"Menhir" moves the mine to the exhibition

Interview with Coco Moya and Iván Cebrián about their project, "Menhir", winner of the grant LABjoven_Los Bragales. An interactive installation which carries the coal to the status of artwork

Published: Jun 30, 2015

By Semíramis González (@semiramis_glez), Semíramis en Babilonia

It seems ages ago when there was a boom in aids for production and artistic grants, and there were many calls and options for making a work of art. Very often, these grants helped create something new. Other times, they helped continue something already started. And almost always they contributed to disseminating new talent that was worth exploring.

In the framework of the economic situation we have been experiencing for some years, culture has been one of the main victims, many prizes and awards disappeared and many aids reduced their budget or directly disappeared.

In the case of Asturias the programme LABjoven_Experimenta has always been very important. During six editions it gave Asturias emerging artists the opportunity to use LABoral and its resources as a platform to carry out and disseminate their art projects. In 2012, David Martínez Suárez was the sixth artist that received the aid that was then cancelled.

This year the 2015 the programme returns under a new name, LABjoven_Los Bragales, due to the fact that in order for the grant to continue the support of Colección Los Bragales, owned by the Cantabrian entrepreneur Jaime Sordo, has been essential. Maintaining the line of work of its predecessor, this new programme is aimed at supporting and dynamising the artistic scene by calling an annual call, funded with 9.500 Euros, addressed to artists under 40 for the production of an experimental art project (especially audiovisual installations and multimedia), specifically created to be showcased at the Exhibition Hall of LABoral.



The winners of this 2015 edition, Coco Moya and Iván Cebrián, have created Menhir, a project that combines music, visual art and freeware-based technologies. It is a visual and sound installation with coal pieces scattered on the floor of the hall as if they were musical instruments; Sound will be activated by visitors, as they walk of when they touch them.

Taking advantage of their two-month production residency at the Centre, we ask them about Menhir. The final result will be showcased live from September.

Where does this project come from?
Menhir comes from most of what constitutes our lives: Art, music and mountain. Slowly, walking these paths, we start to envision how it could be a creative process that would connect these interests (or rather passions) that we both have, and so far the result has been a surprisingly balance combination of them. Actually, rather than our passions they are the way we live our lives and, as Deleuze put it, the creative act is the first place of an agency of vital territories, an awareness of what it means, and an effort to make it your way of life.

How does the piece develop, from sound to 3D?
The piece for LABoral aims to translate into an exhibition venue our experience carrying out the first Menhir in the mountains of Leon. During our routes in the mountains we collected sounds and photographs, and we improvised with instruments or elements such as rocks, wood, water...We were looking for places of power, spaces that would give us back a strong energy feeling. From this field material we composed a piece that we returned as a sound Menhir to the mountain. What we did was generating a methodology for exploring the territory in an active way, a way of listening and also dialogue, using plastic and sound tools within our reach. We want visitors to perceive the installation as a journey and a dialogue; just the same way we have experienced it. Somehow, the aim is to bring the mountain and to share it with other people.

Why this interest for coal and why a menhir?
We were interested in the figure of the Menhir as the first element modifying the landscape, whose only function is marking or signalling it, and understood in a wider sense and according to certain interpretations, such as geopuncture to modify the territory at the energy level. Our Menhir is virtual; it is the music and the sound vibrations that puncture the earth.

When we started thinking of a way to take this experience to an exhibition space, we did not want to forget the idea of our own experience, the movement and the relationship with space. We started making prototypes of sound serigraphies, where coal-based paint is the conductor for launching sounds. They were related with an interest in the proprioceptive aesthetic experience, the feeling of touching an image, going from contemplation to action. When we were contemplating making a Menhir in Asturias, we thought coal would be a good connector that links the experience in the mountain with the experience in an interactive space. A material that would enable us to discover and travel the landscape and its culture.

What is the exhibition like?
The installation combines three elements: Sound, pieces of coal and video. It is a kind of installation-instrument, a space that can be interpreted just like a musician interprets a music score, the landscape as a music score. The idea is to enter an immersive space that you explore on your own, with which you relate through touch, the visual and the journey. As you enter you see a landscape on the walls and a landscape on the floor inviting you to walk through it. When you touch the stones you activate the sounds completing the installation. The aim is to experience a representation of the landscape they way we have understood it. An idea of landscape that is related with our relationship with it, with the sequence of experiences that make us imagine it in our minds, interpreting it and building ourselves at the same time in this relationship.


This project was already made, at least partly. How does this grant help you develop it?
Menhir is a process/project that has evolved from the need to discover the mountain as a “wild space”, a need to take this experience to a “civilised space”. In this sense: A round trip, it is a trip that takes a coherent shape with the opportunity to work on this installation at LABoral. This residency will be an important support for us at technical, logistic and resource level. In fact, the installation is specifically designed for LABoral, because the project made sense in this venue, as a meeting point for art, technology and the social and cultural context of Asturias. Even if we had continued its development, in our view this is the ideal venue for showcasing this work.

When you carried out the first part of the project, during the residency at Valverde de Curueño, you also did a performance. Does Menhir have many plastic dimensions for its exhibition?
In Valverde we focused more on the musical and performance aspects, at LABoral we plan to develop more the audiovisual and installation aspects. Menhir started as a cooperation project between a visual artist and a musician. Thus, our approach will not forget any of these aspects. It is a dialogue that develops as we move forward in the process. In our view, the artistic practice, whether musical or plastic, is a strategy to set up our ways of doing, the way we conduct ourselves in the world and the way we experience it. Therefore we discover and refine these strategies, enriching them and adapting them to specific circumstances and contexts. It can be said that Menhir has as many dimensions as places where it is showcased, as it is a process that exists in relation with specific places.

Which parts will you carry out during your residency at LABoral?
We want to work during the residency on three fronts: Coal as sculpture material, as a cultural element and haw to transform it into sound. On the one hand we want to work with coal in sculpture pieces: Knowing the material, how it reacts, how to assemble it, what are its properties. On the other hand we want to develop the installation as an instrument with arduino, extending the possibilities to interact with sound in real time, thus enhancing its expressive and interactive potential. The technical support in this regard provided by LABoral will be essential. Last, we want to explore the mining landscape, the mountains, and film the video that is used in the installation.

During the residency we will visit mines, speak with the people that work or have worked there, researching about the mining culture and its links with the identity of the landscape, collecting sounds and images. Having time for experiencing the land, understanding its context and complexity and relating with it through images and sounds, is the motivation that we have followed from the beginning with Menhir, so at LABoral we want to develop it in Asturias.

As young artists, do you think this calls are useful?
These calls are a powerful qualitative support for artists. They allow artistic practice to be sustainable, to be developed, to be extended and to be deeper.  We see the award as a patronage of arts that enables our forms for our artistic process, that would be hard to accomplish without funding and without the space Plataforma 1. Most times when you start something you are alone and you have to support it yourself, devoting time, money and work to what you do without expecting anything in return. We believe that this is the point of departure of very good ideas that subsequently thanks to these calls are presented to the people, institutions and communities.

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