2018 The Green Studio at IC19
Document #1 The Green Studio at IC19
Video mini dv sound color
audio and video mini dv 18 min 22 sec
Document #2 Occupy
Video mini dv sound color
18 min 13 sec

Document #3 Colonial Bean (notes)
Video mini dv sound color
11 min 07 sec

Alexandra do Carmo. Emancipation and resistance: suburban allotments, spontaneous and “clandestine” 

Untitled (drawing series for Document #2 – Occupy)
Starting off with the wish to liberate cinema from its physical apparatus, present in André Bazin and in Sergei Eisenstein, Alexandra do Carmo puts through a “dematerialisation” of film (dematerializes film), transposing its language - the specific prerogatives defined by the medium’s ontology - to drawing. Availing oneself of such an “old” form of expression could herein very well be taken as resorting to a useful editing tool, akin to a storyboard, utilised as means to means to foresee a film. However, the opposite takes place. In Alexandra do Carmo’s work, the finished film finds itself converted into matter redrawn, reassembled and reinterpreted in the studio.
Screen and drawing fuse as thought and, in this sense, whilst revealing the very editing process, the drawings act as though they were “echoes” of the films the artist has been producing. In somewhat like dispersed “frames” taken out of a broader context, empty-eyed faces are to be found so that the viewer there sees the possibility of an imagined film. Incorporating the rudiments of silent film editing, different characters come on and off screen, so to establish dialogues, synchronised with subtitles, which invariably reproduces fragments of storytelling that the videographic work captured as “fieldwork”. Yet opposing the accelerated cinematic registry of an unstoppable and continuous flux, Alexandra do Carmo´s drawings aim to translate a slower time of making and seeing. Her work implies an auto-reflexive and slow “interpretation” of particular contents, homologous to the difference between a city’s fast pace and a much slower tempo of an allotment.
Document #1 – The Green Studio at IC19, Document #2 – Occupy, Document #3 – Colonial Bean
In the three films shown, Alexandra do Carmo´s examines the sociopolitical dimensions of the clandestine allotments populating the margins of the IC19 - Radial de Sintra, built with much perseverance and resilience by urban farmers, mostly africans from the Portuguese ex-colonies, or by local folks who are historically connected to old rural communities. But whilst Gustave Courbet - whom she pays reference to through describing that which became the French painter’s most ambitious work, L’Atelier du peintre, allégorie réelle déterminant une phase de sept années de ma vie artistique, 1855 -, still placed within a representation paradigm, metaphorically brings into the creation space both the social environment and all those who influenced him in his “action”, Alexandra do Carmo literally installs her own studio amidst people she fortuitously finds within the interstices of a suburban world; standing amongst those most to the “margins” so to have their voices heard.
The widespread of spontaneous urban allotments doubtlessly configures a practice, which has been both ingraining itself and becoming a bespoke alternative to food production, whilst it simultaneously creates new forms of social interaction as it further affirms itself as a lifestyle. Conceivably claiming the reinvention of the everyday, thenceforward with a considerably wider ecological consciousness, the contemporary phenomenon of urban allotments definitely parts from the strictly defined domestic fields as well as from those to do with individual freedoms, thus becoming a decisive object, core to debates on the transformation of the polis - the city as “public matter”. It modifies common life styles and deeming viable alternatives other to the paradigm (presently at profound crisis), tightly connected to the late-capitalist dispositif; promoter of savage privatisation and speculation of territory, of hyper-industrialisation, of urban landscape development and of unrestrained consumption.
The various succeeding reports on the physical and psychological damages resulting from the destruction of people’s plots denounce systematic incongruences: the police assumes their inability to prohibit agricultural practice, even though consecutive “cleansing” operations on behalf of city councils have been taken ahead. As a matter of fact, the Lisbon’s Municipal Masterplan allows the occupation of territory for cultivation, however, the absence of specific laws adequate to the present case, further engrossed by the seemingly permissible yet aleatoric stance local authorities hold, brings the whole situation to a blind, autocratic and violent regulation. And so, there emerges the inevitable argument favouring the “marginal” and the “subaltern”, against economic discrimination, territorial segregation and all other forms of denomination, typical from contemporary cooperative colonialism.
Instead of collecting the benefits of their existence in our present time, the unauthorised allotments remain no more than feeble hiatuses, sprouting from decades of deficient territorial planning, so far unable to attend to the city’s peripheral spaces. For they are temporary, they live in a limbo of postponed urbanisation, solely tolerated for as long as, against them, an “urbanistic” solution awaits being found. Rather than understood as permanent communal assets, yet no more than “non-places”, these pend from local political decisions, not seldom materialised in the form of enormous commercial structures, which Continente hypermarkets hold a most imposing symbol of. There stand the plots, yet no one takes a proper glance at them. Some ignore them; others prefer to see them as mere rubbish, analogous to the conditions of the “stalls” or of other forms of precarious housing, invariably held central to social problems, criminality and violence. These suburban allotments, the closest by the roadway, being unlawful plots, resist still under hostilities casted by the traffic, the police and the autarchic power.
Enacted as a denouncement of the strict association between negational othering acts and forms of western colonialism, Alexandra do Carmo jilts the suburban allotments’ state of invisibility. She puts forward that, as spontaneous political phenomena but equally as an action-stance towards and within the environment, these constitute true heterotopic spaces of micro-resistance and of postcolonial emancipation, facing an endemic segregation, resultant from the dictatorship of property and capital. Thenceforth the artist proposes counter-visibility as means to promote a mutual and interested gaze upon the other, herein on “precarious” citizens, marginal and undervalued; a gesture which permits opening up the possibility of integrating them in a shared imagined community, which “I” as much as “They” are whole-rightly part of.
Bruno Marques, 2018