Visual Essays

Oskar Schmidt

28 Aug, 13h37

Tropical Fruit, Fruit, Cut Out, Banana, Passionfruit, South America, Yellow Color, Jackfruit, Pineapple, Red Color, Color Image, Food, Green Color, Horizontal, Juicy, No People, Photography, Raw Food, Healthy Eating, Studio Shot, Two Objects, White Background, Yellow, Starfruit, Freshness, Whole, Multi Colored, 2017, Open



Essays

Giulia Damiani

03 Nov, 14h17

Pastilhas

 

 

  1. I confess that being in a new place moved me to talk about hardness. Hardness and not rigidity. Rather the feeling given by the top of a bare mountain or a still volcano, an image without water or lava. Not an obsession for such a space, because obsessions fluctuate, but a desire to own a hard place. An example, to have the confidence of being desolate and tough. For years I have thought of lava, volcanos and blood, of magma and transformations, but these words enact a reversal of thinking and speak of that substance that is treaded on but doesn’t smash.

 

  1. Pastilhas: the little mosaic tiles covering façades and floors. Fachadas e chão, which to me sounds a little close to céu, sky. Covering fachadas e céu. Pastilhas may peel off easily, but they are resilient to touch. They work in groups together. Pastilhas are the specimen of hardness in the routine of city life.
  2. Writing is a stone cast down a deep well, Clarice Lispector wrote in her last novel. This hardness plunges with a little sound. In relation to the water, the pebble of writing is sharp, its fall secure. I can feel its weight on my hand, I can decide the speed of its fall. What I cannot know are the murky waters in the depth, the reverberations at the reception of the stone at the bottom of the well. To see it I need to climb down.

 

  1. During my latest interview, when I described my on-going preoccupation with writing on

lava, volcanoes and blood I was told I wasn’t being wild enough.

My interviewers believed that something in my method showed an excess of imagery, and a lack of clear positions. A professional cannot flirt with too many genres. As if I was generating many streams but not enough bridges to cross them all. In response, I have tried to learn by closing all taps.

 

  1. Clarice Lispector finished her book O lustre, away from Brazil as she was living in Naples in 1946. I went to look for evidence of how the city and its volcano Mount Vesuvius might have affected her writing. I found none.

 

  1. Os pés de insegurança nas águas. I lift up her words on the page to freeze a new sentence in this language I would like to speak, Portuguese. In O Lustre Lispector follows her character Virginia while her shielded personality chases after her landscape: Virginia thinks with a river, with a road, with a night. I follow Clarice’s sentences with the desire of being with this language in her world. But I am standing insecure and my feet tremble on the still waters.

 

  1. I tell myself that hardness is to renounce all fluidity, to choose the path to the riverbank over the plunge. However, I need company on this track. I stay with Clarice, I will be dropping her words.

 

  1. Naples, a temporary accommodation for Lispector, is the place where this text and my preoccupation meet. Within the city there is much cement, balconies and chunks of tuff stone forming the outline of the hills. It is home to Mount Vesuvius, the dormant volcano recounted by many authors as well as Susan Sontag, who wrote the book Volcano Lover: a story on seductions and the art of collecting, volcano fossils as well as people. Mount Vesuvius has been inactive for centuries. Its smoke has encrusted on the newly-built settlements at the bottom of the mountain.

 

  1. I think of all the men that have written on Naples and the archeological site of Pompeii watching this dramatic landscape from the rim of Vesuvius, including in this group stellar authors such as Goethe, Freud and Derrida. Especially the latter two reflected on the archeological findings to articulate theories on psychoanalysis, memory and the archive. Confronted with monuments from antiquity they saw the desire to decipher making an impression in the memory; the presence of a trace made it possible to think of its material and virtual archivization. This has created a perception of archiving as a form of hardening of a substrate. The archive as a collection of rocks, a selection of iron weights, a series of marble steps. I wonder how to escape this multitude and find solidity and structure in one becoming all.

 

  1. Imagem seria fluida durante toda a vida. If the patriarchal archive is rock, we often encourage an idea of fluidity to disrupt its sedimenting action. At least in my work I have thought of lava as the one flowing matter with which to pour over historical rigidity. Generating anew in tune with nature. Unsettling through an unpredictable outburst. Imagining women’s action as a burning prophecy, an unforeseeable promise of eruption descending from the rims of Mount Vesuvius. But I recognise the fragility of this image, its self-indulgent nature. I wonder what can happen after the incineration. After the burning of all things documented.

 

  1. I want to hold onto the smooth and rocky passage from individuals into things described in Clarice’s lines. I dive in her writing when her character Virginia’s heart is said to be pounding as the river nearby is throbbing. I want to carry on touching her malleable prose. However, I feel the necessity to claim back the potential of its opposite. Away from paternalistic views I look for a grid, a mould, the foundation of an object in gold.

 

  1. I renounce improvisation. If there is to be a character, I want it to be scripted.

 

  1. Perhaps this thinking is due to the fact that I am now finding myself in this megalopolis. I want to take from the city its sprawl of concrete, the thick asphalt of the roads. I want to be bound to it like the many electric wires that are disorderly attached to its lamp posts.

 

  1. Among the urban blocks, I was given a sentence: A lingua que lambe palavras de outra lingua. I am kissing this place to have its impression of noisy confidence on my skin. I am going to be the stamp and decide how many marks I will leave.

 

  1. At times it is possible to see the shadow of the city on the body. It is the image of bright steps climbing over me while I walk up a stair. The bars of a gate growing from my feet as I enter the fence that shields my temporary home. I don’t feel this layer of shadow on my skin. Rather I feel lessened by it. The reflected shadow takes weight away from me, and I participate in this subtraction. Instead of growing thicker the contours of my body fade away into the cage.

 

  1. There is a phrase in Italian that says “avere la pelle dura”. To have a hard skin, meaning to be invulnerable to strenuous circumstances. To be able to go through them, unharmed. To be tough. As if there were different categories of skin according to its softness. How would you describe yours? In this case, I cannot tell if bruises and scars would be a mark of being hard or soft. If they accumulate on the body or if they engender cracks into its surface.

 

  1. I want to create a performance of stiffness over time. Going from the top layer into the joints. When my muscles become tense to recover strength and make this energy visible to my opponent my body is pervaded by a vibrating adrenaline. Letting it go is harmful. There is pain in being relaxed. I want the joy of the electrifying performance. I plan to make a systematic use of adrenaline. I work to figure out a way to equally distribute it throughout encounters and situations.

 

  1. I plan to prolong the feeling of a firm chest. To make it secure as a bow ready to shoot the arrow. Shoulders will be pulling back while the neck will be stretched further. Arms will be resting on each side and the palms of the hands will be proud and happy. This will be my passionate response to the interviewers of the future.

 

  1. A different form of hardness takes place in repetition. Moving away from the skin repetition sets into motion the weight of the body, whether perceived on the outside or the inside. Whether weight is felt or looked at. Hardness seems to be more compatible with long duration rather than shortness. Hardness lasts a long time. Hardness is bound to the earth. Thinking through the bones of the body, repetition makes the skeleton feel heavier and harder.

 

  1. Body-working at the gym expands and stiffs the muscles. Alar Gomes’s photographs portraying men exercising on the beach at Ipanema show the perceived masculinity of a certain kind of gesture. The ideal man is flexing his muscles. The geometries formed by the body are set in contrast with the impotent bleached beach. Thinking of this image, I am left with a question: Que é a natureza?

 

  1. In Herta Müller’s novel The Land of the Green Plums the hardness of repetition is what makes the protagonists aware of the subjugation of their bodies under a dictatorship. In the moment when a group of young people are expected to vote against one of their comrades by raising their hands everyone is willing to make her total support visible. No one wants to be the first to put her hand back down. Fingers stretch a bit longer and grow heavier and tired. The dictatorship is felt heavy on the body. But coming to feel this weight, this hardness, means being able to recognise it. It means the chance to push back.

 

  1. Em um profundo cansaço. Lava, volcanos and blood was the title of an article written by the feminist artist and philosopher Lina Mangiacare in the seventies. I have been getting to know her archive in Naples for over four years. Lina believed that women’s creativity would have crashed men’s oppression. The relation with nature, with the dramatic shapes the landscape of Naples takes, would have nourished women’s agenda. It would have made their skin grow thicker. But I walk in profound tiredness as I receive her words in her city.

 

  1. I am taken by the sharp loudness of the streets. In the city I am dragged down by the exhaust fumes of the cars. In the outskirts by the fumes of the little craters of a much larger volcano. The craters are so many and so scattered to cover fields of water and much earth.

 

  1. Eventually I confess that the hardness of the archive I want to keep is the impact on my own being. Not the tiredness of absorbing and identifying with the archive, but its slow crystallisation in my identity.

 

  1. If this is a performance of the archive from Naples in São Paulo I want you to see through it. I want you to think of hardness as a consequence without a definite cause. I want you to recollect the different elements of this story and play with them. I want the effects to keep alive. The origin of these ideas disappear behind the use you can make of them. Take this and craft your own hardness in the city. The lava from the volcano solidifies and awaits right around the corner. Forgetting this beginning, there are free forms falling anew.

 

  1. Algumas coisas não poderiam existir exceto sob intensa atenção; olhando com uma severidade e dureza que a fazia não buscar a causa das coisas, mas a própria coisa.

 

  1. A volcano bomb is when fragments of fluid lava cool down into solid pieces before reaching the ground. Lava takes the form of different rocks. By leaving the volcano and changing temperature, lava is shaped in flight and can land kilometres away from its origin. At times these threatening objects get collected in museums around the world, perhaps in an attempt to make them inoffensive, to neutralise them.

 

  1. Imagining this storm of stones I am reminded of the story on the pastilhas flaking off the walls of Edíficio Copan in São Paulo. I enjoy this potential of pastilhas to become as dangerous as flying rocks. It’s raining pastilhas. It seems that especially during windy days pastilhas would fall down on the roads, sometimes harming people and animals passing by. Pastilhas are powerful triggers of imagination and overtime I have encountered many pastilhas’ messengers, my informants on pastilhas who have mediated their message for me.

 

  1. I enjoy how friends who brought up these stories described Edíficio Copan as a living creature, acting from an intention of its own. I see the pastilhas gaining weight and hardness in flight. I see them as consequences enacting their own origin.

 

  1. The definition of hardness in the dictionary provides many different meanings to this word, but I can recognise myself in none. Hardness is compared to harshness, lack of empathy, difficulty and lack of weaknesses, but is it possible to queer the perception of this term?

 

  1. Always starting from something small. From a particle of the everyday, a nearly invisible detail. Recognising its presence in yourself, feeling its weight and attachment to it as you reach out to grab it. Observing it as it grows. Get ready to throw it out, like an unpredictable rainfall.

 

  1. Like the flight of the urubu, the volture, descending down into the city.


Essays

Flora Rrebollo

27 Oct, 14h02

Daria, Dasha, Dashenka, Dashka

 

Daria took ten breaths, then described everything after closing her eyes. I stopped for a moment at the door, only to wake up afterwards at a lake where an alligator watched me from afar. I let my body sink and in a short flash he tore me in half: I was in his belly. Darkness can be a space where a tongue swims or a surface where nameless bodies bubble. “Whether all grow black, or all grow bright, or all remain grey, it is grey we need, to begin with, because of what it is, and of what it can do, made of bright and black, able to shed the former, or the latter, and be the latter or the former alone. But perhaps I am the prey, on the subject of grey, in the grey, to delusions.”(1) Floating pieces of things and more things that don’t exist. “Form as formation makes something pulse, something it presents and removes at the same time, awakening a vision that isn’t satisfied with what it sees, a vision that must reconstruct, reformat incessantly what it sees”(2) .It was something like that of an omelet, or a vomit. Dasha faced inwards and outwards at the same time. An ectoplasm is an ethereal substance that gains matter as it is externalized, it is said that only Mediums have that aptitude. In order to speak of everything at once, not speaking is necessary, let it go through. I went on making a map but I don’t know where it leads and I think it helps to walk through the middle. It seemed like Science. “In alchemy, Nigredo, or blackness, means putrefaction or decomposition. Nigredo is a latin word for darkness. it was adopted by the alchemists to designate alchemy’s first state: spiritual death. It is followed by the states Albedo (purification), Citrinitas (awakening) and Rubedo (illumination). Many alchemists believed that as a first step in the pathway to the philosopher’s stone all alchemical ingredients had to be cleansed and cooked extensively, to a uniform black matter”(3).  I like to think that in these drawings form and content surfaced together and informed one another. Dashenka was erasing some verbal characteristics and raising some nominal ones, or was it the other way around? No flags were held. Attention is a narrowed perception. In the beginning, it was nothing, just a fever. Obsession brings discipline, did you know that? Dashka brought structure to a frail order, didn’t want inside and outside anymore, wanted to blow warm and cold. “That which emerges from the process of becoming and disappearance, not the source but a whirlpool in the river of becoming [that] pulls the emerging matter into its own rhythm”(4). I think it was all by accident, but well, I keep digging about to see if I can find a cousin of mine around.

 

  1. BECKETT, Samuel. The Innommable
  2. DE MORAES, Marcelo Jacques. Georges Bataille e as formações do abjeto. https://periodicos.ufsc.br/index.php/Outra/article/viewFile/12586/11753
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigredo
  4. BENJAMIN, Walter, Origine du drame baroque allemand.

 

 



Visual Essays

(Ghost) -a poem for lina bos turtle

18 Aug, 14h46

time

tempo

time

tempo

time

tempo

thyme

 

 

 

a small breeze

an empty fountain

a precise watch

 

 

 

shadows of obejcts

 

ghosts aligned

 

time tempotime

 

 

Value

Value

 

Value what

 

shadows of objects that

excited

existed

(but no longer do)

 

temporalities, time zones, zombies

 

 

 

 

….

 

(the flâneuse)

 

 

 

nets

connecting

windows vision blurred

 

 

transparent

 

entagled threads

 

thick

 

 

eletric connections disconnected by waters flow

water disconnect eletric nets

no network

works in water

eletric waves are waved and unread

un reachable

 

water

disconnects

nets

 

…..

 

 

 

(un)

connected

bodies

floating in the city of  glass,

an ocean of endless reflections of nothingness

a piece of glass, a stump of wood, waters of march

Its  fall

I fell

 

 

Ok, a short pause: then another important stament, or not or yes, dont say sorry

…. I aint sorry,- listen to beyonce and then rihanna. Work no work work no, maybe lets dance instead, white powder on your head

 

 

buildings being torn down

histories becoming

 

with its ghost like dresses

floating in the city space

 

Virginia woolf was a street haunting, an oyster drifting, Im a muscle

 

 

 

 

*the artist was at Pivô to research the works of Brasilian artist Helio Oticica, Lygia Pape, Lygia Clark and the architect Lina Bo Bardi, the work above is from an experimental process that expanded beyond this and comes out of an intimate conversation with the city, and new friends . It will be included and further expanded in a larger project that will find its form in a publication and exhibition in Copenhagen the fall 17, and continue after that into the future. All photos were shot on Iphone 5.

The Research Stay was kindly supported by the Danish Arts Council



Essays

Oral - Daniel Albuquerque

09 Aug, 12h21

High above the city of São Paulo is the gallery Boatos Fine Arts. Housed in a converted apartment on the 12th floor of an 15 floor tower block, the space has polished parquet floors and is pleasingly rough around the edges which creates a newly established feel. The luminescence of the main gallery space is fueled by a bank of windows filling the room with South American sunlight and providing breathtaking views of the mega-city skyline.

Here quietly sits Daniel Albequerque’s exhibition ‘Oral’, an installation comprising a series of square and triangular knitted wall hangings and a set of floor based and ceiling hung re-bar & plaster sculptures. The white skeletal sculptures create weird apertures through which other artworks and the exhibition layout can viewed. One sequence of sculptural works, when taken from a distance, creates a composite face; writing a cartoonish image into the architectural space of the gallery.

The surface of the sculptures are touched here and there with subtle thumbprints of coloured plaster, highlighting their current ossified state. These pastel markers are indexical nods to both materiality and process, and offer a sense of narrative; perhaps tidemarks of where tendon and flesh once was.

Whilst the sculptures bring to mind a calcified skeleton — literally the bare bones of a situation — the woven wall hangings provide contrast with their material generosity. The tactility reminding one of friendship, love: offered warmth and comfort through the sharing of a blanket and body.

In places, colored acrylic paint has been applied directly to the hangings in simple stripes and lines, causing the woolen thread to clog and congeal. Here is a moment of interrupted metamorphosis, when material is transformed into neither woven tapestry nor painting. In this undefined state, where material and process fail, memory steps to try and anchor the works with personal narratives.

Painted directly onto the gallery wall behind one of the wall hangings is a blue rectangle which is rendered shimmering and gossamer behind the loose knitted stitches. This conjures a moment when we can imagine a secret passed from one lover to another.

In the development of his language Albuquerque wears his art historical references lightly; Giacometti here Rauschenberg there, a smattering of Guston. Poised, powerful, the works feel as if they hold personal secrets which, if you gain their trust, could be divulged.

The difficultly lies in the view out of the window: how does one compete with a city as visually tangled as Sao Paulo? Albuquerque’s choice is to invoke an inner narrative through material and process. His work is poetic and emotionally generous if you’re wiling to invest in the quiet spaces between.

 

Jonathan Murphy 2017



PIVÔ Interviews

Pivô interviews Dan Coopey

24 Jul, 13h39

Fernanda Brenner The inescapable question of the role of art in these current times of insecurity, economic volatility, climate change and political turmoil has been haunting me recently. When the future no longer seems predictable we tend to look to the past and its stable narratives for possible answers to why we ended up here or how to proceed. Your work delves into vernacular techniques combined with found tribal objects and industrial materials; for example, an ancient Kuba textile is sewn together with cheap and colourful Chinese thread. How do you see the question of permanence? And how do you relate to the provenance of the materials and techniques you use to shape your work?

Dan Coopey My works often evolve from or utilise found objects, in particular those that are connected to what I term ‘speculative histories’, and objects that have long-running narratives that span many or even most cultures. Basketry is one example of this, as due to the perishable nature of the natural materials employed, very few ancient basketry artifacts remain today. What we know mostly comes from fossilisation.

There is a theory that in pre-history, basket makers lined their woven vessels with clay so they could carry liquid. Accidental fires meant that some of the baskets perished and the original fired clay vessel was all that remained. This theory interests me, as one would assume that at this point basketry would become outmoded, yet it is still widely practised today.

Although these historical narratives inform my practice, it is a mistake to assume that my works are concerned only with the past; I consider my practice to deal with the present, and in turn the future. My works with basketry are often interpreted through ancient histories, yet with the new works exhibited at Pivô, the viewer can see the contemporaneity of the new materials when contrasted/ intertwined with the found indigenous vessels.

I am keen to see my works in ten years time, as I am conscious of how the rattan will age, its colour deepening over time.

With regards to my intervention with the Kuba textiles that you mention, I mended the holes and tears that had appeared over time through their use as ceremonial dresses. The value of these fabrics is largely dependent on their condition, so I was interested to see how my repairs would change their value, as my intervention could be considered both an act of compassion – in some sense rescuing them from ruin – and an invasive, even destructive act. Regardless of their new valuation, my interaction with them has ensured that they remain intact for years to come, even if they no longer function within the culture they originated from.

FB You always hide small objects inside your basket-works. I really like the idea of an artwork having a secret, something that can only be accessed if the sculpture is torn apart. Sometimes the titles offer hints to what is inside. Can you tell me about these hidden objects and how you select them?

DC The objects I hid inside previous woven works were always found items, either tools or ornaments that are handcrafted from base materials, metals, minerals, etc. These objects perform several functions within the work.

I am interested in how an object’s value shifts when out of sight. For example, a 19th century set of hand-carved ebony piano keys are just raw material when the only evidence of their presence is the material listing in the work’s caption. I like however that in a hundred years time, when the basket perishes, the object inside will retain its original value, though presumably by then, the value of ebony, and the value of piano keys, will have shifted either up or down. Hiding the objects also raises the question of the value attributed to artistry and craftsmanship. Each time I make a new work in this series, I try to find an object made from a material I have never used before. I enjoy this challenge, because as the series progresses it becomes ever more difficult. The objects are often antique, as handicrafts are largely outmoded and were replaced by mass produced items. Each time I travel I am introduced to new materials, for example in Sicily I found coral, and here in Brazil a lot of items are made from nuts, stones and agate.

FB For this exhibition you are trying something new. Combining found indigenous artifacts (pots and baskets) with your particular weaving methods. It is different from the Kuba textile works because instead of fixing the holes in the old fabric using new materials you are creating new structures that depart from the artifacts, thus annulling the possibility of practical use and their relationship with their origin or any kind of symbolic value they might have. In these works, the indigenous basket shares the same hierarchy of the rattan threads. In your practice, you are constantly shifting the notions of material and symbolic values, for instance, in the copper works. Can you tell me how you see the relationship between attributed value and raw matter in your work?

DC The use of indigenous baskets in these new works partly came from an interest in what I perceive as a very unstable, fluctuating set of values that are attributed to these objects. Removed from their original context, their value here in a big city, specifically São Paulo, is mostly for use as home accessories, particularly amongst the educated classes. Their material value rapidly increases as indigenous communities disappear, and there is now a scarcity of authentic indigenous items. Most of what you find today in stores that sell indigenous items in São Paulo is not what you could term genuine artifacts, but objects made solely for this particular market.

My intervention with these baskets – expanding and altering their forms using materials and techniques that are alien to their origin – deactivates their ability to function as practical vessels. Yet in some respects their displacement means that this is a condition already inherent to them

Last time I was in São Paulo, I spent a lot of time studying and admiring indigenous baskets, yet I felt uncomfortable trying to imitate the techniques I had learned, and although my intervention here could seem intrusive, I feel that the contrast with my own weaving somehow allows the found objects to retain their identity, perhaps even heightening the viewer’s awareness of the specific forms and materials used to create the indigenous vessels.

FB Architectural and artisanal vernacular techniques are no longer easy to find in Brazil. Items were either entirely replaced by industrial manufacture and importation or are treated as ‘ethnical’ merchandise for decoration purposes. Lina Bo Bardi’s 1969 seminal show A Mão do Povo Brasileiro – recently reedited at MASP – dealt with these issues by bringing together a large inventory of what used to be ‘The hand of the Brazilian People’. The current curators chose not to update the collection and showed only pieces from that period. The 1969 exhibition became itself a museum piece and, arguably, contemporary art is looking more and more to the locally sourced and to its own ecological footprint (the latest editions of the Venice and São Paulo Biennials are good examples), instead of reinforcing the lavish and globetrotting art world of the early 2000s. You mentioned once that people often say your work looks Brazilian, and this is your second extended stay in the country. How does being in Brazil affect your work? Do you agree with this image of your work?

DC Last time I was in São Paulo, many people thought my work looked ‘Brazilian’, and this has instigated the works I’m making here now. As a self-taught weaver, I am very aware of the specific origins of the techniques I use and the materials I employ, therefore, I am able to make a strong distinction between the weaving I do – which is actually a hodgepodge of weaves from across the globe that I use to create vessels which have no real point of reference in terms of cultural identity – and the very specific weaves and materials used here in Brazil.

I think the resultant works are interesting as in some ways they dispel this idea but they could also be perceived as even more ‘Brazilian’, as they employ found Brazilian objects. But this is an interesting idea. In many of the items sold here, mostly food, you can see the label ‘Made in Brazil’. As a foreigner in São Paulo making these works, could I label them as ‘Made in Brazil’? And what would it mean to do so? I still don’t really have an answer.

Handcrafted objects such as baskets are often collective endeavours when made in indigenous communities; the sourcing of materials, their preparation and the crafting itself may involve many hands. I am aware that I am producing these works in the city, within a society that is more geared towards the recognition of the individual. This is clearly evident in social media etc., but it is interesting to think that by utilising these objects in my artwork, they somehow become authored, and their value is shifted under my name. Perhaps my act of weaving also gets more recognition, precisely because I am doing it in a context dominated by quick mass production and flat screens. But I hope that through the recognition of my own manual labour, people will consider the other hands involved, or maybe even see my works as a collective endeavour.

FB Finally, can you tell me about the process and installation of this particular exhibition? Does the venue’s context and architecture play a significant role in the conception of the show or are you mainly focused in producing the artworks?

DC For this exhibition I have chosen a fairly informal mode of presentation, as the objects I have created are in themselves quite informal. This non-hierarchical method of display also references the environment of the stores selling indigenous items here in São Paulo, which are often a jumble of different forms and textures. A kind of a beautiful mess, similar to what we see here in São Paulo’s Centro.

 



Essays

Nadja Abt

11 Jul, 16h18

“The maritime world interested me, as it is a world of gigantic automation, but also of persistent, isolated, anonymous, occult, a work of great solitude, where there is a huge dislocation and separation from the domestic sphere” [1] (Allan Sekula, 2002)

In order to arrive at Pivô in São Paulo, to start a residency, I went on a cargo ship from Hamburg, Germany to Santos, Brazil in early February 2017. It took 18 days with two stopovers, one in Antwerp, Belgium and one in Le Havre, France. I chose to travel with Hamburg Süd, one of the oldest German Ship Companies that has been running the German-Brazilian route since 1871.

On the ship I documented the different work of the crew and the spaces with photos and kept a daily diary. After arriving in São Paulo, I produced a short essay-film out of the material I had collected: Stories that were told after work and explanations to many questions that I had asked, pictures from ship details and seafarers and journals from the seafarer`s mission. Its formal structure is a reference to the short film „Der Tag eines unständigen Hafenarbeiters“ (The day of a casual dock worker) from 1966 by the German photographer Leonore Mau and author Hubert Fichte. The artist couple also travelled a lot to Brazil during the late 60s and 70s, in order to document various religious practices such as Candomblé, Umbanda and Tambor de Mina.

In my short film, I focus on the female seafarers that are still underrepresented in the sector of maritime work. The voiceover text is based on a mixture of journalistic reports, talks that I had with the two female seafarers that were on the ship and my own experiences on board.

The woman as a seafarer represents the strongest contraposition to the world of domestic labor and, in this way, to the housewife. Her working space has been formed and dominated by only men since hundreds of years – it is just lately that big shipping companies such as MAERSK and Hamburg Süd start campaigns to recruit female seafarers. Being usually the only woman on board, their physical strength is often tested by their colleagues. The female trainees usually have to prove themselves twice as much as their male fellows.

Working and living in that male dominated world that consists of an approximately 330m extent, the woman is an intruder in, how Foucault described it, a prison-like Heterotopia.[2] The ship has always been a big area of projections and metaphors in the arts as well as in literature. Its secret society of men combined rawness and romanticism. “What happens on a ship, stays on a ship” is a rule that still counts today and feeds even more the imagination by “the others on land”. So, one can say, that the woman intrudes and opens up that imaginary world of a Melvillesque male crew with its own rules. Changing her role from prostitute in the harbours, so explored in seafarer novels and paintings to an effective crewmember.

In the book Caliban and the witch, the Italian feminist activist Silvia Federici points out that the capitalist system as it is dominating and destroying the world today could arise only through the repression of the woman from the paid labor market into the world of domestic unpaid labor.[3] The mill wheel of capitalism is represented by the huge cargoships with thousands of containers which enter the ports every hour. The labor which keeps that wheel running is often forgotten, as Allan Sekula already emphasized in his texts. So, if we combine Federici`s thesis with that of Sekula, the woman`s entrance in the world of seafaring creates a very interesting new role: On the one hand she is directly responsible for capitalist trade and far away from any conservative stereotype of a housewife, on the other hand her labor on board stays as invisible, unacknowledged and often underpaid as the domestic labor.

As a final event of the residency, I presented the essay film in a conversation with Brazilian artist Caio Reisewitz who also travelled by cargo ship from Santos to Rotterdam with the same German ship company in 1989. We exchanged experiences about life on board and observations on how the container trade has developed during the last 30 years. The talk took place end of April 2017 at Pivô.

 

 

[1] Hilde Van Gelder: Allan Sekula, Ship of Fools/ The Dockers` Museum, Lisbon, 2015.

[2] Brothels and colonies are two extreme types of heterotopia, and if we think, afterall, that the boat is a floating piece of space, a place without a place, that exists by itself, that is closed in on itself and at the same time is given over to the infinity of the sea and that, from port to port, from tack to tack,from brothel to brothel, it goes as far as the colonies in search of the most precious treasures they conceal in their gardens, you will understand why the boat has not only been for our civilization, from the

sixteenth century until the present, the great instrument of economic development (I have not been speaking of that today), but has been simultaneously the greatest reserve of the imagination. The ship is the heterotopia par excellence. In civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure, and the police take the place of pirates.

Excerpt from: Michel Foulcault,Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias, in Architecture/Mouvement/Continuité, October, 1984; (Des Espaces Autres, March 1967

Translated from the French by Jay Miskowiec), source here: http://web.mit.edu/allanmc/www/foucault1.pdf

 

[3] Silvia Federici: Caliban and the witch, Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation. Brooklyn, NY, 2004.



Essays

Thiago Barbalho

25 May, 7h43

post-word: pre-history: anti-reason

 

starting a day’s work at Pivô Research

 

To arrive at eleven a.m. To press the buzzer, to announce myself, push the now unlocked metal door, close the door, go up the stairs. To be up at the studio at four past eleven. To drop my backpack on the floor, to look around the objects, coloring pens and drawings, to get a mug and go to the coffee area to make coffee.

To wait for the water to boil walking around in circles, lightly kicking the floor, the air, the walls. Maybe listening to music. Maybe not. To whistle. To get the brew the coffee. To take the mug full of coffee to the balcony, to sit on the bench placed against the wall, to cross my legs, to have a sip. To look at what is real. To perceive things with biased eyes, full of inescapable conceptions, but slightly lighter than later on, when many hours of lucidity will have left a trail of tiredness of memories and meanings. To perceive, for the time being, that reality is the formation of layers and events and left over objects. To perceive that reality has no true substance, it’s all layers. Buildings cut out by other buildings, a tree that pushes through two pieces of concrete, staircases, people going down staircases, people going somewhere, pigeons, shops, streets, sidewalks, dogs, clouds. Not to know what will come up in the drawing. To think that working on a drawing consists of picking from the inexistent some shadow of its fluidity and bring it up to existence. Possibly as a modified memory, maybe like a spirit that incorporates and conveys a cryptographic message. To think that drawing is a zone in which any interpretation, unreason, belief and madness can be exercised. To think that in the drawing the imposition of layers of forms and colors brought from the inexistent to the existent can, with a bit of luck, transform itself into impact or, even better, in awe, and the awe, in turn, may serve as a whisper about these forms which didn’t exist but are here now, and if they now exist it’s because they have already existed somewhere. To understand that the drawing is the tale of a trip between worlds. To accept that the gesture of the hand with the coloring pens on the paper is an exercise in which the non-material geometry communicates with our need to see it. To think of the drawing as proof of the materiality of the immaterial. Apparition. Geogliphs. Hieroglyphs. To realize that this images are more powerful than words. To understand, therefore, that although working in a drawing is similar to writing, in that the hand produces something which reveals and amplifies us, the drawing has the advantage of not using words, which are always thirsty for meaning, exhausted from clichés, from ironies, from inescapable ignorances, always eager to make a point and to convince. To think that the drawing extrapolates order. No words would be able to achieve that, as they are inevitably outworn in the moment of being received by the contemporary reader. To accept and celebrate that the drawing has no subject, verb or predicate, and that its frontiers are more subversive and point to the future, when no word will be necessary. And despite that to know that the drawing is a development from written language, whose support we are now about to abandon as obsolete. And this development takes place insofar as words reach their limit and becomes useless. They are a ladder we have climbed and now can be thrown away. To realize that there’s a transformation taking place in language and in the human need to say. That now it’s as if our historical development were a backwards reflexion of itself, a spiral at best, and that soon we’ll abandon the trust in words and their explaining and their relevance, and will again let ourselves be guides by scrawls on the walls, which are today’s caves, by shadows captured by cameras, shapes in space, photographs that erase themselves in seconds, videos that evaporate in twenty-four hours, drawings that get moldy, paints that fade, screens that crumble in terrorist attacks, installations that vanish in an earthquake. To stop. To give thinking a brake. To return to the eye which sees the world from that balcony, to notice that the coffee mug went empty while one was looking at the world from that balcony. To leave the balcony, to walk back into the studio. To know that the web which reaches into the future and brings the traces and colors to the drawing is called not exactly spirit, not exactly dream, not exactly talent, not exactly god, not exactly research, but, before anything else, imagination, a gift without authorship.

 

*Translation – Chico Guedes