A artist Aline Motta's journey in search of her roots and traces of her ancestors is, without a doubt, a personal undertaking. The result, however, concerns the collective memory of thousands of Brazilian families built (or destroyed) in the violent process of formation of the country, based on slavery and the patriarchal structure.
“It took a while for me to acquire some maturity and psychic centering to deal with such deep and difficult issues that concern my own history and family”, says the artist in an interview with ARTE!Brasileiros. This time of maturation included not only some first artistic works that dealt with other themes, made especially from the beginning of this decade, but also a vast trajectory as a film continuist, which began in 2001.
It was from 2016, when he had the project Bridges over Abysses selected by the Rumos program, from Itaú Cultural, that Motta, now 45 years old, started to dedicate himself full time to his authorial works, with a multimedia production that did not leave cinema aside, but also unfolded in installations, photographs, texts , publications and performances.
In addition to the Rumos project, works such as (Others) Fundamentals, If the Sea Had Balconies, Natural Daughter e Memory game – the latter, winner of the IMS ZUM Scholarship and still under development – took the artist to several cities in Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais and Bahia and to overseas crossings to Portugal, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. And, in different ways, they deepened a research on Motta's family history and, at the same time, on the African heritage in the formation of Brazil.
Last September, the artist was awarded, along with Dalton Paula, Dora Longo Bahia, Ismael Monticelli and Rodrigo Bueno, with the Marcantonio Vilaça Award, in its 7tha edition. In this context, the ARTE!Brasileiros talked to Motta about his trajectory and production. Read below.
ARTE!✱ — His work seems to have moved, over the years, more forcefully towards social and political discussions. They were not previously absent, but they seemed less explicit than formal and language concerns. Does it make sense to think so? How do you see your trajectory?
Aline Motta — Certainly discussions around racial issues were gradually taking shape in my work, as I felt more confident and prepared to approach this subject with the rigor and research that I deemed necessary. It took a while for me to acquire some maturity and psychic centering to deal with such deep and difficult issues concerning my own history and family.
ARTE!✱ - Through a personal research on family memory, you also deal with a vast universe of collective memory, which has to do with the historical violence in the formation of Brazil, with slavery, with patriarchy. I wanted you to tell me a little about that research and what you discovered from it.
The research started based on the genealogy of my own family, in this case I am the result of an interracial marriage. It soon became evident that genealogical research into white family members could continue. ad infinitum, since many were cousins and married among themselves, in line with the common arrangements in which many families of Portuguese origin were formed in Brazil. As for the black family, I had to look in not so obvious places, but I found, for example, abundant documentation on slavery in the Paraíba Valley, going against the idea that these papers were burned. They weren't. Therefore, it is urgent to give visibility to this documentation and to carry out critical studies of iconography, especially that of the XNUMXth century, so that no one else can feel entitled to propagate untruths or minimize the effects of slavery in our country.
ARTE!✱ - In an interview, you stated that we are a violently racist country and that few remedial measures have been implemented over time. To what extent would you say that art can also have a reparatory role, whether in the sense of “doing justice” or in the more healing way?
Perhaps a work in visual arts can awaken in a certain audience some deep connections, which can lead to some understanding about personal, family, collective traumas. Even so, it is something restricted and the visual arts are still a very elitist field. In other words, talking about healing does not take into account the complex ways of being and being in the world that we have to face on a daily basis, often embracing a series of contradictions just to keep us alive or to behave as is expected of us. Regarding the concept of “justice”, I am quite skeptical, since at all times we need to explain the obvious in relation to reparatory measures such as racial quotas, for example, and even then these few measures are fiercely contested.
ARTE!✱ - In his works that deal with memory, the place taken by “gaps” and “erasure” is also remarkable. How do you deal with these gaps?
From the moment gaps appear, it is up to our imagination to create a past and a future for this lack.
ARTE!✱ - To what extent would you say that the erasure and manipulation of history and memory are the causes (or the perpetuators) of violence and inequalities in Brazil even today?
The purposeful way in which this erasure is carried out daily in our society is just one more factor that explains why certain families continue to rule this country since the hereditary captaincies.
ARTE!✱ - Both in terms of racism and machismo, two themes that are very present in his work, there seems to be a very complex picture in Brazilian society today. If on the one hand the black and feminist movements gained strength and protagonism, on the other we see a conservative movement with a strong sexist and racist profile also gaining more and more space. How do you see this moment?
I hope that these conservative movements that, in fact, attempt against life – after all, are speeches of death –, turn against themselves. Realize that the black culture in our country is a culture of resistance, therefore of affirmation of life and emancipation of the being, through processes lived collectively. This goes in the opposite direction of these movements of deeply individualistic, narcissistic, militarily hierarchical motivation, which do not take into account life in common.
ARTE!✱ - In your works you use different languages and media – photography, video, text, performance, documents. I would like you to tell me a little about how this work is done. Usually, the themes to be worked on, the supports, come first, or is each case different from the other?
I think that the works are truly interdisciplinary, bringing together various fields of study and artistic knowledge, reflecting my training a little outside the standards and which also does not follow a linearity. So, it's natural for me that the works unfold in various supports over a long period of time, which sometimes gives me the feeling that I'm building an extensive and unique work.