ONCE AGAIN WATER, FINALLY WATER . DOUGLAS DE FREITAS
Sandra Cinto’s work proposes the constant exercise of reconstruction, a desire for reconstruction, along with an attempt at reconstructing the ruins of the contemporary world. The artist resorts to a repertoire of symbolic elements – ladders, bridges, abysses, candlesticks, candles and toys – appearing in photographs, objects, drawings and installations, to create a dreamlike environment where melancholy and hope coexist.
A Casa das Fontes is the result of an investigation carried out by the artist in recent months on bandeirante1 architecture and the uses to which it was put. In the installation, functional water fountains are set up in the three main rooms of the Casa do Sertanista, for which the work was especially conceived. Made of cast concrete, the fountains establish a counterpoint between the contemporary city and the solidity of the bandeirante architecture and its rammed-earth construction. Sandra thus displaces public and intimate elements into the private realm through mention of the use of the house and its surroundings during the 17th century in a variety of functions currently inconceivable for a residential space, but which it fulfilled at that time and place due to its isolation in regard to the urban center. The rawness of the concrete, which the artist does not conceal, affirms the presence of these pieces in the world; their visual weight is out of keeping with the incorporeal lightness of the world of dreams, for as much as this is indicated by their shapes and their displacement from the public to the private realm.
The fountains involve symbolic elements that recur in Sandra Cinto’s oeuvre. If in previous works they appeared renewed, as allegories of a desired utopia, here they are situated between a public monument and gravestones of those utopias, testifying to their ruin. The water that circulates in each fountain leaves marks on it, contributing to the processes that are wearing it down. At the same time, a fountain always refers to the notion of a “wishing well,” into which one throws a coin to be granted a wish; therefore, in the struggle extensively discussed in the artist’s work, the affirmation of the world in ruins is presented with the possibility of better days, in a persistent exercise for the renewal of hope.
In a continuous cycle, the fountains also point to the time that passes. Everything that is cyclic indicates a marking of time, whether it is the rotation of the earth on its axis, or the movement of the tides as established by their relation with the sun and the moon. This marking of the cycle of waters in the fountains, however, is abstract. It is possible to note the constant passing of time, but it cannot be counted. In her own way, the artist evidences the displacement of time that we experience upon entering the house.
With a lower ceiling height, and outside the main axis of the house made up of the three rooms where the fountains are installed, the last exhibition room receives a series of fragments of fountains that did not work out right, were broken, or did not have the technical conditions to be used. The pieces were positioned in the same way they were found in the factory that produced the other works in the installation. These fragments bear testimony to failure, the possibility inherent to every attempt. They are records of histories that were never consolidated.
In the last seven years, the artist has developed her work in a reflection on water, whether a calm ocean horizon or a stormy sea. Water is also a fundamental element in the history of bandeirante architecture, where the constructions are always located near rivers, which served as paths for travel and transport in the old city. If in the artist’s drawing’s water is solidified as mountains,1 in this installation it is present in all its fluidity.
In A Casa das fontes, the water in and of itself is the only other element used besides concrete, and is opposed to the latter’s dryness. If it were not for its physical characteristics – tasteless, colorless and odorless – it would be more present than the concrete itself. Even though it is contained in the fountains, the water is what fills the space of the house, in a delicate way, with its sound and constant running. The water thus continues the question in Sandra Cinto’s work, no longer being its representation, but at long last, water itself.
1 Here, bandeirante refers to the sort of architecture characteristic of rural São Paulo in the 16th through 18th centuries, when the city served as a staging ground for the bandeiras – expeditions into the hinterland with the aim of enslaving Indians, or finding precious metals or stones.
2 Reference to the poem by João Cabral de Melo Neto, Imitação da água, [Imitation of Water], which guided the recent large exhibition of the same name held by the artist in São Paulo, at Instituto Tomie Ohtake, in 2010.