||apexart - cape verde
|A Glimmer of Freedom
organized by Marzia Bruno
April 8 - May 6, 2017
Ex-Concentration Camp, Chão Bom
Tarrafal, Santiago Island, Cape Verde
9 am - 5 pm daily
Saturday, April 8, 4 pm
Featuring work by:
César Schofield Cardoso
A Franchise Exhibition Program exhibition.
venue on Google Maps
Djam Neguin, oCORPação, 2017, Performance
The exhibition concept for A Glimmer of Freedom is to use the former Concentration Camp Tarrafal, Santiago Island (Cape Verde), as a laboratory to analyze the history of the location and question the experiences and realities that coexist there. Six guest artists are invited to create site-specific artistic interventions that contain elements of reflection, creation, production, and interaction with the space, with the intention of making the identity and memory of the fortified 1,700 hectares’ camp tangible.
The camp’s inception was symbolically marked by the endorsement of a cabinet order issued by the oppressive Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar, in which he ordered the construction of a penal colony to be situated at a remote location far away from the public eye, intended for Portuguese political prisoners. On October 29, 1936, the first 151 “deportees” arrived. The architectural construction lasted many years due to geographic and budgetary circumstances. It became known as the “Camp of Slow Death” because of its bad weather, poor food and health conditions, and a prison regime marked by extreme psychological and physical violence. It was common for prisoners to be forced to dig trenches repeatedly, which created breeding grounds for mosquitoes that carried serious diseases, although there was no medicine and only barely-qualified health personnel. Over 18 years of operation, more than 360 Portuguese anti-fascist prisoners endured the dehumanizing and oppressive conditions, with three dozen recorded deaths. Mr. Fernando Tavares, a former political prisoner, recalls the “frying pan” cell as the harshest environment at the camp, designed to break a man’s soul. The cell earned its name as it alternated between periods of extreme hot and cold temperatures. In January 1954 the penal colony was closed due to the work of anti-fascists forces in Portugal and international pressure resulting from the Allied victory in World War II.
Meanwhile, liberation movements in Portugal and its African colonies were gaining spirit and strength, and the camp was re-opened in 1961 as a labor camp intended for the revolutionary resistance leaders from Cape Verde, Angola, and Guinea-Bissau who were campaigning for independence. Around 230 African nationalists were imprisoned and tortured at Camp Tarrafal during the 13 years of operation, up to its final closing date on May 1, 1974.
Camp Tarrafal was a stage for human sorrow, struggles, achievements, and victories. Anchored on these convictions, this exhibition intends, through artistic interventions and analysis of the experiences of the place, to underline the importance of memory and location. It will interpret and decode the dichotomies between the historical resistance/existence and the current existence/resistance.
A Glimmer of Freedom
As part of the exhibition A Glimmer of Freedom, Patti Anahory’s intervention Pedestals of [x]clusion appropriates existing elements that were built during the transformation of the camp into a museum to propose alternative narratives of the museological project. By creating volumes that interconnect narratives in historical and social axes in Empty Volumes [of] Memories, Anahory questions the possibility of memory reconstruction as it relates to violence in patrimonial and anthropological contexts.
Irineu Destourelles’ intervention is supported by his experience working in West Africa, analyzing and exploring the perpetuations of colonial discourse in confrontation with contemporary social contexts. In his work created for this exhibition he explores the duality between prisoners and captors, colonized and colonizers.
Challenged by not knowing the physical space in person, but reflecting on its dramatic history, Miguel Leal accepted the invitation to carry out an artistic intervention based on the concept of “baklteridade.” This being the starting point, which was also the feeling experienced by all the prisoners who passed through the camp, his intervention reflects aspects of the duality of existences in this context: appealing versus dark island; exotic place versus arid reality; paradise versus apocalyptic scenery; lost paradise versus remote, dark, and enigmatic land; forced exile versus resistance freedom.
If the immensity and burden of memory impose themselves on the space, then filling it invites and challenges visitors to relate to the emptiness and the imaginary. In this context, the keyword for Djam Neguin is occupation. His performances propose to be a sensory, spatial experience, admitting that each body-spectator can resize its course. The reality and daily life of the people who populate the space, combined with their memories, inspire each performance. The greatest challenge will be not only to bring elements that are their identities, but to bring them to themselves, their stories, their ways, and their bodies to occupy, to act, to manifest their “glimmers of freedom” through art.
Nelson Santos’ project Tchon Cubed is a figurative representation of the deconstruction of three cubes. The trio alludes to the physical body, the mental body, and the emotional body that are symbolized through concentric and progressively-opening three boxes. Santos’ intervention is anchored by the demand for freedom – represented symbolically by the existential trinity of the body, soul, and spirit –that is conceptually transported to the process experienced by the prisoners before, during, and after passage through the Tarrafal camp. The unfolding of the cube in a cross, on the horizontal plane, serves as a reference and tribute to those who have been freed from the law of life through death. Although final, death is, after all, a liberation.
César Schofield Cardoso’s Rust series seeks to question the current status of the “Camp of Slow Death,” placing it in context and reflecting on the social and cultural measures that the government of Cape Verde intends to implement for the site. The series is subdivided into three interventions: Closing Sea, Perpetual Cycle, and Hard Water. In these three interventions the "before" and the "now" are constant parameters of analysis. They cover issues of isolation and imprisonment; direct and indirect discourses of power, oppression, and exclusion; new forms of direct or indirect violence; and a reflection on water and the ritual of seeking it out, its collection, use and reuse, and as an object of consumption, as vital as blood.
A Glimmer of Freedom is a contemporary art exhibition that questions, analyzes, preserves, and reveals the space through elaboration, creation, and activation of new perspectives within a historical context.
Marzia Bruno © 2017
Franchise Exhibition Program 2016-17
We wish to thank the IPC - Cultural Heritage Institute (Cape Verde) for allowing use of the space and for their logistical support; the Municipality of Tarrafal (Cape Verde) for on-site logistical support; and CITCEM - Transdisciplinary Research Centre Culture, Space and Memory (FLUP, Portugal) for their research and support.
Free and open to the public.
Marzia Bruno is an Italian Ph.D. researcher at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Porto. She also holds a Master's degree in Art Studies - Museum and Curatorial Studies from the same institution. In her research, Bruno focuses on the internationalization of contemporary art and relevant explanatory strategies. Using traveling exhibitions as a point of departure, she develops an alternative framework for the constraints, mechanisms, and implementation processes for contemporary art exhibitions. Through this shift of settings for a traveling exhibition – in which the peculiarity is that there is a traveling idea instead of traveling artworks – she successfully planned, executed, and managed a series of three contemporary art exhibitions (two in Portugal and one in Cape Verde), and carried out educational experiences for its visitors.
apexart’s programs are supported in part by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Buhl Foundation, the Degenstein Foundation, Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Greenwich Collection Ltd., Affirmation Arts Fund, the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, the Fifth Floor Foundation, and with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.