Afluents (english report)
Afluents is a collaborative project about the river as a symbolic space where the past and present of the local industrial, environmental and social concerns meet. This collaboration is between Seila Fernández Arconada, the A+ collective and the neighbourhood associations from Calla, El Remei and Horta Vermella, among others.
The project is part of Collaborative Arts Partnership Programme co-produced by Hablar En Arte and ACVic Centre d’Arts Contemporànies, and suported by Creative Europe and Acción Cultural Española, AC/E.
The work came from a residency of Seila Fernández Arconada (artist in residence during this project) who was invited to undertake a one month residency in ACVic, following guidelines from Hablar en Arte. The aim was to map the local interest in the area and find a common ground to work in collaboration and to engage with the local community. The process was started by A+ with an initial research and continued by Seila with a number of meetings, research experiments and workshops.
The residency was titled Adoberies: reactivation and collaborative processes, after Adoberies, an abandoned neighborhood with an important role in the local industrial heritage located in the centre of in the city of Vic and the main focus of this work. Ruined buildings from the leather industry evoke strong memories and nostalgia for local people; although, this industry caused serious damage to the local environment which continues today. The river Mèder (a tributary of the Ter river) is an important agent in this process as receiver and carrier of pollution, from heavy metals and pigments from the days of the leather industry to a number of substances such as nitrates today. One of the current resource exploitations locally is the exponential growth of the pig industry; a number of mechanical slaughterhouses carry-out mass production to provide pork to a number of countries (an average of 30.000 pigs killed per day). This has significant consequences on the environment, water pollution is the most affected with all local aquifers contaminated.
During the residency there was a series of workshops where participants were able to experiment with participatory and collaborative processes. From discussions of concepts, to hands-on collaborative exercises we managed to explore the local interest; a critical and creative approach to set the guidelines of the following artistic response. During this first period residency there were a number of events including Vermut, a local gathering in the bank of the river Mèder and Adoberies: reactivation and collaborative processes a workshop-debate with a number of local collectives.
In addition, the final event of the first part was called Converses amb el pruner (Conversations with the plum tree) in which we shared a banquet with the main inhabitants of the river, i.e. ducks and pigeons. For this we unrolled a 50m. long red table cloth the same tone of red as the level of nitrates produced during analysis the river water. This was placed on top of the dam in the river Mèder towards the plum tree from which we made a plum marmalade for the occasion. In one end of the table cloth we displayed some food for the local birds and in the other end we placed the marmalade and pancakes for us to taste.
During the event we analysed the water and discussed the local identity, and heritage of the Adoberies; pollution in the river and the pig industry. Discussion covered a number of other issues related to the project generating some controversy. The plum tree provided the main ingredient of the marmalade we were going to taste. In addition, Ginesta, from Grup Defensa del Ter gave us a very immersive local activist view on the current environmental situation locally defending active engagement and showing local resistance.
Since the very beginning of my involvement in the project the river Mèder caught my attention prompting a number of questions, realising that this area was the main interest for action locally. Therefore the main focus of the research shifted after the initial phase of the work. The plan for the residency also changed and my participation in the project was extended to embrace not only the research part but also the execution of a response.
The project Afluents Visuals began; a participatory video created in collaboration with the filmmaker Lorda Cruselles. The conceptual approach for the video emphasized the environmental, social and industrial heritage of the river Mèder. We created a pack with a dv video camera and the project instructions on how to participate. This camera travelled from one side to the other of the river aiming to overcome a symbolic and physical border locally. This perception was manifested in a number of conversations with the local community. This camera was given to a first participant who had to decide who to include in the story (living in the other side of the river) and so on. Participants therefore contributed with their views and experiences of the river, a broad conceptual frame that allowed a number of stories to emerged and so became part of this collective view. This process to which we were not privy ended with a great surprise when viewing the very immersive stories following a varied range of points of view, ranging from the very intimate experiences of local people to activists who pass by recalling the local history.
The second part of the residency began on the 3rd of October 2017, coinciding with a day of general strike in Catalonia. The effervescent political situation was therefore significant in the second residency when political engagement locally was consistent. However, this second part of the project Afluents began with a number of events connected to a local environmental approach aiming to provide local people with a number of tools and knowledge in order to create a neighborhood based group to support environmental initiatives and care for the river. These events include a field workshop providing tools to observe and analyse the river and surroundings; and a talk showing what has been done; the current situation and possible options for action. Debates and different encounters followed this introductory work.
Meanwhile, I was pleased to be a participant in a number of activities run by the local neighborhood associations which not only made me feel at home but also created a bond with the local community based on trust, fostering a genuine exchange. Other activities took place including an experimental video piece recording a floating view of the river at «duck view», a series of workshops at the local school El Escorial in which we worked in a number of collective artistic experiments allowing participants to question their realities in order to generate various creative responses locally. The final result of this collaboration was a collective intervention in the river Mèder with a series floating sculptures.
Arqueología social del río Mèder (Social archaeology of the river Mèder) a participatory archive celebrating the river and its local heritage which includes a number of donated images and videos by local neighbors representing their popular celebrations, extreme flooding events locally and personal experiences. This process also included some interviews to local members who remember the traditional activities in the river such as laundry and fishing.
An organised group was created including members of El Remei, Horta Vermella and La Calla neighborhood associations. The group task was to generate a collective response locally, transforming the research and carried the process into an event for the local community.
Terrat d’en Cols is an area nearby the river in which a petrol station had been located for many years, it was finally demolished during the summer. Neighbors especially from La Calla have been working for years to reclaim this space for public use in order to connect the neighborhood with the river Mèder. Local neighborhood associations were already in dialogue with the local council to show their views on this space. We decided to occupy the location for a day with an architectural intervention to highlight and celebrate this space and the river. We designed a number of structures as symbolic representations of open shelters for inhabitation. These structures contained a number of questions and processes from the initial phase of the project with the aim of sharing questions and encounters locally.
The event Afluents took place on the 18th of November 2017 when all participants and further audience gathered together in the morning to rise up the structures (some reaching 6 meters high) and prepare the event, a laborious work that happened smoothly thanks to the local community help. The event was received very well with a great number of visitors; also some local TV and newspaper reporters covered the event and shared the principles of this work.
The processes represented in each of the structures:
– social Archaeology of the River Meder as a local archive of the river
– a performative floating intervention by the school group
– the public presentation of Afluents Visuals participatory documentary film
– a postcard drawing session of the local environment
– the presentation of intergenerational collaborations (a collaborative project between local artistic generations)
– a local feast where the collectively made plum marmalade was present
– a display of a number of other resources of the project such as information about the river and how to participate in the local river group, and the clay mold of the local statue/symbol of the neighborhood in the popular celebrations among others.
This project has been very challenging, however, it has been very rewarding for me as an artist. I am use to working with uncertainty and my process-based methodology works with the time in a local community, a process coming from research from various approaches and local engagement. Time is the main issue here, how much time does an artist need to be able to comprehend and engage with local community dynamics? I wonder if in this case the given time was enough to respond to the local community but at least I hope this process has shared a number of questions to be processed locally. I hope it left a trace in the participants lives and the legacy is carried by the local groups including A+ and ACVic to follow the dynamic learning of this process.
Seila Fernández Arconada
For more info about the project: http://www.hablarenarte.com/…/reside…/blog-residencia-acvic/
We would like to thank all those who have been working with us in the project. From the most visible to the invisible, this project would not have been possible without you. Specially we would like to thank:
The collaborators of the participative video «Afluents Visuals»
Anna Alsina Solà
Jordi Casanovas i Prat
Eduard Cejuela Sanchez
Pau Franch Hernandez
Josep Lluís García Domingo
Cristina Oliver Crivillers
Laura Portabella Vilardell
Marcal Roviró Segalés
Lluís Segalés Pratsobrerroca
Andreu Serra Presseguer
Jordi Solà i Font
Lluis Solà Sala
Joan Sòler Felip
Quim Sosa Parra
And all those who have appeared in the video.
The ones who have been working with us in the public events of the project: Afluents, Converses amb el Pruner, Adoberies: reactivación y procesos colaborativos and Vermut as well as in talks, visits, workshops and events that we organized during the project.
And to all who have been actively following and contributing to the process:
Collectives and other local entities such as Grup Defensa del Ter, La Clota, Ex-alumnos de la Escuela de Arte, Exabrupto, Asociació Hàbitats , Sketchcrawl, clase de educación visual y plástica de 4º de ESO de Escola Vedruna Escorial, BB’s intervencions, Jardí de l’Amistat, Partee Design, Arxiu Comarcal d’Osona an Ayuntamiento de Vic.
And the following persons, including Pep Comeres, Joan Pujols, Pepe Márquez, Martí Puig, Lorda Crusellas, Nuria Valls, Xénia Ferran Plá, Fina Correderas Barba, Toni Casassas, Toni Coromina, Maria Dolors García Mena, Maria Presseguer, Andreu Serra, Ginesta, Susanne Bosch, Inma Jutglà Oliva, Ramón Galí, Marta Ricart Viladomat, Santi Costa, Marc Ordeix, Miquel Buixeda, Jordi Arévalo, Serralleria Jaume Pampliega, Anna Vinyes, Control Z Visual, Marc Formatgé Palau, Eulalia, Ramón Furri, Òscar Pujol, Eva Marichalar, Jordi Lafon, Toni García, Fabiana Palmero, Jordi Boadas and Bernard Fairhurst.
As well as all the other persons who have preferred to keep themselves in the shadows, moltes gràcies.