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Double Crossing

Gilles Deleuze holds that Plato, in his idealism, distinguished the “icon-copies” from the “phantasm-simulacra.” The “icon-copies” carry out their imitation through recourse to the world of ideas, while the “phantasm-simulacra” constitute the copy of the copy. They are produced based on a false resemblance, which opens the way to dissimilarity, to aberration,

and to deviation in relation to the essence.[1]

 

 

The project is composed of a series of drawings on paper and an anamorphic wall painting with various dimensions. The choice of images reveals a conceptual unity, and defines the work’s themes, language and place in art history. The drawings are made through the use of direct light and reflections, based on artworks by other artists, whose scale is slightly distorted in accordance with their reproductions in books or on Internet, as well as the optical aberration of the reflective instrument used in their making.

 

The instrument for the production of these drawings consists of a one-way mirror held by a horizontal wooden support (the original or reproduction on one side and the blank sheet of paper on the other). In the making of these “copied” drawings there is a view of the real image overlain to the mirrored image that takes shape as the drawing progresses. The two images are divided by the optical instrument – i.e., the place of the image’s passage – but it is based on this instrument that the simultaneous view of the drawing arises.

 

 

Reflections and mirrorings are recurrent subjects in my production; in this way I have deepened my investigation by means of some instruments that were widely used by artists starting in the Renaissance, such as the camera lucida,[2] (an instrument patented in 1806, consisting of prisms attached to a vertical shaft that allows the observer to simultaneously see an object and the image of it projected on a piece of paper) or even the copy by way of projections by concave mirrors, and the camera obscura. The appropriation of images becomes an inevitable subject, since one is working with reflections.

 

 

These “mirrored” drawings displace into the field of art certain things that already belonged to it, such as the works of Leonilson and Tarsila do Amaral. To develop this work I made appropriations from Tarsila do Amaral’s “travel notebooks” and studies of some of her emblematic works, as well as drawings by Leonilson (illustrations that the artist made for the newspaper Folha de São Paulo and which were published in the book Use, É lindo, Eu garanto). My interest in these two artists stems mainly from the importance of drawing in their productions, and from their being Brazilian artists, who are no longer alive and therefore with well-defined places in the history of art. The drawings of these two artists, particularly, fetch high prices on the art market and are thus readily falsifiable. This gives rise to questions of plagiarism, originality, authenticity, intellectual property rights and the role of the artist nowadays. In light of these questions, I thought it was important to present this project to the families of the artists for their previous approval of the use of the images chosen.

 

 

Here it is worth citing the concept of aura conceived by Walter Benjamin in his 1931 essay “A Short History of Photography,” where he states that aura denotes “a peculiar web of space and time: the unique manifestation of a distance, however near it may be.” In this formulation, the objects, whether artistic or not, are inserted in a synchronic web in which distinctions between “technology and culture,” “original and copy,” or “reality and representation” seem to have somehow lost their meaning, giving way to categories such as “simulacrum” or “spectacle.”

 

 

I think it is important to consider a redefinition of the artist’s activity in today’s world, considering that we work in a world in which reality has been substituted by narratives and images. The keystrokes “CtrlC + CtrlV” are part of the daily life of most people where Internet offers all sorts of free content. Many images that move freely around the web get multiplied so many times that it is practically impossible to know where they came from. These images seem ripe for appropriation.

 

 

I like the idea of doubles, of illusion, of the alteration of reality. A piece of false information or a hoax can create another sort of reality. This also makes me recall the story of how Orson Welles’s 1938 radio presentation of the “War of the Worlds” ignited mass hysteria in the United States, as the Americans actually believed they were being attacked by flying saucers.

 

 

 

 

Gustavo von Ha

Novembro de 2010

 

 

 

 

 

[1] From the text: “Nascemos todos e vivemos sob o signo do simulacro,” Dr. Latuf Isaias Mucci, Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF, Niterói-RJ, Brazil).

 

 

[2] David Hockney. Conhecimento Secreto, Cosac & Naify, 2001.