Harnessing the power of creative participation, Portals of the Oasis will once again welcome guests to Todos Santos, Mexico this February. The annual art event centers on a developing cross-disciplinary community and emphasizes expression in the inspiring landscape of Baja California. The multi-day event series—created by Julia Chaplin, founder of the Todos Santos-based art center Proyecto Dracula, along with creative director and curator Martine Bury—encompasses installations, tours, improvisation and a culinary component helmed by Mexican chef and restaurateur Ernesto Kut of Casa Melima.
“Portals of the Oasis is meant as an alternative to the static nature of art fairs and commerce-based presentations of art,” Chaplin explains to COOL HUNTING. “I feel like I’ve gone to so many art fairs over the years and often experience art in this very passive way. Just looking at work on walls, going from booth to booth—which has its place of course. The point of our happening is to luxuriate in the feeling of creativity, literally. All of our installations and performances are designed to be interactive and immersive. The audience’s physical and emotional participation is part of the creation.”
Todos Santos itself has acted as inspiration for Portals. “Until recently this part of Southern Baja, apart from Los Cabos, was a hidden gem, a secret. It had historically been a magnet for artists, free spirits, adventure sports lovers and those seeking an off-the-grid existence,” Bury says. Both Bury and Chaplin, whose family has had a home dubbed Castillo de Dracula for 30 years, have spent substantial time in Todos Santos. Bury notes that both were inspired by “the quirky, innovative creative communities, including the scene in San Jose del Cabo, which has been incubating cool emerging art for a while.”
“Living and making in this region has its share of challenges, including scarcity and fragility of resources,” she continues. “It requires out-of-the-box thinking and random acts of beauty. There was a vacuum when it came to bringing the various communities together. We wanted to create a container for collaboration, ideas, experimentation and play that doesn’t adhere to the rules, rituals and protocols of the institutional art world.”
Bury and Chaplin provided a one-sentence brief to their collaborators, inviting them to create a “portal.” The resulting artworks cascade from soundscapes to avant-garde cuisine. “Ernesto’s gastronomic philosophy aims to define the cuisine of the Baja Oasis by rediscovering the lost knowledge of the First Nations of Baja—Pericues and Guaycuras—and sampling local ingredients from the desert, the sea and products established in the Oasis through centuries of exchange from Southeast Asia and beyond,” Chaplin explains. This will manifest as a five-course meal and more.
“There’s magic, mystery; natural wonders hidden and in plain sight. We are keen on having different entry points to culture, community, past, present and future—as well as imaginative explorations of consciousness and narrative at the intersection of art, ritual, technology and ecology—in a place where nature is so raw and inspiring,” Bury concludes. Altogether, it’s a convergence of local talent and international tastemakers, where stargazing occurs alongside choreography, DJ sets and an artist-developed sport.
Images courtesy of Proyecto Dracula