Over the Horizon

How to make opposites touch, cross each other, overlap?  Somehow, the pieces gathered in Over the Horizon, by Ana Calzavara, promote this very movement: in each of the pieces we see today there are situations that are usually apart. Not by accident, the term dusk is present in different texts already written about her work. This term points precisely to the moment when day and night intersect, making it impossible to pinpoint one or the other with accuracy. It is in this time and space highlighted by this intercession that the artist’s works dwell.

   

The choice to bring opposites together is present in different ways. Calzavara’s landscapes originate from photos of a specific area in the far South of Brazil, Cassino Beach, RS, where contrasting technologies cohabit. On one side, we can see the presence of a hi-tech radar called Over the Horizon, installed in 2018. On the other, an analogic version of a piece of equipment used for maritime surveillance, a lighthouse built in 1909. Another fold is created when we understand that the title of the show is inspired by an eponymous song by Roberto Carlos, who sings about an untouchable place, a kind of promised land where pleasure would take place amidst nature.  This back-and-forth between opposing references grows in a formal dimensional fashion in the group of works presented.  If painting is the core of the exposition, these opposites co-exist digitally and as wood etchings (ink on wood hand-carved by the artist).

On the canvas Over the Horizon (I), we see an uninhabited landscape, a kind of desert on the edge of the sea. In the background, a horizon where the sea and the sky blend into one. The only presence there is a circular shape in the center, the physical appearance of the installed radar. Meanwhile, in Farol (II), the inexisting clarity, the blurred atmosphere allows a glimpse, in the background, of an analogic forefather that came before the technological advance. The romantic tone inherent to landscape painting appears on the canvas in a grand spectacle Murmuration (Revoada), in which a flock of birds swoops across the surface of the sea. But as mentioned before, the artist works in the world of in-betweens. The serene murmuration that arises within the picturesque language assumes a bleakness and losses clarity in the four digital pieces in which the traces of flight become mere abstract vestiges. The digital aspect that is generally sterile and sharp is, here, inverted, served to us as something that vies against full legibility.   

 

**

Up to now, we have outlined a brief so-called map of the exposition. We seek to speculate on the pathway that this plot put together by Calzavara. First, however, it is necessary to affirm the obvious: there is no ingenuity here. It is curious to note the fact that, at first glance, we are facing a show with several works that all relate to, above all, the classic landscape theme, employing one of the oldest artistic mediums: painting. And everything is incorporated under one title that references, once again, landscapes, as well as a popular song. It is precisely under this first layer, which is to an extent unassuming and familiar, that a series of articulations arise taking us to a witty dialogue with more pressing questions from today.

Using a motto such as the simultaneous presence of hi-tech radar and a lighthouse at the center of a painting, Calzavara brings to the fore the different temporalities and diverse ways of observing. If both are aimed at looking at and monitoring the ocean, each one takes us to a specific time period. In short, we can affirm that, one the one hand, we have the analogic era and, on the other, the digital era. We are well aware of how the technical advance in the area of sensory stimulation unfolds in the fragmentation of perception. It is blatantly obvious that our attention is in a permanent state of distraction. With such an explosion of stimulation, we see a lot and see nothing. According to philosopher Christoph Türcke, we are caught in the middle of a paradox. We live among extremely advanced technologies at the same time that our perceptive tools are becoming more and more atrophied[1]. Instead of expanding out rationality, the way that these innovations are introduced into our everyday lives seems to work as an anaesthetic on the senses, creating a kind of constant narcotic haziness.

This is one of the targets of Calzavara’s narrative. If paintings require us to have the patience to look, a period dedicated to contemplating which is stolen from us every day, it is essential to introduce at the core the tricks to overcoming the current state of perception. As we are not faced with an artist that believes in a simplistic means to demonize the world of images, we bear witness to the connection between the paintings / wood etchings and the digital works, as if it had been established that it is our duty to know how to make our way through this turbulent atmosphere.

We could also speculate on the ideas of control, and hope that these works would lead us somewhere. On a deserted beach, which would normally be a place for rest and comfort (as the popular song idealizes), there is a radar that controls everything, as if there were no escape whatsoever from any level of surveillance. And if only the emptiness and the horizon that dominate in these works portray, simultaneously, the states of hope and possibility, there is also one counterpoint to an era when both are closed off. The 24/7 world is unaware of any sense of waiting, subordinated to an acceleration as restless as devoid of meaning. At the same time, the horizons of possibilities, that is, of transformations, seem increasingly off limits in face of hyper filled imaginations.

Once again, Calzavara moves us to the present through her timeless pieces. It is not by chance that the same elements that work for a world with no forests, no education, also work for a world with no culture. The possibility of creating other possible worlds in the art realm turns it into an element of uncontested strength regarding the chance of imagining a future which does not replicate this “zombie humanity”—to quote Ailton Krenak—forged amid a huge casino-world where everything becomes merchandize and where our subjectivity is turned into the raw material for a late capitalism. Sowing an imagination filled with overstimulation, touching the eyes anesthetized by the everyday brutality, displacing colonized subjectivities, this is what, in a seemingly small scale, given the gigantic size of the contemporary dilemmas, art can certainly do. And it seems to me that this is Calzavara’s bet. Or better yet, her choice.

Not by accident, Over the Horizon became the title for this exhibition at this very moment—in Brazil, February 2022. In the brave gesture which brings contemporary art (always entrenched) closer to popular music, the indication that something is in a holding and anticipating pattern can be seen. Ultimately, the very unsweet landscapes by Ana Calzavara compel us to turn her paintings, etchings, and digital work into our genuine “radars”, offering us glimpses, al last, of a singular cartography over the horizon.    

[1]    See TÜRCKE, Christoph. Hiperativos: abaixo a cultura do déficit de atenção. Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 2016; TÜRCKE, Christoph. Sociedade excitada: filosofia da sensação. Campinas: Editora da Unicamp, 2012.

Luisa Duarte