I was doing an art residency program in Oaxaca, Mexico in 2013, but deu to an unanticipated invitation, I delayed my ticket to Taiwan for four months to join a local social design project. Bandui Lab, a local independent art studio founded by Clarrisa Zarate and Leo Balinos, they invited me to participate in their on-going project to collect soon-to-be-lost local folklore through workshops and oral fieldwork in three Aztec villages - Analco, Zegache, and Capulalpam - and transform the collected stories into sellable action figurines by coaching the villagers in the use of the village's existing infrastructure. The villagers are then coached to use the village's existing infrastructure to produce them, and eventually they work together to open retail stores and organize exhibitions in the city center. The economic conditions are often very difficult in these villages, so this program is also expected to help them establish a second career. My job was simple, oberseve, some poster making and teaching the villagers to make poncho mixed with embroidered circuits.
It seems to me that Bandui Lab is attempting to create a completely independent, art-based, comprehensive production system, from the top end of the product concept to the bottom end of the physical sale. What I admire even more is that Bandui is a family of five, the oldest child is only 8 years old, and with a travel time of about five hours from downtown Oaxaca to each of these villages, they have to help the villages with the division of labor, the distribution of machinery and equipment, the training of villagers in the local nature, the exhibition planning, the establishment of a physical store, the shifting of shopkeepers, and other planning.
"Adelita" is an image of women's participation in war, during the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), the legacy celebration can be usually found in the “corrido”, popular narrative metrical tale and poetry that forms a ballad. These songs are often about oppression, history, the daily life of farmers, and other socially relevant topics. It is still a popular form in Mexico, having gained popularity during the Mexican Revolution of the 20th century. "Adelita" is also figure that Bandui Lab commissioned me to make.
During the four months with Bandui Lab, we lived together in their house in Oaxaca. It takes 3 to 4 hours by car to reach those villages, to meet the local villagers to discuss the workshop contents, what equipment can be used there for the production and the working schedules. I don't speak Spanish, so I can only interact with Bandui’s help. Despite the language barrier, I found that I can still work with the local people via common crafting skills, like embroidery. I later found a way to teach them how to make the circuit by sewing it stitch by stitch, with precise indication map.
Basically, the whole action is divided into four steps: three-month field research, week-long workshops to translate local myth to action figure design, two-month preparation for the exhibition of results, and the mentoring for retail shop establishment. This is the first time I have seen that design and art can actually participate in social work and have actual impact on community. I also found the common ground for engineering and craftsmanship, our language barrier did not bother my work too much, it inspired me how to empower the old craftsmanship through the participation of e-textiles , and the significance of our action to the local communities. This project seeded the thinking in me, are these community project involve colonialism? What is the balanced relationship for globalism and localism?
After the 7-days workshop in Analco, I have made two masks with the same technique, with the assistance from villagers in Zegache, to call it an end of my residency in Oaxaca. This experience inspires me to collaborate with Atayal aborigines in Taiwan and to start the Tribe Against Machine Project