Monika Balu and Marion Stoffels

RAIZVANGUARDA is happy to present the newest additions to our residency, Monika Balu (right), and Marion Stoffels (left) from Lithuania and The Netherlands respectively. During their residency, the two filmmakers and photographers will be working on capturing the essence of the people in the Góis area, but you can read more about that below!

Tell us about yourselves, what do you do?
Marion: I’m living and working in Groningen, The Netherlands. In my free time I’m busy with teaching photography workshops, making photo reportages, and, of course, working on my own artworks by collecting moving images of everyday life.
Monika: I am an artist/photographer from Lithuania with an interest in routine, habits and cultural diversity. I am currently on the verge of starting a new chapter in a different country. Just before my arrival in Portugal, I had to move out of my home in the Netherlands and in September, I will be starting a Master programme in Photography at Valand Academy in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Marion: We are sharing a studio together in Groningen, The Netherlands.

In which field of art do you work, what topics are important for you as artists? What are you passionate about?
Monika: I mostly work in the field of photography. I am keen on the flatness of images, and I see it as an effective way of representing reality. Lately, I was focused on leftovers and various traces left by human activity, but now my interest has shifted to the culture of small communities and its interaction. I am also passionate about typology and anthropology.
Marion: I’m a visual artist working with photography and film in relation to space. My goal is to point out unnecessary aspects, which unites everyone and can give a characteristic impression. I explored a variety of possibilities between photography and film during my academic years. With this combination of mediums, I now make complete installations. In order to create harmony for the chosen subject, I am using attributes such as furniture in combination with displayed images.

Where are you from? What is your educational background?
Monika: I grew up in Lithuania but at the age of nineteen I moved to the Netherlands to study Fine Arts at the Academie Minerva in Groningen.
Marion: I grew up in a little village called Makkum in The Netherlands. After high school, I studied Marketing and Communication (2010-2013) but I didn’t like it. Therefore, my first study year didn’t go well. During summer vacation I bought a new camera and found myself interested in creating photographs. Since then I was looking around for art academies and I applied to study Fine Art at Academy Minerva and graduated in 2017.

What attracted you to come to RV as residents?
Monika: The fact that it’s in the middle of nowhere was really appealing to me.
Marion: Yes, being in an environment that is unknown, gives you time to think and focus on art only. No one is expecting anything from you; you only expect something from yourself. I think that’s a beautiful way of developing yourself as a person and as an artist.
Monika: It’s rewarding to have some time for process and development.

What project are you working on?
Marion: We’re working on a video project which revolves around the area of Góis, its locals, and expats. The work consists of research, plenty of conversations, scouting for locations, and daily reflections. We are curious to learn what makes locals stay here, and what brings expats to move to this specific area.
Monika: Also, we are astonished by the quietness of the villages, but at the same time we get annoyed with this one dog constantly barking and one truck passing by the school of Bordeiro.
Marion: The aim is to combine our own impressions of the region and documentary aspects of locals’ daily life using a vast variety of recorded sounds and framed moving images.
Monika: We are also a little bit obsessed with one elderly lady that takes daily bus trips to spend some time at her old home. This is actually everything we know about her and it makes it special.

What is your favourite part of RV?
Marion: Freedom and space. Having a big school building all by ourselves provides the right mindset and allows us to come up with a lot of new ideas.
Monika: The ever-changing landscape seen through the terrace of the school. I am amazed that every hour the valley and mountains seem different. It is such a peaceful view.

If you would like to know more about Monika Balu, visit her website, Facebook, and Instagram.

If you would like to know more about Marion Stoffels, visit her website, Facebook, and Instagram.