Interview with David Marín Roma - Research fellow Age of Wonderland

As part of the Age of Wonderland program, research fellow David Marín was re-invited to Eindhoven in March for a creative collaboration during the Sensiks Hackathon.
Age of Wonderland is a project initiated by Baltan Laboratories, Hivos, and the Dutch Design Foundation to foster social innovation. As part of the program, research fellow David Marín from Guatemala was invited to Eindhoven, the Netherlands, for a creative collaboration. During the SENSIKS. Hackathon, a project made possible with support of Creative Tracks, two Dutch artists worked together with two creative practitioners from Guatemala to explore how traditional Mayan culture and technology could be merged to create a new sensory reality, by using wearable technologies and biofeedback. Olga Mink, director of Baltan Laboratories talked with David Marín about his ideas and discussed how collaborations between the Global South and North can be improved.
Can you describe your daily creative practice?
I invest a lot of time thinking and writing. The latter helps me developing new ideas and allows me to connect with other projects. It also helps me in convincing myself that it is worth doing it. Recently, I returned to university to exploit my Physics PhD credentials, as the funding for art and culture is being constantly reduced.
Being part of the first edition of the Age of Wonderland program in 2014, I am very curious in what way joining this project had an impact on your (creative) practice?
Being part of Age of Wonderland influenced me to get out of the art bubble and look for interactions with other makers, to create organic projects interweaved with the daily life of people.
Can you give an example?
Perhaps the best example is the Solar Eye sculpture, based on the notion that there is a growing demand from Mayan people to study and re-connect with the ancient science developed by the old Mayan civilization. The sculpture was made on request of a group of Mayan elders to design an astronomy course that was based on community experience, not separating people by age or gender, not to be inside classrooms, not based on written word, using the principles of duality of opposites embedded in Mayan philosophy, and coupled to the ritual ceremonies carried out already in the sacred places, as these are the times when the community gathers to celebrate and exchange knowledge.
Can you describe the Solar Eye project?
The Solar Eye Project is a sculpture to visualise the motion of the earth around the sun, by looking at the play of light and shadows it produces. It is a solar calendar, and in the tropics it marks 8 important dates of the motion of the sun in the sky: two solstices, two equinoxes, two days of zenith passage of the sun, and two days of nadir passage of the sun. In this way we get awareness of the earth as a single entity traveling in space, and it provides a visual tool to understand seasons, and several other calendars used in connection with agriculture, therefore vital for self-sustainability. I am making this project in Guatemala, where it relates to both the solar calendar, and the so-called ritual calendar, thus having strong connections with Mayan culture.
Solar Eye David Marin
What connection does your practice have with the traditional sciences and Maya's?
I like to work with the Mayan people because they are connected to the earth, to the very social fabric of culture, their visions of politics has depth in time and scope, and goes beyond short sighted mechanisms of capitalism, prevailing in all sectors of modern technological societies.
Can you describe what you learned working in The Netherlands as part of the SENSIKS. | Baltan Hackathon? How can the knowledge obtained be of value to communities of people in Guatemala?
I like technology. What I learn from these kinds of activities is for example; what sensors are out there, which software programs can it connect to, what kind of technologies are people using these days, how much does it cost, etc. When it comes to the application of this knowledge, I always try to express one very specific target: promoting biodiversity and cultural diversity. I want to bring awareness of the beauty of protected ecosystems, and the fact that this will disappear if we do not act accordingly to this goal.
How would you describe the impact of your projects on the community in Guatemala?
Guatemalan society, like any other colonial societies, is the product of war in which power techniques led to segregation. There is no coherence between different social groups, I try to interweave different cultures to produce this social fabric that can support peoples’ efforts by simply promoting friendship between disconnected groups.
What are the most important things you’ve learnt in starting your practice?
Entanglement. Our brains have evolved under two opposing forces, one for the survival of the individual, but the other for the survival of the group, and many things that deal with who we are, only make sense in the context of society. For example, the idea of the brilliant artist “creating” things in isolation is an illusion caused by ignorance, promoted by the system as a very efficient way to isolate individuals. Obviously for the sake of being in control.
I am intrigued by this idea of entanglement in the context of the brains. Can you elaborate?
There are recent studies that cells take advantage of quantum entanglement in some biological processes, such as photosynthesis or neuron signalling, but I am using the word in a colloquial sense. The brain has evolved under the action of the environment, matching it as lock and key, if we study the brain by itself, many of its features seem to be great mysteries, as it would be a great mystery if you found a key, and never saw a lock in your life. Taken both together it makes sense why there are such features, for example altruism, something that is counter intuitive if you think only of individuals.
What kind of projects have you come across through your work?
In 2011 I learned about The School of Political Action for Mayan woman, and they asked me to create an astronomy course to re connect with the Mayan astronomy, as they understood that science and technology are the true instruments of political power, something that was destroyed in Mayan society as part of the colonization procedure. This interaction forced me to come up with different methods of teaching and exchanging knowledge with people of many different backgrounds, and the Solar Eye sculpture, perhaps the most successful of my projects, is a by product of this interaction.
Dutch Design Week 2014
What are the main sources of financing for creative or social entrepreneurs in your area? How do they organize their activities? NGO´s invest a lot in art and culture. However most of the projects are just money injections which may have the opposite desired effect. It’s reducing the motivation of people to create self-sustainable cultural enterprises.
Which kind of business model do you think fit the most for the continuation of your projects?
I´m trying to implement the Opens Source economical model, working in projects that engage collective action and fast growth without trying to make them profitable, concentrating on making them enjoyable. but with the condition that such projects will serve as “advertising” to find funding for other similar projects, or to open the opportunities to land other jobs or services related to the field in question. For example, giving lectures, workshops, or selling custom made art works.
Do you have contacts with other similar international networks in other regions (South America, Africa or Oceania etc.)?
No, but I wish that the Solar Eye project, a sculpture to visualize the motion of the earth around the sun, by looking at the play of light and shadows it produces can be promoted to an open hardware project which can be shared and built in other countries around the tropics. A model can be exported for 3D printing and the workshop about the motion of the sun through the year can be adapted to the different countries, absorbing the flavour of the local native cultures.
It is my wish to share the Solar Eye sculpture with other places in the tropics, to motivate the same activity to re connect to the sky, and ancient agricultural practices of self-sustainability. Hopefully the Creative Tracks network can be used as a central repository of the project to emulate the Open Source ecology necessary for such project to be sustainable, even without patents and copyrights characteristic of the capitalistic economy. Value will be generated from using it as a tool to teach astronomy in rural areas.
The topic of this year’s Age of Wonderland is 100 days of learning. It’s about sharing your inner wisdom, knowledge not taught on schools or universities. What to you is the most important thing in this days of learning? What lessons would you like to share/teach others? Why?
It is very urgent that we begin to create awareness that we are on one planet. As such we need instruments to visualize ourselves as one world, where the destiny of every living creature is entangled to the destiny of everyone else. The Solar Eye sculpture can be used to visualize the motion of the Earth around the sun promoting the idea that we are all in the same boat. spaceship Mother Earth, as Buckminster Fuller called it.
100 Days of Learning
Do you have any new projects coming up you would like to share? What is your hope for the future?
Currently, I am working with Mayan textiles. A controversial topic which touches the very essence of Guatemalan identity. The exploitation of Mayan woman, and the hypocrisy of Guatemalan society which sells the image of beautiful Mayan textiles to the outside world, but at the same time it’s discriminating Mayan woman precisely for wearing it. It is evident that only woman using the textiles, since men had to abandon it, to be able to work in urban environments and to avoid discrimination.
I think this is precisely the point where I must act to re-program the collective imagery. As such I want to hack into the very core of Guatemalan identity. To dissolve the pernicious effects of more than 500 years of war techniques applied to segregate the society, in order to exploit it.
Last but not least: would you mind sharing your experiences about the Sensiks project at Baltan Laboratories, as part of Creative Tracks and the 100 days of learning?
Initially, when I heard about a Maya cabin, I thought the name suited the concept for an enhanced virtual reality unit, as it accurately describes the world of illusion it intends to create. Later I realized it was about the culture still living in Mesoamerica, and then I had my doubts because the idea of a Maya sauna cabin is heavily loaded with meanings in Maya culture. There is a “Maya cabin” called Chuj in Guatemala, Temascali in Mexico etc. that has been in use since thousands of years in the region, and this surely will conflict with the intentions proposed by the Sensiks project.
But when I finally got to see the Sensiks cabin, I noticed the controller of the Sensiks cabin was shaped like an icosahedron. One of my projects related to the Tzolkin Maya ritual calendar uses the icosahedron shape as a dice to pick at random one of the 20 day signs of the calendar. Following a typical Maya attitude, I decided to let the synchronicity of these events unfold to see what would happen.
Doing some research on the original Maya Chuj, I found that this is a widespread practice, from the Finnish Sauna, to the Russian Bania, and following all the way down from Alaska, North America, Mexico to Guatemala, the situation was strikingly similar. For example, the Russian Bania is also used in conjunction with herbs and plants. You need to hit the person with a brush to enhance the expulsion of toxins trough sweat. The Maya Chuj is used mostly in the context of midwifery and birth.
The rest of the days working at Baltan with the Sensiks cabin went smoothly. We learned many things working with Danielle, Masha and Michel, using bio feedback to trigger different responses with the hard- and software in the cabin. We aimed to create an experience that will bring us back to those moments before birth, to revive one of the most crucial moments of our existence, quite often completely forgotten, and certainly present through the rest of our psychical experience in the world.

To know more about David Marín: click here
Audiovisual and interactive media, Creative industries areas, Digital facilities, Performing arts


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