[think-do-live] FOREST – dialogue with Camila Ercoreca

This interview is part of the cycle “ART AND SUSTAINABILITY, Contemporary Interconnections II”, carried out by PAN + the Paco Urondo University Cultural Center, belonging to the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters (UBA).

*Ana Guillermina Zalba

© Patagonia en invierno. Cortesía de la artista.

Camila Ercoreca was born in Buenos Aires in 1989 where she lives, although she travels to Patagonia for much of the year, where she develops an artistic research project in relation to the territory. She studied Visual Arts at REA, Regina Pacis School of Fine Arts. She held various seminars in workshops and schools dedicated to the craft of fire: Ceramic and pottery workshop with Cecilia Rosón, stoneware pottery with Pedro Satorre. She attended different seminars given by Verónica Kuwota and Mario Dominguez: ceramic pastes and high-temperature glazes, engobes and porcelain. She also held enamel seminars at the Idearios pottery school and low-temperature glaze seminars with Veronica Funes and Ethel Farías. She did art clinics with Hector Maranesi, a textile seminar on contemporary practices in fiber art with Leo&Daniel Chiachio Giannone, and photography with Marité Malaspina.

“it’s not about saving the world, but creating the world we want to live in”

Annette Baumast

AGZ/ Where do you notice points of connection between art and sustainability?

CE/ I understand art as a space where possible dialogues are opened that articulate / disarticulate the pre-established constructions within the area, the work theme. Art is not something isolated, it is a dynamic process situated in a cultural, social and historical context. In this context, he interprets, dialogues, exchanges, questions, questions, maintains a link.

Art does not necessarily address sustainability issues but it can be a tool through which to think and reflect on it.

AGZ/ And in your work in particular?

CE/ My general artistic work is related to the territory, the experience and the journey. Approaching my work in this way leads me to think, reflect and question many of the sociocultural practices. When I work on issues related to the territory, questions always arise about the ways of living, transiting, relating to each other. I would not say that I work directly with the concept of sustainability, but I reflect on ways of inhabiting and relating to each other.

For more than 15 years I have been traveling through mountains, unpopulated or semi-populated places in Patagonia. I don’t remember many things from childhood but I do remember the first walk in the mountains, the first time I forded a river, the feeling of being surrounded by biodiversity and crystal clear water. Clearly these were relevant moments for me, important events that in some way began to shape the way I understand and relate to each other today.

© “Territorios del vacío” Serie fotográfica. 2008-2021. Cortesía de la artista.

A hike in the mountains is not just walking for me. It is connecting with the breath, feeling the body and it is also the possibility of surrounding myself with a place with its own operations and dynamics where each component part has a function, is interconnected and maintains cycles. Being part of all that for a while, being able to observe and connect with those experiences helps me process and develop ideas.

In all these years of touring the area I saw many changes: There are people in places that were previously uninhabited, new neighborhoods, tourist areas also grew, the flow of people visiting the place increased, territories were divided up, many forests were burned and cut down. natives, the productive areas grew and many measures were taken without taking into account the socio-environmental impact that they entailed. A very clear example of this is mining, which under no point of view contemplates the impact on the area and does not have a social license.

The inhabitants of Chubut (South of Argentina) have been demonstrating against mining for many years. In 2003, they succeeded in prohibiting open pit mining in the province by law. But the law declares zoning exceptions, and today there are new attempts to install mining companies in the central plateau of the province, next to the river that supplies drinking water to the entire region. It seems incredible that today, after many years, the people have to continue marching and fighting to be heard. A law that enabled mining zoning in the region was recently repealed.

It is clear that a territory is a dynamic space that mutates and transforms, but I think it is essential to think and develop projects so that these changes contemplate the importance of a healthy and diverse environment, respecting the decisions of the human groups that inhabit it.

© “Pircas”. Serie ‘Montaña’. Serie fotográfica. 2021. Cortesía de la artista

Summer is the driest time, the rains are sporadic, the heat more intense, and the climatic conditions that favor foci occur. Every season the population has to live alert, worried and in fear of possible fires. They know that any focus, with these conditions, is uncontrollable; and that if this happens, thousands of hectares of ecosystems and native forests will be burned; and there is always the worry of losing their homes, as happened to many people in March 2021.

The loss of ecosystems in these areas is often irrecoverable. The growth and regeneration of this type of forest takes hundreds of years to develop. When there are fires, growth and recovery is replaced by the introduction of fast-growing species, such as pine, rosehip, murra; generating a change in humidity, soil pH and biodiversity that, in turn, favors the spread of fires.

Pine trees are a problem for the area. several years ago they were planted in many parts of the territory to produce wood. These types of trees grow much faster than the native forest, and they spread quickly through the area. In addition, when it catches fire, the pine burns very quickly due to its resin and pine needles, generating large fires that destroy everything.

The origin of the outbreaks is generally unknown, but there are multiple factors that influence: lack of maintenance on power lines, new real estate projects, increase in population and tourist areas, planting of pines to produce wood, spread of livestock in the area, lack of budget to fight and prevent fire, among other things. To all this is added the lack of control and long-term plans to generate ways of inhabiting the territory in a balanced and sustainable way. Many of the forests I walked through no longer exist.

Inevitably I feel affected by all that. Each new source of fire is not only fear and concern about fire. Or each native forest cut down and reforested with pines is not only the concern of losing the view of a forest, it is the loss of a healthy ecosystem.

My work began to deal with issues related to the territory and its problems, relying on the collective construction of stories. Some time ago I began to record the experience of residents, and I am looking to generate work from the articulation and dialogue between different visions and experiences.

© Cortesía de la artista.

Just as each part of the territory is linked and intertwined with each other, a fact is linked to its history and context.

In all this time I built a personal interpretation that keeps moving with each new experience, in each new story and shared interpretation. The stories of the people, their lives and experiences became important for the development of the project, each story adds nuances to my way of perceiving and building the vision of the place.

This idea led me to reflect on the construction of the story and memory, the word became an important axis that guides part of my production. It could be said that this reflection came as a surprise to me. I didn’t think to approach issues from that perspective.

AGZ/ What determines relevance in the traveled space?

CE/ Transiting and inhabiting the territories broadens my knowledge of the place. Each tour adds new nuances, enriching the vision of the place. Walking is presented as a possible dialogue and link with the territory and the people who inhabit it. When walking I discover images and important elements for the interpretation of the place. I record this information, I collect materials from the environment; These pieces tell me about the journey and their collection is a symbolic act with which I seek to incorporate these experiences into the imaginary.

© “Erosión de cuerpos sin sombra”. Cerámica esmaltada con detalles en lustre oro. 2021. Cortesía de la artista.

“Erosion of bodies without shadow” is a work that I recently finished. There are 5 ceramic pieces glazed with details in gold luster. On each side of the pieces there is an image of the tour of the mountain made with the photoceramic technique. It is a work that brings together to the territory, but from memory.They are images of journeys building a new object, something like an object made from the memory of the experience.

AGZ/ What inspires you? Is there a ‘spark’ moment?

CE/ My work begins with my experience. In the development I repeatedly return to the initial story, looking for new nuances within the framework with which to approach the events from new perspectives.

Going through and collecting are central actions in this process. Many times it is accompanied by photographic records with which I seek to capture a moment, a context, an atmosphere, information that I use to give shape. This method organizes my memory, reconnects me with experiences, information and sensations.

Sometimes the collections lead to crafting material, other times information to return to. Some processes arise from quick and spontaneous elaborations and others take years of development, each work finds its own way of presenting itself, mutating and transforming in development.

© “Pircas”. Serie fotográfica. 2021. Cortesía de la artista.

The pircas are stone towers that walkers leave on the mountain trails. Many times they fulfill the function of guiding other people to a destination or pointing out places of interest such as a panoramic point, waterfalls or a place of rest among other things. For the series of pircas I selected stones from my collections from different walks and routes.

The techniques I use are drawing, painting, photography, textiles, ceramics and on many occasions a project arises from the mixture of various disciplines and materials.

In all this process there is no linear order, rather it is a constant doing in which I develop, reflect and ask questions. The photographic record, the drawing, or any other medium used, usually occurs simultaneously without pre-established rules.

If I had to talk about the recurring shapes in my work, I think it would be organic shapes and textures.

AGZ/ If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would it be?

CE/ Difficult, but I think it would be “Do”. In doing I am discovering the way and direction of the work. There is something about doing… that makes me download information, that is, if I do it only in theory, I lose things. It is my way of being able to expand ideas. Because there are people who are much more of the head, much more of the theory, but this thing of being able to do helps me a lot; because in the visual, in the tangible, it’s like I find…as a synthesis of ideas.

Yesterday, for example, an exhibition arose; and well, for that exhibition I have to produce. Because in reality I had been working on the development of the work and concept but now I have to produce work, so it was the excuse to start.

AGZ/ And do you have a specific curatorial axis?

CE/ I presented the project to Héctor [Maranesi], and he loved it. I began to think about the concepts that we had worked with him and starting with charcoal, in something very practical to stain the sheet and work the void. The work I was doing with Hector was more of a theoretical investigation. The experimentations with the materials are explorations that I have been doing based on those encounters.

I began to penetrate and assemble some structures from the void and the network that remains. And of course, there is something that remains, for me, in the unconscious…

AGZ/ When you were talking about coal and voids, I kept thinking about the installation you put together with plastics. I was reading a text about Chinese painting, and how the void is worked in Chinese painting with watercolor, how the white sheet is actually a fill on which the ink fill is worked; and how, by not closing the forms, it seems that there is a void but in reality one fills it with whatever that void wants. And then you ask: is there emptiness there? or what is there? there’s water? And one seems to feel the water. Although there is nothing, feel the water. Well, then, the philosophical question could be: what is there where there is nothing?

© Rinconada de Nahuel-Pan, El Bolsón, Río Negro, Argentina. Enero-Febrero 2021. Cortesía de la artista.
© Instalación Bosque. Cortesía de la artista.

CE/ In January and February 2021 I was working on the project whose axis is the forest and the fires. I was doing some drawings on translucent plastic. The images I used as reference were photographs taken on the mountain tours. Some of those places no longer exist today.

We went up to a recent focus, a place called Rinconada de Nahuel-pan in El Bolsón, Río Negro. I wanted to take the drawings and make a photographic record of it. We asked permission to go through and while he was up there, among the ashes, the heat and the wind, hanging the drawings between the burned trunks, the fire started in El Hoyo. It was terrible, I had never been so close to a fire of this magnitude. That night we couldn’t go back to our house, the fire was on the road, it covered the route, the way back, it was everywhere.

© Rinconada de Nahuel-Pan, El Bolsón, Río Negro, Argentina. Enero-Febrero 2021. Cortesía de la artista.
© Rinconada de Nahuel-Pan, El Bolsón, Río Negro, Argentina. Enero-Febrero 2021. Cortesía  de la artista.

When I went to school [a Waldorf school] I had my first approach to ceramics with Cecilia Rosón. He was the first person who brought me closer to the mud. I was blown away by the possibilities of this technique. Then I went to his workshop a few years. She approaches work with great joy, empathy and affection. I continued and continue learning from different ceramists and potters, in this trade you never stop learning- but Ceci was very important.

© Horno en complejo ‘Palo Quemado’, Puerto Patriada, Rio Negro, Argentina. Cortesía de la artista.

First connect with the present, because you have to be in the moment when you are there doing, creating. There is a lot of balance, of gravity, of forces, of pressures; from your strength, the material, the movement. It is like a dialogue with that material, in motion, with gravity, with an axis. And practice, lots of practice. Because, it’s a bit like learning to walk. And I remember that it cost me a lot. For me, clicks are generated at work, as you begin to understand even about yourself. The lathe is somewhat therapeutic. And you see a lot in the pottery of the way of relating. There are certain things on the lathe that you cannot control, that have to do with other forces that are not yours, the one exerted by you. So, there is something that can be seen, how you deal with ‘no-control’, the power of dialogue with the ‘outside’.

And then, the chemistry that occurs in matter when it goes into the oven. Becomes. That was also very nice for me. I saw the first pieces and there I said: “I want to do this”.

AGZ/ And speaking of the physical, ceramic is alive, it has holes, textures, it has skin. Ceramics generate a great affectivity in me, everything that is textured generates a lot of affectivity, at least for me; and I wanted to see what’s in it about creating a life out of clay. Because there is the metaphor, of creating a golem out of mud.

© Recolección de arcilla entre ‘El Bolsón’ y ‘El Hoyo’, Río Negro, Argentina. Cortesía de la artista.
© Recolección de arcilla entre ‘El Bolsón’ y ‘El Hoyo’, Río Negro, Argentina. Cortesía de la artista.

CE/ Yes, I think that in ceramics there are several dialogues at the same time. There is the power to dialogue with the territory: the different clays are also the place where you walk. It leads me to investigate and get to know the place where I am, where I live, to find out how it works, what its plasticity is, what minerals they are made of, how they react to fire, how they transform. There is something of the dialogue with the utilitarian, with the everyday. Also, there is something with the chemical transformation of things, which is beyond the scope of what I can guess, or only from trial and error. In fact, now I brought clay from there, because I was working on testing the different firings and resistances. I brought ash and put together some enamels. To test different temperatures. It’s finding yourself with a lot of surprises that happen, because I really don’t know what it’s made of exactly. The other time I took it out of the oven: some came out as expected and others came out totally melted.

© ‘Hogar Transitorio’ 2018. Camping Palo Quemado. Cortesia de la artista.

AGZ/ What happened in 2018, that the work ‘Transient Home’ lasted so long?

CE/ In 2018 I came back. All this reunion with the place brought me [when I returned from the South to Buenos Aires] this internal restructuring, of saying: ‘well, there are other ways of relating to the environment and finding a new way’. A little from the sensory and a little from the power to relate what he brought, from the known. Much of what I used in textiles was reused from things that had belonged to my family, and this from collections. And it was like a return, generating a space for dialogue in which to capture this new structure and this new way…that I wanted to find!, to relate to the territory from another place…

AGZ/ A new space of belonging. Your home is a “transitory home.” When one always tends to think of the home as a fixed thing, yours is soft, textile, hanging… like a bird’s nest. And a bit this idea of ??spending six months on one side, like a migratory bird too, which is a little here, a little there…

© ‘Hogar Transitorio’ 2018. Camping Palo Quemado. Cortesia de la artista.

CE/ They told me many things about this work but I like this one, I never listened to it. It was clearly not a commercial work, because it took me many years, in short I think it took almost three years to put together a work, focused from that place, from the need to be able to find that space. It was not in search of another end, it was that, it was only that.

I also didn’t know what the end result was going to be like. I had a constant need to do, and when I left the workshop, I would spend until dawn sewing, embroidering. I had the need to put it together. And so it was…hours and hours…because it was all by hand. The interior, actually if you see it, there is detail, on detail, on detail, on more detail! Every time you look there is more stuff, because I… I needed to put it all! I wanted everything to be there. And there are also many techniques. This doing thing also connects me with ways of living. And the ways of doing entered into the ways of living, in dialogue, working together, based on necessity.

AGZ/ Yes, you do living, and you live doing…

© ‘Hogar Transitorio’ 2018. Camping Palo Quemado. Cortesia de la artista.

CE/ Just before we took this art work to the south, I went on a trip to Asia during four months. I was at a time conflicted with this of the ways of inhabiting and living. I had gone south, and I felt that I had failed in my search, and there was something about feeling alienated from the family dynamics, from the social dynamics…

And I was a foreigner, even more foreign when I went to Asia. I got into another planet, and it was very hard for me. I encountered very strong personal barriers. With very intense, very urgent issues to resolve; also in contrast to something that I said ‘I am seeing the future’, ‘I am seeing where we are going as humanity’; in the sense of the number of people, the way of production, the way of human treatment. And I thought I was going on an eye-opening journey!… And it was really eye-opening in many ways, and some not so rewarding. I was distressed, somewhere…

With my partner we spent ten days walking through the Himalayas. And an internal dialogue began, with the territory that connected me with many images of the mountain, bridging the gap, very different mountains… But there was something… And there was a lot of smog. Above 4,000 meters there was still smog… crazy, crazy! It was also very strong for me to see the melting of the glaciers… on a large scale! Because we are talking about the largest mountains in the world, and at the same time with such great deterioration… And I said: ‘I come from such a virgin place!’ This also came back to me, it connected me with the south of Argentina, Patagonia is crazy that the water is drinkable, that it is so virgin, that there are so many undeveloped spaces…

In Asia you are in what is called ‘the middle of nowhere’… and there is culture! All time! It’s heavy…it’s not that wild, unspoiled thing one might imagine in a mountainous place…

And there is also another part… Me having traveled mountains and liking the mountains so much. Although it is beautiful, and they are huge and there are a lot of things that I can tell you, yes, that I loved them; see the mountain industry, that was also strong. Knowing these places, in what way I related to the mountain and finding all this other. From there, the need to take “Transient Home” to the south entered again, to return and put an end to all that. Also give rise to the cycle that was fulfilled, and start another…

I realized everything there was to work on in relation to our bond with the territories we inhabit. And I decided to start from there, from working with this particular territory, but one that adapts and is applicable to many other places and other forms. I choose to start working with that particular territory, which I see move through its drastic change much faster than I expected. So, a new need arose for me to connect, relate and think about that territory. From that work I can understand or think about my relationship with that place in that way, well, now I go a little further: How did I get to all this? How did my bond originate? How do I build that relationship with the territory? I say, this is the look of the people who live it, I learned from the people, I learned from observing the place, I learned from seeing the links and relationships that occur, I learned from the transformations that took place; and all that makes my bond with the place. And now I’m trying to download those ideas, think of others… And that would be the new project with the territory.

AGZ/ You are like deconstructing your bond…

CE/ Seeing the process to find the things that escaped me in what I took for granted, in being able to discover others… the power to ‘come back’, too, right?

Being able to see that everything was actually totally linked and connected. For me it is very graphic that too. There is no thinking of a place and an isolated territory, by its parts. You can’t think like that. That is what left me as a major lesson, I think, the place. You cannot think of a forest without thinking of the water, without thinking of the journey through the mountains, without thinking of the footprint that one leaves in transiting that place. You can’t stop thinking about the consequences of generating production places in places that didn’t have it. More than places per se, I think of the dynamics.

Cortesía de la artista.
© “Erosión de cuerpos sin sombra”. Cerámica esmaltada con detalles en lustre oro. 2021. Cortesía de la artista.
© Dibujo carbón. Cortesía de la artista.
The Argentinian collective “Serigrafistas Queer” is part of Documenta Fifteen in Kassel, Germany