Ricardo Sardenberg
Jochen Volz
Isobel Whitelegg
Isobel Whitelegg

The visible and the invisible even though visible

Ricardo Sardenberg

A paradox, a tenuous line, the form and conduct of performance. This is how Cinthia Marcelle’s work could be described, the Brazil based artist who was awarded in 2006, the International Prize for Performance, a worldwide competition which is organized every year by the Galleria Civica di Arte Contemporanea of Trento in collaboration with drodesera > centrale fies, for young artists who deal with performance in the most diverse artistic fields. What is part of the city: traffic, people, movement, and dissatisfaction becomes the masks, a kind of camouflage of the artist in the way she does and organizes her work. It is invisible, but you realize that it happens somewhere, it has a final solution, but it has several times, synchronizations, points of view, and it still has no solution, even though concluded.

Cinthia Marcelle’s performances are pure contradiction. And that is not by chance. The tradition of performance in Brazil is somewhat similar to what people thought about Dadaism in the United States in 1916. There, one could see that New York was even more Dada than Dada itself. Here, on the other hand, daily life is theatrical, is performance. So how could it exist, how could it have an impression, how could it have space if it is everywhere? In other words, should performance here be considered as an article of faith? Or is it an article of anti-faith? That was how performance began in Brazil. The very first one was made by young artist Flávio de Carvalho, Experience number 2 in 1932. That’s right, the first performance made in Brazil was already the second one even before the first one took place. When he saw a procession of religious people getting close to him during the celebration of Corpus Christi, the young engineer – as he was at the time, who was starting his long artistic career, ran home, got a cap, and while going back to the place, started his own single-person procession on the opposite direction of the crowd of devotees, with a rather aristocratic stance, conscious that he was a flanêur, but refusing to take off his cap. He escaped from being lynched by hiding inside a police station. It was an actual individual visibility exercise within a procession.

Cinthia Marcelle made her own procession, Gray Demonstration, 2006. Now she adds other crucial issues, as the institution and, therefore, time and place. There is also a concern with color, which is certainly a depuration of the neo-concrete artists of the end of the 1950’s and beginning of the 1960’s, such as Hélio Oiticica and his Parangolés. Still, Gray Demonstration begins with the presence of an audience, aware of the fact that they will be watching a performance in which it’s impossible to disappear without it being regarded as a procedure to occupy time and space. The work itself, a street demonstration of sorts, where the color gray prevails, is coordinated and choreographed, as the institutional framework somewhat requires. The performance counts on the collaboration of volunteers who will lend a natural sense to it. The artist herself didn’t know at the time of the performance if the public would take part in it or not. She didn’t even know how the performance would end. Even though she was constraint within the institutional limit of 20 minutes for its duration, it wasn’t clear if it would take all that time or less since it was impossible to know how Gray Demonstration was going to evolve. These were the ways she found to subvert time and space, which was crucial for a critical distance from her presentation, to be kept within an institutional context. Unlike Flávio de Carvalho, in Cinthia’s performance the procession began inside the institution at the Turbine Hall of the Powerstation in Dro (Trento), where the Prize usually takes place, and slowly walked out through the gardens up to the edge of the road. Indeed, Gray Demonstration brought the street into the institutionalized environment and, as far as possible, made exactly the opposite, that is, took the institutional place into the street and to improvization.

That is why if we look at other works of hers we have other imprints. Perhaps one of the most significant influences is Cildo Meireles and his project from the early 1970’s, Circuitos Ideológicos. In this project Cildo Meireles inserted into the circuit of the mercantile objects like money, Coke bottles, a piece of information that makes noise in its own exchange circuit. In the Unus Mundus series, Cinthia Marcelle inputs movements into the urban circuit. Such works as Round the World, 2004 in which a set of vans round a public square in the middle of the day, entering one by one and leaving in the same way at the end. We become spectators. We watch the action through what has been recorded by a video camera installed somewhere up high. Or again in the work of the same series called Confrontation, 2005, in which eight jugglers occupy the safety area by blocking the movement of the cars, they enter in pairs and, as in the previous work, we follow the “noise” thanks to a recording made somewhere way up high emphasizing that we are not there.

The artist describes this work by using the same terms and movements that Cildo used to describe Circuitos Ideológicos, that is, people “enter the circuit” and they “make noise”. The great difference is that these works are totally invisible for those who are there, since they are not perceptible beyond the camera that records it. Thus the record seems to be the support of Cinthia’s performances. This doesn’t mean that the action is performed for the camera, because it is present and elicits an immediate response. In the case of Confrontation, the cars almost run over the jugglers recalling in that way poor Flávio de Carvalho and his furious devotees. If the artist used to generate noise in faith, now the protagonists compare time and movement, which are two characteristics of the city’s soul.

Other works are performed for the camera and articulate the paradox of becoming invisible for what instead records the visible world. That’s the case of Capa Morada, a work made in partnership with the artist Jean Meeran, during the time she spent in South Africa. In these series of photographs the artist mixes with the urban landscape by wearing a kind of cape. Her clothes and the house have the same color of the landscape in the background. It’s a challenge to the camera, articulating once again issues from the work by Hélio Oiticica, in which the artist’s house is color, its beauty, and the way it manipulates the world. That is where he drowns - and where Marcelle reveals herself.

SARDENBERG, Ricardo. The visible and the invisible even though visible em: Work Art in Progress 18, pág. 74 à 78. Galleria Civica, Trento, Itália. Abr. 2007.