Along with little Dante, Daniela Porras and Luis Canseco are two visual artists based in Oaxaca, Mexico, where they also run an afternoon art school for children up to ten years old. An exhibition of Luis’s work is currently on show at the Musee de los Pintores Oaxaquenos. Both Daniela and Luis actively participated and exhibited at the Fiesta del Maiz y Maguey in Oaxaca in November 2012. As family in residence at FoAM Brussels as the EITC project draws to a close, they explore the cultural impact of the meeting of two continents – Europe and the Americas – nowhere more pronounced than in the contrast between the cities of Oaxaca and Brussels, despite the ongoing process of globalisation.
Taking the metaphor of a bridge between Mexico and Europe as a starting point, they aim to link the two high points of their experience in EITC – working in Oaxaca and working in Europe – as inspiration for artworks and site-specific installations with materials that come to hand during their stay in Brussels. For them it is essential that their work expresses lived experiences which emerge from the backgrounds and cultures within which they are rooted, and which focuses on discovering connections and similarities between different cultural worlds that share common ideas and approaches – especially in relation to the current ecological and environmental situation.
The residency takes place in collaboration with nadine, the second Brussels-based organisation involved in the EITC initiative.
When I realized that Brussels is so different in so many ways from Mexico I also started to see that there was also a lot of similarities between traditions and details that made me feel like at home. For example food. In Mexico our traditions are connected and melted together with food, and FoAM is a special space that encourages many moments in the kitchen. As a mom one of the most important thought out the day it is the first need to feed our kid, then feed the ones you care for, and so on to the family. I think that's why home and food became two main themes for my artistic research.
Inspiration first came to me from what I see, hear, smell and can touch. So each day that I spent on the streets of Brussels I was looking and finding stories of people living there, imagining their daily routine, actions or religious thoughts… To me it was so amazing to be able to explore these new situations and to explain to my child Dante what he was living in and seeing around him. I was so emotionally touched by the surroundings, that they generated a couple of crazy and new images in my artistic mind which I felt obliged to translate into the artwork.
From the first week of our arrival we started to have communication with the cultural attaché of the Mexican Embassy. She explained to us about the artistic environment here in Brussels. But the most important for us was to meet so many different people and with such a variety of backgrounds but somehow their jobs where always linked with art. FoAM and nadine were the perfect places to meet so many of such personalities. We understood that art can be in a church, or in a scientific lab, or even anywhere else that has nothing to do with the “traditional” techniques or locations of art.
At first I thought that contemporary art in Brussels was very far away from Mexican ideas but by visiting several museums and seeing other people busy with their projects I realized that everything depends on how you support your project. You can have such a beautiful discourse without focusing on the results but investing more time into the process. I think that the balance between idea, research process and final piece became what art means to me now.
In the process of my residency I had the support and advice of many individuals involved in the project. I have no doubt that if this support was not there all the results of the residency would've been totally different. I am so glad that I had Rasa, Maja, Loes, Pacome, An, Bart and Christina helping with every single detail. They explained to me how to look at the city and how deep the meaning of everyday life and casual actions can be.
We talked a lot about the richness of our earth and that we are all in the same boat, no matter countries, languages or cultures… And we have to row together. All my work has a deep emotion reflecting on that.
Feedback is the key… I think that each time we were talking about work in progress, solutions and new questions were always growing that influenced my final work. It made my work piece a lot more rich and powerful.
We were worried about the time though… probably it was everything going to fast. If we had more time to absorb it, all processes and work could've been even more complete. Also I found it challenging to break walls, stereotypes and patterns in my mind. Open myself and believe that art is now in everything of our life.
If I ever have chance to come back I would like to be teaching our traditional background culture to a big audience… painting, cooking and dancing, with kids or adults, making workshops on how time and art can be part of your everyday schedule. I love when people want to learn and you can support them somehow… I realize that Europe also has a need for different experiences. People can learn from our stories too. By comparing them we can reach many good outcomes and solutions (against racism, languages problems, shyness, sadness…)
In Mexico financial issues are really a problem and it is a shame that productions always depend on financial issues. That is why as an artist I always work with the things that I can find around or have at hand and make a proposal with this flexibility or expand it, if we have more money.
At the beginning of the residency it was not so clear about the per diems and fee for the final work that I had to present at the gallery. Only the last week we understood the concept behind the final event and that gave also a total vision of the final frame. In FoAM we received not only an artistic fee but also all the needed materials in order to achieve our ideas. It was perfect!
When we got married we built our home in Oaxaca. But the Family in Residency program made so much sense and adjusted the meaning of family and home for us together. Two concepts quite the same …because in Mexican traditions there is more than us in a nuclear family.
The most challenging about working with a child is that you have to plan the day around the daily rhythm of the child. But then something can still happen totally differently simply because of Dante's primary needs (he might want to sleep or eat a lot earlier or later…) I also learned that work can be slow but there is not a problem with that. It also allowed me to teach my son to be able to be alone or to work with me in the process. Dante is painting a lot with us now and we know that he can be with us when we work and he knows (at least he tries) to be on good behaviour.
Being together is something very precious for us because we have been working as a team since we met each other at college so we know how we can combine art, parenthood and routine to produce a complete job (or artwork) in the end. The big difference during the residency was that we didn't have all the family's extra support that we have in Mexico with grandparents and Dante's school.
After getting back from Brussels we are working already on some changes in our school. We want to teach and show to everybody in our community how it is possible to contribute to the same project as group and get feedback from every person at any stage of the work. (This is a very nice way to work but also difficult to apply everywhere – but we will keep on trying :) We are trying to stay open-minded and to participate in group collaborations. And of course trying to do the best for our “family”. We try to ask for help and advice when its needed from people around us and try to bring in their opinions. And to believe that it is possible.
We are at home now and we start to be more pro-nature. Each day we are taking care of our garden and we have our kitchen garden project started (I will send images of all of these following projects). We would like to show to our kids (and students in general) how creativity is part of our surroundings. We need to teach them and also teach ourselves how to express art from several points of view and create in our minds a whole network of knowledge. Thanks to this residency I realize that being a mother, a wife, a teacher and an artist can be the same. Without separate topics, opinions or ways of working, in the end we have to be coherent in the way we talk, think and act. This is the power of art.
My main goals during the residency was the analysis of time of the objects and even of our lives. Time goes by in different spaces or dimensions and each experience shows a different way of use. The travel and time during the residency makes a big change in our bodies and in our lives so that time of being surrounded by everything new also has of course a big influence in how we see things and think.
I found very inspirational to be in a quiet place where everything is arranged for an artistic research. I was surrounded by wonderful people who helped and encouraged me to create my work and to give the best part of myself. I was able to connect with the local art scene only in a small way. The connection was with cultural places… Some museums and some galleries, but you need more time to be really involved into cultural circles. I feel we just encountered the surface of a deep system. The Brussels community was indeed the biggest impression for me, so many people with so many different languages living in the same city, was totally amazing.
During the residency at FoAM I received lots of feedback about my work in progress. I think this support was cautious, letting me free to work and free to be in the space. It was essential and fundamental for a great result, because you are free to create and all the help and suggestions give an extra power and backup for the experience. The process itself was very important. Not only as the research but also being connected to other artists and their ways of work differently made me think and find new solutions.
The most helpful to me was that I was with my family, and being close to them makes me calm and happy. I worked even better and increased the desire of productivity and self-esteem. When you are with your wife and child together at the residency, day by day you are working and experimenting and enjoying being at home and work. This is fantastic. We are used to working together in our school – the difference was that I spent full time with my wife and my baby and that makes me feel incredible. I feel I formed love to art and creativity as I played with my son. I saw him grow. The most challenging to me was communication: I was waiting my wife's translation and so many different languages makes me learn a lot but also to love her even more.
Probably the only thing that was a bit disappointing was the way of exhibiting the final work pieces. All the visual object wasn't for me the best way to do it… because there were some spaces without a flow and sequence and in the end there was not so much public coming to see it. And other professionals and critics didn't show up.
On the other hand my final piece was published and so reached a wider audience not only in Brussels but also in Mexico. And I think that the received fee and art process were well balanced together.
In the future I would like to keep in touch with the FoAM community and all their surroundings, sharing our life and artistic experience from now and then. If I had the chance to come back I would like to figure out how I could connect to more people via my work. I would love to involve huge audiences in my projects, as well as to have visual and sensitive connections and analysis between them. Maybe It would be in some park or at the museums, or even create a space somewhere. Perhaps even be provocative to some people. It would be great to have different opinions about a specific topic.
And in general I would like to be more multidisciplinary, when you have a group of so special individuals you can make links and connections and make the projects grow. The links and connections are the way of learning from each other and inspiring each other as well. In the end we are one society in the world and it can be connected everywhere and with everything.