29/Nov/2016 – 14/Jan/2017

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  • Press Release
  • Press Release

    The lasting moment

    What sets a still image apart from a motion picture nowadays? For a long time, there seemed to be a clear and nearly polarized distinction between them: in photography, the ‘decisive moment’ (Henri Cartier-Bresson) ensured the possibility of an objective portrayal of a certain reality. Forever frozen in the past, it was at the same time immortalized and inseparable from the idea of its own death. The motion picture, upon bringing forth duration and movement as possibilities of representation, came into being almost as a counterpoint to photographic aspects. The flow of time liberated the image from the past and brought it to the present. Reality seemed to be immediate and transparent, as if the world were displayed without mediation on the screen.

    If the illusion of depicting the passage of time and spatial displacement was the big change brought about by cinema in contrast to photography, it didn’t take long until the distinction between them and the media came into question. Since the 1960s, films such as La Jetée (1962), by Chris Marker, made almost entirely of still frames; or nostalgia (1971), by Hollis Frampton, in which the pictures displayed on the screen are suddenly set on fire, have been discussing the frozen time of the image displayed in motion. By the same token, this separation started to be dealt with in photography – as demonstrated by the extreme experiences of Michael Wesely, who develops special cameras to take pictures with exposure time of months or years, leaving the flow of time as remnants.

    Often associated with cinema, the term “motion picture” is brought up here as the possibility of thinking about the idea of duration and mobility present in photography. Be it through the diversity of supports, the representation of processes of displacement or the hybridization of images of distinct natures, the works in question have movement as a vocation or symptom.

    One of the first artists in Brazil to introduce practices of the so-called expanded photography, Ana Vitória Mussi has been exploring since the 1970s the most traditional categorizations of this medium. She started with interventions with gouache on pictures taken from newspapers, covering them with big dark shadows, as in Swimmer (1972) and Goalkeeper (1972); then she started to capture images from a TV screen, transforming the motion picture into a still frame again, as in “Dive into the Image”(1997), with shots of acrobatic jumps applied to glass bricks. The chosen topic, usually sports matches, also reveals an interest in movement from a double standpoint – in the representation as well as in the migration from one medium to the other.

    Katia Maciel goes through a similar process in “Useless Landscape” (2005). Starting with 150 digitally pasted photographs, the artist creates a video that works as a travelling shot, displaying building façades at Ipanema Beach, in Rio de Janeiro. In another moment, the camera moves in the opposite direction – and the gates that surrounded the buildings are no longer there, they have been digitally removed.

    Walls and barriers are likewise present in the works of the Argentinian artist Graciela Sacco. The movement, in these cases, is associated with the idea of retention and crossing – as with the image of the sea printed on wooden slats. Since the 1980s the artist explores pioneering techniques in photography, such as heliography and cyanotype, questioning the bi-dimensional surface of this medium, with enlarged images on several materials and objects. At the same time, her production is intimately related to topics such as the migratory movement.

    The mobility of the support is also a key question in Iris Helena’s works. Peeling paint from walls, payment receipts and bookmarkers are some of the materials already used by the artist for the impression of images related to urban contexts. In “Notes of Oblivion” (2009), the portrayal of squares and places of passage in João Pessoa (PB) is imprinted on countless post-its, evoking a transmutable aspect of photography, with images that fade as time goes by.

    The process of displacement is also present in the documentary work “Submerged Landscape” (2002-2008), produced by João Castilho, Pedro Motta e Pedro David, who followed the departure of residents of Vale do Jequitinhonha (MG), struck by the construction of the Irapé Hydroelectric Power Plant; or “Like Home”, by André Penteado, with pictures of Brazilian plants in London’s Botanic Garden, produced when he lived in the United Kingdom. The same geographical crossing is also present in “South x North” (2010/2015), by Felipe Cama, with reproductions of paintings by Marianne North (1830-1890), an English naturalist who systematically depicted Rio de Janeiro’s landscape, exhibited alongside tourist photos taken at the same places today. Both images have been appropriated from the digital sphere, as with the other works by the artist.

    The circulation of images and the questioning of their several natures and origin are also represented in Ricardo van Steen’s work. In “Tupi Archive”, he uses his own pictures or pictures found in archives to modify them with pictorial interferences, creating a fictional layer that simulates a historical account. Displayed in a box with secret drawers, the images lie along the border of a range of classifications – pictorial or photographic, documental or fictional, his own pictures or appropriated.

    In conclusion, the extended time of the still image is present in “Posterior Images” (2000-10), by Patricia Gouvêa, with shots of landscapes captured from vehicles in motion, questioning the relationship between mobility-immobility of corporeal experience at the moment of contemplation – or in the essay “Automatic Garage” (2016), by Felipe Russo. Also using long exposure to capture images in parking garages in São Paulo with the almost complete absence of light, as in a car elevator shaft, the artist moves through ambivalent spaces between movement and containment.

    The moment, in photography, can also be decisive. However, it might also operate in a continuous and permeable time, like a lasting moment.


                                                                                                                    Nathalia Lavigne

    Critical essay