B.B. Inspiration is drawing air into the lungs.
A.C.The chest is regarded by the Greeks as a receptacle of sense impressions and a vehicle for each of the five senses.
C.B. A breathes B to C.
B.B. Removed from the body and set in lead letters on a page. Print changed the habits of thought.
C.B.: All errors read aloud.*
Breath inhabits the body. Through breathing, imaginary beings and spirits followed by images, words and ideas move in and out of the body. These can give life, but can also lead to demonic possessions.
In religious and magical practice, insufflations were ritual acts of blowing, breathing or puffing that signify variously expulsion or the renunciation of the devil. With the arrival of modernity, it seems that spirits and images, contained in the bodies, were “exhaled” once and for all. Words, too, had been removed from the body and set in lead letters on pages.
But does print settle the habits of thought? And, what happens when it is history that is being breathed through us?
“Pure Breaths” evokes imaginatively historical sources, literature, miracle poems and ancient verse as to elaborate on the opaque sides of the well-known historical narratives and the way they extend into the present through cultural artefacts. Baldi’s new work (sculptures and prints) produced for the artist’s first solo show at Swimming Pool –inhabits the space between where no language is set, and where no word has disappeared. As breaths, moving into and out of bodies, it recalls both the desire to know, and the impossibility to settle.
The exhibition builds on Baldi’s recent body of work. “Livro de Todo o Universo (Chopped and Screwed)” (2015), on view at Swimming Pool, is a multi-channel sound installation. The speakers, arranged in a circle, emit words of a shape-shifting poem from the 17th century, which consists of 1022 permutations of the phrase “Tot tibi sunt dotes Virgo quot sidera caelo” (“Virgin, you have so many virtues as there are stars in the sky”). The totality of variations contains nothing less than the whole universe – only made available through the printed text. In turn, the spoken words host the anima of Livro, a totality of the literary imagination. The slippages of language are indeed the heartbeat of Livro; life has been literally breathed into it, a fictional personification of the word.
“Livro de Todo o Universo” (2015), a film project also on view at Swimming Pool, evolves around the royal translation of Hamlet by the Portuguese King Luís I (1838-1889). At the time of translation when Africa has been partitioned and colonized, Luís I also became the President of the Geographical Society of Lisbon. The film, an endless loop, brings into its orbit translation, literature and politics. One could freely speculate, that Luís probably preferred the escape of literary life to politics and public affairs. While translating Hamlet, he would fantasize about strategies to conquer and his gaze would wander over the maps on the walls of the Geography Society. The maps, images of politics of knowledge over distant territories subject to desire; and, acts of naming, fixing, norming the unknown. The inhaling of these abstract codes would send anybody on an imaginary journey weighing up truth against beauty.
* A B C’onspiracy is a fictional dialogue between Bianca Baldi, Clare Butcher and Anne Carson.
“Pure Breaths” is curated by Viktoria Draganova.
Bianca Baldi (1985 in Johannesburg, South Africa) Forthcoming: 11th Shanghai Biennale, Power Station of Art, Shanghai (CN), Slow Works, Sydney, Sydney (AU). Recent exhibitions include: The Image Generator II, Extra City Kunsthal, Antwerp (BE), Open House, Kunstverein Braunschweig (DE), 19th Contemporary Art Festival SESC Videobrasil, São Paolo (BR), Sightings, KZNSA, Durban (ZA),The 8th Berlin Biennale of Contemporary Art at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (DE), Zero Latitude at the Goethe Institut, Johannesburg (ZA).