Site-specific public art / net art.
Collaboration with Daniel Rourke.
In Portuguese, ‘atropelar’ is the act of running over something or someone; in Brazilian graffiti culture, the term is used to describe the act of running over someone else’s visual intervention by spraying on top of it. It is considered a sign of disrespect, an invitation to further conflict, in an ongoing battle of visual marks and linguistic encounters. In colloquial Brazilian Portuguese, the term can be used to describe the act of talking over someone – an act of silencing that is often gendered or racialized.
As part of the 2018 Walk&Talk Azores Festival, we travelled to three locations across the island of São Miguel, marking each site with an evolving visual billboard of pasted words and images. As we moved from one location to the next, a copy of the previous billboard was taken with us, becoming the canvas for the following intervention. We wanted to highlight the complex colonial narratives that criss-cross and overlap in the Azores islands. Our acts of ‘atropelo’ were designed to turn each iteration of the project into dissenting interventions, eventually building a series of overlapping inscriptions that addressed various systems of power that have marked the history of the Azores.
The first iteration of the billboard was pasted on the easternmost area of the island of São Miguel, facing Lisbon across the Atlantic. In it, a quote from Luís de Camões’ epic poem celebrating Portuguese colonialism, “Os Lusíadas” (often described as of the most significant literary works in the Portuguese language), is superimposed over a depiction of the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a monument erected in 1960 during the dictatorial Franco regime as an homage to a supposed ‘heroicism’ of Portuguese invaders and plunderers like Pedro Álvares Cabral, and to the expansionist impulse of the Portuguese nation. Immediately after pasting this poster, we ‘ran over’ it by graffiti-ing an excerpt from the song “Descobrimento do Brasil”, from Brazilian musician MC Carol. In the song, she challenges the hegemonic narrative of Portuguese heroicism, stating:
“Don’t get me wrong, but who discovered Brazil wasn’t Cabral”
For the second iteration of this work we travelled to the westernmost tip of São Miguel, the closest point to another island of the archipelago, Terceira. On March 16 2003, Terceira hosted what came to be known as the Atlantic Summit, where US President George W. Bush, British PM Tony Blair, Spanish PM José María Aznar and Portuguese PM José Manuel Barroso met to outline and release a joint statement, titled “A Vision for Iraq and the Iraqi People”. It was also in this summit that Bush gave Saddam Hussein the 48h ultimatum that preceded the official declaration of war and subsequent invasion of Iraq — thus cementing the summit as a key moment in 21st century imperialism. For this second public intervention, we photographed, printed and pasted the first graffitied poster. This was ‘run over’ with images of Bush and Blair from the summit’s press conference, which were in turn overlaid with a graffitied quote by Martinican philosopher Frantz Fanon, who stated:
“Decolonisation, which sets out to change the order of the world, is obviously a program of complete disorder”
For the final iteration of the billboards, we photographed all previous versions, pasting them at a site facing Brazil in the southern tip of the island. The Azores, due to their strategic location in the middle of the ocean and mild climate, were used as experimental testing grounds for colonial technologies which would be later deployed in Portuguese colonies — Brazil amongst those. Coffee and sugar plantations were first tested in the archipelago — a painful reminder of the horrors to come. Additionally, the archipelago provided a haven for slaver ships, which would sometimes stop there during the journey back from the Americas in order to replenish their supplies. In turning these interventions to the direction of Brazil we sought to examine the country’s difficult, convoluted relationship with former and contemporary colonial forces, which continue to shape everyday life.
Starting in July 2018, the project went online; beginning from the first two billboards created on the island, we invited a sequence of artists to ‘atropelar’ their own responses and interventions on art and colonialism on the project’s website, atropelos.com. Each of these artists is asked to invite a further artist to intervene in their work, and onwards, with the sequence continuing every other week until December 2018. The list of participating artists includes Lucas Odahara, Jennifer Martin, Umber Majeed, Jaider Esbell, Sorawit Songsataya, Te-Ariki Alistair Taniwha, Rasha Kahil, and Flore Nové-Josserand.
You can see the project at http://atropelos.com/
The project was featured on an article about the Walk&Talk Azores Festival on Frieze. You can read it here.