Joya: AiR / Thom Driver / GBR

photo Simon Beckmann

photo Simon Beckmann


“Arriving at Joya: AiR you enter another world, one where layers of distraction are replaced by a feeling of alert presence, your creative energies are unobstructed, schedules and money are suspended, and you re-experience aspects of nature that for a city dweller are too often forgotten. Joya: AiR is also a thrilling demonstration that alternative, less destructive ways of living are possible.

Despite the arid climate, there is everywhere a multitude of life. You become very attuned to this, and also to a sense of heightened imagination. An almond tree resembles a musical score. There are characters in the rocks. The sounds of earth crumbling down a slope hint at huge, invisible forces. Crevices and peaks in the landscape suggest narrative arcs. Dry barrancos cut meandering paths through the land, allowing you to walk and observe from a highly unusual perspective. Stories present themselves in fluid forms that nevertheless build on each other the more you explore. And the land is very seductive, always enticing you to walk a bit further and try climbing the next peak.

I initially planned to experiment with recording my voice in the landscape surrounding Joya: AiR. But what I found there was so compelling that this plan was sidelined in favour of long daily walks during which I listened, observed and recorded sounds and images. By following the contours of the land and using instinct as a guide, I found ideas began flowing freely. Unexpectedly, outlines for at least two new projects coalesced during these walks. My aim now is to use the material and thoughts I gathered while at Joya: AiR to develop new video and sound works.

Behind the house is an open flat area once used to thresh wheat. One of my favourite activities was to stand there, on what feels like a huge theatre stage, where I saw myself as a tiny but connected actor in a vast, beautiful landscape. I mean 'actor' in the sense of becoming another, playing, story and myth; but also as 'one who takes action', a creatively engaged consciousness rather than an atomised individual. I was also drawn to the sound of the wind turbine spinning nearby, a small but hopeful example of the kind of action I'm thinking of. Simon's presentation, in which he explained how Joya: AiR runs sustainably off-grid, was a thought-provoking insight into the profound importance of working with the land to manage water, a reality that is easily overlooked in the rush of city / nomadic life.

Simon and Donna's passion and care for what they do is evident in every facet of the physical structure of Joya: AiR, and in the social warmth they engender. During my stay, I felt no pressure to do anything or guilt about doing nothing. This freedom from 'productivity' meant that I ended up having one of the most productive periods I can remember, all in a spirit of open and shared curiosity.

Thanks a million to you both for creating this magical and vital place, your generous hosting, sharing of knowledge, and the awesome food. Thanks also to Lucy for being such a helpful, witty and fun presence. And to my fascinating and inspiring fellow residents - thank you all so much for adding immeasurably to the experience”!

Thom Driver

Thom Driver has an extensive background in music, and in recent years has moved into working with sound installations, video, writing and drawing. He graduated in 2018 from the MA Fine Art (Master of Voice) at Sandberg Instituut, Amsterdam. Primarily he is interested in the boundaries and contradictions between language and other paths of communication. His work is included in a forthcoming book on the wider Master of Voice project, to be published by Sternberg Press in 2020.