'Excerpt from Anatomy board,Uhuru', 2014
24 printed photograms,dimensions variable
image courtesy of the artist and EVA International
Catarina Simão (born 1972, Lisbon, Portugal) is an artist and independent researcher based in Lisbon. She workedas an architect after graduating from the Lisbon Faculty of Architecture in 1995. After some years combining practice in studios with teaching artistic drawing, she undertook postgraduate studies in Barcelona at Escola Tècnica Superior d’Arquitectura from 2000 to 2002. The subject of her thesis was net art and this was the starting point from which she could develop articles and theoretical studies for Catalan cultural institutions. She was the director of Foundation 30Km/s, Barcelona, and in 2008 she directed Luso-Phonia public sound art event. Soon after, she created a frame of research focusing on the Mozambique state film archive, founded shortly after Mozambique gained independence from Portugal in 1975. The contact with images from a radically different construction of European colonial history motivated her to create a series of art projects that have been exhibited from 2009 to the present. Recent exhibitions include: The School of Kyiv Biennial (2015), National Oleksandr Dovzhenko Centr, Kiev; Research as Suture (2015), Garage Museum, Moscow; Uhuru (2015), tranzit.sk Gallery, Bratislava; Revolutia portugheza in imagini (2015), National Council for the Study of Securitate Archives, Bucharest; Really Useful Knowledge (2014), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Report on the Construction of a Spaceship Module (2014), New Museum, New York; HomeWorks (2013), Ashkal Alwan, Beirut; These Are the Weapons (2013), Núcleo de Arte, Maputo, Mozambique; O barulhamento do mundo (2011), Africa.Cont, Lisbon; Manifesta 8 (2010), Murcia, Spain; Documente-se! (2010), Serralves Foundation, Porto; and Fora de Campo (2009), Atelier Real, Lisbon; among others.
Catarina Simão is a researcher and artist dedicated to the study of the political use of images. Her practice is shaped by long-term research projects that manifest as essay-like displays, combining archival film, photography, and video assemblages of old propaganda films produced during the struggle against Portuguese colonial occupation. Through an ‘in flux’ format she explores the nature of perception and encoded memory that is constructed through words, images, and archival concepts. She combines her activity as image collector with writing, the restoration of films, and other forms of engagement in local projects such as public talks and self-publishing.
In 2009 Simão travelled to Maputo, Mozambique, where she encountered the state film archive. Over the past seven years, she has created a frame of research focusing on the archive, which was founded shortly after Mozambique gained independence from Portugal in 1975. The new government considered cinema as a powerful tool to fight against imperialism, and as a result the archive contains socialist propaganda films from the 1970s and early ’80s. Through the archive, Simão accessed imagery that offers a radically different construction of European colonial history.
UHURU: stamp, geneology, anatomy (2015) is a mixed-media installation that displays a set of literary, pedagogical, and cinematic references taken from Mozambique’s history. Uhuru is the Swahili word for freedom – that is, freedom to work on one’s own land. The same word meaning freedom is pronounced uhulu in the language of the Makonde people, a tribe in Northern Mozambique, where the liberation struggle started in 1964. Following the establishment of liberation movements in Mozambique the word uhuru took on greater significance, assuming the full meaning of national independence.
Simão’s video piece Mueda 79 is an integral part of the installation. This video is based on an excerpt from Ray Guerra’s Mueda, Memory and Massacre (1981), the first fictional film made after Mozambique’s independence. In the distribution copies of the film only Portuguese dialogue was subtitled, but in Mueda 79 the artist has added Shimakonde and Swahili translations of songs and dialogue in this video. This act of translation uncovers not only dissident versions of the story but also brings forward gender-specific perspectives of the political action. Simão creates an effect of excess through description, repetition, by postponing the main narrative, and by shifting focus to new parallel stories within the story that is being told.
An original official stamp from 1980 and documentation from the film archive are also presented within the exhibition space. A collection of photograms shown references the work of Jean Luc Godard, Jean Rouch, and Ray Guerra. By unfolding a chain of relationships between films and the interference of colonial countries in their production, financing, and organization, Simão deals with a political reframing of these films. Through research and artistic intervention informed by cinematic representations from the Mozambique archive, she raises questions about representation in a culture with a colonial legacy.