CASA FORTE

Marcelo Campos

2011

In Renato Bezerra de Mello’s work keepsakes from his home and images recorded in photographs and videos – as well as dreamlike representations of fantasy situations – permeate his universe of drawings, videos, objects and still shots. Renato joins reminiscence with a subversive attitude by means of which he disintegrates vestiges of home: broken goblets and nearly illegible pieces of paper. The show “Casa Forte” seeks to convey an updated dialogue in which the contemporary art of Renato Bezerra de Mello establishes interpretations that are simultaneously broad and particular representations of home and family, but also of the meaning of home retained n our own subjectivities.

Casa Forte is the name of the Recife quarter in which the house that gave rise to this project once stood. Renato witnessed, investigated and experienced the glory days and the oblivion in which the family residence was reduced to ruin. Here, though, all is remade with no obvious attempt to retrieve lost time. The house now exists as a fortress in the memory of art (which insists on dealing with the ethereal, with the transitory, with childhood). Like the author Marcel Proust, we create tiny anchors to lift from everyday life feelings that we share in any shelter: nostalgia, rebellion, fears – feelings condemned to instability. The exhibition presents carbon paper drawings of the house that blend together its tiling, pieces of furniture and the people who frequented it. In another series of fine line drawings on tracing paper, we see references to details of architectural environments marking impregnations of silence: staircases, thresholds, parapets and ledges. A fluid quality of emptiness corroborates both a sort of melancholy reflection on the dehumanization of architecture and a hope of endowing the places with inner personality, a sense of family communion and traditions that inevitably bear expiration dates. Childhood is depicted as instability in a blow-up photo series of the cyclical, ludic action of a girl jumping rope. The video that lends its title to the show stages part of the Casa Forte’s disaggregation, mixing scenes of games and joys with the impact of a room frozen in time. Thus we present metaphors for our stance against fate.

Fernando Pessoa said that the Tagus was unlike the river that ran through his village. The awareness of having embarked on a search of the unknown runs through this exhibition. Yes, the Tagus is far mightier than the river that runs through any village.
But Renato Bezerra de Mello goes in search of memorable advents: on journeys, in museums, in erotic images, thus breaking the affectations and good manners of civilized rules. The work in which the artist presents dozens of post cards of travels within his native country and abroad reflects the ambivalence of being-in-the-world. According to what we observe in the images, knowing that being enchanted by masterpieces is as important as collecting banalities. Here, what is memorable creates reversals and aversions; insults, melancholy, ecstasies and catharses are written on the cards by the artist who mails them to himself. As in a performance, the postal service carries the message from one day to the next, posted from the same place in which the artist resides, or crosses oceans to reach him far away. Surprise, sabotage, and mystery come with the predictable end.

For the title of the post card series, Renato chooses excerpts from a poem by Constantine Cavafy and gives us clues as to his conclusions: “New lands you will not find, you will not find other seas. The city will follow you.” Herein lies the contradiction of the artist’s search for new ports as well as the existential and anthropological verification of paths of mobility. Of what use is keeping, remembering, preserving? Enraptured by the passing of time, Clarice Lispector says that “each thing has an instant in which it is”. Thus, cities are already born to unravel the textures that aspire to immortality, amber and fossils. Therefore, “Casa Forte” is an enchanted name that aspires to magic and sorcery, one that attempts invocation. Yet the urbanization of the world extends over houses, rivers and seas. Home will never be as strong as nomadism or mobility. Building is a paradox for “a phenomenon that does not correspond to a new sedentariness but to new forms of mobility”, in the words of Marc Augé. Could this be the contradiction that interests Renato Bezerra de Mello – like making art out of that which no longer exists, out of that which has been demolished or replaced? Beyond this, Renato accumulates (sheets of carbon paper) and discards (crystal goblets).

In a journey to the hinterlands – undertaken to collect images for another one of the artist’s works that began some years ago – we captured images of cyclists glimpsed from the windows of moving cars and taxis. In the surprise that came with each click –  like that of the doorbells or pigeonholes that might bring cards from him to him – we attempted to capture the speed of passersby, of those who had something to do, of those who overcame time’s inertia for various intuited purposes that were unknown to us. Erratic images and empty intervals were the result of this. Between the voyeur and the passerby, the same moral, the same realization: the Tagus exists in any city as search or as narrative and “always you will arrive in this city”.