a forma condutora de fluxos dominantes

Daniel de Paula

a forma condutora de fluxos dominantes

Daniel de Paula

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On occasion of my first solo show at Galeria Jaqueline Martins, a forma condutora de fluxos dominantes (the conductive form of dominant flows), instead of a curatorial essay, I present a brief excerpt from an interview I conducted with Brazilian historian and professor José Jobson de Andrade Arruda. It is a small extract from our meeting, drawing a parallel between the explicit content of the artworks in the show and José Jobson de Andrade Arruda’s relevant inquiries into economic relations in colonial-era Brazil. 

It is important to note the presence of an archaeological artefact from the colonial period, juxtaposed with recent works in the venue, which the historian mentions in the interview below – a Portuguese calcareous rock formerly used as ballast and recovered during a recent shipwreck expedition in the Atlantic Ocean. This item, loaned for use to Galeria Jaqueline Martins by the Brazilian Navy’s Heritage and Documentation Department, reveals my interest in understanding the complex social form concealed within materiality. 

Thus, in weaving together objects and temporalities, the exhibition acts as a critical, reflexive take on the history of spatial production in the Brazilian context, approaching mercantilist colonial exploitation as a focal point in the history of the reproduction of relations of dominance. 


...perhaps you should begin by explaining the function of the ballast, which was used in caravels, in sailing… and then explain in detail how that was used later on, and physically speaking, in colonial-era spatial production. 


It is obvious, therefore, that the movement of imports and exports – because the colony would import a host of products, all of those it needed in production; there is no production without tools, without the pans, the copper pots in which sugar was brought to a boil to make sugar loaves. 

No; there is no way an aristocratic elite could settle in Pernambuco, Bahia or anywhere else if it weren’t for the import of wine, the import of olive oil, the import of wheat, the import of goods that were staples in the lives of people back in Europe... 

And if they have their wealth, they must import it, so imports and exports, they are interrelated. One cannot increase exports without increasing imports of items that are key to production. 

And this means transoceanic voyages required some stability. The ships, when they would leave Brazil for Portugal, they’d leave completely loaded. When they’d return here from Portugal, most of the time they’d be carrying limited amounts of cargo – they’d not come empty, because they’d also bring in goods that were indispensable to those onshore, but these goods were not enough to give those vessels, those caravels, those hulks, whatever they were, the stability they needed. 

That is why stones are crucial in providing this needed stability. This is exactly what is called a ballast, of which an outstanding example will be featured in this exhibition. And these ballasts would be brought here and of course they would be unloaded. They weren’t that easy to unload, because if they were stones, they’d be heavy to offload from the ships, just as they’d be hard to load onto the ships. 

These products, however, were products... These products, these goods – and I say this because the stones had economic value –, they were innocuous when compared with the modern ballast. The modern ballast is water. 

The amount of water carried by vessels crossing the oceans is brutal. But these [water] ballasts, which are loaded on in Europe, are offloaded here. And the problem of contagion, in different floras, by microorganisms that are not natural or specific to a region is a brutal thing. We know full well, for instance, how predatory fish have often invaded areas where they have no natural opponents. They have no predators, and this has created problems in many parts of the world. 

And I can tell you that these stones that would be brought, the lioz stones, often with limestone, that would come from Portugal, they are innocuous from this perspective, and from a material perspective they are loaded with meaning, because they might be used in many different places, such as boulevards, sidewalks, fountains, churches... 

Portugal’s Jerônimos Monastery was built entirely from this limestone, which is produced in the Sintra area, and so were, for instance, Mafra, Batalha, Rossio, the Rossio Station in Portugal... 

And in Portugal, anyone who goes to Portugal and looks at those walls, the color that identifies this stone, this limestone, is exactly the color you see, for instance, in some cathedrals in Bahia. Like the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, for instance: if you look at it, you can see the similarity, including the building style that it enables. 

And there are also landmarks in other places. Many of these stones wound up in forts built in inland Brazil. Because the Portuguese set up an amazing defense system. 

Nowadays, when you look at the sites where the Portuguese built forts to defend the territory, you realize an incredible thing, which now, with all the resources afforded by geoprocessing, I mean: the distances, the sites were absolutely strategic, and no one knows how they were able to find those strategic spots to build those forts in. 

So, this is what one can establish regarding the connection between transoceanic sailing and the arrival of these materials that were ultimately useful in shaping and developing culture in the colony. That’s the connection. 


...it determines local material culture? 


That much has been said. 


...like for instance these forts? 


The forts, this geometry that they are, they map out a territory. 


...and they dominate it? 


They dominate it. 

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