Two Bodies, 2016 (wood and electronic circuit)
in memory of Raquel Schembri
Two apparently identical wooden cubes sit side by side on a base. Despite looking the same, one of them levitates.
For some years I have been investigating the notion of levitation. In a residency program I conducted at JA.CA (Centro de Arte e Tecnologia do Jardim Canadá) in Belo Horizonte, I began to outline ways of bringing this mythology into a work of art. It was still very difficult to imagine what this interest in levitation meant, but this marked the start of my research.
A few months later I addressed the topic in a residency at the RedBull Station, in São Paulo. My studio had a window offering a view of the Edifício Joelma, a building notorious for a tragic fire. At that residency I made an installation called “Sobre queda ou Desejo de flutuação” [On Falling or Desire to Float]; a reflection on the act of launching oneself into emptiness, on the hope to float, to leave the condition of tragedy toward a hope of redemption, albeit highly unlikely. I imagined the act of leaping into the void, fleeing from the fire, as an act of hope and not of desperation. It is a romantic vision of the tragedy, but it was a way of dealing with the immanence of those 191 deaths.
Two years had gone by when Raquel, whom I had met at JA.CA, and I entered a Hindu temple in Indonesia, with our baby still in Raquel’s belly. We were with hundreds of other locals participating in a ritual to celebrate the New Year. It was there that something completely new happened to me. I could not stop looking at a man who stood out amidst the crowd: he was apparently just the same as the rest of us, but he was more radiant, lighter; it was as if he were levitating. I later discovered that he was considered a holy man.
Three months later our daughter was born, and Raquel passed away. Amid the confusion that had taken hold of my life, I couldn’t stop thinking about what was different about that man who was almost levitating in the Indonesian temple, about Mother Teresa who would levitate in ecstasy, and about Shāntideva, who is said to have left this world levitating from the Buddhist monastery as he finished his famous discourse “The Way of Bodhisattva”. I also thought about the assumption of the Virgin Mary, the ecstasies of Saint Joseph of Cupertino and countless other men who were just like us but who, in their own way, floated.
Two bodies is an attempt to understand the lightness of things and of people. Everything around us might be ordinary or might float, it depends on the way we look at the world and I suspect that an eye that levitates things ends up levitating he who casts the eye.
The sculpture is the first work I have done since the incident, following the death of my love and the birth of my daughter. It is only 3 months since it all happened. Returning to work during the hours when my baby is asleep helps me maintain serenity, to organize my life and my feelings. Thinking about Raquel, I remember her light, vivid and glowing presence. For me Raquel was a body just like other bodies, but she was lighter, and I am sure that she now floats.
See also Online Exhibition by Rachel Schembri in Interartive Magazine: https://interartive.org/2015/02/raquel-schembri/
Roberto Freitas Website: http://www.robertofreitas.net