Lingual (Descending), 2019
Exhibition view at IVS gallery, Karachi. Photo: Humayun Memon
In May 2016, the Brazilian historian-activist Luiz Mott left several documents his NGO, the “Grupo Gay da Bahia”, had generated over the years to the Schwules Museum*. One such document was a small pamphlet recounting the murder of the “first indigenous gay martyr of Brazil,” Tibira do Maranhão – a Tupinamba man – by the French colonialists in 1614. Departing from this curious and relatively unknown incident, whose only record is in the travelogue of Yves d’Évreux, a French priest, the installation reconstructs a silenced historical scene: First he was baptized, in order to save his soul, then paraded around and given copious amounts of tobacco to smoke. Once intoxicated, he was placed into a cannon and blown up. The silent figures add up: Tibira’s fate belongs to millions of muted, marginalized, and othered voices, all echoing into the present day. The installation purposefully fragments images drawn from multiple sources, presenting a visual echo chamber: 17th century studies of Brazilian landscapes, flora, and native inhabitants by colonial-era painters, details of cannons and soldiers from Western war paintings of the time, a body cut up into pieces and scattered across the scene. Painted with blue ink on ceramic tiles, it aesthetically simulates precious porcelain, a medium often used to depict historical scenes from the Early Modern period of mercantile exchange. A handmade artist book, placed on a music stand in front of the painted tiles, translates various research strands into anecdotal scores. Collaborators contribute to the assembled texts with observations, images, and interviews on the role of sound in history, from modern political protest songs to the “language” of Amazonian birds.
Text by Ashkan Sepahvand
“It’s either today, or not tomorrow!”, announces the speaker to his bewildered audience. With passionate enthusiasm, he points out the deficiencies of the status quo and calls for a reorganization of things. His struggle turns into rhythmic sounds and chanted songs. They are student protests and marches against oppressive governments, which are part of a diverse sound collage played over two sound speakers placed on top of a black-and-white landscape through which roads are drawn. They offer us different definitions of the English “simple present” tense and represent the idea of the progression of time and its grammatical translation within a language system. Lucas Odahara examines the specific state of time within revolutionary processes with “Tempos Verbais (the Volume of History and the Balance of Time)” and brings up the question of how the idea of time can be materialized in space. According to Walter Benjamin, the moment of the revolution possesses the ability to break up the continuum of history. When time describes the progress of the present from the past into the future, the outbreak of a revolution can expose this irreversible flow of time for a moment. During the act of protest, when a collective dissatisfaction is released, the present can be isolated from the past and the future, and an alternative historical path can be taken.
The sound installation is a joint project by Lucas Odahara and the designer and sound artist Pedro Oliveira. From their own sound recordings and found online footage the two artists create a continuously growing archive of protest songs. Excerpts from this archive are presented for the first time in the Kestnergesellschaft as part of an audiovisual installation. The sound work will never be complete, as worldwide protests take place and new material is continuously being added into the archive.
original text in German by Elmas Senol
In April 1500, a Portuguese ship expedition took sight of Land after a long journey over the Atlantic. The chronicler Pêro Vaz de Caminha reports in a letter to the Portuguese king about the discovery and take over of the still unknown island. He calls it Ilha de Vera Cruz, the island of the true cross. But it soon becomes clear that it is a huge mass of land and in fact the expedition has landed in today’s Brazil. The historical letter, written under false assumptions, creates a fascinating distorted portrait of South America, characterised by facts, courage, and self-willed interpretations.
The island, which only existed for a short time, is the starting point for Lucas Odahara’s multi-part room installation. He combines historical documents with fictional writings and narratives, with which he refers to the objects in the exhibition space. These are reminders of a past life - furniture, a book shelf, self-made ceramic bowls - which can be interpreted in a variety of ways.
Odahara is aware of the fact that history is not something fixed, but is always recreated when looking back at it. The past is confirmed, rewritten or completely erased. In this sense he is also not interested in an authentic reenactment. He creates an artificial arrangement in which his personal access, his own version of Ilha de Vera Cruz remains visible. He thus presents the confrontation with history not as something finished in time, but as a necessary process of self-assurance.
Original text in German by Ingo Clauß
I went to work under the influence. The thought of love kept me from producing, wonder was deducted from the paycheck and my unpaid bills diagnosed a condition: from that night on I would fall asleep under a sense of disorder.
In 1924, the Russian astronomer Alexander Chizhevsky published the article “Physical factors of the historical process”. Chizhevsky analyses cycles of the sun’s activity in relation to the succession of historical events. According to him, the 11-year cycles of the sun produce mass excitement on Earth, and its peaks of activity coincide with social revolutions around the globe. The disposition of the body affects one’s actions as well as directing our feelings towards what actions are possible. The body is not only as a machine moving us along the day, it’s also sensible and governed by our mood. Abnormalities of mood is described as mood disorders, defined in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a handbook for the psychiatry first published 1952. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a diagnosis also connecting the body and sun, is listed among the mood disorders. One treatment for SAD is light therapy. This technique promises results such as increase of productivity and has been widely advertised since then.
The exhibition Under the Influence. Above, the Sun is a survey on mass revolutions and the body. In his work, Lucas also seeks to reflect on what it means to be productive and how it is defined by society’s current ideology. Actions are labeled right or wrong, productive or lazy, promiscuous or beautiful according to an institutional framework of order and disorder. Could a body resisting the present system be considered well and could actions not accumulating value be considered right? In in post-revolution Russia, Chizhevsky meant that the active sun sparked the feelings of possibility for political and historical change. Today, light therapy is instead integrated as a part of the corporate landscape. In this exhibition, Lucas wants to address the feeling of hopelessness towards society and experiment on how we can redirect the signification of being productive.
The exhibition consists of four works. Under the Influence is a series of light therapy boxes built by the artist to create an image that affects you physically. Mood Board is a collection of online articles giving advice for dealing with mood disorders, showed together with the book Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (reviewed), a reprint of the DSM5 where every iteration of the word mental was corrected with the word public. Tempos Verbais (the Volume of History and the Balance of Time) is a sound archive of protests songs made in collaboration with Pedro Oliveira. For this show a new selection was made with protests that took place on the last peak of activity of the sun, that is, 2011-2013, thus mainly encompassing sounds from the Arab Spring.
text by Nora Hagdahl
Lucas Odahara, reflecting on housing prices in various places he has been around the world, tells a short, poetic and funny love story. On each square meter of graph paper, the classic format for architectural drawings, he positions a completely subjective photograph, each representing a location, from Berlin-Kreuzberg to Rio de Janeiro and Venice. He then applies price tags to these square meters in reference to the specific location, leaving it open whether it is the price per square meter for building land, for a real estate purchase or for rental. In fact, Lucas Odahara did not use statistical surveys to find these prices, but asked the people he knows in the places how much they pay. Ultimately, here too, a subjective approach is given, linking the socio-politically immanent question of affordable housing with an individual story. However, the huge differences between the cities and sometimes perverted housing prices remain visible and thus also a general sociopolitical commentary. He transmits it to the visitors by offering them to buy a square meter piece of art in the exhibition themselves - at the price that would cost the square meter in the city, characterised through the photo (which is often not specific to the place it shows) and the tag price. Each time one buys a square meter of the art of Lucas Odahara with the printing of a photo in the center, one pays very different prices. The distinction is thus not only about the fact that certain photos are particularly pleasing, but also in terms of what one can afford, which is also indicated by the price tag. Incidentally, in the sense of art market prices, one always makes a bargain, which is an additional irony of this work.
But Lucas Odahara leads the general sociopolitical reflection in the two large framed works that form the core of the installation and reclaim their importance in relation to the square meter pile to be sold, in a literary level, which he pointedly points out and leaves room for one’s own associations. In the poetic-comic-romantic narrative of a man who can not pay his rent and is limited by his landlady to accommodate himself to one half of his room, while in the other half she brings another man in which he inevitably falls in love, Odahara creates a beautiful as well as ironic approach to the topic of living as a quality of life, as an individual freedom and as an existential current socio-political issue. The fact that this German-English written story has to be deciphered only on the silver background of the building materials and thus more clearly reflects the square meter prints and the locks, which firmly connect these elements, points to how much this narrative is only a formulation of the general question he poses. A story that can happen to anyone.
Original text in German by Ingmar Lähneman
Choreographie für Zeit (Choreography for Time) is a series of works developed for the attic of the Welpinghus’ house. The house is located in the village of Borgholzhausen in Germany and was built in 1487, most of the time being owned by the family Welpinghus.
The works are permanently installed at the attic, and depart from the story The Performance of Time, which is told as a video produced for the show and narrated by Ludwig Welpinghus. In the story, Time, as the main character, moves incessantly in the attic of the house when nobody is watching, in ways that the family living downstairs can hardly understand. The video is also a documentation of the construction of the work Historiography. For this work, the inhabitants of Borgholzhausen were invited to take part in the construction of a brick structure. Functioning as a choreography itself, 200 bricks were taken from the basement of the house and brought up to the attic, one by one. Each brick having one side marked with ‘Wiederholung’ (Repetition) and the other side with ‘Abweichung’ (Deviation).
With the story as a starting point, a series of works in different media were produced, from the construction of Historiography, to the production of the book Partitur für Zeit, where all the documents gathered by the family since 1792 are put together as music sheet. On each document of the book, the year is marked and a historical annecdote is written on it. Notes that connect to Lucas Odahara’s own history, spanning from south american historical anedoctes, to art history and gay culture.
Among the site specific works, time is portrayed as an inevitable connection between the specific attic of the Welpinghus family and other events worldwide – with works such as ‘Wie Weit Kannst Du Sehen? (How far can you see?), 2016 , a brass plate with the sentence ‘Kannst du die Revolution sehen?’ (Can you see the revolution?) written on it, installed on the window of the attic with a view to the village.
La Villa de Veraneo and Reenacted Garden (1913) were produced and installed at Villa Iris in Santander, Spain (Fundación Botin). It is a story that takes place in different parts of the house. On the walls, printed on yellow patches, is an excerpt of the story about Elloy Martínez del Valle (the original architect of Villa Iris), who finds himself in 1914 on the day that the I World War erupted, one year after the construction of the Villa. The character walks around the building and wonders about the ornaments of the house and its motives based on nature, while being interrupted by thoughts on the war outside the Villa’s gates.
Reenacted Garden (1913) is a series of negative forms in red clay of those same architectural ornaments from the building. Ornaments that presented natural themes, such as leaves and flowers from balustrade, pillars and tiles, exhibited in different parts of the house.
A Suitable Height for Highness is a series of works exploring verticality as a constant symbol of power, achievement and manhood, focusing on not only the eternal desire for height and sovereignity, but also on its limits, when we are reminded that structures of power, when translated into physical ones, are bounded to structural limits and all its consequences.
For A Suitable Height for Highness (Chapter One), firstly shown at the elevator of the Städtische Galerie Bremen, an art transport crate holds a brass plate telling the story of the first Imperial palm tree imported by the Portuguese royal family to Brazil. The tree, named as Palma Mater and planted by the King himself in the botanic garden in Rio, was established as symbol of nobility in the country. Achieving the height of 38,70m, the imported palm tree was higher than any other native Brazilian palm, and due to its height was destroyed by a lightning bolt – a common fate for their kind.
All the other iterations of the work deal with the topic from different perspectives, such as A Suitable Height for Highness (Chapter Two), where a portuguese tile drawing found in a monastery in Salvador, Brazil depicting the Babel Tower is redraw on tiles and duplicated, connecting the towers of the drawings into one single higher one, with the writing ‘Successful lovers’ on it. Here, the catholic tale usually representing misunderstandings and mankind’s greed is restaged by building the idea of love as an impossible structure between two scenarios of men planning to reach heaven.