4th > 8th SEPTEMBER 2023 AT QUINTA DAS RELVAS
With Linda Weintraub, Sónia Francisco and Yasmine Ostendorf-Rodriguez
QdR/LINDA W1:The connection to materiality (4th September)
The first moment Linda worked with the group she wanted us to think about the primal connection our bodies have to materiality. Texture was the way to explore this link between our body to the material world.
To begin with, we spoke about the body and the possibilities of the body. She shared a little about her dancing experience working with Martha Graham, about the absolute consciousness of the body, the possibilities of disconnection and connection of body and emotions.
And then, we went foraging for textures. There were paper bags with adjectives written on them – like “smooth”, “hard”, “dusty”, “rough”, “elastic”, “sticky”, among others – that were distributed throughout the group. Each person was offered a simple challenge: to go forage for textures that corresponded to the adjective declared in the bag. Rather than thinking of foraging for a function, trying to disconnect from a purpose beyond the EXPERIENCE with the texture itself.
Coming back to the studio everyone put their bags down, showing each of their gathered textured materials on top. They shared a little bit about the experience of contact with the foraged materials. Some people then wrote their interaction with these natural materials. The idea was to explore as much as possible this relation of our body and the material – its possibilities and reactions. For example, describing if it breaks or not, if it tears apart, if it bends, what happens when one squeezes it, etc.
Afterwards, Linda proposed another exercise, now more about identity and drawing. We would write our own name in a piece of paper, write it in reverse, writing with the dominant hand and trying to do it with the opposite hand, exchange the paper with the person next to you and exercise on replicating a signature, try to sign repeatedly while the other person moves around the piece of paper.
Then, in groups of four, we were designated different decision makings: 1. What to draw/paint in terms of Components (f.eg. shapes) 2. The Colors and Medium to use 3. The general appearance Style concerning, for example, attitude (wavy, straight, strong, etc) 4. The Composition (f.eg. placing of the main area to use). We did some experiments with this, either by trying out the inks already elaborated with Sonia, switching materials or by changing people’s functions.
QdR/LINDA W2: Beyond material responsibility (5th September)
We began by talking about our experiences in the first exercise. We reflected on the importance of the body connection the material world, of how this tactile encounters with materiality could be a way to consider an ethics and way of living underlined in sustainability. By building bridges between body and materiality (physical demonstration of the world around us) we are able to connect to our emotions, create interactions, experience ways of being, etc. This important CONNECTION to nature is of a deep intimacy and, as human artists, we may MANIFEST it in several ways.
Our approach can be one of knowledge and discovery, keeping in mind that we are able to ‘manifest aesthetics in ecosystems’. Although the current society obliges for an immediate manifestation/delivery, human time can be actually more gradual – an “aesthetic of harmonious progressions”.
After these short deliberations, we stepped into exercises that highlighted CONNECTIONS: either concerning our immediate feelings and nervous systems, or the group collaborations and some of its potentials:
- A circle of honey and ENERGY: we gathered all in a circle and, one by one, we tried a spoon of honey, trying to comprehend its effect on the mouth, throat and so on, how it affected the full body. Decomposing the physical feelings and understanding how our body quickly converts this fuel into energy.
- A circle of ICE cubes: we kept the circle, but all laid down on the floor, belly up, eyes closed, spread arms and open hands. The right hand held an ice cube. We experienced the melting of the ice cube. Each person to their own temperature, their own time. As soon as it became no more than a wet cold hand, we would hold the left hand of the person next to on the circle. This immediately would increase temperature of the hand and help recover from the ice burn.
- Seamless Connections: people were asked to forage again for some favourite elements and fill a bag with them. In the studio, we chose two bags of elements. On a square cardboard we were given a challenge – use these elements to elaborate a composition were the frontiers are, somehow, lost. In the middle of the exercise, the proposition got more complex and now we had to do the same or alter the composition so that the person on the left side and the person on the right side would connect with our composition, creating a sort of a line. The result (see photos) was similar to a garden or pound, were all the compositions were connected and melded to the point were we wouldn’t clearly see an end or starting point.
QdR/LINDA W3: The Fire Night session (6th September)
‘our firt interaction with ice was our first contact with fire’
We went to the studio and sat down in a circle, a bench of long matches in the center and a total ambiance of orange little fires.
Linda reflected along with the group about the warmth of the body and the fact that we are a kind of COMBUSTION being. Actually, that a lot of living beings depend on this same combustion: oxygen + energy fuel = produce HEAT. Being alive is being WARM. Our inner fires are, for example, BREATHING.
She defined three sorts of relationships of the human with fire throughout time: 1. Fire as a weapon/intimidation/shelter – scavenged fire (wild made fire, not man); 2. Domestication of fire; 3. Industrial use of fire.
Not only fire has served humans for their survival as it is used for fuel.
Fire is, on its own, a BEING: we feed it, we need to preotect it, it needs constant attending, needs oxygen, is conceived, can be bread, it can be put to sleep and woken up, it can die…
Living with fire in an industrialized world occupies a spam of chronology much inferior to the other moments (1 and 2). Since our society becomes more industrialized, we progressively have less contact with fire.
On a first moment, we had no direct contact with the fire. The studio room was surrounded by small candles and its center a salamander fire was heating up. We kept in mind some words of our daily life with fire: heating, smoldering, ignition, combustion, flame, spark, smoke, chard, etc. We tried to imagine how our current knowledge of fire compares to the one humans had thousands of years ago.
After observing and reflecting on all this, we began a second exercise with matches. Some long matches were offered and each would light it up, feel the fire, observe the flame, comprehend its time, strength, the reaction to our breathing, the heat produced…Linda proposed us to think of our connection to the heat, to the fire itself and experiment with the matches. To wrap up this exercise, each one in the circle would light up their match of choice for as long as possible, and then, when it died, put it down, up until the last of us had light.
QdR/SONIA W4: FABRICS, DYES, PAPERS, COLOURS AND INKS
What can be done we what surrounds us?
Sonia first shared examples with the group that concern her personal research and the work she develops with Casa da Cerca about natural pigments as well as fibers for paper, etc. This involved a big dossier of color palettes and several examples of different fibers used in paper making such as banana leaves.
Secondly, everyone was invited to go picking for fibers and fruits and berries and flowers and all plants available and potentially good for ink making. Some of the plants retrieved were oak fruits and spiky chestnuts, eucalyptus leaves…
MAKING PAPER out of fibers (the descripted process happened between three days of separate workshops):
- 1. CHOOSING the fibers to use: we experimented with banana “leaves”, fetuses, heras and onion leaves;
- 2. The fibers are CUT: concerning the banana “leaves” we used a particular part to extract the fibers from the stem right next to the leaf support (pedunque), which is a bit chunkier. Note that the more fiber a plant has, the more cellulose it will produce and the best paper will give origin to – strong fibers come from plants that hold up well vertically (the more vertical and better a plant holds up, the better fibers it will have).
The cut should be in the opposite direction of the fibers (horizontal) and of about 1,5 cm/2 cm – big enough for the fibers to intertwine and small enough for them to do so without causing lumps or weird textures;
- 3. BOILING: all cut fibers are placed in a pot with water and cooked. Each plant can take different times to cook properly, for example, the banana stems used took around 5/6 hours of boil. Note that sometimes it is added caustic soda to accelerate the process of breaking the fibers while boiling (about 2 spoons for a 3 liter pot). We know that the fibers are good enough to be used for the paper when we start seeing them somehow forming agglomerates and sticking well to one another.
- 4. BREAKING fibers: after the boiling process the fibers are mixed with a blender and washed/rinsed with water. When blending plants, like the banana stems, we must understand at what point should we stop so that the fibers don’t become to little not to blend and they won’t stick together afterwards, nor to big they create too much texture and then also will not stick. (NOTE: Sodium Hydroxide is used to help the fibers break when boiling them and helps accelerate the process. We didn’t use it however, if there is the need it will be around 2 spoons for a pot of around 3 liters.)
- 5. The CELULOSE basins: after coming down to room temperature, the boiled broken fibers are added to an open low height basin along with hot water, another with cold water as well as another basin of warm water. This was done as an attempt to understand which water temperature would originate a better cellulose (no conclusive results).
- 6. MAKING SHEETS OF PAPER:
To start with we’ll need a frame with a net of about 3mm wide, open enough to drain water and tight enough to hold the fibers; this sort of canvas is dive in the basin, the fibers are spread as homogenously as possible in this net while we take it out of the water and drain it. We can press the fiber side of the net to another cloth (preferably something that doesn’t wrinkle) and as we press it backwards with an absorbent cloth trough the net, the drier our piece of fiber paper will get. Finally, we can place this wet paper against a glass or acrylic, that it dries as straight as possible. NOTE: to get it straighter and dry it even more the wet fiber paper can always be squeezed in a proper press. To avoid wrinkles, avoid using materials that provide humidity or also get wrinkled as they dry.
NOTE 2: When using this process on seaweed papers, add a little bit of ash as it will prevent it from developing bacteria.
NOTE 3: There are some fibers that don’t hold up as well as others, if you notice the fibers are not sticking, add a bit of paper paste to have some cellulose in the fiber mixture.
- 7. Let it DRY. If you believe the paper further needs to get flattened, you can iron it against a piece of cloth. If the fibers were good enough, it will hold as paper, if not it will probably crumble. From the ones we experimented with the best were the banana stems and the onion peel, hera and fetus crumbled a lot after dry.
EXTRACTING DYES AND INK OUT OF PLANTS
For our tryouts with colors, we collected and Sonia brought several different plants and put them to cook in water (with a lot of attention for the mixture not to pass 80ºCelsius, unless we are going for a darker burnt color). Each pot had a different plant collected:
- The exterior around the shell of black walnuts;
- Chestnuts (spikeshells and nuts) – spikes for TINT and chestnuts for INK;
- Oak apple nuts crushed (oak galls);
- The flower of oxalis (yellow wood sorrels);
- Turmeric (curcuma);
- Dragon tree resin (or dragon’s blood);
- Onion peels (PAPER and INK);
- Tickseed (coreopsis).
Each of these are cooked in different temperatures, according to each color you want to obtain: there must be an attentive observation to the pots so that as soon as the mixture arrives to the color intended you stop it from cooking further. NOTE that if this mixture is used for tinting, the longer the fabric stays immerged the more intense the color will be.
For each of these experiments, separate pots of color are created each with different dilutions: either in powder, in alcohol or in water. SEE PHOTO with the color palette obtained:
- Oxalis in WATER and ALCOHOL
- Turmeric in WATER and ALLCOHOL
- Dragon tree in ALCOHOL only
- Blueberries in WATER
- Hibiscus in WATER
- Oak galls in WATER
- Black walnuts in WATER
- Onion in WATER
- Coreopsis in WATER
- Chestnuts with WATER
- Beetroot with WATER
- Dragon blood in POWDER
- The PH factor:
The ph of every element in cooking plants to use as dye and then to apply them to paper will influence the result significantly. For example, if we apply an ink on a common paper it is likely for it to disappear, whereas if the ink is applied to acid free paper it will remain longer. This is going to happen as well for fabric. When putting the plants to cook, the ph of the water can interfere with the process as well. To regulate the ph of a dye it is recommended to use alcohol vinegar or sodium bicarbonate (whether to lower it – sodium bicarbonate (alkaline) – or to increase it (vinegar)).
- Alumen and friends:
If some dyes are boiled in an aluminum pot their color tone will intensify or help fixing. (SALT also helps to fix colors). Some industrial inks are added alumen (chemical solution) to hold color.
- Ink and preservation: it is advisable to use poppyseed oil to preserve the ink for further use, it will both add matter to the mixture as well as enhance the intensity of the color. Impressionist painters used it and there is more research about this referring to its use.
TINTING ting ting ting
Some of the inks extracted from the flowers or the flowers physical themselves can be used to mark, paint or dye on FABRIC. To do so we must prepare the fabric first. All fabric can be dyed as long as it has natural fibers (so no petroleum derivates nor similar) such as cotton, linen, hemp, etc. We must realize that the whiter a fabric is, the more the colors will make a contrast and impact (the logic will always be that of added colors: if your fabric is originally yellow, any blue tint will become green).
Fabric should be prepared in order to receive the inks. To do so, it must be washed simply with water and basic soap, stay in water for some hours and than well rinsed without being twisted (avoid squeezing the water by twisting the fabric not to break its fibers and mark it too much). After rinsed, we dive the fabrics in soya milk and we let them soak for some hours (preferably overnight). It will then be rinsed again. When using the fabric for dying it should still be a bit humid.
To discover the effect of the colors, on each pot Sonia put a bit of fabric in so that we could see the color changing throughout the two days they stayed in. (SEE photos of the pots)
Several different experiments were made with the fabric and the paper (that actually went through a similar process to be prepared to receive tinting):
- A Fabric Roll of Plants
- A Paper Fold of Plants
- A Big Fabric of Reserves
- A series of Small Fabric with Modifiers
- A Fabric Roll of Plants
On top of the fabric we place all plants we wish. Beforehand, plants were soaked into two different bacines: one with VINEGAR and water, another with IRON SULFATE and water.
According to the result we want to obtain we then either roll the fabric or we isolate. To isolate is advisable to use a cellophane sheet of the same size, place it on top of the plants and then roll the fabric using the help of a small stick. To tighten even further and don’t let the plants move, we add a thread rolled all over, like a meatroll or a sausage. This roll will be put inside a pot, not in direct contact with the water, but STEAM cooking for a couple of hours. The fabric is then unrolled and dried in the sun.
Note: to roll this fabric we can actually use any sort of cylinder that can take a bit of heat. Remember that any pigmenting it already has or may liberate will potentially stain your fabric.
OBSERVATIONS: our experiments were a bit of a flop since we used a yellow cellophane paper to roll the fabric; the only fabric that didn’t use it had clear marks of the plants while all the others got a very strong yellowish color that masked the plant markings. The more tighten the cloths were, the clearer markings got; and the more loose they were rolled, the more the marked pigments blended.
- A Paper Fold of Plants
Using the same procedures for the fabric roll we also tried to mark watercolor papers with the plants. Beforehand we soaked them on soy milk and then water. Still humid, we refolded the papers as we wished and kept some plants in between. To press the paper we rolled sone string around. It was then placed in the steam and opened and dried afterwards.
- A series of Small Fabric with Modifiers
One of exercises we did was to tryout the modifiers. Modifiers are added to the natural pigments or tints in order to enhance or darken colors. The modifiers we used were IRON SULFATE (made out of rust and water) and POMEGRANADE (only the peel and water).
Each of us cut a small piece of fabric (still a bit humid) and painted a specific mark with these two modifiers. They were then placed in each of the different tint pots and left for a day. Next day we took them out and dried them at the sun.
OBSERVATIONS: This experiment didn’t go exactly as intended as the modifiers were very wet and a big amount was placed in each pot, blending with the tint and modifying it instead of marking the pieces of fabric. No mark was almost left in the fabric… To mark it better next time, the paint with the modifiers should be left to dry for a bit before soaking in the tint.
- A Big Fabric of Reserves
A long fabric of about 3 x 1,20 meters was used to learn about RESERVES. This fabric was prepared as mentioned above.
We call reserves to the twist and turns and pockets of empty space that can be done in several different ways that, after getting the fabric tinted, will result in different sorts of patterns and shapes. So, the group used wooden shapes like cubes, marbles and other solids to create different kinds of these pockets. Either they chose to make pockets or just twist the fabric, these reserves are then tighten with a rope (that can also have different shapes of nots). There were also some metal clippers used. In the end, the fabric was completely reduced to a meter of entangled twists and turns. It was then emerged in a pot (actually an old stove pot) with the black nuts ink (cold). It stayed in for two days before being placed in the fire and stayed there boiling for an hour (total time on fire was one hour). We let the pot cool down and we took the fabric out and let it dry out, still entangled, hanged it and let it poor its drips to a recipient on the bottom. After around three days of hoping for it to dry, it was finally close to just humid (we had to face the humidity of rainy days) and unrolled it and let it finish drying. We could than see some of the marking that the twists and turns did, although most of it was homogeneously brownish (see photos).
One of the techniques used for marking plants on fabric is literally to hammer them. Sonia gave us pieces of cotton fabric and we collected plants we wanted to leave some sort of print. By hammering them against the fabric we obtain a marking of their juices and so a sort of print of their contours. One other way of making this print is to place the plants between a fabric and a piece of paper or between two fabrics. The more controlled is your hammering the more the contours get marked clearly; the stronger your hammer the plants, the more squashed their juices get.
There is no exact way to fix this in the fabric, except maybe by ironing afterwards (never directly or it will alter the colors). However, this doesn’t mean that it will stay forever in the fabric.
QdR/YASMINE W5: The Process; Share, Listen and Sleep on it
Yasmine and the unspoken reading process
The first session of workshops with Yasmine began with a very simply collective reading of excerpts of books selected by her. Some of these books or considerations she had already mentioned or approached a little about during her presentations in FBAUL conferences. A .pdf was sent to the participants with some excerpts so they could do a collective reading.
- Entangled Life, Merlin Sheldrake
- Saving Time, Jenny Odell
- Poetics of Relation, Edouard Glissant
- Thinking in Systems, Donella Meadows
- Journey to Itxlan, Carlos Castañeda
- The Falling Sky – words of a Yanomami Shaman, Davi Kopenawa and Bruce Albert
- The Honorable Harvest, Robin Wall Kimmerer
- The Mushroom at the End of the World, Anna Tsing
The dynamics of this reading process were unspoken. The only suggestion made by Yasmine was something like the following “I will read a book and whoever wants to read a bit can do so too”. In a very organic way, each person would pick up from the last word read by Yasmine, short pauses separating each reading. The amount of reading was around a paragraph per person, no rules dictated beforehand. Occasionally, Yasmine would grab the pause moment between readings to reflect on something concrete or abstract. She could make some observations about a specific issue or just, very often, raise questions like “Was there some part of this that spoke to you?”. Firstly, there would be some sort of suggestion but, in the following sessions, it became natural to comment on each portion of the reading. Each of the considerations was, in a very natural way, mingled with debates about many different considerations, from the artist conditions and possibilities to the meaning of sustainability and the questions it would raise from human to nature. All participants would speak in their own turn, not overlapping or expressing angry contributions, even if they wouldn’t agree or really wanted to add something.
At night, after dinner, two different moments happened: a first one was a group meditation (trying to get close to understanding the experience of what is to be a mushroom) and for two other nights there was a bed time story moment (were some more reading happened, focused on her own book: Becoming Fungal).
The considerations done in the reading moments were based on three different deliberations on the APPROACH and the THINKING of materials: Time and Care; Spirit; Webs and Horizons (or entanglements).
Some light notes on the conversations that came to be during the readings
– reading The Honorable Harvest (5th September)
‘when you ask for permission, you have to listen to the answer’
Is human the explorer or just a collector, is human just taking from nature or can there be a more symbiotic relationship?
One of the participants suggested the reading of The Art of Love by Erich Fromm. There were than some thoughts shared about Attention, Intention, Care and Love.
Is it correct to see nature and its components as a human reflection and, for example, project personalities in all sorts of beeings? Humanizing nature?
Another complementary reading was mentioned: The New Age: the Caribbean Witch by Vox Deruste.
To see a plant as a similar can help create the “detachment” needed in order to observe it and do so more attentively, to think before just to take.
Raising questions about old knowledge, provenance, ecological thinking and the feelings of shame and/or consciousness in communities… Advised podcast to listen to: Reindigenizing Recipes with Felicia Cucozin Ruiz.
– reading Saving Time (6th September)
Thinking about the value of work… and the systems of VALUE. Its meaning and influences : worth, value, work, time, material, space, market, etc
Time is money?
The value of time.
Do we have to suffer for the choice of enjoying or choosing to spend time in something specific? (about paying for artwork). The tension of art: work for yourself, others and how to structure or understand work.
Juggling “worth” with all the things that you love doing or need to do (money vs time vs will vs love).
In arts, usually, time may not be money…
Considering GUILT and putting value to your work.
Comparison gives you perspective – comparing what your time is worth inside a formal structure, as it would happen a regular company job VS the value of what in and how you are spending your time when doing your artwork.
A big issue about time, investment, etc: selling your artwork or being sold by someone else? Buyer vs seller vs artist – the possible fragile position the artist has when doing a direct sale. Separate or detach your work from YOUR OWN PERSON VALUE.
“burnout” as something of the CLOCK ‘not having enough hours of the day’ and comparing that to the mentioned in the reading “Planetary Time”.
Healing and Time. What are you healing from? What is causing a wound somehow?
Home, capitalism and affordability…
Reflecting on gentrification processes: ‘how can we be in all temporalities at the same time?’ (Yasmine)
To be independent, your own boss, or work for someone else?
Speaking about “the funny hats” metaphor in the text. What and how to unmask the hats.
‘chronos’ vs ‘keros’ = confort (time as in directive, going one way) vs anxiety (time as lifeline).
Ponder on changing FOCUS on time and reflecting on the origin of the greek word ‘Keros’. One of the Greek sayings, commented one of the Greek artists in place, is “ola ston kero tous”(OƦA ƐTON KAIPO TOƳƵ) which means something like “everything will happen in the right time”.
Claiming and reclaiming… ACTIVATE yourself in order to CHOOSE your temporality.
- reading Journey to Itxlan, 7th September
Accessing the “inaccessible”.
The symbolism behind the stories of D. Juan. The contact with peyote and the derivate apprenticeship. About learning: prejudices, assumptions, availability, different ways of learning and being available, the gaps in knowledge, expectations… ‘you can read everything about everything, however, you won’t know everything’.
How other person experiences, parallel to our ones you think are the ‘important’ ones, might give you more SKILLS for life than you may expect.
‘Paying’ ones time with another’s time. Everything Castaneda offers to Don Juan is somewhat far away from the universe of the xaman, his discomfort confirms their distance.
Accessing the inaccessible – mystical knowledge as inaccessible (‘language can only be an approximation).
Extra reading about availability and spirit – Technique and Magic from Federico Campagna.
Availability and Spirit: deliberate on having attention to everything, “truth” and representation. Depending on REPRESENTATIONS, MEMORY and EXPERIENCE. The NARRATIVE and the UNDERSTANDEMENT of the world.
What is the perception we have of everything that surrounds and how that is related to presence and attention. Different ways of feeling things: feeling in a ‘natural way’ vs planning; taking yourself seriously vs being serious about something.
Proof, magic and WHY things happen…
Expectation (prejudices and pre judgements) and Receptiveness (trying to understand). Considering that a good mix of both may be a way (the wright cocktail of learning and unlearning things). Pondering on CONTROL, powerdynamics and TRUST: artists very frequently have no control over certain social interactions.
God, comfort and control.
– reading Entangled Life
Enlightened text concerning the scientific perspective, useful and clear information and examples.
Deliberating on energy efficiency and fungae. The decentralized being (mycelium): multiple points can make decisions.
‘so nice to read about some other specie that is not human and the how it gives you a way of thinking, distinct from our human way’… on the other hand, learning about bridges between so many “behaviour” similarities to ours.
Every organism does similar things, somehow, we are all trying to survive.
The symbiotic relationship between some mushrooms, termites and leafcutter ants. Autotroph, and heterotroph species.
Pain, feeling and the spirit of beings – the food question.
Being and individuality. Harm, stress and enforcing on mycelium and other beings. COMMUNICATION and PROTECTION.
‘Mycelium is conceptually slippery, just like ART’
Maybe we need to change the paradigm: learn from mushrooms to enforce our imagination, collaboration, creativity. Strengthening our comfort with the unknown.
The need, as Artists, TO QUESTION, TO CRITICIZE STRUCTURES…
Understand and respect the need for SILENCE and SPACE. To give explanations or not to explain.
The group AFTER the readings
There are no perfect team buildings, no perfect groups and no perfect ways of conveying messages, just different ones. The process applied by Yasmine showed a big sensibility and respect and actually lead to a respectful group dynamic. Even if there were issues, concerns or any sort of problems to address, the way this group started to work in her sessions made it to open up for LISTENING, HEARING, RESPECTING OTHER PEOPLES SPACES, HAVING PRESENT SELFCARE, it GAVE SPACE TO BEGIN THE THINKING OF SUSTAINIBILITY, ITS IMPLICATIONS IN ART and simply TO START QUESTIONING.