Encounters’ Miladys Parejo talks about her show: ‘Aftermath of the Spring Lockdown’.
Your exhibition for Artists Open Houses sounds really interesting. How does it reflect your experiences of the last few months?
Our winter exhibition will reflect experiences of the last few months very deeply indeed! After we had been caught by surprise by the first lockdown, my instinct was to strive keep the morale of Encounters’ artists high. This was not always easy to achieve, as individual circumstances differed greatly. But, as it happened, the first lockdown took such a long time that it forced many of us to find our own personal ways to get through. The natural way was trying to do the things that we love, and being kind to ourselves, by taking into account our personal opportunities and difficulties.
Motivation and goals are needed to keep energy flowing. When the AOH Festival team announced a possibility that an exhibition could take place this winter, it created an opportunity that provided a focus. This developed into our ‘Aftermath of the Spring Lockdown’ show.
The upheaval of the Covid-19 health crisis began in late 2019 and it rapidly became an issue that changed the contemporary history of humanity. It became pervasive, affecting many aspects of life. This important experience needs to be registered as, globally, we have been part of it and, in unprecedented ways, it has impacted the ways that we live. At the extreme it became a divide: Before and After the Lockdown. And, more recently, we talk about the Second Lockdown. Undoubtedly, this will become a historical event as well. For these reasons, the ‘2020 Lockdowns’ need to be documented!
‘Pandemic’, ‘Lockdown’ and ‘Quarantine’ became the most frequent sound, as a zeitgeist in the air of these times. This repetitive narrative became commonplace in our daily lives. And they became the starting point for Encounters’ narrative of the Winter Edition 2020. Our exhibition will explore the feelings, perception, fears, emotions and hopes of Encounters’ artists during these unusual times. In short, the upheaval of the Covid-19 crisis will be the common ground of the show and the art works to be exhibited will be reflective of artists’ own experiences of that period.
Your artists come from many different countries and your Open House always has an international atmosphere – will many of your artists be present this year?
Unfortunately, no international artists will be with us in person for our winter show this year. I am a strong believer that a multicultural and multidisciplinary show always brings an interesting perspective to our community and to art lovers during our festivals. International artists in residence exchange ideas directly with our local artists and visitors, but that won’t be possible this year.
Nevertheless, I know that this pandemic has a clear beginning but an unclear ending and, as Encounters’ curator, I anticipated that the upcoming exhibition would require a flexible design. An achievable physical show, furnished with works of our artists, who are from London or more local. In addition, a virtual option, where the creative process of the artists was technological assisted, enabling Encounters to maintain its international dimension with a strong online component.
For this reason, an entirely new project has been designed: Being–Human-in-your… A Portrait-in Between. This is an online drawing dialogue in-between artists that are based internationally in places such as Chicago and Miami in the USA, Venezuela, Italy, the UK and Switzerland. The results will be displayed at Encounters Art Space in our winter show and viewers will have an opportunity to see the final portraits while listening to the voices of the artists creating the works, assisted by a QR code. An example of the process is shown below.
A Portrait-In Between
Click, or paste into your browser, this link to see two minutes of the online drawing dialogue
Also, where the type of project, and the selected art media, permitted, Encounters received digital inputs. The artist Andreina Mujica, a Venezuelan based in Paris, contributed by email the outputs from her research-based project that highlighted the impact of Covid-19 on famine in the world, which can be described as a parallel pandemic. Andreina’s on-going project, ‘La Mesa se Viste de Cine’ uses only images as a tacit language by pairing seven iconic film titles with seven self-portrait characters in a photographic production. The artist aims to raise awareness of hidden consequences of goblal events and how we respond to them. Theses are two example of her work:
Does the work of your artists reflect responses to the pandemic in different parts of the world?
Although Encounters winter‘s show will have an international component is not going to be international in our usual way. The development of the curatorial concept was focused on artists’ feelings, regardless of their precarious creative journeys, as they had been impacted by their surroundings. In that sense, the show will highlight the spontaneous reactions and the expressive creations of artists whose lives were reshaped by an external force. Some felt the impacts of confining shackles of required and self-inflicted constraints on liberty while others discovered previously unknown life forces during the required avoidance of human contact. The intelligence of the emotions guided the creative spirit. Our upcoming exhibition is a voyage into patterns of individual intimacy expressed in diverse media languages.
Much of the Open Houses Festival will be online this year. How will this affect your show? Do you think there will be some benefits to it?
First at all, let me put my answer into context. Encounters’ show is usually designed for the Summer Festival. Our intention is to create a ‘SHOW’ that usually has an integrated purpose – educational, interactive and artistically very rich. In short, our aim is to offers an experience accompanied by a great art works that include installations, performance, artists talks, etc. At the moment, we don’t have the resources to delivery that experience virtually.
We are trying to be agile by adapting to changes in circumstances. Not only in the design of the exhibition: on-line and physical but also keeping a strong virtual presence in different platforms and trying to migrate progressively into the virtual world. We still have very far to go to be able to facilitate access to an enhanced imagery and more multimedia features that can enable a deeper exploration of our show and stories behind it.
As far as the AOH’s online offer is concerned, undoubtedly it is very welcome. We will be showcasing our featured artists and artworks. I think some pieces, like jewellery and small art objects from Encounters’ Arti-Shop, will gain additional benefits due to the nature of this year’s Christmas Festival and, hopefully, will help people to enjoy seasonal delights. We are very grateful to have the AOH’s online option. I know the amount of hard work that it takes. So, at Encounters we are happy to contribute any required content to help to keep it alive.
How has your own work been affected by the current situation?
Let me say that my own medium, Art Installations, is not the most user-friendly art form to be showcased. In the current situation it is even more difficult, as opportunities for a live audience to experience an installation in situ are impossible at the moment. Fortunately, being Encounters’ artistic director enabled me to fulfill other artistic interests, both for myself and with Encounters’ artists and associates. For example, few weeks ago, I undertook the curatorial task of developing a solo show entitled ‘The Nature of Being’ by Romany Bruce in close collaboration with the artist. It was a great and successful experience.
Finally I can say that, even though my personal art work has been challenging during this time, other activities connected to my artistic practice have been fulfilling, like ‘art curating’ and ‘content developer for social media.’ Also, a few written pieces that present artists works for websites and exhibition have been commissioned. These tasks have strengthened my motivation and kept me very busy lately.
Do you feel optimistic for the future?
It is now very clear that the upheaval of the Covid-19 has changed contemporary history and affecting many aspects of life. But, it is also true that current science and technological developments are key factors that are playing in our favour. For me, this is a very good reason to feel optimistic for the future.
I am not saying that it has been an easy challenge – not at all. I recognise that the impact will affect us for longer than we wish, rather like the waves of seismic effects that ripple out from an earthquake. But, I have framed this ‘wave’ as a transition period to a new paradigm of life, to which I am looking forward.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
If I had to summarise my learning experience from the first lockdown and now entering into the second one, while facing constant unknown changes, I will say that three words characterise it: Resilience, Agility and Readiness. These three attributes have become clearly very necessary to be cultivated in our present times where usual planning time-frame changes to almost being ‘one step at a time’, as we know that everything could change overnight. A willingness to become fully prepared for better times has become a substantive condition as windows of opportunity may unexpectedly appear and, of course, cannot be grasped without an agile mind-set. This is my sociological statement, rather than my artistic statement, but I hope that it will inform our artistic lives.
Hopefully, many people in our community will be able to book a time-slot using the Evenbrite link to see Encounters’ show this winter! Book your visit here
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