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

a conversation

Mari Fraga, Paula Scamparini

︎ project

Firmament n.
1. the act of holding firm; support
2. what serves as support, foundation; basis, base
3. visible celestial space, wherein the stars are located; the vault of heaven, sky, highlands

Houaiss Dictionary1

1 HOUAISS, Antônio; VILLAR, Mauro de Salles. Dicionário Houaiss da Língua Portuguesa. Rio de Janeiro: Objetiva, 2001. p. 1348

2 BÍBLIA. A.T. Gênesis [1:6]. Português. Available at the Vatican’s website: http://www.vatican.va/archive/bible/genesis/documents/bible_genesis_po.html

3 BENNER, Jeff A. Biblical Word of The Month - Firmament. In Biblical Hebrew E-Magazine. Issue 37, 2007. Available at: http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/emagazine/037.html

4 KOPENAWA, Davi; ALBERT, Bruce. A Queda do Céu. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2015. p. 195-196

5 KIEFER, Alsem. Pintar como Feito Heróico. Germany, 1989. In ART. p. 114 Interview.

6 This is a phrase that appears several times in The Devil to Pay in the Backlands, by João Guimarães Rosa. ROSA, João Guimarães. Grande Sertão: Veredas. São Paulo: Nova Aguilar. 1994.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, our world consisted of a flat circular surface, surrounded by waters below, on the sides and above, and protected by the celestial vault, which created the space for atmosphere.2 According to this mythology, the divine act of creation consisted of “parting the waters” that permeated this structural layer, which, according to its Hebrew etymology — raqa עקר — refers to the process of hammering a piece of metal until it shapes into a plate.3 Firmament was the name, thus, given to this sort of metallic dome, which allegedly supported the entire visible spectrum of stars. A mythological celestial architecture that has interesting equivalents, as in the Yanomami’s cosmology, reported by Davi Kopenawa:

Later another sky came down and fixed itself above the earth, replacing the one that had collapsed. It was Omama who drew this project, to use the white people’s word. He asked himself how to consolidate it and put rods of his metal inside it, which he also buried like roots [...] The sky moves, it is always unstable. The center is still firm, but a little worn on the edges, they became fragile. It twists and swings, with dreadful claps. (Davi Kopeawa and Bruce Albert in A Queda do Céu.)4

For a long time now has Science made us aware: The Earth is spherical and not the center of the universe, but only a tiny object on the border of a galaxy, which is only one among countless others. Despite that, it is interesting that it is the sky what we call firmament. After all, what holds us firm if not the certainty of not knowing? The certainty of the eternal uncertainty; the certainty of the endless search for some knowledge that will never be grasped, as it contains the infinite in itself.

One dark room and a constellation of faces, eyes, voices in multitude. Each sky story is a dive in the void. In Orun Paula Scamparini challenges us with “asteroid-stories” — accounts that hit us without saying where they come and go. Some pulverize in the friction with our personal atmosphere, others fall and create craters: transform our small territories. How many skies are there? How many stories can the artist collect?

Among the many encounters Orun entails, how do the stories trespass your permeable imagery, eager for metamorphoses?
Your question makes me think of the edges between bodies, the imageries. To me, we do not have any control over this territory, and this is the reason why this imagery “place” allows direct communication between people, who may come from the most diverse cultures and may have experienced the most diverse ways of life. The choice for permeability to what is mutual offers me two experience routes: one of them is coexisting with a perfectly malleable, mobile understanding of ourselves, even if in an imaginary sphere. The other one would be to be capable of affection, through this route, when a relationship with the other is established, whoever they are, or even if the other is a ‘body-landscape’. As if, at each encounter, my body could assume new layers, forms, and would not return to the prior form. This mutual something is established by the exchange between imageries, a space wherein we no longer dissociate ourselves from the others that much. And I realize that my search is common. Orun offered me such relationships, which, in fact, allude to a series of shared readings in 2010. The act of receiving the other’s imagery within myself is definitive, and I can assert that my sky will never be the same again, rather it hereinafter is a myriad of skies collected and lived then. In the South Turtles do not age was a recollection triggered by a childhood memory shared by the Viennese artist Sabine Gruschup and, in response, I unfold a collective memory arisen by the same entity that Sabine evokes in her private memory: the turtle. There are other cases, and I hope that there are countless others yet to come.

The sky above may be fluid: an ocean. Stars guide us through oceans. I look at the sky and locate myself in vertigo, without knowing for sure what circles what, as well as what circles this entity that travels at thousands of miles per second and no one knows where it will get. There is science and its stories of endless spaces and times. We go on with our modest rotation — everything is tiny and gigantic; we are always lost in the incommensurability of scales.

These many looks upward tell us: there is an infinity of possible paths for the creation of new worlds. “Reality” exists only for those who believe it. For those who are touched and transformed — and permeated. Their particular existence is moved and reverberates —Real is what is sensible. It can happen in a dream, in a trance, in fiction, in the factual soberness. The inordinate forms of perceiving and being in the world is yet one more mystery for our firmament. When faced with the narratives, we are suffused both with relations that engage Science and Arts and with mythical and ancestral updates. Therefore, we could think of Reality as an assembly of all psychic realities — lived, dreamed, imagined — of all existing beings.

This artist collects them. And, in her process, she involves us in a thread that sews
invented memories capable of incorporating themselves in our imagery. She does not place narratives in a hierarchy. A story is unique and is one more among so many others. All of them overlap and stand out. Parameters? Methods? Each story is a world. Each world is based on its own laws.

Science, memory, dream, fiction: how does your production cross through these invented universes?
I understand all these fields as inventions, creations. Creations of diverse orders, in view of which, in this context, as we are inevitably immersed in the culture we share, we put more or less faith to a universe or other. Departing from this simple principle, it is natural that the forms of knowledge and experiences hierarchically balance, shape themselves according to my understanding of the world, of the others, and of myself. And then, this
transit does not impose obstacles particular to each field anymore. Maybe this is the greatest prerogative of artists: being able to transit through fields of knowledge without owing them any efficient answer, or not even an answer at all. Knowledge is essential, we are not naive. We are interlocutors of art history, but with the same attention with which we explore less charted fields of culture and we also listen to chitchats at a bar. All things deserve attention, and the attention offered will make its way, outline a project,
rearrange possibilities. I try, therefore, not to be so assertive in my propositions, as I do not believe in discourses full of certainties: the truth, the one and only reality, all these fancied things. I believe that we know not much, and I observe the mobility of everything around me: the planet, galaxies, our bodies, our social forms. We are in eternal rearrangement. We are universes and we connect, now, to ones, later, to others. Such view focused on so may changeable ecologies and ecosystems chances upon
my days, projections, dreams.

It is merely a process of going round and round a black hole
or a crater whose center one cannot penetrate
Anselm Kiefer5

Stories are not all about beauty. The firmament of doubt leads us to questions using not only how, when and or where, but also why. As in why – or for what reasons - this humankind is not willing to offer all humans the humankind’s prerogatives.

A lot of stories were created to justify violence; they were told to silence other versions of the facts. By reminding us that the official versions may be stories of oppression, the artist sheds light on the shadows of History, that with “capital H.” And what was hidden appears amid shards and openings — cracks in the textual and iconographic narratives that shaped up our culture. Walking through all of them feeling the fissures on our feet soles - maybe what was shut down cannot be translated, but it can be felt. In-between the lines of “concrete-real”, we can always access the “sensible-real”.

Muted stories are what we look for. May the embargoed narratives be rescued;
may they infiltrate History. May oppression not be forgotten or turned into commonsense. Restoring is a way of caring and healing; restoring each little story of pain and resilience with its capital importance, even if they are always one among many others.

Among so many realities juxtaposing in your work, how do you fill the fissures of documents and monuments?
Even if, throughout history, art has developed due to the support of private powers, it has always stood as a public force of transformation. I believe that fiction is one of the ways to fill the fissures. My propositions are not exactly a rescue or denouncement, although they can be read as such. They suggest rearrangement, re-creation. It might seem insignificant, given the urgent issues of our current reality, to use the concept of fiction. But even the “denouncement-forms” need to find ways towards re-creation, projective and transformative propositions. I believe that an ecosystem thinking geared towards social rearrangement, which builds mutual universes, may lead to transformation. Concepts only have an impact on a very limited domain. I think of empathy as a way to create worlds, and this goes through the creation of interim fictions. There are recognizable, shared, accessible fictions, as a sort of suspended space that houses imageries, ideas, sensations, which we share, depending on how a trigger is pulled. There is something that presents itself as a form of intimacy - such as beauty shared but untold - as they do not belong to the discursive order. But there are also fierce shocks in the exchange process. And I face them expecting to be able to access places that, although quite uncomfortable, are plentiful of reinvention in themselves and of the world. There is something in the darkness, in the noncontingent, a dreadful unknown that I look for. The forest, the ocean... entities of such magnitude, which touch me deeply, and also make me move.

All this modus operandi of the artist translates itself also in the body and in materiality. And it is in the matter that some historical wounds may be translated: the pigment that translates the skin tone is made of clay; the mold which shapes the work is the body. Vermelhos: the pieces ultimately head towards a common shade, which reverberates the issues themselves raised by the artist. Reviving the work of building clay tiles using the enslaved people’s legs as molds is also reviving the symbolic character of such practice: the imprisoned body that becomes the raw material for a social and physical construction, used as structural parts of the places of power and ownership. While reviving this
process, the artist reminds us that colonial architectures — physically and socially — were built upon the exploitation of enslaved bodies. The flesh structure in these constructions is, thus, evidenced.

Humans that exterminate humans; humans that exterminate other species. Time is like the wind on sand dunes, unveiling and covering existences and resistances. In the South Turtles do not age. All the time, species and cultures become extinct. But how can we speak of humankind when there are so many ways of living and perceiving the world? Who is this ánthrōpos in the Anthropocene? Once again, it is the official version that suppresses all others supported by mechanisms of power that transcend simplistic understanding.

How does your research about ecosystems encounter the present time — such critical times when we head towards social, economic, climatic and ecological collapse?
I understand that the space in this context — with which the artists may interact —is precisely that of a propositional space, which not only resumes or resembles, but also projects impossibilities. Everything is possible if we get rid of the perspective of the constructed reality. Suggesting re-elaborations of the world is possible through ideas that, at a given point in history, may seem unreachable. I am not saying artists will change the world, but I believe that they are capable of feeding imageries and prompting thought. This way, they may operate as instruments so that changes take place in other people. It is precisely in this scenario that art becomes indispensable, and not superfluous, owing to its flexibility to adjust by creating crucial modus operandi for its embodiment in our time and in the years to come. We do not foretell the future, but we can search through the present in a deeper way. We resort to a time for thought that few people have, we build our repertoires with such an aim in mind, and deliver such thinking to a larger number of people. We create more ecosystems, among so many existing ones, we propose chain reactions, whose purpose is not accumulation; we aim at retaking the present time, at observing and placing each interlocutor in the very position in which they are in the world — and this is done by four hands, or two heads at this point, and, on the other end, thousands, countless ones... In view of this, it is very important that we have artists, the most assorted ones, performing at all spheres, through all the
routes, from the institutional level to the public sphere, to their introduction in different fields of knowledge and cultures... fortunately, we are a collective body difficult to be measured and contoured.

The artist carries us off with the intricacy of living in uncertainty. In the openings of the broken tilework, in the short-lived sand drawing, or in the diversity of accounts, we remember that living is very dangerous6 and that there is not a right path to grasp reality, but only that which implies the vulnerability of being sensitive and permeable to the other. In the artist’s practice, there is a sort of defiance in the refusal to conform to official accounts we were told, and also to the personal arsenal of life experiences. There is always more left to collect, always a new possible history. There is always one more encounter to happen — and the artist’s journey through hidden narratives in the most untrodden corners is untiring. After all, the stories are infinite, as are the possible worlds, all adrift in oceans we still have not reached.

In the pluralism of the artist’s practice, the act of creating worlds and their stories
translates itself into several languages: texts, materials, sounds, as well as an investigation of the spaces that embody History or of those hinting at some other histories. Such social heritage-spaces — whether they are churches, libraries or forests; whether they are European or exist down in the tropics — are real and fictional. They are spaces and bodies that become scenographic, in propositions that put us in a position to challenge reality. Laden with layers of meaning, they imply power relations in their monumentality and opulence. Spaces dressed in History meet the artist’s naked bodies: bodies multiplied
in a series, stripped of identity. They are places for many possible scenes, sceneries to be crossed by dreams, deforming our notions of space and time scales.

The story lines tangle up, spread, travel across the environments and are unveiled
in great quantity in photos. We do not have access to all these words that go through the paper lines. In several ways, the works cause the feeling of endlessly searching for something that is unattainable.

What motivates you to write inaccessible stories or stories which may be read only fragmentarily?
I consider unreadability a quality capable of taking interested interlocutors to a new way of understanding. In our times, an entire context is offered by a single image, one single sentence defines beliefs. We know how to deal with these suppressions, but we would not be able to define one single subject the way we are used to doing. We are infinitely more intricate than that. Many of my works that address this issue, which I call unreadability, serve as baits - as if they neglected the written language, or even the spoken language, as an essential means of communication, or rather as a means of exchange between individuals. There is refusal under the idea of unreadability. And the language is the manner through which we shape ourselves in a more definite way. An image crosses through cultures in a more free way than forms. I am not asserting that we do not have a visual playbook for each culture and that we do not deal with them, but images trigger the imagination more than words, when they are activated.
So, I deem chatter as an entity capable of being as much perceived as if I were able to clearly listen to the content of each speech. A handful of written words placed in such a way as not to allow or as not to suggest full reading take interlocutors to a place of thought, creation and speech. The accounts I work with are typically mediated by myself in a very straightforward manner in order to avoid much intervention. Sentences appear as they were really uttered, films almost un-edited. One story told in a language that I do not understand is respected as a whole, and I am satisfied with listening to what it sounds like, satisfied with partaking of the utterance of its sounds. But it is clear that images allow it too, which is also part of my artistic experiment. There are myriads of possible meanings that project themselves from each image, each object. I think a lot about this when assembling exhibitions with pieces that come from different projects, in other words, when I reassemble, reorganize my own propositions in sets that work by transforming each piece’s immediate meaning and by pointing out to common meanings. However, all of these prior meanings are there, they do not vanish, they render understanding more difficult for interlocutors used to solving each thing they see or perceive as an assertion, as a single understanding. I do not praise a single comprehension; I seek its exact opposite. I believe we only dedicate time to things which encompass some incomprehension.

Paula Scamparini explores allegorical spaces from other homelands, as well as our own allegories: the personal and the collective ones; allegories that have no romantic flip side. The remainders of a trance are left in the corners. We experience a kind of hangover, in which memory, dream and invention meet and are indistinguishable. Maybe some imaginary vertigo happens when we swing in a sea of canvas, on a flesh boat that slides through the waters beyond the firmament. Maybe it is only delirious that we see boats with red sails floating in the pitch-black darkness of the woods.

Identities are built, but each speaking from its place, even if this place is nowhere.
The artist is foreign and walks through unknown lands. She stumbles upon immigrants and natives, she collects and creates accounts. The body is naked, the face is made of story-history threads. Every place may be scenographic, every experience may be fiction. Our head is tangled — what is mine and what is not? After all, all that which was not lived may, always, be dreamed — even if it is on a concrete mattress.