Solilóquio

Camille Kachani

05/Sep/2019 – 05/Oct/2019

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Press Release

Under history, memory and forgetting.
Under memory and forgetting, life.
But writing a life is another story.
Incompletion.



With these verses, French thinker Paul Ricoeur ends one of his major books devoted to the history of memory in the West (1). In a very synthetic manner, he manages to intertwine the terms at play when we discuss memory, especially after World War II and the Holocaust: history, remembrance, forgetting, life, and narrative are aspects of a characteristically human process. Only humans remember, only humans forget, only humans have the intention to document their memory in narrative form. This is a form of action that distinguishes us from other animals and underpins what Aristotle, for example, associated with artistic activity. If Art and History are not the same, it can be said that in a sense both are human ways of dealing with the awareness of death and the passage of time since the earliest times. Therefore, both establish paths for the constitution of memory (collective and private) that humanizes life.


That is why in times of crisis of values, as it is currently occurring, the discourse about the importance of memory (and rememoration) is again placed at the centre of public debate. Remembering the past (and our ancestors) is a more than necessary condition for the renewal of the future. In fact, I believe that without this we cannot continue to hope about what is still to come. Forgetting, as part of history, is that of the very suffering humans have gone through. Forgetting is providential for life to go on as long as it does not turn into erasure. The historical narrative of both a people and a private life enables such forgetting not to be concealed.


If I briefly retrieve these reflections here, it is because I believe that Camille Kachani’s production provokes, first of all, an awareness of memory. Her sculptures, as noted in previous texts by Sabrina Moura and Cauê Alves (2), are at the centre of the contemporary debate about fluid identities and the transformation of nature into culture and vice versa. But to speak in these terms is ultimately to speak of narratives. Today there is nothing that can be defined as nature itself (in the sense that it exists without technical modifications), as well as nothing that can be firmly delimited as indigenous culture or identity. And perhaps this impossibility is a dilemma to which the exercise of memory will answer: it is up to the imagination and art, which elaborate the real, to recreate from the experience of what happened, the historical sense of nature, culture and identity in the present. Only in this way may we be able to detach ourselves from pre-fixed definitions that are of no help in understanding the contemporary world.


Admittedly, a considerable portion of artists, especially after the fall of the Berlin Wall, turned to the “emergence of memory as a key cultural and political concern in Western societies.” (3) This resumption was carried out in several ways. However, in recent years there has been a predominance of the documentary and representative form that now seems to show signs of exhaustion. Because, to the extent that many of these works claim to “denounce” a real situation, which theoretically is not part of the art world (and thereby seek to “raise awareness” of the public), it is often observed that several works are limited to the same binary logic that dominates the reality to be criticized. It is obvious that this approach, although it has generated great works, is at a crossroads.


Against this backdrop, Kachani’s production takes on a particular meaning. Her objects flirt, at every turn, with nature and culture or with the universe of artefacts and art. However, it is from the documentation of the unusual that she chooses to work on these issues, raising from the start the inconsistency of thinking through dichotomies. Looking at her artworks, the viewer is invited to recognize an ambiguous relationship between nature and culture, for example when he sees (artificial) leaves coming off a canvas, or when a book contains leaves and not letters, or when a brick wall (which is not made of bricks) is invaded by artificial plants. More than a tight contrast between nature and culture, the form of construction of these objects suggests that everything is simultaneously nature and culture, original and artificial, identity and non-identity; through a poetics that, in my view, is nonetheless connected with the disposition of things in the dream world, where objects live beyond preconceived logic.


And here we return to the problem of memory: to remember, as it happens when we are dreaming, does not mean to reconstruct a sequence of events, or sensations, through the supposedly objective, excluding, binary logic of the waking world. In fact, it is from the meaning of the surplus, from what did not fit into the flow of rational consciousness that the forgotten can resurface; opposites coexist or dichotomies disappear and, thus, the limits of reality may be replaced through the composition of an expanded narrative. In this sense, I would say that the objects present in this exhibition are, above all, an invitation to the broader experience of what we could hastily classify as a unique identity, whether individual, collective or of history itself; therefore, an increasingly necessary art before the closing of our contemporary situation, which is so readily open to radicalisms of all kinds.


Taisa Palhares


(1) Ricoeur, Paul. Memory, History, Forgetting University of Chicago Press, 2009
(2) Respectively “Identity as denial” and “Natural and manual”.
(3) Huyssen, Andreas. Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory Stanford University Press, 2003

Critical essay

Under history, memory and forgetting.
Under memory and forgetting, life.
But writing a life is another story.
Incompletion.


With these verses, French thinker Paul Ricoeur ends one of his major books devoted to the history of memory in the West (1). In a very synthetic manner, he manages to intertwine the terms at play when we discuss memory, especially after World War II and the Holocaust: history, remembrance, forgetting, life, and narrative are aspects of a characteristically human process. Only humans remember, only humans forget, only humans have the intention to document their memory in narrative form. This is a form of action that distinguishes us from other animals and underpins what Aristotle, for example, associated with artistic activity. If Art and History are not the same, it can be said that in a sense both are human ways of dealing with the awareness of death and the passage of time since the earliest times. Therefore, both establish paths for the constitution of memory (collective and private) that humanizes life.


That is why in times of crisis of values, as it is currently occurring, the discourse about the importance of memory (and rememoration) is again placed at the centre of public debate. Remembering the past (and our ancestors) is a more than necessary condition for the renewal of the future. In fact, I believe that without this we cannot continue to hope about what is still to come. Forgetting, as part of history, is that of the very suffering humans have gone through. Forgetting is providential for life to go on as long as it does not turn into erasure. The historical narrative of both a people and a private life enables such forgetting not to be concealed.


If I briefly retrieve these reflections here, it is because I believe that Camille Kachani’s production provokes, first of all, an awareness of memory. Her sculptures, as noted in previous texts by Sabrina Moura and Cauê Alves (2), are at the centre of the contemporary debate about fluid identities and the transformation of nature into culture and vice versa. But to speak in these terms is ultimately to speak of narratives. Today there is nothing that can be defined as nature itself (in the sense that it exists without technical modifications), as well as nothing that can be firmly delimited as indigenous culture or identity. And perhaps this impossibility is a dilemma to which the exercise of memory will answer: it is up to the imagination and art, which elaborate the real, to recreate from the experience of what happened, the historical sense of nature, culture and identity in the present. Only in this way may we be able to detach ourselves from pre-fixed definitions that are of no help in understanding the contemporary world.


Admittedly, a considerable portion of artists, especially after the fall of the Berlin Wall, turned to the “emergence of memory as a key cultural and political concern in Western societies.” (3) This resumption was carried out in several ways. However, in recent years there has been a predominance of the documentary and representative form that now seems to show signs of exhaustion. Because, to the extent that many of these works claim to “denounce” a real situation, which theoretically is not part of the art world (and thereby seek to “raise awareness” of the public), it is often observed that several works are limited to the same binary logic that dominates the reality to be criticized. It is obvious that this approach, although it has generated great works, is at a crossroads.


Against this backdrop, Kachani’s production takes on a particular meaning. Her objects flirt, at every turn, with nature and culture or with the universe of artefacts and art. However, it is from the documentation of the unusual that she chooses to work on these issues, raising from the start the inconsistency of thinking through dichotomies. Looking at her artworks, the viewer is invited to recognize an ambiguous relationship between nature and culture, for example when he sees (artificial) leaves coming off a canvas, or when a book contains leaves and not letters, or when a brick wall (which is not made of bricks) is invaded by artificial plants. More than a tight contrast between nature and culture, the form of construction of these objects suggests that everything is simultaneously nature and culture, original and artificial, identity and non-identity; through a poetics that, in my view, is nonetheless connected with the disposition of things in the dream world, where objects live beyond preconceived logic.


And here we return to the problem of memory: to remember, as it happens when we are dreaming, does not mean to reconstruct a sequence of events, or sensations, through the supposedly objective, excluding, binary logic of the waking world. In fact, it is from the meaning of the surplus, from what did not fit into the flow of rational consciousness that the forgotten can resurface; opposites coexist or dichotomies disappear and, thus, the limits of reality may be replaced through the composition of an expanded narrative. In this sense, I would say that the objects present in this exhibition are, above all, an invitation to the broader experience of what we could hastily classify as a unique identity, whether individual, collective or of history itself; therefore, an increasingly necessary art before the closing of our contemporary situation, which is so readily open to radicalisms of all kinds.


Taisa Palhares


(1) Ricoeur, Paul. Memory, History, Forgetting University of Chicago Press, 2009
(2) Respectively “Identity as denial” and “Natural and manual”.
(3) Huyssen, Andreas. Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory Stanford University Press, 2003

Catalog