– You are still not aware that you are part of this film... And one day you will come to understand that memories are nothing but the future, projected.
OAXACA CITY, MEXICO: a 5-year old girl, Katja, wakes up in the apartment by the busy street of Porfirio Diaz 508. The journey begins.
A wooden figure of man "wearing worn-out jeans, a faded shirt with cut-off sleeves and a belt from the now disbanded People’s Army of Yugoslavia" is carved, painted and covered with photographic fragments in a rural workshop in SANTA ANA ZEGACHE
You were born one evening in August as a video recording.
The girl returns with her parents to the familiar hillside of LA TETA DE MARIA SÁNCHEZ, to the pueblo and to a community workshop where they have worked during the last decade. The life of an artist couple can be many things. It can be a family; living together, pertaining the act of actively creating memories for the future.
This visit to the pueblo of SANTA ANA ZEGACHE entails a communal effort to revive a long lost artisanal practice, endemic to the popular art of 20th century Mexico: the photo sculpture – or the fotoescultura – a technique of early multimedia that vanished in the mid 80:ies as a heavy earthquake destroyed the last collective workshops in MEXICO CITY.
Men-that-fall are video recordings that the girl's parents – Geska & Robert – have staged and collected ever since they started working together. Men-that-fall are now transformed into tangible objects, resembling the figures of catholic ‘santos’ (madonnas and saints), albeit the falling men are secular manifestations of faith and inevitability.
SAN FELIPE TEJALAPAM: Visiting sites of recent apparitions Geska, Robert and Katja explore the notion of place (topos), figure (imago) and specifity. The story of a 30-centimetre-high Madonna-sculpture unravels – different versions, different tellers: the shape of something familiar, known. It is a corollary tradition of narration and manifestation, a small wooden Madonna with a scorched face that appears throughout the region.
Meanwhile, the everyday work with the artisans of SANTA ANA ZEGACHE is interfoliated with suggestive events and life’s passages – the marriage of a co-worker and the traditional dance with turkeys, as well as flashes of remembrances of the time when cousin Djani from CROATIA – a stone mason (and now also one of the men-that-fall) – accompanied the building the world’s first solar-powered chapel in this very place, containing the projected image of a puppet-animation of St. Anne and the Virgin Mary.
LAS PEÑITAS, REYES ETLA: The journey among sites of popular veneration continues, unravelling a rock with petrified imprints of the Lord's feet and knees. Grand festivities are performed as vigorous choreographies rather then immutable ritual. From this point Geska, Robert and Katja will continue down a voyaging route that relates the vast landscape of the Oaxacan highlands.
– We lower our stockinged feet into you, we fit our knees in your cavities, and penetrate every recess with our gaze. In the dented and billowing rock, the memory of movement and prayer is imprinted.
Seven wooden photo-sculptures of falling men, 30 cm in height, are soon to be completed in SANTA ANA ZEGACHE. In the midst of this work Geska, Robert and Katja set on a journey following pilgrims-on-bicycles to the hilltops of the JUQUILA DISTRICT. Mesmerized by the motorized chapels "decorated with tinsel and leaves" and the eclectic style of lycra biker shorts combined with Madonnas-painted-on-canvases they end up at the nucleus of the popular apparitionist movement whose fabric is legend and story. The pueblo AMIALTEPEC is its birthplace. It is here that a small wooden sculpture, 30 cm high, miraculously survived a church fire in the late 16th century. Our Lady of Juquila is a Madonna with a blackened face, the same skin colour as the indigenous nations inhabiting the region.
– You are the bright, unfamiliar face tried by fire, chastised by smoke to something dark, beloved, known.
EL PEDIMENTO: Votive offerings are made in clay on the muddy slopes of the adjacent sanctuary. Hopeful representations of profound yearnings: the figure of a child – a stack of dollar bills or the unified effort of a family making tiny bricks for a house they are in dire need of.
EL LAZO: On their way back Geska, Robert and Katja meet pilgrims on foot carrying yet bigger canvases on their backs. Images that are rendered their unique value by the physical effort of walking some 400 kilometre’s back and forth; as well as the shared experience of several generations and kin.
Back in SANTA ANA ZEGACHE the story accounts for a child's physical presence at a workplace. In the workshop Katja reconnects with friends that she has not seen for at least 2 years. A family portrait is being made to complete the series of photo sculptures. The children play, drawing, colouring, making things up – as the grown-ups do.
Maybe children remember other children and only when the process of not being a child begins, will you begin to forget that too.
TEOTITLÁN DEL VALLE: By the suggestion of a friend the protagonists visit the home of Cristo Grande. The sojourn underlines the anatomy of popular legends: such lores are made piecemeal – bit by bit. The Christ is carved out of wood – a life-sized figure that never stopped growing; as part of its essence, wood being a living material. The story of Cristo Grande is a pragmatic account of an eloping Christ-figure that should never had been in the private possession of a family, finally growing too big to be taken out of His rightful home. This is the pivotal point when the ecclesiastical authorities need to cave in: he remains at the home He has claimed for Himself and the legend can continue to grow.
El Convite is the annual summon elicited by the constitutive event of all devotional practice in the region: the apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The children enact Divine characters revealed. Dressed up as Madonnas and angels they parade on an ox-cart throughout the pueblo, accompanied by a brass band, the community feasting until dusk. – You are the small road chapels of Zegache, built from concrete and sheet metal, you are withering 17th-century sculptures of anonymous monks, forgotten saints and mutilated angels – you are the town and its inhabitants who have opened their doors to strangers... to us.
El Convite is the annual summon elicited by the constitutive event of all devotional practice in the region: the apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The children enact Divine characters revealed. Dressed up as Madonnas and angels they parade on an ox-cart throughout the pueblo, accompanied by a brass band, the community feasting until dusk.
– You are the small road chapels of Zegache, built from concrete and sheet metal, you are withering 17th-century sculptures of anonymous monks, forgotten saints and mutilated angels – you are the town and its inhabitants who have opened their doors to strangers... to us.