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Elaine Tedesco

interview transcript

Date of Interview: Oct 15, 2005
Location: Brazil
Topic: Interview with Elaine Tedesco in Porto Alegre
Interviewer: Virginia Gil Araujo

LatinArt:  Could you tell us about your participation in the 5th Mercosur Biennial? This is your second presentation in the Mercosur Biennials and I perceive that your work has moved from cabin-objects, Cabines para isolamento e Escadas [Cabins for Isolation and Staircases], towards the installation of an audiovisual cabin.

Elaine Tedesco:  The invitation to participate in the Biennial - in the From Sculpture to Installation nucleus- got me thinking about the problems that arise with the construction of an installation in a new exhibition space, which, in part, I undertook after the 2nd Biennial. I reviewed my participation in that Biennial, in 1999, where I presented a cabin and two staircases. In that Biennial, I projected the Cabine para Isolamento [Cabin for Isolation] (with the bed) - a miniscule wooden room with a bed that occupied the entire interior space, it was like a box with a bed - inside the exhibition space. On the roof there was an organic-shaped cut-away, filled with a rustic wooden lattice. This piece formed a counterpoint for two boxes/staircases that I also presented. The distribution of these three large pieces in a small room only permitted viewing from close range, as if within a house. The situation stimulated two distinct attitudes in the visitors: the absorption or exposure of the body itself on the staircases/pedestals.

I remembered the problems experienced at the time, when visitors tore off parts of the covering of one of the staircases. And also that that very staircase was the first object I moved toward the landscape to photograph. Its image was unfolded in projection in Escada á beira da lagoa [Stairway at the edge of the lagoon]. A work in which I projected the image of the staircase onto a foam mattress held up by two pieces of wood (parts of the cabin) at the sides.

The view over the city is the initial reference for my project for the 5th Mercosur Biennial of Visual Arts. I am developing proposals involving projection of slides onto the architecture. For these performances, I choose surroundings that reveal a certain manifest state of abandonment: ruins, uninhabited houses and security booths, among others. These situations synthesized into different projects: Sobreposií§íµes Imprecisas [Imprecise Superimpositions] (2001-2203), Sobreposií§íµes Urbanas [Urban Superimpositions] and their unfolding, the Guaritas [Booths], projections carried out this year in Porto Alegre, Sí£o Paulo and Belem do Para.

Armazém A4 portí£o 2 [Warehouse A4 front door 2] is an audiovisual installation that takes as its departure point the selection of the front door of the warehouses on the dock of the port as a base. I chose the front door as a symbol of the place, afterwards I thought to create a "black box" in front of it, as a reference to the idea of the black box of photography and the cinema salon. In order to connect that "black room" to the white space of the rest of the exhibition, I constructed a passage cabin. The cabins are proposals that I developed since 1999, they are restricted spaces, constructed in wood, and which generally delimit a room within a room in the exhibition space. In the case of the installation in the 5th Biennial, the cabin (a closed corridor with red lighting) functions as an antechamber and proposes a climate change.

The DVD that is projected onto the door displays a sequence of images of meats suspended in a primary plane. Upon opening the plane, it is revealed that they are meat-vending stalls, and in each scene two stalls are superimposed. Each block of three images is followed by the projection of a red square on the door. The audio track, comprised of sounds compiled in the actual warehouse of the dock of the port, such as the sonorous reverberation of the opening and closing of the door, create the ambiance for the installation. The work superimposes images of the Belem do Para meat-market on the door of one of the Warehouses of the Dock of the Port in Porto Alegre.

LatinArt:  The condition of isolation of the public of the first cabins is transformed into participative experience with the projections inside a room. Do you believe that it would be possible to think in terms of presence and absence regarding the question of the reception in this last work for the Biennial?

Elaine Tedesco:  Perhaps. When I refer to the concepts of presence and absence I’m talking about the relationship with the body. They are proposals that have perception as a reference. Questions of scale, materials and spatial disposition are always projected taking as a measurement the dimensions of an adult of medium stature. In the Aparatos para o Sono [Apparatus for Sleep] (1993-1998) proposals, I was thinking about constructing works that rescued the perception of my sensations using the objects that we use for sleeping: mattress, sheet, pillow. I was thinking that the pieces should stimulate an evocative state in the visitors; inviting them to recall their resting states. As such, this series presents a relationship between presence and absence of the body, but the body doesn’t exist until the visitor positions himself in front of the work. The Cabines para isolamento [Cabins for Isolation], the Cama pública [Public bed] and the Escadas [Staircases] do not evoke memories. They are arranged as objects of use; they are works that await an action. In Armazém A4 portí£o 2, [Warehouse A4 front door 2] the same thing happens, because what would become of an audiovisual installation without the visitors?

LatinArt:  Could you comment upon your projects involving photographic intervention in cities, Sobreposií§íµes Urbanas [Urban Superimpositions] (2004) and Sobreposií§íµes Imprecisas [Imprecise Superimpositions] (2003)? To what extent did you manage to transform the street into an open workshop? Do you believe that you have altered everyday life for the passersby in the places where you made the projections?

Elaine Tedesco:  Altering the everyday life of the passersby is not the goal of the projections that I make in urban spaces. I’m not interested in transforming anybody’s routine. On the contrary, I think about how to act in such a way that doesn’t cause disruption, and I try not to radically interfere in a given public space. I believe that, for that reason, I use the, somewhat contradictory, term, open workshop. Well, it is a workshop: generally a closed space where the artist keeps her materials, things, books, documents, and there expresses herself, I believe. There are individual and collective workshops, but I never liked to have a workshop all to myself. For me, a workshop is a space for community, exchange, experimentation. It’s in this sense that I use the term open workshop, as, for me, in recent years the works involving the projections have taken on the same characteristics: space for community, exchange, experimentation, where I express myself and create relationships. So, when I think about the passersby, I think of subjects with whom I can establish some kind of exchange, although this doesn’t always happen.

Imprecise Superimpositions, 2003, was carried out during the Areal project, coordinated by Andre Severo and Maria Helena Bernardes, in interior cities of Rio Grande do Sul. The first of those cities was Mostardas, which had a small downtown area. There the people are in the streets during the evening, the exchange with them was direct, such that, as I was moving the projection, I changed the groups that accompanied the actions, and those I talked with. As well as the hotel, the projections were made on other buildings without prior planning; it was this experience that led me to use the term open workshop. Something similar occurred in the Rio Pardo Agricultural Cooperative. There, there was a rewarding exchange of work experiences, in which I accompanied the work of the Cooperative’s members and they accompanied the projections.

The Urban Superimpositions project, a project where I invited Mima Lunardi, Renato Heuser, Clovis Martins Costa and Lizangela Torres to participate, was a derivative of the work that I’ve just described. For that reason, when I present it, I write that public space in this project functions as an open workshop, where the observers accompany the procedures of the artist, who works there creating relationships between their proposals and the chosen place. In each work, this idea of open workshop functioned in a different way. For all of us the idea of experimentation became clear, thus the projections permitted changes from one day to the next, or on the same day - something that, in an exhibition, doesn’t always occur, although we also experienced situations where the people were not able to make exchanges, such as in Barrios Navegantes and Sao Geraldo, situated in the city’s old industrial zone.

LatinArt:  Would you like to say a few words about the photographic projections of the Cabines de Seguraní§a [Security Booths] carried out this year in Sao Paulo and Belem, which prioritize ruins as spaces for the projections? I notice a relationship with the Arte Construtora [Construction Art] project of the 90s, for the fact that this project also chose historic ruins for its interventions.

Elaine Tedesco:  Arte Construtora, which in each of its editions had Lucia Koch, Elaine Tedesco, Elcio Rossini, Marijane Ricacheneisky, Fernando Limberger, Luisa Meyer, Nina Moraes and Jimmy Leroy, wasn’t directly interested in ruins. Our interest consisted in occupying spaces, preferably without a defined destination; places we could temporarily appropriate. There existed a desire to use the places with great sense of liberty, with the possibility of coming and going whenever we wanted, and developing all kinds of work there. The only place that had a ruin at the outset was Casa de la Polvora [Powder House] Island, which was chosen by Elcio Rossini and I. However, we didn’t choose it for the ruins. We chose it because we wanted to get to know the place, and we only went there after the financing was approved. There is a relationship between what I made (for the 5th Biennial) and Construction Art, in the same way that that there is with everything I’ve developed.

Guaritas [Booths], a series of projections that I developed this year in Porto Alegre, Sao Paulo and Belem, was begun a while ago, and is a consequence of my walks around Porto Alegre. I began to photograph them as a reference for creating the Cabines para Isolamento [Cabins for Isolation] project in 1998. The booths are minimalist and precarious constructions, many times irregularly located on the public thoroughfare, whose maintenance costs and personnel salaries are covered autonomously by a civil community. The photographs present constructions impregnated with the marks of use and time, and the images highlight both the precarious aspect and the singularity of each booth. Of the places I chose for the projections of the booths, some could be considered ruins - such as was the case of the estate located behind the Monastery of Sao Benito, in Sao Benito street, in Sí£o Paulo -, however, in the same street, I also projected the booths onto an old but well-preserved building housing a hardware store. In Villa Mariana I chose an abandoned, but not ruined, house, and, in that case, the Booths gave rise to other photographs.

In Porto Alegre, most of the places chosen were inhabited and had a working use (the side wall of a restaurant, the faí§ade of an indoor parking lot, the tiled roof of a house under renovation, the foundations of a residential building). The architecture of some was really poor and they were situated in relatively central neighborhoods.

In Belem, the situation was similar: the neighborhoods were central and the constructions old. For the first projection attempts, I chose houses in a state of ruin, because I was really fascinated by the image of a house with trees that had invaded its interior; an image that abounds in Belem. In my imaginary, this functions as an index for the presence of the mountain. The projections made in the Arts Institute of Para, installed in an old ex-military building, were impregnated with other contexts: the projection of an image of a booth on a tree and on the building’s faí§ade, but none of these is actually a ruin.

LatinArt:  The installation for the 5th Mercosur Biennial includes images of the "Ver o Peso" ["See the Weight"] Meat Market in Belem. What is the relationship that you establish between Brazil’s northern and southern ruins?

Elaine Tedesco:  The connection between the Meat Market in Belem and the Dock Warehouses of the Port in Porto Alegre is established by the similar state of decadence and non-definition, as far as the destinies of these architectonic bodies in their respective cities are concerned. On the basis of that non-definition, these places express a time where it is possible to perceive their memories by way of the marks, rust, irregular floor, etc. And this pause for thought that such buildings provoke in the urban structure, as a revelation - the marks of the past in the present - interests me. When I look at a building in that state of non-definition, I think about the force of the presence of the past, and about how it is scorned when buildings are to be restored - the past is dead, it is relegated to a few photographs, to objects, albeit well preserved, but without the marks of use and time. Both the abandoned new buildings and the precarious or unfinished constructions, the booths are indicators of a present-day decadence of the contemporary cities that cause me to stop and reflect.

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