love is a place
& through this place of
(with brightness of peace)
yes is a world
& in this world of yes live
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.
The narratives contained will continue to be the product of social processes, namely aesthetic preparations and ritualtheatrical transformations; in itself the ground of the origin of drama. The project renders additional tools both conceptually and technically, whereas it introduces contemporary adaptations of traditional expressions. To combine the old with the new is crucial for the survival and resilience of cultural identities. New skill sets will facilitate the production of craft noveau, and extend the type of productions made by local craftsmanship outside of the realm of traditional crafts.
With the emergence of modern archaeology and anthropology providing new kinds of interpretation for the meanings and origins of saintly places on the one hand, and the projects of modernity and religious reform aiming the purification and reinterpretation of rites and sites on the other, saintly places and their origins have become subjects of conflicting interpretations and contested practices.
Modernity here enters the place as disciplinary and exclusionary force in service of a civilising project aiming to either eradicate or to marginalise popular communal and religious traditions that do not seem to fit the project of authoritarian top-down progress. Rather than erasing the sites and landscapes of saint veneration and religious imagination, however, the projects of modernity and reform have initiated a process of profound changes in the ways in which locality in its different levels is being perceived and enacted. In a way, the policing of the modern meaning of local attainments also leads to a restrengthening, re-structuring and re-inventing of venerative practices.
Performing Pictures has spent the last two years working with issues of venerative practices and new forms of venerative artefacts in the village of Sta Ana, Zegache, and in the case study, we wish to continue our examination of issues relating to the historical continuity and transformation of sacred places, the changing configurations of the sacred and social order in the structures of villages and cities and their histories as sites of contestation over cultural and national identity.
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.
Can you tell us about the history of Lapiztola, who you are and what you are doing?
Lapiztola was formed in 2006, starting with Rosario and Roberto who are both graphic designers. Yankel joined us later and he’s an architect. We started out making silkscreen prints for shirts, posters and wallpapers for the street, then we started to make stencils. Now we do both.
In another interview, you mentioned the political unrest in Oaxaca in 2006, how that made you start working together. How has this political conflict influenced your work and the work of other artists in the community?
2006 was a watershed for many of those who lived through the conflict in Oaxaca, because although there were many divisions, this conflict ended a number of older social and cultural schemes. Collectives started to form and this meant that a lot of artists started to share their work and be less individualistic. On the streets, it was not only about signing your work but creating a dialogue with the people, based on images. A lot of the graphic work that was produced at this time was made as a denunciation. Today, it is still in the same line, but about general themes.
How has your work developed between then and now?
We’ve learned a lot from the criticism of people who have seen the images on the streets. When we started creating them, Oaxaca was in a state of ferment. Now that everything is calmer, we try to analyse our work a little more, studying what we really want to say. Our process is a bit slower now, just as it is more difficult for a collective to make a decision than for one. We also look at what other artists are doing when they come to Oaxaca and how we can feed off this.
Where do you find inspiration for your work? From a desire to tell stories?
Part of our work is based on the social, actions, protests and stories of the everyday. Sometimes understandably sometimes not. If the message is understood, that’s good. If not, it is one more image on the road. Can we can talk a little about the techniques you use? The techniques for stencil and screen printing are very similar, but the process is different. We often try to combine the two: we will make a wall paper for the street, then renew the composition by painting a stencil on it. The stencil technique is a bit more basic, while the screen printing is a bit more complex, as it requires some chemical processes for their results. In Mexico, the chemicals are still a bit toxic, compared to the chemicals used in other countrieswhich are more environmentally friendly.
What kind of creative process do you go through before making a piece?
The most difficult thing is to summarise a story with a single image. That's the hardest part of the process, agreeing on how to do the piece. With a stencil, we often shoot some photos, then generate images that help us with the composition. We try to create a piece with the ideas we brought together, then find a technical solution for it.
In words and photographs, they described what it means to them to live in Zegache, what is good about the place, what is not so good and what they miss when they are away. The workshop was organized and led by Karin Becker, Professor of Media and Communication Studies at Stockholm University, as part of a media research project called “Changing Places”. For these sessions she worked with Patricia Tovar, an anthropologist and art curator, who also served as translator. The six adults who participated were Verónica Aquino Ambrocio, José Louis Gutiérrez Mendoza, Angeles Leon Diaz, Maria Dolores Lopez Ramirez (Dolores), José Louis Venegas Chompa and Juana Reyes Mendoza. The five young participants were Laura Jessica Chompa Aquino, Karen Nayely Chompa Aquino, Edith Araceli Gutierrez Mendoza, Rigoberto Mendoza Díaz, and José Clemente Reyes Morales. The workshops were funded through a grant from the Swedish Research Council with additional organizational support provided by the Talleres Communitarios, where the workshops met.
Each group began by sketching a map of the town, drawing in places that were important to include in their stories. After a brief introduction in how to use the digital cameras, they went out together to take pictures of the town. They then selected and sequenced five of their photographs as a visual narrative, and recorded their stories as the group looked at their pictures. They then took the cameras home to take pictures that would tell a more personal story about their own lives. The next day they showed these photographs and recorded these stories as the other members of the group listened. Each person received a disc with all their photographs and both their stories, and Patricia translated the stories into English.
What came through in the adults’ stories of the town was the centrality of the church, the importance of religious sites and rich agricultural traditions, but also the threats to these from pollution and inadequate waste disposal. Personal stories touch on themes of family life, the responsibility of maintaining family ties, and the strains placed on these ties by migration, both within Mexico and to the US. Many also mentioned the handicrafts and art projects they pursued, in their work and in their free time.
The young people’s stories focused on how they would describe Zegache to a person their own age who had never been there. They included photographs of the park, the new basketball court, and local video and candy shops. In their personal stories, the young people often focused on family members, and included pictures of themselves engaged in activities they enjoyed.
A few people in each group had included old photographs from the town, of themselves and of their families within their stories. One woman, Dolores, brought her collection of old photographs of important landmarks and local residents, which led to a broader discussion of histories of the town, its traditions and its residents, as well as how things in Zegache had changed.
As the workshop came to an end, the groups talked about how seeing these photographs and making their own images affected their perspectives on the town and their own lives. They discussed the value of these visual narratives, what they could mean for the community and how they might use them in the future, for example, by making a web-based archive about Zegache. Karin explained how she would use the results in her research, to look more closely at the different ‘ways of seeing’ reflected in their stories, and to develop the method as a way to exchange life experiences across cultures, including the experience of migration and the ongoing importance of the place one is from.
El taller fue organizado y llevado por Karin Becker, profesora de Estudios de Medios y Comunicación en la Universidad de Estocolmo. Como parte de un proyecto de investigación de los medios llamado “Cambiando de Lugar”. Trabajó en conjunto con Patricia Tovar, una antropóloga y curadora de arte, quien también ayudó como traductora. Los seis adultos que participaron fueron: Verónica Aquino Ambrocio, José Luis Gutiérrez Mendoza, Ángeles León Díaz, María Dolores López Ramírez (Dolores), José Luis Venegas Chompa and Juana Reyes Mendoza. Los cinco jóvenes participantes son Laura Jessica Chompa Aquino, Karen Nayely Chompa Aquino, Edith Araceli Gutierrez Mendoza, Rigoberto Mendoza Díaz, and José Clemente Reyes Morales. Los talleres fueron realizados con los fondos de una beca otorgada por El consejo de Investigación Sueco y el soporte logístico de los Talleres Comunitarios de Zegache A.C. apoyados por la Fundación Alfredo Harp Helú Oaxaca.
Mucha gente incluyó en sus historias viejas fotografías del pueblo , de ellos mismos y de sus familiares. Una de las mujeres, Dolores, trajo su colección de viejas fotografías con importantes puntos de referencia y personajes locales, lo cual orilló a a tener amplias conversaciones de relatos de su pueblo sus tradiciones y sus habitantes, así como los cambion que ha tenido Zegache.
Al terminar los talleres, los grupos hablaron sobre como veían estas fotografías y como afectaba su perspectiva del pueblo y su vida, el crear sus propias imágenes. Hablaron sobre el valor de esta narrativa visual para la comunidad y de cómo podrían utilizarla en el futuro, por ejemplo, haciendo un archivo en red sobre Zegache. Karin explicó cómo utilizará los resultados en su investigación, para acercarse más a las diferentes “maneras de ver” reflejadas en las historias, y como una manera de intercambiar experiencias de vida a través de las culturas, incluyendo la experiencia de la migracióny la importancia actual del lugar de origen.
I am 40 years old. I was born in Santa Ana Zegache, and have lived here since then. My children and I live here and my husband is in San Francisco California. I have two children: my son is 20 and is called Angel Omar Martinez Leon, my daughter is 19 and her name is Elizabeth Guadalupe Martinez Leon. My husband's name is Jaime Gaspar Martinez. I do a a little of everything, housework and sell different brands of perfumes. I work in the fields, growing corn and alfalfa that I sell. I also grow corn for our household, for the family.
I am 27 years old. I have been working at Talleres Comunitarios for two years now. I left an education in electronic engineering because of lack of resources, now that I have the opportunity to work here. I am learning wood carving and other crafts.
I was born here, in Santa Ana Zegache. In my childhood my family and I moved a lot because my dad was in the military and we were constantly changing places and came here only once a season. But 10 years ago we settled down here permanently in Santa Ana Zegache.
Right now I live with my two sisters. The younger one is 13 years old and the other one is 24 years old, and she has a one-year-old baby. We are helping her raise him. She sells chicken in the market here in the community.
My younger sister is in middle school. Her name is Araceli Edith and the older sister is called Rosa. My parents are divorced and they are not with us right now; they live elsewhere.
I am from the city of Queretaro. I was born and grew up there until I got married 20 years ago with a person from here. I work here at home, and in Querétaro I work for a company. I am trained in quality control, that's why I work there and not here, because in Oaxaca there is no job for me, that's why I work at home.
I have been married for 20 years, but I have spent 10 of those years elsewhere. I have lived in Ixtepec City and Querétaro, but six years ago I returned to Santa Ana Zegache.
I have two children. One is 17 and the other is 13, and they are both in school. When we are here we work in the field with my husband. We also have animals. We raise sheep and sell them. Here I work at different things, I mend clothes, sew napkins, pretty much anything. These are my stories about Zegache and about me (click the images below).
I am 31 years old; I was born in Santa Ana Zegache and have not had the opportunity to go to different places. We are four: two daughters and my husband and me. A girl is 15, the other is 9.
I am dedicated to home, I am a housewife but I help my husband with the expenses by selling cakes and toast in a school, and my husband works here in Talleres Comunitarios. On Saturdays and Sundays we have time to go to the field and plant corn, beans and a little of vegetables, we do what we can because we only have two days per week. I use my free time to make shawls, embroider with ribbons and other things.
I am 27 years old. I was born in Veracruz, and I have been living here in Santa Ana for 20 years, my parents are from Zegache. We all lived in Michoacan for two years, then three years in Mexico City and from there we came back to Zegache. Later I went to Oregon and I was there eight years. Now I'm back working in Talleres Comunitarios to learn restoration and different things related to that. We are three brothers, plus my mom and dad. My brother who is 21 years old is in Oregon now. My 16-year-old brother, he is studying now. My parents work in agriculture and livestock, and I help whenever I can in the field.
I am 28 years old.
I live at home and help my mom with the housework. We are four, my father, my mother, my son and me. My brothers are out working; one of my brothers is in Mexico City and the other one is in Mazatlan. My son is 5 years old, his name is Cristian Said, my mom is Florencia and my dad is Matías. My mom works in the field and my dad too. I help them with that work. Well, I was in Guadalajara for six years and also one year I was in Mexico City. I have worked here in Talleres Comunitarios and also learned something about restoration.
I enjoy working with restoration. I am a single mother.
My name is Laura Jessica Chompa Aquino and I´m 15 years old.
My name is Karen Nayhelli Chompa Aquino. I´m in fourth grade of the elementary school Benito Juárez
My name is Araceli Edith Gutierrez Mendoza, I´m in second grade of telesecundaria, I’m 12 years old. These are my stories.
Tengo cuarenta años
Nací en Santa Ana Zegache, y he vivido aquí siempre
Mis hijos y yo vivimos aquí y mi esposo está en San Francisco California
Tengo dos hijos: mi hijo tiene 20 años y se llama Ángel Omar Martínez León, mi hija tiene 19 años y se llama Guadalupe Elizabeth Martínez León. Mi esposo se llama Jaime Martínez Gaspar.
Yo hago de todo un poco, los quehaceres del hogar, vendo perfumes de diferentes marcas, trabajo en el campo sembrando maíz y alfalfa. La vendo y de ahí saco otro poco de dinero, el maíz es para el consumo de la casa.
Yo tengo 27 años.
Pertenezco a los Talleres Comunitarios de Zegache, tiene dos años que estoy aquí, dejé la carrera de ingeniería electrónica por falta de recursos, ahora que tengo esta oportunidad estoy aprendiendo talla de madera y otros oficios.
Soy de Santa Ana Zegache, en mi niñez iba y venía porque mi papá era militar y se cambiaba constantemente de lugar, por temporadas veníamos aquí y tiene 10 años que ya estoy permanente en Santa Ana Zegache.
Ahorita estoy con mis hermanas, estamos viviendo y nada más.
Vivo con mis dos hermanas, la más chiquita es de 13 y la otra de 24 años, estamos en la casa y mi hermana tiene un niño de 1 año y ahorita nos estamos ayudando para sacar adelante a su bebé, ella se dedica a vender pollo aquí en la comunidad.
La más chica se dedica a la escuela está en la secundaria; se llama Edith Araceli y la más grande se llama Rosa. Mis papás se divorciaron y pues ahorita no estamos con ellos, viven en otro lugar.
Soy de la ciudad de Querétaro, ahí nací y ahí crecí hasta que me casé hace 20 años con una persona de aquí. En Zegache me dedico al hogar, cuando estoy en mi estado yo me dedico a trabajar en una empresa, soy técnico en control de calidad, por eso es que trabajo allá y aquí no, porque aquí no hay empleo para mí, por eso me dedico al hogar.
Tengo veinte años de casada, pero 10 los he compartido en otros lugares, he vivido en Ciudad Ixtepec y en Querétaro y ahorita tiene seis años que regresé a Santa Ana Zegache.
Tengo dos hijos uno de 17 y otro de 13 años, estudian ambos, cuando estamos aquí nos dedicamos al campo con mi esposo, aparte tenemos animales, nos dedicamos a criar borregos y venderlos. Aquí así trabajo de lo que caiga porque arreglo ropa, tejo, hago servilletas, hago recuerdos, o sea de lo que caiga.
Yo tengo 31 años, yo nací en Santa Ana Zegache y no he tenido la oportunidad de salir a diferentes lugares. Somos cuatro mis dos hijas mi esposo y yo. Una niña tiene 15 años, la otra tiene 9. Yo me dedico al hogar, soy ama de casa pero ayudo a mi esposo con los gastos vendiendo tortas y tostadas en una escuela. Como él trabaja aquí en el taller, los sábados y domingos vamos al campo y sembramos maíz, frijol y un poco de verdura cuando se puede porque nomás son dos días.
El tiempo que tengo libre me pongo a hacer rebozos, bordarlos con listón y otras cosas.
Yo nací en Veracruz, tengo veinte años viviendo aquí en Santa Ana, mis papás son de aquí de Zegache, estuvimos viviendo dos años en Michoacán, tres años en el DF y de ahí nos venimos a radicar a Zegache, después yo me fui a Oregon, estuve allá ocho años, regresé y ahora estoy trabajando en los Talleres Comunitarios de Zegache aprendiendo distintos oficios.
En mi casa somos tres hermanos, mi mamá y mi papá. Ttengo mi hermano que tiene 21 años, él está ahorita en Oregon, tengo otro hermano de 16 años, él está ahorita estudiando y mis papás se dedican al campo, a la cría de animales. Yo les ayudo en lo que puedo en el campo.
Yo tengo 28 años.
Estoy en mi casa ayudando a mi mamá en los quehaceres de la casa, somos cinco, mi papá, mi mamá, mi hijo y yo. Mi hijo tiene 5 años, se llama Cristian Said, mi mamá se llama Florencia y mi papá Matías. Mi mamá cuando empieza el tiempo de campo, pues al campo y mi papá pues lo mismo al campo. Yo les ayudo porque estuve trabajando aquí también en el taller y aquí aprendí algo, trabajé también en Guadalajara seis años.
Mis hermanos están fuera trabajando, mis papás están aquí, en México está uno y en Mazatlán otro.
Me gusta trabajar en esto de la restauración. Bueno estuve en Guadalajara seis años y estuve en México 1 año, soy madre soltera.
Yo me llamo Laura Jessica Chompa Aquino y tengo 15 años.
Yo me llamo Karen Nayhelli Chompa Aquino, voy en la escuela Benito Juárez en 4o grado.
My name is Araceli Edith Gutierrez Mendoza, I´m in second grade of telesecundaria, I’m 12 years old. These are my stories.
Me llamo Edith Araceli Gutiérrez Mendoza, voy en 2o año de telesecundaria tengo 12 años
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.
The Kinetic Chapel unleashes the intrinsic motion of sacred images within the context of an outdoor-exhibition space. The capillita (small chapels) are constructed to shelter popular image devotion. As mini-galleries for mixed-media imagery, they do not rely on the curatorial system of the established art world.
The kinetic chapel introduces transformative movement into an established container that otherwise features motionless imagery. While doing our research in Oaxaca, Mexico, we have found examples of electrical illumination within some of the capillitas. We found this both inspiring in its inventiveness as well as encouraging for the continuation of our own work with chapels featuring anmations.
As there are no other ways to display moving images but with electricity, we employ the sun to give us the sufficient energy for the kinetic chapel. Following this occupation with venerative artefacts, renewable energy has become an increasingly important issue for Performing Pictures' work. Venerative objects should generate energy, not consume it!
This is the report by Robert Brečević of how the Kinetic Chapel of Santa Ana Zegache was built.
As the priest from San Antonino could not come on Friday the chapel would not be blessed for the opening today.
Monica and Armand added some golden stars to the cupola and Đani was particularly happy about the central star with five eends (satisfying the Leftist-Catholic spirit).
The opening brought us people from Oaxaca (magazine and culture institutions), the municipal administration of Zegache, all the people from the taller as well as other pueblans from Zegache. For dinner we had a goat roasted in the ground (a local speciality) and the party continued until early hours!
It all went quite fast.
I had assembled the AV-system (screen, battery, eliminator) at the workshop the day before and let it run all through the night. Now it was time to install it in the chapel. We made some holes at the back of the chapel – for cables. The cross was made by Lau and covered the base with pigmented plaster that went so deep deep bue that he needed to do that with cupola as well!
Presi had promised to send the police (!!) to cut the branches of the adjacent jacaranda-tree, but they never showed up. I went up the tree with the machete and starting cutting them branches – higher and higher up!
In the evening the chapel was ready. I payed it a last visit at 11 o'clock after buyng 4 litres of superb mezcal. My cousin had a problem with his hip (go figure after all this work) and he sat down to rest on the way there. Alone with the Patrona I heard a motorcycle closing in. Two young men, hard-looking fellows, slowed down in front of the chapel. The driver gave my a nodd and the other guy a thumbs up – then they continued driving.
La Patrona was in place!
We had asked the priest to bless the chapel for the opening on Friday. Bad news: he says he cannot make it. Georgina is convinced that it is because he doesn't like the taller (he'd like to have the space that the taller is using, the old priest's quarters). We decided to ask another priest, the one from San Antonino, who is very fond of the Zegache workshop.
Georgina brought the solar equipment to Zegache. I started with the fitting of the panel. I was happy to see that we will be able to put the panel at the back of the cupola, (so that it doesn't shade the panel in the late afternon).
Our other colleagues from the taller started coming in groups in order to inspect the work uptil this point. I assmbled the rest of the syste at the taller, battery, controller, eliminator, screen – all working like a clock. Puh!
Điđi, the municipal wake-up soundsystem with cumbias and the sheep keep sure that we don't sleep late. Now we were finally back at the construction site to put the first columns in, do some brick-laying – after which we went back to the workshop. Đani continued with the Christ-relief in Meštrović's style.
The whole day I wore a t-shirt with slightly shorer sleaves and I really really messed up my arms (a stripe of pain 2 cm wide around the biceps).
While working the women of the taller are preparing a small altar on a table outside the taller (workshop) Today there will be a procession for the feast of Corpus Christi and the altar is going to be blessed.
5-7 older men in the pueblo are present at every religious event (procession, funerals, baptisms, weddings). These guys are allways at the end of the procession with one bottle of mezcal each. When the procession has circled the pueble (some 40 minutes later) the bottles are empty and merry bunch drag their feet, rocking their body left-right, left-right. Nevertheless there is allways someone who has some liqour left and says: ”psst, amigo! Quires un mezcal?!”
Firist we go to dona Kata's place right next to the workshop to get some breakfast. Everyone is so concerned about my cousin having stomach issues – they're making really bland food not to provoke any difficulties for him and this is the only trip to Oaxaca that has been something of a gastronomical disappointment (thanks cous'!).
The following two days we are not going down to the construction site. There is work to do in the workshop.
Since ”day 9” was a Sunday (= no work) there are no records of this. We just hanged around during our last day in the ciudad of Oaxaca, eager to move our quarters to where it all happens: Sata Ana Zegache. Georgina picked us up Monday morning with all of our luggage (and yes, we had a radio interview together with that morning – Oaxaca State radio) and drove us to our new appartment.
One big room with 2 beds, toilet in the courtyard and 10 sheep (+ 2 goats) as our closest neighbours.
We arrrive half an hour later than planned. The collectivo drops us off at the main square and we start walking down the main street towards the entrance of the pueblo. While approaching we se Chiquis and Scooby with horse and carriage.
Scooby and Chiquis have been transporting fine sand (arena) that we need for our construction. Later on, me and Scooby are fetching the coarse sand (graba) from a construction site narby (don Paola from the taller is building a new house).
The Presidente said that we had a concrete mixer at our disposal. When I mentioned this to Chiquis it was clear that the pueblans do not want to bother the authorities with unnecessary requests. Just tell us the proportions! All the concrete and paster for this construction were to be mixed on the ground with shovels. The concrete mixer was never fetched.
First step is to make the fundament for the chapel. The frame is made out of concrete blocks held together with a wooden frame. The boys are steadily delivering concrete and we are fetching big stones to put and fill the fundament with solid material.
Đani jokingly remarks: ”but what, aren't they Christian folks?”. The present (Chiquis, Georgina) shake their heads in dismay: ”no, they are one of the two Protestant families in the pueblo” Eh? I wanted to start blabbering about the ecumenical aspects which are in fashion in Europe but I quickly realized that concept doesn't have any bearing in Mexico.
So, we need to build the first chapel on the shaded side of the shaded side of the road. Presi is just saying ”take down a tree... or two - no problem! I will send the police to do it!” It is just a relatively young Jacaranda-tree, so we're starting to contemplate it, but this is when Georgina goes enviromental and tells Presi that in Sweden where I live it is forbidden to take down trees (not !!!).
It is quite a conundrum. We cannot really fit a chapel and then an arch (later project) without putting the thing in complete shade from one of the many trees.
Finally we find a solution, we change the direction of the chapel so it faces the street. By doing this we can fit both chapels and the arch in one line.
We need red bricks and stone (the typical combination of Oaxaca). The query and the places where they sell stone are at the other side of Oaxaca (opposite from Zegache), namely Etla. This is also where Christian has his studio. Chiquis comes into Oaxaca and we get picked up by Christian.
Once we have ordered the sotne, we go back to Oaxaca together with Chiquis. We gett a ride with a collectivo taxi-van where the driver shuts the door with a rope. We need to go to Santa Lucia Tule, in the direction Zegache – where we can find the red bricks.
We order 500 red bricks. They cost 3 pesos each and it is total of 1500 pesos. They will be delivered to Santa Ana Zegache by tomorrow. The brick-manufacturer gets an advance of 200 pesos and Chiquis gets 1300 to give them once they arrives.
On one side of the road there are trees – there might be a need to tke down one of them so that the solar panels would not be shaded. We were not willing to do that at this point (although ”Presi” says that he will send some guys and they will just cut it) – not for only one chapel, for 2 maybe, but not for one.
We opted for the other side of the street.
First day in Oaxaca featured massive teachers' strike. They had sealed off the entire historical centre of the city with their tents and it was quite hard to pass by.
The first planing meeting was held at the appartment. We decided to use a combination of bricks and stones in the construction of the capilla.This is quite common in urban Oaxaca and such an example was staring at us from the back: the outside of the window to our toilet!
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.
This is the relationship between object and context that we talk so much about in the art world, but which is relevant for all things made by or found by man. Without the weave of narratives surrounding it (you know that they dig it during.... it was found in a haunted house.. etc etc) the thing remains a background prop in a world saturated with thingliness. We call it 'stuff', a slightly pejorative term - things that might as well be produced in China (the lowest denominator of capitalist 'goods') - but as soon as we add that little bit of non-consumerist-context the thing transcends its won thinginess into becoming an artefact. If we give it a lot of stories (=meaning) it becomes an art piece - or - even better - a venerative artefact.
An excellent example of this is the story of the Virgin of Juquila, who lives up in the Sierras. Although she’s not much more than a foot high, the stories of miracles attributed to her delicately carved features are so widespread and grandiose that believers trek over the mountainous terrain from all corners of Mexico. The stories of the origins of the Virgin of Juquila are a bit convoluted, mysteriously clouded with the haze of time and myth. However, the most common story is that of a Dominican priest, Frey Juan Jordan, who brought the small figure with him from the Philippines some hundred years ago. The little statue or doll which is only about a feet tall found itself at home in Amialtepec. When he left for another parish, he gave the figure to his young servant. Word of her miracles spread and in 1630, a small shrine was built for her near Juquila, affording all villagers a view.
Three years later, the entire town of Amialtepec burned to the ground. From inside the inferno, they say, could be heard the wee voice of the tiny Virgin calling for help. While all around her fires blazed, destroying the entire town, the carved wooden figure survived. After the fire, her skin scorched a deep brown, – what they call morena – the color of the Chatina people. The fire transformed Juquila from a light-skinned güero virgin out of the Iberian culture and turned her - like the more famous Virgin of Guadelupe - into a dark beauty, with a skin the color of the rich brown earth that surrounds the town of Juquila.
With her miraculous survival of the flames the Black Madonna's fame spread even more. Apparently this led the priest in the nearby town of Juquila to covet the famous statue. His name was Jacinto Escudero and he announced that the Virgin really should reside in a larger, more dignified, and more accessible church - i.e. his own town Santa Catarina. Even this move is surrounded by myth, some claiming that she “escaped” back to her original location several times. Our Lady wanted to stay with the simple folk in the mountains and so, the night after she had been brought to Juquila, she returned back to Amialtepec. The Indians were punished for stealing her, she was brought back to Juquila and guarded day and night. Still, she escaped again and returned home. Now tension between the two towns rose to dangerous levels as she was ordered back to Juquila for a third time. Extra guards, chains, and locks were installed. But the Mother of God was not going to be chained down. In a flash of light she was back with the villagers. With that the priest finally saw the error of his ways, he relented, and the people's fervor for their Dark Mother doubled.
Today, people come from all over for una promesa. They promise to make a certain number of visits over the next few years. In return, they ask a miracle: that a sickness be cured, that a broken limb be repaired, that a dying relative be brought to life again, that a child be made well. They also ask for prosperity: a bounty of sheep, or goats, or maiz. The visitors come sometimes by car or truck or bus, but, as often, on bicycle or on foot. Since Juquila is an isolated place in the mountains, it is no mean trick to get there from the Pacific coast, or from central Mexico, no matter how you do it. Supplicants often crawl the last two kilometers - from the entry area to the actual statue - and since the path is one of stones, many arrive with bloody knees.
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.
Today is animation day. We decided to go with the dresses that are more similar to the original sculpture (calmer colours, less decorated) rather then the ceremonial dresses. The dolls are now getting ready for the big day to come!
Santa Ana's hair is covered with a *manto*, so it is only Mary's hair we need to worry about. A whig was bought in Oaxaca and Monica started applying it on Mary's head. Monica worked and worked with the hair, combed it, cut it, hairsprayed it and she was not very happy with the quality.
She decided that real hair is better. It took a bit of convincing: "You have so much hair... it will not be noticed...."
Clothes need to be made for Santa Ana and Mary. Luckily... Juanita is able to work with us again! Last time we had the leasure to work with Juanita was in November 2009.
We deciced to make two versions of the dresses. The decorations of the ceremonial fabrics are a bit too big for the dolls. Church dolls are usually around 1.30 m and our dolls are 51 and 36 cm high.
The conundrum is: which tradition to follow? Dressing the dolls in ceremonial fabric (starch colours, heavily decorated) or to make dresses that resemble the orginal statues (calm colours, discrete patterns)?
I went to the store and showed the image of Santa Ana and Mary. It appeared that there was an entire section of ceremonial textiles for dressing up Virgins, Madonnas... I over-estimated my Spanish and ended up buying too much fabric (the expensive, ceremonial ones). Even though he tried to sell as much as possible to me, the guy seemed to take fancy and whispered to me: "I am just writing down one meter of this... and not more than 2 meters of this one").
The next layer of paint is adding skin tones. Monica and Armand are skilled painter. Geska is getting to work with preparing the dresses.
The cemetery of Santa Ana Zegache. The seminal space for communal creativity and public art - where it matters, where it actually means something!
Preparations for painting the head. Wish you could feel the smell of cedar wood and paint!
Remember that we had the opportunity to influence how the future welcoming arch of Zegache would look like? An offer from the Presidente of Zegache that we promised to get back to in a week.
We decided upon a shape that mimicks the facade of the church. The cupolas on the sides are taken down and put in front of the arch as chapels!
After that we started preparing some green tomatoes for the feast!
The artisans referred to Dougald as the Santo Biche - meaning the "pale-skinned saint". It appeared that they were restauring a church artefact looking exactly like... Dougald. We bought some 5 kilos of meat (tasajo, cecina and chorizo) for Saturday afternoon roasting. And above all - I pointed out that a guitar should be fixed for the occasion, since Dougald - or Santo Biche- used to be a street performer during his youth (making good money on REM's "Loosing my religion" among other tunes).
The party started and Dougald was nowhere to be found. The guitar waited and everyone else for that matter. Finally he arrived. With the finesse of a true performance artist Dougald (or Santo Biche) started off his victorious set with Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah".
And Hallelujah what a party it became!
The visible parts is the head and the hands - the feet are not visible and the body is covered by clothes. The torso requires a female shape and the lower part of the body supports the dress.
Some of the findings while Robert and Victor where out researching capillas, places of devotion in Snata Ana Zegache,
A beautiful nicho in Santa Ana Zegache celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Soledad. It is an electrified capilla with matrix of small lightbulbs, red and green, as well as a larger one, the orange.
Elegantly included in the building is the following capilla.
A mogote is an isolated, steep-sided hill. Zegache means "Seven mogotes" in the Zapotec language. A mogote is represented through a four-sided cone and it is a iconic shape in Zegache - used as ornamental feature on top of walls and as in this case in a capilla.
Hardly a couple of days have passed and the assets for the puppets are starting to get real shape! Lao is doing the head of the patrona and Che is working with the hands. Christian will prepare the lower part of the puppets which are fixed (means no animation, no walking that is).
I am preparing the joints using the classical steel balls + plates + rods system for maximum flexibility and precision.
The artisans have never worked wit animation puppets and their work with figurative shapes (cherubs, faces) is recent. What talent!
We decided to take one of the mototaxis in Zegache and document most of the shrines that are scattered around the pueblo. Public media research (see separate blog posts "Capillas of Zegache").
When we mentioned the idea of making a kinetic chapel in Zegache (a chapel powered with solar energy displaying an puppet-animated saint) to Georgina, she immediatelly approved of it with enthusiasm. The kinetic chapel would make a clear contribution to the community - bridning the big gap between traditionals and progressives - which is exactly what this projects is about.
The modernization process of Mexico is a truly interesting story. The conflict between the (individualist) liberal-secular State and the (collectivist) traditionalist Church has been particularly complex in the indigenous areas of Oaxaca.
As any building projects we need permits and Georgina immediatelly set up a meeting with el Presidente. It was a long meeting (2 hours).
It ended up with us being given the opportunity to build 2 (!) chapels at the entrance of the pueblo and to make a suggestion for an welcoming arch!
Next meeting was scheduled in a week.
Finally we are ready to start our work with developing animation puppets with the artesans of the community workshop. They are highly skilled wood carvers (some of them being real sculptors I would point out) and what we have to decide is the scale of the dolls in order to know how big heads and hands to work with. Smaller is more convenient although it makes the carving harder.
We decide on a 51 cm high Santa Ana and 36 cenimeter high Virgen Mary.
Sweet name of Christ (Dulce nombre) is the second patron saint of Santa Ana. Yes, it was pointed out for us once el Presidente suggested to build 2 chapels.
I headed back to the church to make a photo of him for later use. We will be animating this dramatic figure and what a dramatic posture and promising movements - it is as if this motif begs for some motion!
We came to Zegache this time proposing the project to build a kinetic chapel. An entire edifice devoted to the veneration of a saint as well as the practice of solar energy that would keep the whole thing (literary) in motion.
While working with the practicalities of our building plans, a puppet animation would be developed at the community workshop. This day - the 11/11/11 - we decided that it had to be Santa Ana - the patron saint of Santa Ana Zegache. Simly referred to as "la Patrona". She is also the patron saint of horseback riders, housewives, grandmothers, cabinet makers, unmarried women, women in labor and miners.
A beautiful image of mother and daughter (Virgin Mary) reading together - a picture of self-education and mother-daughter-love.
He belonged to the circle around Ivan Illich and founded the Universidad de la Tierra in Oaxaca. He is one of the best known advocates of Post-Development. Against institutional schooling, the idea of progressive development, "to hell with good intentions" and much much much more.
A deprofessionalized intellectual!
And finally we come to Zegache! It is the first time during our trip that we make the 40 minutes trip through hellish Oaxacan traffic out to the pueblo with appr. 2500 inhabitants to visit the Talleres Comunitarios de Zegache - the place where the idea for this project was initiated and born.
We were - as always! - well greeted and for us it was truly a homecoming. The artisans put on a great feast of food, beer, mezcal and tepache (fermented pine apple juice) mixed with pulque (fermented agave juice and sugar cane).
The tepache eventually got more and more laced wih mezcal - just in case!
Having our first meeting with Georgina, we came up with the idea launch of a Day of the Dead app next year! It would simply be an app + a small shrine crafted in Zegache that you can configure with the different images of your deceased beloved ones which would then be intermingled with animations of saints and angels. At the same time you are charging your phone (or just extending its life, being an old model)!
This is an inspirational image of our pinhole camera animation of a cherub from the Zegache workshop - played as an app on Geska's iPhone in a "charger-shrine" which has been placed at the home altar of Georgina's. (The pinhole camera animation was developed together with the artisans of the Talleres Comunitarios de Zegache).
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!
Six European and two Oaxacan organisations are partners in this project. It takes quite a bit of work to get all the coordination going!
Special guest at the table is Janet, who is preparing the TEDx talk where our esteemed project partner Dougald Hine is going to talk about his thought on the world at large as well as present the project in particular.
Finally arrived after a 24 hours flight (Stockholm - Paris - Mexico City - Oaxaca) and a somewhat confused night of jetlagged sleep - we throw ourselves out in the festivities of Oaxaca. Day of the dead!
One of the many city cemeteries of Oaxaca during the second day of Day of the Dead. Why cemeteries are called pantheons (Lat. "all gods") needs further scrutiny. I said to the lovely Cath Kumar: "Let's find someone who we know and sit at their relatives' grave, instead of standing here as tourists".
"We know someone here", she replied.
We ended up sitting with one of the guys owning the famous mezcaleria and brand "Los Amantes", drinking his mezcal and venerating his grandfather. Los Amantes has recently opened a bar in New York, we learned. The guy who's grandfather we're paying our respect to is the one with orange glasses.
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.