Transcending Reality with Tigre Bailando
The path from Wayfinder to the work our alumni do in their respective creative fields can often be an easy one to see. The connections between the work we do at camp and the work someone does writing, acting, or making art are all fairly clear. What is not always clear, but is incredibly important to remember, is that that path is not always an easy one to walk. Camp hopefully helps to prepare you for the difficulties you’ll find as you push forward, but just keeping in mind that you are worth it and have to keep pushing forward is something Tigre stressed heavily and wanted to make sure was in view with his story. He moved out to Oakland from Philadelphia six years ago. “I was teaching, and I was working as a barista, and I was in Philly kind of doing art, being creative but not really finding a flow and kind of stumbling through stuff. Then I moved out to California, and big part of moving was ‘I want to focus my life around making art, and I want to really do this and I don’t know how it’s going to go.’” After a number of years of struggle, having “different hustles” ranging from selling jewelry on the side of the street to working in cafés, Tigre has been able to find some success as a sculptor creating installations for festivals all over the world (enough success that he’s been able to leave behind the other hustles). “It was like this seems to be happening, and when I was doing other stuff it felt like I was wasting my time. When I was in the café washing dishes I was like ‘what am I doing, like I was just on the other side of the world making this huge art piece and seeing people respond to it really powerfully’, and eventually I was like ‘I’m just going to make art and live off that and see what happens and the first year was really tenuous and hard.’”
None of this is intended to frighten any aspiring artists or to lessen Tigre’s successes (like constructing one of the main stages for the Envision festival four times now!) but as previously stated, he wanted to make sure it was included in the image we presented of him. That he has gotten to a place through a mix of talent, hard work, and a willingness to give his life over to his craft. “We create stories, right? That’s what human beings do. We take the complicated messiness of the world, and we shape it into a story with whatever we want to talk about. We simplify it in however we are focusing in that moment. So it’s common to have this mythology that if you have a lot of talent and passion eventually you’ll just get it, and actually it’s really hard, it’s really scary, and it involves a lot of trust.” The work that Tigre has put in really shows through. He’s always been an incredibly talented artist. We were lucky enough to have him in our sets and props and costuming departments (and workshop; anyone who ever got to be in a workshop run by Tigre was in for a treat) and some of the things he created are still marveled at today. Maybe even looked at with a little bit of jealousy or envy, something natural when encountering talent in your own field. “For myself that’s something I really struggle with. I see somebody else, and they’re so successful and so talented, and I’m like ‘if I can’t get there that must be a flaw of my own.’ The system is so set up against us to succeed in any really soulful, meaningful way. It’s possible, but it’s hard, and I think it’s helpful to know that everybody goes through that stuff. It’s a long, treacherous adventure, you know?”
Currently Tigre is working on an installation for Burning Man called the Solacii. “Conceptually it’s somewhere between ghosts, like ancestral ghosts, aliens, and angels. They are the other, but there’s also this connection. They are of us, but they are not of us. For whatever reasons they have watched us, observed us, and are deeply empathetic to our condition so they feel all of it. The entire breadth of human experience is something they connect to.” The idea of this kind of other comes from Tigre’s personal mythology, having an approach to spirituality that he partially credits to the ability to explore the ideas of religion and mythology in adventure games. The installation will be a 21’ tall being “jutting out of a barren landscape.” The goals are twofold. First to give people a feeling of hope and perspective contained in the idea that there is something out there watching all of us and staying with us no matter how dark things get. Second to hold space for people to feel all of the insanity of the world. The being itself will contain a space which people can enter into and have a moment out of the desert. The project is currently being funded through a crowdfunding campaign on hatchfund, a link to which can be found below. The project requires donations that go past financial, if that’s not something people are currently able to provide. The being will be wrapped in a garment that Tigre is making out of donated clothing. “Everything is witness to our stories, the shirt that you wear, the spaces that contain us. The objects that surround us or we surround ourselves with, they carry those stories. So for me to have this garment made of all these garments of other humans is like carrying those stories. By the nature of it bearing witness it is a holder of all those stories, so it’s wrapping itself in that and welcoming you.” The information on where to send items of clothing can be found on the hatchfund page as well.
The work that Tigre is doing now has me as much in awe as the work I watched him do when I was a child. He freely admits that it is all closely related, “I used to build sets in the woods out of fabric and sticks, and now I build sets in the woods out of fabric and sticks.” While that may describe the work itself, Tigre is fully aware of what he is really doing in both instances, and that’s creating worlds for people to explore and escape into. “When you have these moments where everyone has agreed to share these imaginary constructs, and you have moments where that becomes real, where we really are teleporting elves that are stopping demons, that is a transcendental experience. We have transcended the normal shared imaginary construct to go into this other shared imaginary construct, and that is in essence the goal of what I do now.”
Tigre, thank you so much for everything you did for Wayfinder as a whole, and for me while I was growing up. Good luck with the Solacii project, and whatever you decide to do next. Whenever you find a time when you are able to come back to camp, know that you’ll be more than welcome.
“I wouldn’t say it was the only thing but camp was a significant component in saving my life. I was a suicidal teenager and the community that I developed there- even it’s impact in the first summer. I went to two camps, two sessions my first summer. One was in the beginning, and then I couldn’t go because I had summer school, and then I went to an advanced camp at the end of the summer, but the way that changed my life and my perspective on what I could be absolutely saved my life. It has left an indelible mark on my life.”
Written by Judson Easton Packard