By getting to know for the first time #FIUHouse space in El Raval, its co-founder Humbert Clotet greeted us with a wide smile, welcoming us to the first co-working space in Barcelona devoted exclusively to “boost and propell emerging creatives, a place to take off, get to know, be inspired, discover and grow”. Their mission coincided, in a mystical and almost magical way, with ETHER’s intention when disembarking for the second time in this catalan labyrinth, European capital of Culture and Arts.
We talked about our project, and the intentions of joining this new workspace. We made a good brainstorming session, and after polishing our ideas a little bit, we decided to give life to a collaborative workshop to create a series of street posters that illustrated the concept of #humannature. Our intention was to bring art out in the streets, sharing what is it that makes us humans and horizontalizes our relationships. We would summon the vision of artists of different disciplines and origins. Now, we only had define who would be the best person to guide this workshop, and who would be our ally at the time of printing the 1500 posters we needed to complete our new project. Two very difficult tasks, but not impossible.
The first encounter with Juan Pluma was intense, and filled with memories. It took us a while to catch up, being from the same hometown, but having spent many years apart. It was strange being in a new city, far from everything. I had almost forgotten that Juan’s speech is soft and paused. His verbal rythm, clashing with my accelerated verbal excess, leaves room for thoughts before words- a gift I admire profoundly, and not many people possess.
For quite some time I had been following his illustrations over a screen. The intrigue I felt at the beginning transformed into certainty as our conversation moved forward. I could disentangle his game, discovering the origin of those characters that question human beings and their reflexive capacity. Addressing themes such as loneliness, memory, sacred things, childhood, innocence, love and unity, among many other universal topics, Juan allows himself to tear down myths with his pen, like a pacific warrior. He gives life to different characters, held up by columns of words and phrases, truly verbal scaffolds. His search is infinite, almost as big as his capacity of synthesizing and condensing ideas, carrying minimalism as a his flag. Economy of shapes and colors seems to be the most effective scheme to communicate its message.
Then I discovered his most recent work spinned around, in a way or other, a certain duality in human nature, an ambiguity present in every person. Just as daylight and darkness are part of the same day, or as the law that affirms that everything that goes up must come down, I understood that Juan’s work was my kickstart to begin the workshop we had in mind. I saw his way of understanding the nature of human beings as a special one, among many possible others, and that the most interesting of the event was going to lye around the richness of these multiple forms, beyond individualities and differences.
From there on, we only had to trust. Humbert brought the good news of a successful alliance with Vanguard Grafic, a high-quality kind-hearted Catalan printing press, who were engaged with the project and agreed to print our posters. Once again, synergy at the service of Art was set on. The open call for artists was very successful, and after almost three hours of shared work, thirteen artists of the most varied disciplines (design, illustration, drawing, painting and photography) found the way of interpreting this elusive nature.
One by one the final works arrived during the following week, and what we saw being born at the workshop was embodied.
Juan, making use of his virtues, openly synthesised to the maximum with the phrase “use your power”, unveiling that the most important of each individual’s nature is to make use of its gifts, and be true to yourself, honoring what has been given. Mariangie and Lucia Barrilli both chose traditional manual collage as a means of expression. Phrases and words such as “you are the reason” and “Today” gave an existentialist hue to their interpretations. Ignacio Rivas also chose collage as a format, but his vision of human nature was linked to the role of women as mothers of the universe and life givers, in a sort of contemporary (and a bit more aesthetically pleasing) pastiche of “The Origin of the World” the famous painting by the french realist painter Gustave Courbet (1818-1877).
Barbara Hollyworld chose photography as a means of expression, leaning against the disturbing phrase “Vacuum is a space”. Thinking about nothing being something, for example in the reverse of a sculpture, as if that air that surrounds the bodies could fill everything that can’t be seen. Agustina Mistretta, on the other hand, also used photography as a tool. Following a repetitive pattern as a way of depicting the journey to ourselves, addressing the socratic thought that considers self-knowledge as the main thread connecting human existence.
Lucas Corrias aka Colache, por su parte, eligió tomarse con humor esta noción del auto-conocimiento, haciendo uso de la ilustración para exhibir el costado más narcisista y oscuro del humano, aquel que solo se preocupa por sí mismo y su imagen, demostrándolo en incontables selfies descartables en su “cabeza de móvil”. MAF, por su parte, ilustró el corazón humano como figura central de su composición, atravesado por la música y la escritura como aquellas actividades humanas que nos distinguen de los animales. Pedro Zoz utilizó en cambio la imagen de un ojo que todo lo mira, siguiendo la corriente de psicodélica de ilustración que se inspira en las formas vegetales.
Lucas Corrias (Colache), decided to take a humorous approach this self-knowledge notion. He made use of illustration to exhibit the darkest and most narcissist side of humans, the one that only worries about himself and its image, showing it off though countless disposable selfies in his “mobile head”. MAF, on her side, illustrated the human heart as a central figure in her composition, pierced by music and writing as those human activities that differentiate us from animals. Pedro ZOZ, however, used the image of a know-it-all eye, following the psichodelic illustration current inspired by vegetable forms.
Ladislas, on his side, invited to escape the city and reconnect with nature as a way of returning to the origins. Olga Kuzmina and MrNobody'sMind opted by a more abstract interpretation, with color fields and geometric shapes as a way of organizing and understanding the world around us. Lastly, Bosquetro claimed next to a group of dancing women in a kind of moonlight ancestral ritual that: “music is the universal language expressed naturally with the vibe, energy and connection. Let it flow in opposites and complementaries”.
Closing in this way the journey, it takes us back to the initial search by Juan Pluma, that duality that compromises us as individuals and invites us to embrace our deepest #humannature - with its contradictions. Thankful for our differences that make us unique, we once again reaffirm that unity makes strenght. This strenght is multiplied by taking art out in the streets, and even more exponentially by being interpreted by thousands of people who watch lines of colorful pósters in the streets of Barcelona.
Watch the full video here