Emancipatory Topologies – by Paula Braga

The gallery floor is covered with grass, marking a green square. There is a small picture on the back wall. In order to see the picture, one has to cross the grass field. For that, there is the suggestion of a path marked with white stones, over the grass, around the edges of the square. Taking the demarcated path or diagonally across the field – shortest distance between the point of entry and the photography – the viewer gets to the image. What he sees is a grass field on which was open a spontaneous path, by the constant stepping of the passersby. Those who get to the photography by the white stones path feel too obedient, in a situation where nothing prevented the opening of its own way. The work is O meu eu mesmo faço (I Make Mine Myself), by Felipe Cama, installed at the Ribeirão Preto Museum of Art, in 2006.

The art institution is a space full of rules: do not touch, do not photograph, do not run. An invisible power, perhaps the special lighting, perhaps the sacred aura of the financial value of the artworks, presumes keeping the voice down and following the rules, even the nonexistent. The work of Felipe Cama immediately makes us laugh at this behaviour: if I do not discuss a rule as absurd as the don’t-photograph in the midst of an era of unlimited distribution of images, if I don't dare to step on this work’s artificial grass, inside an art institution, this art that’s being claiming resistance for at least 50 years, (243) how am I going to behave outside the museum? Trusting that the rules have been written by a supreme power and therefore must always be obeyed? Works like O meu eu mesmo faço point exactly to the opposite direction. And that, the disadvantaged social layers of our society know well: the electricity quick fixes, the paths on the hill, the mazes of alleys, these are the spontaneous ways of those who live and survive by their own rules. They mark the natural flows that the rule should simply ratify, for a while, as a rule of collective and anonymous authorship.

The same way that the role of the artist is, for Oiticica, “to evoke in the participant, who is the former spectator, states of invention”, the architect-urban would be the evoker, the translator and the catalyst of desires of the inhabitants. Starting from the idea of n organized laissez-faire; starting, for example, by the principle that the best way to create a footpath on a lawn is to see the trail left in the grass by the passerby. (244)

The idea of he open path made spontaneously in the grass of Felipe Cama's artwork leads to a relation between contemporary art and smooth space of nomadic thought, the thought as war machine by the definition of Deleuze. As the white stones in Cama’s work define a predictable path and orderly movement – the distance between the stones defines the width of the step – the striated space is a grid which allows only predefined movements, while the smooth space “is the place of the flows, of the free movements, of turbulence, of becoming (there’s nothing pre-configured in it).” (245)

It is interesting to note the coincidence of geometric concepts immediately relatable to Deleuze’s striated space and Rancière’s sharing of the sensitive. Both presume a background grid, a limited and pre-defined area of ovement. Both philosophers maintain a rupture of the striae, of the boundary lines, which restrict the movement in the world. In Rancière, the lines that define the sharing of the sensitive are drawn with the ruler of the division of labor, of each one's duties, that establishes the powers to interfere in the common. (246) For Deleuze, codes that demarcate the boundaries of the striated space (or sedentary space) come from the law, the contract and the institutions. (247) Rancière thus provides a more accessible escape route to individuals: whatever the laws, contracts and institutions say, is in the hand of each one, in doing, that lies the possibility of escaping from a pre-defined model of division of the sensible: being a nomad that finds his own way through the grass, ignoring the properly landscaped path of stones. The artwork can be a war machine that encourages authorship of people’s own paths, as in O meu eu mesmo faço. One must first know that it is possible to escape the grid towards a smooth space.

The network topology immediately points to the confusing interlacing of wires that constitutes a rhizome. There are so many paths in the network, as in the roots of a lawn, that each one ends up doing his own, as suggested by the work of Felipe Cama.

244) Paola Berenstein Jacques. Estética da Ginga: a arquitetura das favelas através da obra de Hélio Oiticica. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Casa da Palavra, 2001, p. 151.  245) Regina Schöpke, Por uma Filosofia da Diferença – Gilles Deleuze: o pensador nômade. Rio de Janeiro: Contraponto; São Paulo: Edusp, 2004, p. 171.  246) Jaques Rancière, A Partilha do Sensível, São Paulo: EXO experimental org; Editora 34, 2005. p. 17 247) Schöpke, op. cit., 173

Excerpt from "Artist Network: Art in the Age of virtuality of social relationships", survey conducted during postdoctoral studies at the Art Institute of UNICAMP with support from FAPESP (process number 2010 / 05232-9) and supervision of Prof. Dr. Maria de Fátima Morethy Couto.

 

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