01 abril 2013

CHAOS-WORLD by Marcelo Campos


Full HD
2' 44''


João Castilho’s works highlight relations between photographic image and the broadening of narrative devices. Castilho is interested in observing links between landscape and pictorial visuals, illustrated, for example, by his interventions with coloured dye in a salt desert. Or by his observations of natural phenomena in countryside environments, like the whirlpools in the dry hinterland of Minas Gerais state. Elsewhere we can see landscape invading billboard structures, clouds that fit the rectangular shape as if prepared to be framed right there. Thus the presence of a certain writing of the image places him in clear view of his targets, memorable moments, aiming the camera, but not settling on a single click. Castilho’s projects go beyond the use of photography. In his recent videographic production, Morte Súbita (Sudden Death) the artist observed the pregnant moment of a gunshot and made a polyptych with monitors that clouded, eclipsed the scenes, but that coincided in synch with the shot. A work of extreme beauty and cruelty, not only by virtue of the bullet fired, but because it makes us reflect on the banality of the image of death, the sensationalisation of daily tragedies in the media, such as kidnappings, robberies and police chases. 

For this exhibition, João Castilho's starting point is Glissant’s homonymous concept, where the author seeks to understand events that cause us to move beyond verbal and written dichotomy. In Chaos-World the existence of an Earth-Totality establishes a reformulation in the relation between norms and rules, opening up to the comprehension of political and aesthetic facts from the fringes of society. We are faced with the result of the use of language transcending its standard, textbook use. And, far from grammatical error, this abuse of the narrative alerts us about the existence of an impossible communication through traditional channels. Writing, as Jack Good maintained, is the domestication of thought. Chaos, therefore, would be a response, an escape. 

Castilho offers us in this exhibition the video Abismo (Abysm). Coming from the depths, from the darkness, we see a ship, full of people, being taken by the movement of the water. The most obvious association of the image for Brazil is the routes of the colonizers, indigenous references or slave ships. And the boat sails on toward the camera, as if we were watching an interval in the film, an intermediary frame of a more complete narrative. Yet, there is no beginning or end. Here we are before the whole story, and no story at all, a hiatus, where the relation between the title and the image makes us spectators of an event that has just that minute not happened. The abysm, therefore, is what is to come, something that might be found soon after that instant, where those aboard find themselves adrift. Speech and writing, therefore, are presented as traumas of the colonization, in Glissant’s terms. 

In another video, Erupção (Eruption), several simultaneous scenes separated in multiple screens lead us to intuit the presence of fires. But the main issue here, again, is only observable at an angle, as if the camera were seeking the event in an investigative manner, without knowing for sure in which direction it should be pointing. All the separate images lead to our understanding that it's a bus that is on fire, a fact of life in the big city violence which although almost commonplace is, at the same time, borders on the barbaric, the irrational, on a lack of civility or the collapse of civilisation. We are living in a Chaos-World. Interpersonal relations, the maintenance of collective living, the possibility of creating a Oneness are corrupted. But this has always been a challenge; how to create a Oneness without keeping hierarchies, without reproducing power relations, without drawing margins, peripheries. Glissant incites us to perceive that poetry is an opportunity to "participate in the common chant". In other words, only the dizziness of the narratives, of the writings, can unite us in brotherhood. “We can’t write any more of our landscape or describe our own language in a monolithic manner”, states Glissant. In Chaos-World there is a need for language to transcend languages. 

Castilho obviously starts from the language of photography, used in everyday life to make visible historical or trivial facts of this chaos-world, creating a supposed documentation of reality, seeking denouncement, memory. This has always been a challenge for photography, as it exercises another kind of permanence. When an image is inscribed, the objectives lose their literality; the objective is no longer the prolonged impregnation of the image in the support. Transfigurations are created. It’s wrong to say that, in the beginnings of photography, the only interest was to portray facts. Photography has been experimental for a long time, as we can see in Man Ray or Yevonde. Nevertheless, when faced with the image, we can understand the facts that have occurred. We become collaborators of the information. However, with historical milestones representing breaks in the major lines of narrative, these challenges have intensified. Today, the narratives are broken by chaos itself, suicide bombers, kidnappings, violence. And this is what Castilho’s work focuses on, making us collaborators of the blowout. 

But how can one supplant the literality of the information? However surreal it may seem, the unbelievable is televised. On the one hand, we see that it’s sunny today, on the other, that it’s raining, but art is not presented. This was Pablo Picasso’s criticism of impressionist painting, which he pejoratively called “retinal”, precisely at the time of greatest exchange between painting and photography. Nowadays, we could add, that we can see what we cannot believe, the unthinkable, the inadmissible. And it all becomes image. But the “Picassian” axiom remains: the fact is to know “when one is making art”. 

On this, several conceptual devices have been identified by thinkers, Arthur Danto’s aboutness, Kant’s endless endeavour, Agamben’s untimeliness. They all agree that art is in the margins of the message, frequenting a border region, developed in the emptiness of immateriality, and remaining, even after the museum lights are switched off. Therefore, we already know when it’s sunny. Gunshots and death have become trivialized by the image in repeated news items. And, nonetheless, we want to know when to make art. 

Photography had been challenged to surpass the limits of the narrative, to inform without an end purpose, to open up to the devices, like in a game. Would the image, therefore, hold a dual meaning, to give to see and to transcend. Today, we could risk saying no. The visual aspect is no longer the objective of photography. Photographic information is made by an ever-innovative take, in the choice of angles, in the manipulation of the narrative. We could respond to Picasso by saying that it’s not always as sunny as we think, even if all the visual signs tell us otherwise. The rain gods may be invoked, as in Walter de Maria’s Lightning Field. And it “makes lightning”, stimulated by the intervention in nature project triggered by the artist, but we can agree that it doesn’t always “make art”. 

As Guattari concludes, therefore, one has to understand art’s achievement in a “subjective City”. That where the deterritorialised human being becomes the tourist who travels without moving, in aeroplane cabins, and uses this condition to search for a subjectivity under constant threat of paralysis. In this chaotic, subjective world, homelands are lost. The city-world of capitalism has been deterritorialised, and transformed into a Chaos-World. Art, therefore, joins the huge machine-city in the production of imagined subjectivities, as in the works of João Castilho. 

Marcelo Campos, 2013