ALICIA VELAZQUEZ

ETERNAL TOWEL

Sonic RoomAlicia VelazquezComment
(illustration by Alex Proba, A Poster A Day series)

(illustration by Alex Proba, A Poster A Day series)

I have a hand towel, it is red, hot pink and orange. 

I bought this towel in Amsterdam, back around 2004. Twelve years ago. 

I am fascinated by the messages we get from our daily objects and materials, and my bathroom is my favorite. It is the place where we have our daily routines, it is so rich with our history of feelings and sensations, and yet we tend to forget to look. 

But back to the towel. 

One day I realized that I chose this towel back in the day with very little thought. I run into it in the Hema shop, I liked the colors, got it. 

Over ten years later, I still have this towel in my day to day, I see it, use it, touch it every day. Wash it, fold it, roll it. Dry my hands, my face with it. Every day.

This towel made me think that sometimes we meditate carefully what we choose to bring into our lives. And perhaps it is something we wear once or twice, and perhaps we don’t even see it that often. And instead, the seemingly tiny items we randomly choose to live with have a huge impact in our daily lives.

This towel is the one truly shaping me.

Mind Time

InterviewAlicia VelazquezComment

Alicia Velázquez:  Hello time.
Time: Hello.
AV:  Shall I call you using a capital letter in your name?
T:  Yes please. I am royalty.
AV:  I see. Are you royalty? What does that mean?
T:  It means that I am untouchable and powerful. 
AV:  Ok. I can see that. Are you also human and down to earth?
T:  What does that mean?
AV:  I mean, do you come down to live with us humans in our petty everyday things? That is at least my impression of you. I can feel you right here, in the bathroom, in the kitchen, next to me in my bed.
T:  Yes, of course. I am around you, next to you, I wrap you and hold you. I am your everything and reason of your existence. But I am still distant and unable to be catch, or petted. 
AV:  Does that mean that I need to knee at you?
T:  No, please. No need to do that. But be aware that I am no friend. I don’t negotiate.
AV:  What a pity. But I already had a sense of that boundary with you, of course. Why do you think we, humans, believe you are negotiable?
T:  You are stupid.
AV:  Why do we lose sense of your presence so often?
T:  You do not loose me or my presence. You simply forget I am there. And that I rule. You humans have this thing call the ego, and you often believe that you rule and that all on this reality happens to you and because of you. You are still believing, in a way, that you are the center of the universe and the sun and stars loop around you. 
AV:  And other humans as well.
T:  Right. When you are taken by this assumption, you simply forget that I am actually the one ruling this kingdom.
AV:  Are you male or female?
T:  I have no gender or physical form. I simply am.
AV:  Why do we need to understand matter in order to grasp you? 
T:  You are not programmed to go very far understanding things that aren’t physical, or that have no physical and logic translation into the simplistic form your brain is able to grasp. Think about it as if you are trying to teach an animal who lives in the mountain, in a small farm, explain to that animal what the ocean is and how it feels to see and bathe in it. There is no space or machinery in its system to understand what that means.
AV:  I see. Well, I actually don’t see. Because we can never see you. We cannot even sense you. You are there, then you are not. 
T:  Right. The only thing that you are able to capture is my presence through the physicality of things and their transformation.
AV:  Is there such thing as what we call “the pass of time”?
T:  No. It is a concept you have invented. I do not pass. I am there, eternally. Only humans and things pass. That is yet another phrase coined by your limitation and your own self-centered vision of your existence. I do not change. I do not come and go. I do not transform. I simply am. You are the ones that come and go, transform, again and again. Everything physical does, without stop. 
AV:  Are you god?
T:  No. Do not try to fit me into a figure of control. I rule, because I exist. But I am not the goal for you to attain or to pray to. I only need respect and acknowledgement of my presence and being. The rest is up to you.
AV:  Why do we need to measure you? Why do I need to measure you in my work?
T:  You do it to understand and package me. It is your way of getting to reason me, packaging. You need to process me in a way that is simplistic enough for your mind to understand. 
AV:  Are you home (for me)?
T:  No. I am not. I cannot be anybody’s home. Only physical things can be home.
AV:  But you feel to me so important in all what I do. 
T:  Yes indeed. I am important for everything you all humans do.
AV:  Does counting you, packaging you and numbering you help me to respect you?
T:  Not really. But it is a way where you are starting to acknowledge my presence and make sense of my presence. By counting and numbering me you give me a body.
AV:  I see. That kind of makes sense. What shall I do with you?
T:  Nothing. You can’t do anything with me or to me or without me. As I said in the very beginning, I rule. I can do things to you and with you, never the other way around.
AV:  But we do have to collaborate, right?
T:  I don’t collaborate. You negotiate with yourself, perhaps also with others, ways in which you get things done around my rules. But I am non negotiable. Neither I am a collaborator. I set the rules, you decide how to move around them. Or through them.
AV:  Is breathing one of your tools to control us? Or to make yourself present to us?
T:  No. Breathing only gives you a count of my presence, my being. And also of your own being. Breathing happens through me, like everything else. Getting aware of your breathing, of the fact that you breathe may take you closer to getting my presence, and its meaning for your existence. 
AV:  Wow, I have to say that I fear you and at the same time I am totally compelled by you. And honored to be ruled by such a huge presence. Although I also have to say that I am afraid of you.
T:  Why?
AV:  Because I feel so small and with no power whatsoever.
T:  Not over me. But you do rule and have power over many other things in this world you inhabit.
AV:  Although you will always be above. 
T:  Yes, those were the rules for this world to start. I can never be killed. (oh you humans have this very funny expression of “killing time”, it makes me laugh hahahahaha)
AV:  I can imagine :-) We are so hopeless, right?
T:  Yes, haha, you are. You guys are tiny although you make your lives grand - and you can - and you make each others’ lives so difficult sometimes. 
AV:  How does my work, my practice, relate with you and how are you letting me deal with things? Are you setting my practice’s boundaries?
T:  No, only you can do that. Your work does not mean anything to me, neither anybody’s work. I am amused by it, honored to be respected and acknowledged rather than fought or forgotten. But your work is your mission, not my mission. I don’t even have a mission. I do not project wishes. I simply am, and rule.
AV:  Yes, you said that already.
T:  Does that bother you?
AV:  I have to say, yes! It does! It bothers me that you are so powerful, that you never go away, that you are going to influence me no matter what, that I cannot get rid of you, or negotiate or trick you, that you control everything. Why caring then?
T:  Well, I am giving you a huge bag of myself only for you to enjoy and use. For your own good, for others good. Don’t you want to use it as wisely as possible?
AV:  Of course. I thank you for this big opportunity of enjoying physical world in your kingdom. Or queendom. Or youdom. Timedom. I can see you are dominating because you simply are, which is different than our dominating through our egos, because you do not have an ego. Yet your dominance arises my ego to respond.
T:  Yes, that is inevitable. As long as you see it, we are ok. 
AV:  This has been a very interesting conversation. May I come back to you with more questions in the future, if they arise?
T:  Sure. I will always be here.
AV:  Thank you.

Mind Time is an interview conducted through writing on June 28th 2016

Talking Heads

VideoAlicia VelazquezComment

Those inside, those outside.

Which ones do you listen to, which ones do you follow?

During the last days while making a new wall sculpture, I let my heads talk. All of them. I invited in in my hotel as many as they wished.

The sculpture and the heads. Little instances of time, of proportion, of personality and presence. Little - and unimportant, forgettable, negligible and annoying - presences. Blurps. One, two, three. Unimportant. One hundred, one thousand. Repeat, repeat, bang bang bang. What if... we start listening to them.
Sometimes the small, like kryptonite power, has an information bomb, if only we dare to listen to their whisper. Or dare to let it speak. Or, like here, dare to bring it to other eyes, ears and hearts.

What Work Wills

Video, Collaborative Work, SculptureAlicia Velazquez4 Comments

This month While Making It Together started. During the past weeks I have received our first five guests.

I learned so much. And, what was did I have todo to make that happen? Lending my ear. And asking a few colleagues and friends to lend me theirs. Yes, we acted with our hands and bodies. 

There was an object there. One object they brought, to be added to the hybrid object already made.

There was a common action. A shared act of making something with their donated object, wrapping it together to the other objects.

And silence.

I didn’t know what this work was about in the beginning (I am still figuring out what it is about, actually, together with my guests). I knew I had to do it. Or, more precisely, I let the work do me.

What happens when letting the work do you, rather than the other way around?

First lesson on the relevance of this shift came from artist Juan Cañizares, WMIT's guest #2. And with him, the realization of the difference between project and work. As architect, we project - have a goal, a brief, a set of intentions - and create and build towards that plan, within that timeframe and constraints. Solving problems.
Before and after our WMIT session, Juan kept talking about works. And after a while it stroke me. WMIT is not a project, but a work. When changing the nomination in the surface, a long and deep meaning also shifted.

Work is what happens. You make a plan, set a structure, set yourself to work on it, until you - actually, more accurately - until the work considers itself done. There is no up-front result or vision to follow. It is unpredictable and surprising.

This fundamental difference might be already obvious for you. But I tell you, it was a revelation for me last week for the first time, after “working” on “projects” for 20 years! - was also a difference in handling our work together, "visible" during the making sessions with our first 5 guests.

They are, in their current practice, 3 architects and 2 artists. It was my duty, as host of this work, to listen to them and follow their lead during making. The two artists, Juan and Maria (Gil Uldemolins), dug into wrapping, quite quickly not being all about their object but the moment, and the hybrid thing corseted in pink that we had in between us. It was about the rhythm and time shared by our bodies, about the communication between all those objects, about the thoughts we share without talking. It was about our hands touching, when handling the spool from one to the other. It was boring and beautiful. It was one of the most intimate experiences I have shared, and surely the most intimate in a working environment.

My 3 architect guests, colleagues of mine, and very different in their own practices, started centered in their own objects, to end up in the same place, a bit later.

Eric (Guibert, architect and gardener) - our first guest - was delicately wrapping the branch he'd brought, and was horrified when I - following my projection of making a communal sculpture, my project goal - started to squeeze its leaves with the thread, suffocating them already. They were obviously going to dry out and die, but I was killing them already there. After quite a while and observing his reaction, I switched, following his lead and way of wrapping. And, funny enough, we ended up our (long, about 2.5 hours) session with him wrapping as me (fast and quick, around both chair and branch), and me wrapping as him (slowly, delicately, carefully). We switched our “making” identities along the way.

Michael (Wildmann), my guest #5, was the one that took the longest to give in to the fact that both his object and the thread would do whatever the hell they wished, despite his efforts for being precise. Like drawing, Mike was projecting lines over his donated object (a coffee maker), the thin pink thread being his pencil, or his Autocad line. After a while during which, hopelessly, we both tried to wrap the coffee maker's round belly in a symmetrical and precise way to the hybrid bunch, he gave in. And from there on we just wrapped, loop by loop, from side to side, forgetting about precision and projection and letting the material simply do her thing, while both thread and coffee maker winked at each other and smiled (possibly LOL at us :-).

What about you? Have you had experiences of letting go preconceived ideas, and let the work be, rather than projecting a wish or vision? How did that shift happen?

Would love to hear about it in the comments below.

Would you kill it?

Sculpture, Video, NewsAlicia Velazquez4 Comments

Would you kill a beloved object?

While Making It Together.

A project, just kicking-off, in which I invite a small group of people to come, one by one, and make an object together with me. We'll make an object composed by objects, each one brought, killed, sacrificed, by each one of us. A personal object which belongs to their life, with a meaning and history to them, and which they are willing to say good bye to.

I started sacrificing the first object: a green chair

And I say sacrificing because the feeling while starting to wrap it was of killing it, actually. It was quite an emotional moment.

I welcomed the chair into the atelier, in LUCA School of Arts, in Brussels. Unwrapped it from its traveling plastic sleeve. Mounted its legs. Then, said goodbye to it. 

Good bye, thank you for the times together. I remember buying you in the flea market, cleaning you up, moving you from home to home, from Madrid to Zurich. I remember sitting on you, having many friends and family sitting on you too, moving you around, seeing you day after day. Now I have you in Brussels, where I say goodbye to you in your current form and life. Goodbye, and welcome to your new form and life.

I picked you up to make my very first exercise of connection with an inanimate object50 Resting Postures With Chair. That was the beginning of this crazy shift from working with and from concepts into working with and from the body, the start of exploring what happens when giving time and attention to the objects around us

If I wouldn’t kill you, I would let you die a slow death. You would be part of my home and life for a few more years, and one day you would be weary and old, not as bright. I would change you for another pop, and would donate you or put you out in the street. I'd kill you by letting you age and slowly die - as an object, and in my life.

I said goodbye to it, then started wrapping it in bright pink thread. 

 

Which object would you choose to kill?

With a goodbye ritual, and giving it a bright new body.
And sacrifice it to link it to other bodies, unknown bodies. Perhaps awakening it into a new life.

Or, would you rather let it die?

Looking forward to your thoughts in the comments below.

Weaving With Ego

VideoAlicia Velazquez2 Comments

We touch texture, as we are texture.

In a more abstract take, we also build texture. Outside in our relationships, and inside, in our own relationships with our multiple inner selves.

Have you noticed how ego and "true self" have this sort of play, this intermingle, an eternal dance - sometimes fight - to come to the surface? Ego mostly wins. Is freaking stubborn. It is hard work to actually bring the other part to flourish, and the moment you slip out for a tiny second, you put your attention somewhere else or take a short nap - like those transparency effects in the video - the "true self" disappears under layers of bold, bright and shiny power. 

I leave you with this reflection in visual form -  an animated "visual jam" that perhaps helps you to mirror these and your own personal questions.

Hope you dig it, and to hear your comments to have a conversation on this going and growing.

Today Togetherness

Video, Textures PurposeAlicia VelazquezComment

One year leaves, one comes, one day leaves one comes, one face, one body, one story after another. What are we but a seamless stream of moments?

I have been fascinated by different sameness since I started photographing my bed after being used, back in 2002 when I was living in Amsterdam. I thought the story of what happened in it would be perceptible through the image. Seemingly the same bed, yet with so different charge, story, spirit. Can objects be our stories hard drives?

About two years ago I decided to start photographing my face also every day. Clean, no make up. Bare me.

And, starting 2015, I set myself to spend time with thread each and every day of the year, posting our interaction in my Instagram gallery. 

I bring you today togetherness. Of those two bodies - daily thread and daily face - touching each other.

One day worth of stories packed in a one second snap. 

Up to today, 345 days. A 345” video.

It's not important that you guess or I share the real stories (what is real, anyway). 

Use it as a time clock, a visual watch to allow your coming 385 days to unfold in togetherness. With yourself, your objects around, your daily face, your human companions. Wether for a brief moment or for long time strokes, togetherness.

And after you watch it, come tell me below what it brings or awakens for you, I'd love to hear about it.

We All Need To Scream

Video, Textures PurposeAlicia Velazquez2 Comments

I recently finished Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.

I agree and love her liberating, celebrating and yet personally demanding belief on inspiration: we don't own ideas, they are not "produced" by us. Ideas are immaterial beings floating around, searching for a way to be manifest in the physical world. And we serve them as "lightning rods".
One of my favorite Big Magic moments was to re-learn about Tom Waits' relationship with inspiration and how he gets ideas for songs: to him some are hard work "like digging potatoes out of the ground".

It moved me to review and recount how ideas reach me. Here's my shortlist:

Some ideas come to me when I just woke up. They surprise me like the hug of a lover, from the back, when I'm still not fully awake.  

Some ideas hit me like a ray of sun, so lightly touching they might get lost without full attention.

Other ideas come to me when walking, alone. I realized this a while ago and I often do it on purpose. As if they have been bored, waiting, dormant for a long time, or perhaps walking with someone else, and when you start moving they join and walk with you. And the more you walk they become closer and louder, and they even call their friends to join. 

Other ideas come when sharing moments and conversations with others. I got to the conclusion that ideas show up wherever and whenever there is connection. They extend invisible cables to plug you and me, through a kind of invisible world wide web of ideas.

And very often lately, ideas come when I am making - or unmaking - something, working (connecting) with the material - normally thread. They embrace us both, happy to see us dancing, and start growing figments of thoughts, like herbs or flowers, and plant a garden in between us.

Here is a narrated video on one latest idea that hit me during the unmaking of a scarf

Perhaps emotions are the mirror beings to inspiration.

Ideas are floating in the ether, they are playful and surprising, and they hit us, searching to get manifested into the physical world.

And emotions are the playful and immaterial beings that live inside of us. Also floating in the ether: of our inner infinite universe. Trying to find ways to go out, points and pores to connect with the outside world, to be physically manifested: by writing, drawing, dancing, performing, laughing, crying, screaming, beating up, punching, running, compulsively shopping.
They are longing to be expressed.

Once they are manifested, they rest peacefully, even inside of us, we make friends with them. Or enemies. 

But, if we don't let them out or don't allow them to manifest outside they keep hanging around, lost in there, until they find themselves their own way to physically come out - perhaps through physical pain or illness.

  • How would your relationship with emotions change if you believe that, as ideas, they are simply trying to be expressed?

Do share your thoughts here below, or hit me in private.