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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Earlier this month in the city of Valencia, Spain, the annual five-day Falles Festival hosted the construction and burning of some 400 sculptures in neighborhoods across the city amidst fireworks, parades, and enormous bubbling skillets of paella. The festival is so large it requires year-round preparation. Neighborhoods raise money to hire artisans to build each falla, and plans are made for eardrum shattering pyrotechnic displays called Mascletà that occur daily at 2pm.
For 2018, the Falles Festival invited Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel (previously) to build the Falla Mayor, the largest and last falla to be burnt during the celebration. With the help of renowned falla designers Pepe Latorre and Gabriel Sanz, as well as a monumental effort from his team at Ink and Movement, the team submitted a winning design that incorporates the artist’s trademark colorful geometric style. Okuda says the 25 meter (82 foot) piece loosely addresses the relationship between people and animals, while incorporating various symbols the local community might find familiar.
“I’m inspired most by surrealist Salvador Dali and by Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights,” Okuda shared with Colossal. “I mostly describe my work as surrealism.” In an interesting twist, Dali designed and built a falla during the festival in 1954. Instead of indulging in surrealism’s darker side, Okuda’s work seems to shine a bright, happy light on the creatures and figures who populate his multicolor murals and canvases.
The festival may date back to as far as the Middle Ages when carpenters and woodworkers burnt wood scraps at the end of winter to celebrate the spring equinox, though it is now generally known as a celebration of Saint Joseph. In its present day form, the trash heaps have morphed into elaborate artworks that feature celebrities, various current events, and even abstract conceptual sculptures. Caricatures of political figures like Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Kim Jong-un appeared frequently this year. Two years ago the event was designated as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
During the festival Okuda also opened a large retrospective of work titled “The Multicolored Equilibrium Between Humans and Animals” at the Centre de El Carme in Valencia. The expansive exhibition gathers paintings, sculptures, photos, and video works from the last 20 years. The show is free, open to the public, and runs through May 27, 2018. You can follow Okuda on Instagram, and pickup some of his original works in the Ink and Movement Shop. Video courtesy Chop Em Down Films.
The annual Las Fallas Festival ends with a grand display of fireworks and the burning of hundreds of elaborate sculptures in neighborhoods all over Valencia. Okuda’s Falla in front of city hall was the last to go up in flames after midnight to the cheers of a huge crowd that had waited in the street for hours. Swipe for fire photo. Thanx to @diegobarrachina16 and crew for the best balcony view! @okudart @inkandmovement #streetart #fallas2018 @instagrafite #lacrema
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If riding a giant log down a steep mountain sounds like an ideal way to spend a quiet spring afternoon, the Onbashira Festival is for you. Held every 6 years in Nagano, Japan, the festival involves moving enormous logs over difficult terrain completely by hand with the help of thickly braided ropes and an occasional assist from gravity as the logs barrel down hills. The purpose is to symbolically renew a nearby shrine where each log is eventually placed to support the foundation of several shrine buildings. The event has reportedly continued uninterrupted for 1,200 years.
Onbashira is split into into two parts, Yamadashi and Satobiki, taking place in April and May respectively. Yamadashi involves cutting down and transporting the logs, each of which can weigh up to 10 tons. The logs are harnessed by ropes and pulled up to the tops of mountains by teams of men and then ridden down the other side. The event is exceedingly dangerous and comparable to the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, where a brush with peril is seen as a form of honor. The second part, Satobiki, is a ceremonial raising event where participants again ride atop the logs and sing as each is hoisted into the air. Participants of both events are frequently injured and sometimes killed, but despite the obvious risks the tone of Onbashira is quite festive with lots of singing, music, and colorful costumes.
Filmmakers from Oh! Matsuri were at the festival this year and edited this beautiful glimpse into the obscure tradition.
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Every three years in Japan an exciting event kicks off; one that invites visitors to enjoy the great outdoors while simultaneously visiting the largest art gallery in the world. For 50 days, visitors to the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale traverse 200 villages across roughly 190,000 acres of mountainous terrain located in Niigata, Japan. The entire land is dotted with site-specific artworks created by 160 artists from all over the world, making it the largest, most ambitious art festival in the world. And each piece is united by a single theme: humans are part of nature.
Originally initiated in 2000, the festival recently wrapped up its 6th iteration. And now, in an exhaustive look at the past 15 years, curator and director of the Triennale Fram Kitagawa has put together a book called Art Place Japan that includes all 800 artworks ever created for the festival, as well essays and traveling tips. But seeing it all has never been an objective. Organizers will admit that the sprawling nature of the festival is an “absolutely inefficient approach deliberately at odds with the rationalization and efficiency of modern society.” The intention is to interact with the beauty and richness of the land, which serves as a canvas for art.
Kitagawa’s book will be out November 14, 2015 and will be available through Amazon and other retailers.
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