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"Desterra" . Full interview with Cristina Regadas

“Tomorrow belongs to those who can hear it coming”. 
David Bowie

Interview with Cristina Regadas conducted by Rita Roque. 18 / 10 / 2017

All the artistic gesture is beyond political, a geological act. I tis precisely the debate, the discovery and timed perception of a world, and of a time that leads us to a sequence of images, a fourth dimension. Thinking with artist Cristina Regadas in the quietness of her home and studio is the most honest exercise that I can find to follow this so admirably trans - disciplinary thinking, both scientifically and aesthetically. We offer this sharing even before the exhibition is ready, and still in the place of its creation, in its creative uterus, in an attempt to decelerate time and open expository possibilities.
Desterra thinks photography, is in itself an exercise where art and life relate in extremely complex ways, demands participation (dream) and dedication (travel) by the beholder, by who discovers, is an exercise in the scale of a studio but which extends beyond it.

R. Here in your studio I find this table full of books, - the most varied minerals, photos and postcards, and I feel already that the exhibition is starting here, without having started yet. Like if this table was a time machine of the future, of what will be the design and strength of the entire exhibition.
In front of all these layers I wonder about these photos. Are they all yours?
C. Some of them are mine, but old already. All the work is the reflection of a research in the archive. I have been shooting less and less in front of the whole amount of information. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed, given the huge amount of images already existing. Besides that, the fact of having photographed a lot in the past, in addition to collecting images always cohabited with a constant search.
For example, the exhibition will showcase a large print precisely of a found image.
I can say that some of the images here are prints of that collection.

R. Where did you get that image?
C. That image I bought in e-bay. It was part of the travel of an European to the United States of America, from that set there are still images of Europe - If not mistaken, images from Italy.
That photo dates from the 50`s. The pink shade in it relates, for instance, with pink quartz. 
This specific photography color offers indications about the date, about the time. Of course I could work color to make it timeless, but I am not interested in that.

R. It`s interesting to understand that your interest is not in the image manipulation. Do you remember when you found that image?
C. I bought that image 5 or 6 years ago. I don`t know if you already bought slide images in e-bay, but it is so precise like, imagine... you enter a keyword like slide USA with some theme, and all you can imagine is available! Of course that most of them are related with historical monuments or public transportation. I always get the feeling that those images belonged to someone that a house or a story fell apart; in a way is always sad rescue.

R. That brings me to memory an episode I had when I was still a child, - in a kind of confrontation, or epiphany. I was in a flea market in Plainpalais in Geneve, and I found, in one of the stands, a suitcases seller. Each one of those suitcases offered an avalanche of albums and loose photos of the same family. The thing that got me more impressed was that each one of those cases was a direct entrance for another live. I though about death immediately, and then I thought how immediate it is to have all these lives in one single look, with all these memories available. 
Memories as a unit, carried in suitcases. Since that day I started feeling photography in another way...
C. Yes, and the fact that you feel that appropriation is part of my work process. Yet, in my case, 90 to 95% of the images are landscapes or monuments and people are not there, although sometimes you can see people and animals. I have some images with animals, and in fact they are the ones that make me dream the most when I start imagining how it must have been the lives of those dogs and cats. When there are images that show people that sometimes they might even have my age I feel that in another way, I feel more like some king of enigma. In some kind of appropriation of a memory that it is not yours but suddenly it is. Sure that this raises other questions. The invasion suspicion for example, but to me that re-exist, that feeling of projecting me in the other, that dream, that fiction is something beautiful.

R. That Grand Canyon image, that seems to be from the 50`s, she is already your in that way.
C. The image becomes mine, although she doesn`t belongs to me, although she was bought. But that is something that I do also with some friends. With Lauren Moya Ford for instance. I can say that we are working in a book where we share images, we agglomerate ideas, and images always end up getting closer formally. Sometimes I don`t even know already who shot what. I imagine that it could have been me making Lauren`s photo. Even in conversations in an exhibition context there is, with the public, a dialogue symbiosis. It`s an amazing connection, a 100% match! 
With Zé (José Almeida Pereira) happens the same! For example, when he went to Miami in one of his latest’s travels, I asked him to use a film I had offered to him, and he did those photos. In that sense, although it was he taking the pictures, those become my pictures.
I can give you another example about the look of the other. I once developed a project in witch I asked people to take photos of me, in a specific place, in a street walk. That exercise was a study that I developed, to understand better how each person (in its most anonymous people) would frame me. The differences were amazing. Some with more horizontal approaches, others more vertically, how they would get close to me, or the opposite. It is surprising how there are so many ways to see the other and especially how, in that moment people relate with the photographic device.

R. Going back to Grand Canyon, - do you think that by choosing the photo you are choosing your way of seeing that landscape, like if that choice was intrinsic to your way of seeing?
C. Yes, without a doubt, I believe that my choice is my look. The fact that images are not perfect attracts me immediately.

R. The boot of the exhibition happens with that image in the window, and serves as an invitation to the outside to allow entrance in a universe a little bit deeper, that obliges to a search and abstraction.
C. Yes, that image turns out to be inviting, for its beauty, both aesthetically, as chromatic, and at the same time for its scale. Then the relationship of that image dialogues with a more thorough collect work, seamed interesting to me. That image is the beginning, is an opening that comes from a whole, to invite then to force the attention to another whole again, but way more meticulous.

R. Like in a parallel narrative, I imagine. That image serves as boot to establish relationship with the archive made between collects and discoveries. Leaving space for people to relate. This table, for instance looks like an archeologist or an investigator table. This here right now is so many moments.
C. Yes, this is my worktable. In several stages and evolution. Imagine in this moments several objects that relate between themselves. The constellation between some objects and books are a dialogue of interests and then, there is an approach focused in some elements. If there is a chance to empty that table (withdraw) and give space for other elements. Inevitably relationships start being established and they can be formal or even chromatic.

R. Like if it’s a game?
C. Yes, sometimes makes me think in some type of Lego, where I can make a reading and relate to a certain object. Then I add conversation ideas, or from other readings.
In addition to photos, there are also some postcards, which I collect when I travel or if someone offers to me. Usually the ones I am more interested in are like... imagine, the postcards that people would do…

R. In this particular case a couple entering a cave… You also present rocks. Do you collect them from the travels you do?
C. Yes, I always collect rocks in the paths. They always call for my attention and I imagine how beautiful is its design, I see time patina in various ways. And they always reveal something.

R. Just like a photo.
C. In fact everything relates with photography, even the dyed fabrics I am going to use. They relate with the recording and revealing process. I collect plants that I select in different places. Then I went deep in a research about methods of making those organisms steady. Curiously is more complex that we imagine. It is necessary to use a specific type of fabric, with a natural origin because synthetics don`t have the ability to grab color, - in the end, the research time follows the resting time of the process. Resting for a long time makes these organisms inside bottles and in contact with chemicals and plants end up gaining mold and other fungus. Something semi alive / alive happens. And that interests me. Each plant is a discovery; they give different colors and this lonely research, to discover as you go along, without wanting to know too much, ends up to be a revelation. After that I started planting some plants that I could use to dye.
For example, calendula, - they are great to dye, or even hibiscus and fern.

R. There are so many layers that always seem to lead to this revelation, - revelations on fabrics, and revelations in photos, revelations in the discovery of collecting images and the revelation of crossing al those materials between themselves.
C. Yes. I think a lot in shroud, that idea of fixing an image, but it is never a defined image. Is more like a spectrum. I like when there is not a perfect revelation, it is like if it was a failure. In all the ways of doing, I like when things are not perfect. I like when painting is not perfect, - maybe because I cant do it perfect, but the truth is that the possibility of accept imperfection gives more freedom in creation, because allows more space to error, for experience. Not doing only to serve the goal to which is meant. I like photography with mistakes.
For example, my CONTAX T2 has a light entrance and I keep working with that machine. That light that it’s a fail ends up by making part of the machine identity. I assume the nature in that error so as in the imperfect images. The evolution of the machine itself leads to an amplitude more and more present but to me, there is no machine like this one.

R. In the exhibition, you have photos made with her.
C. Yes, probably. You know that when I started using this 35mm compact machine, with a Carl Zeiss lens I felt the difference. Before light starts to enter it was the best machine I ever used. I also had a FUJI NATURA that I bought to a Japanese seller in a website. Unfortunately it developed a problem in the engine, the guide came in Japanese adding difficulty in repair, along with the fact that it was unknown. It was a great machine too. But by working with Contax T2 with a 36 film, I know that 4 to 5 of the photos come without that source of light.

R. Going back to the exhibition, why this title, Desterra?
C. it had to be something to do with earth and nature. I confess that I like words that don’t exist. This look is a look to the past but also a look about fragments, and we look to objects in a more and more fragmented way, but quite far from a primitive look. Today it seems that we have another way of looking. We look to earth or nature in a fragmented way, we see her destroyed or hurt, and in that measure, this name transmitted me that fragmentation, that look into a whole. These elements are part of a whole and they present a break, a tearing apart. We know very well how to see, remove, analyze, and this universe I am presenting is filled with remains. The trees skin, the rocks, the photos, the seeds.

R. Eucalyptus skin relates with materiality of this fabric and gains a ritualistic dimension.
C. Yes, it is another skin, a micro landscape, a kind of divine critic and in a way becomes a narrative process. Eucalyptus skin immediately dialogues with fabric that in his turn shares the same aura with the mineral, for instance jet.
By the way, jet is a mineral that accumulates sand, plants, and pieces of animals. Is in itself a fossil gem that gathers a whole of elements. She is born from the action of oceanic pressure in a sedimentary rock composed by plants fossil remains, and is also know as black amber.

R. All these elements seem to establish between themselves a circuit of different processes.; collect, construction, - allowing to know elements that without human action also act in a certain way.
How does it work this thinking before the collect? Do you think in words or ideas?
C. I establish several relations, especially with research with words that come up in to my mind, and that I gathered in a notebook.

R. Can you give us some examples?
C. Energy, fluid, layer, crystallization, sediment, fossil ruin, erosion, all the matter, new rock, time matter.

R. Time matter…
C. Fossilized universe, aurora, meaning of life, time collect, atmosphere, “distime”, obsolete, inopportune, vision, superstition, prophecy, foreboding, “unevolution”.

R. Are those the words that overtake you while you think?
C. Yes, they are words that come to my mind, and I make some kind of synthesis.

R. They are words that work as a puzzle, also like the relationship between your elements. These relationships are infinite and you know better than anyone how they come together. For example, you have a small sphere in pink quartz so mill metrically polished that for me looking to the whole, works as a monolith in the middle of all the other irregular and somehow so pre-historical elements.
C. The truth is that if we relate him with these seeds, they are not so distant, we collect them from nature, - and all seems to be available to us in nature. I also think in human action as a repetition or a simulacrum.

R. Is astonishing to see this pyrite without any human intervention.
C. Yes, this crystal is a very good example. In the case of this mineral it works in a different way. While you go breaking the rock that contains pyrite, an irregular rock on the inside, - not showing much evidence about its interior, we find something surprisingly ordained and different from chaos.
I would love to experience holding a huge rock and to have pyrite falling geometrically in small perfect cubes. It should be something unprecedented, and magical!

R. The real perception in front of that mineral is almost unreal such the perfection of the geometrical design.
C. Yes, and the same happens with ice design.

R. Do you want to talk about your relationship with text? The relationship and Dialogue with books. They are fundamental for your research and become part of your work.
C. Everything happens from chance, from meeting that we cant even explain.
During the course of a day relations and very curious situations happen, and in the end they all seem to fit right. For example, even reading something new, or attending to a conference or watching a movie can enter in that relation and offer sequences. Memories or images end up by coming up. Books that always marked me were, for instance, illustrated encyclopedias. I will never forget those meetings since childhood; - flip through so many times, and some times repeatedly those encyclopedias. I believe that something gets recorded. I believe that it will be very different from this infinite access to information by digital ways. In the end, I question this “being always connected”, this constant digital access, and I question more about the implications, and how they occur in memory. Its different when you have ten books and you see constantly the same image. Fantasizing with those images and to think that twenty or thirty years after they will still be there and wont come out of your head. I know that there are images recorded from that relationship.
I also have the luck to have friends that recommend me a lot of books.

R. What are you reading at this moment?
C. I am reading Timothy Morton`s HUMANKIN, the TIME MACHINE from H. G. Wells; - Its introduction is extremely important. The book is a tale, talks about the story of a traveller through time.
I am very much interested in images with a vision especially at a geological level, but in terms of writing it is not extraordinary, although introduction relates in a very beautiful way with photography, and flourish time traveling.
I am also reading John Berger`s Why Look at Animals. Another book that I read sometimes is Goethe`s Travel to Italy, that combines geology with archaeology, which as a lot to do with my work, but I can tell you that it is necessary to have a certain state of mind in order to get full availability to connect with the book. And of course I could no miss science fiction books.
I am also re-reading parts of Arthur C. Clarke 2001 A Space Odyssey, precisely the monolith part. The book is amazing and the cinematographic work even more. I am also very interested in the work of Gaston Bachelard, Space Poetics; - for me is one of his most beautiful books. I-Ching is also a part of this collection of books that I refer to but I-Ching is not readable. But you know that some creative used it as a work tool; - John Cage, David Bowie.
Deep down you can create work from chance. I use I-Ching as if he gives me clues to new findings. I read values in an occasional way and I love the entrance about the Mountain for instance.

Its curious to think in the relation of your work with this space (or future space); - the store and studio (PRUDÊNCIO studio), a place with such a retro futuristic look. A recovered space and inhabited by a careful selection made by João Pedro Filipe, and full of possibilities thanks to these metallic panels designed by Diogo Aguiar studio, and with such a raw light, almost scientific.
I think about this huge distance between the space and your work, with all your essays and findings. I also think in these organisms full of other lives punctuating places and ending up looking further ahead than this time.
C. Deep down this vision of the Past is very Present, that I feel like Future.
Future is this; - those ruins, those dialogues that go beyond us.
Going back to the store and studio (PRUDÊNCIO studio) I understand that commercial character that obliges me to think of another exhibiting way, in another kind of approach, with another risk. There is no safety. The space is not empty and forces a dialogue, and in that measure we talk about some giving up something, about an invitation, another form of dialogue.

Did you went already to Galeria da Biodiversidade?
C. Yes I did, and I had a lot of fun.

From what you tell me I feel that your experience was more about a scientific and playful, and not that philosophical.
C. I feel that place as an extraordinary device, on what should be content. For example, you have a huge time machine just to let you know that an atom works in a certain way. What I can say is that I had a lot of fun there.
It is dazzling without being dazzling; I believe that it’s missing a more profound reflection. But I feel Jardim Botânico as one of the city`s most beautiful places. I believe that its nature, sometimes quite wild, has a lot to teach us…

Correlations are yet to be made, and many times with entities that are not so immediate.
C. But some moves forward are being made. I can say that I am waiting with a lot of expectation the talk with Les U. Knight about Human Extinction, for the Fórum do Futuro in Galeria da Diversidade. Let`s see…

Let's continue this interview to infinity…
C. Yes!

R. Thank you Cristina.

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