Dorothée Tramoni


Renato Bezerra de Mello tells a multiple story that he deliberately disperses and scatters. It is nonetheless quite a simple story, about a large family from Pernambuco, in the Northeast of Brazil. This almost common story is the raw material that makes his work so rich and specific. He works and kneads it in such a way that the richness conveyed is assured a future; it is not left to disappear, not right away.

The lover in Roland Barthes “draws on the reservoir (the thesaurus?) of figures, department the needs, the injunctions or the pleasures of his image-repertoire. Each figure explodes, vibrates in and of itself like a sound severed from any tune – or is repeated to satiety, like the motif of a hovering music.” Renato Bezerra de Mello, draws upon his heritage and copies it exhaustively. Not direct copies, for he is no forger. No: copies of copies of copies. To do so, he uses and abuses tracing paper, carbon, crystal or negatives that allow copying, recopying, tracing or transferring. Fragile materials doomed to change, grow old and vanish. Transparent, nearby invisible materials. Intermediary materials that serve as a link between things said and things thought, between mental image and drawing.

Heritage quickly informs, mimes and magnifies space. Five hundred red and blue monocles hang from the ceiling, “suspended like a flight of birds”. A thousand sheets of carbon or 1,650 postcards pinned to the walls pose like wallpaper. Two thousand sheets of crystal archive paper serve as the ceiling. Thousands of little bits of paper strew the floor like pebbles. He invades discreetly, but surely. The work is multiform and rich in numbers. And numbers underscore the treasure quality of the work. A piece of something, a sheet or a monocle are nothing, but the value of thousands of such items is inestimable. So each work is made of a myriad of all types of fragments: banners, confetti, broken glasses … These are the fragments of the story, in which words and things are features. Words that copy things, and vice-versa. Words written to say “Absence, Adorable, Affirmation, Alteration, Anguish…,” things drawn to say “Heart, Climax, Compassion, Comprehend, Contacts, Contingencies, Bodies…” (R. Barthes). Words and things as good as fragments of a lover´s discourse.

Renato, the lover, seems to have taken possession of this sentence of Barthes: “The words are never crazed (at most perverse), but the syntax is.” He deconstructs it, makes it fluid, makes it visible through simple words and things, something understandable, at everyone´s grasp. Family photographs, postcards, holiday snaps, simple drawings, rivers … which he hides, scatters about, cuts up and offers for the taking. This is how, in re-transcribing the correspondence between his father and grandfather, he uses carbon paper, folds the sheets, puts them in a typewriter, blackens them, makes holes in them, makes them illegible and only allows signs to appear. Or else he covers sheets of crystal archive paper with imaginary shores and rivers that the spectator can only touch by holding out an arm and in so doing provoke the sound of the sea roaring. Just like a river or a stream, his works spring from one another. Naturally, almost without wanting to, almost without knowing it, they engender one another like so many branches or sources.

Perhaps it´s because each word, each thing, carries a story within it, always the same story, the story of a programmed disappearance. So, as if plotting against fate, Renato Bezerra de Mello writes and draws mechanically, systematically. He consigns and takes inventory. Of everything or nearly everything; with nothing or almost nothing. “So it is a lover who speaks and who says”: “I write to myself because I am free, vain and mad; I write to myself to calm down, to get over your not being here; I write to myself for fear of falling into a void; I write to myself to leave some traces”. The traces of a lover´s discourse. No more, no less.

Dorothée Tramoni


[I] Barthes, Roland. A Lover´s Discourse: Fragments. Translated by Richard Howard. N. Y.: Hill & Wang, 1978. p. 6.

[II] Laure Phelip.

[III] Barthes, Roland, op. cit., p. 13 ff.T

[IV] Barthes, Roland, op. cit., 52 ff.

[V] Barthes, Roland, op. cit., p. 6

[VI] Barthes, Roland, op. cit., p.9

[VII] Mello, Renato Bezerra de. Text for the work ‘Tanto mar, tanto mar’, Centre de Photographie de Lectoure, France, 2006.