ALEJANDRA HIDALGO : The Natural Installations

 Interviewed and Translated in English, French and Spanish by Séverine Grosjean, Edited by Yoon Joo Lee

 After studying geography, international relations and sociology in different countries (France, Spain, Portugal, Ecuador, Peru),  Séverine Grosjean works as a freelance cultural journalist. She has published articles in  french, Canadian, British, Mexican, Chilean magazines. She is preparing to inaugurate her  first photography exhibition as curator in Paris in october. 

“Alejandra has insisted that her work was a tribute to the Guatemalan culture…..”

 Alejandra Hidalgo entered the world of creation by different doors like poetry, performance or photography. After much time and perseverance, she seems to have found in the installation what resonates with her.

Alejandra Hidalgo

 In 2003 she was asked to live in a house where she would also create. This will be called “In another time …” After  two months of work, research and 7000 baked (tortillas). It is a monumental installation without specific forms, but whose branches play and spread out  in every inch of the space. This work has created some controversy. In a country like Guatemala, where 40% of children under 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition, some people did not understand the use of this staple food in Guatemala, exposed for a moment and then thrown away. Alejandra has insisted that her work was a tribute to the Guatemalan culture and thousands of women daily cooking tortillas. Right or wrong, that is the question…

Alejandra Hidalgo 1

  It will inspire her,again in 2015 in an installation titled “Dreamlike” in an exhibition suggested by the G & T Foundation, “The interrupted dream.” Taking the form of a spiral from the ground up, dreams are transformed, they transform us and keep us constantly in motion, leaving one point and developing. She redefines the structure, the experimental barriers in a limited space giving the shape of a tree and it unconsciously as she says. In Christianity, the tree is the symbol of knowledge of good and evil and the Mayan culture by the Ceiba, the sacred tree, the pride of the Mayan civilization.

Alejandra Hidalgo 2

 With her work, “Footprints in the three times” composed by 5100 baked (tortillas) representing the number of pregnant girls aged 10 to 14  after being abused, most of the time by a parent, the work is much more committed. She carries a sociopolitical act giving shape to daily violence but unfortunately remaining silent. She allows a reflection on this issue but also on solidarity between the victims and the people fighting with them. This work is a metaphor linking violence and tortillas, food every day for Guatemalan. Activism and aesthetics of Alejandra’s work exposes the issue of commitment.

Alejandra Hidalgo 3

 In other works, Alejandra offers environmental awareness. Indeed, in an installation called “Acidosis”, she uses orange peels to recreate a space and reclaiming it. She creates forms and guide the viewer’s perception, walking with this natural material in a built landscape. There is an interaction, a mutual exchange, an atmosphere where the public may feel confused by this accumulation merging art and life.

Today, Alejandra Hidalgo continues this reflection on what it means to be Guatemalan, and the relationship between our individual consciousness and our collective consciousness.

Lean More about  Alejandra Hidalgo here. Check out her Facebook page, too!
Presented by the International Foundation for Women Artists.


 

 Interview in French

Alejandra Hidalgo est entrée dans le monde de la création par  différentes portes comme la poésie, la performance ou la photographie. Après beaucoup de temps et de persévérance, elle semble avoir trouvé dans l’installation  ce qui lui correspond.

En 2003, il lui  a été demandé d’habiter l’espace d’une maison de deux étages. Ce qui s’intitulera «Dans un autre temps…” lui prendra deux mois de travail, de recherche  et 7000 tortillas cuites. C’est une installation monumentale sans formes bien précises, mais dont les branches jouent, sortent, se propagent dans les moindres  recoins de l’espace. Ce travail a créé une certaine controverse. Dans un pays comme le Guatemala, où 40% des enfants de moins de 5 ans souffrent de malnutrition chronique, certaines personnes n’ont pas  compris l’utilisation  de cet aliment de base au  Guatemala, exposé pendant un moment puis jeté à la poubelle. Alejandra a insisté sur le fait que son travail était un hommage à la culture guatémaltèque et aux milliers de femmes  cuisinant quotidiennement des tortillas. Valide ou non telle est la question.

Elle s’en inspirera de nouveau en 2015 dans une installation intitulée “Onirique” dans une exposition proposée par la fondation G & T, ” Le  rêve interrompu.” Prenant la forme d’une spirale venant de la terre vers le haut, les rêves se transforment , ils nous transforment et nous gardent constamment en mouvement, sortant d’un point et gradissant, se développant.  Elle redéfinit dans ce travail la structure, les barrières expérimentales dans un espace limité lui donnant la forme d’un arbre et cela inconsciemment  comme elle le déclare. Dans la religion chrétienne, l’arbre est le symbole de la connaissance, du bien et du mal et dans la culture maya  par la Ceiba,  l’arbre sacré, de la fierté de la civilisation Maya.

Avec son oeuvre,”Empreintes dans les trois temps” composée de 5100 tortillas représentant le nombre de  jeunes filles enceintes  entre 10 et 14 ans après avoir été abusées, la plupart du temps par un de ses parents, le travail de Alejandra est beaucoup plus engagé. Elle réalise un acte sociopolitique donnant forme à une violence quotidienne alimentant le pays mais restant malheureusement silencieuse. Elle permet une réflexion  sur cette problématique mais aussi sur la  solidarité entre les victimes et les personnes qui se battent avec elles. Ce travail est une métaphore liant la violence et les tortillas, nourriture de tous les jours pour les  Guatémaltèques. Le militantisme et  l’esthétique du  travail d’Alejandra expose  la question de l’engagement .

Dans d’autres travaux, Alejandra offre une conscience environnementale. En effet, dans une  installation  appelée “Acidose”, elle utilise des peaux d’orange pour recréer un espace et la réappropriation de ce dernier. Elle créent des formes et  guide la perception du spectateur se promenant  avec cette matière naturelle dans un paysage construit. Il ya une interaction, un échange mutuel, une atmosphère où le public peut se sentir confus par cette accumulation fusionnant l’ art et la vie.

Aujourd’hui, Alejandra Hidalgo continue cette réflexion sur ce que signifie d’être Guatémaltèque  et la relation entre notre conscience individuelle et notre conscience collective.

Lean More about  Alejandra Hidalgo here. Check out her Facebook page, too!
Presented by the International Foundation for Women Artists.


Interview in Spanish :

Alejandra Hidalgo entró en el mundo de la creación por diferentes puertas como  la poesía, la performance y la fotografía. Después de mucho  tiempo y perseverancia, parece haber encontrado en  la instalación monumental  lo que le corresponde.

En el 2003, se le pidió  habitar un espacio en una casa de dos pisos. La que se llamara “En  otro tiempo…”. Dos meses de trabajo, de  investigación, de interrogaciones y 7.000 tortillas cocinadas más tarde, una  instalación gigantesca sin formas  muy definidas, pero cuyas ramas juegan, salen, se extienden en los rincones del espacio. Este trabajo creó cierta controversia. De hecho, en un país como Guatemala, donde el 40% de los niños menores de 5 años padecen malnutrición crónica, algunas personas no entendieron  el uso estropeado  de este alimento  básico de Guatemala, expuesto por un momento y tirado en la basura. Alejandra insistió en que su trabajo fue un homenaje a la cultura guatemalteca a través del consumo de tortilla reuniendo a  todos los guatemaltecos y en especial  rendir un  homenaje a las miles de mujeres que cocinan todos los días tortillas, siendo la base alimenticia de miles de guatemaltecos. Válida o no válida  es la pregunta?

Ella se inspirara  de nuevo de esta acción en el 2015 en una exposición de la fundación   G & T titulado “El Sueno interrumpido”. Se redefine la estructura, las barreras experimentadas en un espacio más limitado dándole  la forma de un árbol y esto inconscientemente porque como lo declara ”no era mi propósito”. Símbolo del conocimiento, del bien y del mal, el árbol representa la vida en la religión cristiana como en la cultura maya por la Ceiba, el árbol sagrado, motivo de orgullo para los Mayas.

El titulo de la pieza es “ensueno”,  una espiral que sale de la tierra hacia arriba, los sueños dan vueltas en nosotros, nos transforman y nos mantienen en constante movimiento, salen de un punto y crecen, se expanden. Las tortillas tienen marcado el sueno de miles de mujeres que a diario se paran frente al comal.

Con la obra titulada “ Huellas en los tres tiempos” compuesta de 5100 tortillas.una cifra no  inocente ya que representa el numero de casos de ninas entre 10 y 14 anos embarazadas despuès de haber sido abusadas, la mayoria del tiempo por uno de sus parientes, el trabajo  de Alejandra es mucho màs comprometido. A traves de este homenaje, realiza un acto socio-politico dando forma a una violencia que alimenta cotidiamente  el pais y que por desgracia se queda callado . Ella  permite  una reflexion “ politica”  por la visibilidad de esta problematica pero tambien de la solidaridad entre las victimas y las personas luchando con ellas.  Este trabajo es una metafora vinculando la violencia diaria y las toritllas, alimento del dia a dia de los guatemaltecos. Sin duda, con la relacion del militantismo y la estetica de su trabajo, Alejandra expone la cuestion del compromiso apelando las emociones del publico.

En otros trabajos, Alejandra ofrece una consciencia  ambiental. De hecho, en otra instalación monumental titulada “Acidosis”, utiliza la cáscara de naranja para recrear un espacio y la reapropiación de este. Utiliza el material encontrado en las calles para crear formas y orientar la percepción que tenemos de este objeto natural en un paisaje no natural. Se trata de una interacción, de un intercambio mutuo. Recrea una  atmósfera donde el público puede sentirse confundido por esta acumulación fusionando el  arte y la  vida.

Hoy, Alejandra Hidalgo continúa esta reflexión sobre lo que significa ser guatemalteca hoy en día y de la relación entre nuestra  conciencia individual y la de los demás.
Lean More about  Alejandra Hidalgo here. Check out her Facebook page, too!
Presented by the International Foundation for Women Artists.

Book Review / The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway

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When Jill Ker Conway decided her future lay in the life of the mind the idea came as a revelation. Having surprised her mother by scoring top in her class at university, Conway’s enthusiasm carried her into the future: “Better still was my inner feeling that I had found something I could do well, and my new awareness that university study was about learning and reflection, not the cramming of texts and information. Now I had a purpose in life. I would take an honors degree, rank high in the class, and set about choosing between the variety of promising career opportunities which went with such achievement.”

Indeed Conway did finish her degree. She went on to teach and write, and to move to the United States for graduate work at Harvard. At the age of forty she was appointed the first woman president of Smith College.

As much as she loved it the academic life was a long way from Conway’s girlhood on her family’s sheep station in New South Wales. The farm, called Coorain after an Aboriginal word meaning ‘windy place,’ was an isolated but beautiful tract of open land. Life there was marginal and threatening. Growing up the only girl in a family of five, Conway didn’t see another girl her age until she was 11. She remembers her mother treated her own ruptured eardrum with warm salt.

A catastrophic eight year drought forced the family to leave Coorain. Her 1989 memoir, The Road from Coorain, describes Conway’s transformation from rural girl to intellectual woman. It’s what Conway has called a “quest narrative,” and a deliberate attempt to write a woman’s story outside of a romantic narrative. Indeed, Conway’s story concerns reconciling the Australia she loves with the Australia she experiences, the Australia she knows with the Australia she has felt. It’s also the story of an expatriate in the making.

Coming of age in Australia in the 1950s, Conway saw herself as an anomaly. “My family and school friends agreed that I was ‘brainy.’ This was a bad thing to be in Australia. People distrusted intellectuals. Australians mocked anyone with ‘big ideas’ and found them specially laughable in women.”

Despite her marginal status, Conway clearly loves Australia and its people. (She says that one of her motivations for writing the book was to combat the myth of the Crocodile Dundee Australian male, a ‘vulgar projection of the Australian male myth.’) When she chooses the academic career path, her attachment to the plains of New South Wales forms her resolve to write an Australian history that stays true to that arid land.

Limited opportunities in Australia push Conway to look beyond the continent. The Road from Coorain ends with Conway’s departure for The United States. “In writing The Road From Coorain I thought it was important to relate the story of a young woman taking charge of her life in an unromantic way, in which it’s perfectly clear that she arrives at a moment of choice.”

Published in 1989, The Road from Coorain sparked a trilogy. (It was also adapted for television in 2001.) The other titles in Conway’s autobiography series are True North and A Woman’s Education.

 

Book Review / Ade by Rebecca Walker

 

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Escape is the ultimate fantasy. Most of us never realize it. For a privileged few, escape can be a luxury, usually defined in relative terms. Even if we can afford to get away from it all, reality, be it cultural or financial, has a way of dragging us back to the grind. This sad truth drives Rebecca Walker’s wise novel, Adé.

The novel’s narrator, Farida, recalls a travel journey with her college friend, Miriam. The trip becomes a cultural and personal reconciliation for Farida, whose identity is in flux. The deeper Farida gets into Africa – first Cairo, then the Sinai, then sub-Saharan Africa – the more comfortable she starts to feel. On a small island off the Kenyan coast, Farida meets a fisherman named Adé. He’s polite, attractive, and feels like destiny. And so, Farida decides to stay put.

Adé and Farida fall happily in love. When they plan to marry, difficulties arise. Adé’s traditions don’t jibe with the political reality of contemporary Kenya. Farida’s family is thousands of miles and cultural light years away.

Walker’s novel is spare and luminous. It’s a laconic condensation of modern day academe – issues of post-colonial theory, Orientalism, and critical race theory are all present and accounted for. But Adé is light and airy where academic theory would drag. (It’s no accident the novel begins with its characters at Yale.) Reading it is a vicarious disappearing. Adé tumbles from the familiar – a crisp New England fall day – into the exotic – the mangrove swamps around a remote fishing island – effortlessly. The story’s landmarks are cultural – the food, shelter, and conversations people around the world enjoy. It offers the hope that we can, should we choose, shed our cultural identities. If only it could be so easy.

Adé is Rebecca Walker’s first novel. She is best known for her memoirs Black, White and Jewish and Baby Love.

BOOK REVIEW / ME AND MY DADDY LISTEN TO BOB MARLEY BY ANN PANCAKE

Ann Pancake Me and My Daddy

Ann Pancake’s newest book, Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley, is a collection of novellas and short stories set in the small towns and rural places of the American outskirts. In Pancake’s stories run-down barns, warped farmhouses, and neglected campgrounds come to vivid life. Take, for example, this passage describing a motorcycle ride from the book’s first story, In Such Light:

When they didn’t ride along the river, Nathan favored an east side outskirt of abandoned or almost abandoned warehouses and factories, the streets there usually empty, and always of cops. The structures formed a three-story sheet metal ravine, their echo spectacular, the motorcycle a contained and rainless thunderstorm ricocheting between walls. The deserted hulks seeped not just eeriness, but somehow anger, even surprise, but Janie and Nathan were shielded from that by the speed of the bike. Them rocketing past enigmatic geometries, cylinders and chutes, cupolas and cones, past towering red letters threatening head injury and limb loss, past windows, if not shattered, so spider-infested Janie could make out webs at fifty miles per hour. These were places that used to make things, not chemicals, electricity, gasoline, but things you could actually touch, and now the vegetation rising, the weeks shrouding, pressing fecund, wanton, “plants” and “plants” Janie’d think in her alcohol haze, noticing for the first time how the word had been stolen, but ultimately the first plants had won.

Many of these stories are set in Pancake’s native West Virginia. Readers who know Southern Appalachia will recognize the scenery – simultaneously lush, poor, grand, and confined – and the politics. Pancake’s first novel, Strange as This Weather Has Been, dealt with the crisis of mountaintop removal mining. In Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley the story Arsonists revisits this subject most explicitly. In it we see that those trapped by the economics of the coal industry stick together as best they can.

Although the book vibrates with Southern Appalachian air, these stories speak beyond the region. Demographic change is turning small town and rural America into a memory. Or a fiction. Today little of the real world of rural America shows up in mainstream media. Reality television shows mythologize the rugged and macho “dirty” jobs of those living outside American cities. And we have a paucity of writers treating rural American communities seriously. Pancake shows us the beauty, tragedy, and poetry in these endangered lives.

Natalie Axton is the editorial director of Critical Read, a new platform for original writing on the fine and performing arts.

BOOK REVIEW / PARADISE, PIECE BY PIECE by Molly Peacock

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by Natalie Axton

When you were a little girl and you imagined your grown up life, did you picture yourself as a mother? For most women the idea of having children is a matter of course, one of the developmental stages of life. But there are many women who have no maternal urge. Choosing to remain child-free of course makes them no less feminine and no less caring. Still, their stories are fewer and carry a whiff of taboo.

For writer Molly Peacock the decision not to have children arrived when she was five years old.

Paradise, Piece by Piece, Peacock’s 1998 memoir, tells the story of her decision to remain childless. To the young Peacock, children seemed to have ruined her family member’s lives. Peacock’s father, an alcoholic, terrorized the family with now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t love and affection. Eventually Peacock’s mother retreated into workaholism, leaving the young Molly Peacock to provide all domestic duties for the family.

Remaining childless is a decision the writer makes many times over the course of her life. Breaking free of her dysfunctional upbringing and finding her way – to college, romantic relationships, work, and art – arcs the story, but Paradise, Piece by Piece is not a confessional tale of victimhood. It’s a survival story, for sure, but Peacock has reserves of self-awareness and artistry to draw on. When she loses herself in a romantic relationship with a choreographer the author recognizes what she has done immediately. When she becomes a teacher she makes clear it is not children she is rejecting by refusing motherhood.

Molly Peacock is a prose writer and a poet. She has served as the President of the Poetry Society of America and was instrumental in creating the Poetry in Motion series that adorns New York City subways and buses. Her most recent chapbook, A Turn Around the Mansion Grounds: Poems in Conversation and a Conversation, is a collaborative project and was published by Slapering Hol Press in 2014. Her most recent prose work is Alphabetique, 26 Characteristic Fictions.

Choosing not to have children is a position Peacock herself describes as ‘radical.’ (Imagine if all the women of the world decided to forego reproduction.) It’s a decision Peacock admits defined her. (Interestingly, Peacock’s closest female friends, whom she met in college in the 1960s, all remain child-free as well.) At a time when having-it-all perfectionism has edged out choice in women’s lives it’s important to remember that many women want to live without becoming mothers. Similarly, the choice between being a caregiver and having an independent life is a false one.

Buy the book here.

Learn about Molly Peacock here.

Natalie Axton is the editorial director of Critical Read, a new platform for original writing on the fine and performing arts.