Dragging: Submerse or retained memory on the margins of the river that flows to the contryside Divino SobralArtist and Curator
Writing about today is also back to yesterday. What was gone still remains, drowned in memory, as well as the water memory continues to murmur in the form of pebble, taken from a dry riverbed.
When retrospectively I look at Marcelo Moscheta’s creation, covering it from the beginning to the present, I realize that he has created a set of extremely cohesive works, through ways full of branches. The idea of branching comes from the fact that, over the years, following the restlessness of his creative drive, he left the engraving, started making elaborate drawings, worked with photography and writing language, explored materials and supports, advanced in space beyond the surface and reached complex installations. With the wisdom of adding to new work the experience constituted during the implementation of many other previous ones, with the knowledge of hybridizing categories, with the precision and virtuous preciousness, the artist displays high formal quality in different categories, techniques, materials and employed media. However, it is not the careful execution of his work what matters most, but the questions you ask and the answers you give to the contemporary art debate, and especially how his work reaches conceptual refinement and poetic depth.
Multiple by the ways to occupy the space and to materially constitute itself, Moscheta’s production has a poetry/conceptual axis that makes it dense and coherent. Regardless of medium, the result always reveals the encounter of the subject with the world in a conversation that is mediated by memory in continuous tension between remembering and forgetting, presence and absence, conservation and destruction, echo and silence. His works move among past, present and future, in a continuous and circular flow suspending the regulation of verb tenses. It was this to the large engravings created about a decade from photographs of old photo albums inherited from his grandfather, and so it is with the latest work. Some years ago, Moscheta abandoned the use of other people's memories - kept records of places that were not experienced by him and which, however, were part of his family affective memory - and started to act as a landscape explorer, a territory pioneer and a materials collector, which once collected set his own memories, which may include those of others, formed when traveling through different landscapes in the world. In this sense, therefore, the works that archive material fragments of the traversed territory keep the memoirs of both the artist and this territory.
The place of creation of Marcelo Moscheta’s current production has no limits and is unstable, since he acts as a traveler, collector, archivist and collectioner, from the studio to the research field, vice versa, casting to explore unknown lands, his world and his art. Looking at his production history, it is clear that his focus is centered on notions of territory and of landscape representation. And, I think, it was this concern that stimulated him to extend his field of action and adopt the posture of explorer/artist/scientist/traveler, upgrading the so common lineage in the 18th and 19th centuries here and elsewhere that was responsible by some of the earliest visual records of numerous landscapes in the world not documented before. Moscheta recovers with contemporary language and media the figure of the explorer artist and mix it in Dragging with the figure of the bandeirante explorer, increasing the meanings contained in his own expedition along the banks of the old Anhembi River.
Set as a Tietê River landscape and displayed at Museu Casa do Bandeirante in São Paulo, the installation Dragging recalls the history of this river whose course runs into the country initially gave the direction to be followed by the bandeirantes explorers. From the 16th century to the 18th century, they departed from São Paulo and penetrated up by unknown wildernesses of the countryside, with the objective of discovering mines of precious metals and stones, imprison Indians to make them slaves or, in case of reaction, exterminate entire ethnic groups. The long and extensive movement of violent paulistas - first name given to the bandeirantes by the fact that they are from or left the São Paulo surrondings - both led to the expansion of Brazil across the border demarcated by the Treaty of Tordesillas and the emergence of many cities, built where once were indigenous territories. However, the contemporary historical review theoretically and symbolically deconstructed the heroic image of the bandeirante, drawn up in 19th and 20th centuries by the owners of São Paulo’s economic power over the country and represented by some artists, from the academic Benedito Calixto (1853-1927) to the modernist Victor Brecheret (1894-1955). The status of valiant pioneer was reappointed to the image of a cruel and barbaric killer. Without wishing to convict or acquit the figure of the bandeirante, Marcelo Moscheta retrieves the explorer character of wilderness areas, and thus includes more references to his investigation process of not dominated landscapes in search of poetic treasures.
Dragging, besides the fact it has a strong connection with the place in which it is mounted, demonstrates how Marcelo Moscheta works the landscape memory performing joints of different times by connecting of represented elements through the traditional techniques of art to the actual elements, collected in the investigation locations. The artist operates by creating relations between the concepts of representation, highlighted by the drawing, and of appropriation, from the collection of samples and information contained in the work. In this operation, concepts and procedures orthodoxically located in antinomian position complement each other, opening a wide list of issues which raises the question of how a work of art, poetic by nature, can answer issues related to history, archeology, geology, geography, cartography, topography, hydrology and environment involved in the reflection on the landscape of São Paulo's most important river.
As a traveler, Marcelo Moscheta chooses the way to be followed, consults maps, draws up plans, brings together some equipment and go into the unknown. To collect the material that composes Dragging, he has followed the Tietê River downstream, from its source in the Serra do Mar mountains, in the town of Salesópolis, making some stops in the capital city and other seven provincial towns until he has reached the river mouth, on the border with the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. I think the investigation process developed by the artist within the explored territory produced more content than it is possible to register in a work. While exploring the riverbanks, sometimes the right bank, other times the left one, Moscheta has looked for all types of marks and interventions on the landscape and on the riverbed, documenting images and some information in a kind of travel journal made of notes, GPS records on geographic coordinates, photos of landscapes that were almost untouched or modified by all kinds of human activities: urbanization, pollution, invasion of margins, linearization, fencing, damming. During the field research, the artist, understanding the importance of its content, provided pictures and observations - which are not included in the final installation - by a social network, and so shared a part of his working method and offered elements to expand interpretations of his work.
Moscheta’s investigation goes beyond the research field and enters the small university museums of geology, seeking references on their precarious furniture and display methods used by these impoverished museological institutions, mainly from the countryside, abandoned by the government, despite their rich collections in temporary conditions. With some maneuvers using these references, the artist approaches the collected material with cataloging and exhibition procedures that give them a certain aspecto of scientific sampling amateurishly arranged.
Dragging consists of a drawing flanked by two shelves positioned on its left and right sides. With a model borrowed from museum improvisations mentioned before, the shelves/hacks, made with a mixture of old and new wood, function as furniture made to meet thebe an exhibition apparatus, presenting many and varied samples collected along the river: rocks, stones, sand, clay lumps, pieces of bricks, sidewalks, asphalt and concrete. The chosen pieces are raw minerals or materials derived made of minerals minimally processed by human techniques. The artist’s choice emphasizes the passage from nature to culture and the landscape as a spatial notion formulated by human thought and produced by his action on the world. Moscheta’s option for samples or mineral sources or mineral derivation points to the particular relationship between space and time in these landscape elements: the rocks that become stones that fall apart as sand are possibly from a time before the river formation, thus they keep the the most remote memory of that place.
As a landscape restoration process in the work, the materials collected on the left and right banks of the river are respectively shown on the shelves positioned to the left and right sides of the drawing, so they present themselves as an authentic fragments of the real landscape around the Tietê River. Each sample is identified by paper labels in which are recorded GPS codes stating geographic coordinates of latitude, longitude, date and time of the collection. Produced by poetic/scientific procedures that result in the exhibition of a collection of objects collected because they were are in the artist’s way, Dragging is on a position in the field of contemporary art practices that use museological methodologies in order to install a museum in the body of the work of art, merging the two instances.
To make the large drawing put at the center of the installation, Moscheta searched collections of public museums found in some towns on the Tietê River borders. He was in a search for records of visual memory of the river available on photographs taken at different past moments. He was seeking the image able to translate the abrupt river transformation process and to reveal its original landscape as "a ghost, submerged and in a state of latency" , according to his own words. The landscape moved to the drawing presented in Dragging is based on an old black and white photograph of the Avanhandava waterfall, without authorship neither dating, collected at Museu Histórico e Pedagógico de Penápolis. A landscape of a place that no longer exists. This waterfall, which was a touristic sight in the region, was flooded between the late '70s and the early' 80s due to the damming of the river for the construction of the Nova Avanhandava hydroelectric dam, inaugurated in 1982, in the town of Butirama. Submerged and almost forgotten, the Avanhandava waterfall was removed from amnesia and updated by Moscheta in an amazing drawing, which is imposing due to its intense plastic energy produced by the dramatic setting of light and shadow, resulting from graphite friction on the surface of which the light beams. In plastic quality, the image produced by the artist is much superior than the photograph, which itself has no aesthetic value. The waterfall landscape also gained a new meaning by the relations with the material samples collected on the river and arranged on the lateral shelves. Exhibited at the center of the installation, the drawing of the Avanhadava waterfall landscape evokes the time when the Tietê River flowed without any restrictions.
Finally, it is important to think how relevant are the various roles played by drawing and photography in Marcelo Moscheta’s production. Strictly technical and expressive, based on and with full mastery of the plastic elements and resources, the drawing is the structuring language of many of his works, and, after some time, it has acquired autonomy or has been linked to photography and installations. However, the photographic images have always been in the stock photography collected by Moscheta as imagery sources for works of any category he has worked with. Both drawing and photography are employed as means to achieve the hybridization of categories and to make the transposition of an image from one medium into another. The appropriation procedure of the photo from the Penapolis museum and its transcription/interpretation to drawing indicate the reflection of the some issues of the second-generation image use, such as authorship and impersonality. Although, the way Moscheta recreates the photography image by drawing transforms it into another image, powerful and full of subjectivity, as an author par excellence, in a metaphor of the existence of the artist's body in its dislocation along the river, dragging things that resisted to the water force and ended up anchored on its banks sediment. As a romantic artist, Marcelo Moscheta followed the course of the river which flows into the countryside in search of his own inner image in a constant flow. His search is similar to that of another lover of landscape and nature, the poet William Wordsworth, who told us that he was able to "recognise in nature and in the language of the sense of all my moral being".
text for the catalogue of the exhibition Dragging at Casa do Bandeirante, 2015.
Artist’s declaration on an e-mail sent to the author on October 3, 2015.
William Wordsworth. Poesia selecionada. Translation to Portuguese by Paulo Vizioli. São Paulo; Mandacaru Publishers; 1988. Page 35.
photo: Salto do Avanhandava . collection of the Museu Historico e Pedagogico de Penapolis