19 November 2008

Work, work, work!

Another post about two kinds of work, art and kids.

Yesterday was my weekly gig with Alexandra and Arthur, with whom i play and speak English for two and a half hours. Alexandra and i are like two peas in a pod, and we get along famously even when we don't understand each other. Although, when i tell her i don't understand her, she often says with frustration, "Jopé!" (DARN it) with LOTS of emphasis on the "h" sounding j. She is charming. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible for me to understand her brother, with his 3-year-old's version of Spanish, but Alex "translates" (from Spanish to Spanish). Arthur is usually with his mom or at a playgroup for at least part of the time, so often it is just me with Alex, much to my relief. Arthur is a volatile child who likes to be at the center of attention all the time, and when he's not he can react quite violently, throwing things with wild abandon and biting. Luckily i have started to figure out how to handle the two of them together. Yesterday the solution was two harmonicas. I will miss these kiddos a lot when i go.

Today i finished my project for the Expressa't exhibition. This is an annual exhibition that Metafora participates in, in conjunction with the Ambit Dona resource centre, for World Aids Day. The title of the exhibition means express yourself, in Catalan. All of the works are a response to or a commentary on HIV/AIDS, and i'm really excited to be a part of this. Here's the piece i'm submitting, minus the installation component (yes, i, the painting snob, have made an installation piece):


And here's what i wrote about it:

I chose to focus on joy. Though my project began with a very important element of collective oppression, as my paper people came to life, they were undeniably dancing. So i decided to liberate them instead and let them wind their way freely through the space. Though i also experimented with a mulitcolored set of figures, i chose to make all the silhouettes red, to more intentionally represent the HIV/AIDS community. As i finished the piece, i worked more deliberately to let the figures dance, and i based many of the images on forms from dance around the world, as well as trying to capture casual movements that the average person makes during the day. Some of the figures are very sensitive and emotionally expressive, others are more still, and each one genuinely seems to have an individual personality! The message has become one of hope, a celebration of the resilience of humanity in the face of whatever we may face. Suspended in the air on a lightweight thread, they are always slightly moving, and always connected to each other.

My plan is to install this piece in a spiral or circular manner. I'm quite excited about it, people really respond to them, though i wonder if the response will be different in a gallery setting.

And here's a painting i finished today:


The photo doesn't represent the color very well, it's represented better in this slightly out of focus detail.

Tomorrow i am hoping to go to the nearby community to work in the garden, and then i have my second and likely final acupuncture appointment, which i am very excited about. Our next round of projects is due next week, so i need to get cracking on that, and we will be installing and opening Expressa't. All my "to-do" stuff wraps up next Friday, which is good timing, because that's the night that Ethan arrives!

14 November 2008

Deux Fourchettes, Pas de Stylo

or, what language am i speaking, anyway?

I've finally gotten connected in Barcelona. I'd been having a good time, but not really feeling a part of the city, not really meeting people i was interested in spending a lot of time with. This was partly due to the unfortunate experience i had at Yara's. However! A few weeks ago i finally went to visit Can Mas Deu, a community on the northwest side of Barcelona.

It's amazing.

There are around 25 people that live collectively in this old building, which was once a hospital and before that a hacienda of some kind, and the whole house is a massive do-it-yourself. They run their own plumbing with horizontal wells, grow their own vegetables, run a bike shop, share meals and common space, and on Sundays they open to the public and run workshops and classes and show movies. They also cook lunch and have a coffeeshop. I've been out there every Sunday since then. I love the chance to get out of the city - though it's relatively close to a metro stop, it's situated on a beautifully wooded hill - and everytime i'm there i meet wonderful people.

Last Sunday i met Juako, a Spanish guy living in Barcelona, and Meela, an exuberant Turkish nomad, as well as her British friend Charlie. They're all staying in another collective house, which is right in the centre of the city. They invited me to come over on Tuesday to have dinner and hear a talk by some French activists about their social projects in Lyon.

And so i discovered another amazing place in Barcelona. I love it because it's this funky activist centre, the whole thing is very DIY, cozy and colorful, with a wide variety of people running in and out, right on one of the poshest streets in Barcelona. I have no idea how they came to own this property.

The talk by the French people was great. It was all in Spanish, but i understood amazingly well, i suppose because they weren't native Spanish speakers either. Their projects sound wonderful, and i hope i get a chance to visit them when i'm in France. I was talking with them afterwards, and it was this beautiful melange of languages, all three of us moving in and out of French, English, and Spanish, and never missing a beat. Most of the time i was talking to them, i wasn't even aware of which language was currently coming out of my mouth. When i asked them if they had any contacts in Paris, the guy asked me for a pen, and i dug through my bag, and produced two forks (deux fourchettes), but no pen (pas de stylo).

I've unfortunately just been through a week-long bout of mysterious illness, in which i had no real symptoms, just extreme, extreme fatigue. Following advice from my favorite naturopath and a visit to an acupuncturist seem to have me back on track. Also, the charger for my laptop arrived today, so coming soon, along with stories of the acupuncturist, are pictures of Halloween and new artworks.

06 November 2008

An Exciting Week

On Saturday, my laptop charger caught on fire! I smelled smoke, looked down, moved my legs away from the cords, and momentitos afterwards, the connection between the charger and the cord burst into flames. Okay, it was one flame, but nonetheless very dramatic. According to the guy in FNAC today, Dell doesn't have a retail presence in Spain, so it will be at least a while before i get a new charger. So i am without laptop, and blogging on a public computer isn't very appealing, especially posting pictures. At the moment i am using my kind and generous Austrian flatmate's computer, so updating at least.

I said before that this is not a political blog. Nonetheless, i momentarily suspend your art/travelblog experience for reflections on the elections. I wrote this in my paper-journal last night.

I am watching the 2008 presidential elections from a swanky, smoky bar in El Raval in Barcelona. This will possibly be the most pivotal election i will ever witness and the outcome is so unclear. The polls have only just started to close, and we're watching CNN on a cinema sized screen. They're posting the results little by little.

In a way i wish i was in the country, but this is a remarkable experience. This bar is packed with Americans, but also people from all over the world - Finland, New Zealand, Great Britain, Poland and more. I was talking with this Polish woman sitting next to me and she said in perfect English, "We're just here for support," and cheered wildly when the first numbers for Florida popped up with Obama in the lead.

I don't really believe in politics as such. I basicallz gave up direct political activism after getting burnt out in college, and decided that living well and in line with my principles was the more important. Living in community, radical intimacy and communication, herbal medicine, becoming a doula, teaching yoga, and my new healthy beauty project are all forms of social activism that sustain me, rather than burn me out.

All that being said, it is an incredibly heartening experience to be in this room full of excited, engaged people. And if John McCain wins this election, i'll be job-hunting in Barcelona.

Obama is a politician, like anyone who could conceivably win an election. And i'm skeptical and waiting to see if he sticks to his guns througout his term. Even if he does, there is still plenty i don't agree with. Also, i think it's quite a potentially dangerous trap to see his election as proof that racism no longer exists, which i've heard a lot of hinting around at. There's also that the whole thing is kind of culty, what with the chanting and all. But seriously? If i had to pick something for so many people to chant, "Yes we can" is not at the bottom of the list.

In more radical circles, it's considered passé to some extent to be interested in the elections and sometimes even to vote, but i just have to be excited about this. Despite my reservations, i'm excited about Obama. I think he's great. I think what he stands for culturally is incredibly important, and i'm excited to be around to see how it unfolds.

Though, what will i read about on the internet if not Sarah Palin? (Okay, so it's lowbrow, but booing her, along with the whole room, when she was on the screen last night was really fun.)

Also, my adrenaline from staying up nearly all night and excitement at the results fueled a painting that's going really nicely. Pictures of it someday...