"In Depth" (Landmines) / Angolla Series #1”, 2018, mineral pigment printing on Hahnemulle Matte paper, edition 1/5 +1PA, 110 x 72 cm

“Closer to PIPA: the artist speaks in the Institute collection” with Alice Miceli

Alice Miceli is the fourth guest of this new Institute and PIPA Prize project, “Closer to PIPA: the artist speaks in the Institute collection”. Every fifteen days we select an art piece that was acquired by the Institute and ask the artist to talk a little bit about the work: be it the creative process; the ideia behind the piece; how it connects with the artist’s production; or any other aspect the person would like to share. The goal is to bring the audience closer to the artist’s universe and to the “Displacement” collection by PIPA Institute, which was established in 2010 to support, help document and promote the development of Brazilian contemporary art, and which has the Prize as one of its initiatives. This time, we chose the series “Campos Minados – Angola”.

Alice Miceli develops her work through researches in investigative travels with the intention of presenting visual, physical and cultural manifestations of the traumas that took place in natural and urban landscapes. The artist works with photography and video, focusing on the barriers and potentialities of these media and their specific materiality. Dealing with social and political topics, Miceli explored, for instance, places such as Chernobyl’s exclusion zone, in Belarus, and she worked with files of people who were murdered in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime. In another research, she photographed and examined minefields in places still infested with landmines, such as Cambodia, Angola, Colombia and Bosnia. Her goal is to visually highlight the consequences of the contamination by mines and by other war explosive remnants in diverse contexts of severely affected regions.

“In depth (minefields) #03”, Bosnia series, 2016. Obudovac community, Šamac municipality, BiH, 9 large scale prints

In 2014, Alice was elected the winner of PIPA Prize by the Award Jury, and she was also the most voted artist at the Finalists Exhibition at MAM Rio, winning the PIPA Prize Popular Vote Exhibition. She presented at the show the series “Campos Minados – Cambodia”, which she donated to the Institute at that time. The trip to Angola, commissioned by the PIPA Institute, was Alice’s last destination for the “In depth: minefields” series, also comprised of  photographs taken at the minefields of Cambodia, Colombia and Bosnia. The complete series, acquired by the PIPA Institute, was presented for the first time in 2019 in an exhibition at Villa Aymoré (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). At the event, the artist talked to the curator Luiz Camillo Osorio. Check out a quote by Camillo concerning the images:

“[…] to let appear what is not evident, what can’t be be captured and which, in some way, is an element that is missing when we describe the image and we have no means to describe the mine. It remains as a potentiality that doesn’t show itself”.

To read the full curatorial text, click here.

View of the exhibition “In depth (minefields)”, Galeria Aymoré, 2019

Then, read the text the artist sent us about her work to contribute to its understanding:

“The work process in Chernobyl made me consider landscape representation issues. Specifically concerning a landscape that, in this case, was altered in a fundamental but invisible way; a landscape that is empty, but at the same time full of an invisible energy: radiation that is all around the space, but which doesn’t show itself to our eyes, except through the destruction traces that it leaves behind and through the “negative” space that ends up occupying in a permanent way, because, for intents and purposes, taking in consideration the human temporality, the duration of the radioactive contamination is eternal. After I finished the Chernobyl project, I realized that I wanted to take this matter forward and to think about what other inaccessible spaces are in the world, and what other representation issues they could raise. The next step, it occurred to me, would be to look at sites taken over by mines and by other explosives remnants of wars. 

Even though these sites, such as Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone and the minefields in multiple parts of the world, are the result of traumatic events like wars, conflicts and disasters and are historically located in time with a fixed date, they are not limited, however, to the past. They endure, extending themselves to the present time, provided that Chernobyl is still taken by invisible gamma radiation to this day, and will continue to be for centuries; and Angola, Colombia, Cambodia and Bosnia also remain with their environments taken up by explosives even decades after the end of the conflicts that are responsible for this situation. They are, in this way, occupations that remain contemporary to our current existence on the planet. 

One of the places with the worst “contamination” by land mine scenarios continues to be, nowadays, Angola. During the independence war against Portugal, which ended in 1975, this kind of explosives was used, and then, during the twenty years of civil war that followed the independence, it was used as well, extensively, resulting in the biggest density of explosives per square meter on the planet. In Angola, in certain regions, there are more mines than people. 

In this situation, inside the space of a minefield, position is the most critical element: the difference between one step and the other could be the difference between life and death. A position that, in photography, articulates what is seen and from where, from which and from how many centimeters of ground there are bellow our feet. Thus, the poetic operation happens exactly in the activation of these elements both in relation to my role of deciding to access and to create viewpoints in this taken up space – where, in theory, no one should set foot anymore –, as well as in the consequence of this action to the photographic image, of what this image shows to us in the tension between these two poles”.

Check out the photographs from the Angola series (a tip: click on the first photograph on the left to expand, and then click on the right arrow on the keyboard to visualize the series and to feel like you’re walking through the space with the artist):

Alice participated in one of PIPA Podcast’s episode. To know more about it, click here (the audio is only available in Portuguese).

To know more about the PIPA Institute’s collection, click here.



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