Janaina Tschäpe, Blood, Sea video installation at USF Contemporary Art Museum CAM@25 Social Engagement Exhibition, 2014. © University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum. Photo: Will Lytch.Courtesy of the artist.

An adventure into art in a digital time going online has been a trend for some time now, but it has never been as relevant and important as it has become during the covid-19 pandemic. Simply put, it has developed into a tool to connect the world virtually in order to continue business, with the aim of replacing the physical presence. In the art world, however, it has left many people perplexed as to how to continue having a ‘normal’ relationship with others through a screen. The challenge becomes even greater when it comes to experiencing artworks, particularly those that were not originally conceived to be experienced digitally. Can the representation of an image ever recreate or reflect the experience that would usually take place in a physical encounter? SELECTIONS set off on a quest to find out. We invited 10 guests to describe one artwork of their choice, first in an objective way, but then more subjectively and contextually. The results are as unique as our participants and form this issue’s experimental catalogue.

Marc Pottier describes

Janaina Tschäpe
Blood, Sea, 2004.
4 video projectors, 1
synchroniser, 4 speakers. 4
videotapes, HD 16/9 colour,
13’48’’, The Centre Pompidou
Collection, Paris France

 

Janaina Tschäpe, Blood, Sea video installation at USF Contemporary Art Museum CAM@25 Social Engagement Exhibition, 2014. © University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum. Photo: Will Lytch.Courtesy of the artist.
Janaina Tschäpe, Blood, Sea video installation at USF Contemporary Art Museum [email protected] Social Engagement Exhibition, 2014. © University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum. Photo: Will Lytch.Courtesy of the artist.

A GENERAL VIEW OF THE ARTIST

Her artistic universe masterfully integrates elements of aquatic, plant and human life. Subliminal forms, generally very colourful, ranging from soft tones to brighter variations, show a fictional figurative world. Her paintings, which appear abstract, are odes to nature in its greatest majesty. In her performative photographic and video works appear otherworldly hybrid creatures. The female form (she also sometimes takes the stage) is mainly represented. Incredible long-shaped ballooning appendages sometimes overtake the portrayed bodies to inhabit a fluid space between the human and cellular organism.

BACKGROUND STORY

ABOUT THE ARTIST: STAKHANOVISTE OF THE ART WORLD
Born in 1973 in Munich, Germany, Janaina Tschäpe was raised in São Paulo, Brazil and currently lives and works in New York City. Coming from multiple origins, she undoubtedly embraces the world of art just like very few artists. She never felt fear of the size of the walls, where she takes pleasure in painting dazzling coloured frescoes, from the constructions she covers with ropes, the beaches or carnivals that she invades with balloons, or the immersive video installations that invade museum spaces. Photographs, performances and sculptures all complete this protruding work. Creation is just a story of pleasure for this formidable woman with a generous smile and relentless work ethic. Whether in her workshops in New York or from her farm in Minas Gerais in Brazil, this fervour for work causes piles of magnificent drawings, collages and paintings to accumulate wherever she goes. Janaina Tschäpe travels the world and the seven seas to shoot images for her films. Only her dear daughter Mina Rosa can come and disrupt this daily life in osmosis with art.

 

ABOUT THE “BLOOD, SEA” ARTWORK

The title “Blood, Sea” is borrowed from the Italian writer Italo Calvino (1923-1985), whose neorealist, allegorical and symbolic philosophical tales contrasted reality and illusion. He used to think that the absolute truth was a pipe dream. It was the discovery, published in 1904 by the physiologist René Quinton (1866-1925), of the theory on the origin and marine nature of living organisms, which revealed that blood plasma has an almost identical chemical substance to that of sea water. Janaina Tschäpe seized on this revelation to offer a “biogeochemical” work telling us about the infinity of marine space to the hollow cavities of blood circulation. She tells us about the constant recycling of the elements by which the Earth shapes life and life shapes the Earth, how it connects human and animal liquids to planetary ecologies.

 

 

IMMEMORIAL PRE-HUMAN MEMORIES

Deployed on four large screens, unusual and dream-like shapes float in the space transforming it into an aquarium where the viewer is immersed. He faces naiads, hybrid underwater bodies swaddled with white and pink fluidsubstances. They are animated by slow movements which seem perpetual. Are we at the creation of the world? Does she invite us to dig into our subconscious to find the immemorial memories of before the appearance of man on Earth?

 

A STATE OF NON-BEING CLOSE TO ECSTASY

Let’s not forget that Janaina Tschäpe is partly Brazilian and often spends time at her farm in Minas Gerais. This video composition evokes the Baroque, the dominant artistic style of most of the colonial period, in a country where the artist Aleijadinho (1738-1814) was most famous. Pacified Indigenous people as well as enslaved Black people, all exposed to colonial Portuguese culture, created a style with classic and mannerist forms, a dynamic, narrative, ornamental, dramatic style, cultivating contrasts and a seductive plasticity. This is kind of what we find in the naiads who float in a state of non-being close to what one might think of as ecstasy, abandonment in a world that has no limits.

THE AFRO-BRAZILIAN CULT OF CANDOMBLÉ

This work also refers to the Afro-Brazilian cult of candomblé. Practitioners believe in an almighty God, Oludumaré, who is served by various deities called the orixás. These protect but can also possess you in a trance. Janaina Tschäpe refers to Yemanja, deity of the sea, often represented as a mermaid. She invites us to a ceremony. Water (sea? Amniotic fluid?) is the main element that guides the movements of her characters in suspension.


A specialist in modern and contemporary art for over 30 years, French national Marc Pottier lives between Paris and Rio de Janeiro. Pottier is an international curator of contemporary art, specialising in art in public spaces, and is also involved with cultural digital platforms, television and webtv. Pottier managed the Sawada collection of modern and contemporary art between Paris, New York, Tokyo and Nagoya. He worked for eight years at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a cultural attaché in Rio de Janeiro and Lisbon. As an independent curator, Pottier has organised major exhibitions such as “Avantgarde walk a Venezia” during the 1995 Venice Biennial, “Aleksander Rodchenko” at MAM-SP, “Picasso Ceramics” (Bernard Picasso’s collection), “Egypt of the Pharaohs” with the Louvre, “[email protected]” with the Centre Pompidou in Rio de Janeiro and “Luzboa-a bienal da Luz” in Lisbon. In 2008/9 he worked for the Royal Group/ Abu Dhabi for a public art park programme, and he has given lectures in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Bahrain on public art. Pottier is the author of books on Brazilian art and culture, including “Made by Brazilians” (Enrico Navarra publishers) featuring interviews with 230 people representing the world of contemporary Brazilian art. He was the guest curator of the 3rd Bahia Biennial and also of the ‘Made by Brazilians’ creative invasion at the former Matarazzo hospital in São Paulo in 2014. Pottier is the creator and host of ‘Foreign Eye’, a weekly programme on Brazilian Cultural TV channel Arte1. Since 2016 he has been involved with the Cidade Matarazzo Floresta Atlântica hotel in São Paulo, imagined by French architect Jean Nouvel and designer Philippe Starck, where 50 different site-specific and unique works are to be installed in public areas with an opening planned for second half of 2021. He was the curator and creator of the exhibitions ‘Monumental – arte na Marina da Gloria’ 2016, 2017 and 2018 and is preparing a new TV programme, Imaginary Museums. In May 2020, with director Elisabeth Schlumberger, he created a series of 18 interviews with international artists for MuseumTV, titled “Journal d’ un artiste confiné” (Diary of a Contained Artist), and the pair are currently preparing a new programme on art collectors. Pottier has been appointed as the main curator of the future Curitiba Biennial (2022).


A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS #54

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SELECTIONS is a platform for the arts, focusing on the Arab World.

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