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Over there from over here

She grew up gazing at the opposite bank. She believed the forest to be uninhabited and filled with mystery. Bathing in the river, she always imagined herself swimming to the other side.

Time passed. She visited the other bank of the river. “I only noticed after crossing it.”

There she found the community of Combú island. There she rediscovered an intuitive longing in herself “to feed on wildlife, on its beliefs.” She met Dona Mundica, Dona Angélica, and an effervescent community vibrating in harmony with nature. She fell in love, of course. The year was 2009 and by then she was already an artist.

Enthralled, she was determined to amplify the voices of those people, to exalt their wisdom and joy, the strength of the matriarchs, the power of their culture, and the educational and transformative becoming of that part of the largest rainforest in the world. And hence the Symbiosis project was born, to which both two works in the Resiste! Exhibition belong, proposing intense and contrasting experiences of augmented reality.

Much has changed since 2009. The human-machine symbiosis has acquired new configurations, giving way to techno-molecular colonialism. “The air we breathe will become increasingly laden with dust, toxic gases, substances and residues, particles and granules” and “the dreaming machines and forces of catastrophe will become increasingly visible actors in history.” It is in this context that the work of Roberta Carvalho – a native of Belém, in Pará State, currently dividing her time between Belém and São Paulo – renovates itself and expands its domains.

The Amazon is a continent within a continent whose multiplicity overflows its borders. Containing what is incontinent, it is coveted by many. In her research, Roberta seeks to identify the dynamics and processes that make the Amazon a place of resistance, and, along the way, calls on us to resist with it.

At times when the pace of life in big cities is 1.5, if not 2.0, when multitasking CEOs hardly sleep and citizens double the speed of audio messages or videos on the internet, Roberta gives us a warning. Even if subtlety and nuance are unnecessary distractions in continuously streamed lives, they are essential components in the latency of this bubbling organism in the heart of Brazil.

“When the fire is out, the forest is alive.” That is a relief. Even in the awareness of being in a virtual environment, it is suffocating and distressing to watch the forest burn and not be able to do anything. Today, when fire is not always friendly, the power of this experience is educational and transformative.

Roberta defends the poetic occupation of different media. The beating of the waves against the riverboat is the pulse of the world. In the faces of the tree beings the glow of self-recognition as nature shines. Her poetry advocates an emancipatory human-machine hybridism. Becoming the forest. Let it be so.

August 2021

Fernando Velázquez

artist and curator