TRANSA – BALADAS DO ÚLTIMO SOL
ÂNGELA BERLINDE, 2020
How can we transform chaos into dance?
“Tupi, or no tot Tupi, that is the question.
We had justice a coding of vengeance. Science a coding of Magic. Anthropophagy. The permanent transformation of Taboo in totem.”
The Earth is in trance and Brazil is burning, ablaze. Technological progress unites and also segregates, but no wisdom is produced, and the ignorance of power insists upon its own repetition: today’s Brazil, a mirror image of the 1965 Republic of Eldorado. It is said that Glauber Rocha hated every minute of the filming of that masterpiece – Earth Entranced (1967) – because he knew it was a prophetic film. And so it is that more than fifty years ago, the poet and journalist Paulo Martins, the film’s protagonist, says to the religious candidate to the presidency: “Our wealth, our meat, our lives, everything. You sold everything!”
Might this be our last sun? How many re-enactments of the violence of our origins will we repeat until we have, in effect, sold everything? Tupi, or not Tupi, that is no longer the question. What should we do? What should we feel?
Glauber made cinema to transform society, and he seized perception in order to transform language, art. After Earth Entranced Glauber Rocha converts his 1965 Aesthetic of Hunger manifesto (Eztetyka da fome) into an Aesthetic of Dream (Eztetyka do sonho, 1971), once he understands that, beyond the paradoxical exaltation of violence, the only language capable of transformation is that which transforms itself, intrinsically, which finds in the non-logical, in non-sense, to reveal the absurdity of the real: an oneiric, magical language:
“The Aesthetic of Hunger was the measure of my rational understanding of poverty in 1965,” wrote Glauber in his new manifesto: “Today I refuse to talk about any aesthetic. Complete lived experience cannot be subject to philosophical concepts. Revolutionary art must be a magic capable of bewitching man to the point that he no longer stands living in this absurd reality.”
From a gut violence to allegory, from a direct discursive confrontation to the hybridity of ways of seeing, using, feeling, the 1960s and 1970s tropicalist movement in Brazil takes Oswald de Andrade’s anthropophagic thought and with tooth clenched revolt and resistance and a creative drive that is about to explode with excitement and subversion, marks a before and after in Brazilian cultural history. Art and life fuse together, the field of art takes on a new role and a new definition: “Be an outlaw, be a hero,” wrote Hélio Oiticica on the “Bólide” (sculptural works) dedicated to the sought-after criminal known as “Cara de Cavalo (Horse Face), beneath the image of his body, shot, on the ground.
Before the chaos that afflicts humanity, a sensation that has become intensified no doubt by our instant and massive access to information in the digital era, bringing the entire world into our homes, another opportunity arises, one that invites us to embrace a true pause in order to reflect. Crisis is always a symptom of a malaise that must be assisted in its cause, in its roots: What is happening? How do I perceive what I see? And what I see, comes from where? What moves in me, what bothers, what hurts, the screams, where do they come from, who, who?
In Transa. Balada do ultimo sol Angela Berlinde draws the courage to listen to the silenced screams of history and of the present and dive into the chaos. An external chaos, but it is also an internal reordering, a cacophony of the sensitive, of the poetic, of language, a transatlantic crossing, a transhistoric, transcultural, transdisciplinary chaos-shift-movement-dance. An archival chaos and a demand made by the journey – of origin and destiny, identity and visuality.
During her doctoral research in visual communication, Angela spent the last decade living between her native Portugal and Brazil, entering the giant of the tropics in an increasingly centripetal movement – from academia to the North-eastern hinterland and from photography to the lights and shadows of the Amazon jungle. While interacting with several cultural, social and economic realities, ultimately the guiding principle between the polyphony of roles, actions and stimuli that she took on along the way became her perceptual body, assisted by the photographic device. More than ten years of transatlantic experiences built a visual body of work which is at times documentary, at times anthropological, and increasingly driven by an affective, sensible and poetic gaze. Ethnographic distance started giving way for a cultural, artistic and identity-based miscegenation and, today, faced with the slowing down of our capitalist voracity as a result of this globalized pandemic, Angela started to study her archive in search of links between numerous stories that come to life, here.
In the context of her research, Angela launched her artist’s book entitled Nynhã Aba (Indian Heart), in which she came up with the notion of an “aesthetics of affection.” Each detail in this book evokes the loving relationship that the author developed with the images. As we follow the artistic and “alchemical” process of each element as an autonomous story – the instant photos, those painted by the artist, others painted by the indigenous children, the drawings and the photos from historical archives – we feel on each page of this interactive book the emanation of care, time, and the desire to keep the connection between the person who looks at the image which, in turn, returns the gaze: the same affect, the same connection, or the same confirmation of his/her otherness. The aesthetics of affection produces mirror images.
In Transa, Angela explores a broad experimental approach in order to create a hybrid and multidisciplinary body of work that refers to photography, literature, comic book illustration, painting and cinema, incorporating diverse handmade, digital, analogical and sculptural resources to create a story inspired by the aesthetic of affection even though possibly in an opposite way to the previous work. Here, the artist’s gaze is retrospective and experimental and starts with the examination of a photographic archive and a body of transatlantic lived experiences undergoing more than ten years of gentle sedimentation.
This implies a dual perceptual movement from within-outward and from the outside in. In Transa, therefore, narrative construction opens up the passage towards a polyphonic creation that exceeds but also combines the technical and linguistic specificities of each artistic field. Linear and chronological continuity is broken and narrative autonomous and combinatory fragmented subtexts appear, like islands in an archipelago of questions, sighs and meanings. In this hybrid and mobile cartography, the dominant ecosystem is that of the in between space: between times, between techniques, between ethnicities, between species, between languages, between formats, between screams and sighs, reality and fiction, sadness and exaltation.
In this cartography, in which the artist-researcher deepens her studies on the hybrid forms of photography, Angela develops formal and conceptual strategies to interconnect the in between spaces and create an inventory of uses and meanings. A crucial element is the invocation of the Iracema, the “virgin with lips of honey” from José de Alencar’s 1865 novel, an indigenous woman from the Tabajara tribe who represents the purity, trust and open giving of the virgin land. In addition to including comic strips from an illustrated version of the famous Ceará Legend, in the exhibition Iracema’s presence is felt in an unforgettable way by means of a subtle, sharp gesture: a crystallized tear denotes the sadness of abandonment in her eyes, an image which is a detail of a dark, black background image taken from a still of Carlos Coimbra’s 1975 film, Iracema. Allegory, history and fiction invade the present and stay there, confusing the linearity of Western History and reopening the badly told, unresolved gaps of knowledge. Another mechanism used to transcend space and time is based on a Duchamp-like appropriation of an other’s production, though in this case, instead of an objet trouvé, Angela incorporates and image or a peinture trouvée: a detail of a ceiling painting from the main auditorium of the Teatro da Paz (Peace Theatre) in Belém do Pará, North of Brazil. The paintings were made by neoclassical Italian painter Domenico de Angelis with mythological scenes that portray a characteristic belle époque Amazonian imaginary. Photography here is used as a selection, framing, cutting and recording tool, and a device for free appropriation, resignification, spatial displacement and pictorial reconstruction of a work that is born in the western colonial imaginary in the colonized jungle and now returns in the format of a printed tapestry, with the native Indian pointing his arrow back at his progenitor, or, who knows, at whom? This is the question. A work replete with irony and, at the same time, immensely amorous. This is an answer.
The use of ornamental elements and of pigments and minerals in a natural state interrupt the flat continuity of the two-dimensional surface of the photographic image and directs the gaze towards the significance of difference, or estrangement. Iracema’s tear takes us directly to the tragic end of her story and thus, to the current condition of the indigenous and the ecosystem in Brazil. The images contained in boxes which contain urucum powder, among other native pigments, introduce a play with the possibilities of visual perception and the imagination. Moving the boxes sideways causes one part of the image to be covered and the other unveiled, and vice-versa. History is alive and under constant construction and elaboration. The extent of our seeing depends on so many factors which are in play under different circumstances upon each moment of life. Hence, in this work, the elements that today fight against the threat of their own extinction were transformed into x-rays of the souls that will murmur in our ears as they hover over the burnt and flattened lands of the Amazon, emptied of their dense and rich tropical fauna and flora, if things continue to unfold in the direction in which they are, today. Claudia Andujar has been fighting for over five decades for the protection of indigenous life and for a healthy, natural ecosystem: the Amazon, Brazil, the world. The infrared fuchsia of her unforgettable 1976 loud cry masterpiece depicting an indigenous hut surrounded by an equally protective and vulnerable forest on the Catrimani river comes to mind in these images in which Angela draws attention to the same aesthetic scream.
A homage to a struggle that grows in urgency every day, Angela’s infra-red hut was bathed in glitter, the aerial view of the meeting of the rivers in the great wild jungle is pink, and the sun of the last ballad, fuchsia, too. Pink also are the painted birds on a black and white landscape, the açaí fruit palm trees and the parrot, the house on the river, the herding, the tenuous limit between fire and freedom. Passion, life, excitement, risk, screams, burning, fire, the twilight terrain between life and death, native territory, ancestral land, a right of all humanity. There are gestures – because these strategies of intervention upon photographic images are gestures of identification, estrangement and classification – which bring to our consciousness Glauber Rocha’s thoughts on magic and the oneiric in his second and last manifesto. Faced with the impotence and perplexity of Brazil’s political destiny after the 1964 military coup, the horror of the dictatorships, political trance and the shaking of consciousness and the total loss of freedom, Glauber Rocha addresses a new question, the same question that guides Angela Berlinde in Transa. Balada do ultimo sol: there is no sense fighting in the field of the oppressor’s reason, rather we must fight in the territory of unreason, the absurd and myth.
And in the place of transgressive violence, to pierce through the numbness of sense and sensibility, Angela appeals to the gestural nature of the aesthetic of affection and inserts a crystal tear underneath Iracema’s eye, filling with light all that which appears to be thrown against the dark margins of abandonment and oblivion. History will continue to insist: Iracema’s tear confronts us with pain and love, and leaves us speechless: we will not be able to forget her. And thus it should be.
Veronica Cordeiro (Brazil/Uruguay)