Tag Archives: technology

Chromatica at MACO Oaxaca: New Sounds, Ancient Textures

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Inside the courtyard at MACO, once a conqueror’s palace

Chromatica, a multi-media art exhibition created by Guggenheim award-winning Mexican artist Tania Candiani, opened last weekend in Oaxaca at the Museo Arte de Contemporaneo de Oaxaca (MACO).  The exhibition takes a new approach to sight and sound.

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Chromatics is about how we communicate through music and color. It can be considered the interdisciplinary intersection between technology and art. Candiani explores the differences and similarities between language systems, sound and the logics of technology through her work.

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This is interpretive, intuitive and not always “in your face” evident through the various experiences of this exhibition that stimulates and questions the visual and auditory senses. The result is to create an emotional experience that could be somewhat uncomfortable.

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Old loom as modern sound machine

First is the sound of the traditional two-harness pedal loom used to weave serapes and rugs in Teotitlan del Valle.  At the opening, three Mendoza family weavers stood at looms in the courtyard with microphones recording the sounds of their creativity. They wove fast, slow, in harmony and not.

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Javier and friend from Teotitlan del Valle, with natural colors

We could hear the beating of the treadles, loud, soft, harsh, subtle, the whoosh of the shuttle going through the heddles, the rhythms of wood against wool. The recordings can be heard in one of the exhibition rooms along with an abstract video of the work in progress. For how much longer will we hear this sound?

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Upstairs on the second floor of the museum, we see the historical elements used to prepare the wool.  The dyestuffs: cochineal, indigo and pericone (wild marigold). We see ancient stone grinders where people kneeled to prepare the powder. We see embroidery hoops embellished in red, blue and yellow, telling the story of the colors as recorded in the pre-Hispanic codices.

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Metates, manos de metates and cochineal powder

But there is more than meets the eye:  tone poems of color embroidered onto cloth that tell of the modern experience of traditional color in a changing, mechanized world. What does blue evoke? How does red make us feel? What is the human labor needed to give us these colors that we take for granted and enjoy?

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As the crowd gathered around an ancient loom converted into a sound box, people took turns cranking the take-up roll, traditionally used to wind the cloth as it is woven. In this structure, it turned the wheel to produce sounds. The “thread” was string — as in violin or piano.

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A cochineal painted room of breeding cactus gives us a sense of how many of these bugs are needed to color just one rug or garment. The color intensity penetrates.

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Old hand carders against a backdrop of blue

Questions? Did the exhibition go far enough? Were the exhibits as interesting as they could have been? All the explanations were in Spanish with no English “subtitles,” so the meanings could be harder for some non-bilingual visitors to “get.” Was there a clear path to meaning from one gallery to the next?

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Moving from the preparation of cochineal to indigo, we see the concrete vats replicated to show us how the color of the plant is extracted. There is an excellent video created by Eric Chavez Santiago, education director at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca about the process of preparing indigo. It would have been a great educational video to include in this exhibition — better than the one selected to show.

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Ceramic artists from Santa Maria Atzompa created bellowing birds in the “yellow” room. Push and pull the bellows to hear how sound emanates and enters our bodies for interpretation. Aren’t we all cogs in the wheel?

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Meaning comes from many sources. The exhibition raises questions about how technology impacts and changes people, traditional life, practices and uses. How many are using the metate now to grind the cochineal and indigo, when most have gone over to coffee grinders for ease of labor.

Does this change the outcome of the fiber and color? What about the practice of hand-weaving itself? Will automated looms result in lower prices, yes, and the disappearance of a handmade process, perhaps? Will people only do this for a hobby and not for a business or way of life? What does it mean for the continuation of culture to experience this change? What about the raw materials: The hand-spun wool and natural dyes, what will become of them and the people who make them?

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I presume these are the questions that the artist is asking us to explore in this exhibition. As supporters, appreciators and consumers of art and artisanry, how do we each contribute to the continuation or demise of hand craft?

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The contemporary art museum is located on the Andador — Macedonio Alcala between Murguia and Morelos.

Festivals and Faces: Chiapas Photography Workshop

Incommunicado: No Internet in Teotitlan del Valle

Why?  Last Friday a huge thunderstorm came through and lightening struck the Telmex box that provides Internet service to most of the village, including the house where I live. It is really difficult to write a blog post on an iPhone and the cost to use 3G here in Mexico is prohibitive.  So please bear with me. We are waiting for service to be restored. There’s some administrative procedure needed that I don’t understand. Life is both easy and complicated here. Right now, I’m at  a restaurant where my iPhone has WiFi but I can’t get my computer  online. Which means no blog posts and no Skype. Aye yay yay.

Postscript:  I conquered it!  Now online and ready to go again, reporting from El Descanso Restaurant in Teotitlan del Valle, at the corner of Avenida Benito Juarez and Hidalgo!

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. Practice Your Passion. Tribute to Steve Jobs.

When I opened my New York Times news page this morning, I cried. As I watched the commencement speech that Steve Jobs delivered to Stanford University graduates in 2005, I cried.  Why? Because he touched my life in such a meaningful and personal way — his vision, insight, compassion and technology acumen gave me the tools to create my own passion, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator.

I pound away on my Apple MacBook Pro every day.  This is my fourth Apple computer (and I tend to hold on to them for years).  I carry my iPhone and iPad with me everywhere.  I am an Apple lover of a mature age who still desires to adopt and use new technology.   Apple has given me the freedom to write, create, innovate and connect because of mobile communications technology.

So, I guess the key operative word here is “love” for this piece of equipment that I imbue with human qualities because through it I am able to express what I feel about Oaxaca and Mexico, connect with people all over the world, engage in reciprocal sharing of ideas and insights, and make a difference.

This is my tribute to Steve Jobs and the legacy he created:  iMagine a world without iPhone, iPad, and MacBooks —  your impact will be felt for generations to come.  You will endure in the iCloud as one of the greatest innovators of our time.  Our work and how we communicate is a tribute to you.  I am grateful and  iThank you.

Soon, I will embark on a new adventure (to be announced soon) and I keep Steve Jobs words close to me: Stay Hungry.  Stay Foolish.

I have found what I love in Oaxaca Cultural Navigator and this is what I consider to be my “great work” and a “matter of my heart and intuition.”   In my new adventure I will be hungrier!  I am foolish!   (Who steps away from the familiar and embarks on something new in a down economy?)   Ultimately, all we have is time and our health and courage.  This is the lesson from Steve Job’s life for me: Practice My Passion.


Tips for Traveling with Technology: Get a Back Up Battery

PowerDuo Reserve - AC charger, car charger, and rechargeable backup battery

Griffin Technology gives mobile a boost

Trust me!  I am not getting paid to plug this.  Stephen just ordered two — one for him and one for me, and it came yesterday.  He’s a sweetheart.  The deal is — this  is a portable battery that charges either from the wall charger (on the right) or car charger (on the left).  So, when you hop on the plane you have a spare external back-up battery to power your iPhone or iPod or iPad (yes, I tested it — it works on my iPad) should your battery run down.  It’s made by Griffin Technology out of Nashville, TN, and you can order online.

David Pogue of the NY Times writes about how to keep your music player, computer, and e-book fully charged during travel, especially during long flights.  This one wasn’t mentioned in his last article, so I’m adding it here as a Norma’s Travel Tip when you depend on technology.


Technology on the Fly: Travel With Your Computer

Here is a handy New York Times technology blog about tech tips for travel. Travel life is now more than taking your laptop — it’s about iPad, Droid, iPhone, BlackBerry and Kindle (more?).

My travel life includes schlepping my MacBookPro, iPhone, iPad, portable LCD projector, Mexican cell phone, Nikon D40X camera and two huge lenses, extra batteries for each device, chargers for each device, data sticks, connectors, adapters, portable external hard-drive for back-up, and now I can’t think of what else, but there must be more!  With my back-pack full, I make my way through airport security and then down the concourse onto the plane like an overburdened mule.

Technology Daydreaming: I can’t wait for the day when Apple makes a laptop that looks/feels like an iPad, has an expandable telescoping screen, comes with 4G (maybe 10G) and a cell phone fits into a slot that can be activated by voice and connected by earbuds.  Or some such configuration.  Then,  all my devices can be integrated.  MobileMe and the soon to be iCloud are not enough!

Here are my tips that coincide with those put forth by David Pogue:

1.  Keep your cell phone and laptop chargers, ear buds, and other necessary devices always packed and handy to reach in your carry-on luggage.  Charge up full before you get on the plane!

2.  Download any documents attached to emails that you want to work on while you are traveling before you leave home.  You don’t know whether you will have airport Wi-Fi access, if it will be free or available for a cost, or if there will even be time to get the document before your plane boards and takes off.

P.S.  There is no free Wi-Fi in RDU or in Houston.  There IS free Wi-Fi in San Jose, California (of course) and Mexico City. I’ve never had it on any Continental flight I’ve been on.  I did have it on an American flight from ORD to SJC recently.)

3.  Use your record locator as your flight record to access the information.  Put this into your handheld in your calendar.  The record locator can then be punched into the airport kiosk quickly to get the printed boarding passes.

4.  I always confirm my flights 24-hours in advance via email and pre-pay baggage fees, saving time and a few dollars.  I have my boarding passes emailed to me, but find the airport personnel are still used to the printed document and always ask me to check in at the kiosk first.  This is how they print out the luggage tags, too.

5.  Because I’ve been traveling to Oaxaca so much this year and last, I have reached Silver Elite on Continental.  I’ll get bumped up to first class if its a light load.  What a treat!  Do I feel guilty?  Yes, a little bit, because my bags come off the plane first and I’m in the upfront cabin which guarantees a fast exit.  This is the benefit of being a loyalty traveler — using only one airline as your preferred carrier.  I’m not certain I’ll be able to sustain this level, but I’m certainly enjoying it while I have it.

6.  Do I track whether my flight leaves late and arrives on time, and do I care?  No.  There is nothing I can do about it.  Once I enter the realm of air travel, they have captured me and I am theirs body and soul.  All I want is my music, my computer and my iPad to read my “book” in peace.