Laura Belém – why do we look at nature in a troubled world
It is only when we consider looking to be a technique for survival that we can grasp how looking at plants means becoming immersed in the world of the other, and without intruding. Looking is the reconciliation of divided existence, an exercise in survival manifesting as the searching of the world by the sensory apparatus.
The artist Laura Belém opened her first solo exhibition at Celma Albuquerque Galeria de Arte. Laura occupies the mezzanine and the external garden of the gallery with works in different formats: photographs, videos, drawings and sound art. All works are shown for the first time in Belo Horizonte. The exhibition runs until October 26, 2018.
The set of works in the exhibition reveals the artist’s interaction with a given element of nature or the urban landscape, and the creation of new meanings from that encounter.
Reconstruction (2017) is a series of eleven photographs related to the decision by the Belo Horizonte City Hall to cut down a set of centenary trees on an important avenue in the city center (Bernardo Monteiro), in 2014, due to the emergence of a pest. The fact proved to be controversial and the local population created the Fica Fícus movement, which fought for the permanence of the trees. Still, many trees were cut down, their dead trunks remaining in place. The trees have not grown back. For the series Reconstruction (2017), the artist photographed the decapitated trunks with black and white film and performed interventions with crystals and stones on the printed images, which were then photographed in color for the final series.
The videos Four Times, Modeling and Between the stars and their eyes (all from 2018 and never before seen) bring interactions with elements of nature, perceived by the artist at random, like rainwater that falls on a wooden table (Four Times), a dry leaf collected in the street (Modeling) and the sunlight through a perforated paper (Between the stars and their eyes). These seemingly fragile elements assume a poetic potential in the artist’s minimal action on them, and activate the gaze as a tool for “reconciling divided existence”  in the current world. They invite a pause and a new contact with the surrounding reality, from the encounter with banal everyday things that may go unnoticed. Four Times has a soundtrack specially composed by the duo O Grivo.
The Night Dance series (2018) features drawings made with fire on Japanese paper painted in black. The fire that sticks to the paper in the video Between the stars and their eyes (2018) is used here in a more abrupt way, perforating the paper in several directions and generating organic shapes that can resemble dry leaves in the wind, night birds, or simply abstract forms that interact as if they were in a dance.
The back garden of the gallery receives the sound work Pocket Garden (2008), created for an exhibition in Japan and still unpublished in Brazil. The work features an audio narration with phrases by Western and Eastern thinkers and poets about nature, mixed with sound effects collected by the artist during a trip to Japan.
The title of the exhibition is intended to instigate questions and reflections, rather than providing answers to the public. It was inspired by the text “Why we look at plants, in a corrupted world”, by Chinese writer Hu Fang.