As part of our «RESIDENCY FOCUS», We invited Brazilian artist Aline Motta to answer a few questions for us about her remote residency Home Not Alone during the pandemics, throughout 2020, the way the ideas of belonging, memory and heritage act on her practice, and the movements between visual arts and literature.
Can you tell us a bit about your trajectory? How do you see the role of artistic residencies and exchanges? What impact does it have on the artist’s production?
My trajectory in the arts is somewhat unconventional and turned out to be a reflection of my different interests, knowledge, and practices that I accumulated over two decades. Finally, when I obtained the financial conditions to realize the works, they came practically all at once and with great intensity. The works involve research, both around Brazilian historiography and from my family and emotional archive. I have said that it is my family’s history, but it could also be yours. It is a very intimate and personal experience, but at the same time, I receive a lot of feedback from people, mainly Black people, who have identified themselves and brought their own narratives into the work, as if it really built a bridge between our common experiences.
As for the artist residencies, in general, I notice very asymmetrical exchanges between artists and institutions, which replicate the same predatory and unequal logics, both in the art market and in the differences between the political and economic situation of the countries from the global south in relation to the hegemonic north. But in the case of the Pro Helvetia residency something very interesting was proposed: the intellectual exchange with Zainabu Jallo, a Doctoral Researcher in Anthropology at the University of Bern, whose interests converge with mine in several points. This dialogue proposal made all the difference. We have had very rich conversations and encounters that, for sure, will continue after the residency period. Perhaps this residency model that proposes more horizontal exchanges can continue to be applied and expanded in the future.
In your work, text has become more and more of an element. How do you see the relationship and the movement from visual arts to literature? What possibilities exist in this intersection that does not necessarily reduce it to an “artist’s book”?
In my case, literature came closer to my artistic practice naturally, which already involved not only a lot of reading, but also writing the narrations for my videos, for example. I had also created some artist’s books, which included more graphic experimentation and visual poetry. Until these textual fragments that I have been writing over the past two years were thickening and taking the form of a book, which is a synthesis of all these experiments, but which has at its base the literary text. I am now working on an adaptation of the book to be published more formally as a literary book, it doesn’t fit so much as an “artist’s book” that usually has a more restricted public, but as one that can be released and distributed widely. The Pro Helvetia residency, besides providing the time for this more refined revision, made possible the translation of the book into English, which is something to be celebrated, as it greatly expands the possibilities of it being published outside of Brazil as well. Unfortunately, this is still very rare for Brazilian authors.
A good part of your research focuses on issues such as memory, territory, and belonging. For you, how do these powerful themes in your work interact with their surroundings? How does the environment affect your practice today?
This is a very interesting question, because I lived all my childhood and adolescence in Niterói and the city’s relationship with its waters, especially the Guanabara Bay, marked my life forever. Looking every day at that landscape with the entrance of the Bay, the contours of the city of Rio de Janeiro on the other side with its buildings and mountains, and a monumental architectural construction, which is the Rio-Niterói Bridge, ended up being present in the whole development of my poetics. Nowadays I live in downtown São Paulo, which is a city that is located on a plateau at a considerable altitude, and I live on a very high floor of an iconic building in the city. I have a view that can see as far as the Serra do Mar, which is many, many kilometers away. Especially with the pandemic, this daily look at a very gray city has brought me an enormous effort of imagination to visualize the buried rivers of the city and the nature that once existed. It also takes a lot of imagination to believe that after the Serra do Mar, there really is a sea on the other side. So these exercises in observing the external landscape in superimposition to the landscapes of my imagination continue to inform my work and amplify the senses of this belonging. Water is a vehicle of memory, it is a time machine. Evoking the presence of water is a way of belonging in another space-time.
For me, creation happens by crossing these fluid dimensions, glimpsing that some questions will remain unanswered, and some secrets will go on as a mystery.
About Aline Motta
Aline Motta (1974 – Niterói, RJ/Brazil) Lives and works in São Paulo, Brazil. Aline earned a bachelor degree in Communication Studies at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and a Certificate in Film Production at the New School University/New York. She combines different techniques and artistic practices, merging photography, video, installation, performance, sound art, collage, and textile materials. Her research seeks to reveal other corporalities, create meaning, resignify memories and elaborate other forms of existence. She has received the Rumos Itaú Cultural 2015/2016 grant, earned the ZUM Photography Scholarship of Instituto Moreira Salles in 2018 and the prestigious “Marcantonio Vilaça Award for the Arts” in 2019. She recently participated in groundbreaking exhibitions such as “Feminist Histories: artists after 2000” – São Paulo Art Museum/MASP, “Afro-Atlantic Histories” – MASP / Tomie Ohtake. Her solo exhibition “Aline Motta: memory, journey and water” opened at the Rio Art Museum in 2020.