Adrift. Photographs by Lela Martorano | LUCILA VILELA

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“The camera lens is an instrument like the pencil or the paintbrush; the photograph is a procedure like drawing and engraving, because what makes the artist is feeling and not procedure.”
Louis Figuier, La Photographie au Salon de 1859.

 

A fragment of time is discovered by Lela Martorano in the photographic archives of her family. The artist discovers, in the eyes of the father, images that capture the light of a moment. In memory, some beach scenes are reminiscent of the moments of a season. And it was through his eyes, however distant, that her father participated in the scenes. Olavo Vieira was taking pictures in slides at a time when only few faced the photographic universe. Far from the facilities of digital technology, analog photography required dedication; confidence was necessary to push the shutter button when the film had limited poses. Today the relationship with photography has been transformed by the comfort of “delete”. Digital memory became a habit that often overrides the very experience, hostage to an addictive gesture. Vilem Flusser notes that many people no longer know how to look except through a device.[1] Given the seductive ability to capture the moment without thinking about the composition of the picture, it is necessary to perceive the pitfalls of the daily use of the digital camera. Flusser warns that “the device offers a structurally complex game, but functionally simple. It is easy to learn its rules, difficult to play well.”[2] To know to take pictures is to avoid the automatic and eager gesture of the amateur impulse. Lela Martorano uses digital technology with analog thinking. Aware of the risks of language she appropriates the slides of her father and develops a set of images composing a new picture.

In the process, she projects the slides that are marked by time on worn out walls and old postcards, establishing a new image from that fusion. The exhibition Mar de Dentro (Inner Sea) presents some works created in a residence at the Museum of Modern Art in Chiloe Island (Chile, 2011). Lela Martorano rescues the memory of the city and interferes with her personal memory, a procedure already used in the exhibition Deslumbramientos in the city of Granada (Spain, 2009). “The pictures transform the past into the subject of an affectionate look”[3], observes Susan Sontag. The intimacy of a family moment is linked to the affection for the city. Thus, the projection of time affects space . Sontag even suggests that “through photos, each family constructs a visual chronicle of itself-a portable set of images that serves as a witness of its cohesion.” The pictures she chooses, however, are not portraits but snapshots of a relaxing environment that reveal the spontaneity of the moment. The presence of the sea reinforces the image intensity. For Gaston Bachelard, water is a transitional element, always running, always falling; “knows all the secrets anonymously. The same memory comes from all sources. “There is depth in every drop, it is enough to remember the crushing density of droplets”, as Julio Cortazar observes. In Castro (Chiloé) there is inland sea which has given the title of the exhibition. It seems that this interiority of the water brings the feeling of a lived moment. In the nostalgic dimension of a drop, the images contain fleeting memories.

In the case of video-objects also presented in this exhibition, a series of still images is illuminated by a single moving image. What moves is the sea on the children that once played on the beach. The reflection of light in water allows the perception of movement. The video serves as a background image that bathes the static scene; a film surrounding the photographic landscape. The water clarity allows the crossing of the eyes. Thus childhood memory becomes more distant, as if there were a filter between the eyes and the photograph. In Mar de Dentro, Lela Martorano treats water as light and vice versa. Whether projected or in video , the fluidity and transparency of the images interfere with the photographs with gentle vibrations; they capture time, ephemeral, between the luminosity of the waters and the landscapes of light. The word photography comes from Greek: φωτογραφία from φως (fos) + γραφή (graph), in other words, a writing with light. Lela Martorano draws in light the transparencies of time. Christine Buci-Glucksmann notes that the ephemeral seems to arise in all the differences, glows, reflections and flashes of the visible, as the hidden side of an immanent light [4] Thus, the ephemeral is developed between presence and absence.

Thus, the choice of poster to present the photographs also demarcates the ephemeral nature. The paper poster pasted directly onto walls and street posts is generally used for advertisement purposes. By opting for this medium, the artist shifts the urban aesthetic within the exhibition space. The photographs are worn out because of the fragility of the paper used. Inside the gallery, the paper is protected from the elements, but still presents its brittle appearance, disappearing in a slower rhythm. At other times, however, the artist also carries the work to the streets, confusing it between billboards. There a constant movement of displacements that transforms every stage of the creative process. A post-production work where the artist appropriates an already existing image to create another. The archive photo appears on the wall, migrates to another picture and turns to another wall. Deviations from the scene and displacements of the medium establish an incessant flow of memories. In this inland sea waters evoke distant images of a remote time . Heraclitus perceived that, “death is, for the souls to become water”.[5] In the images of Lela Martorano , memories are rescued in the subtleties of a loving gaze, dissolving slowly in the drift of a rediscovered time.

 


[1] Cfr. FLUSSER, Vilém. Filosofia da caixa preta. Rio de Janeiro: Relume Dumará, 2002, p. 54

[2] Ibid.

[3] SONTAG, Susan. Sobre fotografia. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2004, p.86

[4] BUCI-GLUCKSMANN, Christine. Estética de lo efímero. Madrid: Arena Libros, 2006, p. 31

[5] BACHELARD, Gaston. A Água e os Sonhos. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 2002, p.59