Zion Collective & Grief Series: A Timeline of the Collaboration
We met Zion Collective – headed up by Marco – in 2017, and the Ofrenda we have mounted as part of Transform is the result of 2 weeks of making and 4 years of collaboration, tears, laughter, Mezcal, jetlag, google translate and emojis. Zion are a collective of paper sculptors who work all year round with communities and every year present an Ofrenda installation for the annual Day of the Dead celebrations; from 40 foot Aztec gods to tiny sculptures of lost relatives you can hold in your hand.
Grief Series is a collective of artists from different disciplines; designers, photographers, performers who work with communities all year round to talk about grief and loss. From a funfair about anger called The Unfair to an illustrated ‘plan your own funeral’ kit. Our work is radically different in appearance from Zions, but maybe not in intention.
People from Yorkshire and Mexico coming together to share memories and invent new traditions. Something that is more than the sum of its parts and has its own personality. This project is creating an art baby of the two cultures. You can see its parent cities in its features, but it has its own distinct identity.
Zion are well acquainted with my love of a good print, a bold ceramic design and my obsession with William Morris. This year we’ve been working on a pattern language that combines Mexican influences from Talavera Poblana ceramic designs with shapes borrowed from buildings in Leeds including Leeds Market and the tiled hall cafe. Incorporated into this design is the central symbol of two Knights or warriors, one wearing the Leeds Owl and the other wearing the Eagle which is associated with strength and friendship and you can see the Aztec symbol for speech passing between them to represent our collaboration with each other and now with you.
Artistic Director, The Grief Series
Marco establishes Zion Collective at the Faro De Oriente, Mexico City:
“We are Mexican artists, sculptors by conviction and we declare: Traditional Mexican paper mache art is our foundation, we recycle paper to materialise dreams.”
Ellie starts The Grief Series. She has no idea how long it will take or where it will lead:
“The Grief Series is a quiet rebellion. It is a polite intervention. It aims to create a space where notions of bereavement or grief can be discussed openly. It might at times be confusing. It might be funny or sad or frustrating. It will be bold and it is a call to arms… in the politest way possible.”
“Team Grief” travel to Mexico City.
We visit lots of different places, artists and organisations. The Grief Series meet Zion Collective. The Grief Series speak no Spanish (apart from Anni), and Zion Collective speak no English.
A dialogue of smiles and gifts.
Vlady Diaz visits Leeds armed with the amazing gift of a ‘mobile ofrenda kit’ from Zion. Vlady, Ellie and Anni present keynote at our international conference: ‘The Senses and Spaces of Death and Dying’.
Bethany visits Mexico to work with Zion Collective.
Zion grow tired of Ellie worrying about cultural appropriation.
They create the gift of a certificate.
Zion Collective visit Leeds. We test how their materials react to a cooler Yorkshire climate and how communities and artists with no shared spoken language communicate. Marco and Vlady return to speak with Ellie at Arts Council England’s Wild Conference organised by Slung Low.
Zion’s workshop is now a vaccination centre. Ellie is responding to bereaved people in the UK. We build an Ofrenda in Leeds and send each other love on whatsapp.
We collaborate remotely and create this Ofrenda.
Zion Art Studios Collective include: Marco Medina, Magnolia Gonzalez Garcia, Jonathan Perez Ramirez, Christian Cruz Hernandez, Alejandro Pacheco. With Vlady Diaz and Laura Pirez.
“Team Grief” include: Ellie Harrison, Bethany Wells, Dr Anni Raw, Jess Sweet. With Team CLAY (formerly LAB).
The Ofrenda was created by:
Ellie Harrison – Artistic Director
Bethany Wells – Designer
Kate Cox – Associate Producer
Steve Watling – Production Manager
Elle Money + Ellie Stephenson – Design Assistants
For The Grief Series:
Ellie Harrison – Artistic Director Rosie Clark – Producer
Victoria Firth – Company Manager
Amy Letman – Creative Director
Ali Ford – Producer
Jay Millard – Assistant Producer
With special thanks to CLAY for hosting The Ofrenda.