O Século

Brazilian artist Cinthia Marcelle’s work —in the form of performances, videos, and installations—captures the seemingly absurd theatrics of the everyday. Set in various deserted urban landscapes, Marcelle’s idiosyncratic pieces merge the political and poetic in unexpected ways. In her performance series Unus Mundus (2004–2005), she orchestrated collective coincidences characterized by singular behaviour patterns occurring simultane­ously: seven similarly dressed couples kissing or eight identical white vans driving around a square, for example. In Confront [Confronto] (2005), from the same series, eight fire jugglers form a line of flames at a crossing of a busy intersection—this choreography playfully visualizes the power plays that unfold in urban situations where the political dimension of daily life finds its vocabulary through poetic gestures. Marcelle’s practice focuses on bringing the marginalized to the centre and generating insight about what it means to be living in the world. She shows improbable scenarios on a micro level that allude to the larger scheme of things which impact our lives on different scales.

Outside of her solo practice, Marcelle frequently collaborates with filmmaker Tiago Mata Machado to produce work that is inspired by the chaos and polarity at the intersection of politics and society. Em­ploying a lyrical and formalistic language, as demonstrated in Black Hole (2011), they tackle the difficulties in portraying the abstract friction rife in human behaviour by translating it into a sensual interplay of breathing and shape shifting, sound and image.

Presented at the 13th Istanbul Biennial is their latest collaboration, The Century (2011), which offers a poignant interpretation of history. The film begins with a black screen, with foreboding sounds of running footsteps, and after a thud, the visual plane opens to a sequence of objects, including helmets, oil barrels, sticks, metal rods, and wooden crates, catapulted from the right side of the frame and accompanied by a cacophony of crashes in an abandoned neighbourhood. The previously desolate and nondescript street becomes a tableau of accumulated objects, dust, and smoke. Like an imperfect mirror image, the same items are launched from the opposite side of the frame, referring to the political division of ‘left’ and ‘right’. The unknown conflict—erased of any human presence and radically downsized—is evidenced by the leftovers of the clash. The work offers no solution to what appears to be an eternal loop of struggle, suggesting the need to imagine new political strategies to break the impasse of democracy.

Christina Li


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