ATELIER MORALES STUDIO
Last July, the Eye’s Walk Digital Festival in the last edition of
2017, entitled Ermoúpoli: Inside Out hosted for the first time the Atelier Morales in the capital of Syros, Greece. Ermoupoli recieves einternational public every year and this time it hosted persons from different religious and social origins.
The works created by Teresa Ayuso and Juan Luis Morales were for three summer days acknowledged by a heterogeneous audience, from a new approach: video mapping art. The Morales studio, in cooperation with American artist Katy Kavanaugh, inaugurated the first night with video art from the photography series Arqueología, homenaje a Eliseo Diego (Archeology: Tribute to Eliseo Diego). This material was screened with background sound on the wall of a neoclassic building from the 19th century, typical of the architecture in the capital.
The randomized images shown from Arqueología presented the interior of deserted houses in Havana, properly integrated to the exterior of the monument in the Greek capital. With this concept, Cuban images are taken away from the original context. While showing them on the walls of the Aegean University, this interior– exterior work was animated, transferring the interior from another continent and another culture to the Mediterranean.
This digital composition is benefited by the common fact that Greece and Cuba are both islands. The existing and the imported iconography are harmoniously interwoven. The images are merged with melody to exchange two experiences united by potential factors: culture, migration, economy. Through this numbers game, two cultures consolidate, despite the geographic distance between them. The universal nature of the two islands is invigorated with images that create a true scenographic design.
Simultaneous to the projection of photographs of old Havana houses on the neoclassic wall, the soundtrack of sea waves and birds captured the streets of Syros, together with the voices of Fillia Milidaki, Katy Kavanaugh, Yannis Adoniou and Juan Luis Morales reciting in Greek, Spanish and English the poem Arqueología, by Cuban poet Eliseo Diego:
Dirán entonces: aquí estuvo la sala, y más allá, donde encontramos los fragmentos de levísimo barro, el sitio del calor y la dicha.
Luego vendrá una pausa, mientras el viento alisa los hierbajos inconsolables; pero ni un soplo habrá que les evoque la risa, el buenas tardes, el adiós.
With this poem recited and projected on the Greek monuments, Arqueología explored new artistic tracks, surprising passersby and stimulating the senses of those watching this ephemeral nocturnal work. The audiovisual performance searched for the essence of video technology based on sound and visual phenomenon. The images contrasted with the screen/wall and the sound, as transmission element. The silent composition and the human absence from the images conveyed grief and concern about the neglected patrimony.
Teresa Ayuso and Juan Luis Morales, both Cuban artists, trained architects, and living in Paris since 1993, have previously worked on patrimony adrift, as demonstrated the series Bohíos (2003), Los ingenios (2004), Los balnearios (2007) and recently the series Varaderos. In Arqueología, the composition is condensed, classified and they abandon the urban context to convey their concern to consistently work the theme of architectonic patrimony. The spiritual and visual impact, the idyllic and lucid atmosphere of interiors with unanimated objects, with an intended universe captured by the photographs, and that sense of slovenliness, oversight and abandonment marks their works.
Other participants, including fifteen artists from across the world such as: Fred L’Épee, Olga Guseva, Camille Turlot, Eric Szerman, Pani Pawlosky, Ana Perola, Zavier Ovidio; were able to exchange twenty eight electronic images with an audience interested in numerical culture. Being able to use a performance to express in different spaces of the city and to create a scene in the capital, is at the same time to skillfully project into new practices of numerical creation. This digital encounter held in Greece, brings together Teresa and Juan Luis’ concern about the heritage scene in Cuba.
In the festival in Greece, how did the video mapping art appear?
That was an idea of the artist Katy Kavanaugh. She knew about the festival and she had seen our work in a congress in Kazakhstan and in the Venice Biennale of Architecture, in 2016. She believed our work fitted in the Greek Festival and suggested we make an audiovisual, considering our photograph series. That was wise, given the theme of the festival: Interior /Exterior. Katy took care of the edition, since she is a video producer and so this is a collaboration between the artist and Atelier Morales studio.
How did Atelier Morales start doing photography?
Since the beginning, when we worked with architects, we used photography as support for large scale murals. Photography was a practical tool for collages, and during trips to Cuba in the late 90s and the 2000s we took photos of everything we saw of abandoned sugar factories. Subsequently, the series
Los ingenios emerged.
How did the idea of Patrimony Adrift emerge, why that concern?
In Cuba we witnessed the loss of some architectonic heritage, not valued at all. We decided to document, study and classify that patrimony, and to show it so that people (in or outside Cuba) might be aware of the existing patrimonial wealth, not only that of colonial architecture which has been prioritized over others. Since then, in our series we have drawn attention to the lost industrial patrimony and that which is disappearing like “sugar factories”,
“the Cuban peasant’s habitat”, “the bohíos”. There are small scale health and tourism facilities like “spas” that are neglected. Houses from Republican times with no colonial style are not valued.
The same occurs with coastal architecture, another valuable patrimony. We had this concern in Cuba and in Paris, regularly visiting the island to document it and to work on our new series.
What is the new project Varaderos about?
First, the word varadero means the place where vessels are dry docked to be protected from waves or to be repaired; it may also be a project that makes no progress. The series Varaderos (with an“s”) started at the beginning of last year. We visited Varadero beach during a cold front. We walked the shore and we inventoried destroyed houses, demolished houses and others in devastated conditions. Many houses on the coastline, facing the sea, have disappeared. It is a contradiction since many hotels have been built near the coast and we want to show the patrimony of houses built at the turn of the century from the original stones, wooden houses, now devastated.
The architecture in the area is disappearing and we decided to make a series about coastal architecture , about marinas, about recovering the marinas, to tribute the marinas by Mario Romañach. This topic has not been tackled by contemporary artists; it is considered something from the 19th century. We would like to update this, and therefore questioned all the private coastal architecture about to be lost.
Could you have worked in photography in Cuba?
Maybe not, there is an important component of nostalgia, being abroad to go back and take another look, the look you can take only when you are overseas, when you are in Cuba you do not have the same vision.
Could you give a piece of advice to youngsters in Cuba, as a professor and with the experience you have attained?
Seriously, to pay attention to the patrimonial heritage. I believe there is some awareness; there is a patrimony restoration school, of some patrimony. Precisely, our work is to draw attention to some forgotten patrimony. To be on alert; a good thing in Cuba is that no real property speculation has existed in years and there are still great monuments from the 50s and from Republican times. An eye must be kept on this in coming years. We have to make architecture students sensitive about this. A good example is Fábrica de Arte Cubano and El Cocinero, neglected for years and turned into an avant–garde cultural facility and restaurant. This is an example to be duplicated to show how a valuable patrimony can be regenerated and not necessarily turned into a museum. When we think like this, it does not mean that it should be frozen in time, the point is that places are to be reactivated and revitalized. There are many highly valued buildings in Havana that, as patrimony, should be restored and given new life.