We Have Run Out of Names
for the Storms #2
text by Antonio Grulli
A Soul’s Coreography
Tatiana Macedo (Lisbon, 1981) is one of the most significative Portuguese artists from the last generation - as one can witness in her latest solo show We Have Run Out of Names for the Storms #2 at Appleton Square – an independent art space in the Alvalade neighborhood of Lisbon.
Macedo’s work is mainly film, video and photography based, but not only. The topics are often spinning around a global vision made of politic dynamics, sometimes intertwined with post-colonial thoughts, but always connected with a point of view able to maintain a connection with a more personal, subjective, individual perspective, and where the notions of “place” and “space/time” play a crucial role.
This last solo exhibition is a good example, even being one of her most intimate, poetic and existential projects. The video installation was previously shown in 2018 at the Culturgest in Porto. At Appleton Square the artist re-worked it in a completely different display. The work here was comprised of one big installation on two orthogonal contiguous walls, where two synchronized split-screen projections create an immersive 4 channels expanded film and sound installation. There was also a red neon hue coming from the side as a reminiscent atmosphere from the previous presentation at Culturgest. I was impressed by the way the artist was able to start the narrative from an “inner world” and then bring it to a broader global perspective.
There is a man, played by the talentedactor Nuno Lopes, who inhabits an empty snack-bar/diner, under changeable dim or bright colored lights, echoing the atmosphere of night blurring into the twilight. Mainly the man is silent, sitting, but at a certain point he starts to list names of men and women intertwined with lines of poetically intense comments that come out of his memories. The names enunciated are the official names meteorologists attributed to the strongest storms moving around Europe and the USA in 2018 (the year the piece was produced). The other lines of text the actor delivers were written by Tatiana Macedo in collaboration with Maria Gil - an actress and theatre director - but the final structure of this poem was composed and arranged by Tatiana Macedo in the video editing stage. In fact, it is Tatiana’s way of editing text, image and sound, as one single matter, that I refer to as ‘choreography’ – a way of writing with matter that comes from a body (the actor, the camera, the place, etc) and is directed to another body (the spectator). All done meticulously in the editing – another form of writing.
Everything is dry and restrained, never flaunt. But below the surface you feel the disquiet we have all experienced at certain moments. Even if we are immersed in big issues such as political, social and global struggles, often our life is made of, and can be devastated from, the relationships that we are more or less able to establish and grow, or which we are unable to sustain and be overwhelmed by, like the violence of an unexpected atmospheric event caught unaware. The magic of this work is exactly in this atmosphere that is able to permeate from below the skin of the actor in order to move us with all our body and mind, even if so little happens.
It’s as if Tatiana Macedo had created a soul’s choreography. Everything works as in a ballet and every single movement, sound and word is as perfect as a dance step. The hands of the main character are the backbone of the entire film, for the way they move, they express life in a disturbing way, they are able to surprise and enchant us: touching the surfaces, resembling what looks like a spider or a weird insect, lighting up a cigarette or even performing magic tricks.
This choreographic dimension is amplified by the mastery in sound, moving in the space creating panoramic dimensions and split in multiple channels that dialogue among them, echoing and mirroring the movements and the images or creating counterpoints and antithesis. Everything is made of fluidity and musicality. It is difficult to define this kind of work as only video installation, since it has been thought from the beginning as a ballet, a musical composition or as a performance. And it is diffident to see it only as an intimate work. Since we experience and perceive this existential disquiet being born and growing in the actor’s performance, we can’t avoid but to relate it to the way water invisibly evaporates from the middle of some ocean until it becomes something potentially destructive. The piece moves us from an inner space, both architecturally and psychologically to a broader vision, an epic event of a scale that goes beyond the human condition.
The hands, both the actor’s and the bar’s staff (cleaners and waiters), which briefly appear while working, are the link with the spatial context of the place the film is based on. This venue is not only the story background; it actually emerges as one of the film’s protagonists, alongside the main character played by Nuno Lopes. We are talking about a magic place in Porto, the Confeitaria Cunha, designed by the architects Victor Palla and Joaquim Bento d’Almeida, a bar/diner with an old style able to speak about a past when the future was still charged with hope. Every detail of this place has been designed and created by skillful hands which make it grow old with charm, becoming a perfect metaphor for the character’s inner state and his doppelgänger with whom he seems to dialogue, or maybe one should say, to “monologue”.
Courtesy of the artist
Installation views by Bruno Lopes