TRACES: FOLLOWING THE FOOTSTEPS OF KIKA NICOLELA
ALESSANDRA MONACHESI RIBEIRO
In 2012, Kika Nicolela asked the population of the region of Campinas to donate their homemade films, especially the super 8mm films. These films would be scanned and then returned to the families, who would give consent in order for the images to be used in her project called Media Memory Collection. A collection of images is then formed, but not any collection.
The artist was born in Campinas, precisely in the 70s, a time when the super 8mm film was widely used. Would it be a desire to create a collection of personal memory from what would be common to families in this region at that time? Would it be a desire to find in the loopholes of the memories of others something of her? Would it be from this project an autobiography rediscovered and rewritten in the footsteps of others who participated in the artist's work?
In the dark room, there are floating deteriorated still images. A minimal movement is announced, frozen in the midst of its own process of deterioration. What is this image that, instead of preserving an important moment not to be missed, surprises us with the mise-en-scène of its destruction?
A single video channel without sound and in slow motion. Colors and lines parading slowly. Textures of time passing. Signs of aging images that form an abstraction of watercolors. A blue almost melancholic settles in the thousands of nuances on the screen, a blue where red and yellow eventually jump, and from time to time, there is one or two fragments of images. Is it people in an open space? A family on the beach? A woman lying in the sun? People cooling off with soda bottles? They are just shapes, shades of dark blue among all the shades of blue, as if in an ocean is unfolding. It’s an image stuck in the blue time, just like in the Windmaker (2007). But, now, the matter seems to have shifted from one ocean to another.
If the thoroughness of the treatment of the images seems to have been what has guided many of the previous productions of Kika Nicolela, regarding mainly the care in its conception, production and editing, now it's like she showed us the other side of the coin. The image of the deep blue that previously tangled the viewer with its extreme beauty, poetry and musicality, now it has become rough, full of indentations and bumps, and smelling moldy. The image is projected onto the walls of the beautiful palace of the Museum of Image and Sound Campinas that are also peeling, melting into layers of paint and revealing, among the gaps between each other, traces of memory. Traces ...
Without sound, without being driven by the clarity of the images or by connections that are always reassuring, just as many other artists showcase – others are bothersome and disturbing like the lovers in Face to Face (2006), transvestites in Tropic of Capricorn (2005), and the actors of the Film that is not there (2012), or even the unknowns of Let me in! (2009), which at least are similar, identifiable and present. We are helpless against the screen, listening to the silence and looking to those who can look back at us and recover in our own humanity and permanence. Where are they?
The appropriation of images is not the first time that it occurs as a strategy of the artist's work. In Poem of Ecstasy (2006), there were pre-existing images and reflections about the time that were already articulated. Furthermore, wouldn’t be this that ‘Traces’ is trying to highlight in the midst of your cloudiness and opacity, meaning that any discussion about image brings into play the idea of time and, consequently, the memory? And that ahead of time, the comforting memory of one self and others reveals as an effort doomed to failure?
The shift made by the artist's new project seems to try to explicit the opacity and loss. It’s not anymore about the disturbing and the surrounding beauty of the stories and memories of others, but its dissection. Instead of the perfect image, traces and textures that insinuate images take place. Thus, we find out that those previous images were based on what it has always been its essence: only traces made of a material which dissolves over time, which ends up being lost. Just like the memory that, to psychoanalysis, consists of traces that, in order to stay, can no longer be there. The textured blue of Kika Nicolela gives signs of these traces that are almost lost, which we might call the unconscious and that is no more than an attempt of a fictional reconstruction of what creeps over time. Because the unconscious is lost to the extent that it is established, and we can’t be aware of it except for remnants and constructions. We dream and we create what we cannot perpetuate. And our memory is the seam of such fictions.
Time gives memory its true meaning: a free creation from traces. We do not know if there is a woman who is tanning, or family in the outdoors, or children that are enjoying their soda. Did we see them jump from the film? Or did we deduct it from that seafloor of silhouettes? Everything is so fluid that we cannot be sure. And it does not matter. The possibility of memory being proven through facts captured in pictures it is not what ensures its veracity, but its ability to tack fragments and create meanings. True and false are lost on what each individual can say with absolute certainty about itself, as Freud discovered very early in his dealings with the hysterics. And if this may sound distressing to our yearnings to anchor knowledge in a supposed objectivity, the work of Kika Nicolela seems to recover a certain grace present in this movement that requires every human being, in order to exist, the capacity to reinvent their self and their history.
A collection of images is an overview of memories confined in an attempt to be preserved by freezing. They might be photos or videos, which are mainly produced for the purpose of eternalise something and ensure that people, events and impressions are not lost with the passage of time and finitude of living beings. Derrida shows that this fixation that the collection does, by recording the image and the desire to preserve something, is precisely what constitutes its paradox, leaving it vulnerable to its tendency to be destroyed. The attempt to try freezing brings its opposite, the impossibility of memory. A well-kept collection of images is a trace that is lost.
In another room of the exhibition at MIS Campinas, Media Memory Collection, it is performed in duo channel with all of the family archives, face to face with another projection of 8 and 16 mm films of the 1940s-1960s. The youth of the parents of the youngsters from the 1970s and 1980s faces those that are tangent to the artist's history. There are two generations in various scenes that, facing each other in common themes, lose their weight and their uniqueness, becoming indistinguishable ingredients from the same soup.
Scenes from childhood, babies in arms, family celebrations, birthdays, plays, pets, family meals, Christmas parties ... the banal everyday special occasions unfolds before our eyes, showing how everything is interchangeable. The pride in the eyes and attitudes of characters parading past the camera becomes the restless look of the spectator who, plunged in the excess of those special moments, quickly realizes the trap that the artwork puts us in: does immersing yourself in your personal memories completely reveal how much they are composed of a substance that is common to all, and therefore unimportant in itself? A story could be another, a person could be someone else, and an event could be something else. But there is not much difference between what each human being lives or what each one chooses to perpetuate what is meaningful in life. We want to preserve the memory of what we consider extraordinary and keep it alive, but, in reality, what is shown is a sequence of images of common events. It is the cruel realisation of our insignificance as singular beings, which is the wire that connects the current project Kika Nicolela with so many of her other productions: the explanation of this lack of intrinsic importance, the indistinctness that everything plunges when confronted with the mirror image.
The risk of the image / recovered memory is the revelation of this commonplace. But it is also the greatest opportunity, since that frees us from the burden of the extraordinary and it allows us to rediscover, on what is more banal, something that moves us when facing one another. And that contemplates its fragility in ourselves, presenting us with a rough, blurry and inaccurate mirror to our own fictions.
catalogue of the solo exhibition Vestígios, Museum of Image and Sound, Campinas, 2013
original text in Portuguese