To Draw a Map of the World ◄ Back


In the beginning, the metaphor Metaphor is the first of the stylistic devices. The metaphor incorporates, within its meaning, the idea of transport – similar to it, all stylistic devises dislocate meaning. This type of operation serves to enrich relationships between people, and between people and objects. Things stop being (signifying) what they in fact are (or appear to be?) to start being (signifying) something else. These are problems of representation that can refer to dimensions of verbal language (literature) as well as to visual language (art, publicity). Human life rests on metaphorical operations, and artistic projects can be understood, in themselves, as developments of these indispensable operations which sustain life. Works of art present themselves as diaries of life and shared visual representation, collective maps of individual trajectories, work protocols that refer and remit to the processes developed and to their poetics. Works take off from one reality and transform themselves into another reality. Much of Cristina Ataíde’s work partakes of the type of things that we should understand not so much as works (closed objects) but as wandering bodies, testimonials to processes of transference of meanings – channels that transport meanings, containers in movement, paths to communicate informative material; works in progress that are neither demonstrative nor illustrative. How to locate bodies in movement? The various directions of the works that Cristina Ataíde is presenting here take off from the (metaphorical) exploration of the systems of blood circulation associated (once again metaphorically) to the circulation of sap – while both are metaphors for the very circulation of bodies in the world, circulation of ideas, feelings and emotions. Undoubtedly related to this is the fact that the development of this new phase of works is being presented within a particular geographical circumstance (a mythic archipelago) and a particular political moment (a polemical war and a turbulent post-war period). If even a “continent” (metaphor for extension, wholeness, weight) is an aggregation of loose elements, the metaphor of the “archipelago” makes that image of fragmentation not only visible but also liveable – are not our own bodies archipelagos? Upon beholding a cartographic representation of an archipelago, we understand that we are before objects that are really separated (by real and subjective spaces) – and, yet, sufficiently close to each other that it is possible to establish a system of relationships (also real, measurable, and subjective, imagined). Living on any of these island-places or moving about between each one, we can also understand, better than in any other circumstance, the truth (once again real and subjective) of the individuality (isolation) of a body-island (miniscule continent, nevertheless) within the universe of all other bodies that are equal to it. And if each one of those bodies is a point on the map, is a dynamic point, it points to arrival and departure points for all possible trajectories, support points for multiple paths of communication… Cristina Ataíde’s work treats the issue of bodies (their isolation and communication, their growth, ramification and death, their fixedness, impermanence and transport). It is in this sense that the artist, in order to make herself understood, needs to use a panoply of metaphors, that range from the trope of the body to circulation and circulatory fluids, from internal organs and organs for locomotion to marks signalling the presence-absence of bodies, the body-continent and the body-island, the cluster of arteries and veins and capillaries, and the vegetative cluster of boughs and branches. Within this exhibition, the issue is treated in different ways: by establishing maps that refer to subjective landscapes and exacerbating the fragmentation of bodies, the impossibility of settlement represents, thus, the very idea of transport. Drawing a Territory to Conquer Maps/plants can make us notice the location of certain bodies/places within a space of conventional representation. Such conventions are, from their creation, coincident with artistic representation. We are all familiar with the commanding dialogue established between cartography and art, the intersection of modes of communicating that occurs between verbal and visual representation, the establishment of territorial powers and magical religions that occurs between material and spiritual things. Within this dialogue of communicative modes, we have various levels in permanent connection and in a permanent struggle for simultaneous translation: the illustrations make themselves autonomous as mythological representations, zoological, botanical, ethnographic and generically scientific drawings; also present is the determination of imaginary lines subdividing the represented spaces into meridians and parallels, giving them coordinate numbers that orient us; finally, the contours and smudges themselves, which signal geographic and urban accidents, are designs that we should place on an equal footing with all the previous expressions. Cristina Ataíde insisted upon yet another intersection: what those surfaces to-be-filled-in do with words, by inserting momentary comments, fragments of memorialistic texts that interfere with the picture, that enrich it. In cartography the delineating of territorial limits (borders between ocean and land, territorial reliefs, marine depths, running water and marine currents, etc.) substitutes the practice of picturing or photographing the landscape with a set of other conventional graphic and chromatic signs. In a map, the contour line, the conventional signs and colors substitute (or make conventional anew) the illusion of local color, of light, of atmosphere and of texture which are present (reinvented) in any landscape representation. A point of view that is abstract and global, non-human, taken from a perpendicular angle situated over the surface to be represented, substitutes for the perspectic vision through which the eye presents itself as belonging to a concrete human body situated at a measurable height from the ground and facing the space and the body of objects to be represented. A map expresses constraints and circulations, prisons and liberties, energies for travelling and for remaining fixed. A map refers to all wars: because it is a territory and because territories only exist (are only designed on a map on words or on images) after belonging, after being coveted and conquered and again coveted and again conquered, in a process without end. Capitalism tried to transform war and blood into a contract for buying and selling property or rights over property and goods – but when the business process doesn’t work out, the dynamic agents of capitalism return without shame to the old method of war. And all contracts and all wars are made around a map. Maps of the Imagination A map realizes a circumscription of a body and not so much its expansion. Ancient maps, which had room for spaces of ignorance to be filled in, could invite one to automatically imagine those blank spaces or to embark on a journey of discovery. The realization of that discovery implied a concrete process of activities: a duration (time) and a trajectory (place) that the visual grasping of new landscapes, first, and the verbal description and the abstraction of maps, after, could register. But, once uncovered, the space which had been covered before and is now uncovered ceased to permit free invention, and forced us to pay attention to its reality. Nonetheless, there will always be many who remain capable of dreaming, even when they are before the map of an already uncovered region – the dream, developing over what is known, feeds on the pleasures that the action of conquering that territory will present. Cristina Ataíde’s maps, being themselves maps of the imagination, with no relation to any immediate geographic reality, (re)known or with the possibility of being (re)known, allow us to continue to dream about the most pure of places: they are interior maps, memories found or invented. From objects that are instrumental for the political and economic division of the world, maps return to their condition of treasure maps, documenting poetic delirium or childlike invention. And only through this creative dimension can a map recuperate its expansive vocation and, just as the universe, present itself in constant expansion. Returning to the metaphor, we can say that if the map of an archipelago is more prone to assume a dispersive image of expansion, the Azores illustrate (based on reality) that power/that wish, expanding even beyond themselves; from behind, the Azores plunge in the legend; from the front, they export people, blood and sap; from the bottom, they reveal the fire at the center of the world; from the top, the Azores explore the mystical vocation of the Empire of the Holy Spirit. The Real into Shadow But a body has two tempos: one of permanent expansion, another of constant regression within itself. Both situations are metaphors of a material reality; the permanent transformation of bodies, through multiplication (growth, branching out, family lineage) and through degeneration (death, decomposition), through its intellectual elevation and through the loss of dignity. Those corporal entities transport themselves, invent their very own meaning, define their very own action. Moving from or toward a central axis (a trunk, a body) they emit roots and branches, lines of communication and absorption, collection and distribution – they are impossible to fix anew. The branches repeat/invent the roots and, beyond the vital functions, both are very pure metaphors of circulation, connection, continuity, communication…Starting with the brain and the capacity for movement of the animal’s body, the machine of the body reinvents what is real in each dream and what the eyes imagine – perhaps this is how the drawing is born as project, process and work. Still, the reality of this infinite process of transports and changes does not happen without problems and negations: there is the plugging up of the pathways, the thrombus, the gangrene, the stoppage. Bodies ask for cleaning, pouring out, grafting, garrotting, ligatures… Cristina Ataíde helps herself to vegetable matter (dry limbs and wood shavings) to construct objects (for example, the bronzes that reproduce fragments of trees or chairs) through which the metaphors of her work become concrete, in dialogue, whether with the one who sees the human gesture of drawing, or with the very image of the human body. According to a dramatic modality and through a tragic act, the artist creates a metaphor of the intersection of the tree with man: the chair (tree transformed into an object) makes available to man the podium of his repose, of his social statute; the crucifixion superimposes the flesh on wood, the blood on sap, superimposes two deaths, transforms the real into shadow.

Lisbon, April 19, 2003

João Lima Pinharanda


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