People of the Mud is a powerful new series by Berlin-based US artist Luis Alberto Rodriguez, made collaboratively amongst the communities of County Wexford in Ireland, where ancient tradition and modern life co-exist.
Through conversations with locals, Luis focused on three aspects of Irish tradition: hurling, Irish dancing, and farming. Watching footage of hurling in slow motion, the artist saw that in a matter of seconds the players go through a series of motifs: tackling, pushing, shoving, grabbing, hugging, knocking each other down and then lifting one another up through collective effort. They function as a unit, as a family. He decided to use the physicality of Hurling as the backbone of the series to highlight relationships of trust and intimacy. Expanding the ideas of this work, Luis then turned to Irish dancing, pairing individuals with various textiles or found materials to create voluminous bodies, employing the traditional costumes in Irish dancing to propose a new national totem.
In Rathnure, Luis was inspired to learn the inhabitants he came across were descendants of people who had lived on the same land for generations; working that land and building foundations for future generations to thrive. Using common farming tools as well as domestic items, he honed in on how the body is not separate from the necessities needed to create sustainable living conditions. The body and tools – seen as one machine, not independent from each other, but rather forming an alliance; a unit for survival.
Wexford, founded by the Vikings, was originally named Veisafjǫrðr, meaning “inlet of the mud flats”. Luis’ project title The People of the Mud is therefore a nod to heritage and continuance. The work is a geographical study of both land and body. Identifying points on a map as well as melding bodies; an opportunity to talk about roots, history, heritage, land and the tools used to subdue it.
The People of the Mud was created while on a residency in Cow House Studios, Wexford, Ireland. Luis spent almost two months working on the topic of Cultural Heritage, as part of a residency hosted by PhotoIreland Festival, and co-funded by the EU Photographic Platform FUTURES, of which PhotoIreland Festival is the Irish partner. The project has also been published in the form of a bespoke book by Loose Joints, available here.
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