Questions of the contemporary world
— Alberto Saraiva

Foreword - orun
— Raquel Valadares

— Mari Fraga, Paula Scamparini

Paula Scamparini: in a continuous blind spot and restart
— Clarissa Diniz

ship on canvas   
— Fernanda Lopes

Restorations, returns and beginnings – critical iconography in Paula Scamparini
— Maria de Fátima Lambert

oca-oxalá: made in Portugal
— Lourenço Egreja, Clarisse Meirelles

— Heloísa Meireles Gesteira, Paula Scamparini

— Fernanda Lopes

About hoods and light in the work of Paula Scamparini
— Sônia Salcedo del Castillo

the 23 nights
— Sônia Salcedo del Castillo

Paula Scamparini:
in a continuous blind spot and restart

Clarissa Diniz

︎ project

1 Ferreira, Paula Scamparini . Escrita de auto-paisagem”, tese de doutorado desenvolvida no Programa de Pós
Graduação em Artes Visuais . Escola de Belas Artes . Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro . 2014. página 62.
2 Idem, page 86.
3 Idem, page 68.
4 Idem, page 69.


In 2004, Paula Scamparini emptied up a milk powder pack on her kitchen countertop and, subsequently, picked up the spilled content with her own bare hands and returned it to the package. La Serenissima (2005), a diptych of unassuming images, though diligently shot during the action, hides what could have been the first — the spillage — of a three-image sequence. Such hidden image is replaced by the scene of a hand ambivalently hovering over the pack, making it impossible to tell whether it is taking the content back to or off of the
pack. By simultaneously recording and making the situation look ambiguous,
La Sereníssima finds balance within a sort of narrative blind spot, wherein the
scene contains its own re-staging, dissolving linearities through images that
inflict circularity on what they narrate.

As La Sereníssima shows, Paula Scamparini’s first years of production — from
her graduation in Audiovisual Arts at the University of Campinas to her practice
as an art director — were mediated by image production: at its core, sceneries
devised for stages and for photographic shootings and also experiences in the
realm of engraving. In her photographic compositions of that period, it is quite
common to find image sequencing experiments whose images had been carefully interwoven in order not to build a narrative with a beginning, middle and end.

By extending her sequences, Scamparini has even put out polyptyches made
of dozens of images side by side whose boasted linearity veered away from
the canonical rectangular framings in portraits and landscapes. Since her image
strips are so stretched out in space, they summon the audience to go through
them and they may even go backwards and, being back to the starting point,
experience the narrative circularity put to the test by the superlative length of
such polyptyches. Something that, in an ultra-synthetic version, is also achieved
by La Sereníssima, whose reading direction may be reversed without any loss to
its ambivalent circularity.

Scamparini’s interest in sequencing has surpassed the scope of images. From
2010 to 2011, the artist started using very thin paper strips consisting of joined
text lines to embody her writings. Shaped in tapes of about 30 meters each, the
writings break planarity and undertake, as a sort of spatialization, the circularity
already seen in Paula’s previous images — this is how Penelopes (2011) came
to life. Named after the myth of the woman who - while waiting for Ulysses, her
husband, to come back - weaves in the day and unravels her work at night, the
Penelopes are reading devices which make the beginnings or ends of what is
being read ungraspable - just like La Sereníssima - owing to their inordinate length and to the form the cut shape attains when it defies the flatness of paper sheets.


In 2011, for the very first time, Paula Scamparini sent one of her Penelopes to a group of students from the School of Fine Arts at UFRJ: “a sort of (...) gear through which the film is threaded in audiovisual sets (...) is formed. From one hand to the other, (…) the tape is stretched.” And it is upon the collective reading of Penelope that Paula felt sure she had “[imprinted] on the tapes texts about cycles: cycles of love, hatred, tension and inertia.”

The paper strips arranged in a circular form around themselves were surprised by
other versions of their own spatiality and meaning through the hands-on-reading: “one of the participants (...) is pleased by the spread-out form of the object. She handles it in the air, coils it around her, places it on the wall as a possible installation. It shows me the potentiality of my own device.”1 The experience has also awakened moments of “rage” in the artist when comments on or the handling of Penelope - its circularity being forcefully undone - did not seem so agreeable; nesting themselves as guts was the last resort.

Feeling too stripped, Scamparini understood that the text strips, in addition to
the body of her writings, are her very own guts at the disposal of the touch and the ascription of meaning by the other. During an artistic residence at the 16th Cerveira International Art Biennial (2011), she left a pile of her “guts as a welcome gift [to the next residents] on the dinner table. A direction was written in pencil on the side: help yourself.”2 With Penelopes, the surrendering to the other is unveiled not as a romance, but as “purging.”3 “I throw my clutter to the world. Do as you please.”4 As opposed to the possibility of re-staging preserved in the image sequences and sceneries produced by Paula Scamparini, in Penelopes, the irreversibility experience is truly poignant when the strips, being subject to reading, fulfill their destiny.


3margem (2015), a site-specific piece created for the art gallery at Instituto Brasil Estados-Unidos (IBEU), matches Paula Scamparini’s scenic interest— intensely exercised in her art direction practice, in which she would simulate sceneries, landscapes and diverse environments — to the irreversible and unpredictable character of “real life” dramaturgy. The guts into which the Penelopes turned were metaphorically resumed in this intervention as a private sphere of the social life and of the intimate perspective of what happens behind the windows of the façades in Nossa Senhora de Copacabana Avenue. In spite of the exuberant nature of Rio de Janeiro, along her path, São Paulo-born Paula Scamparini was really interested in the private and underground landscapes of Rio de Janeiro, which is also epitomized by the polyptych Paisagem carioca (2004), a photo sequence shot inside the subway catching glimpses of the landscape through the windows.

The visitors to the IBEU art show were invited to take a seat opposite the façade
of the next-door building, on any of the 18 chairs made available, which had been borrowed from the rooms that could be seen from the gallery window. Looking through the camera viewpoint, the observer could see the scenery, which had, in this instance, been only outlined by the artist: though she was not in charge of its construction, she was, nevertheless, the one who conceived devices to narrate it. In addition to the chairs, private stories — collected by the artist — of people who lived near IBEU were organized and broadcast through a community radio that operated throughout the exhibition and that could be tuned in using the portable radios available for the audience. Such transmissions worked as a sort of looping script for the scenes that, unpredictably and reservedly, happened before their eyes.

In 3margem, the intimacy once extensively explored by the artist in drawings
and photos — as those of her own naked body from her own viewpoint or in the
photographic sequences of one of the most private rooms of her home, such as her restroom — was shed on the unknown and aggrandized by the dimension of the uncontrollable. The work marks a significant ethical inflection, wherein the power exerted on her previous works (as implied in the artist’s uneasiness when seeing Penelopes turning into guts) paves way to processes which are more open to otherness and time.

In an artistic residence in France (2012), for instance, Paula displayed uneasiness
towards the uncontrolled character of the garden in front of her studio windows: the tree branches in the garden meant “visual blocks” to her. She withdrew from such a situation by searching for visibility through those windows, unconsciously re-staging an engraving (2003), in which her mother gazes through a window, she had created during her student years. Over one of these windowpanes, the artist built a grate with her text strips as if she wanted to measure and govern that confronting force out of her reach. Afterwards, she herself cut the branches that defied her. Still in this same artistic residence, when travelling by car at night, she said, about the pitch-black night that prevented her from seeing the landscapes, “the pain of having to do without the landscape is the same of letting go of knowledge and of the minimum control over what I happen to see or which turns it into my possession.”

Maybe because she is approaching the other (and, at times, their intimacy as
well), Paula Scamparini seems each time more open to what is out of her grasp,
experiencing ways to equate the relations of vulnerability and availability implied in her work - as of her most recent research, nature has been playing the role of subject in an emancipation from the confrontation underlying her previous works. This is the case of the happening (2016) in Oficinas do Convento in Montemor-o-novo, Portugal, during which the artist recorded herself making clay while listening to sexual intercourse audios recorded upon her request. Sharing with those watching the video the sounds that, in the happening, she listened to through the privacy of earphones, the artist translates into the clay and to the audience her subjective answer to the other’s ambiguous intimacy, whose sonority comes back and forth between sensuality and violence.


If 3margem is in friction with the power that art has traditionally exerted on otherness when representing it, Nós-Tukano (2015) causes embarrassment. Paula Scamparini causes a sort of semantic trap when she calls non-Indigenous people — all white — to “repeat” the speech they are listening to through earphones in Carlos Tukano’s mother tongue (one of the Indigenous leaders of the Aldeia Maracanã Indigenous Association, Rio de Janeiro). Unable to repeat it, the non-Indigenous people there (the artist as well) who said yes to re-staging those sounds whose meanings are unknown to them, expose the extractive and emulative bases upon which colonialism is set.

The triggering agent of Nós-Tukano is heedful of the epistemic violence that is
part of the colonial history in its linguistic dimension: in Brazil, millions of Indigenous inhabitants were culturally and physically tortured until the muting of their voices and signs, to the extent of sheer extermination of hundreds of their languages. In turn, the incommunicability bequeathed to millions of Indigenous people finds in Scamparini’s previous work a common ground when it comes to the impossibility of enunciation.

While unreadability was in the core of works around the Penelopes, there were
other events wherein the artist encountered inviable communications. This is the
case of an artistic residence in Munich (2014), when Paula fictionalized a group called “Oh, yes, nós temos bananas” through which she requested the other artists working there to establish communication through paper boats left by the doorway of the local studios. In other occasions — at La CourDieu Library (2012) and at José de Alencar Library (2014) — Scamparini created games that would echo their own invisibility and inaccessibility, given that they were made up of pieces randomly placed among the thousands of books in those libraries, waiting for encounters that would make it possible for them to be played.

However, the concern for incommunicability is not the only matter behind Nós-Tukano. The circularity and the narrative blind spot underlying her first works are
resumed in a linguistic key that, in a recent inflection of her work, points to colonial criticism. By phonetically emulating the speech of an Indigenous leader, Nós-Tukano underscores that what becomes ambiguous and hollow through the artist’s teasing is not exactly the narrative, but, first and foremost, the idea of “us”. The Tukano otherness is folded over individuals for whom the Indigenous person is considered the “other”, which sheds light on the arbitrariness of this perspective and - through Scamparini’s work - points out to new commitments.


Paula is white and has fair curly hair. She has a mestizo body as all other “sararás”
who are popularly and almost always derisively objectified by the term “mestiço” in Brazil. Sarará is also the title of a happening (2016) staged by herself and a group of solely black students, in which they comb their dry hairs. In a circle, they use a number of different combs to go through their curls messing them up and building up their afro hairstyles in a state of both relaxation and embarrassment. As one of the few people with pale skin there, it is basically because of the artist’s presence that such group is referred to as Sarará — a term that, as proof of the ethnical and social intricacy perpetrated by the colonization, was the only possible adjective to that “us.” Such as in Nós-Tukano, Sarará was a trap set by the artist to put herself in the whiteness stead.

Even if her hair has been since very early the object of kind thought — as in
the triptych Nus (2002) or in Cartografando o impossível (2012), in which maps of
France and its roadways through which the artist traveled are tangled by the overlapping of her hair tufts — Sarará represents them racialized for the first time in her work. However, such movement had already been delineated when she produced Verboten (2014), an assembly of photos forming scenes of circular narrative wherein her naked, multiplied body has its faciality at the same time protected and nullified by the presence of profuse black hair: one of her huddles of guts that, painted black, have since 2012 been around in her work, such as in Pretinhas.

In this process of racialization, by understanding herself as a white woman and
placing it as an issue, Scamparini has consistently taken Portugal as the backdrop
for her thoughts and poetic gestures. As a result of a number of artistic residences in different cities in that country, she has experienced being a former colonist in our former metropolis. Travelling across Europe as an artist from the South part of the world, she sees herself being read as non-white — whatever her diffuse identity between “Latin American” and “Brazilian” may be. Though she knows that she is sarará, she is likewise aware of her privileged place as a white person in Brazil.

And it is out of such intricate and controversial identitary crossroads that, in
the Portuguese territory, Paula has been producing works that are context-specific as their readings of the European colonialism and of the Portuguese overseas imperialism take place in Portuguese land. Her occasional “re-stagings” out of the context they were devised for would, thus, stand as emulations akin to the voicing in Nós-Tukano.


In Portuguese lands, one among the several works created by the artist has unfoldings worthy of note: Oca-oxalá (2015), an installation consisting of Portuguese tiles  emulating the original Portuguese iconography and technique. Images produced by the colonization were transferred onto the surface of these tiles. Having circulated prominently in engravings, books, newspapers and official documents of the Metropolis, such images are, nowadays, widely reproduced and almost always treated as commonplace in educational materials and media outlets in Brazil.

Placed on the Carpe Diem floor (Lisbon), the tiles formed an image layer of atrocious memories: torture, enslavement, segregation, exoticizing, violence of every order. Taking almost the entire floor of a passage room, the artist’s proposition was not only to gather and reproduce such colonial imagery, but also guide the visitors to the cultural center to trample on the tiles, re-staging the violence of once again stepping over those individuals and their stories. By doing it, the ceramic tiles got broken, fact that ensued Restauros (2017), an intervention carried out at the Soares dos Reis National Museum (Porto), where the broken ceramic was displayed as a sort of archaeological site of the shards left from that imagery and its own historicity.

Ambiguously pointing out to the possibility of conservation, Restauros, in turn, underlined the fractured state of the images, not the images themselves (as
in Oca-Oxalá). The sea of broken tiles — a profanation deed of one of the most
renowned and admired Portuguese traditions — in turn, paved way to reveal diachronies in such canonical iconography. Cracked, the images didn’t match perfectly, which is a metaphor for the historical inequalities also operating in art. Therefore, Restauros silently sustains the question that politically defies the violent and hegemonic standpoint of art in representing otherness: to whom does it interest to restore the colonial imagery?


Restauros, the puzzle Oca-Oxalá turned into, takes us back to the foundational character — until then widely present — of the assembling practice in Paula Scamparini’s work. Manifest in her first photographic sequences and also in her experience as art director or in series both scenic and manipulated such as Verboten (2014) or Palavras (2012), assembly returns with expressive prowess in her latest production introducing also other operating ways. In those photographic sequences, when faced with a certain historical-architectural monumentality in Europe, the artist essentially intervened in the space with her body and guts, instilling them with strangeness. In most recent experiences, detaching herself from the perspective of colonial historicity, assemble seems to emancipate itself as a poetic and political thought and Scamparini seems to foray into allegories and dramaturgies.

The trajectory of the Penelopes in Scamparini’s work is that of the transformation
of a device into a dramaturgical presence — a circular way of reading that becomes guts, sculpture, landscape, head of hair and also presences pregnant with action in the scenes in which they occupy libraries and other interiors. However, in her latest art shows, not only the substance goes through rearrangement and manipulating processes, it is rather the reorganization process itself that becomes the main substance.

The molds had already announced themselves in the newspaper clichés (so real
as fictional) – as part of Restauros and also of Vermelhos - which take back to the
colonial practice of producing tiles using thighs as molds. In this regard, the molds seem to play an essential role, given that they ensure an indicative relation with what exists while also opening room for the creation of new versions of that which would be allegedly real and for their fictionalization.

As for In the South, turtles do not age (2018), the interest in the historical-political side of archaeological sites she delved into in Restorations is resumed as a scenic key: beyond alluding to a site, Paula Scamparini actually emulates the fossilized soil of a place. As a sculptor, she devises, based on animal carcasses molds, the volumes that work as fossils. As an art director, she builds the scene by combining such volumes with the sand borrowed from a Viennese beach, the space and light of the art gallery. Taking as backdrop the recent wrongful dam collapse in Mariana, Minas Gerais, she builds a dramaturgical set that plays likewise with the traumas and memories of those witnessing the installation.
While the “guts” of a turtle appeared in the work In the South, turtles do not age,
in another one of her recent shows, Barco sobre lona (2018), Scamparini gathered pieces of carnival parade floats to reassemble them inside out. Thus, right at the entrance of Galeria Aura (São Paulo), an extravagant orange rhino welcomed visitors with its styrofoam and metalwork guts, showing in the concavity of its interior that what is not usually seen in the floats was the theme in question.

When rematching parts devoid of their original floats, Paula Scamparini gives
the set a power of re-allegorization of that which seemed unattached to any mesh of meanings. Overlaying, sewing or only bringing allegory pieces together, she concocts situations that, instead of alluding to specific issues, constitute images of the allegorization process itself: the continuous negotiation and autophagy of signs in the search of new significations. Not surprisingly, Boat on Canvas included some of the most dramaturgical images from the series Verboten. Through the change in position not only of Pretinhas but also of the artist’s subject itself and when overlapped with those carnivalesque sculptures, such images show themselves as parts of a work that does not disregard the possibility of allegorizing itself.

Paula Scamparini says that, when she was in her artistic residences, she often
saw her work be publicly discussed in languages she does not understand. In the
opening of the exhibition In the South, turtles do not age, she even witnessed a
curator’s speech on her in German for more than 40 minutes. Thus, when she is
abroad, she seems to experience a little bit of the incommunicability and its consequent violence, which are so significantly substantiated through art in these so asymmetric colonial relationships — as shown by Scamparini’s work — that they become an object of interest for her.

While her last works took place in the context of the artistic residences in Europe, the experience of being Brazilian, or even Latin American, and certainly of being a woman also marked the years in which she was in such global and neoliberal art traffic. Feeling eaten up in her subjectivity and place of speech by underhanded and aggressive devices for the creation of meaning and value (in other words, the capital) in the so-called international art universe, the artist sought to fight this back through her art. In the exhibition Mexeu com uma, mexeu com
todas (no translation available) (2015) in Vienna, she gathered works that portray
women, mostly immigrants, whom she met during her sojourn in Germany. Jointly with videos in which they silently stare at us (L’aperitif, 2012-2015) and photographic portraits carefully torn into strips (Sometimes we get to cut people’s eyes, 2014), she also presented texts as biographic as fictional about herself in addition to audios of sexual intercourse: a bunch of silenced women enunciating through their muted look, the explicit intimacy or someone else’s voice (the text, for that matter). Regardless of that, they were a bunch.

It was also in Munich that Paula conceived Verboten. The army built up by the
vastness of that same woman’s bodies is, as one can see, the presence of stupefaction. Spectrally, those women fill all spaces and multiply as our eyes move: they are everywhere in a ghostly looping. If they seem to become monuments in sumptuous environments, back to Brazil, they are capable of the opposite gesture: they make such castles die down (a princesa no castelo de hera, 2014).

Here the artist is a teacher. Before it all, she tidies up her working place. In front
of the dusty windows of the sculpture studio at UFRJ School of Fine Arts, she starts cleaning up (Ficções, 2015). She scrubs the glazing panes to see across their historical opaqueness, given that the outside is not necessarily what blocks her view. The windows, present in her work for a long time — engraving (2002), Paisagem carioca (2004), A la recherche du paysage (2012), 3margem (2015) — become the main characters. Emancipated from their interface state separating the inside and the outside, they become a territory themselves, a landscape, a subject of unavoidable presence. It is against its thick opaqueness that the artist and her flannel fight in vain. There is something which is unwilling to be crystal clear.


The search for a narrative blind spot persists. As dull mirrors, the uncleanable windows at EBA serve as backdrop for the artist’s gesture: continue with her work. As it can be seen in her recent video installation Orun (2019) — a polyphonic constellation of memories and imageries of the sky recounted by dozens of people whose cosmic standpoint is the Brazilian territory — the artist keeps on producing the incommunicability, unreadability, invisibility and untranslatability conditions that have inhabited her interests since the beginning. She goes on with actions that her poetic gesture will subsequently sabotage in a subtle way, shredding intentions until they break, turned into fragile paper (as in Margens, 2011) or ceramic topologies (Vermelhos, 2016). Such flaws are needed so that, at some point, she can restart, in a continuum.