Quiet nights of quiet stars
Quiet chords from my guitar
Floating on the silence that surrounds us
Quiet thoughts and quiet dreams
Quiet walks by quiet streams
And a window looking on the mountains
And the sea, so lovely
This is where I want to be
Here, with you so close to me
Until the final flicker of life’s amber
I who was lost and lonely
Believing life was only
A bitter tragic joke
Have found with you
The meaning of existence oh, my love
Lyrics written by Antônio Carlos Jobim (Tom Jobim) in 1960
The Passion According to G.H. (1964) is a disturbing and shocking novel by Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector. Set in Rio de Janeiro, it tells the story of a wealthy woman, G.H, who encounters a cockroach in the service quarters of her apartment. The occurrence leads to a nervous breakdown and an existential crisis and ends in our heroine eating a part of the roach…
“The roach is an ugly and sparkling being. The roach is the other way around. No, no, it doesn’t have a way around: it is that. Whatever is exposed in it is what I hide in me: from my outside being exposed I made my unheeded inside. It was looking at me. And it wasn’t a face. It was a mask. A diver’s mask. That precious gem of rusted iron. Its two eyes were alive like two ovaries. It was looking at me with the blind fertility of its gaze. It was fertilizing my dead fertility. Would its eyes be salty? If I touched them — since I was gradually getting more and more unclean — if I touched them with my mouth, would they taste salty?
I’d already tasted in my mouth a man’s eyes and, from the salt in my mouth, realized he was crying.
But, thinking about the salt in the roach’s black eyes, suddenly I recoiled again, and my dry lips pulled back to my teeth: the reptiles that move across the earth! In the halted reverberation of the light of the room, the roach was a small slow crocodile. The dry and vibrating room. The roach and I posed in that dryness as on the dry crust of an extinct volcano. That desert I had entered, and also inside it I was discovering life and its salt.”
Questions of Travel, a poem by Elizabeth Bishop, was written in Rio and published in 1956 about five years after she first moved there.
There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streams
hurry too rapidly down to the sea,
and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintops
makes them spill over the sides in soft slow-motion,
turning to waterfalls under our very eyes.
–For if those streaks, those mile-long, shiny, tearstains,
aren’t waterfalls yet,
in a quick age or so, as ages go here,
they probably will be.
But if the streams and clouds keep travelling, travelling,
the mountains look like the hulls of capsized ships,
slime-hung and barnacled.
Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?
But surely it would have been a pity
not to have seen the trees along this road,
really exaggerated in their beauty,
not to have seen them gesturing
like noble pantomimists, robed in pink.
–Not to have had to stop for gas and heard
the sad, two-noted, wooden tune
of disparate wooden clogs
carelessly clacking over
a grease-stained filling-station floor.
(In another country the clogs would all be tested.
Each pair there would have identical pitch.)
–A pity not to have heard
the other, less primitive music of the fat brown bird
who sings above the broken gasoline pump
in a bamboo church of Jesuit baroque:
three towers, five silver crosses.
–Yes, a pity not to have pondered,
blurr’dly and inconclusively,
on what connection can exist for centuries
between the crudest wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden cages.
–Never to have studied history in
the weak calligraphy of songbirds’ cages.
–And never to have had to listen to rain
so much like politicians’ speeches:
two hours of unrelenting oratory
and then a sudden golden silence
in which the traveller takes a notebook, writes:
“Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one’s room?
Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there . . . No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?”
Martin Parr has been photographing beach life over many decades, documenting all aspects of this tradition including close ups of sun bathers, swimming dips and picnics in the UK as well as in countries as far apart as China, Argentina and Thailand. This [collection] demonstrates Parr’s engagement with a cherished subject matter, where all absurdities and quirky National behaviours seamlessly fuse together. Text from Magnum Photos
Named as the best Brazilian song of all time, Aguas de Março (Waters of March) was composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim in 1972. The beautiful lyrics are a stream of consciousness about March, the peak of the rainy season in Rio.
It is a footstep, it is a bridge
It is a frog, it is a frog
It is a rest of bush…
under the morning light
They are the waters of March,
Closing the summer
And the promise of life
in your heart …
Valeska Soares was born in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in 1957 and, like most of Brazil’s contemporary artists, has been influenced by the historical Baroque and by Neo-Concretism. Her installation, Vanishing Point, is based on the conflict of visual and olfactory perception. In this installation Soares explores the capacity of scent to magnify one’s senses and heighten the connection between sense and reason, body and intellect. It comprises of fifteen steel receptacles filled with amber-coloured perfume. The containers vary in shape and are arranged to form the pattern of a Baroque garden, also alluding to the shape of labyrinths in several architectural traditions. The perfume impregnates the room with a sweet smell which soon becomes overbearing and creates an oppressive atmosphere. The simple and minimalist symmetry created by the steel containers contrasts sharply with the frenzied scent to create a contradictory experience.
In Vanishing Point (1998) Soares explores the fine line between being intoxicated by something and being sickened by it, a concept she frequently involves in her work. When describing the role of perfume in her work, Suarez said “perfume has become a metaphor for possibilities of intoxication. It’s a substance that crosses that border between being pleasurable and being overintoxicating”. In Vanishing Point, the pleasant perfume is something that seduces the viewer, however, once they are immersed in it, it becomes heavy and oppressive. This idea was beautifully represented on the opening night of the installation when bees were lured by the scent of the perfume and fell into the tanks to meet their death.
Vanishing Point fuses elements of the Baroque tradition with contemporary concepts and mediums. The frantic effect of the perfume mimics the excess which is typical of the Baroque period. The installation also has a definite vanitas quality –a common Baroque theme– as the aroma draws attention to the ephemeral character of the garden and the mortality of all living things.
The idea for this piece grows out of Soares’ keen interest in spaces, gardens and various ideas of paradise. Her fascination with scents stems from her interest in ephemeral things, in her work she does not attempt to create a logical narrative but rather give people triggers that activate memories so that they can create their own narratives. Each piece is subjective and can be interpreted in many different ways depending on the context of the person viewing it.
Vanishing Point softens rigid geometric forms with the sensuality of perfumes. However, little by little the perfume evaporates, leaving the message that even though steel structures may outlive sensual transient ones it is the abstract and spiritual that leaves a profound mark on our memory. Soares also wished to underscore the temporality of grandeur and beauty in the “feminine” essence against the enduring geometric maze’s “masculine” presence with its overtones of order and logic.
In First Love, by Brazilian artist Rivane Neuenschwander, a forensic artist reconstructs the face of the participants’ lost loves through a collaborative procedure that is part artistry, part science and part storytelling. These portraits establish a record of absence and loss and dramatise the action of memory.
‘I like dealing with paradigmatic things’, Cildo Meireles has said, ‘material things that are recognized by the public in their everyday lives, things that are at the same time matter and symbol. Money, for example.’ From the blatant exhibition, on a pedestal, of a wad of banknotes secured with rubber bands, Money Tree 1969, to the gold thread and gold nails inserted, respectively, into a great mass of straw in Fio (Thread) 1990–5 and plain wooden crates in Ouro e Paus (Gold and Wood) 1982–95, the conundrums of value have continued to fascinate Meireles. Money Tree ‘points towards the problem of the value of the art object and the discrepancy between use-value and exchange-value’. It consists of 100 one-Cruzeiro notes and was offered for sale for twenty times that amount. One wonders what it would fetch today; in inﬂationary Brazil at the time it was made, Meireles joked, money was the cheapest material. Much later, for Occasion 2004, the artist contrived a scenario in which the public would be faced by money in the most direct way. This ensured that our attention would be drawn away from speculative thoughts about the art object, and back to ourselves. We encountered a small, elegant, open receptacle containing new banknotes in the centre of a brightly lit room lined with three big mirrors on three of the walls,producing endless recession images. One of the mirrors was two-way. Viewers reacted in various different ways to the presence of the naked cash, and then, leaving the room and looking back through the two-way mirror, saw other people where they themselves had been a moment before, becoming voyeurs. As a last clandestine ﬂing, Meireles became an ironic counterfeiter, printing a large number of bills – Zero Cruzeiro 1974 and Zero Dollar 1978– the latter with the help of the designer/engraver João Bosco Renaud. Reducing ofﬁcial value to zero, the subversive Cruzeiro notes are embellished with the portraits, not of some illustrious ﬁgure of the Brazilian pantheon, but of two individuals effectively excluded fromBrazilian society, whose civil rights are minimal: a Kraô Indian on one face and the inmate of a mental asylum on the other (Meireles knew both these men).
Cildo Meireles: On the nature of things by Guy Brett and Vicente Todolí. Click to read more