El Camino Abierto


El Camino Abierto is a extension of Anouk Kruithof’s former project: Lang Zal Ze Leven / Happy Birthday To You (2011)

El Camino Abierto is a social collaborative project with thirteen children aged 10 and 11 from the primary school in the village Cacalote, state of Oaxaca, Mexico, developed as part of the artist in residence at Fundacion Casa Wabi from February 21 to March 27, 2018.

The project twists and questions the meaning of piñata making, and aims to teach the children about the fluidity of sculpture making, collaborative practice, self esteem and freedom, and that art making is a process involving a lot of work and fun.

Piñata making has a long history in Mexico. Initially a piñata was a plain clay container decorated with colorful feathers. When the pot was broken with a stick or club, the treasures inside would fall to the feet of the idol (a God) as an offering. Now the clay pot has been replaced with a papier-mâché  container decorated with colored paper and ribbons and filled with small toys and/or candy, and then broken as part of a ceremony or celebration, typically a birthday.

Popular piñata shapes today include Batman, SpongeBob and Trump, and for Christmas the traditional pointed star associated with the Star of Bethlehem. For the most part, piñata designs are completely commercialized.

Therefor working on personalized piñatas is relevant. The children designed their own piñatas in relation to found object collections from nature, picked up during walks in and around Casa Wabi, mixed with personal collections of meaningful objects or photos brought from their homes.

Over the course of five sessions every child created their own piñata, all of which were then combined on a metal bow into a massive oceanfront collective sculpture: El Camino Abierto. After the opening ceremony the children took their piñatas home to decorate and/or fill with their natural and personal collections, and will break their piñatas on their next birthday.

At the first session we discussed the piñata phenomena and then walked and ran on the beach in order to collect things we discovered that had interesting shapes, textures or colors. We studied large rocks and saw how the seawater has naturally shaped them. We made pictures to document fascinating things which were too large to collect. 

The second session we walked around Casa Wabi and it’s massive garden grounds and continued collecting things which they found attractive. After this the kids shared their personal collections and explained their selections, what they like in their particular objects, and why it's important to them. 
By doing this, they give a personal meaning to their piñata. Then they made drawings of their favorite shapes as a reference for their piñata. The idea was to make a piñata in a shape representing their imagination and desire.

At the third session, they began construction of their piñatas by forming chicken wire into the shapes they designed, and placed the some layers of old newspapers on their sculptures. After this session we went together to their school and the children showed me their classroom.

The fourth session was used to place their chosen color on their piñatas and finalize them. They also created colorful plastic versions of “Papel Picado”, a decorative craft typically made out of paper cut into elaborate designs, either by punching multiple sheets, or folding individual sheets and cutting with scissor as we did.  On other days I created natural papel picado out of banana leaves.

Prior to the the fifth and final session, the collective sculpture, El Camino Abierto, was installed at the beach. Our opening day ceremony started with a walk passed the triangle pool, where instead of hanging my papel picado in the air, I had made an aquatic temporary installation “Hojos de Platano aka Papel Picado” so the children could observe the shadows the sun created on the pool floor. I also had installed the children's' colourful plastic “papel picado” in the rectangle pool as a border to divide the shallow and deeper parts. We opened the sculpture with speeches and cutting a red Papel Picado ribbon. We could look through the bow and see the horizon, which is symbolic of an open road and to be fearless in doing whatever one wants. Then we had kid cocktails and cheers. 

El Camino Abierto, collective sculpture out of 13 piñatas

The children with their personal and natural collections. After the de-montage of the collective sculpture, these collections form the filling for their piñatas, which can be used on their birthdays in the future.

Later on there was delicious food prepared by the children's parents, and a pool party. The ceremony ended in the pulling down of the bow so the children could take their piñatas home with them.

Documentation (photo / video) mostly done by: Gustavo Parra Alvarado