Juan Zamora. The Spanish artist, talks to Formidable Mag about his project with Colombian indigenous people “Cuerpos de Agua”.


Formidable Magazine. What was your first creative drive?
Juan Zamora. Several “first impulses” come to mind; to draw my father legs as a slide, the floor of my room as lava or orange slices into words. I think playing is how we channel our creative drive, as if we had an innate capacity for alchemy until the educational system takes it from us. Being an artist allow us to keep this capacity.

F.M. Is there a defining moment that made you realize art was your thing?
J.Z. When I won my first art prize and inadvertently I began to make a living out of it. Since in the West art it is defined by your ability to produce, I am my own company.

F.M. How would you define your work?
J.Z. My job is that of a medium; I can pretend to be a biologist, anthropologist, astrophysicist or footballer, to research from multiple viewpoints the issues I care about.

F.M. Inspirational artists?
J.Z. Francis Alÿs, Fracisco de Goya, Patricio Guzman, Hiwa K, Mayana Redin, Lee Chang-dong, Su Yu-Hsien, Jamie Stewart, Douglas Gordon, Richard Long…

F.M. Would you say your studio setting influences your work?
J.Z. It affects the form of the artwork itself, but not its content; The ideas for a project come from my experiences and from people around me. It’s when these project take form that the studio influences the final artwork in terms of size and so on.

F.M. Is the studio just a place for production or also inspiration is inherent to the studio space?
J.Z. In my case creativity comes from through my daily experiences, my environment, really, my truth; What take place in the studio is shaping those experiences into artworks.

FM. How did the concept and founding for Cuerpos de Agua come along?
J.Z. The idea came from my deep interest in water and it key role to the origin of civilizations, which I have done on several projects. I really wanted to work around the myth of El Dorado from a pre-Columbian perspective, where what matters is not gold itself but water. Water was worshiped. The Spanish embassy financed my first trip. Then I went back several times, one of them a scholarship from Madrid local government.

F.M. How did you made contact with the Muisca community?
J.Z. I made contact through the Boyacá University I could get in touch with workers from the Muiscas Chibcha of Tunja and Bogota Muiscas councils. Together we collected small remnants of jewelry Muisca cemetery which lies beneath Tunja University campus. They told me stories in Muysccubun, their native tongue, abolished by king Carlos III; Their dances and beliefs, but also about local politics and so on.

F.M. What aspects of their cosmovision are present in your project?
J.Z. I was particularly interested in the relationship of water with the birth of their culture; how gold objects were used to worship the lagoons. The aim of the project is to revive these ancient relations through a series of drawings and installations. Also to highlight the ecological values of the Muisca as opposed to economic values of Western culture.

F.M. There are many claims of indigenous peoples of Colombia, is this something that you had in mind when conceptualizing the project?
J.Z. Sure, the value of water and the harmony of Muisca people with nature are the cornerstones of this project. The project brings up a series of eco-political issues from the poetic stand point art allows.

FM. Coming back to the studio. Did you have a plan for the studio layout, or did it grow organically?
J.Z. My studies are white spaces where my head can project at will. They are like a layer of my brain where the organic matter are my ideas. Even corners bother me. If up to me, my studio would be a white room designed by James Turrell.

F.M. Lastly. Our motto is “A life less ordinary”, what makes life less ordinary?
J.Z. I need to feel that my time is not in anyone’s hands. I think the big business today is done with the lifetime of each person. Spend my time on what creates makes it all worthwhile.