Before you got here
In the book The Lost World, we have an unnamed character who is present in all its 587 pages. It is a voice in first person binding the narrative which becomes increasingly dense throughout the book’s only two chapters: Origins and Organisation. The book tells the story of a group of scientists from around the world who are trying to prove the existence of God through highly unusual projects, including the creation of a camera that can register God’s presence on Earth. We also learn of a project that aims to create a computer programme based on pseudo-code algorithms able to translate the sounds of nature into language. The audible sounds of wind, rain, etc. would be deciphered into musical notes that would subsequently gain lyrics through a process of digitalisation to tell us the history of the world, its origins and future. The instrument used by scientists to capture the ‘voice of nature’ was an adaptation of a mouth organ and a Theremin, a sort of hybrid machine that required human contact and non-contact in order to produce sounds. Readers meet the narrator in the first page of the book:
I still don’t have a defined form; I am pure consciousness that floats in space. The echo of a substance with no name. Solitude that doesn’t perceive the lack of someone else. I feel an uncontrollable rage that expands throughout the five corners of darkness. Some time ago I was a sphere that revolved around my own axis. Now I am a square that is multiplied in cubes. In the last billions of years singular waves have swept my memories before you got here. I was alone for a long time and nobody saw what I did. I am pure selfishness.
Therefore, the reader, who is different from the characters in the book, is brought into contact with a voice that attests to the existence of a higher force, on which every hypothesis on the oldest conscious presence to have experienced the creation of the world could be based. However, readers that get to the end of the book are surprised by an outcome that differs from what they had imagined at the start and maintained throughout 586 pages. It is only in the last paragraph of page 587 that we find the answer that the scientists and readers of The Lost World were searching for in their daydreams. However, it is not my place to explain the answer here.
Origins and Organisation
The collection of works by Letícia Ramos presented in Planisphere have close links with adventures that science and science fiction have embraced throughout their existence, such as the birth of Planet Earth, the origins of life and theories around the hypothesis of chaos. We know that in the Theory of Chaos , the smallest noise at the onset of any event can drastically change the development of future events. In line with the theory, the idea of unpredictability and non-apparent order guides the research on this topic, where a tap dripping and a dog’s heartbeat have the same rhythm of the sound produced by an exploding star in space.
In the same way as in The Lost World, earthquakes, meteors, mountains, rain, storms, deep and cold waters and other natural elements and phenomena have been explored by Ramos in VOSTOK, BITACORA and ERBF. For these projects, the artist created photographic cameras, sceneries and gadgets in order to build images that existing devices cannot reach. Changing the idea of landscape as a construct, Ramos invented a visual repertoire in order to produce her photos. However, if we look closely at the works exhibited in this show we can see a different way of operating: the lack of a lens that mediates the artist’s gaze and the production of her images. It is not about a photographic instance but the recording of events that have no witness. A fiction that results from accounts and hypothesis that have already been consolidated by the scientific fields that constantly try to rebuild the history of the world and its transformations, which are so slow we could group every sequential moment in abstract and geometric images. The fractals could represent this type of image-synthesis, where the laws of Euclidian geometry are not applicable. And where chaos must be intuited as an idea of origin that is repeated in cycles that would continue independently of the presence of witnesses.
In the series of photograms BICHOS and CEU, sculptures created by the artist are projected onto photosensitive paper, creating photos that, due to the absence of negatives, refuse their doubles. In the set of light photograms there aren’t even objects; the trajectory of light onto the silver gelatine on the paper draws new spaces. The same light guides the plot of Blue Night, a film that depicts a by-gone era, reconstructing the oldest phenomenon in our world from small sceneries assembled in a planetarium micro-filming camera. Enlargements, prints, photograms and the film were created from sculptures we don’t see in the images that are presented to us. This is an interesting element to think about photography as an idea that precedes the lens, the shutter and even the film, in this respective order. In this sense, photography is an illustrated anticipation of the forms that neither the human eye nor the camera can record. The image’s future and past are confronted and reveal a sort of alchemical process.
The Russians have already explored this line of investigation that doesn’t seem to expire in the same way in science fiction. For instance, we can think of the device that projected a loop of phantasmagorical images from the past in Bioy Casares’ The Invention of Morel. In the same way, it is worth mentioning Rubens Teixeira Scavone’s short story Leica, model 1932, in which one of the characters is presented with a camera that photographs the past or the future, but never the present. Ramos seems to build her images on this paradox.
“Planisphere”, Mendes Wood Gallery, São Paulo, Brazil, 2017