THE RESISTENCE OF THE BODY
2017-2018

Letícia Ramos is a photographer-scientist, a traveler who goes through the centuries revolving the various adventures of invention of ways of representing the world. His works usually cover a long process of developing devices and techniques to reach a certain goal, and her photographic images are the artistic expression of this search, like maps that record a path. No wonder many of his photographs seem abstract or coded, challenging everyone with his power of synthesis.This work refers to the unfolding of the Industrial Revolution, a period in which photography was used to support scientific theses, to improve the “world machine” and to increase productive capacity. The time of Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915), the American engineer who was celebrated for studying the movement of the English workers so that they could be improved and repeated. The perfecting of machines was the perfecting of men.

In 1916, in the best example of Taylorism, the couple Frank and Lillian Gilbreth published the article “The Effect of Movement Studies on Workers.” Gilbreth promoted the use of photography and animation to study work cycles and figure out how to reduce them to shorter and more efficient sequences of gestures, reducing fatigue. “Motion studies leave any interesting activity,” propagandized. The workers who underwent their studies would be “more efficient, more successful, and happier.”

To achieve the goal, the Gilbreth combined the study of micromovements, simultaneous motion tables, and chrono-chyrographs, depicted in photographs depicting the movement of workers through a light restroom. In order to do so, it was necessary to expose the photographic plate for the duration of the activity and to tie to the body of the workers small lamps, whose light registered the displacement of the limbs.

Chronographs were an outgrowth of the pioneering researches of Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) and ÉtienneJules Marey (1830-1904), who produced still very present forms of image construction. Similar to sculptural pirouettes of light, chrono-chromatics were curiously attuned to the production of futurist artists, who also promoted the utopia of man-machine, without predicting that scientific positivism could use photography to increase economic exploitation.

In The Resistance of the Body, Letícia simulates a controlled environment to test the reactions of the bodies to activities related to the manifestations of streets. With cameras, dolls and models, the artist emulates the visual repertoire of scientific studies in photographs that show the throwing of objects, mobile communication on social networks and the impact of water jets.

In the manner of Gilbreth, Leticia carried out numerous tests. In some images, a head, a bust and a hand receive jets that shatter in the backlight like a Milky Way. In another image, a doll crashes on the floor, as if it were a living person.

The fragmented bodies, the mechanical instruments, the dark and dotted background create a calculated and mysterious atmosphere, as if we were facing a robotic or spatial experience. The use of photography gives truthfulness to the work and causes even an unlikely situation to gain document strength.

Four small screens reproduce in points the movement of a falling body. Why fall? Gradually, the work becomes abstract. The image of sending a message through the cell phone, typed by a ball-gloved hand and photographed with strobe light, resembles a set of atoms vibrating in space. Another message sending, recorded with a glove speckled with lights and divided into five blue images, seems to show an electric shock, the same one that is reproduced in a small polaroid. The blue transparency of the images reveals the use of radiographic plates in place of films - the same kind as those used by medicine to investigate the mysteries of the body. Another plate shows a model and a solitary hand, as if throwing a strange and surreal request for help.

The images of Leticia do not clarify anything. It is possible that the object thrower represents a demonstrator. The sender of the mobile message can be anyone. The launching of water jets would be the prerogative of the police. When is a body able to withstand street demonstrations? Who is interested in visually representing these impacts. Puppets and test models are commonly used in industry to avoid physical damage to real people, especially in extreme risk situations. The videos produced by carmakers to study the impact of bodies at high speed are well known. Although the circulation of these images can increase our sense of security, its production can also act in the opposite direction, by softening our perception of the risks we are subjected to or by frightening us by indirectly displaying the physical repression to which we are subject.

If we saw the photos of people killed by the car crashes, we might not have sustained the high-speed industry. Images of armaments and police groups, often carried by the public administration to convey the sense of security, also intimidate us. To the increase of firepower and weapons of war, an increasingly abstract representation of violence corresponds. Rare photographers on the front fly drones and satellites.

Indirect representation also dehumanizes, is what the artist seems to say in this dismal and disturbing work that transforms photography into a still-life, or almost.

Thyago Nogueira
2017





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