São Paulo

Sonia Andrade, Untitled, 2005, video projection (color, silent, indefinite duration), obsidian. Installation view. Photo: Filipe Berndt.

Sonia Andrade, Untitled, 2005, video projection (color, silent, indefinite duration), obsidian. Installation view. Photo: Filipe Berndt.

Sonia Andrade

Galeria Marcelo Guarnieri | São Paulo

Sonia Andrade, Untitled, 2005, video projection (color, silent, indefinite duration), obsidian. Installation view. Photo: Filipe Berndt.

Sonia Andrade is part of the first generation of Brazilian video artists. Established in Rio de Janeiro at the beginning of the 1970s, with multidisciplinary artist Anna Bella Geiger as their teacher, this group included Fernando Cocchiarale, Ivens Machado, Letícia Parente, and Paulo Herkenhoff. At that time, Brazil was controlled by a dictatorship—resources for artists were minimal, and there was a general lack of knowledge about the Super 8 format. Members of the group even shared a single Porta-Pak for the production of videos. It is important to note that a number of female artists in Brazil adopted the practice of video at that moment, and several of these artists’ works—especially those of Parente—were dedicated to reopening discussion of the patriarchal expectations for women’s role in society.

The exhibition at Galeria Marcelo Guarnieri was a panorama of Andrade’s work from 2001 to 2017. It comprised six video installations displaying a recurring motif of crystals and minerals, such as amethyst and selenite. The choice of these materials imparts a character of reflectivity and organicity to the work and creates a direct confrontation with the automatism of video. In Untitled, 2005, flames are projected onto a screen behind a block of obsidian displayed on a pedestal. On the screen, the shadow of the stone appears in the foreground, the flames in the background. Metaphorically, we see the rock’s mass being gradually but continually lost. In another work with the same title from 2001, an image of a color bar is projected onto points of rock crystal. The construction is radically different from the frenetic pace of television—something closer to the sense of perpetually deferred anticipation that permeates the plays of Samuel Beckett, which subsumes the viewer in an atmosphere of eternal waiting. But here there is nothing to wait for, as the encounter produced in this work is with our own psyche—our speculations, fears, and every type of daily drama. 

In another work, Untitled, 2008, druses (incrustations of small crystals on the surface of a rock or mineral) of amethyst surround and protect the image of a water fountain projected onto the floor of the gallery. The sense of enchantment yields to the gaze but not to the touch. There is a narcissistic allusion, but we are offered no reflection of ourselves. However, it is when apprehending this work that one perceives most sharply the translucent character of the atmosphere Andrade has constructed. The images and materials are all semitransparent. They seem to yearn to be invaded and penetrated; they are elements of passage. Here, the commitment—if we can speak in such terms—is to the construction of a flexible body image. This separation reflects the unstable passage between appearance and disappearance, which is the theme of the artist’s quest. 

Each work in the show has the appearance and force of a stage. The element of theater, expressed formally in the placement of the crystals and stones on the floor to form “islands,” while also involving the use of projections, exemplifies the performance of time itself. Andrade’s stage celebrates nothingness, waiting, and wasting, all in reference to the mad rhythm of our lives. However, what the artist ultimately bestows is, to paraphrase Andrei Tarkovsky, the possibility of shaping a time of our own—extended, out of joint, and delayed—that breaks the tempo of the quotidian and affords us the chance to experience a more fluid state of existence. 

Felipe Scovino

Translated from Portuguese by Clifford E. Landers.