Allegra Pacheco is a Costa Rican multidisciplinary artist best known for her 2021 documentary film about white-collar workers in Japan, Salaryman, which won Best Documentary and Best Composer (James Iha) at the Los Angeles Documentary Film Festival the same year. A Renaissance woman who works across cultures and media to tell stories through film, immersive installations, sculptures, paintings, and more, she is equally at home in her art studio in Escazu, Costa Rica — where she is currently preparing work for Compound YV's Spring 2023 show, Imaginary Landscapes (title and concept courtesy of Allegra).
The work she describes in this episode is:
Tadao Ando (Japanese, 1941-) and James Turrell (American, 1943-)
The Art House Project: Minamidera
Welcome to Art Personals, a podcast made by Compound Yucca Valley, an art and event space in California’s high desert. Here, we ask some of our favorite artists to describe another artist’s work as best they can, with only their words and sounds. The one parameter is that the object they choose must be one they have seen in person at some point in their lives (whether that's an ancient artwork in the Metropolitan Museum of Art or a friend's painting in a garage).
Lara: Today we’ll hear from Allegra Pacheco, a Renaissance woman who works across cultures and media to tell stories through film, immersive installations, three-dimensional sculptures, paintings, and more. Her 2021 film, Salaryman, won Best Documentary and Best Composer (shoutout James Iha) at the Los Angeles Documentary Film Festival the same year. She is equally at home in her art studio, and we’re lucky that she’s currently there creating some pieces for our Spring 2023 show, Imaginary Landscapes — title courtesy of Allegra. Along this theme, Allegra is interested in how both the creation and the experience of art can offer a place of mental refuge, a return to childlike play, a nod to natural landscapes. Speaking as both a filmmaker and a visual artist, she says, “We are born in nature. We are always creating worlds from our imagination.”
Allegra has spent time in the high desert, where she and I met for the first time, but she resides in Costa Rica.
Allegra: “I'm recording this from my home in the Central Valley in the mountains of Escazu. Escazu is the, a bastardization of an indigenous name. Uh, for the word Itzcazu, which means, uh, Town of Witches.”
Lara: And now we’ll travel with Allegra to Japan to hear about the work of art she’ll be describing, the Art House Project Minamidera in Naoshima designed by Tadao Ando to accommodate experiments in light by the artist James Turell.
Allegra: My name is Allegra Pacheco, I’m an artist, filmmaker, sculptor, painter from Costa Rica. The artwork that I'd like to discuss is, uh, house or a building, uh, in the island of Naoshima in Japan, and it's called Minamidera. It's a collaboration between Tadao Ando, a really amazing architect that I love, who is also a former boxer, uh, and James Turell. I went to Naoshima on purpose without asking anything about the artworks that were there. I wanted to be as surprised as possible. So when I entered Minamidera, I had no idea what to expect.
I knew nothing about it. So, this was actually kind of the perfect experience. I was queuing to enter this space. The place was like a big rectangle, a big black rectangle of a house or a building. Um, it was built in kind of a traditional style as most of the little houses are in, in Naoshima. And um, all I knew was they made us queue and gave us a set of instructions.
Uh, the instructions were walk slowly and keep your hand and your arm just like touching the wall. Uh, they said, you know, it's gonna get a little bit dark and the, the floor is gonna slope a little bit downwards. Just walk very slowly and keep your hand on the wall. And when we say stop, stop. And that's what we did.
We entered this room; the whole building was a giant room. And exactly what was described is what happened. We started walking very, very slowly. At first the darkness was overwhelming, like you're just walking towards a essentially downward slope without knowing what you're gonna face. So we walked down. In this, in this very slight downward slope touching the wall and the darkness around us slowly started opening up. Basically, uh, our pupils started to adjust to the lack of light, and we started noticing a lot of little nuances that were at first not apparent.
What we saw was, at least to me super impactful. Essentially in this rectangle of a building, you see this, I don't know, maybe like one degree off of one degree lighter than the darkness. This giant rectangle of light. Basically you walk towards the end of the building, which, um, it, like the wall hits you kind of around the stomach, I suppose, and then this, the lack of light all around meeting this slight increase of light in the end of the building, just feels like you are walking into an abyss. It almost felt like, you know, when people describe a, a near death experience, that they walk to the light at the end of the tunnel. It was really ethereal, really beautiful to be in a place where your senses are deprived and then noticing the senses that get amplified.
It was super transformational. Beautiful. I would say that's one of my favorite experiences in art and if any of you have the possibility to make it to Japan, I would absolutely recommend going to Naoshima and visiting Minamidera.
Lara: Thanks for listening to Art Personals, a podcast produced by Compound Yucca Valley. You have been listening to Allegra Pacheco discuss her encounter with Tadao Ando and James Turrell’s Art House Project, Minamidera. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please consider supporting this artist who will be featured in our Spring show, Imaginary Landscapes, at Compound opening April 8, 2023.
You can learn more about Compound YV and stay tuned for future episodes over at our website, compoundyv.com, and our Instagram @compoundyv.
Art Personals is produced by me, Lara Wilson, Caroline Partamian, and Michael Townsend in collaboration with our artists.
This episode was mixed and edited by our gallery associate, Emiliano Vazquez.
Original music by Ethan Primason.
We curate artwork for our virtual and physical spaces. If you are an artist interested in working with us, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.