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 ephemeredes 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.

November 2004

by Juliana Monachesi