Brazilian artist Cinthia Marcelle films ordinary everyday occurrences, initially highlighting their abstract geometric qualities, then through the passage of time and mindless repetition, viewers are drawn indirectly to contemplate first the poetic and ultimately, the sublime.
Sometimes, she intervenes with irony and humour, to disrupt these everyday occurrences, questioning the meaningfulness of various human activities that we take for granted. Her landscapes and man-made scenes have come to encompass the notion of a landscape of ruin; the cumulation of human excess and the ‘frontier’ between culture and nature.
A white horse has its head covered with a piece of red clothing, matching the colour of the earth in the background in O Conversador / O Talker (2005). A fire truck goes round and round, hosing down the earth that it is circling in Fonte 193 / Fountain 193 (2007). A tractor pushes earth around in a number 8, bowtie shaped path, revealing the sub-surface soil to be much darker than the surface in 475 Volver (2009). An image of cars on a busy road being propelled by humans in Automovel / Car (2012).
These are the absurd interventions in otherwise mundane situations that provide a glimpse into what Marcelle describes as a double process of ‘displacement and recognition’, where through irony and ambiguity, conventional notions are reversed.
That a horse would be chosen to represent a talker, where the animal already has a hard time vocalizing itself, is astonishing. But to conceal and camouflage its head begins to say something about talkers or talking heads in general, how they strangely ‘blend in’ with their surroundings after one watches some of them for a while.
Or a fountain that sucks water instead of squirting it, signifies the economics of fountains; they take a lot more than they actually give. The cars on the road being pushed along by humans is another case in point; we work hard to keep our cars going (fuelled and serviced), to the point where it feels like we are serving them.
In This Same World Over (2009), a classroom black board filled with erased chalk marks is displayed with piles of chalk on its ledge and on the floor below. While one might imagine the piles of chalk to resemble mountains in a landscape scene, perhaps its representation is a bit more direct, that mountains of chalk was made during the course of education, traditionally, which is similar to the repetition of industrial processes, but here the old style of education has been rendered somewhat obsolete by new technology and new ways of learning. So what’s left are piles of chalk.
In The Tempest (2014) a black woman with a cloth who looks like a cleaner stands with one foot in a bucket in front of a great granite rock face, while a big black drainage pipe hangs above. While there’s no doubt that she’d be seriously hindered from her cleaning duties by having a foot in the bucket, the dilemma being posed is, how is she going to clean that rock face with a rag?
On the one hand the element of misfortune is metaphorically shown with her foot stuck in the bucket, while on the other the surreality and absurdity of cleaning a rockface isn’t too far fetched from what low-level workers sometimes face via unreasonable demands by management.
In Dust Never Sleeps (2014) part of the exhibition space is covered in black soot, the type found in coal mines, leaving the area devoid of colour. Like an x-ray photo, the dust has a tendency to highlight the edges and darken the flat normally bright spots. While one might wonder if the point is to make a comment on the plight of miners, a mining shaft is not depicted, but instead an empty room covered in dust is shown. Is the point to show the end-result of time, that over time all things become like this?
This is the ‘bi-lateral movement’ Marcelle has talked about, where the inside becomes the outside and what’s in colour becomes black and white and reverse highlighted. It signifies the dust that we’re so keen to remove, is actually something from the earth, a core element of it. It also alludes to the notion of ‘progress’ expounded by Walter Benjamin which is likened to a storm causing havoc and piling up debris of the past in a landscape of ruin, as it careens towards the future. In this dark dystopic environment, the winds of change have upended what was thought to have been immovable truths, structures.