ABRO A XANELA E RESPIRO O AIRE FRESCO DA FIN DO MUNDO

Carpe Diem Arte e Pesquisa | Lisbon | 27.03 > 29.05.2010

MACUF | A Coruña | 06.10.2009 > 28.02.2010

ANOTHER FLÂNEUR IN BERLIN

 

This exhibition presents works from a three-year project started during my 2007 stay in Berlin. Under the title Abro a xanela e respiro o aire fresco da fin do mundo [I Open the Window and Breathe the Fresh Air of the End of the World], it involves a series of 114 photographs arranged in polyptychs. These works, along with four videographic works and a book of the same title, form the nucleus of my recent exhibitions. Abro a xanela... is a visual narrative that grew from random strolls in Berlin, evoking Baudelaire, Walter Benjamin, and the whole tradition of the flâneur. I visited Second World War cemeteries, parks, a house designed by Mihes Van der Rohe, and wandered the formerly Communist East of the city, with its historical and geographical scars in the form of vacant lots and ditches, ponds with public bathing… The process activated many variants of consciousness, though the images that most compelled me did not adhere to a concrete or specific theme. Some groups of photographs could be classified in terms of generic proximity, but even this classification seems arbitrary in the end, and the sole—and fragile—point of unity is something so abstract or fleeting that it can best be described only by analogy, as “a mirror in which your own eye is reflected”.

 

Having thus exhausted all means of ordering, I had to reach beyond the images to the intersections of meaning that arise from the narrative order, which had started to coalesce following intuitions more metaphysical than conceptual—poetic, perhaps. Yes, that’s it, I told myself, although at that point nothing was resolved, really, given the prodigious amount of material captured. In very few months I’d accumulated folders upon folders of images organized only by place and date, but as I continually pondered them, I started to discern a kind of emotional cartography and, little by little, it began to orient my sense of movement through the city.

 

One ordinary September day, ambling down Friedichstrasse after crossing the Mehrinplatz, I noted another square to my left, site of the historic Tommy Weisbecker Haus, symbol of the 1970s riots named after two members of the June 2nd Movement. I halted, and suddenly remembered the Wim Wenders film Der Himmel über Berlin. That night, I reviewed my images again and—eureka!—its circus scenes had been filmed at that spot. I combed the city for other film locations and found them without much difficulty, for many were in the Kreuzberg area where I lived, and where Wenders had lived at the time his film was in gestation. His apartment at the time, in the 80s, had magnificent views of the Wall, a physical and mental border that symbolized the state of being “between two worlds” that underpinned, allegorically, the whole film.

 

Situating my camera alongside that of Wenders, I too became an angel. My flâneur’s autobiography of the previous months was nothing other than the tale of this transformation. Unconsciously, I’d entered into a process of dissolution without vanishing, for in seeking the poetic essence of the images I came upon myself subjectivized, like a character in a story whose role is that of seeing eye which witnesses the place and time of human being and its reflections in the inanimate, in things, in material itself. It all fed the tale of a redemption, through a single lens, by which events could come to be grasped and held.

 

The poetic, of course, can be a vague concept, a tailor’s bric-à-brac drawer into which everything might fall, from generic meaning to high lyricism, but I lay claim to it for these images that seek to turn the contemplative into an epic on reality, a sublimation of the instant. I use the word “epic” to assume the role of the postmodern narrator who accepts the self-referential character of the image and its loss of truth, but who also, still, lapses into the ability to express something that goes beyond the self. Here the phenomenological comes into play, which, as a methodology for approaching reality, describes reality so as to transcend it. All the various motifs that appear in the photographs of Abro a Xanela… are the result of a more or less chance encounter, but it is also true that, once encountered, they were submitted to a form of temporal mediation, the photographic process, which itself echoes the alterations in consciousness that produce an impression of any object. This is to say, the act of framing, and of adjusting shutter opening and speed, holds all the variations of consciousness that seek meaning in the image. Of all the parts of my Berlin artwork, the video moments of Lied von Kindsein [Song of Childhood] best summarize this process. The title alludes to the poem by Peter Handke with which Wenders opens his own film, and which acts to summarize all that will follow, articulated in its plenitude by the fascinating voice of the actor Bruno Ganz. In my remake—let’s call it that—, the poem gives voice to images in black and white (also from the original film) that in transition then give way to my own images, filmed in some cases in the same locations, and in colour. In a temporal transition of twenty years, the past and present recontextualize themselves until they mingle in a new story, atemporal and accidental. The decomposition and reconstruction of the original elements is radical enough to maintain the reference and homage, but no more than that, for my video rereading of the film is also intimately linked to my experiences of the city and its places, which is to say, to the history of my own acts.