The Outer Journey, The Inner Path or Vice-Versa
In her first productions of collages, objects, sculptures and assemblages, Angella Conte already addressed subjects as landscape and its conceptual1 bias; memory and identity; the tension between fiction and reality; narrative notions and practices of displacement, drift and ambulation. Such topics became more complex since the artist started to focus her work, almost exclusively, on the video support, in 2005. Therefore the videos of the artist begin to explore more deeply what was already present in her previous works.
In the exhibition “The Outer Journey, The Inner Path or Vice-Versa2”, all the topics mentioned above are existent but we choose to present a selection of the artist video production that addresses more specific issues such as observations on “documental”, the discursive dimensions that are present in the audiovisual media through its technical procedures and forms of exhibition, as well as socio-political and economic problems.
While producing the exhibition with the already mentioned conceptual starting points we ended up turning to the very important exhibit “[based upon] TRUE STORIES” in São Paulo (April 29 – June 1, 2003) held in the city of São Paulo in the Paço das Artes Institution curated by Catherine David and Jean-Pierre Rehm and produced by Lígia Nobre and Cécile Zoonens through the Exo platform3. According to the producers themselves in the project’s presentation text, this exhibit was about a polyphonic narrative of a reality lived, and the interest for some questions but not necessarily for its answers: How does such reality affects us and places us?
How is it real?
In the words of the researcher and collaborator of the project Jean-Claude Bernardet, the exhibition aimed to “notice the signs of a renovation in the transit between art and reality, and to find artistic [ and, in fact, politic] attitudes that change our relationship with what is real and, as a result, re-discover it or even discover other realities.
In Angella Conte’s exhibition it is possible to notice similar intentions and questions to the ones in the Nobre and Zoonens exhibit. This is particularly evident in videos like “A multitude dragged by Faith” and “Havana 1st May”.
What type of commentary is implicit in those registers of the “real”?
In addition to the videos that could be analyzed in its individuality, the exhibition grows in complexity and power once it is considered as a big installation and not viewed from the conventional expography perspective of a videos exhibit . The selection of these works and their presentation as a collection transform the exhibit in a discursive and dialogic zone as the
relationship between the works can be thought as a procedure of audiovisual editing and cutting, however in a specialized way4.
In this sense, when we relate the two videos mentioned with works like “Landscape that Passes”, “Rio 34 thousand feet”, “Between Times”, “Displacement” and “Can’t even hear my Soul” it becomes possible to create in the exhibit a long narrative from the chaining of these works.
While people walk to some place, there is a crowd crawling along during the religious event of Círio de Nazaré in the city of Belém do Pará. As for Cuba, workers march during the holidays of May 1st (Labor’s Day) in the streets of Havana celebrating the government. Across the ocean, the artist walks through the alleys of the city of Lisbon during the period of extreme crisis that Portugal lived after the second economic crisis the country went through in 2008 and before 2001. Nevertheless, the environment recorded in the video seems to show a desperate calm and serenity while the artist metaphorically walks almost like a ghostly figure or a bad omen. Resignation? And in Madrid, also in the midst of crisis, on a beautiful Sunday, Spanish people resting in a park on the edge of a river as in an Antoine Watteau painting. Pollyanna Syndrome? Meanwhile clouds pass and a plane flies over 34,000 feet the city of Rio de Janeiro. Silence took over the city.
The story above is only possible to be created due to the relationships that occur in the grouping of these works, as stated previously. This narrative, precisely, makes room for fiction. In this sense the videos that apparently could fit in a documentary language end up diluting the border between real and imaginary, or between real and fictional. In addition to social, political and economic commentary present in these works- - that have their speech reinforced by procedures inherent to audiovisual as some forms of editing, sound as well as the loop, frameworks and plans - we also have the issue of time and space that insert another layer in this equation, either when there is a contextualization of some territory or location, geographically speaking, or when it is completely decontextualized. So it is with the timing aspect, which at times seems to get close in some way to the chronological time but, at most of the time deconstructs such form of time by creating another type of timing.
In the “The Outer Journey, The Inner Path or Vice-Versa” it is evident that there is no more place for the “macro-narratives”, or for absolute truths. The micro politics proposed by Deleuze and Guattari could be an answer, a perspective for life. What moves us? In what do we want to believe? What story? To where do we need to go to get to ourselves?
Critic of the Exhibition Program - Centro Cultural São Paulo
1 Many contemporary theorists have been working on the theme of landscape, from Anne Cauquelin in her book "The Invention of Landscape", as well as the important geographer Milton Santos and the researcher Renata Marquez who in the last years have been highlighting quite interesting relationships between art and geography. Their production can be seen on the website - http://www.geografiaportatil.org/ These are just some examples for further development on the subject.
2 Expression found in “Places of Longing" by Verena Kast, published in the Humboldt magazine (issue "Passages") of the Goethe-Institut. This magazine presents an approach on traveling from ethnological, philosophical, psychological perspectives, history of art and cultural history.
3 See catalog about “[based upon] TRUE STORIES” in São Paulo (April 29 – June 1, 2003), Co-Edition Paço das Artes and Exo Experimental Org. The exhibition was an offshoot of the exhibit “[based upon] TRUE STORIES”, produced and organized in Rotterdam by the Centre for Contemporary Art Witte de With in collaboration with IDF - International Documentaries of Marseille Festival and the International Festival of Films Rotterdam, in January-March 2003. http://www.arquivoexo.org/praticas-documentarias
4 The artist and researcher Raquel Garbelotti will hold an interesting view on some of these issues from the exhibit “[based upon] TRUE STORIES” in her article "True Stories: The documentary and the installation as a political device" (2013). Available in: http://www.arquivoexo.org/praticas-documentarias/ensaio