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The film that is not there. Nobody comes unwarned, the title let it be known, from the very beginning: the film is not where it should be – on the screen of a movie theater, TV or computer – nor here where it could be – museum, gallery or any other venue legitimated by the art-institution. For some decades now sheltered there are the most diversified experiments of displacement and resignification of the cinematographic image. 

The title goes beyond: it doesn’t say there is no film, on the contrary, it affirms its state of not being as a distinctive quality – the film that is not – stressing at once the absence of its constitutive place and its condition of accomplishment. In other words, its mode of being is not able to be circumscribed, but it cannot be mistaken as an ill- being. Despite the common roots, or, better saying, the radical absence of topos, the atopical condition in this case doesn’t carry any trace of utopia – nor of surprise or irony. 

The 21st Century artist is completely self-conscious that his responsibility is limited to a fraction of the work, exactly that part prior to the regard that will ultimately constitute it – the regard of the other. The dual relationship is at the core of Kika Nicolela’s work. The artist doesn’t give up her métier in order to install the film-work, but from the very beginning she conveys it as a virtual dialogue between talking heads and thinking heads. We think, read and talk with images the whole time. This is what we will explicitly do here, as we do everywhere, but unaware of it. 

The film-that-is-not-there counts with the mutual implication between spectator and work, voyeur and model, viewer and frame, largely supported by the centenary experience of cinema and its developments. Let’s include in it spectacular (and specular) uses of projection mechanisms. The work employs its smuggling operations, its subtle detours, through gaps installed in the core of this functional and extra-mediatic machinery: the very driftage of identitary games. Knot-images. A planetary movie, an international soap-opera, a melodrama performed by different races, peoples and idioms, all in unison, aware of the Great Drama. 

Utopia or irony? How to grasp the meaning whose direction escape us; we who are at once aware and unbelieving? We know quite well that the whole thing is a staging, but what intense desire to establish the true version of this fiction propels us to try it once again? Thought as attempt and temptation – Nietzsche old dictate demonstrating its efficacy now, in exchange of nothing, a mere banal drama on a dark background. 

The counterpoint to the atopical is the commonplace, allowing the proliferation (in hospital, in jail, in the room) of non-places built by discourse. We recognize that which we don’t know; everything resounds. In the angular perimeter installed inside the Modernist palace, reverberates, perhaps, the museum, the hotel of that other deserted island, whose reality is language. From our position as spectators (our role?), we guess some kinship with the fugitive-prisoner of Bioy-Casares’ The Invention of Morel. There, as here, the price paid for atemporality is repetition, deaf dialogues, the hallucination of the different in the similar. Or the contrary. 

Everything seen is déjà vu. Nothing adheres to anything. In vain, an architectural drive: yes, we need to distribute spaces, to restore broken syntagms, to gather losing threads. But the promise of rescue from this labyrinth of unequal mirrors is never fulfilled. Whether pristine it may be, every mirror divides – and multiplies. Our images confuse us. Chaplin gracefully points this out in the initial scenes of The Circus, translating into gags the shock between the two versions of the imaginary as proposed by Blanchot. In the exact point when they bifurcate, nonsense finds the most absolute impossibility of meaning. “The similar, similar to the absolute degree, is both perturbing and wonderful. But is it similar to what? To nothing.”1

In Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author, actors play the role of actors and others of characters. To the last, Pirandello suggests the use of special, customized masks, “made of a material that doesn’t soften with sweat and is nevertheless light (…) fashioned and cut in such a way that leaves out the eyes, the nose and the mouth”2. From this annotation it would be possible to imagine masks which power of adherence turns them indiscernible from the face they cover. The title used for the anthology of his theatrical works, Naked Masks, seems to synthesize a series of questionings and paradoxes explored by Kika Nicolela in her aesthetical propositions. Whether experimenting the very becoming-image from the heat of a lighted match next to the skin (Flickering, 2009), or side to side confronting expressive micro variations of the young and the mature Liv Ullmann (Poem of Ecstasies, 2006), as if the radical slowdown of the movement could contain its “functioning” while pellicle. Subcutaneous was the title of the film with no place before its existence. 

On the edge. In the series entitled Distant Affinities, Kika exposes herself to the other’s regard investigating the being-image of her own condition as a foreigner (from another place) and nomad (from no place). The film may not be there, but the camera is always there. Its presence is explicit, unavoidable, whether as safeguard or a pretext for contact, mediating subtleties, menaces and all kinds of fantasies – phantasmatic image, imperceptible masks that we impose on the non-ego. 

Kika Nicolela’s images possess a striking property: they invert the direction of the regard, but they also displace us from our position. We are captured by the image of the object to which the camera is pointed, but invariably an inner eye – which we are not able to see – turns to it: absolute center, pure irradiation. Main character, witness and persecutor. Bodiless voice. Hostage of its power, we lend to it our own. 

– From where does it come?
(the obsession of place) 
– New Horizon
(irony? utopia?)

1. Blanchot, Maurice. O Espaço Literário. Rio de Janeiro: Rocco, 1987, p. 260.
2. Pirandello, Luigi. Seis personagens à procura de autor. São Paulo: Ed. Peixoto Neto, 2004, p.43

catalogue of solo exhibition 'THE FILM THAT IS NOT THERE', Palácio Gustavo Capanema, Rio de Janeiro, 2012

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