Residue

By Carlos Drummond de Andrade

From everything a little remained.
From my fear. From your disgust.
From stifled cries. From the rose
a little remained.

A little remained of light
caught inside the hat.
In the eyes of the pimp
a little remained of tenderness,
very little.

A little remained of the dust
that covered your white shoes.
Of your clothes a little remained,
a few velvet rags, very
very few.

From everything a little remained.
From the bombed-out bridge,
from the two blades of grass,
from the empty pack
of cigarettes a little remained.

So from everything a little remains.
A little remains of your chin
in the chin of your daughter.

A little remained of your
blunt silence, a little
in the angry wall,
in the mute rising leaves.

A little remained from everything
in porcelain saucers,
in the broken dragon, in the white flowers,
in the creases of your brow,
in the portrait.

Since from everything a little remains,
why won’t a little
of me remain? In the train
travelling north, in the ship,
in newspaper ads,
why not a little of me in London,
a little of me somewhere?
In a consonant?
In a well?

A little remains dangling
in the mouths of rivers,
just a little, and the fish
don’t avoid it, which is very unusual.

From everything a little remains.
Not much: this absurd drop
dripping from the faucet,
half salt and half alcohol,
this frog leg jumping,
this watch crystal
broken into a thousand wishes,
this swan’s neck,
this childhood secret…
From everything a little remained:
from me; from you; from Abelard.
Hair on my sleeve,
from everything a little remained;
wind in my ears,
burbing, rumbling
from an upset stomach,
and small artifacts:
bell jar, honeycomb, revolver
cartridge, aspirin tablet.

From everything a little remained.

And from everything a little remains.
Oh, open the bottles of lotion
and smoother
the cruel, unbearable odor of memory.

Still, horribly, from everything a little remains,
under the rhythmic waves
under the clouds and the wind
under the bridges and under the tunnels
under the flames and under the sarcasm
under the phlegm and under the vomit
under the cry from the dungeon, the guy they forgot
under the spectacle and under the scarlet death
under the libraries, asylums, victorious churches
under yourself and under your feet already hard
under the ties of family, the ties of class,
from everything a little always remains.
Sometimes a button. Sometimes a rat.

luigi_ghirri_lido_di_spina_1973

Lido Di Spina. Luigi Ghirri. 1973.

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The Salty Tears of a Roach

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.”

Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas by Graciela Iturbide

Our Lady of the Iguanas. Juchitán, México. Graciela Iturbide. 1979.

Eating a Banana. Sarah Lucas. 1990.

Eating a Banana. Sarah Lucas. 1990.


In the Water

Ana Regina Nogueira by Gil Prates

Ana Regina Nogueira and Gil Prates

Ana Regina Nogueira by Gil Prates

Ana Regina Nogueira and Gil Prates


Volatile

Cildo Meireles was born in Rio in 1948 and grew up in a time of oppression and social turmoil. Thus he began his career as an artist by making subtle protest pieces challenging Brazil’s military dictatorship. Later on he became known for his sumptuous large-scale installations which are a roller coaster to the senses. In his installations Meireles allows the audience to interact with the artwork, hold it, feel it beneath their feet, hear it, smell it, and taste it. 

In his installation, Volatile, Meireles uses scent to cause fear. Volatile consists of a darkened room, divided in half by a wall, whose floor is covered in a thick layer of talcum powder. The smell of gas permeates the air, or rather T-butyl-mercaptan, the scent artificially added to natural gas so that deadly leaks can be detected. Around the corner, at the end of the adjacent room, sits a single candle lit up and creating an eerie and faint glow across the room. The scent of gas in itself causes panic in the viewers but the addition of fire creates an even greater sense of fear and tension, the room is volatile and could explode any minute. Meireles transforms the spectator into an active participant and subject of the wicked game, associating perversity and seduction within the same object. Meireles admits that he enjoys playing with people’s fears, saying that “when you have fear, your senses become heightened. You become more attentive to your environment.”

Meireles’ initial idea for Volatile was to have a candle in a bell jar inside a space filled with gas. Meireles liked the idea of giving the power of existence to the viewer. Let them answer the question ‘to be or not to be’. As he explained it, “it’s as if I had hung the hammer of reason and you, the spectator, made your decision”. But eventually the idea progressed to this final version where the true degree of danger involved is removed and the power is transferred to Meireles.

In this final version, visitors are instructed to remove their shoes and socks, roll up their trousers and proceed to open the door and enter the dark room (only four people are allowed in the room at one time). The dry powder feels cold, sludgy, and even wet against the skin, and walking through it gives the surreal sensation of walking on a cloud or across the moon. The stimulation of multiple senses allows a heightened sense of self awareness and deeper connection with one’s environment.  Our senses are in conflict, the smell of gas instills fear while the exciting feeling of the talcum generates pleasure. Although many people consider Volatile to be in solidarity with the Jews, referring to the gas chambers of the concentration camps, Meireles himself does not see it in tragic terms. To him it is an entirely pleasurable experience, like walking in the clouds, and, as he describes it, “an attempt to associate sensation and emotion, producing an almost instantaneous link.”

Volatile. Cildo Meirelles. 1980-94.

Volatile. Cildo Meirelles. 1980-94.