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Take a 'Friend' to the exhibition: Interview with Leia Walz

For Jana Euler's exhibition at WIELS, our Audience Development Coordinator, Laure Goemans, enlisted the help of freelance collaborator Leia Walz to create 'Friends' for our youngest visitors to take along throughout their visit. These companions offer a playful way to explore and discover the exhibition. We asked Leia more about her fluffy exhibition companions.

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Raquel Echevarría

Tell us more about the Friends you created for Jana Euler’s exhibition.

I designed three companions for children visiting Jana Euler's exhibition Oilopa. Those tiny Friends are based on characters that appear in her show at WIELS. I created the More-Corn, a Paintbrush and a Spray Can. Delving into the characteristics of these Friends, I wanted to translate their individual traits into tangible, three-dimensional textile objects.

In my design practice I want to create tactile experiences by combining unexpected materials, colours and textures. I find it exciting to transform the painted characters into huggable companions. Each Friend was carefully crafted to offer a distinct tactile sensation and is an invitation to interact and engage with the exhibition.

From initial sketches to sourcing fabrics, every step of the creation process influenced the way I continued. It was important to me to give each Friend their individual characteristics and to reinforce the sensory impressions with certain details. For instance, More-Corn's flowing tail and mane captured the essence of movement in the wind from Jana Euler's painting, while Paintbrush's wire structure allows limbs and the whole body to be moved flexibly. Just like the brushes bend within the frame of her works.
Spray Can, like all other Friends, is filled tightly with cotton wool, giving it that satisfying squish of a real spray can. It mimics a spray can but has huge arms and hands, supporting it to stand on its own.

Wiels Jana Euler low 5
Raquel Echevarría

What is the educational approach behind the Friends according to you?

I believe it can be nice for children to carry and hold a character in their hands or arms that interacts with the exhibition. I like the idea that the dimensions of this very space can shift when holding and touching something. This allows for a somewhat intimate experience emerging from familiar spaces and thus, making the unknown space approachable. These Friends can accompany the children during their visit of the exhibition and foster a sense of connection and trust within the space. To recognize the Friends and elements of them in the works can create a playful engagement with the figurative paintings and form beautiful moments of interaction.

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Raquel Echevarría

What else are you doing for WIELS?

Between October 2023 and March 2024, I assisted the coordinator of the WIELS Residency Programme. Working there I also started working with the Audience Engagement team. I was asked to create interactive and playful objects for children, to discover the exhibition by Oscar Murillo and, more recently, Alexis Blake.

For Alexis Blake's exhibition Crack Nerve Boogie Swerve: the archive, I drew inspiration from a cherished childhood memory of listening to the ocean by pressing a seashell against my ear. Combining this memory with the concept of body imprints on glass in Alexis Blake's exhibition, I designed ear and mouth shapes from plexiglass. This recreates the immersive experience of listening to the inner ear's muffled sounds and feeling the room's vibrations that resonate through the material. Referring to the vibrations caused by low frequencies within the exhibition. Additionally, I produced a book made of plexiglass in a square format. It shows the overlapping of diverse crack patterns, caused by different exterior impulses. I guess that creating tactile pieces, especially ones that reference things that are meant to be observed rather than touched, can captivate not only children but individuals of all ages.

Jana Euler’s Friends are available for children for free during the exhibition (until 29 September 2024)
Ask your Friend at the reception desk

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