About Guita Soifer's art show - Transverse Times

Angelika Sommer

Names serve as a reference for the exhibits, likewise linking artistic works to a specific context. The Brazilian artist Guita Soifer, for her part, intentionally conferred a composite title to the work presented in Berlin, at the Brazilian Cultural Institute in Germany – ICBRA. With the first segment, “Transverse Times”, she anticipates the delicate and permanent loom between the threads of history, the present and the future, demonstrating the phenomenon of dialogue between the different aspects of time, approached in her work. The enlargement of the name, however, being an illogical construction, – constrains understanding: gravestones mark a space, symbolic and, in the collective reach, function as support of memory; their genuine use is in opposition to oblivion and volatility of existence. To what extent, after all, would the works present a reference to this second dart? “A tomb in the air” is affirmed, while it constitutes a monument to timelessness. 1, a reflection on the peculiar image taken from these words, brings to mind Paul Célan’s poem, Fugue da Morte: “we dig a grave in the air where space is not lacking. Suddenly, dark and torn, Celan’s expression to the extermination of Jews in the concentration camps: the black milk of dawn consumed day after day – the shovels used to open the earth to death, violins and their sweet and dark melody; the lead bullets, the smoke rising through the air, the grave in the clouds.

Guita Soifer, however, presents in her works, a horizon willing to open itself beyond the memories and historical dimensions marked by the Nazi past. His theme, orbiting around human memory, wants to be understood in a universal sense and is conducted through many perspectives, voices, and image media.

Guita Soifer’s work contains paintings, graphics, photographs, installations and objects. The ICBRA’s large and tall exhibition room hosts a wide spectrum of these works. The space looks like broth out of time and spreads a solemn freshness. The pieces are arranged in a sometimes military alignment. On the other hand, subtitles, usually responsible for the establishment of a certain inner order – structuring time or giving the work a frame of orientation, will be sought here without success. All works lack title or even data on technique and dimensions. Without these definitions, the interpretations arise spontaneously and may have their content modified, passing through space “memory”.

Books are considered long-term memory for the written record, for the images, stories and all kinds of knowledge collected. In the book, the memory opens up as if reviving the past. In Guita Soifer’s artistic discourse, where the dimensions of time are experienced, this opportunity will be offered in a ‘special way. Each one of her open books has its own history. In the “reading” of drawings and abstract prints, made in depleted pieces of cloth, we touch traces of the past. We enter into the interior and exterior room scapes.

The drawings of the covers were made on fabrics like satin and felt, old, simple looking papers, white or shiny type – in yellow, green, red and orange. The formats vary from pocketbook to infinite. The margins of the covers appear partially covered. Inside, a golden thread stitches, in zigzag, the already impossible integrity. For the background of the painting, the artist uses satin paper, imitation parchment, thick fiber, and other soft papers that offer a vision as smoky as tactile.

The tendency to literally enjoy these eroded objects will be interrupted only, thanks to the surprises announced to the viewer’s eye, by the rest of the exhibition.

A heavy book, with a satin cover, lets you glimpse an ancient handwriting. Any effort of reading bumps into the countless pairs of broken glasses, left chaotically, on the open pages. Other meanings arise – even beyond readability – when Guita deconstructs written language structures. In this sense, we will see constellations of black letters and numbers, in letters, describing wide circular orbits on parchment pages. The marks of writing will always be perceived horn part of the spiritual expression of time. The use of letters intentionally confers timelessness and anonymity to the whole. At the same time, the concern with the principles of chaos and order in space is revealed. Modules of letters communicate with fine particles – which they touch or cover. The surface, in fact, will be charged with energy and rhythmic tension fields. Each letter or syllable offers a minimum textual reality and indicates – with reference to concrete poetry ¬imperfections and marks of disintegration of the idiomatic system. The volume of parchment paper offers a confrontation of consecutive “pages of letters”. Fragmented texts are born forced by the search for a sense that is not complete.

Guita Soifer works with everyday objects that, although dislocated from their function, do not disguise the many scars from their original place. They are metallic objects, scratched, worn out and covered in part by rust that she reclassifies, bleeding through the effort of her art. In the object books, the relationship between exterior and interior – making mention of the relationship between keeping and dissimulating – gains importance. Her containers look like time capsules, used as horn beds: in a little satin box ajar, there is a long and heavy key; a brass knocker, covered with transparent wax, will be found in another little box, this time made of metal, decorated with mirrors inside. Four pieces of wire can also be seen, conditioned in tissue paper, inside a corroded chest.

It seems that the artist wanted to oppose the material nature of iron, threatened by disintegration. Some of these objects, Guita has transformed into metaphors to memory. Extending their duration with wax, it gave them a mystical air. The interference raised, as a result, their pieces to the relic and made the signs to remember, a reference with special importance and energy. Also the inclusion of mirrors – of whose nature one can tell, simultaneously, empty and occupiable, forms that passage in the space-time continuum, eager to be filled. In this context, they are residues of a recoverable whole aporia in the memory of the spectator. In the same way, the character of the “shoes-object”, of corroded iron, will be of the fragment. Two pairs of shoe remains insinuate steps, on a low glass table. Soles and body parts, make sometimes a vase for their contents, which ‘consists of small and angular pieces of crystal. In each one, metal adornments indicate the splendid origin of ancient chandelier. The transparent pieces slightly overflow the filler and, in the translucent interior of all the shoes, a red glassy element. Like shoes serving as containers, they take up the idea of the relic chests.

Walter Benjamin, in his historical-philosophical theories, argued against the idea of a linear history, which only recognizes the history of winners, in favor of a “historiography of remembrance”. The act of remembering would occupy itself with the “memory of the nameless,” that is, of those who left no traces, guaranteeing them survival.

Guita Soifer builds, through the means of art, forms of remembrance, corresponding to Benjamin’s ideas. Her installations and objects, in particular, reveal a close kinship of the mentioned remembering and waking up, as in the fall of the dreamer to the world of the awakened in a musical piece. It serves as an example of the artist’s expressive vigor, a large wall installation consisting of only two blocks of fabric. These, fixed with robust nails, face each other from 10 meters away. Up close, they identify themselves with delicate embroidery covers. The size refers to the previous function of covering a couple, even if destruction marks are now visible. On the white sheet in front, rusty nails, scattered disorderly, have printed stains that resemble traces of blood. Only the center of the object was left intact, which allows the vision of a white court. This image is also found on the pendant, on the other side of the room – this, however, being the opposite, has in the center, spilled by the white of the fabric, dense rust marks, reminiscent of a large open wound. Both objects represent extreme experiences of physical, psychological and sexual violence. In the projection of the spectator, they become a battlefield, capable of referring to the holocaust. The owners of these pieces, personal and intimate, remain anonymous. Their presence and absence are evoked, to the same extent, through the symbolic charge of the objects. As in the photos of the artist’s back, the objects offer the show, a souvenir artifact.

When related, the various moments of the exhibition highlight their interdependencies. The work with different means makes it possible for Guita to occupy itself formally and thematically with complex processes, which do not require a conclusion in the conventional sense. So, we have as natural the fragmentary and ambiguous discourses in the artist’s painting.

Hundreds of squares, with 10 centimeters on the side, are the starting point of a broad installation. In a new adaptation – this time on the wall – Guita Soifer, continues adding character to one of the showrooms. With the reiterated renunciation of technical information, this moment is registered as a variation of the principle in which, the perspective of the object must be free from any definition.

The big red, absorbs the senses of the spectator still in the distance. Ordered to form a rectangle, the small pictures seem to be temporarily imprisoned – at times aligned a little to the right, others to the left, or even more rigidly adjusted. Some touch each other, others keep a small space from the neighboring pictures. Up close, we notice their different colors and textures: a cold red suddenly changes to black. Next to it, a red that is heated through the acre, disturbs the view. The colored and abstract paintings have different degrees of density. Their character is of a certain melancholy and material compactness. Opaque pigment surfaces turn into oil paint areas, cracked and filled with bubbles. Despite the stiffness, at the end of the day, a set full of movement is printed. This specific dynamic does not offer certainty to the viewer’s eyes. The appearance of an unstable construction of the image increases, through some free fields, which attract attention automatically, disturbing the gaze. A nail fixed to the wall marks something that has been or is not yet. These gaps, in the opulent party of color, indicate a lack or loss of a spatial or psychological entity.

Simultaneously, the questions about how to see and create one’s images are animated. The gathering of impressions, communicating presence and absence, is presented as a strategy, which turns the conclusion into incomplete.

The exhibition organized by Guita, in this way, confronts the clarity of the memory and poses itself “transversal” to time. Traps to memory and perception of time are placed in a way that makes it difficult for the spectator to evade.

A Tomb in the Air. Brazilian Cultural Institute in Germany, ICBRA, Berlin, 2001