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Ricardo A Castillo: Life Is Only One Stage

Tove Langridge is an international art dealer, curator and painter who ownsTW Fine Art Gallery.

The expansion of Mexican culture through the profusion of restaurants and eateries emerging – and perhaps our increased love for tequila – sees Dia de los Muertos or Day Of The Dead attracting a greater audience. As a public holiday in Mexico, Day of the Dead is a festival praying for remembering friends and family who have passed to support their spiritual journey and includes building ofrendas – private altars – honouring the deceased through sugar skulls and marigolds while enjoying the favourite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting their graves with gifts.

The fascination with Day of the Dead expands to Brisbane with the Day Of The Dead Warehouse Project landing in Brisbane, Saturday November 7 as a unique sensorial event presenting the music, live art, extravagant costumes and debauchery of Dia de los Muertos. Ancient Mexican traditions come to life, recreating the abstract and eclectic cultural scenes. While the location and line-up of international and local DJs and musicians are still under wraps, the vision for the event is undeniably stunning. Curated by a team of artists who have been schooled and nurtured on Dia de los Muertos, extravagant costumes, live and interactive art installations, light projections, body art and murals with an authentic Mexican ofrendas installation will overload the senses as a unique conceptual festival. Inspired by gatherings like Burning Man, and Moscow’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Day of the Dead Warehouse Project will reimagine the ancient traditions of Mexico, elevating the conventional festival into a pragmatic and contemporary cultural experience – which we explored here. We sit down with Ricardo A Castillo and explore the artistic direction of this uniquely exciting event. 

After the Spanish invasion of Mexico, the date of Day Of The Dead changed. How did the costuming, art and iconography change? Did the traditional costume adapt to incorporate Roman Catholic iconography? 
Yes. Aztecs and Mayas used these symbols to represent the Mayan Death God and when the Spanish arrived, the tradition started changing and incorporating other rituals.

The Aztecs used masks in their religious ceremonies with participants assuming the identity of mythological figures. Is the use of makeup a modern take on the use of masks in the ceremony? 
It is the representation of the dead and ancestors and the beauty of the Other World. We believe that this life is only one stage and the death is the next chapter of life.

The fusion of kitsch decoration from Day Of The Dead with religious tradition is very interesting. How has kitsch been embraced in the 21st century interpretation of Day of the Dead Warehouse Project artwork?
We’ve tried to stay away from the kitsch and embrace a new era of modern and contemporary artists. This inspiration comes from traveling around different cities and towns celebrating The Day of the Dead in Mexico.

How important was traditional iconography when creating the artworks for the festival? 
The Day of the Dead tradition have 4,000 years of background, so it is very exciting doing all the research process. We start from Mayan ancestors and Aztecs and then the interpretation of contemporary street artists and photographers.

How many artists are involved in the event and where do they come from?
It’s hard to say. We have Visual Artists, Architects, Stylists, Performers, Street Artists, Bodyographers, DJs and Creative Directors all collaborating together to create a contemporary and cultural event. It is very exciting.

Where do the artists involved, come from? Are all the artists included of Mexican origin or are there artworks that have been created from a Western interpretation of the tradition?
I am from Mexico and my vision was to incorporate Mexican artists as well as international and Australian artists with their own interpretation of El Dia de los Muertos.

Would you say that this event is a further extension/evolution of the Day of the Dead, such as a post Roman Catholic reinterpretation of the traditional celebration? 
Yes. We want to acknowledge ancient traditions like Marigolds and Oaxaca Street Markets but also incorporate new artists and contemporary disciplines, creating a cultural and visual explosion that can grow in colour and creativity from all over the world. What better place than Australia as they have cultures from all over the planet.

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