One must forget everything that was taught on such thorough maps, and begin to erase from that letter in the head the form, the general surface, even the presence of the American continent. The one who can bring to his soul the obscurity and uncertainties from that distant century will be able to relive the surprise, the enthusiasm of a whole generation when, in that which was then the infinite, the first outlines of an unsuspecting land, little by little was sketched.
(Stefan Zweig. Amerigo)
Life and narration configure an inseparable existence. Narrated and lived facts get mixed in the emission of the voice, creating conjectures that offer meanings for the exchange of confidences, for the organization of the chaos of existence, the drama of everyday feelings. In another way the drawings of writing weave signs for private audiences (in journals, in letters), or public ones (in court orders, laws, books). Writing and drawing merge, for instance, in the colonial attempt to create limits on lands, isles, continents in cartographical practices.
The exhibition “Between sky and water,” by Renato Bezerra de Mello originates from the impact of such intersubjective exchange between the account, empiricism and imagination, recurrent practices in that artist’s work. As he grounds himself on the forms of extending time on praxis, the artist searches for direct actions, as drawing, sewing, and writing, and based on that he fights the waste, taking profit of the remains, of the paper leftovers, of the pen cartridges, of the back sides, of the casings.
Here the artist is interested in the naming of America, a fact that grants to Amerigo Vespucci not only a tribute, as it was common in the times of Columbus, but that places him as a narrator who does not attribute the finding of the land to chance, or to a detour in order to arrive at India, as in the history about Cabral. Renato did research maps from different eras and have put them on embroidered linen, showing us morphological modifications of the imaginary from diverse eras, changing them considerably with the inclusion of the two coasts, Atlantic and Pacific.
On the embroidery one sees, at the same time, the sea monsters of the first nautical charts. Such accounts impact us both by the imaginary making of these impossible beings, and after docking, by the difficult acceptance of those which were already on land. In one of the works, the natives are referenced by means of a map of Brazil made by over a thousand Amerindian ethnicities.
In the exhibition Renato Bezerra de Mello was also interested in the possibility of acting on the small, on the manufactured gestures, stimulated by another grand history, that of a library belonging to the Portuguese Royal Family that crossed the Atlantic when Prince Regent John and a part of the Portuguese court crossed the Atlantic to Brazil, in 1807. With the mishaps of the hurried boarding, due to the imminent invasion of Portugal by the French troops, as explained by Lilia Moritz Schwarcz, the library was left on the docks of Lisbon. However, the prince regent demanded the bringing of the Royal Library three years later.
From such an impactful image, Renato Bezerra de Mello selects an account: the letter written by the librarian Luiz Joaquim dos Santos Marrocos, one of those on board during the crossing, to his father, narrating the distresses, the horror and the discomfort of the journey.
Thus, one sees sky and water metamorphosing in punctual works and installations in which diverse “sightings” create the peculiar imaginary of the expectation for what is to come on maps, sea colors, monsters, words, which mix the voices of the invader and those of the natives. Thus, the narrative is skewed and externalized by means of blue pen cartridges, tags, yellowed papers, and texts. Such externalities are shared with the spectator as letters, presented or forgotten, made evident in individuality or superposed in opacities.
The exhibition “Between sky and water” is above all about the possibility of the account to attribute meaning to the time gaps when, apparently, one does not perceive what is going on.