Visit Casa Wabi in Puerto Escondido Oaxaca and connect with the serenity caused by the combination of artistic simplicity and nature.
Art is one of the most complex spiritual expressions of the human being. The games between the imagination and the creative process always end up transforming both the creator and the work. In art we perceive essential figures, which seem to repeat themselves incessantly, clothed in new contexts. However, the vision of these figures never manages to present themselves to us in the purity that we desire and in this also lies their richness. Even so, there are artistic expressions that seek simplicity, the minimum point that borders the nothingness in which all the images sprout. An example of this is Casa Wabi in Puerto Escondido, a place that is a work in itself and that aims to reveal serenity and creativity as a whole.
Casa Wabi is a civil foundation whose objective is to promote artistic creation, as well as its connection with the communities of the Oaxacan coast. It was created in 2014 at the initiative of the Mexican artist Bosco Sodi.
Casa Wabi: sobriety and rupture
According to Juan Pino, current director of the Casa Wabi project, the name derives from the Japanese aesthetic concept wabi-sabi, which refers to “the beauty of imperfection.” This current combines elements of minimalism with nature, managing to show the vitalism of simplicity and solitude.
The austerity of Casa de Wabi immediately takes the viewer into a process of interiority, in which they can sense non-verbally the assignment of accumulation or appropriation.
Casa Wabi is a design by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando , winner of the 1995 Pritzker Prize. The property faces directly towards the Pacific Ocean and its central wall of 312 meters lies parallel to the sea.
Everything in Casa Wabi is a game between chance and human creativity, making it a living work. Among the permanent exhibits are places like Kengo Kuma’s Chicken Coop, made from charred boards. You can also wander through the 27-hectare botanical garden of the architect Alberto Kalach or walk through the Pabellón de Barro by Álvaro Siza (Pritzker, 1992) and connect with the depth of the earth.
A community project
Aware that the aesthetic experience entails an ethic, the work of Casa Wabi seeks to benefit and dialogue with the fourteen surrounding communities, as well as with the rest of the people of Oaxaca. Among the direct benefits are spaces such as the Guayacán Pavilion; a nursery that seeks to protect the Guaiacum coulteri species and that was designed by the AMBROSI ETCHEGARAY office.
Likewise, Casa Wabi promotes national and international artists in training. For this, it has a program of residencies for talents that are from different disciplines, with which they also seek to develop the social and cultural fabric of the Oaxaca coast. In addition, it has temporary exhibitions of established artists, which generates a dialogue between local and international culture, the emerging and the already revealed.
However, not everything is left in the hands of art professionals, as the foundation also seeks to encourage communities to develop their cultural potential for free. For this, it offers film screenings, clay workshops, and mobile library service in conjunction with the Alfredo Harp Helú Oaxaca Foundation.
Visiting Casa Wabi awakens a sober experience of art. Thanks to its privileged location, it immediately links human creativity to that of nature, and to the culture of Oaxaca with the rest of the world.
CASA WABI FOUNDATION
Let’s support the culture of our country
Among cacti, on the beach of Puerto Escondido, is the Casa Wabi Foundation, a mystical place designed by the renowned Japanese architect Tadao Ando, winner of the Pritzker Prize, in conjunction with Alex Lida.
Conceived by artist Bosco Sodi, the space located on the Oaxacan coast does justice to its name: wabi comes from the Japanese concept of seeking beauty in imperfection, in accident and in the depth of nature. We had the opportunity to speak with Carla Sodi, who told us a little more about the conception of the project and the social work that is carried out there.
How was the Casa Wabi Foundation born?
Although the idea arose much earlier, Fundación Casa Wabi was born three years ago, when the artist Bosco Sodi, who decided to do an artistic residency in Mexico after having done another in Japan. Over time, the concept of Casa Wabi is transformed into a foundation whose main objective is the cultural exchange of knowledge, customs and traditions between the resident artists and the local communities of Puerto Escondido.
What has been the reception since its opening?
The reception we have had has been much greater internationally than nationally. In fact, last year, we were included among the 52 destinations to visit by the list issued each year by the New York Times.
The project has been growing little by little. Originally we started only with the residency program, later we implemented the clay workshop and then the film workshop, where screenings are held both in Casa Wabi and in the community. And recently, we started a new project with the support of the Harp Foundation, of a mobile library.
On the other hand, we also have a program of exhibitions of established artists whose exhibitions last approximately one year to allow as many people as possible to visit it. In fact, we just opened Your Age, My Age and the Age of the Sun by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone.
As for the communities we work with, which are those that surround Casa Wabi, the reception has been a bit slower. At first, we had to go to the communities to propose that they work with us, but with time and perseverance, an incredible relationship has been created. We have clay workshops for school children, taught by Xóchitl, a woman who has been working with the material for generations, and then we show them a film. In the beginning, we went to the schools to tell them what we did to convince them to come, however, today, we have a list of schools waiting for the clay workshops, so one of our objectives this year is to extend it. three to five days a week.
How did the contact between Bosco Sodi and Tadao Ando come about to carry out the project together?
Through acquaintances, Bosco Sodi asked Tadao Ando to create the main structure of Casa Wabi, which is made up of six study-bedrooms for the residency program, an exhibition room, a projection room, multipurpose spaces, and a garden. of more than 27 hectares.
Casa Wabi Foundation has become a mandatory destination for architecture lovers. Who have been the architects who have joined this project?
Tadao Ando made the main structure, but little by little architects such as the Portuguese Álvaro Siza, also a Pritzker Prize winner, joined the project to design the clay pavilion, and Alberto Kalach designed the botanical garden and was also responsible for remodeling. the house in Santa María la Ribera, our second headquarters which is located in Mexico City. Likewise, we invited the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma to do a sustainability project that includes an orchard, a greenhouse, and a chicken coop that is still in testing. On the other hand, Paraguayan architects Gloria Cabral and Solano Benítez participated in the creation of the composting pavilion and we recently inaugurated the Guayacán Pavilion, made by Ambrosi Etchegaray.
In what concept was the architect Tadao Ando inspired to build this space?
The origin of the name of the foundation comes from the Japanese concept wabi-sabi which literally means ‘to find the perfect in the imperfect, because nothing in life is perfect, much less in art.
Many of Bosco Sodi’s works are made of clay, a material whose manipulation involves an organic process that works on the basis of trial and error. Tell us about what this entails.
Clay is a material that, no matter how much it can be manipulated, cannot be controlled, since the final finish does not depend exclusively on the artist. However, it is perfect as it is not perfect, I do not know if I explain myself.
Why did Bosco Sodi choose this geographical location to make Casa Wabi?
The Oaxaca region has a very rich cultural and gastronomic offer that is already well established. However, the decision to have made Casa Wabi in this place was largely motivated by the appreciation and affectionate relationship that Bosco has for Puerto Escondido since his childhood he has spent long periods there.
What is the mission of Fundación Casa Wabi and why the need to promote artistic education among children and young people in the town?
As a foundation, we are convinced that this approach to culture and art gives you another perspective on life. Many times they tell me: “Hey Carla, but you don’t feed or heal.” We do not feed with food, but we do feed a way of thinking about life differently. We strongly emphasize that we are not going to teach anyone anything. In the communities there are artisans who have generations doing what they do, therefore, what we really seek is to promote dialogue between the communities and the artists so that they provide feedback to each other.
They have asked me if our goal is for the communities to become artists. In the first place, there are many who already are and secondly, if an artist were to leave in the future thanks to the education he received at Casa Wabi, it would be great, but what we really seek is to promote young people to express themselves through art.
As a non-profit organization, how did you finance such an ambitious project as Casa Wabi?
The foundation is non-profit and most of what is spent on the foundation is a donation from Bosco, we also have support from the government of the state of Oaxaca, the Secretary of Culture, and private donations.
What is the residency program? How do they select the artists, how many do they host, and what is the average length of their stay?
The program is made up of six residents whose stay lasts an average of one to three months and is based on three objectives: the first is that the artist has a space for introspection that encourages dialogue with himself. The second is to create a dialogue between the residents, that is why we select artists from various disciplines so that there is much more enriching feedback, and thirdly, that there is an interaction with the local communities.
As for the selection of artists, it is the responsibility of the curatorial committee led by Alberto Ríos, the main curator. Everyone who applies is considerate, looks at the dossier to see if it works and fits with the group. We are constantly looking for artists, we ask galleries for recommendations and we carry out studio visits in order to form an interdisciplinary group that is made up of both established and emerging artists – who can be from painters, sculptors, writers, to film directors – to complement each other. each.
What do the artists do during their stay at Casa Wabi and which have been the artists who have left the greatest legacy?
Being a non-profit foundation, we do not ask them to produce work, since our purpose is not the commercialization of art, the only requirement is that there is an exchange with the community and also that they leave the foundation a blog in the format free from the project they did during their stay at Casa Wabi. In total, we have had 173 artists and all have left a legacy. We cover all their needs, we provide them with food and services so that they have time to develop their community project, which does not necessarily have to be artistic. For example, we had an artist who made a record of medicinal plants in the area and another who modified the cages to fish for crabs, it could be anything! From a body language workshop, a drawing,
And even though we don’t ask them to produce work, many artists do it and we help them get the material they need; however, due to geographic location, most cannot get all the materials they want as if they were in Mexico City. This forces them to rethink their entire artistic process, so that, sometimes, after their stay at Casa Wabi, we see a transformation both on a personal and professional level that inevitably ends up having an impact on their creative process.
In addition to their residency program, they have one of the exhibitions. What are the selection criteria for the artists you choose for your temporary exhibitions?
Unlike resident artists, for the temporary exhibitions of Casa Wabi we look for internationally established artists, while for our headquarters in Mexico City, we are more interested in exhibiting emerging Mexican artists. Like the residents’ program, your work does not necessarily have to be related to the philosophy and architecture of the space.
Currently, they also have the headquarters of Santa María la Ribera in Mexico City and Casa Nano. How long ago did you open and why did you choose that colony?
Our second headquarters, located in the Santa María la Ribera neighborhood in Mexico City, opened a year and a half ago and is a completely different concept from Puerto Escondido. It is a house that serves as the operating space of the Casa Wabi Foundation, since the offices are located here, although we also have an exhibition room in which we exhibit works by emerging Mexican artists. On February 6, we inaugurated a new exhibition Tepetate, by the Mexican artist Francisco Muñoz.
We chose this area because we consider it to be an emerging neighborhood to which many artists and galleries are migrating. It is an old house that was remodeled by Alberto Kalach, respecting its original state, where he kept the aged finishes of the walls and wooden floors. In addition, we also have a terrace where we hold events, talks and we also promote meetings between artists, for example, we just had one between film critics.
On the other hand, on the last Saturday of each month, we have a program called “The disco is culture”, where artists and people from the art world are invited to talk about music. The objective is that the artist does not talk about his work or art in general, but about his favorite album with the idea that it is a closer dialogue.
Casa Nano is the third venue to be inaugurated and a fairly small space dedicated exclusively to housing one resident artist at a time, preferably Mexican, in order to exchange with Japanese culture.
What are the next projects for Fundación Casa Wabi?
What we are looking for this year is the consolidation of all the programs that we have and create links as a foundation. For example, last year we did a residency for Swiss designers on the occasion of the Mexico-Switzerland dual year, they went to a community called Santa Catarina Mechoacán where they made lamps and screens. Thanks to that, a long-term relationship was created with the artists and with the country.