Presentation to the Hispanic Society Artist Research Fellowship

About me:

Thank you all for your time, thank you Vilcek Foundation for supporting this program, and thank you Alex for this incredible opportunity. It has been a rough year full of uncertainty and unfulfilled plans and cancelled projects – during such times, a brand new fellowship program like this feels like setting foot on dry land after a long time at the sea.

I am Brazilian, self identified with my birth assignment as a woman of color. I went to school for Social Communications in the early 1990’s in Brazil, and in 2000 I quit a career in Advertising to come to New York with the intention of learning English and practicing photography, which was something I had dabbed at during school – but it being such highly misogynist field over there, I had no real way of accessing.

Photography became integrated with my visual arts vocabulary after I discovered the book form and made that my primary medium. I interned at the WSW, had a residency at the Center for Book Arts, a scholarship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and was awarded a Pollock Krasner Foundation grant this year.

My practice has both private and communal aspects which are distinct and yet inform one another.

The communal aspect is about organizing and activism, such writing essays and envisioning and producing an artists’ collective to abolish hierarchies, in which my role as a curator is diffused within my role as a participant – I am particularly interested in the character an individual’s work takes when it is created as part of a collective system designed to hold agency over the means of promotion and representation. Our motto is: no artist is an island.

But these activities are tangential to the production of my own artwork, which is created and constructed within the constraints of my personal experience, both in content and form. I am process-oriented, and I speak from the I – both the eye as the seeing organ and the I of person-hood, overlapping witnessing with agency. In that regard, I am particularly interested in how information goes from coherence to incoherence through the passage of time. The most obvious manifestation of that mutation is hypocrisy, but that is only one aspect. I am fascinated about how the human mind has evolved to edit and omit portions of its own narrative on auto pilot. I want to make my life work be an observation and a commentary about how narratives and perceptions camouflage themselves in order to protect a perspective.

About my work:

The first work I want to share with you is a one-of-a-kind book titled Notions. This piece is based on conflicting perspectives about immigration, as it attempts to compartmentalize the elements of abrasiveness caused by preconceived notions. Featuring two books stitched shut and together in order to stay permanently linked, it employs grid patterns, translucence, and cage-like shape to represent a confinement without fixed boundaries. The two books/boxes are identical in size, shape and construction. The only difference between them is in the text, for each contains one side of a given perspective. The books/boxes are titled “I” and “You”. “I” displays the defensive arguments and exposes the lack of preparedness. “You” displays the challenging attitude brought upon by lack of experience and compassion.

Notions, 2009

The second work I want to show is Lightweight, a limited edition artist book made after my studies of book structures stressed the link between historical ownership and lavish decorations: how expensive metals and precious stones safeguarded the bindings. Limp-vellum books, which were exquisitely engineered but quintessentially utilitarian, show how unadorned works were left to their own devices. I fell enamored with its flexibility, strength and grace, and from its own features I was able to create a guardian element. Sculpted page by page, this book embodies a beam. Its content speaks of ways to cope with a world in which the elements of balance that matters most are intangible.

My most recent work is an artist book edition called Body of Evidence. This work was instigated by how twice after the 2016 election (but never once before) people attempted to leverage my immigration status as a compensation for their white fragility. The book was printed in red & blue over white, with black and various shades of gray. It is shaped as an envelope with flaps open, folded lengthwise. By design, it is unable to stand on its own.

back and front covers

About my research interests

Regarding to materials I would like to investigate in the collections, I have a few concentrated areas of interest:

a) Books –

  • Anything that might exist from books/printed matter that made their way to Brazil while printing was forbidden and censored (until the early 1800’s), and also any printed matter produced there during the early days of censorship freedom.
  • Anything that might reference the use of the book as a proxy for natural phenomenae (such as in the Christian ritual of the tenebrae, when a heavy book is dropped to the floor to symbolize the earthquake after Jesus’ death) or as a performance prop (such as when Pennsylvanian Quaker Benjamin Lay protested slavery during the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting in 1738, by plunging a sword into a book that had been been previously hallowed and filled with an animal bladder containing red juice to stand as blood.
  • Historical bindings and book design in general, and also – if applicable, how the Islamic world book design contrasts with the Abrahamic cultures.

b) Maps: Mutations and variations in the representations of unknown territories.

c) Imagery in general, with emphasis on photography, that can serve as examples about the outsider perspective, and how it might be compared to the insider perspective.

I would also warmly welcome your suggestions.

I also want to share with you a link to my recent interview with the illustrious Nicolas Dumit Estevez from the Interior Beauty Salon, for more background. Once again thank you for this opportunity. 2021 is holding many promises, some of them already coming true.