as plenty of Sixties veterans could tell us — the hard part is finding your way back, without losing your mind.

And so, ignoring the rhythms of life, the need to breath out as well as in, we committed ourselves to the goal of endless economic expansion; we treated new knowledge as making old ways of knowing irrelevant; we turned the world into a giant game of snakes and ladders, in which the aim is to scramble over each other to get to the top of the board, to London, Paris, San Francisco or Shanghai. And we organised our economies and societies in such a way as to force people to play this game.

 

4. Heading for Home

These thoughts had been echoing in my head when Robert and Geska invited me to get involved with this “initiative for transformative cultures.” To help tell the story that would weave the project together. In Ancient Greece, the oral storyteller was called rhapsodoi — “one who stitches together” — joining things up, mending what is broken, making the connections.

And so, over the next two years, as the other artists and artisans work together to explore the possibilities for “transformative culture”, I will be gathering material and looking for patterns. We are just at the beginning, but there is already one thread of story which I want to explore.

The first time Robert and Geska told me about Zegache and their collaboration with the community workshop there, I was struck by the story of a place whose young men had gone away, leaving only the women, the children and the old people. It is a little like something from a fairytale, where a dragon has put a curse on the land, or a pied piper has led a whole generation away into the mountain. Except that the comparison is too picturesque, and it is a story repeated in a million towns and villages around the world, hollowed out by patterns of economic migration.

Yet one that is, surely, far removed from the experience of this collection of artists from the rich countries of Europe? Except that there is a strange echo in the pattern of cultural migration that has defined the artistic career in modern Europe. Because isn’t it the classic story of the artist or writer or music star, that you are born in some small, “nowhere” place — but you are bright, talented, determined, and so you escape to the big city, to the bohemian centres of cultural life? And should you find yourself going back to your place of origin, this is a sign of failure, that you didn’t “make it” in the big city. Once more, the broken pattern: the celebration of a hero who never makes it home.

So another thing that caught my imagination when I heard about Zegache was the story of Rodolfo Morales, the painter who had made it big in Mexico City and who chose, in the last years of his life, to return to his home region and initiate the project which led to the restoration of the church of Santa Ana and the creation of the community workshop with which we have come to work. Here was a model of the artist’s career which included a positive vision of the return home.

And so, I wonder, can it be a starting point for us to reimagine the shape and direction of our lives; to seek possibilities beyond the one-way, extractive patterns of migration and movement, towards a richer flow of people and ideas, within and between countries? Together, can we find new ways of seeing and new ways of making a living, which start from remembering the richness and depth of cultural memory in the places from which we begin, which open the possibility of weaving together the old and new, and of finding our ways home?

Every story begins as a journey. Every journey leaves a map, which others may follow or take as a warning to try a different route.

This journey began five days ago, when we left Europe, and it is too soon to say where it will lead us. Who can say where the world will be in two years time? Who can say whether the Euro will still exist! The stories we end up telling may be quite different to those with which we set out. But it’s a privilege to be here, to feel welcome, and to have the possibility of sharing our stories, comparing our maps and redrawing them together.

Gracias.

PP presents at the HUB
4 Nov 2011

We were invited to do a 20 minutes public presentation at HUB Oaxaca as part of the Oaxacan Forum on Social Innovation. The tone of the whole thing was relaxed and informal. The talk was about art, venerative artefacts, social economy and about coming home again!

Robert and Geska on the edge of the stage
Robert and Geska on the actual stage getting interviewed
The seminar at the HUB continues
Oaxaca Forum on Social Innovation
1 Nov 2011 - 7 Nov 2011
November is the start for the Euroaxacan Inititative for Transformative Cultures, and the project will be launched in Oaxaca. Some parts of the program coincides with the Oaxaca Forum on Social Innovation, which we have kindly been invited to co-host with a number of Oaxacan collaborators.

The kick-off program is chosen to coincide with Oaxaca's greatest cultural celebration, The Day of the Dead, which runs from October 30 to November 2, 2011. We begin our stay in Oaxaca by taking part in this distinct event.

The Oaxaca Forum on Social Innovation includes presentations, site visits, discussions and informal meetings around issues such as social entrepreneurship, contemporary strategies for achieving well-being by design, and innovation as a catalyst for local economies. A red herring throughout the forum is creative interventions that engage community with ideas and know-hows that drive social enterprises to create the world we all want.

Presenters include: Geska and Robert Brecevic (Performing Pictures / EITC), Dougald Hine (Space Makers / EITC), Paula Moreno Zapata (Former Columbian Minister of Culture), Lucina Jimenez (ConArte), Cheryl Heller (PopTech & SVA Design for Social Innovation), Rodrigo Villar (Director New Ventures Mexico), Hernan Fernandez (Angel Ventures Mexico), Tony Carr (Halloran Philanthropies), Nick Kislinger and Elizabeth Stewart (Hub Los Angles), Saul Fuentes (Director CORAL Oaxaca), Daryn Dodson (Calvert) Javier Lozano (Clinicas del Azucar, Luis Duarte (YoReciclo), Michael Cox (Hub Cities), and more....

Partnering Organizations for the Forum are: Performing Pictures & The Euroaxacan Inititative for Transformative Cultures, SVA Design for Social Innovation, Next Plays, Con-Arte, New Ventures, Comunicacíon Lateral & Creative Industries Conference, Colibri Consulting and more to be announced.