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Notes on "Asking Questions Does Not Quieten the Heart"

“I am blind for seeing it too much”.

O Estrangeiro (The Foreigner), Caetano Veloso


A lot is said about the overflow of images to which we are subjected these days. The image has become the major vehicle of sale of all types of products. It was more than 60 years ago when Andy Warhol and Pop Art used critically their own brands and images created by the so-called “mass culture” as raw material for their creations. With the advent of the digital world, the circulation of images has increased exponentially with unprecedented intensity. Social networks have further amplified their use, blurring the lines between the public and private spheres. Our environs expand massively and noisily with images.

Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges, in his brief and decisive essay about the importance of the Book, claims that the latter represents a significant possibility of happiness available to us, humans. Unlike the newspaper, which is to be read and forgotten about and in which the use of the word is frivolous and mechanical, “the book is read to immortalize the memory”.

For the artist who express themselves through images in today’s world, it is extremely challenging to make it stand out (and, why not, make it “eternal”) in the minds and hearts of those who behold them.  How to create an image that doesn’t go unnoticed or isn’t frivolously discarded? How to infuse it with reflexive and transformative power? How to load it with meaning?

The reiteration – that is, doing it again, repeating – is a gesture that is linked to the industry and its production lines. Fated to occupy new spaces and circulate swiftly through modern society, goods dematerialize and become intangible as information products and images in the post-industrial society. They are transformed and multiplied, but carry on as goods that are produced in series and standardized, aiming at climbing atop mass markets.

A few years ago, a kind of artistic reiteration started to express itself in my artistic production. It gradually established itself and became a recurring feature of different pieces. Over time, I noticed that, in my case, repetition took place exactly as a desire for distinction. In those works, repeating the gesture aimed at making way for differences, imperfections and absence of standardized patterns within them. Therefore, reiteration arose, paradoxically, as a desire to subvert it. To see how I could impart singularity and identity to the indifferent.

“Asking questions does not quieten the heart” is an exhibition that also brings with it the concept of reiteration. It is about a set of pieces conceived and elaborated in 2022 during an artistic residency in Italy in March and April. The Bogliasco Foundation, which welcomed me, is located on the Ligurian Sea coast.  It was from a local garden that the first image of the series (“Ramagem: Matrix”), which is included in the exhibit, was made. An oil on canvas painting shows an olive branch that extends over the seawater.

The entire exhibition was conceived from this image – always the same branch, but presented through different techniques and artistic medias. By doing that, I invite the viewer to see again the same (another) image several times over with the aim that, through this reiterated insistence, their attention does not disperse and, instead, it can focus and deepen its apprehension of the represented image.

As Borges observed, I wish it lingers in the memory of those who see it. At the same time, or perhaps exactly for that reason, I would like the pieces to be able to question us about what constitutes an image these days. Asking questions does not quieten the heart but, as the oldest book in the world says, it can make us wiser.

Ana Calzavara

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