The ghost of Jardim Canadá

 

Victor da Rosa

 

1. We might say that the public installation presented by Roberto Freitas as the result of his res idency program at JACA, in Minas Gerais, is precisely the opposite of a public installation. Firstly because the installation is not of monumental proportions, as often is the case with public works, although not all, of course. Moreover, this is an invisible, or rather, a camouflaged installation, hidden in the landscape, making its own disappearance one of its main talking points. In addition, the installation has been designed not to cause any kind of pleasure or even reflection, but rather a feeling of strangeness and who knows even some psychological damage.

2. Since I started to follow Roberto Freitas’ work, around 2006 I think, the artist was already making kinds of unproductive machines drawing on a certain understanding of Duchamp’s thinking, that could be summarised as follows: the artist does not make works, but invents procedures so that the works can be made on their own.

On the one hand, Freitas’ machines may come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and even effects, generating often repetitive and always unexpressive sounds, images and/or movements; on the other,

they serve no useful function. I remember one installation that, using roughly 2,000 metres of electrical wiring, and occupying two entire rooms of a museum, was capable of producing just a fuzzy image on a small monitor that was actually facing the wall.

3. Since then, the artist’s research has led to his discovering of new mechanisms, the main one of which consists of the possibility that these machines, through certain devices of perception, could “relate to” other machines or even people. For this the artist had to study new algorithms and improve his grasp of computer programming. His latest machines, unlike the previous ones, are not only capable of detecting approaches, but also produce their own actions. Thus, two machines can exchange blows, and even defend themselves as in Cedro vs Caxeta, as well as showing what they are capable of if the spectator does not behave properly, as in Três, an installation displayed recently at the SESC Pompéia.

4. The machine made for JACA, Fantasmatográfico, also possesses such skills, with the only difference being that it was designed for the public space, i.e., “somewhere in the neighbourhood”. This installation operates from 11:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. (so to speak, these are the visiting times) and consists of a kinetic object that, on the condition that someone is walking through the area, projects images and sounds (a dog barking, to be precise) near the unfortunate passerby. During the day, not least to avoid over exposure, the device recharges its batteries

with solar energy. Like ghosts, the equipment is hidden very

well on top of a tree, protected by a structure that looks like a coconut and, therefore, is not even exposed to the risk of being destroyed by nature. The objective in operating at those times, meanwhile, is quite clear.

5. In any case, if all goes well, the ghost projected by the installation will be mistaken for other ghosts that, according to studies carried out by the artist, are part of local folklore. It reminds us, also through reference to the first filmmakers, of an intrinsic relationship between image and death, art and appearance. Nonetheless, just like art, if I’m not mistaken, ghosts will always be strange and that is why they will continue to teach us that the only way of knowing we are alive is through our capacity to be surprised, astonished and frightened by the world whether by the world of art or the world of ghosts.

Path to a phantomatographer in Jardim Canada

 

Arriving in Belo Horizonte is dramatic, from the plane it is possible to perceive the particularity of the landscape. A sea of mountains surrounds the city and amid, huge wounds opened by the mining companies.

Between Serra do Rola Moça, the Condominium Retiro das Pedras and a massive extraction of iron ore, Jardim Canada is a repeated “sea of particularities”. A periphery where the evident poverty shares space with industrial warehouses and fancy stores filled with goods for the rich, as jetskis and artworks. The rest seems even normal in the context of vertiginous inequalities we live in.

The first question to intrigued me was the mine activity, located three hundred yards from my new workspace. It is possible to see the mine from almost of the neighborhood, with exception of the lowest places, and its presence is felt by the explosions that occur every Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Mining is an exercise of landscape subtraction: disassemble it with explosives and put it slowly on large trucks, and they all seem tiny when inside the mine. The second exercise is to transfer the mountains from these trucks to even bigger trains. Trains go to the coast and the mountain then heads to China, in the holds of the cargo ships; this is the third exercise.

Anyway, the most important economic activity in Jardim Canada is sending its landscape to China which, in turn, pays little more than 13 cents per kilogram. Sounds like a great business model, very lucrative. But Jardim Canada is

a poor neighborhood, and its population, which already has little, is being stripped of its own geographical references. Seemed inevitable that the holes in the landscape is transformed into somatic holes in the body of the ones who are stripped of their geographical references.

I imagine that as a survival strategy, inhabitants of the region fill its absences with conversations, religion and consumption. In matters of conversations, which was what I could share with them, death and haunting were the most recurrent themes.

I do not know if I believe in ghosts, but they inhabit Jardim Canada, at least through everyday narratives.

For each question asked about paranormal activity emerged a series of ghostly stories: they seem to spring from the most unlikely mouths. Another certain fact is that when referring to ghosts, there is a hall of fame:

I think the most cited one is the Maiden Ghost followed by the ghost from Serra do Rola Moça and Maria Papuda.

I found so many beings living in the realms of neighborhood gossip. Interesting to think that all these ghosts, which are ubiquitous in local folklore, are almost always about apparitions happening on the streets. Seldom I heard about ghosts haunting private homes; I suppose that talking about public ghosts then become more reliable and entertaining without exposing the intimacy of homes as so esteemed by mineiros. Another curiosity about the region is that even not believing in the paranormal, many citizens have been blessed or are undergoing spiritual practices. I, myself, took the chance and got some blessing and spiritual cleansing: one never knows.

 

 I walked through Jardim Canada as a "gringo". Maybe for this reason every conversation began with suspicion, but fortunately it wouldn’t take too long before turning into a more casual chat. Apparently it is characteristic of the local resident to stop its activity for a chat, get away from the chores to tell a story. I took a ride in this mineiro sympathy to explore the intricacies of their spoken language: there are many everyday narratives about the neighborhood, and it seems that the topics run fast. News are exchanged at the whim of the wind in oral story networks.

construction of a device phantomatographer

I really wanted to use this organic network of oral story in some way, then it occurred to me the possibility of assembling a device that, based on chance, would

tell a short story to an unlikely passerbyers.

This device would be camouflaged in the landscape in a place of very little transit. During the days

it would be on standby, charging its batteries from solar cells and, at night, from 11 to 2 am,

the object would come active, sensoring people’s transit around the area: if a person walked past around this time, in the right direction towards the device, just like a trap, the apparatus would project a specter. With enough time for the passerby to see and hear, however insufficient for an investigation on the origin of the sound and image, the device would be a reason for the appearance of new rumors in the neighborhood.

Retrofeeding the phantasmagoria and abnormal cases into local everyday conversations. A kind of speech hankering, if we think the spoken language as a kind of programming. In this case the device would act as a disservice to the population in favor of superstition, against the norm, linked to the notion of progress that gives more importance to profit than life.

Currently there is talk about a public health issue in Jardim Canada: abandoned dogs. Estimating about 1000 street dogs in the area. It seems that Jardim Canada became a place where Belo horizontinos get rid of their pets, leaving them on their own. The result is that the dogs roam the neighborhood in mobs, barking, howling and getting sick through the cold and humid nights.

Because of the red dust, from the mine ore soil, the dogs become blushed, nowadays these red packs are constantly multiplied, and more red puppies are born already condemned into this announced and uncontrolled zoonosis.

A businessman who invests in the neighborhood told me that soon slums will also be “cleaned”, that “the neighborhood is the future of the real estate in Belo Horizonte”. “Investing in Jardim Canada is a guarantee of a good deal”, ensures me that progress visionary.

The iron ore comes out of the mountains around JA.CA 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The mine can’t stop because of China’s thirst for raw materials does not stop.

It seemed ironic to find some cars turning into iron oxide, a return to its original material, in a 300 feet deep land crack at Serra do Rola Moça State Park.

As elucidation of a bizarre cycle, the churned earth claims back to its bowels the material that once was subtracted. But most of the stuff that came out of the mountain will be, after a few years, in the landfills after fulfilling its destiny of moving immaterial rivers through the financial market.

The center of the whole operation is what remains hidden.

Iron ore is called haematite (F2O3). Haemat means blood. Ite means stone. The blood stone is a trigonal iron sesquioxide, it is the main iron ore; gray or black in colour and of strong metallic luster. When rubbed against a hard surface it looses a blood red powder.

When the hole in the landscape becomes a hole in the body of those who inhabit the landscape? What traces of absences blood perpetrate in the name of the inevitable perpetuation of progress discourse?

To introduce a hacker narrative among the orderly everyday narrative practices thinking about destabilizing the norm.

círculo                                                                                  full hd - dual screen projection

 

Iron ore comes out of the mountains around JaCa 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The mine cannot stop because the thirst for raw materials from the Chinese and the world does not stop. The mountain is being subtracted (at the pace of the capacity to place it) in trucks, trains and boats to the Chinese steel mills. This long process changes the body of the landscape in monumental scales, hard to believe for those who have never been inside a mine.

But nothing is in vain, the ore becomes steel and the steel returns in other ships, in scales as impressive as that of the subtracted mountain. It is ironic to find some cars turning back into iron oxide at a depth of 300 meters inside a cliff in the Rola Moça mountain range. As an elucidation of a bizarre cycle, the stirred up earth claims for its entrails the material that was subtracted from it. But most of the material that came out of the mountain after a few years will be in landfills, after fulfilling its destiny of moving immaterial rivers in the financial market.

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As Gravida, os novinho e os podrão.   Video mapping on wood in a dirty little corner

Currently there is talk of a public health problem in Jardim Canadá: stray dogs. Estimates assure that the number is close to 1000 dogs. It seems that Jardim Canadá has become a place where people from Belo Horizonte get rid of their pets, leaving them to their own devices. The result is that the dogs roam the neighborhood in packs, barking, howling and getting sick throughout the cold nights of the neighborhood.

It is interesting that because of the red dust from the mine the dogs are getting redder, today the red packs multiply in litters that are born condemned to the announced control of this so-called zoonosis.

A businessman who invests in the neighborhood told me that soon the slums will also be "cleaned up", that "the neighborhood is the future of real estate growth in the city of Belo Horizonte". "Investing in Jardim Canadá is a guarantee of good business", guarantees this visionary of progress.

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