The Lost Steps 

"The Lost Steps (after Steichen, Oiticica, Derrida)" title makes reference to the novel by Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier in which a musicologist engages in the search for an ancient instrument in the rainforest of South America and looses his identity in the process, being absorbed by the "call of nature". In addition, the installation's deployment of photographic imagery was inspired by the exhibition “The Family of Men” curated by Ed Steichen at the museum of Modern Art in 1955. This show engaged in new ways of exhibiting photographs, exploring notions of scale in heterogeneous juxtapositions and strategies of display that involved architectural design. The common thread of the photographs epitomized the approach of humanist photography that affirms a universal underlying human nature in conjunction with the positivist depiction of the everyday promoted by the United States after World War II. 

The other point of reference for the installation is the series titled "Nucleus" that Helio Oiticica made between 1960 and 1963. In that series the Brazilian artist attempted the translation of painting into the realm of "non-objectood". In order to achieve that status, painting had to launch itself into space by detaching its surface from the support of the canvas and the wall. 

 In the installation "The Lost Steps (after Steichen, Oiticica, Derrida)", cut out shapes of monochrome yellow and black planes and banners hung suspended in space, creating an array of configurations and walkways that enable an interactive viewing experience. These various planes constitute the color ground on which photographs have been mounted. In addition, the indexical totality of the photographic image is undermined through placements, dissections and disruptions. Most of the images depict spaces of marginality, precarious and informal dwellings and low-income housing projects along with an array of empty sites and quotidian scenes that address current social and environmental conditions in central Brazil[1].

 Thus, this project presents itself as a paradox: a dystopian Eden/shantytown reformulated through a pristine display of geometric forms. These arbitrary geometric forms inquire (by contrast) into the social class affiliations of modernist aesthetics in the developing world given that the pristine display enables the viewers to explore the space of the gallery as if it was a maze (a less threatening experience than strolling through a shantytown). 

 By destabilizing the logic between image and support, the installation locates the aesthetic premises of modernist abstraction along with the "Whitmanesque" promise of emancipation through mutual identification, empathy and solidarity invoked by humanist photography outside of their original context. This approach attempts to re-inscribes them in friction, as utopian/dystopian constructs through the applications of deconstruction.

"Deconstruction exists in its applications as shantytowns exist in the context of the city - eccentrically. Their emergence can be interpreted as a response to the city's hegemonic centralized entity. Shantytowns come into being as a deconstruction of the city in the most literal sense; these precarious, informal dwellings are often erected from recycled materials discarded by the city and its industries." [2]


1. All photos were taken in a specific area of Mato Grosso. 

2. Sergio Vega, Parrot Theory, Catalogue, Galerie Karsten Greve, Paris, 2009, pg 42.