Daniela Reina Téllez on the power of workshops and circles

Daniela bewegt sich „in den Feldern von experimenteller Kunst und somatischer Arbeit“ und erforscht „die politische, ökologische, aktivistische Möglichkeiten von Workshops und Körperpraktiken als künstlerische Praxen“. Welch Glück und Freude diesen schönen Menschen auf dem Touch&Play-Festival kennenzulernen!
Berührt war ich von ihrem Post auf Social Media, auf welchem das untenstehende Skript ihres Vortrags geteilt wurde, mit den Worten: „(…) Fellow and dear facilitaros and circle-holders: Thank you for the work you do ❤ Let’s keep gatherings and circles alive, especially now; being virtual, outside, with distance, with safe(r) measures… Let’s keep them and us alive!“
And thank YOU for the work you do, Daniela!

Ich wünsche mir, dass die Lektüre ihres künstlerischen Werdegangs und ihrer Hommage an Workshops, Gatherings, Sessions und Circles viele Menschen erreicht und bereichert. Weil Kurs- und Körperarbeit immens wichtig ist, komischerweise manchmal belächelt wird, dabei zu den sinnvollsten Ereignissen und Kreationen zählt, die ich in diesem Leben so erleben und selbst gestalten durfte.
Deswegen – los geht’s:

Artist Lecture 15.01.20

„When I arrived to Germany in 2013, I stopped painting and drawing as I had been doing for 17 years and was unable to find ways to go back to my usual practices.

This is when my own art practice begun.

With a very small budget to buy art supplies, I started collecting dust, hairs, blood, skin, tea bags… 

I ended up weaving a blanket from my used tampons during my first nine months in Bremen.

This was my first work done in Germany and was titled “Placenta”. This piece contained my very first reflections around womanhood, motherhood, home, homeland, shelter, fertility.

I became aware that I had migrated and that this meant something. I couldn’t go back to painting. It seemed as if no canvas could be a container for the stories that I needed to tell and that no image was able to illustrate what had happened to me on my first time here. And while working differently I was exploring new territories and learning how to navigate them; on Earth and on my art practice.

For the next years my own body was the vessel telling those stories I so much wanted to tell. I explored myself as a historical result of the colony in America and tried to use my artwork as a chance to open spaces to speak about human history and its results.

(In Summer 2015 I finished a second textile with the hair I had lost during my first year in Europe. Its shape was the map of the Royal Spanish Colony in 1790. )

Six months prior to this I had initiated an art collective of five non-european artists who opened The Immigration Office and during one year, ran a program of exhibitions, small shows, One Night Stands, screenings and various discussions.

During this time, I, as an individual, learned to see myself as an immigrant and was shown in several ways that I was a woman of color. As a group, we dealt with bigger questions concerning the political implications of having a space in Germany named as Immigration Office at that specific time. The project invited us to reflect upon the sociopolitical responsibilities and duties of us as artists and as citizens. For me, it raised two relevant questions: What is my duty as a “latino woman”* in Europe? What is my duty as an artist?

After closing the doors of the Immigration Office I went on an art-trip in the opposite direction many people were taking back then. I left the Shengen Area and entered Turkey with the hope of finishing an art project called “Home wasn’t built in a day”, which was meant to be concluded on an archeological Site in the south-east of Anatolia, few kilometers away from the Syrian border.  During the first three months of my travel I experienced shocking situations of racism, sexual assault and life threat. I paused and went to live and recover in a Sufi Temple and learned how to swirl. I turned in circles three to five hours a day during four weeks. .

Due to the political situation in the area I was required to change my plans and change my direction back to Europe. I finished this trip and concluded my art project on the Greek Island of Kos, working as a volunteer in the very improvised camps for the hundreds of people coming from the sea and reaching Europe.

What was my duty as a (privileged) immigrant? As an artist?

Until end of 2016 I continued to create works exploring the information embedded in my body, reflecting on power dynamics in relationships and in politics, investigating about the implications and outcomes of imperialism, patriarchy and colonialism in the land, the flora and on the body.

The questions around my duty and my responsibility persisted and my belief for the need of urgent actions in the current situations of the world I was witnessing and participating on, discouraged my trust in the validity of my practice as an artist.

In the process of this, my body got ill and I had the chance to rethink my understanding of life, sickness, health and healing. 

For the next two years I went to botanical school, learned about South American Plant Medicine, visited healers, learned to hold circles and made a training to become a yoga teacher.

I have been teaching breathwork, yoga, movement-exploration for the last two years. And have held and co-held workshops and spaces on self-determined gynecology, herbal medicine, female sexuality, self-love and self-determination, consent and human relating.

For the last years I have recognized and fully owned my interest on story-telling: “cuentería”.

Before 2017 I told stories during my performances, through my installations and behind my sculptures.

Now I have discovered circles as a format and container for this practice.

Sitting in a circle is a political statement that abandons a patriarchal practice of a podium where a speaker speaks and rows for an audience who listens. Giving this talk is important to me because it completes a circle. And it is also difficult, precisely because of the present format of this presentations. I could have changed the space to create a circle of chairs. Or I could have asked you to do so together. But this is the reason why I need formats like workshops;

if this were a workshop, you coming here would imply a you knowing that you will not only witness, but also actively participate. Me changing the space to create a circle of chairs that will affect your experience or me asking you to do so together can only be consensual if you know before coming hare that you will be a participant, rather than a visitor.

I am interested in circles that look like this:

One to thirty people come together and sit around a center. If there happens to be only one person, the center is the person. As a holder, I am there to guide the experience, but not to hold the conversation. At the beginning of each meeting, the framework and intention is set and collectively agreed upon.

These circles may last from one hour to ten days. We sit, we speak, we move, we produce sounds different to words, we breath, we sweat, we feel, we touch each-other, we touch ourselves, we share, we listen, we stay silent.

I’ve gained trust in the meaningfulness of a kind of art that brings stories and histories into light and that opens spaces for experience and reflection.

I continue to explore the information embedded in my body, reflecting on power dynamics in my relationships and in politics, identifying the existing outcomes of imperialism, patriarchy and colonialism. Circles serve me now as consistent and consensual spaces to do so not alone, but together.“

Daniela Reina Téllez works as a translator between histories, movement and form. In her performances and installations, stories are told, danced and setup in-space. Her interdisciplinary practice has manifested in the last years into workshops and laboratories that are understood as artistic media and material. 

More about Daniela’s work on https://lenta-menta.info/ and https://danielareinatellez.tumblr.com/

The beautiful illustration is also by © Daniela Reina Téllez

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