Galeria Leme presents the fourth site-specific commissioned for SITU, curated by Bruno de Almeida, giving continuity to a broader research on ways of thinking and discussing the production of (urban) space through a dialogue between art, architecture and city.
SITU invites Brazilian artist Beto Shwafaty to devise a work that results from a reflection on the urban context understood as a broad physical-social matrix, and that simultaneously relates to the exterior of the gallery’s building and to the adjacent public space.
Shwafaty’s project is based on a historical and geographical research about the neighbourhood where the gallery is located in São Paulo, called Butantã. By delving into the colonial past of the site the artist notes that, in the seventeenth century, the city’s first sugarcane mill appeared there, a device used to grind sugarcane and moved by human or animal traction. Although it seems like a minor historical datum, the fact is that these devices were part of one of the first and most important colonial “industries”, and were also responsible for the formation of a specific set of social relations that have strengthened a socio-spatial hierarchy, whose echoes are still felt today. This pervasive model, in the formation of the national territory, was guided by forms of expansion and consolidation of monoculture and landowning schemes, where large portions of land are deposited in the hands of a few individuals. Which has generated the basis for the consolidation of a patriarchal and patrimonial society whose political, economic and social powers are concentrated in the hands of a minor elite. This type of relationship between power and land ownership underpins what would be the structuring model of the Brazilian territory over the past 200 years, resulting in a late urbanization process loaded with many disorders.
For his installation, Beto Shwafaty takes hold of an original wooden sugar mill, using it to structure the entire project, both materially and conceptually. With this piece the artist occupies the gallery’s courtyard and engenders an installation that is transformed in successive moments. First, the mill will be exposed, although unproductive (without grinding sugarcane). Throughout the exhibition, this device will be gradually dismantled in all its parts, which will then be catalogued and rearranged, in order to be rearranged and re-signified. Finally, the pieces will be removed from the space, which will then be immaterially occupied by a soundtrack that carries the memory of the processes connected to that object.
By bringing this type of colonial engine back to the city, and by submitting it to a process of displacement, transformation and disappearance, the artist proposes a collision between two different historical epochs. Establishing a space for reflection upon the notion of “heritage” that occurs in parallel to the imminent obliteration of certain historical information, buildings, cultures and people.