The Virgin Appearing: Zegache I : 2009

In November 2009, Performing Pictures initiated the 1st production phase of the Transformaciones project. A month's time of work lead to the completion of the first mexican-made Video Shrine featuring Our Lady of Guadalupe appearing and withdrawing interactively. Transformaciones is an artistic collaboration between Performing Pictures and Mexican partners Proyecto Zegache and La Curtiduria.

Performing Pictures (with additional members Malena Brecevic, costume designer, Victor Hugo Mondragon, vitrage artist as well as Nadja and Katja Brecevic, daughters) arrived to Oaxaca de Juarez the 3rd of November, late evening after an 18 hours trip, 2 stop-overs (Paris, Mexico City) and jet-lagged beyond recognition. Already the next day barely sleeping through a night with Katja, 4 months, confused about what is really night and what is really day, Georgina Saldaña Wonchee came to pick us up at the residency and she drove us to Santa Ana, Zegache for an initial meeting with the local artisans. They had made lunch, lots of cervezas but they didn't really believe us when we told them about our plans to make a video-empowered nicho, a Performing Pictures Shrine with the Virgen of Guadalupe reappearing and disappearing - even though I did my magic with computers, videos and sensors. We would have to prove to them that it could be done.

The same evening renowned artist Demian Flores told us that he wanted us to be part of his exhibition in Mexico City, D.F. Opening the 1st of December! All of a sudden we had a deadline, and the plan to start a process that would eventually result in a finished product the next time we come back drastically altered. The following 20 days we did everything: costumes, designs for the nicho, the arch of roses, the rail for the camera dolly and the rail for the Virgen, little wheels and iron cast platforms. Constantly looking for materials, constantly learning Spanish terminology for everything from soldering equipment to screws to screens. Finally, it turned out that Georgina and Demian would be going to D.F. already on the 25th and that it would be best if the nicho would be ready at least the day before!

And of course, the day of the shooting was the single most hot day of our stay in Oaxaca and the beautiful place called "la teta de Maria Sanchez" (yes, the tit of Maria Sanchez) didn't feature one square meter of shadow! I, Robert, was running around from early morning in the sun and Demian was really concerned about me looking like a red shrimp - it was almost impossible to convince him that I hadn't burnt myself and that I always look like this before I get the beautiful bronzed tan; we simply have too big of a difference in complexion!

Some French journalists just happened to do a reportage about the art scene in Oaxaca and they tagged along to see this really odd Fitzcarraldo-play at the mountain, where we together with the local artisans were running around and pushing cameras and Virgen uphill. The creation of the wooden nicho went well, the Zegache-artisans are truly gifted and Victor Hugo introduced some extra tricks on how to make stained glass, which we ended up having as a frame around the screen. By assigning a white section of the screen around the actual video, the stained glass would be lit up by the actual screen and the effect was really beautiful. Well, the piece ended up in Casa Lamm, Mexico City, D.F. and what a party that was!

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