Instituto Buena Bista residency Curaçao

From September 2, 2021, we reported on our stay in Curaçao at the Instituto Buena Bista, a residency abroad supported by the Mondriaan Fund. It will be an exploration of art, education, and nature.

The posts are in reverse chronological order, due to the way this blog is written.

February 3rd, 2022
The students join for a goodbye cake cut by Esther and me. We lingered some weeks longer on Curacao to finish the new edition of the OEROL podcast ‘The Sound Sails” (Het Geluid Vaart). Photo Goretti Pombo
Esther cuts the cake at Instituto Buena Bista
15 December, end of year presentation

In the last month of 2022, the last month of our residency and the closing semester for the students, we gave our presentation and we did an exciting public performance with all students.

8 December 2022, perfomance in Willemstad, Curaçao.
Soundrecording windmills on Northern coast of Curaçao.

09 – 16 November
We started working on a new edition of our podcast Het Geluid Vaart/The Sound Sails for 2022. With recordings of the windmills and waves on the North-coast. Where the previous years 2020 and 2021 took the audience to Terschelling, the recordings for 2022 will take you to Curacao. Five times one full hour of uninterrupted white noise.
In collaboration with filmmaker and advisor Selwyn de Wind and curator Marin de Boer.

Soundrecording breaking waves on Northern coast of Curaçao.

8 November
Today we started our new workshop #sandmapping, a Do It Yourself landart project. Working towards a performance in the city of Willemstad, Curaçao.

Featuring Iris, Dilara, Ruvi and Germain. Photo’s by Goretti Pombo.

14 October
Beginning of this week, after a week of holidays, the students presented the results of the assignment ‘Challenging the Digital.’ From the printing assignment to this one was a giant step – which maybe gave some of the students a slight headache. The results were stunning. I asked them to take an app or digital program or tool they frequently use and think of a way to use it in a way that it is not meant for. Some of them weren’t worked out visually to show, but each one was really interesting.

In order of appearance in the gallery:
• Natto took Clip Studio Paint and used it to write a kind of essay on the assignment. Annoying effort technically, and an almost existential thought on what art is.
• Catalina decided to make an Instagram account open for anyone who dm’d her for the password. With some minor rules. Slowly issues on appropriate posts rose.
• The Messenger Pigeon Locator. by Germain An app that finds you a messenger pigeon – comment on messsenger bots and the extinction of messenger pigeons.
• A slightly eerie web application by Imani. A complex of suspicion about moths, the Moth Generator and Birth Charts.
• An app inspired by the bin. Norah imagines a tool with which you cannot only delete your onwn thoughts about yourself, but also other people’s thoughts about you.
First video: Sing uses his phone for non-digital chores in the house.
Second video: Pretty clever invention by Kirsten on how to use Instagram Stories – tapping your way through a story you flip through an animation.

11 October
Last week there was a holiday break at IBB. I did go there to draw another bird, a life-size frigatebird, dead. A male. First stage. See the photo below. Otherwise, the week was a bit of ease for me too. Grabbed a beer with Jerke on the beach, did a group walk around Jan Kok Bay, watched ‘Wei’ (meadow in Dutch), a documentary about dementia in Alzheimer’s month.

Frigatebird in the making. Ready to melt.
The assignment was to take something to print, something to print with and something to print on – but not the usual materials. In order of appearance in the gallery: Norah, Keson, Iris, Zaq, Georgerig, Ayrton.

I will also start to post some of the work the students do in our classes. I will try to give some additional info, but sometimes the images or videos have to speak for themselves. I’ll make sure each and every student gets the stage here during the coming months. Enjoy.

Same assignment as the one above, but this time combined with the words ‘moved’ or ‘impressed’. Gerson, video by Alyssa.

The group walk around Jan Kok Bay last Sunday. Very few birds, besides the flamingos (nothing against flamingos, they are beautiful and sound like geese – or geese sound like flamingos). Just wondering why I spotted only a few sterns and only one little blue herron and a green heron. Beautiful upside down jelly fish in the pond, like an underwater flower garden. Also the amazing bark of a tree that starts with an A … – a kind of sycamore pattern. And a scarecrow, or maybe a scarehuman – we were not sure about that.

29 September
It’s been a week since my last update. For some reason, I was interested in the landing of birds. While looking at them through binoculars, I admire their skills to go from high speed to standstill, perfect balance, on tiny branches, flat bark, water, and here on cactus tops. A kind of jealousy then takes hold of me. As I told before, I felt the need to draw the birds first, get hold of their bodies, their moves, through my hands. So I uploaded a few from a stage when I got the hang of it. It’s fun for birding reasons – drawing makes me a better observer. I observe, draw, look in books, draw again, and then recognize them in more detail, as a body in the field—more organism than image. The videos might be a side path, maybe the next stage. We’ll see. My friend Norrece, whom I told about the bird drawing, was, like others, a little surprised by this bird drawing, knowing our body of work. But he nevertheless, convinced that only good could come from it, sent me the book he was coincidentally just reading: The Evolution of Beauty. A book about ornithology and Darwin’s theory of Mate Choice. And as a surprise, he added a book with 130 Audubon bird drawings.

r22 SeptemberWednesday
While I’m trying to find my way in my bird research (I promise I’m going to show more, but just want to do that after I showed it to the students, which will be coming Monday). I joined Dymph her lesson. Students presented the results of the assignment she gave on Monday. They had to watch the Kunst Is Lang podcast (by Luuk Heezen en Mr. Motley) with Sema Bekirovic as guest and use that as inspiration.
The results variated widely in atmosphere, materials, content, emotion. We heard struggles, we saw the sweat and tears in the results. Just a few examples as a glimpse into the day: Kisten, students performing in her artwork, Keson, Ayrton, Dilara and Zack.

21 september
This afternoon the students came back with the results of my assignment. I had asked them to write down in a few sentences their take on our film Lost on Arrival that I showed yesterday and discuss it with a relative or friend, with the specific question if they could trigger unexpected reactions.
They came back with moving and touching experiences. Short but significant (see first photo for the setting). Even the ones that, according to themselves did not really succeed, in my eyes did. A great deal to make conversation on an artwork without it having it at hand. And then sometimes creating an open and meandering talk. Brave.
Later on all went their way. In the hallway I stumbled upon Errin I guess rehearsing a performance, together with Catharina and Shizan? Maybe something else, I’ll probably find out later this week.

20 september
Another full day at the IBB. This morning the new interns from Artez Art Teaching Department, Jerke Knopert and Dymph Beker, present themselves and their assignment for the students.
In the afternoon it’s my turn. I decided in the last week not to present an overview of our work. In stead I start off with discussing 5 works from other artists. And then show one of our works and have an assignment loosely based on that work.
I really enjoy the discussion and feedback from the students. Although the space lacks chairs and hence every body is leaning against the wall or laying on the ground, the attention is serious. Kind of funny. I did not make pictures today. Just my flip flops on the ground while I lifted my feet for a 10 cm centipede.

19 september
Today my target was plantation house Santa Catharina. I was a bit late so I missed the early morning shimmering. The dirt road to the house became narrower by the minute, so when I had the change I turned the car to park a bit up the road. Santa Catharina is an abandoned plantation house, as there are more on the island. A remarkable thing though was that the roof tiles, that all fell down looked brand new. Pieces of the tiles left a beautiful residue on the ceiling shingles that were still intact. In a building on the side two tractor tires drew my attention. Brotherly waiting for a better live, or maybe enjoying the view from their retirement home they sat there. Tires keep there appearances for a long time, I gues due to the geometric patterns of their profile.
Later that day I, on my way to IBB and after swimming at Parasasa bay, Hotel Dreams got my eye. At the moment dreams are a topic in the IBB-lessons (association, surrealism etc). This Dream hotel looks like a pretty boring dream, or a nightmare.

The cats at IBB were really happy to see me, or at least to receive food from me. I guess that’s going to be needed to befriend them. I heard the goats chattering behind the wall of the garden. I repaired my table and cleaned my cubbard. Neat and tidy :-). Drawings I archived and photographed. I’ll upload tomorrow with an explanation.

18 september
Today I visit Landhuis Bloemhof, a former plantation house made into a cultural centre. The artist Suzet Rosaria is exhibiting there and she’s also present finishing one of her latest paintings. A colourful layering of stenciled images of wifi symbols in tile-like patterns, donut shaped objects in wool, organic and geometric labyrinth like structures, all woven into a form of a body – it’s about the chaos it can get in your head. She heard me talking about IBB. Her daughter studied there and is now third year at the KABK in The Hague.
She tells me about the time she studied arts in Amsterdam. The teachers tried to discourage her use of bright colors, which she refused: ‘those colours are who I am’ she argued and kept on using them. She asks me if we work with colours. Well, definitely not as colourfull as you do, I say. But yes, sometimes purposely, always pretty modest and thoughtfull.
When the center closes I can still walk around in the garden. There is a trail. That’s funny, in contrast with the area seen in the satellite image, I can roam the area far longer than imagined. It’s like an IKEA forest, labyrinth shopping, waiting for the minotaur to appear.
An obsolete, ruin of a windmill I find along the trail. This has once been a water plantation, with open wells, a drainage system to guide the water, tanks to store water. And a windmill obviously, to pump water out of the ground. I have a memory when I see these kind of windmills. I soldered a scale model out of copper thread and a tin can (for the Blades) once from memory when I was about 13 or 14. As a remembrance of the year we lived on Curaçao when I was in my last year of primary school.

17 september
It is still dark when I drive towards Koraal Tabak. I saw on the map that I can also walk north first and than probably will be able to round the hill. Either there is a path along the coast or I should be able to bushwack myself through there. This is a bit of bravado. The bush here is mildly said pretty spikey. Lots of trees and shrubs have nasty thorns here. I just hope for a path.
There is a picture of a calebash. I remember being marveled they grow directly from a branch. In that way it looks someone just hang them there, like baubles in a Christmas tree. I near the race track that is not in use. I’m not sure whether it’s not anymore in use or just temporary because of Covid. But I’s heard and seen that the area has building permits, so maybe it’s part of that proces. A makeshift stand is build along the track. Since it’s the only stand I see, it feels like a skybox that I climb into. Roaring crowds and likewise streetcars must have been moving around here.
A bay a bit further is filled with plastic bottles. It looks strangely homogeneous. A typology of PET bottles as an activistic artwork. Flushed away and only seen by a few who decide to visit this now remote area (it must have felt less remote when the race track was still in use I suppose). On the other side of the bay I see what resembles dunes. Dunes? Here? Have to check that some time.
On my way back, there was a kind of a path ending in a steep slope that I managed to slide of from, there is a beautiful dried up mix of tracks. Unintended clay works of people moving through the world, gone by the next shower.

16 september
A busy IBB day today. Debate class with Omar. I never, really never joined a debate class. Kind of biased about its usefulness. I nevertheless feel the importance to be there, if alone for my prejudice. And Omar gives it a nice turn: debate to be open for where other people come from, that their ideas might differ but that you can stand ground, make conversation, as an artist you need to. Feels like fighting to learn that there are people who like peace better. But honestly: it works for me too. I am also grappled by the debate we do – it feels like a game, and as it is with every game I play: I feel fanatism fill my body. I don’t think it was obvious though.
During Lunch break I pick up Nathifa Martina. She’s been my (fantastic) Papiamentu teacher (Palabricks) and coincidentally in Curaçao at the moment. We meet in person for the first time, my lessons were all online for more than a year. Which is funny. We return to IBB to join the introduction and lesson of David Bade, co-founder (together with Tirzo Martha) of IBB. He tells us about his work, founding IBB, working with participants, his urge to work in a social environment, or a social context. David is a talented teacher, he leads the way, takes you by the hand and pushes you up front. I am really happy that I can join this group of teachers and students here at IBB.

15 september
I had a strange dream this night. I woke up, in my dream, and though I had totally forgotten to fly to Curaçao. For more than a week! Why did they not call me? I remember this because yesterday I wrote the date of 14th of September on one of my drawings. And I had to fly on the 7th (which was also not correct, but at this moment I was still asleep). I was angry! Then I wake up and feel my strange soft sheets. I look around and now I see I already am in Curaçao. I laugh, my heart still bouncing in panic turning into relief.
Today I hang my map on the wall in my IBB studio (I think, or maybe I just photographed it today). Although new the map is somewhat outdated and is un accurate compared to Maps I can use it to document my walks and rides and the birds I see. Helpful. I try to determinate the ones I see. Sometimes I’m able to, but for example for the plovers and waders I need to see them more often. The differences between the species are minimal.
Today is also the presentation of the insects the students made from their drawings earlier this week. Ruvi’s pretty giant creep disguised itself in the garden, Sing’s pets his taped half-faced animal resting on his arm and Errin performed himself into the rock-salesman also selling a rock-sect. I think the assignment was interpreted somewhat too literal by the students, I nevertheless enjoy their efforts, in making and presenting and supporting of each other.

From tires not yet touched, to my rubber igloo. Old tires but seemingly un-worn. Here you’ll find a short walk-around the igloo (in Dutch).

14 september
This morning I drove to the coast while it was still dark, 5:45. This time I took a left turn left, west, about 100 meters before the curve in the road eastbound. A narrow dirt road, rocky, bumpy but also dusty with the fine-grained red soil, terra cora. When it rains, that soil becomes a slippery clay-like substance instantly. My little front-wheel-drive Kia Picanto can’t handle that. Hope it’s not going to rain. Halfway there is a mud pool. I get out of the car to test the ground to see whether I dare to cross. It’s not deep, and the rocky shoulder will give my wheels grip, so I get back in the car and drive on.

I park on the other side of the bay, the boca, from where I walked a few times already. In that bay, that is for a large part dry, lives a man. I greeted him already, but he ignored me. So I decided to skip the bay, his living room. With a bit of pain, I must say because that’s where I saw three kinds of herons (a white, a green, and a juvenile night heron), a plover (not sure what kind), a dark dove (blauduif), and a wader. Maybe later. This time I forgot my binoculars anyway. My goal is to build the rubber igloo. A kind of inspiration on our recent installation Adrift. Once I arrive at the tires’ location, I get my gloves, especially bought for this occasion, and get to work.

In the afternoon, I join the student’s portfolio class. All students, even the ones who started just a week ago, show their portfolios. These are carefully scrutinized by Omar and Tittel. On consistency, quality of the documentation, clarity, completeness of the relevant information, and more. A slow process but so important. A lot to learn for the students. I enjoy their explanations. I enjoy the tutor’s comments, strict with soft undertones.
Meanwhile, I work on my birds. My goal is to make an impression of their landing strategies, but I found out that to grasp that, I have to learn to draw them in still position first. So I do my walks with binoculars and study the birds I see. I have a map of Curaçao. On that map, I write down which birds I spotted. We bought a pretty good and recent book, Birds of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, that helps me identify. I try to draw the birds from memory first, which is a challenge since I have limited visual memory. Then I draw them with the book by my side. Trying to understand their posture. I bought a book about the anatomy of birds as well. Later this month, I’ll post some. When I feel I’m getting somewhere.

13 september

David Bade, who, together with Tirzo Martha founded IBB, is on the island for some time again. We had a coffee and talked about each other’s personal hang-ups. As a good Dutchman, I complained about the house I’m staying in. I seem to be the first of the residents complaining. Ouch. The place is pretty noisy, along a road that many people take as a shortcut to avoid traffic jams, which should be avoided all day it seems. Since I’m not a complainer, I counted the cars passing by that evening: research! I counted (estimated based on a randomly chosen few minutes of measuring several times during the evening) 750-900 cars per hour. So I’m going to look for another place to stay. I learned from Philadelphia residency, where we stayed in a noisy house for six months instead of moving somewhere else.
Besides this, I enjoy my stay very much. IBB feels like a friendly, welcoming, serious, and unique place. So my talk with David wasn’t only about the traffic.

Walking close to Playa Kanoa and Koraal Tabak, east and westbound. Spotted a Warawara on the cactus (and more species by the way), splashes of Atlantic sea water on the North Coast and a trial for a tire statue (as a way of workout too). I need to bring working gloves next time.

2-10 September 2021

Left Amsterdam in the afternoon on the 2nd. Arrived on Curaçao around 7:30 pm. Derika Bernardina, office manager at IBB (Instituto Buena Bista), welcomed me at the airport and brought me to the house where I, and later we, will stay in the coming months. The temperature is humid 28˚C/83˚F.
I wonder if the house has been empty for the last almost 1.5 years due to Covid. No residents visited IBB. We are the first after this long period.  The house needs a sole, so I’ll be making it into a home a bit more in the coming days.
The following days I ground myself, do groceries, go for a morning swim, find a nice place to walk in the early morning along the North Coast. When saying early, I mean about 6 am. Then, at about 8:30, it’s nice to be back in the car, at least when I did not bring water. The sun is getting fierce already at that time.

In the photo gallery impressions of my first days:

Sunday I go for my antigeen test. It’s a rainy day. From inside my car I see the fluidity of the outside world, the lab.

Following introduction together with students by Nohely Simon, Tittel Boomgaart and Omar Kuwas.

View in our still empty studio. The dog skulls I found. Work fine as a way to keep my papers from not being blown away by the wind. One in the garden of our house, the other one in the woods. I’m also making a color chart from the water color pencils I brought. What that will lead to, you’ll find out later the coming months.

Logo Mondrian Fund

Instituto Buena Bista is a residency abroad supported by the Mondriaan Fund.