On Temporary Occupations
A collective of artists that isn't a group, an art exhibition that isn't in a gallery
In its first appearance in 2010, Temporary Occupations presented itself as a collective exhibition of six independent exhibitions installed in alternative spaces. At the suggestion of Elisa Santos, artists Mauro Pinto, Gonçalo Mabunda, Gemuce, Pinto, Mudaulane and myself occupied Hotel Escola Andalucia, Clube Ferroviario, the Central Market, the Natural History Museum, a ruin on Eduardo Mondlane Avenue (instead of the originally intended Casa Coimbra) and Minerva Central bookstore respectively.
Invitations to participate were based on the relevance of the discourse and the interest found in the different visual languages and techniques employed by each artist. The works on exhibit were thus the result of less than two months spent discussing and producing work that related to changes occurring in the city at the time.
Today, of the spaces that were occupied in 2010, Hotel Escola Andalucia is closed, the Central Market has undergone renovation, the ruin on Eduardo Mondlane is gone, Casa Coimbra is undergoing building work and Minerva Central has continued to establish itself in the IT market by opening more retail shops in Maputo province. The space that housed Gonçalo's exhibition Me when I was last, truly seems to be so, passively resisting the passing of time.
The role of the Occupations as a platform for dealing with issues that individual creatives identify and find relevant to deal with is more noticeable this year. Camila de Sousa's exploration of the body as vehicle of history and memory establishes a dialogue of similarities and differences when installed and viewed within the walls of the Faculty of Medicine of the Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo. By making use of composition reminiscent of early photographic registrations in relation to the study of the body, the qualities of photography as a tool for control and cataloging are explored and questioned.
women remain imprisoned... that is, from this point of view.
This year's exhibition was curiously scheduled to open on the 11th of September, the day that according to Elisa "marks the fall of the inviolable security, the end of collective tranquility”. On the 17th, less than a week after this date, Adbusters are said to be responsible for initially staging the Occupy Wall street protests. As I write, Chilean students, backed by their teachers and parents, are going into a 7th month occupying schools and universities in defiance of a system where private institutions are said to be profiting from students whilst receiving state subsidies.
Azagaia, a rapper and designer placed excerpts of his lyrics on a wall inviting viewers to participate by sharing their opinions.
The role of social and digital media and individual use of it is also particularly highlighted this year – other than being one of the methods of communication, organization and marketing of this project as a reaction and solution to limited and denied funding, it also has also become the subject of the multi-media
installation by Azagaia. The power of the immediacy and apparent sense of democracy and freedom of speech provided by social media today is placed in the spotlight for scrutiny. O Facebook do Jaimito works on different levels – highlighting and questioning the presence of the social networking platform, whilst also suggesting we give ourselves a moment to reflect on the local and international state of freedom of speech, including the role and complicity we all have as individuals
through the positions, influences and loyalties we hold.
Through this work Azagaia makes direct reference to Jaimito, a local musician whose hand-written protests, statements, occupation and presence on the sidewalk opposite Radio Moçambique could be seen to have validated the relevance, importance and necessity of the Temporary Occupations project this year.
Filipe Branquinho's contributions to Ocupações enter a second year, previously having worked behind-the-scenes to produce black and white photographs of the places and spaces we occupied. This year he exhibits
Occupations, a series of images that look at the different employment taken on by individuals in the city. During the weeks of the exhibition Filipe presented his series of 40 photographs on one of the windows leading into the gallery of the Association of Photography on Julius Nyerere Avenue. His proposal of a precarious 'walk-in movie' is complete with seating in the form of stools and chairs created and used by security guards working in and around the city.
The portraits shown here expose a sensibility and ownership – on part of the photographer and the
sitters – a sincerity, that although does not expose details of the sitters' private lives, seems to hold evidence of a certain complicity and understanding between sitter and photographer/viewer. The fact that Filipe's projection could only be seen at night may be read as a slight provocation technically (it gives the images a high tened luminosity due to the projection, providing them with a slight ethereal tone), it gives a 'second life' to a gallery space that is usually inaccessible at night, occupying a space that is usually only available to artists that are able to adhere to its rental fees.With this in mind, we are very appreciative that the artist Sitoe allowed for his exhibition to also be temporarily occupied.
To write or draw on a wall, as opposed to paper on canvas, may appear as a decidedly vandalist attitude – or a reaction to the speed of transition of the times. Although not impervious to change, walls are expected to have a stronger chance of surviving tumultuous times. To paint on the walls of one's city can also be a way of
claiming ownership, creating a reference where we feel our own presence reflected, as well as of diverting attention from what is behind the wall.Walls bear memories and scars of events until holes are covered, they are painted and a new era is ushered in. Washing powder, beer and celular network advertisements are still painted by hand on walls that are visible as soon as a visitor enters Maputo – a colorful backdrop to the lives and events they quietly bear witness to.
A big khanimambo to the students from the National School of Visual Arts (ENAV) that participated in the execution of this mural.
The insertion of drawings by Jorge Fernandes in the Scala Cinema bill-boards may revert one to the fantasy of cinema, specially the invention and discussion of conspiracy theories related to science fiction.
The artist is here presented simultaneously as thinker, actor, dreamer and public speaker, in a space that to some might recall their childhood and the mixture between fantasy, bewilderment and escapism offered by movies. In a similar way to the many realities that we witness and live second-hand through the big screen, in Oputam Jorge makes reference to what could be read as a fictional city or a parallel universe where imagery and symbolism related to religion, spirituality and science meet.
The apparently logic, and the apparently irrational are joined in one space – appropriate when one imagines that this cinema has catered to all, from fans of karate movies, to those of bollywood romances to international film festival titles.
Temporary Occupations thus makes its contribution this year with an exhibition that aims to highlight the temporality, fragility, vulnerablity and adaptability of values, loyalties and kinship that we face today. Personally, this exhibition highlights the responsability we all hold as individuals to observe, question, denounce and communicate that which we find important to us. This year's installment has not provided any clear answers, if anything, it has raised more questions (and an eyebrow or two): what is this 'project'? Who is 'in charge'? What is its aim? What format does it take? How does one join this... movement of people?
Santiago, 19th December, 2011