Batalhão de Telegrafistas
Batalhão de Telegrafistas
Alexandre Brandão — Almandrade — Andrzej Dudek-Dürer — Anna Bella Geiger — Charbel-joseph H. Boutros — Chris Marker — Edgard de Souza — Francesca Woodman — Ilene Segalove — John Kelsey — Karin Sander — Mario Ishikawa — Moyra Davey — Naná Mendes da Rocha e Serguei Dias — Roberto Winter — Walead Beshty — Ze Frank — Gastão de Magalhães — f.marquespenteado — Luiz Guardia Neto
Batalhão de Telegrafistas (or Legacy of Telegraphists) understands Mail Art as a global movement based on the interchange between artists and the construction of marginal communication networks. The free use of postal services, fax machines, printing and photocopies – mediums of creation and sharing of ideas and artistic projects – constitute the core of these actions. Since the transition from the decades of the 1950s and 1960s they announce themselves as, more than a practice, taking a stand towards society and the art system.
Even though information technology might have offset its parameters towards the digital universe, and that these networks do not carry the same level of dynamism that mobilized them before the advent of internet, some essential issues have continued and renew themselves today. Collaborative and participatory procedures, sharing, unconditional access to information, the free circulation and distribution, subversion, resistance towards control and the hierarchies o the official channels were from the outset their guiding principles, but also their destiny and the utopia of Mail Art.
Mail Art represented one of the most ambitious and successful attempts at putting into place, on an international scale, an activity which occurs beyond the conventional script, and which brought artists together around a collective strategy, essentially non-authorial, in a network architecture. In Brazil, this practice matured throughout the military dictatorship (1964-1985) and, for a number of artists who lived and worked in the country, it was the only form of contact between their peers and other circles throughout the world. Within apolitical context filled with tension, it also worked as an instrument for critique and denunciation.
In its attempt both to recover and present works which are today considered historic and to think about part of the present production from the starting point of some of the conditions and elements around what became known as MailArt, Batalhão de Telegrafistas does not intend to make a nostalgic rescue – or even an “update”, doomed to fail – of that vibrant heroic moment of the past. At a time when the control over what you think and what you communicate is increasingly sophisticated, it is important to reflect over what has been lost and what has been maintained from the nature and ethics of this practice created by artists, constituted around an act which is as essential and humanas it is radical, subversive and anarchic: send a message to another person and, who knows, call her to act.
Batalhão de Telegrafistas first unfolds from works which are a part of archives of Brazilian artists participants of various international Mail Art networks,which is the case of Gastão de Magalhães, f. marquespenteado and Luiz Guardia Neto, whose collections point to a constellation of many other names.
Within the rare items found, the exhibition includes the poster of The Fourth Metaphysical Telepathic Exhibition (1986, Wroclaw, Poland), organized by Andrzej Dudek-Dürer including dozens of names from over 30 countries around the world. The Polish artist, who considers himself the personification of Albrecht Dürer, plays instruments such as the koto and the sitar so as to receive the spirit of the great German painter from the 16th century. The sound we hear in this exhibition was produced by the artist himself, in recordings made in the 1980s, which were then made available to his mailing network on audiotapes.
Almandrade, artist, poet and architect resident in Salvador, Bahia, was a member of the group of artists creator of the Poema/Processo (Poem/Process) movement and one of the founders of the Grupo de Estudos de Linguagem da Bahia, who edited the Semiótica magazine in 1974.Since the 1970s he produces work geared towards conceptualism and minimalist aesthetics, having a great part of it transiting through national postal services – as in the case of the sealed envelope which he sent to his friends in the year 1973, where the word inside could only be revealed when it was held against the light (a classic method used by spies), where one could read “psiu”(or “shush”), a reference to the political system’s control over discourse at the time of the Brazilian dictatorship.
Obviously MailArt cannot be reduced to simply sending works in the post. It is its own media, support and, in some cases, also the co-author of what is created. This is the case of Karin Sander’s “mailed paintings” that carry the post’s official marks gained throughout their displacements around the world; of the “FedEx sculptures” by Walead Beshty, fragile objects that are damaged by the transport and are presented in this way when they reach their destination; and of the “mailed photographs” by Moyra Davey.
After visiting São Paulo, in 2012, Davey carried out anew series of works related to the city, being that four of them are exhibited here. Amongst the photos, which were folded a few times and sent through the post, without the protection of an envelope, we see a handmade model of the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo (also known as MASP); a spider imprisoned under a glass (reference to the enormous spider by Louise Bourgeois confined to the external glassed areas of the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo, or MAM-SP); and a set of sound equipment which resemble the city’s chaotic architecture.
Roberto Winter’s action operates internally to the new order of global commerce of products, one of the last frontiers where the traditional postal services have not yet become obsolete. Using a Chinese sales website that offers thousands of items for a pitiful value, with the capacity of freely delivering them anywhere in the world, the artist chose an object that reinforces an ambiguous and nebulous position, characteristic of the political postures of today and of the difficulty in representing them: the Anonymous/GuyFawkes mask, which was sent to part of the mailing addresses of Galeria Jaqueline Martins in the manner of an invitation, or of an alert.
The new project Volta, by Alexandre Brandão, creates representations from a relation between the artist’s residence, post offices in São Paulo and the practice of flânerie (or strolling idly), Brandão carries out some random routes through the city, on a bus, towards these offices and, from there, addresses a card to himself, whose content is the drawings of these trajectories, exhibited here.
Edgard de Souza is interested in the changes which an image undergoes as it passes through machines and mediums. We present a work by him from 1998, which hasn’t been exhibited since then, created based on the combined use of photography and fax. The images (compositions made from the sending and resending of the photos via this apparatus) show, in a series of self-portraits, the figure of the artist in constant movement– alone, in twos or threes, formed by the repetition of himself. A type of out of time emission-reception, its ethereal presences evoke the spectral body of technology, ghosts which we do not know if they come from the past or if they project themselves towards the future. As Derrida would say: “The ghost, is me”.
With globalization and the invasion of information technology in our lives, currently the postal services serve increasingly for the global flow of merchandise and consumer goods, and less for personal communication. The works by John Kelsey allude to the way we relate amongst ourselves using manual devices, which connect us remotely to data servers. Be it living in the same city or in long distance relationships, it is there that our feelings meet.
The mobile architecture of the object created by Naná Mendes da Rocha and Serguei Dias resembles a communication “node”. It is a mobile server, an urban probe aimed towards collecting and diffusing content and open knowledge. The device establishes a local network and allows access to a database on the internet, exchanges files from a Wi-Fi device, records videos and transmits in real time.
Stopover in Dubai, by Chris Marker, makes use of multiple CCTV footage made available through the GNTV and the Dubai State Security Service, and demonstrates the methods of the network media used for mass surveillance. The film maps the movement of various people who were supposedly involved in the murder of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh on 19th January 2010, in a hotel room in Dubai.Marker left the original version, subtitles and graphs intact, but changed the news program’s soundtrack to a composition written by Henryk Górecki. The work is a terrifying representation of how technology is imposed on us. He dismantles an apparatus of power and demonstrates that, although we can’t access these people who watch our daily movements, the recordings that their machines produce are not so momentary and innocent as one might have assumed.