Reading time: 6 minutes
Sesc Belenzinho, São Paulo, Brazil
November 9, 2018 – February 3, 2019
What is outside our field of vision does not cease to exist
To open this exhibition with such a statement invites us to reflect on the ecology of problems mobilized by what we shall name here global technological infrastructure. Namely social, economic, technical, symbolic, spiritual, cultural, sexual, political, geographic, environmental aspects, all of which are heavily intricate, and ultimately actualize and give global sequence to preexisting colonial norms and narratives. And in order to perpetuate such narratives, numerous devices, codings, transactions, operations and abstractions are created, while pushing out of our field of vision, reflection, perception and knowledge, all these involved factors. Under this logic, we learned to call the cloud the electronic waste we produce and dump, on the West African coast; the water needed for the cooling of server farms and data servers that store all our information; the wars and the labor situation in countries like Congo, closely related to the mining focused on the electronics industry; the exploitation and expropriation of land and labor, made by multinational companies in Brazilian lands, especially in the Amazon and Minas Gerais; among many other aspects, agents and localities that compose this chain that taught us to deny, not to see.
The perpetuation of this narrative, in contexts traversed by electronic and digital technologies, tends to treat as neutral and universal the knowledge and the body of the subject who writes it. But we know that our worldviews are always constrained, limited like the eyes of algorithmic programmers, computer scientists, big infrastructure engineers, and so on. These end up valuing, visualizing and structuring the operation of technologies and their infrastructures, based on certain knowledge, bodies, cultures, geographies, policies, while excluding others.
Facing the fast, intercontinental, generic and antinarrative processing of a Big Data logic, artists situate here, in Sesc Belenzinho, audiovisual and graphic narratives, constituted from specific contexts, such as: La Guajira (Colombia), Agbogbloshie (Ghana), Praia do Futuro, Mariana, Aldeia Rio Silveira, Jaraguá Peak (Brazil), as well as those who emphasize the architectures of their own bodies as the central locus of action, or even the coexistence with other beings, not only humans.
We invite audiences to navigate with us through this set of narratives, which can be read as a counterfield to the contemporary technological environment — extending our perceptual fields beyond what is visible, as form, as interface, as the boundaries of worlds we dwell in. We propose that this be a ritual–path of liberation of certain bewitchments, performing with us new alchemies, and also counter-sorceries.
Curatorial text by Cláudio Bueno and Ligia Nobre – Curators
Ruy Cézar Campos – Curatorial Assistant
Five ways of considering technological infrastructures
The exhibition Campos de Invisibilidade (Fields of Invisibility) has been divided into five sections – the first, The New Beach of the Future, presents the work of the artists Emma Charles, Louis Henderson, Tabita Rezaire, Julio Plaza and Ruy Cézar Campos, who all work to deconstruct the myth of the immaterial cloud. The name of the section refers to the beach in Fortaleza, Ceará, where the underwater cables that digitally connect Brazil to the world come ashore.
Through the works in this section, the visitor will also find out that Ghana, on the west coast of Africa, from time to time receives tons of electronic waste, mainly from Europe, suggesting a form of reverse colonialism (in this case, it is the Africans who are extracting valuable metals from the material originating in the European cities). Visitors will also discover more about the practice known as ‘Sakawa’, in which people hack bank accounts and data.
In Farewell to the Seven Falls – the name being a reference to a poem by Carlos Drummond de Andrade – the artists Carolina Caycedo (England/Colombia), Ruy Cézar Campos, and the Territorial Agency collective (England) discuss how the drilling for oil, the damning of water, and mining and the production of coal represent a “rape of the earth”, in the words of Cristiane Takuá, an indigenous filmmaker who speaks in one of the sound recordings in the exhibition.
In Ouroboros, the third section, the focus is on melancholy and the alienation, exhaustion and transformation of bodies and its connections, and the incessant search for meaning found in the works of Jon Rafman (Canada) and the Brazilians Aretha Sadick, Bruno Mendonça, Denise Agassi and Felix Pimenta. Sadick, who combines references to Grace Jones, afro-futurism, cyborg theory and drag culture in her work, will give a performance at the opening of the exhibition, and also, together with the educational activities staff of Sesc Belenzinho, offer a workshop on costumes and narratives.
Cosmograms presents the works of Kabila Aruanda (Brazil), Louis Henderson, Alan Turing, Ada Lovelace (England), Rita Wu (Brazil) and Déborah Danowski (Brazil). The works explore spirituality, our relationship with the earth and the different ways of relating; the architect and designer Rita Wu, a founding member of the ‘Fab Lab’ (Digital Manufacturing Laboratory) of the São Paulo University (USP) Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism, presents three diagrams that look at communication based upon observations of bacteria and other species. The artist demonstrates that there is a relational structure similar to the consensus and trust logics present in the blockchain universe.
The final section, entitled Visualizations of the World, displays maps of airplanes in the air in real time, maps of shipping routes, a graph of the transfers on the São Paulo Stock Exchange, and maps of underwater cables and abandoned mines. The maps demonstrate the massive physical presence of the technological infrastructure and the role it plays in the functioning of life today. For the curators, there is a desire to encourage visitors to expand their field of reflections and perceptions of the notions of geography, ecology, aesthetics, politics, spirituality, information, sovereignty, etc.
Also forming part of the exhibition is a small library featuring 20 titles by researchers and artists who are references for the study. The books cover the fields of technology, geography, art, design, ecology, communications and social relations.
Cláudio Bueno is an artist, researcher and agent for cultural projects. He is currently one of the joint coordinators of the Intervalo-Escola and Explode! platforms. He has received awards, participated in residences, exhibitions and public talks at Brazilian and international institutions, such as: Hessel Museum/ CCS Bard (USA); Delfina Foundation and Whitechapel Gallery (England); Humboldt-Universität (Germany); Itaú Cultural, Videobrasil and Tomie Ohtake (Brazil), amongst others. He has a PhD in Visual Arts from USP College of Communication and Arts.
Ligia Nobre is an architect, agent for cultural projects, and researcher working on the intercurrences between art, design and architecture. She was Deputy Curator for the 10th São Paulo Architecture Bienal (2013) and was director of the exo experimental org platform, that facilitated studies, artistic residences, publications and exhibitions. She is currently a professor at the Escola da Cidade and is working towards a doctorate on the Aesthetics and History of Art Program at the University of São Paulo, with her research focusing on ritual-designs and Afro-Brazilian ways of life.
Alongside Carol Tonetti and Vitor Cesar, Cláudio and Ligia make up O Grupo Inteiro. Since 2014, the group has brought together professionals with different educational and practical backgrounds including architecture, design, art, communication, education and technology, creating conditions for public dialogs through aesthetic-political approaches informed by different networks, platforms and projects that are developed by its members and collaborators. The group participated in the Playgrounds 2016 (MASP/Sesc SP) and Campos de Preposições (Fields of Prepositions) exhibitions at Sesc SP, the latter in partnership with the Central Saint Martins University of the Arts London, and is currently developing a work entitled Correspondence (in association with Pro-Helvetia and FAR°) in Switzerland.