Text by Inês Lebreaud
It was not the first time Alma Palacios saw it. Just, this time, she was more receptive to it and that image stuck inside her mind. It was a huge flat landscape and cows spread all over it, grazing, had storks landed on their backs, feeding on them; picking their skin; eating insects, parasites.
That same day, while sketching, her hand leaded her to draw a man with a bird on his shoulder. It was purely intuitive and only later she realised that it might be something there.
Duo singuler, des cigognes postées sur le croupe des ruminants, sur leur crâne, sautillant dans leurs ombre
Les dites vaches ne semblent pas s’en offusquer, elles acceptent, sans bronches, la prèsence de ces volatiles graciles
[…]” (PALACIOS, Alma)
(english translation: “[…] Curious duo, storks stationed on the ruminators croup/ On their heads, hopping on their shadows/ The cows doesn’t seemto bother /They accept, without a murmur the presence of these slender birds […]”)
What a weird togetherness, a relationship where there’s no care, no interest in one another, but a mutual dependence, a need for each other. But stronger than that, for Alma, was just the idea of that presence. That huge bird standing there. She already knew there was something special about that image, she just didn’t know yet exactly what. It worked as a concrete metaphor for so many things… It reminded her of a person and its demon. “Sometimes…”, she told Tryangle’s media team, “…I feel like you are our (the artists’) birds”, always watching, always waiting to collect something.
She needed to exteriorize it to make it concrete, to be able to touch it and maybe understand. She needed something visual. And since she felt her drawings might not be good enough to pass on to others the image she had inside, she proposed herself to work with the clarity of photography.
Although the number of metaphors – or exactly due to that -, Alma didn’t want to label this project, to put a meaning on that image and, most of all, not to impose any kind of interpretation rule to the ones engaging with her proposition.
The idea was to bring those characters of the cow and the bird to a different world, see it other sets, multiple sets. With a fake plastic stork on her hands, Alma went to every room in the Convento’s cloisters to be photographed by Alwynne Pritchard. They chose to have natural day light, but it was while editing it that Alwynne passion for photography, changing shadows and colours, made Alma discover what she had been looking for: that weird, “half strange, half scary, half touching” object. She has a connection with fantasy, a love for everything that’s fantastic and that’s what was attractive about those images.
Witnessing what as become an almost obsession for Alma, Jorg Ritzenhoff told her about William Hauff’s fairytale “The Caliph Stork”, about a caliph who was so bored that, in order to have some fun, decided to use a magical powder and transform himself into a stork.
One night, she and some artists gathered at the cloisters to take some pictures. It was them and that weird, totally false, plastic stork. Drinking wine, talking, dressing in shiny colourful coats, they were birds themselves. There was not much thought put into it, they were just playing, discovering.
Alma felt she had found a new universe, the universe where those characters really belonged to. However, that universe didn’t stick in the pictures; it began and ended in between that time space.
Photography is something new for Alma, something she wouldn’t have thought of if it weren’t for being at TryAngle’s lab. She did it as an experiment, but photography it’s not far from being an opposite of dance, because there’s no life in it. Dance it’s her home. Dance is movement, is life and Alma needs life to get an object in its whole.
Now, she wants to find it again, that universe; to look for it in that same space, with the photos from their previous visit on the hands of their audience as a way to create layers of time, layers of perception. It will still be a photo shooting, but a live one, as a performance, as people will be invited to see this universe, to feel part of it, of this “Stork Feast”, as she’s going to call it.
Alma is starting to find what she loves about her project: this fantasy, this weirdness. That was the actual starting point, that’s what was special about that image she saw while driving through Alentejo’s landscape and that’s what’s enchanted her in Alwynne’s pictures and in that short timed universe. Still, even in this stage of the project, Alma won’t label it. Is it surrealism we’re talking about? Well, maybe it is a little surreal, it is beyond real, “but there is so much unreal about the reality”.