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Anna Dot, Vic 1991
“Oli que vol dir llum” 2022
14 oil lamps and performance in the small dry-stone house.


Oil, which means light is an intuition that comes true, a question that becomes light through oil. Anna Dot’s work starts from a question driven by a premonition, a suspicion that materializes from a performance throughout a day and some oil lamps created for the occasion. The land of the olive trees of CalCego has been the place chosen to culminate the ritual festival around the vital origin of the oil to reveal its relationship with light.
The olive tree is the sacred tree for many cultures, if we think about some interpretations that have been given to it, we will see that it is not uncommon for it to be a tree linked to deific light and
illumination; in Athens some olive trees were considered sacred, such as the Olive Tree of Athena next to the Erechtheion, and its desecration was punishable by death. In fact, the etymology gives us a clue to the important link between oil and light, almost synonymous! The olive comes from the Greek élaion, from which it will derive in Latin in olive, the tree olea, and its juice oleum. But we must move to other territories and to a period prior to the Greco-Roman era: in Anatolia and Mesopotamia, where the olive tree is said to be originated, where the most relevant quality associated with the oil was its quality to illuminate. Thus, the etymology tells us: the semitic root zt or zai was used simultaneously to define the olive oil and the lighting. In this way, “oil” would correspond in its first meaning and semantic formulation to light.
Lucernae is what the small oil lamps are called, usually made of terracotta (like the ones Anna Dot presents us), which illuminated both the humblest houses of the Greco-Roman culture and the noblest. Lucerna takes its name from the same Greek word lychnon for light. Isidore of Seville picks up this idea when he refers to the lycinia olive, which in the saint’s opinion is called like this because its oil gives off the best light. Lychnís is the Greek word to also designate a lamp. In this way “lucerna” will become a metonym for light. Thus, a closed and self-referential game of words is established between “lucerna”, “light” and “oil” that has given place to the title of this piece. Oil, which means light, intuitively plays with the relationships between these words in this performative journey that takes us back to the origins and principles of oil and light through all the senses. The action begins from the taste, from the first sensations of the palate, with a celebration for the taste buds to capture all the nuances of this vital food. Thus, we are invited to an oil tasting guided by Martí Tarrés, an expert in the oil ceremony and who reveals some of its secrets to us. Next, they surprise us with a menu, or rather a feast, made with foods that synthesize the artist’s previous encounters with Josep and Roser, promoters of CalCego and a good friend of theirs, Ismael: Fried eggs with olives, also fried (A dish favored by Ismael), bread with chocolate and oil (inspired by the typical desserts of El Gravat restaurant, in Vic) and bread with lemon, sugar and oil (Josep’s favorite dessert). As this oil festival progresses, some lamps appear on the tables, but they do not light up. These lamps made of fired clay have drawn a series of images linked to the action and the festival of oil, from an olive tree to a fire, or a toast with oil and chocolate. Likewise, each plate has a drawing with a number that they ask us to save for later.
While our body absorbs all the ingested oil with delight, we walk along the Clotes path, towards the olive groves of Roser and Josep, who will guide us. Anna warns us to be careful on these paths, there are hunters who could mistake us for partridges! We reach the center of the field of olive trees and count them: someone counts 136, another 178… and an olive tree, alone, in the background. We organize ourselves into 4 groups, following the numbers that have the drawings that each one has taken from the table, and each group will bring a bottle with an oil of different origin: Group 1 will bring the oil that is from here, from this land, that gives the arbequina olives; group 2, the oil that comes from Albinyana; group 3, Empordà oil; and group 4, oil from Cáceres. Each group walks a small distance towards the direction of the origin of each oil with its corresponding bottle and once we reach the end of the field, we will look through the shiny bottle, “to see if the origin can be seen”, says Anna. The potential light has awakened, the original use of each oil, prepared to illuminate, and we return to the center of the olive trees to fill the lamps and head towards the piece hut, where the action and the day ends.
Coupage is the mixture of oil from different types of olives: arbequina, menya, arbudell and picual. We pour all the oils from different origins into the same oil can and fill the lamps, ready to be lit. We ended up at the dry-stone hut, a construction that stores utensils and is a refuge. Now it will also be like a sanctuary illuminated by the light of the lamps; as at the end of a ritual or a party, the light that remains will illuminate the dark night. The sky is walking with us in the withdrawal and the more it goes out, the more our lamps illuminate. This is how we end the day, the festival of oil that has not only illuminated us on the outside but also on the inside, turning us into oil and light.

Margot Cuevas Orteu


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