Laila Saber Rodriguez and Andrea Galano Toro on the research-driven practice and raw, visual language of their collective Cruda

“We decided to call us a collective rather than a studio, because of the importance of collectively sharing knowledge”, Laila Saber Rodriguez and Andrea Galano Toro tell C24. Together, they form the research duo Cruda, rooted in art, design and critical social theory. “In an etymological sense, the word ‘collective’ means ‘to gather together’, from latin ‘collaborare’. It is that notion of togetherness and collaboration that we strive for; not only as in working with more people and in more fields, but also in the way we tell stories and the ways we engage with society and culture. We appreciate the collaborative aspect as this also emphasizes the active position we take as being ‘response-able’.” In their research-driven practice, Laila and Andrea balance mysticism and multiplicity with beautiful, raw aesthetics.

The collective was named after the Spanish adjective which translates as “raw”, referring to how the two artists describe their visual language and work approach. “How we see raw-ness is something that is unprocessed, on the verge of being cooked, a process of fermentation, a state that is crunchy to taste – on the threshold of becoming and re-generating”, Laila and Andrea explain. “Cruda can also be interpreted as being broken down, being digested, or re-digested – this is our way of embracing the multiple and potential pieces within narratives, considering them all as raw forms. We also particularly like that Cruda is ambiguous in terms of ‘what exactly can be described as raw?’: Is it food? Is it an animal? An idea? The truth? Me? Our bodily experiences? Our thoughts?”

As both of them enjoy the process of learning, research plays a significant role within the majority of their artistic endeavors, taking the form of archives, films, photographs and prints. “We approach research as an intuitive cooking process, or (re)generating process”, the duo states, “We see Cruda as a point of intersection between our experiences, but as well as a womb where moments and ideas emerge. Together we form a very rich and layered understanding of geography, earth, borders, language and ultimately about how we connect with such spaces. We are both so dedicated to this and excited to see what comes in the future for Cruda.”

The work of Cruda is often deeply inspired by nature and its intertwinement with art and design, touching upon different fields like biology, archeology, geography and history. “We really believe in the inherent intertwinement of things and are fascinated by such (dis)connections which weave all of our research projects together. We are often quite drawn to the language that natural elements possess, such as bodies of water, sand, mountains, deserts and so on. We are interested in telling stories, or histories from other perspectives beyond just human ones”, Laila and Andrea state, “That interest in other-worldly forms of narrative and testimony is our way of rearranging the way history is traditionally told, which we think often has an emphasis on the human experience. We like to speculate and ask what if we were to tell history through the scars found on concrete, or the lines of eroded sand in a desert. What changes?” In the first year of Cruda’s existence, the duo aligned their work and research with the cycle of Earth, by focusing on subjects that are related to the motion of our globe in some way.

One of their up-coming projects, consisting of an experimental film, a publication and a series of written texts, explores how history is preserved, erased or recorded in the desert. In this context, the duo drew on methods from archaeology and historical research. “This project started taking us into the terrain of time, magic, artifacts, distance and memory. As Andrea will be in Berlin for an internship in the next few months, we are curious how this geographical distance between us will affect our exchange.”

Before coming together as a collective, Laila and Andrea met during their studies and found they had similar views on the concepts of distance, borders and the notion of home. “At that time, which was in 2019, we were both writing our theses, on different topics but both influenced by revolution”, the duo explains, “A lot of our conversations were sparked due to an interest in how revolutionary narratives can contribute to the uncovering of connected structures and manifestations of power.” It’s been the writing of their theses which actually laid the foundation for Cruda later on. “We had many conversations about wanting to collaborate, research and create work together.” Their first project together was about the notion of voice and what being present vocally means, consisting of two audio pieces that were part presented at JaJaJaNeeNeeNee in Amsterdam and at the ArtEZ studium generale in Arnhem. After a year of collaborating, in 2020, the duo founded their collective under the name of Cruda. 

Both coming from different educational backgrounds, Laila and Andrea bring different skills to the table which allows them to learn from each other with every project. “Apart from her studies at the department for Experiment, Art and Research in Arnhem, Laila’s interdisciplinary practice ranges from writing stories and scripts, to filming and constructing installations. In her work, she constantly questions the concept of movement, geographically and physically, as well as psychologically in form of memories or narratives.

While her practice is also very research-driven, Andrea studied Graphic Design in Arnhem and is currently starting an internship in Berlin. Being born in Spain and raised in Chile, her childhood has definitely influenced her understanding of locality and home, a reoccurring theme in her work. During her studies, he started experimenting with different printing techniques, such as riso printing. Her projects range from narrative films to publications and books, combining her experience in graphic design with her research oriented practice.

With a creative process that is never the same, Laila and Andrea are always open to collaborate with other artists and designers, as well as with partners from different fields such as history, geography, linguistics, and archaeology. “Collaboration is a beautiful thing. It allows us to question our own ideas and perceptions, so it always leaves room for sharing, discussion, questioning, shifting, and breaking structures”, the two artists state, “We form a safe space between us which can motivate us to step out of our comfort zone, by taking initiative to work in different fields or speak to different people in different parts of the world. Together we have a bigger range, an extended reach.”

With several projects in the pipeline and their first exhibition being planned, the duo shares a lot of hopes and dreams for the future of Cruda and aims at building up an international reach. “Both of us are so driven and ambitious! Firstly, we’d like to establish a studio space where we can produce work, host events, workshops, and curate exhibitions”, Laila and Andrea tell us, “Overall, Cruda aims to span multiple disciplines, from journals and publications, to the curation of exhibitions. For us, Cruda is driven by the vision to transform the ways we tell stories, understand history and engage with our surroundings, and we certainly hope this is brought to the attention of our audience and future collaborators.”

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