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Fiesta de Maize/Maguey - EITC Nov 2012

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EITC - Fiesta de Maguey & Maize

The Fiesta de Maguey and Maize is the contribution of FoAM and nadine to the Euroaxan Initiative and revolves around the past, present and future of maguey and corn. The Fiesta is happening in November 2012, in OAxaca, and will start with a workshop for data visualisation (Nov. 5th, 6th, 7th), followed by a production phase, and ending with a conference (Nov. 24rd) and exhibition (Nov. 24rd - Jan. 2013) at the Ethnobotanical garden.

A 3 day workshop will start with researchers and artists giving introductory notes about maguey, corn and artistic practices, followed by and introduction to graphic techniques. The next days, we aim to produce prints around the topic of Mais and Maguey and to compress the research into strong images.
The idea of the workshop is to tie together textual research and artistic practice. The graphic prints are not only a representation of the research, but also an artistic interpretation/ translation.

During the production phase, 4 different strands are being followed:

ACCOMODATING THE SUN – an experimental honey room made of glass
In this experiment, Christina Stadlbauer, FoAM, tests the adaptability and resilience of honeybees:
In collaboration with the glass artist Christian Thornton from Xaquixe, bell-shaped glass vessels are made. A colony of bees is then invited to use the glass room to store their honey. The glass is not an easy material for bees. It is slick and the bees cannot attach themselves or easily walk the surfaces. The transparency of the material can be disturbing to them as well, like the cool temperature of glass. Pushing the animals' adaptability to its limits, the experiment is exploring these creatures' capacities. The entrance to the glass room is small, big enough for the bees to enter and do their work, but too small for humans to harvest the honey once it is ready. The honey that they collect in the glass room will stay locked inside, for spectators to see, but not to taste.
more: http://xaquixe.com, http://apiary.be

NUBE DE ORO - A glass sculpture about and with Maguey
With 'Nube de Oro,' Christian Thornton, Xaquixe, and Bartaku, FoAM, 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 (Maguey) 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 variety, 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 of unusual flowering 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.
The first glass sculpture will be combined with an agave in the Etnobotanical garden in the heart of Oaxaca City. Together both plant and Nube de Oro will shine, elevate, blossom and... collapse.
More: 'Nube de Oro' experiments: http://euroaxaca.org/pv-glass-por-maguey, Agave biofuel: http://planetearth.nerc.ac.uk/features/story.aspx?id=829, http://www.xaquixe.com, www.bartaku.net

CO-WASTL - Mobile Growing Units (MGU)
Wastl is a Brussels experimental urban garden where nadine offers artistic, and technological residencies. Co-Wastl wants to initiate hands-on labs about urban (compact area) gardening together with the EITC partners in Oaxaca, Mexico.
The local inhabitants of Oaxaca and Zegache will be invited to participate on developing Mobile Growing Units (Micro Greenhouses) connected with intelligent monitoring, and irrigation systems. Following the Arduino workshops, this case study wants to combine the gathered technologies with small scale farming.
Two technologists will be invited by nadine to travel to Oaxaca to work on developing a prototype of the MGU, and exchanging know-how with local technologists.
Next to the technological part, we d' like to invite ceramists to take care of the perceptible part of the project. Local ceramic (techniques) will be used to make the MGU, and local ornament styles will decorate them. Craftsmen, designers and technologists work together on developing innovative systems.

ZEA MAYS
In Oaxaca V.A. wants to examine whether poverty is linked with ever more powerful, and expanding industrial agriculture and if so: How could this position change? Can local initiatives be encouraged, and protected?
The case study is directly linked to the local economic situation in Oaxaca and the active role EITC wants to play in supporting local crafts.
"Judging the mount of grains. My head is a cone of corn."
From 6000 B.C. indigenous peoples were domesticating teosinte (ancestor of corn) into an immense diversity of corn in Mesoamerica.
"Once there was this cone of corn. They had a gun pointed at the farm."
In 2009 the United States produced 283 million tons of genetically modified maize (85% of their total production) for the production of livestock feed, biofuel, starch, HFCS, and chemicals.
"The Co that held the gun. Cared for every countryman/woman."

 

First days in Mexico

29/10
Departure from Brussels and Amsterdam. The Brussels group finds Patrick in Mexico City. Pacôme, Patrick and Christina move on to Oaxaca, San Augustin, to the Posada of Amelia, Posada El Rincon de San Augustin, while Bart, V.A. and Loes stay in Mexico City because for a meeting with the ambassador of Belgium tomorrow.

30/10
At the Belgian embassy of Mexico we introduce the EITC project and Fiesta de Maguey. He's very interested and wants to help us organising and looking for contacts for a continuation of our exhibition project we are organizing in Oaxaca now. There might come up possible connections with Mexico City in 2014. He invites us for another visit at the end of our stay, when we have more concrete ideas.
After the meeting we take the fantastic Platinum bus and head for San Augustin. After 7 hours we arrive at a silent sleeping posada.

31/10
Our first group visit heads to the paper factory in the village of San Augustin. The beautiful building and studios show a variety of hand made paper from cotton, agave, hemp and maize. We order some for the workshop and final graphic designs that will be shown in the final exhibition.
Hereafter a part of the group continues up the hill towards La Casa, Centro de las Artes de San Augustin (casanaugustin.org.mx) that currently show a photo exhibition about salt collectors and the ceramics collection of Eric Mindling.
In the afternoon we meet the local coordinator of Fiesta de Maguey, Patricia Tovar. She's the local coordinator we've engaged to set up and organise the program of November. The lunch meeting later on continues at the library of the Instituto Grafico, across Santa Domingo, where we will hold the first day of next weeks workshop.

 

Dias del Muerte

01/11 - Dia del Muerte The day of the dead is celebrated at night. In San Augustin many people come from far to join the celebration. At the main place people get together to see a play the villagers have prepared. All the actors are unrecognisably dressed up with masks, self made costumes, etc. After the play different bands tour in the village and play at the houses that organise parties. The fiesta goes on all night... Until 10 in the morning..

02/11 - San Augustin The village is quiet and when the last people in costume are leaving we go and have lunch with the group in one of the three restaurants of San Augustin. On the way back we stop at the local cemetery, that is festively decorated for the days of the dead. Yellow flowers, candles, people eating and sitting on the graves of their beloved and there is music of course.

First days in Oaxaca city

03/11 - move to Oaxaca
After 6 days in San Augustin it's time to head for Oaxaca. We stay all together in the house of the artist Vega, a beautiful Oaxacan house from the 50s.
In the afternoon we have lunch in Itanoni, where we have the opportunity to meet Amado, the owner of the restaurant and initiator of the Itanoni project, he will be a speaker at the workshop where he will tell about his 'maize-philosophy'.
In the evening we attend a very nice jazz concert at the Cuish mezcaleria.

04/11 - Market of Tlacolula
At the market of Tlacolula we have a meeting with the ceramists that will help us make the Mobile Growing Units installation. With a small truck we go to the house of Macerina and her family where they make the traditional red pottery. They are very willing to help us make the pots for the installation in 'rustico' style.

 

Workshop Maize/Maguey Data Graphics

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.


 

05/11
About 25 graphic artists attended the workshop. The first day we had several presentations by specialists about maize and maguey. We asked the participants to note down on post-it's what they find important, memorable, shocking that they like to share with the group. At the same time mind maps were made of each presentation. Together with the post-it's they serve as a base for the rest of the workshop.
The lunch is provided by Itanoni and Kate Rich introduces Cube Cola made with Agave syrup in stead of sugar.

Quetzalcoatl - Maiz
Querzalcoatl is a researcher at the university of Oaxaca and works on a PhD about Maiz. He explains us the history of the plant, where it comes from and the evolution it's been through to become the plant it is now. He stresses the importance of the identity and preservation of the diversity of corn, which is threatened by new GMO corn sorts that are entering the country. Not much is known about GMO and the information about it in Mexico is insufficient. This might on the long run become a problem for the native Mexican corn.

Itanoni - Amado

Amado's life is dedicated to corn and he has a particular interest in the diversity of the plant and the preservation of all these different types Oaxaca is rich.
His life project is a restaurant where they cook as if the guests are part of the family. They prepare authentic honest Mexican/Oaxacan home cooking.
During his presentation he explains everything about corn:

- philosophy: diversity of corn is metaphor for life, corn is in the centre of life
- lifestyle: use the diversity of corn
- history: history of corn is history of Mexico
- identity: formed by genetics, geography, social
- crisis: of identity, credibility, land use, community, urban vs rural
Itanoni helps villages to produce a big diversity corn. That way it get's preserved and the restaurant represents the village

Marco Antonio Vasquez
Marco is an ethnobotanist and talks about the mythical aspects of maize and maguey and how they are interwoven in Mexican culture. Both plants and their history are very connected to humans, divinity and ecology. marco explained us some symbols, color use, and the importance of diversity and identity.

06-07/11
After some exercises were we explored in more depth the topics of MM using visual translation some concrete proposals for the exhibition emerged. One group consisting of graphic artists, artisans and computer experts created a game that represents the research of MM. The parts of this board game will be made of wood and will be connected to an algorithm that is translates into semantics. The installation is interactive and as people move the stones new words or images are being projected next to it..
The artisans usually work in a restoration atelier of sacral objects. Working with MM and their symbolism provided a new working method and artistic language, which might have an long term influence on their work. Also other artists explored the borders of their own artistic language and proposed new types of work for the exhibition. All this can be seen as an example of the transformative potential of the EITC initiative.

 

Casestudy Days

08/11
Today is a big day for the casestudy Mobile Growing Units. Patrick and Pacôme are leaving for Tlacolula to Macrina and her family to start working on the pots for the plants. First we discuss the shape and technique they will be using. Macrina and her sister both have a different way of constructing a ‘rustico’ pot. Turns out the technique of Macrina’s sister is the best to use. Next to the 21 pots, we’ll also have to make the water reservoirs that will go in each unit. Since the pottery is porous the water will slowly sip into the earth. The system will fill up automatically the water reservoirs soon as the sensor detects there is no more water.
Overall Macrina and her family will make together with Patrick and Pacôme 42 pieces the coming two days. The MGU team stays overnight to continue working the next day.

Casestudy Days

09/11
At 12p.m. V.A. has an appointment with the association Vida Nueva in Teotitlan. This collective of weavers consists of nine women that started working together on different weaving projects. They will make a carpet of the Endless Drawing V.A. martaque is making. In this abstract piece the history, present and past of the production of Maiz is being translated into a graphic. Zea Mays shows the population in relation to production of Maiz and how the balance from the past slowly becomes chaos when moving more into the future. Stress-factors as GMO maiz and overpopulation are stronger in the future and make the drawing very complex, where the past looks much more simple and balanced.
During the first contact with the woman V.A. presents his ideas and Petrona shows the different weaving techniques (Agua, Doble Vuelta, Peine) that are possible as well as the color possibilities. We also get a presentation where the colors come from and which possibilities the natural dyes have.
In the evening we attend a presentation of American researcher and artist Kathryn Rousso about the use of Maguey in Guatamala and the book ‘Maguey Journey’ she wrote during her research about the Maguey plant.

10/11
All the casestudies are put on rails. Time to sit together and start preparing the communication of our event. Who are we inviting? What should the conference be about? We will focus on the artistic works, but also have two specialists talk about Maiz and Maguey to give some background about our overall theme.

11/11
Sunday is a calm day of writing texts, drawing, having coffee and cake in the city and reading.

Casestudy Days

12/11
The third week of our journey starts busy! The group spreads out working on their casestudies. There are visits to Xaquixe, Zegache and some stay working at home.
The group artists from the data graphics workshop that joined forces to make a game for the exhibition heads to Zegache to have a look at the first design that the guys from the talleres have been making. Their piece looks already great and the symbols they made out of wood blocks are already very advanced. The group discusses the design further and gives feedback.
In Xaquixe the glass piece for the bees is being prepared. Everything has to go fast since there is not too much time before the bees go into their hibernation. The glasspiece will be placed on top of the beehive. In this new ‘chamber‘ the bees will then ‘finish’ the piece by working in the glass space.

Casestudy Days

13/11
In Xaquixe the water bowls for MGU are blown today. Not all of them worked out so Thursday the team will have another go to make the water reservoirs for the MGU installation.

14/11
Today V.A. has a new meeting in Teotitlan to show the first design and work out if it is possible to transform this into a carpet. There are different options and we directly go to the loom to see how vertical and horizontal lines can be woven. The
At the same time the artist group of the game get’s together in the Cuarto Contemporaneo to have further discussion about their piece. This time the technical part is being reviewed and Patrick helps figuring out the easiest technical solutions.

Asembly starts at Jardin Etnobotanico de Oaxaca

15/11
Today we’re meeting the guys from Espacio Zapato to talk about our poster and communication. It will be made with serigraphy and for the design we decided to base ourselves on an existing design we found in their shop.
The MGU team finds a spot in the garden to hang the installation. In the back of a garden an unused structure for a future orchid garden seems to be the right place.

16/11
In the morning we meet with all the artists that are participating in the exhibition. Everybody explains what their piece is about and is being questioned by the artists. The people who created the idea of the game are afterwards getting together to finalise how they want to present their idea. It’s not easy to get to a consensus and they decide to meet up on Monday again with thoughts and ideas.
The same morning the TV channel tele 9 is also coming to film the works in progress and have an interview with Bartaku and coordinator Patricia.
In the afternoon Pacôme and Patricia are meeting the potterists to finish the production. Today the pots will be baked in open fire, wrapped up and shipped to the botanical garden.

Publicity for Fiesta del maiz y maguey

18/11
The coming week is the last before the opening on Saturday. A lot still has to be done, especially communication wise. Christina and Loes do their best to get all texts ready and print the flyers on time. They decide to work with color codes for the different parts of communication. First there is the poster that will come in dark terra cotta color. The invitation for the opening has more or less the same color. Then the general flyer for the exhibition is printed in green (spanish version) and bleu (english version). Finally they also print a light blue version that is the private invitation for the fiesta on Sunday to thank all the participants.

 

Assembly days

19/11
The artists from the game are traveling to Zegache to have their wooden symbol pieces finalized. The artisans are the teachers and help out everybody from their group.
Christina and Loes head to the beekeeper Don Pablo to see if the bees have worked already, i.e. if they started building some structures yet in the glass shape. Unfortunately only one colony build a tiny bit in one of the sculptures. Don Pablo has the idea to feed the bees some more sugarwater which may encourage them to build these last days...
The Mobile Growing Units installation also starts to get shaped. Everybody helps out to make knots for the nets the pots will hang in.
An arrives in the late evening and immediately get’s thrown in the production process.

 

Assembly days

20/11
After a day of work almost all the pots of the MGU installation are hanging so they can be filled up. Bartaku’s and Christian’s glass pieces are also being installed in the garden. On top of three magueys fragile glass structures were put to grow together with the flower of the maguey.

21/11
The salon next to the garden is the space where the ‘gamers’ meet up for a final meeting about the game. They decide to leave the technological part behind and focus on the playful and symbolic aspects of their game. They wish to introduce the meaningful symbols in a playful way to the public.
Slowly the pieces for the exhibit are arriving at the garden and the salon is being prepared for the show. An joins Patricia and Rosendo today to buy the decoration for the Salon space.
The posters were printed until late in the night and ready to be picked up today. Diffusion of this great design by Edgar Line from Espacio Zapata can begin.

22/11
Today the plants of the MGU are being placed in the pots. On of the people that works in the greenhouse of the botanical garden shows us some local plants we can use. She will be the person taking care of the MGU plants and making sure the waterreservoirs are filled up at all times.
The original of Martaque’s Endless Drawing is being scanned today and cut in size.

Last day before the opening..

23/11
Christina’s piece is being picked up by Christina, An and Jonathan the photographer. They are very happy to see the bees of Don Pablo have worked and finalized the glass sculpture. The way back is quite an adventure. They get a ride from a neighbor of Don Pablo that is so kind to offer beers and mezcal for the ride to the garden. They arrive late in the evening.
Today the Endless Drawing is is taped to the wall. In the evening the first carpet, a translation of one of the 107 drawings by Diederick Dewaere, is brought by weaver Pastora.
The assembly team of the salon works until 10p.m. to get the space ready for tomorrow morning. The MGU team Patrick and Pacôme also worked until it got dark to finish the technological part of their installation that runs the irrigation system.

 

El Inauguracion

24/11
At 11a.m. we encounter with the artists and public to talk about maiz and maguey in the auditorium of Santo Domingo. The morning starts with an introduction of Alejandro de Avila, giving some background information about the garden and how they are opening it up now to artistic initiatives. Next speaker is Marco Antonio Vasquez who talks about the symbolism behind the two plants that are so deeply embedded in Mexican culture. Then there was time for the Oaxacan artists, represented by Daniela Porras and Pavel Scarubi,  to explain their interest in this project and their involvement in the exhibition. After which Bartaku and Pacôme explained in detail the participation about FoAM, nadine and the installation they created in the botanical garden.
The inauguration of the exhibition was celebrated by a powerful concert by Huemac, playing his plant instruments and some food and drinks by Itanoni. In the afternoon people could join guided tours through the garden where all the artists were invited to talk about their works and interventions.
Our evening ended at a concert of La China Solidera at Mufi’s.

 

La fiesta final

25/11
Today all the participants are invited at the house of Rosendo where we stayed all this time for a big lunch. Maria, who will soon start her own restaurant in Oaxaca, cooked a grand meal for 50 people.
And with mezcal from Cuish there was a good atmosphere and lot's of dancing...