After a COVID-related hiatus, the annual Falles festival in Valencia, Spain, returned this year with an extravagant celebration full of flames and sparks. The five-day pyrotechnic event draws thousands of people into the streets each March to witness fireworks, explosions, and a variety of sculptures burn to the ground, and at the heart of this year’s production was a 23-foot polar bear by artist Antonio Segura, aka Dulk (previously).
Following works by PichiAvo, Okuda San Miguel, and Escif in previous iterations, Dulk’s fantastical and surreal “Protect What You Love” featured wildlife and plants balanced on top of the cold-weather creature. Two years in the making, the monumental piece was constructed with cardboard and wood, and a team assembled the approximately 30 individual vignettes around the central figure once on site. Each of the works speaks to the urgent need to address the climate crisis, which Dulk explains:
We have the mother polar bear in the main square for falles, her fur melting like a candle as other animals take refuge on and around her. They are lost and they are all in search of a new habitat… The koala represents the wildfires of Australia in 2019/2020 where over 60,000 of the creatures lost their lives. The orangutan represents Borneo where their rapid decline as a species is a direct result from hunting, logging Palm oil, and developments in agroforestry. The fish turns to a can, to reflect the loss of marine life from overfishing.
“Protect What You Love,” which burned this last weekend, is a poetic reminder of how quickly loss can occur. “While this is just a metaphor it could become our reality unless we begin to change our behaviour,” Dulk tells Charlotte Pyatt in an interview with Juxtapoz. “I hope the event more than anything else, encourages awareness and action for these urgent concerns.”
The Spanish artist also has smaller works on view at Valencia’s Tuesday to Friday through April 21 and Centre del Carme through May 8 to coincide with the event. See more of his pieces and behind-the-scenes look at the spectacular festival on Instagram.
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Encircled by oversized crowns of paper, two new masks by Patrick Cabral celebrate Filipino culture through elaborately fashioned works defined by their colors. Titled Mananayaw ng Langit at Lupa, or Dancers of Heaven and Earth, the ongoing series was commissioned by the Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art for the Dinagyang Festival. The cultural celebration is held annually the last week in January with the Ati Tribe competition, which involves warrior dancers performing to loud chants and drum beats, as the main event.
Preserving the tradition in paper, Cabral’s masks both mimic the performers’ costumes and draw on the detail and intricacy of his earlier animal figures. “Lupa” is brilliantly colored and embodies the passionate spirits of a dragon or crocodile, representing Earth, fire, and light. “Langit,” on the other hand, is more subdued with bird-like features, peacock feathers, and a quiet expression. It symbolizes air, flight, horizons, and dreams. “Both animals are important because birds are used in ancient sea navigation, which our ancestors are known for, and the crocodile is the biggest animal native to the Philippines…I want one to look calm and the other chaotic. One is a feather. One is fire,” the Manila-based artist says.
Cabral currently is working on an exhibit for the Philippine Pavillion at the World Expo that shares the “courage of our ancestors, the people who brave the angry ocean from Taiwan to the Batanes Islands.” Follow that project and explore a larger collection of the artist’s painstakingly constructed works on Behance and Instagram.
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The beginning of Escif’s Instagram post reads, “Yesterday the meditator’s body was burned. With it many things were burned. 4 tons of wood were burned. A year of intense and wonderful work was burned.” Attached to a darkened image of glowing flames, his words are simultaneously reflective, accepting, and hopeful.
The Spanish artist is referring to his large-scale project “This Too Shall Pass,” which was scheduled to be part of Valencia’s Las Fallas Festival. Each year, the outdoor celebration sees massive projects created by artists—like Okuda San Miguel in 2018 and PichiAvo in 2019—that are set on fire and eventually consumed by flames. Because of the coronavirus outbreak, the 2020 event that would have featured Escif’s work was postponed. Despite its lack of spectators, though, the Spanish city decided to proceed with part of the traditional ceremony, lighting just the bottom half of Escif’s wooden sculpture on fire.
This is a familiar story. Creatives, businesses, and institutions around the world are struggling with the loss of revenue as exhibitions and shows have been pushed to a later date or canceled altogether. They’re also dealing with the more emotional impact of projects unrealized, something Escif has been sharing candidly.
This is not the end we expected. Neither are the circumstances. The magnitude of this figure can never be. Perhaps another woman, perhaps a part of it, perhaps only the memory, perhaps only her absence… The meditating woman tells us that everything is impermanent. Nothing is forever. We will overcome the emptiness of these failures.
Topping 20 meters tall, the artist’s wooden figure is dressed in a white button-up with dark pants. She sits in the lotus position with closed eyes and a straight back and represents quiet, thoughtfulness, and moments of peace. “From this woman’s ashes, live flowers will be born. And little insects will scatter its seeds. Seeds of conscience, of peace, of humanity. Seeds of light that help us face the new world that is being born these days,” Escif writes.
Although her bottom half has been burned, the figure’s head and shoulders will remain in Valencia Public Square until the crisis ends. To fit the current moment, the artist outfitted her with a surgical mask that covers her nose and mouth. “Meditating is the exercise of training our consciousness in the acceptance of impermanence,” the artist said. “Reality is changing and ephemeral. We are living in an uncertain moment that we do not know where it will take us. Let’s listen to what this meditating woman tells us. This too shall pass.”
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This year’s Amsterdam Light Festival, running November 28, 2019, to January 19, 2020, lights up the European city with illuminated art installations. The festival, now in its eighth year, attracts tourists and engages locals at a time when the city is cloaked in darkness for about sixteen hours each day. Visitors to the Light Festival use a phone app to guide themselves through Amsterdam’s city center, perusing twenty light works by artists from around the world. This year’s show theme was “DISRUPT!” and artists reflected the concept in pieces that ruminate on climate change, national history, technology, and more. See some of our favorites here, by Masamichi Shimada, UxU Studio, Sergey Kim and others. You can explore the full line-up and programming on the Amsterdam Light Festival website.
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This past month the Amsterdam Light Festival (previously) opened its seven year, inviting visitors to observe 29 light-based works by international artists, designers, and architects along the canals and throughout the historical center of the city. Artworks were inspired by this year’s theme, a quote from media scientist Marshall McLuhan: “The medium is the message.”
Installations such as British artist Gali May Lucas’s piece “Absorbed by Light” address our contemporary obsession with screen-based technologies. Her piece features three figures next to each other on a bench, each head bent to peer at an illuminated phone. Guests can take a seat between the sculptures to get a better look at the piece, or simply rest and check their own device. Another piece, “Waiting” by Frank Foole features a paused loading wheel on the side of the building surrounding the silhouette of a person inside.
Many of the works are presented close to the city’s canals, making an even more spectacular scene when reflected in the water below. Sculptures like Jeroen Henneman’s “Two Lamps” pay tribute to this effect as the title references the lamp installed on the riverfront, and the one that is projected into the glassy surface underneath. The Amsterdam Light Festival continues to light up the city through January 20, 2019. You can see more documentation of this year’s festival on their website. (via Design Boom)
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The Second Annual Nuart Aberdeen Festival Activates the Scottish Town With Installations Inspired by National and Regional Themes
It was 2002 when an international group of street art and electronic music enthusiasts organized the first Nuart Festival in Norway’s oil capital, Stavanger. The idea was to create a secondary event for their music program in order to introduce some of the most interesting artists of the underground street art movement. Keeping their concept simple yet original, the festival presented an annual platform for national and international artists who operated outside of the traditional art establishment, both indoors and outdoors, to stimulate conversation that would challenge the notions of what art is, and what it can be.
It wasn’t long before the visual part of the project continued on its own and grew into what’s now widely considered to be the world’s leading celebration of street art among its peers. It was around the 15th year of the festival when founder and director Martyn Reed and his team were approached by the city of Aberdeen, Scotland with an idea to develop a similar project in their own town. After years of rejecting similar offers, the team felt a strong connection and similarities between the two oil industry-dependent cities, and in 2017 the first edition of Nuart Aberdeen (previously) was introduced to the public.
The 2nd edition of this festival was held only a few weeks ago, and once again brought the Granite City to the spotlight of the international urban and street art scene. Nuart Aberdeen invited well-established artists who first started their careers at Nuart in Stavanger, such as Bordalo II and Ernest Zacharevic, which helped introduce a wide range and vibrancy of contemporary street art to the young festival. Working with local themes and subjects, but within their individual visual languages and mediums, the international line-up of artists produced an impressive series of public murals, installations, and interventions, which brightened up the daily routines of locals, and provided a new attraction for the festival’s visitors.
Addressing themes like the relationship between UK and Scotland (Hyuro), regional history and legends (Bordalo II, Milu Correch, Nimi & RH74, Phlegm), or referring to local specifics such as the lively seagull population (Conzo & Globel; Ernest Zacharevic or Snik), the public works covered topics that locals could easily identify with and engage. And while these pieces were being created on the streets and alleys of the Grey City, selected group of academics were discussing and presenting the past, current, and possible future state of the movement, in the presence of local and international enthusiasts, fans, and members of the creative community.
Always highlighting the activism side of public art, this year’s edition included a project with Amnesty International, presenting their project in support of women human rights defenders in the UK. For this part of the project the team joined forces with “craftivist” Carrie Reichardt who designed an elaborate ceramic mosaic that celebrates Scotland’s woman human rights defenders and the Suffragette movement. The London-based contemporary ceramicist also created “We are Witches” and “Trailblazing Women of Aberdeen,” borrowing the aesthetics of traditional stain glass windows. She also helped create a public monument to local unsung heroes which was fully designed, cut, and installed by local volunteers under the stewardship of Reichardt.
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