Adriana Rocha



The visual world of those whose lives are ensconced in the arid urban setting is fragmented, and usually mediated by a screen intervening between city and gaze. For many, the visual field is largely confined to ground and walls. Compartments and more compartments (home, office, transport, urban facilities etc). The regime of confinement is reproduced on the Internet in that it is conceived as a library structure, with "routes" usually "taken" repeatedly. Like seams or breaches in a virtual world, the pieces of sky and landscape glimpsed on walking the streets of a metropolis are practically invisible. This urban blindness is often focused by a certain nostalgic critical discourse, which holds that public art no longer exists and there is no way of confronting the scale of the city or competing with the omnipresence of advertising: artistic interventions on the streets – on this reading- are naive gestures doomed to failure. The city swallows everything in a flash - such is the great cliché. It is not new for art to deal with ephemerides of many types (from the organic materials used in installations to the unrepeatable noise of interference in electronic panels) and dematerializations. Leaving out or forgetting are both part of the modus operandi of art.

Nevertheless artists all over the world prefer the streets. Or they combine intervention within and outside the official art circuit. However, artists choose the minimum, if not silence. Rocha conceived a project for the city of São Paulo with mural paintings in places quite distant from one another. She wanted to use walls - this least common denominator of urban enclosure - as support for a painting to "be negotiated." This negotiation took place both with the district authorities of each area chosen and with the space itself after deciding where the painting was to be executed. The choice of "walls" has to do with the muralist tradition, and the practice of graffiti and slogan painting, but also and particularly with the ideology of fortification. Walls are monuments to discipline and fear. Prisons, schools, asylums for the mentally ill, hospitals, and gated communities are all inconceivable without walls. When artists cover them with representations of nature, this speaks volumes in relation to the fortification mentality. This action somehow poses a paradox: a breath of landscape on the impermeability of the concrete. A pause in the gray urban landscape. It is no accident, however, that the choice of palette tends toward gray, since the work is dialoguing with the city rather than "embellishing" it. Rocha's paintings are executed over monuments to discipline and fear, but they are anything but monumental.
While the monument functions as a material symbol of a reconstituted and imposed memory [Critical Art Ensemble], Paisagens Imaginárias prompts the creating of new, personal and non-transferable memories. And they pose the possibility of vanishing - they are there to be engulfed by the city. What do these created memoirs consist of? Rocha's intervention uses transformations - although ephemeral – of cityscapes in Tucuruvi (northern area of the city of São Paulo), the Antarctica overpass (western area), Campos Elíseos (center), and Penha (east) to set up temporary landmarks. The latter may be understood as both the relations established between residents and users of the space and artists (during the period they were working there) and as the connection between people who started to live with a certain "Imaginary Landscape”.

The life histories are non-narratable; they have something of the nature of aesthetic experience. There is the homeless family that slept under the Antarctica overpass at times and lost touch one day - mother and daughter spent days without seeing each other - they met up again "under the tree". There is the owner of a small store in front of the Penha municipal marketplace who was reluctant to admit that what the artists had painted on the market wall could be considered a landscape, since there was no color; he was most impressed when he saw that the trees on the land beside it seemed to fuse with the panel in the evening light. In what sense do the interventions also point to the possibility of erasure? The work initially assumes the specificity of the context in which it is inserted: that of being a painting in the public space prone to deterioration and vandalism and lacking arrangements for conservation or restoration. However, the metropolis was not as immediately voracious as one might imagine: three months after the first panel had been finished; the painting was practically intact, except for the odd scribble or mark. But there is yet another instance of fading image present in these interventions, whatever the nature of Adriana Rocha's production. Bearing witness to disappearance is intrinsic to her working procedure. Her painting transforms overlay of paint no longer to glazing, but to assertion of the fragile possibility of a memory. Photographer Nino Rezende too, in his practice, has much to do with the limitations and chimeras of registration, so much so that in this project it is fused with the "portrayed object", diluted in the landscape that supposedly ought to be observing from outside.

Yet another characteristic of "Imaginary Landscapes" is that it distances the project from the nostalgic critical discourse mentioned above: the wager on the "culture of recombination", which Critical Art Ensemble defines as follows: "In a society dominated by an explosion of 'knowledge', it is more urgent to explore the possibilities of meaning in that which already exists than to add redundant information (even when produced by the methodology and metaphysics of the 'original')." Rocha's landscapes are based on many different referents: the classic genre painting of Gerard Richter, or the collage of media images of Sebastião Salgado. All sampled and ressignified.

From the original in Portuguese by Juliana Monachesi, November 2004