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Daniel Mocci - AIR on the Edge residency in The Netherlands

Updated: Mar 1

Ireland based artist Daniel Mocci is artist in residence at Arcadia in Fryslan, The Netherlands in February 2024.


AIR on the Edge is a one-month international artist residency exchange between Denmark, Finland, Ireland, The Netherlands and Serbia. It focuses on artists professional development, creating opportunities for artists to engage with rural communities and is rooted in rural places and cities on the edges of Europe.


Daniel shared some first impressions of the residency so far:


From the Edge looking in, a Log of Sorts.


Tuesday, February 6th.


First week of the AIR on the Edge residency in this land of generous people and stubborn trees. I was welcomed in the MeM Paviljoen in Buitenpost, an art bunker hidden in the forest in which Atsje Lettinga and Sander Stienstra make, play, and live art. The Paviljoen’s structure itself was conceived in 2018, when Leeuwarden was awarded European Capital of Culture by the UNESCO, and since then, has been used and abused by choirs, painters, musicians, therapist, thinkers, and believers.


On Saturday night, after watching Atsje and Sander’s Choir perform, I went for a stroll on the streets of Leeuwarden. Not only did I want to see the capital of the region but on that specific Saturday night the LUNA Light Festival was taking place, as it does every year from mid-January to mid-February, to break the darkness of the Frisian winters’ nights.


The Leeuwarden I saw was tinted in bright colours, the stones of its buildings seemed to move under the display of flickering lights, the functional emptiness of office towers blocks walls turned into giant canvases. I jumped into these pools, forever thankful to Arcadia’s Anstje van der Zee (my caretaker and guide) for telling me about Luna.


On Sunday morning I had my first meeting with a local artist Gepke Hoekstra, a figurative painter, veteran of the acrylic, soldier of colour and light. I laid some of my drawings over the table, like cards on a poker game against my impostor syndrome. We discussed about the craft itself, her dislike of the colour grey and my difficulties achieving it with a dip pen on a black and white project.


As we walked among the ducks and ponds surrounding the Pavilion, Gepke told me about the Frisian identity, its relationship with the ice and the land, a flat land where no mountain or hill dares to challenge the horizon, and I thought about Ireland and the Reek, where no landscape is even, how different our countries are and yet with so much in common, like Gepke and I.

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Daniel is hosting workshops at Pavilion MeM throughout the month, which you can find details on here.




From the Edge looking in, a Log of Sorts.

 

Friday, February 16th.


The second week of my Residency in Friesland started with one lecture and two workshops. Under the cultural dome of the MeM Pavilion, I had the opportunity to meet groups of ten, twelve people from the region and talk about the ancient ritual of telling stories. The point of this workshops was not to go deep in the craft itself, but to share some tricks and mental exercises with a community with so much to say.


These encounters gave me a bigger picture of the people of this land, kind and polite, always straight to the point. We manage to jump the language barrier and stablish a true dialogue, a glimpse into each other’s way of life.


In between workshops I took the train to Leeuwarden, and walked the streets amazed. The clean skyline, the straight lines of its buildings. The pattern of bricks under my feet showing me the way. I thought about this clarity of style, present in every aspect of the Frisian life, and tried to apply it to my craft, a cleaner line, a direct sentence with no need of embellishments.


Finally, I had the pleasure to have lunch with the people of Arcadia and put faces on the names, then I went back to the streets of Leeuwarden, lost in the hard angles of its buildings, like wandering around a Tetris game.


One must use all senses in this place. My host Atsje Lettinga introduced me to the Brommels tart, a delicious treat, made with the berries of the region. Every August the Brommel Festival honours the berry and looks for the best recipe for this little piece of culture disguised as a treat.




From the Edge looking in, a Log of Sorts.

 

Friday, February 23rd.


My third week of Residency began over the calm waters of the canals surrounding Leeuwarden. I said goodbye to my wonderful host Atsje Lettinga and Sander Stienstra and moved to the heart of the city, into a lovely boat that the nice people or Arcadia found for me.


I began a routine once in the boat, writing in the morning and walking the city in the afternoon, everyday a different path. The Museum of Friesland demanded my whole Friday, its exhibitions informed me of a different slice of the culture of this province and its eleven cities. The paintings of Christoffel and Kate Bisschop took me back centuries, showing me the everyday life of the late 18th century Friesland. Their heavy stroke and use of light portraying young men on skates or women covered in the colours of their dresses. The museum is not looking only at the past. Other exhibitions, like the one showcasing the works of Kinke Kooi, so bright and dynamic, point clearly at the present and future of the creative soul of this people.


In the middle of my visit, I wondered how much I was absorbing the art around me. Since my first day the Frisian culture has overwhelmed my senses, but has it changed my approach to art? The question lingered as I walked back to the streets, seeing Bisschop’s characters in the people coming out of the train station under the steady rain. There was still time left to answer the question, and nothing more appropriate than to leave this entry on a cliff-hanger.




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