“Magic happens to those who are open to it”: interview with the Colombian artist, Angélica Teuta
A Colombian artist in a Warsaw gallery. And a very interesting installation. These are the coordinates of one of amazing international exhibition signed Angélica Teuta I saw lately and where I have discovered (yes, me, an urban person that associate tent only with an hectic outdoor trip) that a tent could signify everything, from life to love and shelter and dark side of the world.
“A tent can be a shelter. A tent could be a place for two strangers to meet and have an interesting conversation about it. Maybe that artistic tent won’t connect with the visitor at all”, said the Colombian artist, Angélica Teuta (www.angelicateuta.com), about her latest exhibition in Warsaw, Poland. I talked with the artist about emotional architecture, about the symbolistic of the tents, the houses and their souls, the art and the next projects.
For her first individual exhibition in Poland, Angélica Teuta has altered the entire space of the Kasia Michalski Gallery (www.kasiamichalski.com/) with a site-specific installation. Her structures—wooden domes, hand-crafted tents, or tree-houses inspired by nomadic and vernacular architecture, emergency constructions, and DIY manuals—are often created and recycled in collaboration with the artist’s friends, family members, as well as occasionally made for deprived communities, in a mutual exchange of knowledge and abilities.
When Kasia Michalski invited me to do the show, I was helping a loved one through a very difficult depression, which was a tough learning experience: I learned about the feeling of safety, recharging energy, or sometimes providing a moment for escape. Symbolically, I was a tent. A tent reminds me of the exciting sensation of being outdoors, being free, but also being sheltered. However, this show is not about depression; my intimate experiences can join other universal experiences and talk about different aspects of life.
For this show I chose to make two archetypical structures: one basic ridge tent and one dome. The Mom’s tent, which I created in collaboration with my mother, is a very intimate space designed for one or two people, suggesting a sensation of being in a cave, or a safe dark forest in which one can hide. The visitor has company: a little fake sleeping and breathing cat, and there is also an onomatopoeic sound composition providing a narrative.
The Dome, on the other hand, resembles a nest, welcoming up to 6 people. The visitors are surrounded by a translucent, colorful forest and accompanied by a video featuring a flock of birds. You cannot hide here—on the contrary, you are totally exposed to the eyes of others.
How many hours did you spent putting the installation together? Did you actually sleep in one of these tents?
I spent 4 months working on the show with my assistants. I slept in both tents, also with my dog. Mom’s tent was installed in my living room at some point, and one of my roommates had a guest there for a week. I enjoyed the fact that the tents were used as non-art objects.
What was the most emotional reaction that a visitor of the exhibition had when he (she) saw the tents?
For the day of the opening, there was not a singular moment for me where I looked across the room and saw somebody openly balling his eyes out, but rather collectively I thought that people from all different walks of life and cultures were able to take in what I am trying to convey. I don’t live in Warsaw but some of my art pieces now do. Hopefully people will continue to be inspired and touched by this exhibit long after I have left.
What does emotional architecture mean for you?
For me, it means that the spaces affect feelings and feelings are able to affect those spaces. I coined the term when I was looking for a title for an ongoing project, in which I investigate on how people can find a commonality and a personal meaning for it. I don’t think architecture is only for experts, but sometimes that word have a bit of a professional connotation that can be intimidating to “outsiders” or people who aren’t in the field. Emotional architecture is everything, and my goal is to make my work as accessible as possible. I research the ways and reasons why we build shelters, dwellings or gathering spaces and I am interested in DIY constructions and vernacular knowledge. I want to think emotionally and architecturally, working on a metaphorical level but always immersed in a space where people can have a physical interaction. Art for me is largely aimed for people living in the daily grind, it should be able to be felt.
Could a tent (mostly an artistic one) be the shelter for all the bad things that happen in the world?
I do not believe in absolute answers or solutions. I do not believe that an artistic tent can solve even one bad thing in the real world. Maybe a real tent can solve a real problem, like for example offering shelter during inclement weather. The artistic tent is not about the object, it is about the people that interact in and with it, about the randomness of what happens in that encounter. Maybe two strangers meet and have an interesting conversation about it, or maybe a single person decides to have a moment of meditation. Maybe that artistic tent won’t connect with the visitor at all. It is just a symbolic object, and magic happens to those who are open to it.
What does the forest mean to you?
When I think of a forest I see Jung’s archetype. A forest is an unknown place where mystery resides. Humans do not live there, but it is home for an abundance of animals and creatures. Magic always happens in a forest, but dangerous things too: it is the dark side of the world, the unconscious. The forest serves as a scenery for many fairytales, symbolizing a passage, a transition. When a person needs to escape their urban reality, usually she/he talks or imagines a life outdoors in the woodlands.
What does a house tell about the people living in it?
A house is a maze with many layers. Sometimes we tend to follow our first impression, understanding it from within our frame of references. This interpretation tells us as much about ourselves as it tells us about the other person.
Why do we need art in our life?
We need any kind of expression, not necessarily fine arts. Art is what makes societies evolve, reflect, reveal, and ultimately, improve.
What is the biggest challenge for young artists today? Why?
To stick around, find an economical balance and not to lose ourselves. The way art is immersed in capitalist societies these days, I feel we can lose track sometimes.
What are your next plans? Exhibitions, installations…
I’m participating in an art fair in Switzerland, with the Kasia Michalski Gallery. I have recently been working with a New York-based artist platform called Kandor13 and we are making projects in different places. More projects will appear in the coming months. If any reader is interested in following up, they can contact me through my Instagram account @angelicateuta.
Lastly, I want to give a special shout out to all the people who helped me turn the show in Warsaw into a success—they were invaluable part of my project.
The exhibition will take place at Kasia Michalski Gallery, Warsaw, Poland (www.kasiamichalski.com/) until 12th of January.
Photography: Kasia Michalski Gallery, Facebook page of Angélica Teuta