LISBON.- Cristina’s History takes as its starting point the story of four generations of a branch of
Mikael Levin’s family, of which Cristina is a descendant.
It unfolds from the mid-19th century to our own times, and streches from the town of Zgierg in
central Poland to the west-african nation of Guinea-Bissau, by way of Lisbon. These three places,
photographed between 2003 and 2005, correspond in each case to a narrative which interweaves
the lives of the characters and historical events to which those biographies are linked. As the trajectory
of a Jewish family through modern European history, a journey in which each new hope is met with
invariable disappointment, Cristina’s History challenges the idea of continuous progress. This does not,
however, mean ceding to nostalgia. nor is it an affirmation of the notion of an ineradicable identity.
What this work does do is attests to the possibility of inventing one’s life based on, but without being
dependent of tradition. Although the story – or at least the idea of a story – no doubt determined the
photographic project, the text and the images in a fact move along parallel lines. It is through the gap
that the relationships are etablished; between the different histories and the images of the present,
between the different lives described and the places where they are not, or between the narrative space,
most often closed and familial, and the visible space, open and public.
From such simplicity shaped by numerous complexities emerges a poetic work cast as a documentary.
It is a profound autobiographical work, though the author never appears. The space is configured
around three projection rooms corresponding to the territories represented. Within each room, each
cycle lasts approximately fifteen minutes and comprises some sixty images. a voice-over tells the
story. In the rooms devoted to Zgierz and guinea-Bissau, two projectors are mounted back to back
on a central pivot. The images rotate around the room, like the beams of a lighthouse, stretching and
bending to the contours of the walls. In the Lisbon room, three projectors cast their images alternately
at fixed locations.
“I met Cristina da silva-schwarz in guinea-Bissau in 2003.
Four generations back our ancestor, Isuchaar szwarc, a renowned Jewish scholar, lived in Zgierz,
in central Poland. In his lifetime Isuchaar saw his small medieval town transformed by industrialization.
He died as the nazis exterminated the Jewish communities. Isuchaar’s eldest son, samuel, settled in
Lisbon. a successful mining engineer also known for his scholarship, samuel lived in Portugal during
the waning decades of its colonial epoch. samuel’s daughter Clara settled in Portuguese guinea in 1947.
There she and her husband played a prominent role in the anti-colonial movement. since
guinea-Bissau’s independence, Carlos, their youngest son, has devoted his life to the agricultural
development of this impoverished nation.
Cristina is Carlos’ daughter.
I had always heard of this accomplished branch of my family. It occurred to me that their lives were
an embodiment of modernity’s positivist belief in mobility and progress. Jewish families are often
characterized by patterns of dispersal and migration, patterns that have of late come to characterize
the world population in general. While my images are specific, my intent is to go beyond the narrow
identifications of any particular community. It is the tension between the local and the global that
The condition of multiplicity, wandering, and exile, as shown in this story, suggests some principles
for an alternative foundation for cultural identification, based on tolerance and shared patterns of
— Mikael Levin
Born in 1954 in New York where he now lives, Mikael Levin has also lived in Israel and France. His
work Notes fromthe Periphery was presented at the 2003 Venice Biennale. That same year his work
was presented in a solo exhibition at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. In 2008, gilles Peyroulet
& Cie (Paris) presented his exhibition Seuil/ Treshold. Mikael Levin has also published War Story
quarta-feira, 9 de setembro de 2009
quinta-feira, 2 de julho de 2009
Photography in Mozambique was a great collective adventure for about two decades. It was defined by a few books, which, as a rule, were an extension of exhibits and gestures of international cooperation (Moçambique, A Terra e os Homens, 1983; Karingana ua Karingana, 1990; Maputo - Desenrascar a vida, 1997; Iluminando Vidas, 2002). When Europe discovered photography made by Africans, a few years back, Mozambique was in the front line (Africa, Africa, Copenhagen, 1993; Revue Noire, n. º 15, Paris, 1994). With life slowly turning normal in Mozambique (after the revolution and the civil war, after the election of 1994 or 1999…), the chapter of mobilization and propaganda that had called for photography headed to its natural demise and the routes forcibly turned personal. There had been nototious exceptions, such as José Henriques da Silva with Pescadores Macua (Lisbon, 1983 and 1998) and Moira Forjaz with Muitipi, Ilha de Moçambique (Lisbon, 1983).
The aforementioned adventure had trailblazers, Ricardo Rangel and Kok Nam, who came very soon into a colonial press that was more permissive that the one based in Lisbon and who set the models for the transition. More than some Portuguese tradition (Século Ilustrado?), the exciting example of the photographers of Drum magazine, in South Africa, must have made an impact. The adventure then had its headquarters and school, the Associação Moçambicana de Fotografia [Mozambican Association of Photography] and the Centro de Formação Fotográfica [Photography Learning Centre], in which dozens of photographers were trained, some of them more perseverant than others. It had a documental and political style, as a way to answer to the urgencies of socialism, war, hunger and the reconstruction. Times changed.
José Cabral came to this collective history in a unique way, having trained with his amateur photographer and filmmaker father — he also had a grandfather, homonymous, on his father’s side, who was a governor (1910-1938) and who had a park named after him in the old capital (Continuadores Park, today). He started in cinematography and he joined his experience as a news photographer to documental programmes of a less urgent nature. Later, he was probably the first to distance himself from the routines of journalism, and he made that challenge very clear with the choice of works in display in the Iluminando Vidas exhibit: instead of war, misery, victims, ruins and promises of reconstruction, that can still be seen yet another face for exoticism, he showed feminine nudes without any ethnographical pretext. The representation encountered some problems in Bamako, Mali, photographical capital in a country of Islamic severity.
His photography — particularly the fact that he shows it as the work of an artist — became more autobiographical and even more intimate, albeit free from any pretence to self-reference or narcissism. In the country’s new situation of economic growth, that is a battle that matters, a more individualist battle for convivial spaces. As Linhas da Minha Mão [The lines of my hand], in 2006, during the third edition of Photofesta, was an affirmation of the personal dimension of a gallery of portraits and places — meetings with people, landscapes, cities and trees all through Mozambique’s recent history.
The Urban Angels are children: his own three and then four and other people’s children, street children. The differences of colour and of social condition aren’t hidden, quite the opposite, they make the record of the unbearable inequalities more pungent and penetrating. José Cabral’s images are simple and beautiful, tender and terrible, but they always lack the weightings of chance, artifice and policy that so often are the easy formula of the art of photography. They are simultaneously direct and charged with emotion, without distancing themselves from life in search of metaphors. There’s a personal history and many collective histories in these images of Mozambique. One of them associates General Mouzinho de Albuquerque, who defeated Gunganhana in 1895, to Colonel José Cabral’s great-grandson, who had continued his plans for rail tracks and who made a statue to him, which has meanwhile gone down. It is just a family photograph, a child playing…
A fotografia em Moçambique foi uma grande aventura colectiva durante cerca de duas décadas. Ficaram a marcá-la alguns livros, que em geral prolongam exposições e gestos de cooperação internacional (Moçambique, A Terra e os Homens, 1983; Karingana ua Karingana, 1990; Maputo - Desenrascar a vida, 1997; Iluminando Vidas, 2002). Quando a fotografia feita por africanos foi descoberta na Europa, há poucos anos, Moçambique estava na primeira linha (Africa, Africa, Copenhaga, 1993; Revue Noire, nº 15, Paris, 1994). Com a normalização lenta da vida do país (depois da revolução e da guerra civil, depois das eleições de 1994, ou das de 99…), esse capítulo de mobilização e propaganda a que a fotografia tinha sido chamada encaminhou-se para o seu fim natural e os itinerários passaram a ter de ser individuais. Tinha havido alguns casos de excepção, como José Henriques e Silva e os Pescadores Macua (Lisboa, 1983 e 1998), Moira Forjaz e Muitipi, Ilha de Moçambique (Lisboa, 1983).
A referida aventura teve pioneiros, Ricardo Rangel e Kok Nam, que entraram muito cedo numa imprensa colonial mais liberal que a de Lisboa e construíram os modelos da transição. Mais do que uma tradição portuguesa (o Século Ilustrado?), terá contado o exemplo empolgante dos fotógrafos do magazine Drum, da África do Sul. A aventura teve depois uma sede e uma escola, a Associação Moçambicana de Fotografia e o Centro de Formação Fotográfica, no qual se fizeram dezenas de fotógrafos mais ou menos perseverantes. Teve um estilo testemunhal e militante, para responder às urgências do socialismo, da guerra, das fomes e da reconstrução. Os tempos mudaram.
José Cabral chegou por uma via original a essa história colectiva, praticando com um pai amador de fotografia e cinema – e, por sinal, também teve um homónimo avô paterno que foi governador (1910-1938) e um parque com o seu nome na velha capital (hoje Parque dos Continuadores). Começou pela fotografia de cinema e aliou a prática de foto-repórter a programas documentais menos determinados pela urgência. A seguir, terá sido o primeiro a distanciar-se da dinâmica jornalística, e tornou muito claro esse desafio com a escolha das obras para a exposição Iluminando Vidas: em vez de guerra, miséria, vítimas, ruínas e promessas de reconstrução, que podem ser ainda uma outra face do exotismo, mostrou nus femininos que não tinham qualquer pretexto etnográfico. A representação acabou por ter problemas em Bamako, no Mali, sede fotográfica e país de rigores islâmicos.
A sua fotografia – em especial a forma de a mostrar como trabalho de artista - tornou-se mais autobiográfica e até intimista, sempre sem pretender ser auto-referencial e narcísica. Essa é a outra luta que importava travar nas novas condições de crescimento do país, uma batalha já mais individualista para abrir espaços conviviais. As Linhas da Minha Mão, em 2006, por ocasião do 3º Photofesta, afirmava a dimensão pessoal de uma galeria de retratos e de lugares – encontros com pessoas, paisagens, cidades e árvores ao longo da história recente de Moçambique.
Os seus Anjos Urbanos são as crianças: os três e depois quatro filhos do fotógrafo e os filhos dos outros, as crianças da rua. Há diferenças de cor e de condição social que se não escondem, pelo contrário, e que tornam mais incisivo ou mais pungente o testemunho sobre as insuportáveis desigualdades. As imagens de José Cabral são simples e belas, ternas e terríveis, mas sempre sem os cálculos de acaso, artifício ou programa que são tantas vezes a fórmula fácil da arte fotográfica. São ao mesmo tempo directas e carregadas de emoção, sem se distanciarem da vida à procura de metáforas. Há uma história pessoal e há muitas histórias colectivas nestas imagens de Moçambique. Uma delas associa o general Mouzinho de Albuquerque, o vencedor de Gungunhana em 1895, ao bisneto do coronel José Cabral, que tinha continuado os seus planos de vias férreas e lhe ergueu a estátua, entretanto apeada. É só uma fotografia de família, uma criança que brinca…
sábado, 9 de maio de 2009
capa e guardas
ed. Le Point du Jour, Cherbourg-Octeville, France & Museu Colecção Berardo, Lisboa
textes : Jean-François Chevrier, Carlos Schwarz, Jonathan Boyarin
& Mikael Levin (Agradecimentos)
Zgierz, Pologne pag. 16; Lisbonne, Portugal 48; Guinée-Bissau 80.
162 pags., P/B; Fr., En., Pr.