Memories of a Carnival Ball | Galciani Neves
Exhibition text for "Memories of a Carnival Ball," 27th Project Season at Paço das Artes, São Paulo, 2023
Without taste, without smell. Symptoms that announced themselves and enveloped us in a state of doubt and the fear of death. Thus, the pandemic marked times and spaces. With this opening of the text, I do not intend to focus on the pandemic horrors, but perhaps to propose that we contemplate for a moment: everything has a history, a past that can be reconstructed in the body and with the body. How do we create narratives about something that relates to its own past and the present that lines up before us? Since when have we become lost in the face of milestones, dates, temporalities, time measurement, and time recording? And how long have we watched, while contorting ourselves, an officialdom of imposed narratives, with little opportunity for self-recognition?
Karola Braga approaches her work with a fruitful attention to these questions. She formulates many more inquiries to "express the mediated nature of artistic creation and the work of art" (Susan Sontag, 1987, p. 21), along with processes of historiographical construction, in which smell, aromas, and the sense of smell are very predominant intentions. Or as the artist proposes, she poetically produces "a free interchange between languages, creating narratives that explore notions of presence/absence, memory/forgetting."
In the project "Memories of a Carnival Ball" (presented at Paço das Artes in São Paulo in 2023, a time when, convalescent and calloused from so much mourning, we attempt to rise with the end of the Public Health Emergency related to COVID-19), Karola invites us to the olfactory senses of a Carnival - a party, extravagance, a popular celebration from which we have distanced ourselves. And right through smell, through the sense of smell, the artist creates a space that tells stories to bring us together in a fantasy of reality.
What happens to us spreads according to the words and interests of those who view us from above. The way these discourses are produced and distributed often rhymes with neglect, erasure, invisibility, with a prominence of "great figures." These are stories with "official" sources that sprinkle monuments in cities and paradigms dedicated to posterity. With this installation, Karola provokes us to imagine what would become of us and the things we know if fables bid farewell to their presumed hegemony. Thus, her poetics can be considered from a perspective of memory and project, in simultaneity and coexistence, promoting intertwinements of possibilities in this time/place we call contemporaneity. And, yes, Carnival is a ground to tread upon, where we can imagine people, places, music, ways of being here, and performing subjectivities.
Karola's gestures of memory construction, which rekindle experiences through scents, take us through tunnels of time where free movement among dates shows us possibilities for retelling narratives, imagining how events unfolded, and retracing the meanings of stories. Intimate stories, inflammable secrets, facts we never shared. Narratives told as true, events made official... Everything disassembling, everything reorganizing, making us other. In a political-poetic instance, reweaving stories can make us ask questions: How do we tell a story? Whom do we turn to for materials, witnesses, documents to touch "the truth"? Does the truth matter? Or does the sensation in our bodies tell us more about who we are? Is it possible to identify the true agents of the history(s)? Would they withstand pressures and violence to tell us what happened to them? Are we prepared to listen, make narrative choices, and, once again, resist pressures to pluralize events? And oral traditions? How do they flow in our veins and bodies, circumscribing us and inscribing us as people (as Leda Maria Martins says)?
You see, this is not about Arlequin and Colombina, nor is it about revisionism. It all begins when the artist looks at a bottle of "lança-perfume" and, based on its textures, materials, writings, traces, begins to scrutinize the product and its uses and launches into the tentacles of imagination. Such a bottle can be perceived by Karola as a tangle of many threads, all intertwined, overlapping times, places, characters, and daydreams (also, why not?). Karola creates microcosms with Carnival characters and weaves a web: dance, perfumes, smoke, the abyss of pleasure, social impositions, sexist tasks... The scents tell stories, lead us to interconnect contexts.
The installation features a nebulizer, texts, and small ceramic sculptures that emulate a "lança-perfume" bottle, as well as confetti and streamers. The shades of pink that cover walls, objects, and furniture create an atmosphere where voices, memories, thoughts seem to find a resting place, where stories can be invented, fables can be narrated. We feel the scents stirring us, making us dance in a temporal choreography between the here and now, other carnivals, and those to come. Balls, revelry, and the many scents narrate and exhale: a child, the scent of their mother, the gay man strolling at the ball, another woman seducing the revelers, the kiss of lovers, friends drinking. We share the same environment with the sweat that clings to bodies, the saliva that flows between mouths, the drink that escapes from cups, the urine that fouls the bathrooms, the sweets, citruses, and sours flowing... and the ball goes on.
Galciani Neves - Curator, professor, and researcher in the field of visual arts.