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The Surrealism of Belonging.

By Danié Gómez-Ortigoza

July 13, 2020

There is something very special about having surreal real friends; they have the capacity to pull you into their surreal worlds.

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Meet Nina Surel, a Miami-based Argentinian artist who owns a gallery known as the collective 62. She introduced me to ‘Women Who run with the Wolves,’ and if you know that book and you’ve read it, I’m sure you remember who lead you in that direction.

For me spending time at her studio reminds me of my childhood. My mother is a painter and I know having a space like that would have been her dream. In better words, having had the strength and will to peruse building a space like that, letting go of expectations, would have perhaps been her dream.

You see, it takes an awful lot of courage to know when your dreams are leading you on the right direction, specially when your loved ones are at stake.

But going back to Nina’s story this place is a sanctuary: she has the capacity to turn anything into art. My eyes can’t stand still when I’m there. Imagine a wall filled with buttons, ceramics, rocks, paint, antiques, books and every material you could ever dream of.

To celebrate her birthday and the expansion of the space, she put together a group of more than 30 women. I initially knew about seven of them. We all arrived at 10 AM, braided each other’s hair, and dressed in a beautiful vintage gown. We were all wearing exactly the same thing.

As much as I love fashion and the power of expression it gives us, I love how wearing the same thing eliminates a lot of distraction. It makes it easier to pay attention to those things that are not perceivable with your eyes. After having mate, (most of them were Argentinean) we went to the soon-to-be gallery space.

The space we were in, used to be some kind of church, so it has a special energy attached to it. It all started with a very simple circle of women holding hands. Fragments of it were being filmed, so I took a water break.

By the time I came back, the space had fully morphed: there was loud music, and three big squares of clay, that I had noticed Nina had been watering ever since we arrived, had become the focal space.

It was almost impossible to recognize anyone: they were all covered in clay. It was a bit like ‘Sleep no more’, where the public becomes invisible by wearing a white mask, but clay had the opposite effect: it made everything we never see in each other visible.

I timidly kneeled in the circle and started playing with clay as well. I didn’t want to get my pretty dress dirty, so I took it off, (we had been asked to bring a nude cover underneath our clothes), only to see someone swipe the floor with it a bit later, and started familiarizing myself with the material.

I missed the instructions, if there were any, but as soon as all the women, (most of them I had never even spoken to), began to cover my arms in clay, I gave into the ripple effect and did the same. It’s hard to explain what happened in between. It turned into an alternate universe of healing. A sisterhood where everyone had each other’s back.

I guess that’s what happens in events such as Burning Man, although there were absolutely no drugs or alcohol involved in this experience.

I still don’t know what made it so life changing. Perhaps it’s simply because we broke every etiquette rule we had ever been taught: there was no such thing as personal space, we stared at each other, we touched each other, and then we danced as if no one was watching, because actually no one was. The video I posted was taken once it was over.

It felt good.

We pretend to be so civilized all the time, and yet having the space to let go allowing our instinct to rule, instead of our rational is an experience I would recommend to everyone.

In the end, that’s who we really are: this kind of rituals were the norm among communities in the old days when we were less than we are today, knew our neighbors, and built thinner walls between us. That’s why tribes matter, and their specific set of values made a difference, and gave a sense of belonging to something greater.

But we forgot. We chose money and power above human connection. We wear our civilized masks all day guarding ourselves and fearing others, because that’s the norm in a world where walls keep getting thicker and bonds thinner.

But that feeling of letting go is something I will always hold on to.

The experience ended, and we helped each other get rid of the clay.

We were so different to the people we were when we arrived. Something changed: we trusted each other.

Back to our clothes, and back to our civilized ways, but the seed that this experience planted, will remain.

Happy birthday, Nina. May you continue to create, and share your universe with the rest of the world.

I hope this window into her universe motivates you to create your own, and share it with others that are in the same vibration. Maybe we can even change the world a little remembering what our ancestors tried to teach us before we stopped listening.

And if you haven’t read Women Who Run With the Wolves, perhaps your time has come.

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