São Paulo

Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, Phantom (kingdom of all the animals and all the beasts is my name), 2013–15, still from a virtual-reality environment shot using Oculus Rift, OptiTrack cameras developed by ScanLAB Projects, London, infinite duration.

Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, Phantom (kingdom of all the animals and all the beasts is my name), 2013–15, still from a virtual-reality environment shot using Oculus Rift, OptiTrack cameras developed by ScanLAB Projects, London, infinite duration.

Daniel Steegmann Mangrané

Mendes Wood DM | São Paulo

Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, Phantom (kingdom of all the animals and all the beasts is my name), 2013–15, still from a virtual-reality environment shot using Oculus Rift, OptiTrack cameras developed by ScanLAB Projects, London, infinite duration.

Daniel Steegmann Mangrané’s exhibition “Kingdom of all the animals and all the beasts is my name” took its cue from a particular area near Rio de Janeiro, the city where he has been based since 2004. Divided among three spaces, two lens-based works focus our attention on the tropical plant world in the Brazilian rain forest. These works are interspersed with five silk-screened and painted wall texts derived from the words of Stela do Patrocínio (1941–97), a patient who was interned for some twenty-six years at Colônia Juliano Moreira psychiatric clinic outside Rio.

On entering the gallery, the viewer was invited to don a pair of virtual-reality-glasses. Filmed and 3-D scanned on-site in the Tijuca Forest, Phantom, 2014–15, and Spiral Forest, 2015, were installed in a white cube and a black box, respectively. Now a national park, Tijuca had been turned into a coffee plantation and then replanted in a pioneering ecological effort during the second part of the nineteenth century. Looking at Phantom through the special glasses, one seemed to enter a thick forest, albeit rendered in a pixelated, black-and-white imagery. The resulting visual experience allowed one to indulge in an immersive experience, as if transported to the heart of the plantation.

While Phantom can be considered a high-tech representation of the site, made using the latest technologies available in the nascent twenty-first century, Spiral Forest leaps back to the imagemaking technologies of the twentieth century. Made at the same site, the 16-mm film was shot using a gimbal, which allows the camera to rotate around three axes and deliver corresponding 3-D scanned footage of the slowly moving, colorful tropical plant world imbued with a grainy ambience. The two works articulate Steegmann Mangrané’s fascination with the ways we perceive a particular moment and culture through different media.

Installed on the walls around Phantom and in a connecting gallery, the wall drawings reproduce poems by do Patrocínio. The sublime poetry of her words gives insight into a tormented psyche. A fellow patient of Arthur Bispo do Rosário, a Brazilian artist who gained widespread recognition with his major installation at the Thirtieth São Paulo Bienal in 2012, her poetic work has been slowly gaining attention since its first publication in 2001. One of the wall texts, Eu não queria me formar (I Did Not Want to Grow Up), 2015, reads (in Portuguese): “I did not want to grow up / did not ask to be born / did not want to take human form / human flesh and human matter / did not want to live / did not ask to know anything about human life / I had no wish / or desire for such things / and to this day I do not have desire / for such things.” The blocks of text are applied in different angles with do Patrocínio’s words at times interrupted by crisscrossing lines.

Do Patrocínio’s poetry can be considered a survey of the soul. Here, juxtaposed with the scan of the forest, it evidenced Steegmann Mangrané’s combined interest in ecology and analytical abstraction. Entering Phantom and sitting through Spiral Forest conjured ideas of animism and the spiritual essence in plants; in light of the recent disaster in which a dam break caused a toxic mudslide over an entire region and polluted the Rio Doce as well as the Atlantic, these works were urgent reminders of lives that should be preserved. Or, in do Patrocínio’s words: “When the lights went out / Clarity was erased / Everything was in darkness / The world at dawn No light.”

Tobi Maier