Venerative artefacts

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.

Venerative artefacts and narrative objects
1 Nov 2011 - 31 Oct 2013
The case study will develop technology enhanced ‘craft noveau’ in relation to narrative and drama. It will merge media technology and craft into new forms of popular art objects. The aim will be to develop an entire “product line” of objects such as these – based upon the same collaborative design principles as the interactive video shrine completed as part of the pilot project carried out in November 2009.

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.


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.

Quick on the draw - an interview with Lapiztola
24 Apr 2013
Alongside the ongoing life of its traditional cultures and crafts, and its notable contemporary painters, Oaxaca is home to a fertile street art movement. Its collectives are closely associated with the political uprising that took place over seven months in 2006. What began as a teachers’ strike grew into a wider revolt against political corruption and acts of repression, fed by a desire for autonomy. Among the collectives born during that time is Lapiztola, its name a play on the Spanish words lapiz (pencil) and pistola (pistol). As two of its members prepare to visit Malmö and Stockholm as artists-intransience in the EITC project, Oyuki Matsumoto found out more about their story. (This is a reposting of an interview from Performing Pictures autumn 2012 newsletter)

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.

A conversation about making and looking at photographs
15 Feb 2013
At the end of the workshop, we had a discussion about photography and different ways of seeing. Here are some of our thoughts, together with more of our pictures.
Veronica took this picture of her husband at work at the Talleres. She said, "Taking pictures, you are seeing things more slowly, more closely. You see the meaning of things..."
Veronica gave the church as an example. "We had never seen the details of the church," she said.
"Now we see many details across the pictures," Veronica said, "because before we saw only overviews of things, but now we really can see the details."  This is where she makes tortillas to sell at the school.
Chelión took this picture of his colleague from the roof of the church.  He later said, "Through pictures you can see details of what's around you.  When you walk you're just watching where you walk...".
" do not stop to look in detail at all you have around and you realize how important it is."
"Sometimes you do not value all that you have around you," Chelión said, "but taking pictures you can see that you have an abundance of things."
Dolores, like several others, had photographed the mountain of Maria Sanchez, a place of many legends.  She said, "I also believe that a picture can take you into another space and time, into another place."
"Across pictures, you can live the moment again," Dolores said.  "You can move, travel to another time."
Yes, Angeles said, "with the pictures, we realized how many important and significant things we have in our town, like the church...."
"...through one picture, we show the value and meaning it has, like the hill and the traditions."
"I found this exercise very interesting," Ches said, "because we can transmit things through images. At the same time it was complex because the camera does not take all that I want to show, like the sounds, the smells. Every moment, every second, things are happening and changing..."
"...and I wanted to capture that change, and that's a challenge for me to capture all those things...."
"With a word that has no size or shape, you can say a lot, but in theory with an image, you can do more than with one word.  I think it is possible to use the image to communicate these complex things that happen."
Juana said, "For me it was very interesting, because I had not walked this way before and stopped to see things around us."
"In a picture you can have a reflection on the past and the present and the future," Ches said. "You can have all these dimensions together."
When Dolores brought out the old photographs from the town, everyone got involved in the discussion
Many of the photographs were badly damaged. Dolores wanted to get them scanned, so that they would survive.
Especially important were pictures of the church, from before the earthquake in 1957.
Veronica wondered if this photograph was taken during a confirmation.
No, Dolores said, this is a school party. You can see the teacher in the middle.
Veronica thought she could identify her husband's grandmother in this picture.  She lived to be nearly 100 years old. The whole family spoke Zapotec, and Veronica didn't understand at all. "When the others went to work in the field, I stayed home with Lao's grandmother to prepare the food, and she taught me Zapotec."."
This is also from before the earthquake, Dolores said.  The people from San Jerónimo came here on holidays.
You can see the dancers here, who came from San Jerónimo.
When you turn it over, it looks like a postcard. Probably photographers came for the festival.
Who were the photographers? Karin asked. Angeles said it might be Eloy's studio, but Veronica said he wasn't even born then.
"Before, a long time ago," Veronica said, "people were killed a lot around here."
"Yes, but these are not killers," Dolores said. "They are local police."
"And this is the man on the right in that picture, who was nicknamed Trick, right?"
"Yes, his name is Eusebio Venegas, Dolores explained. And here is again." "I didn't know he was from here!" said Angeles. "Yes," said José/Chelión, "He was my father's uncle...He's dead now. He died not too long ago."
 "This is from the roof in Mexico City where he lived," Delores said. Chelión said when he came back he lived near Ocotlán." Delores continued, "He always carried a gun....he said he had come to clean up the town; there were many killers here, and no one was facing them. He started killing one by one and so had to leave town because the relatives of those people became his enemies." Angeles said, yes, "It was the time when there were problems between Santa Ana (Zegache) and Santa María Quiané."
He's in this picture, too, as a child. "This is the pageant of December 12," Dolores explained, "and Eusebio Venegas is on the left, playing the part of 'Juan Diego', the child who saw the Virgin."
Many of the old photographs were of religious pageants and festivals.
Like this one...
or this one.
And that tradition of taking pictures continues, even today.
Una Conversación, Haciendo y Viendo Fotografías
15 Feb 2013
Al final del taller, tuvimos una conversación sobre la fotografía y las diferentes maneras de verlas. Aquí algunas de nuestras reflexiones junto con nuestras imágenes.
Verónica tomó esta foto de su marido trabajando en los Talleres. Dijo: “Con las fotos vas viendo las cosas más despacio, más cerca, ves el significado de las cosas...”
Verónica puso la iglesia como ejemplo. “Nunca habíamos visto los detalles de la iglesia”, dijo.
“Ahora vemos mucho detalle a través de las fotos” decía Verónica, “Porque antes teníamos solamente una visión general de las cosas, pero ahora podemos realmente ver los detalles” Aquí es donde ella hace las tortillas que vende en la escuela.
José Luis Chelión tomó esta foto de su colega desde el techo de la iglesia. Después dijo: “A través de las fotos puedes ver los detalles de lo que tienes al rededor. Cuando caminas solo ves por donde caminas......”
“...... No te paras a mirar a detalle todo lo que tienes al rededor y luego te das cuenta de lo importante que es.”
“A veces no valoras todo lo que tienes al rededor”. Dice José Luis Chelión “Pero con la fotografía puedes ver tantas cosas que tienes.”
Dolores, como muchos otros, fotografió la montaña de María Sanchez, un lugar con muchas leyendas. Ella dijo: “También creo que una fotografía te puede transportar en tiempo y espacio, te puede llevar a otro lugar”
“A través de las fotos puedes revivir momentos” dice Dolores. “Puedes moverte y viajar a otro tiempo”.
Sí, dijo Ángeles, “con las fotos nos damos cuenta de cuantas cosas importantes y significativas tiene nuestro pueblo, como la iglesia.....”
”..... A través de una foto, mostramos el valor y el significado que tiene, como el mogote y las tradiciones”.
”Este ejercicio me pareció muy interesante” dice José Luis Ches, “porque pudimos transmitir cosas a través de las imágenes. Al mismo tiempo fue complicado porque la cámara no captaba todo lo que yo quería mostrar, como los sonidos, los olores. A cada instante, a cada segundo, las cosas están pasando y cambian...”
 “.... y yo quisiera capturar ese cambio, y ese es un reto para mi, el capturar todas esas cosas....”
“Con una palabra que no tiene dimensión ni forma, puedes decir mucho, pero en teoría con una imagen tú puedes hacer más que con una palabra. Pienso que es posible usar la imagen para comunicar esas cosas complejas que suceden.”
Juanita dijo, “Para mi fue muy interesante porque aprendimos, yo no había hecho esto de caminar y detenernos a ver las cosas que nos rodean.”
“En una foto foto tú puedes tener una reflexión acerca del pasado del presente y del futuro”, dijo Ches. “Puedes tener todas esas dimensiones juntas”.
Cuando Dolores trajo las viejas fotografías del pueblo, todos participaron en la conversación.
Muchas de las fotografías estaban dañadas, Dolores quería tenerlas escaneadas para que pudieran sobrevivir.
Las fotos de la iglesia eran especialmente importantes, de antes del temblor de 1957.
Verónica se preguntaba si esta foto habría sido tomada durante una confirmación.
No, dijo Dolores, esta es una fiesta escolar. Aquí está el maestro en medio.
Verónica pensó que podía identificar a la abuela de su marido en esta foto. Ella vivió casi 100 años. Toda la familia hablaba Zapoteco, y Verónica no entendía nada. “Cuando los demás se iban a trabajar al campo, yo me quedaba en la casa con la abuela de Lao para preparar la comida, y ella me enseñó a hablar Zapoteco.
Esto también es de antes del temblor, dijo Dolores. La gente de San Jerónimo venía aquí de vacaciones.
Aquí se pueden ver los danzantes que venían de San Jerónimo.
Cuando la volteas, se ve como una postal. Probablemente los fotógrafos venían a las fiestas.
Quienes eran los fotógrafos? preguntó Karin. Angeles dijo que probablemente el estudio de Eloy, pero Verónica dijo que todavía ni había nacido.
“ Antes, hace muchos años” dijo Verónica, “Aquí antes la gente se mataba mucho”.
“Si pero estos no eran matones”, dijo Dolores, “ellos son los policías municipales”.
“Y este es el señor que le decía truco verdad?”
Si, se llamaba Eusebio Venegas, explicó Dolores. “Aquí está también.” “No sabía que era de aquí!” dijo Ángeles “Sí” dijo Chelión “era el tío de mi papá.....ya se murió. Se murió hace poco”.” Esta es de la ciudad de México, la tomó desde las azotea del cuarto donde vivía,” dijo Dolores. Chelión dijo que cuando regresó se fue a vivir cerca de Ocotlán.
Dolores continuó “Él siempre cargaba una pistola..... él decía que había venido a limpiar el pueblo porque había muchos matones y nadie se enfrentaba a ellos. Los fue eliminando de a uno por uno y por eso se fue a vivir a otra parte, porque los familiares de esas personas lo tenían como enemigo”. Ángeles dijo “Sí, era cuando habían problemas entre Santa Ana Zegache y Santa María Quiané.”
Aquí está también en esta foto cuando era niño. “Esta es la procesión del 12 de diciembre” explicó Dolores “Y Eusebio Venegas del lado izquierdo como Juan Diego, el joven que vio a la Virgen”.
Muchas de las viejas fotografías eran fiestas y procesiones religiosas.
Como ésta.....
O ésta....
Y la tradición de tomar fotografías continúa hasta nuestros días.
17 Jun 2012
To build this chapel had to be very much like in the classical age when the architects, the masons , the carpenters, the technicians and many others worked together on the construction of a classy movie theater – we are here to create a space with style and panache, a site of marvel and excitement that will host a new art form: cinema! We are in fact the Lumière-cousins bringing motion pictures to the world of chapels, the Fitzcaraldos of rural Oaxaca that will take on a task worthy the endevours of Titans: to make the second Kinetic Chapel of Performing Pictures in Santa Ana Zegache, Oaxaca, Mexico!


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.

15 Jun 2012
The chapel was ready and fully fuctional! I had had some problems with the eliminator (12 to 5 volts), so I decided to head for Oaxaca in the morning and buy a spare one in Steren (just in case!). Meanwhile my cousin and the usual squad from the taller cleaned around the chapel.

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!

The entire crew from the taller came around 15 o'clock.
Robert is getting interviewed by the El Jolgorio.
Eric, Mitch, Chiquis, Đani, Armand and Monica
This is how the  ”horno de tierra” where the goat is being roasted, looks like.
This is the municipal administration of Zegache!
Scooby (outmost to the left) is going around serving tepache (a fermented drink made out of pineapple, pulque and sugar cane). In the background: the Tit of Maria Sanchez.
Mitch takes out the bottle of mezcal that has been buried together with the roasted goat – in the ground (real dangerous drink!!)
And finally, Christian arrivs with the glass pillars! They are absolutely stunning!
A group photo with the entire crew of Talleres Comunitarios de Zegache.
The people from the municipal office are taking a closer look at the chapel.
Mitch, Chiquis, Robsy, Armand and Monica!
School kids pass by and I notice that one of them is carrying a  paper model. The text on the ”maquette” is Electric Chapel! I didn't ask him about it, I just took the photo, 'cause I didnt want to ruin a good story.
Santa Ana was still running!
Đani applieas some varnish to the cross.
Cleaning around the chapel.
This is how it looks inside the chapel's inner sanctity!
Juanita and her children (Marlene is the daughter who used to play with Nadja some years ago. Last year Juanita made the clotes to the puppets (Santa Ana and the Virgencita) in the animation  together with Geska Helena Brečević.
The clever thing about the chapel is that it has a lever where the really small kids can stand and have a look at Santa Ana.
That day it was raining a lot and the boys were still struggling with the little door on the lower part of the chapel.
14 Jun 2012
This day was simply magic! It drew a lot of of its' enchanting power from the fact that we were ready one day before deadline/opening – the kind of energy that is generated by the fact that now you could see to details... or just relax and enjoy the fruits of your work.

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!

Different shades of blue while José, Eric and Mitch take turns to peep into the chapel.
The ”La Patrona”-animation is already in there and there is quite a commotion to who is to get to see it first!
Some mezcal for the trip back to Europe!
It is difficult to capture ”the thing” on ”film”.
This man was mighty impressed, he kept hanging around saying ”oo-orale” (allright). But he also insisted on knowing what the chapel costs? Priceless!
This is yet another attempt to depict the inner sanctity of the chapel ”from outside”.
There was a constant flux of people coming by to take a look inside the chapel.
A sideshot with don Pedro's house in the background!
In the evening don Pedro summoned his wife and daughters in order to see the new marvel on the block. This is when he solemnly promised to personally guard the chapel.
I also made a small matrix of LED-lights that could be used to illuminate a scultpure - as an alternative to the photoframe.
The plaque is about be finished – notice the subtle merge of the logotype of the Taller and Performing Pictures!
Chiquis and Mitch are struggling to cover the metall door with a laminate of wood.
The cross has just arrived from the workshop and Đani is attaching it at the back of the cupola.
This is yet another close-up of the peeping hole in the door: I belive that it is going to be the trademark of Kinetic Chapels all over the world.
So, here I am! Way up in the Jacaranda-tree with a machete in my hand – cutting branches that might shade the solar-panel at the back of the chapel.
Look! A tree-climbing monkey in a white shirt!
Drilling holes to attach the cross. Be careful with that solar panel.
The cupola as well as the base are now starch blue. The guys are amazed by the shere colours, or?
13 Jun 2012
We have two more days to go. Đani is about to finish the cupola . And at the taller we celebrate Chiquis birthday with soda, cake and some singing (I mke a performance singing the happy birthday-son in Swedish – there is no good birthdy-song in Croatian! But the Mexican is really the best!).

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.

Me and Lau just about to take some birthday cake for Chiquis.
Chiquis looks real anxious to get some of that cake. Maria is doing a serious job serving it!
It's always fun when your colleague has a birthday!
The basic shape has been made with  bricks. It will be even out with plaster.
The cement-plaster has been mixed with blue pigment – but it doesn't seem to come out that well.
Don Pedro and some of the neighbours' kids chat with Chiquis and Scooby.
Building this chapel is also like construction one of those classical cinema theaters – to create a space with style and panache that will bring you moving images!
Đani and the chapel!
Robsy and the chapel!
12 Jun 2012
Time to electrify our faith – or to put faith in the electrification.

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!

This will be a sacred edifice!
Today was Chiquis birthday – so I brought a case of beer to the construction site as well.
Don Pedro returns from  a work day at the ”campo”.
First group from the taller is checking out the state of the art in (not yet) solar-powered chapels.
They are thouroughly checking the construction.
Georgina came by with the solar panel.
I am definitely pleased to finaly have the panel in place at the construction site.
Chiquis is having a go at the plaquette that Đani is preparing for the chapel.
The logotype of the taller has never been chiseled in stone!
A small albeit effective solar system From 12 volts to 5 volts. Peak usage will be 6 watts!
I put the solar panel to practice in the courtyard of the taller.
No scaffolding or nothing – just stand on the ledge and start making that cupola.
11 Jun 2012
Enriched by the mountain-experience a new work week (the last one!) starts. I had to go to Oaxaca to order and buy the components for the solar system (panel, battery, controller and cables). It felt like going to New York or some other megacity after this time in Santa Ana Zegache. While I was away – the chavos did marvellous work on the construction site!
The cantera verde has been cut to make the overarching vault above the main wooden door.
Chiquis is standing in the midst of a small castle that is to become a chapel.
I do see some jugend/secession style going on here – the lines, the ornaments...
It is quite amazing that Chiquis fits inside the chapel – allthough it was tricky to come out! Feet first!
Side-shot of the future chapel.
Another side shot of the future chapel.
This is me coming back from Oaxaca with som electronics from Steren (very friendly guy helped me calculate resistors and LEDs). The solar panel, the battery and the controller have been ordered. Georgina will take them with her in the car tomorrow!
10 Jun 2012
It was Sunday again and we had a day off. Everyone was quite excited to go on an excursion to the top of Maria Sanchez – the people of the taller (workshop) had invited us for a day of mountain climbing. In fact the largest mountain around here is called ”the tit of Maria Sanchez” - it looked easy from below, but it proved to be quite a challenge.
At the base camp at the foot of the hill our friends are preparing a delicious eal. They are using my hat to fan the fire! It got exquisitely ruined, being scorched by the flames and looked really good afterwards!
We found a really nice hide-away on the top – where we could take some more beers and tequila.
Apparently it is not called ”condor” in Spanish – it just provoces laughter as it resembles the word ”condon”.
Going back to the foot of the hill we see this shepheard with a machete and a dog.
The view from the top is astonishing. Hee you can clearly see what is meant by the name ”valley of Oaxaca” - it looks mighty fertile as well.
In the morning all of us mountain climbers had a rendez-vous next to the main square.
We went to the actual base of the mountain by two cars. You can see how entusiastic everyone looks and the mountain is in the background (it doesn't look that hard, does it?)
Some of us brought some tools as well – in case we would run into a bunny or something.
Đani really wanted to get his picture taken in front of this cactus-tree.
Time for a break, some beer, some mezcal (it was actually tequila), while we were waiting for them city dwellers to catch up with us – Georgina, Christian and the kids joined in from Oaxaca.
Here is Georgina in her Zumba-outfit. Much better than going to the gym!
The cross on the top of the tit of Maria Sanchez signifies the highest point (I just skipped all in-between-images).
We found an abbandoned flag at the top. Scooby is proudly putting the Mexican colours around himself.
At the base camp at the foot of the hill our friends are preparing a delicious eal. They are using my hat to fan the fire! It got exquisitely ruined, being scorched by the flames and looked really good afterwards!
Back in Santa Ana Zegache we sit at the marcet square and enjoy the rest of the beer.
9 Jun 2012
Saturday night fever all day and all night. We transport the rest of the stone material from the taller (workshop) to the construction site – using 2 mototaxis. This has been a long-standing whish by my cousin, who is contemplating to perform this service to his vllage in Croatia! Afterwork was spent on a small dirt road outside a shop/cantina, where we met Julio, the guitar player and the unforgettable ”el Guapo” (the handsome one) – a true performer. World class entertainment!
This is Julio – he is like a living jukebox. He does cumbias, traditional Mexican song. I make a request for some songs from the revolution. Viva Zapata!
In fact, Julio wants to record quite a few songs. Lucky that there is a lot of space on the memory card of the camcorder.
Julio wants to record a message, a song, as a salute to the newly found friends from Europe!
This is ”el Guapo” (the handsome one) + an endless string of names and nicknames that he presented himself with. He had just scored some important goals at a soccer game, so he was really happy! Then he gets a full jugg of mezcal from Julio. Then he dances. Then some more mezcal and cigarettes. And he dances like a dervisch to the cumbia Half an hour later he is lying on the dirt road – peacefully sleeping.
Mainly designed to transport people around the pueblo – and this is the thing a like: most people don't have cars so transportation is truly collective, such as takig the collectivo taxi into Oaxaca or Ocotlan – or going shopping with a mototaxi. Makes my anti-private-cars-heart bump faster with excitement!
My cousin is happy as a child, this is the future transportation ode in Katun, Istria!
A classic group photo – them poses!
The Croatian language has a wide variety of cursing, allways involving the reproductive parts of both the female and male body. Due to misscommunication the corner-stones came 2 centimeters to short and they do not fit at a row of 3 bricks.
Young folks with cell phones are excactly the same – all around the world!
Both columns are now complete and we can continue with the brick-laying.
Christ is attached to the chapel.
Don Pedro is the first neighbour of the future chapel. It is at his place that we store our tools, cement, bricks and other equipment.
After each days work session you need to clean up. In fact, cleaning is an integral part of construction.
So... here we are – time for some afterwork!
8 Jun 2012
The fiesta of Corpus Christi was over but ”Điđi Anarhišta" went boom-boom-boom with his fireworks at 7 o'clock in the morning. He does it all religious events, sts outside the church, sends his rockets up in the sky and waits for them to go off with a blast.This is the ”Điđi's” own way of communicating with God!

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).

Chiquis is a skilled mason and brick-layer – it is really very few things that he is not good at! Well... that would be English – allthough he and my cousin comunicate from Spanish to Croatian – which is a skill in itself!
Next column... the Graal!
Putting that Graal real straight. And Mitch is cutting some bricks.
Il Gesù is ready!
I am in excrutiating pain! The upper part of my arms hurt from wearing a t-shirt with slighty shorter sleaves. It wil affect my mood for the next days.
7 Jun 2012
The work in the workshop continued throughout the day. Tomorrow we should continue building at the site. Meanwhile we can enjoy the fiesta of Corpus!

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?!”

The angle is important. Not to steep, not to flat. Chiquis is learning the tricks of stone masonry.
Đani observes the pupil.
This Neal, he is from Seattle, USA. He and his wife were our neighbours in the appartment, downtown  Oaxaca. They came out to Zegache this beautiful day to meet us and see our work that they were mighty impressed by. They satyed the entire day and took part of the procession as well!
 I was filming and taking pictures from the oter side of the road of the procession. Afterwards Đani told me that he had tried to call upon my attention: "you should should have taken a picture of the girls of the taller, they were all down on their knees when the procession stopped in front of the altar – an act of devotion. It all looked very beautiful”.
Bom-bo-bo-boom-bom! The drummers are festive and they are at the front of the procession; controlling the pace while people are walkng and chanting. A mesmerizing sound, so solemn!
The procession stops at the atar and the priest blesses it.
The procession continues to other chapels and altars
At the end of the procession we see Neal and his wife. Outside the picture to the right is Isidro who is very keen to talk with the 2 gringos. Isidro is one of 5-7 guys in the pueblo who are present at every religious event - mainly to drink!
Our female colleagues are content with the altar getting blessed. It all panned out well! The smoke comes from the traditional insense used for religious events – it is called copal.
Đani loves copal and he wants to have the on the table while working. Copal is a sort of resin from a tree wih the same name and in fact it is very similar (if not identical) to Myrrh that is used in Catholic churches in the Mediteerranean region – this was  one of the gifts that the Three Kings brought along to Betlehem.
The stone pillars are ready to go.
6 Jun 2012
During this day we continued working with the relief work on the stone pillars. Chiquis prepared the frame for the main door och chapel. We stayed at the taller all day and did not go down to the construction site.
An angel with the face of Benito Juarez!!!
Đani is sketching the shape for the next stone pillar – the ornament is 3-dimensionally intricate.
Chiquis manufactures the frame for the main door.
It takes approximatelly 8 hours per stone to make the ornaments on both sides of the stone.
The side faces are given a simple ine texture within a frame.
5 Jun 2012
Wake-up call at 06.30 by the muncipal sound system. A speaker-set is right next to our appartment and they are playing mañanitas and cumbias really really loud. We think it is a joke, a misstake, but it continues until 07.30. Inbetween the songs a female voice is telling us to go to work: al campo! The sheep start singing as well. Needless to say; from now and one we are getting up real early!

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.

The cantera is a very soft stone and somewhat uneven (some parts are harder, som as soft as chalk).
At the same time in the workshop the chavos and chavas are working with the restauration of a grand retable.
This is Santa Ana. A 19th century sculpture that Lau inhereted from his grandmother.
The pueblo is getting ready for the Corpus Christi fiesta. These beauiful women are serving tejate  - a delicious drink made out of cocoa, maiz and the seeds of mamey (a avocado-like fruit with one big seed in the middle).
 Tejate is highy popular (and muy muy rico!) so our colleagues from the taller alk away happy!
The pre-romanesque three ribbon comes out really well in the cantera verde. It will add a bit of antiquity to the stone.
My cousin has spent the 20 years mocking the nationalist wave in Croatia, making many enemies and even repercussions such as jail – and here he goes making a medieval Croatian ornament. Well, it is really for the shape of it – it plays so nicely with the stone.
The women of the pueble start decorating the church for Corpus Christi. The priest is nowhere to be seen before the actual festivity, the women take care of things by themselves, remarks my cousin.
4 Jun 2012

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. 

The stone (cantera verde) had arrived from Etla. My cousin was a bit disappointed with the cutting of them – but well, these Mediterranean stone masons are a bit snobbish when it comes to that particular trade.
A quick try-out of how to give that cornerstones some texture.
As soon as we had put the first ledge of stone at the construction it recieved a much more exclusive touch. The combination of red bricks and the catera verde was really looking promising.
This is simply one of my favourite images. The postures!
As the goats are passing by (allways around 17 o'clock) I notice that Chiquis actually knows some of them by name! Even though they are not his goats!
This is to become ”our corner” - some 20 meters frm our appartment there is a smal grossery shop; this is where we stop after work to have a couple of beers and buys some water.
From ”our corner” we have a perfect view on the side of the church.
2 Jun 2012
The metall door for the battery compartment was ready this day – manufactured by a welder from the Protestant family on the other side of the road. Working during a Saturday proved to be quite festive – the other chavos from the taller (workshop) joined in the afternoon and brought giant beers called caguamas. And Chiquis snuck off to his English course in the ciudad of Oaxaca – that he attends every week. We ended this marvellous Saturday by some Afterwork and a birthday party!
Finally, we ended up at a birthday party! Dona Paola (lady in the middle with a white t-shirt) was celebrated. In the background is the new house that is getting built – we got the coarse sand for the chapel from her. Thanks, Dona Paola!
Erik is putting our things together: the cement, the lime, the tools (such as the universally useful machete) – we store them over night at ur nearest neighbour, Don Pedro's place.
Today's date!
Chiquis is cleaning the joints between the bricks using a small piece of wood with the head of a nail sticking out of it 1.5 cm. Once those joints are claned – the texture of the walls made out red bricks come out real well.
Since we allready had started a bit of partying during worktime, we just went with the flow and continued with the guys to different cantinas/shops (there are very in Zegache – the system is you go to the tienda/shop buy your beers and sit outside drinking it, coming back with the empty bottle).
Eric and Đani are sitting outside one of the many tiendas (there is a grossery shop in virtually every second house), enjoying one of many beers.
Chiquis is inspecting the door. It closes. And it opens. All seems in place.
To get the door in place, we drilled through the metall and the brick and attached it with screws. We borrowed some electricity from our neighbour Don Pedro as this was one of the rare occasions that we used a power tool.
Once the door was in place, we could continue with the bricklaying.
The metall door was now firmly atached and the boys had come from the taller with an entire case of caguamas: 1 litre bottles of beer named after a Spanish word for small turtles.
We skipped lunch and got our nourishment from beer. Besides, Đani had had a stomach issue going on for 6 straight days and he as really living off beer. Here's me and Lao in one of the few shades around the future chapel (the tree we didn't cut down ;)
With the door in place, the next level completed it was time to make cast the next sheet of concrete – tha base for the actual chapel! As allways, the armature was knitted together by hand – and by Chiquis.
We had a lot of company while filling the first compartment of the chapel with concrete. Still, more hands are not necessary useful for more work – that's the curse of smaller construction project!
1 Jun 2012
We got out to Zegache even later this mornig due to blocked off roads (we're hearing that there will also be demonstrations AGAINST the school teachers' strike – I am not sure what to get out of that. Even Georgina claims that it is mainly about enriching the union not the teachers). But it is a nice and cloudy day for construtction work.
Đani takes a break on the other (Protestant) side of the road – next to Scooby's bike.
Allways the same goat! Being the last one in the herd and stopping by to get some water (that we use for soaking the bricks).
I'm constantly running off to get the camera. Need to document the entire process. It is tedious work, but someone has to do it. Smile!
Yet another group photo. Đani has covered the concrete blocks with a first coating.
When we have filled it with concrete and big stones it is time fto sign it with the next date. We are off to lunch!
We have already eaten but this soup is about soaking the red bricks so that they will stick together with the cement when we start with the brick-laying.
First row of bricks is the trickiest one – it needs to be exact.
Construction is about measuring – and measuring again!
Here's the thing: we have absolutely no power tools. Bricks are cut with a hammer and a machete. The thing is that I actually think that this is faster then using machines.
Handywork! Đani's old hammer has been around since 1987.
Cleaning the joints between the bricks.
This day has been very productive!!!
31 May 2012
We are the sixth day into our trip and it is the second day of actual construction work. It is really hot, the sun is high and we are working at a spot were there is not supposed to be any shade (due to the solar panels that are going to be part of the chapel). The valley of Oaxaca has a specific climate due to the relatively high elevation (around 1.50 above sea level) and the nights are fresh – so are the morning. It is quite a task to get to Zegache as early as 8 o'clock. We are still staying in the ciudad of Oaxaca and the traffic is a mess; to mak thngs worse – the school teachers are regulary bloking of the roads as a part of their protests.

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.

Yup, we really got somewhere today!
Scooby is finishing of today's wok flashing the cuchara.
We have a fundament and we have a base – tomorrow we will do some more filling!
Scooby and Chiquis have been transporting fine sand (arena)
All the concrete and paster for this construction were to be mixed on the ground with shovels.
First step is to make the fundament for the chapel.
The rebar is knitted together with a special tool – a hook. Hand-made, of course – hecho en Zegache.
The first concrete base is ready and Đani writes the date in the wet concrete. This doesn't seem to be the custom here, since both Chiquis and Scooby are giggling delightedly at this.
The pirate-look comes from the fact that we really need to shield our heads from the sun. After lunch as the first sheet of conrete has fixated (it dries very fat in this heat), it is time to start with some brick-laying.
Chiquis in a hoodie. Thick clothing shields against heat as well as cold.
This is is quite a common sight at a construction site: several grown men looking at one guy doing the actual work.
30 May 2012
Just as we were ready to start digging, we get a call from el Presidente. There is problem with terrain on the sunny side of the road – they want an unreasonable amount of money for the 1.5 m² of land that is needed for the chapel. Presi cannot really comply with these demands and he needs more time for negotiations – time that we don't have.

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.

Presi is just saying ”take down a tree... or two - no problem! I will send the police to do it!”
Đani jokingly remarks: ”but what, aren't they Christian folks?”. (The spot for the next chapel)
We find a solution, we change the direction of the chapel!
The goats passing (and Georgina's car  - heavily promoting the socialdemocrat candidate in the presidential election).
The land and property issues are sorted out and we are ready to dig out the fundament.
The sun is scorching and we need to learn from the locals to cover ourselves from the sun!
The first day of  construction work – not more then 5 days iafter arrival!
28 May 2012

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.


Đani chose between green, pink and yellow cantera (tyoaxacan limestone) with his hammer and chisel. We go for the green cantera
The stone saw
The stone-manufacturer is calculating the total cost of our order: 1150 pesos
And bricks (ladrillos) we find. These bricks are manufactured here and they are beautifully irregular – sort of handcrafted!
We order 500 red bricks
27 May 2012


The night before we had a excellent dinner in Oaxaca with our good friends Georgina and Christian. So nice to meet them again! We aggreed to go to Zegache on Monday together with Georgina. But my cousin Đani was eager to go there already on Sunday. He wanted to gain one day – we had so much work in front of us! We walked down to Central and took a collectivo out to the pueblo.
The taller (workshop) was closed and we did not meet anyone except some old ladies coming out from church.
We went back to Oaxaca with another collectivo and visited the cultural centre San Pablo – an exquisite site, 16th century convent tastefully modernized.This is also where we saw more traditional samles of bricks and stone-combination – specific to Oaxaca.
The Holy ghost came down upon us  right there in front of the church.
Đani was threading the ground where the chapel might be built. Measuring, pondering.
27 May 2012
Georgina picked us up and took us to Zegache in her car. We had a meeting with the Presidente (Presi as Geo calls him) and they were enthusiastic as allways. Immediately we went down to the site.


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.

”Presi” is making decisive gestures – laying out the land.
I just wanted to get started
We have some potential builder friends right net to us.
As my cousin allways used to say: Chiquis always delivers
We need to fit in 2 chapels and an arch (Presi wants it to be 2 meters (!) thick)
Calculating the material we need to buy (according to the dimensions of Mexican bricks and blocks)
Another look at the terrain and staking out the fundament with a machete.
Chiquis is keeping us company while waiting for the collectivo.
26 May 2012
From Stockholm to Brussel and then to Venice, where I picked up my cousin Đani Brečević. The night was spent in Mestre and then the flights from Venice to Amsterdam, to Mexico City and finally Oaxaca. The appartment was waiting for us. So was a couple of mezcals downtown at Café Central.

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 outside of the window to our toilet!
Dimensions were checked and adjusted. The only deviation from Patrik Quist's drawings was to make the cupola round not eliptic.
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.

The importance of story
6 May 2012
What is it that differs an object from a venerative artefact? Well, it is of course the story/stories filling it with meaning, and during the residency of Monica and Chiquis in Sweden, we discussed the importance of communicating (and creating) stories around the objects being produced in the Talleres.

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.

Last preparations
25 Nov 2011
Last preparations

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!


The hair of Mary has just been hairsprayed
Dolls are undressed for the last touch-ups of the dresses
We went for the more conservative colours
Yes, Marys head is still drying!
Geo, Monica and Chiquis oing last adjustments
We are almost there!
Hairy stuff
24 Nov 2011
Hairy stuff!

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...."


The synthetic whig
A sceptical Monica
The cutting of real hair - sizing it up
believe it or not, these scissors were better
That was that!
Santa Ana monitoring it all
The Return of Juanita
22 Nov 2011
The Return of Juanita

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)?

Juanita and Karin
Georgina can't keep her hands off some painting work
These are the first layer of the ceremonial fabrics (the overlay hinted behind)
Dress designers at work
Juanita measuring the dolls dressed in ceremonial dresses
Juanita and Geska putting on the manto
Buying far too much fabric
21 Nov 2011

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 ceremonal fabric for Virgencitas
Another ceremonial fabric for Virgencitas
Skin tones and dresses
21 Nov 2011

The next layer of paint is adding skin tones. Monica and Armand are skilled painter. Geska is getting to work with preparing the dresses.

Monica and Armand at work
Skin tones added
Geska getting started with dresses
Santa Ana's head drying
Monica shaping the facial features of Santa Ana
The fabric
The pantheon of Zegache
20 Nov 2011

The cemetery of Santa Ana Zegache. The seminal space for communal creativity and public art - where it matters, where it actually means something!

Dolls inside a tomb stone
The eyes are still bright
Inside an old chapel at the cemetery
Virgin Mary pray for us
Guadalupe tiles
Black Christ
The old chapel at the cemetery
A cross on a tomb stone
The family is signing their own tombstones in concrete
A mix of Lourdes and Guadalupe?
Another Madonna behind bars
First painting - the foundation
19 Nov 2011

Preparations for painting the head. Wish you could feel the smell of cedar wood and paint!

Head on a stick
José inspecting the next head (Virgin Mary)
Santa Ana and Mary
The head of Santa Ana with foundation paint
The head of Santa Ana with foundation paint
Designing arch and chapels
19 Nov 2011

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 basic shape of the arch is the front of the church - minus the cupolas
The chapels are basically the cupolas brought down in front of the arch
Green tomatoes
Party with the Santo Biche
19 Nov 2011

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! 

Santo Biche (Dougald) singing Hallelujah
Karin, Christina and Loes enjoying the BBQ
Biche Christo was another nickname for Dougald (pale-skinned Christ)
Christina and Loes checking out their recordings
I was learning Zapoteco from Lao - all day and night
Armand would have a lot of songs to request from Santo Biche
Eyes, hands, torso and the rest
17 Nov 2011

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. 

Brown glass eyes for Santa Ana
Che working those hands
Comparing the proportions of the dolls
Little prank with the hand-head
It is quite difficult to carve out such small fingers
Lao concentrating on his work
Spider Christ
16 Nov 2011
Capillas of Zegache part I

Some of the findings while Robert and Victor where out researching capillas, places of devotion in Snata Ana Zegache,

Spider Christ
Spider Christ
16 Nov 2011
Capillas of Zegache part II

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.

Jesus on the corner
16 Nov 2011
Capillas of Zegache part III

Elegantly included in the building is the following capilla.

Jesus on the corner
Jesus on the corner
Jesus on a Mogote
16 Nov 2011
Capillas of Zegache part IV

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.

Jesus on a Mogote
Jesus on a Mogote
Puppet makers in making
16 Nov 2011

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!

The head of the Patrona is taking shape
Lao is a highly skilled wood carver / sculptor working from the image
Christian will make the lower half of the dolls
Puppets and the joints
Puppet makers at work
Chiquis working
Che carving the hands
Mototaxi through Zegache
16 Nov 2011

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").

Mototaxi through Zegache
Mototaxi through Zegache
Mototaxi through Zegache
Mototaxi through Zegache
Mototaxi through Zegache
First meeting with el Presidente
14 Nov 2011

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. 


The office of el Presidente
Meeting concluded with enthusiasm!
Immediately off to the spot where the building plans can be realized
El Presidente showing us where one of the chapels can be built
El Presidente and other parts of the board
Work with puppets begins in Zegache
14 Nov 2011

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.


Chiquis and José pondering on the task to come
Georgina in a frame
Chiquis and Katja getting ready for some work
Dulce nombre
14 Nov 2011
Dulce nombre
Dulce nombre

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!

Deciding on a saint
11 Nov 2011

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.

The sculpture of la Patrona and la Virgen in the church
Day of the Dead installation?
Intimacy between mother and daughter
Meeting with Gustavo Esteva
10 Nov 2011

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! 

Having tapas with Gustavo Esteva
The urban gardening at the Unitierra
Gustavo and Dougald
First day in Zegache
7 Nov 2011

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!

Geska, Katja and Georgina in Santa Ana church
Loes and Trudo in awe of the church artefacts
Festivities in full bloom
Trudo takes a go at the tepache
The tepache goes around the table in a traditional way
Georgina monitoring
Late afternoon excursion in the pueblo
The Day of the Dead altar at Georgina's place
5 Nov 2011

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).

The spinning cherub is adding motion to the beautiful home altar
Geska is trying to find the right angle for a pack shot
Planning session at the HUB
4 Nov 2011
All gathered for planning

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.

First day in Oaxaca
2 Nov 2011
First day in Oaxaca

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!

Jesus await us at the public Pantheon of Oaxaca
The pantheon
Tapetes at Plaza de Danza
Evening of the dead at the San Felipe Pantheon
2 Nov 2011

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.

Orange flowers everywhere
The guitar player
The guy with the orange glasses
More orange flowers
Loes in a festive mood
First Visit in Oaxaca
1 Jan 2010
First visit in Oaxaca in November 2011
tapetes, dia de muertos
sweets for the occasion
tapetes panteon
celebrating with the dead
after the day of the dead
Seasons of my heart, chees making
black pottery, Dona Silvia
Alebrejos, natural dyes
Natural dyes for textiles
wool dyed
carpet, craft nouveau
Rasa garden
Roof top garden
Santa Ana de Zegache, Morales restored church
Agave field in Matatlan
Bartaku and Pacome in the field
Agave needle
Palenque, making Mezcal
Pulque in the village
Pulque in the village
Glass and Wax, craft nouveau
Giorgina in the Workshop
mirrors made in Santa Ana
Workshop Santa Ana
Church in Santa Ana
Preparing the Saints
dress for the saints
Home Altar
Miraculos, Matatlan
Glass Studio, furnace
Glass Studio, starting material
Glass Studio Xaquixe
Glass Studio, Xaquixe
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