Caio Reisewitz: Cassino
“If we pay attention and be quiet
– if we pay attention and be quiet –
we might hear
lost in the air.”[i]
Whoever comes upon the most recent series by Caio Reisewitz, considering only what is seen and its title – Cassino – will sense that there is some sort of contradiction between the series’ name and the images. First, we pay attention to what is directed to the gaze. We are standing before five large photographs, all with very high definition, in which we see seascapes of some deserted beach. As is common in the artist’s production, there is no clue as to the identity of the place photographed. There is no vestige that would tell us its exact location on the map. As was once written, “they are spaces more than places.”[ii] Another characteristic of Reisewitz’s work, also present here, is found in the romantic look of these pieces, evident in their aspiring to grandeur related to the sublime. A further striking aspect is the strongly pictorial nature of these images, which, although static, bear a sense of movement. Each one of the photos seems to portray a different hour of the day on the same seashore. But, beyond all of these dimensions, our attention is drawn most of all to the silence that is transmitted by the implicit emptiness there. The foggy atmosphere, the subtle differences between sky, clouds, sand or sea, everything works in combination to talk to us in the language of a murmur, never that of a loud cry or shout. In fact, there is nothing more inconsistent with this murmuring ethos than the word that names the images. When we think about casinos, what comes to mind are ideas of gambling, wagering, amidst a bustling setting full of every possible sort of distraction. Illusion and manipulation are other faces that inhabit these territories.
But Cassino is, precisely, the name of the Brazilian stretch of the immense stretch of beach located on the border with Uruguay, which we see today in Reisewitz’s work. To me, it seems that a large part of the poetic charge of these photographs resides there, in the paradoxical clashing between what we see and everything that the title suggests. The semantic tension existing between word and image thus gives rise to a series of relationships that lead us to listen to the pulse of the present time.
Those who have followed the artist’s production closely know that it involves a long reflection about the photographic gesture as a construction of the real, as well as a dialogue with questions derived from the Anthropocene or, putting it more simply, the current epoch in which humans have substituted nature as the dominant environmental force on the earth, causing impacts which threaten the very life of the planet. In recent years, Reisewitz has been dedicated, for example, to series such as Altamira[iii] (2013/2018) and Água escondida [Hidden Water][iv] (2014). I daresay that the works we see today, rather than suggesting a first look, are not symptoms of an alienation from this context, but rather the opposite.
By requiring a patient gaze, totally different from the anxiousness that rules our relation with the images in virtual life; by evoking a dilated time proper to painting; by seeing there, where nothing can happen, an unexpected poetic happening; by approaching the notion of the sublime, able to remind us of the limits of human power in relation to nature; by allowing us to see the passage of the hours with the movement of the clouds as a guide; by evoking a dreamlike atmosphere, in which the borders between reality and artifice are blurred; by incorporating the void, not as a representation of nothingness, but as what exists and affects us; by flirting with the disappearance of the image, seeking what would be a limit of representation; in all of this, these photographs by Reisewitz affirm the chance of a different place than this one that besets us: that of the great world-casino. A world in which the manipulation of the real has become an important strategy of power; a world in which “God did not die, he became money”;[v] a world that is constantly praising acceleration, watchfulness, and is the enemy of contemplation, of sleep, of dreaming, of imagination, thus becoming disenchanted; a world without alternative temporalities and therefore a slave to the productivist order of capital; a world that is unveiled daily based on the sterile light of the cellphone screens, in an uninterrupted dynamics of stimuli that wind up atrophying our perceptive capacity, making us slaves to a constantly distracted attention; a world in which, in the month of August, the sky above São Paulo went dark, turning day into night, as we were under a forest fire.
It is precisely from a dialogue with this world that these five large photographs arise.[vi] They each affirm the opposite of the world-casino. Caio Reisewitz photographed the immense beach in Brazil’s extreme south to construct the image of a beach which does exist in reality, but only as a photograph (yes, these photos are nearly paintings). In a way, the artist also illudes and manipulates, but with an aim running opposite to that of the gambling houses. Here, silence and the void announce a chance of life on another shore while there is still time. And there is less time with each passing day. But, according to the poet’s words, “if we pay attention and keep quiet – if we pay attention and keep quiet – we might hear some message lost in the air.”
[i] These are the last lines of the poem “Hola, spleen.” In: GARCIA, Marilia. Câmera lenta. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2017.
[ii] See COCCHIARALE, Fernando. “Parece verdade.” In: REISEWITZ, Caio. Parece verdade. São Paulo: Cosac Naify, 2010.
[iii] In Altamira, Caio Reisewitz chose the region of the forest of Belo Monte, bordered by the Rio Xingu and threatened with extinction due to the construction of the world's third-largest hydroelectric power plant, for an entire series of photographs. The images revealed a pristine nature, in which the human presence does not appear to exist, exposing the paradox of a forest that will soon no longer be there.
[iv] In Água escondida, a project carried out in partnership with the IMS, there is a concern that has pervaded Caio Reisewitz's work since the outset, which is the conflicting relationship between nature and urban development. In this series, the artist explores the relationship between water and the city, photographing urban centers, city outskirts, rivers, headwaters and dams; to this end, he photographs not only places that negate and harm their sources of water but also those that incorporate them as a space of connection and shared life. Reisewitz is therefore not limited to the landscape or denouncement; rather, he shuffles our perception, giving us a chance to reflect once again on this conflict which is utterly essential to the destiny of life on earth.
[v] Passage from an interview given by Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben in 2012. A text (in Portuguese) of this interview can be found at: <http://www.ihu.unisinos.br/noticias/512966-giorgio-agamben>.
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