Inés Lombardi

A journey from Rotterdam across Europe to the delta of the Danube: The tanker ship moved lethargically down the Rhine, Main, and Danube, from the Dutch and German industrial regions to the picturesque vineyards of Wachau and through the Iron Gate, a spectacular narrowing of the Danube in the Banat region between Romania and Yugoslavia. Past the country now without bridges. Their remains litter the river and block the passage of ships. From NATO, with love.

For over two weeks in 2000, Inés Lombardi lived aboard the tanker in the company of a Nikon camcorder and some not-very-talkative sailors. The passage ensued with no stops in friendly harbors and became a Grand Tour beyond touristic views, ethnological curiosity, or scientific-cultural research. Lombardi’s matrix is movement, time, and perception. On deck, she made more than four thousand photographs, all shot straight on, mostly horizontal in format—the traditional way in which our experience of seeing is pictorially organized. From this wealth of material came twenty-eight works consisting of precise arrangements of four to five motifs in multipart frames, as well as twenty smaller single photographs (all works untitled, 2002): close-ups of the water surface and river banks and expansive centered perspectives often made panoramic by the great breadth of the river. In combination, the different views present a consistent movement through time and space.

A four-channel video installation celebrated the complexity of slowness with twenty-eight looped minutes of just gliding along. The schism between image and sound (the images were sometimes in slow motion, while the sound played at original speed) made for a subtle provocation. On the four monitors, one could observe the motions of ship, water, light, and passing vegetation. Laconically noted boat traffic on the water, close-ups of the agitated face on the bow, the satin night sky illuminated by the ship’s radar, and a painfully long shot of a flat stretch of land: nothing moving.

Lombardi, who was born in Brazil but has lived in Vienna since 1980, relates her emphatic devotion to the authentic and unfalsified depiction of facts to the films and texts of Pier Paolo Pasolini, whose goal was to seek ever more discourses—to relate facts but leave their interpretation open. Thus it was rather brave to mix into this cool syntax the occasional picture-perfect sunset—not as some aesthetic culmination but just because it really happened. Nothing is invented, not the white waves that look like desert sands, nor the mysterious fog images, nor the yellow, poisonous landscape, all of which could just as easily be in China or South America or elsewhere. “The globalization of seeing,” murmurs the artist.

Lombardi’s artistic method has always been based on associations and references, relations and comparisons that affirm art’s status as a dynamic process. Travel is a cultural praxis that always includes the same transition rituals of departure-passage-arrival. For Lombardi, what counts is being under way, and nothing expresses this better than the quality of flowing. Rivers are symbols of permanent movement. Rivers stick to the point. And Lombardi sticks to the spatial framework that we call reality.

Brigitte Huck

Translated from German by Sara Ogger.