Artefacts of Metaphorical Light
Dário Borim Jr.
Speech is one of the human actions that most often reacts to what we hear. We absorb the world’s voices and respond to them with our lungs, tongues, teeth, lips and the rest of our phonological system to create sounds and their linguistic signs. When it comes to seeing, we have no specific reaction. We have no internal system that draws any sketches or sends out any light back to the external world, in response to the light that reaches our eyes and the rest of our physique. We do not produce or project light beyond the tiny confines of our optical lenses. However, there is internal communication inside of us, of course, from our eyes to our brains, and from that dialogue, among myriad other dialogues within ourselves, there comes the chemistry of emotion, the power of inspiration, and the magic of creation. While we see things, we also imagine and remember things. We build images outside ourselves.
According French thinker Jacques Derrida and Brazilian poet Silviano Santiago, our hands take the charge of composing such images – for example, by painting or by writing poetry. Actually, our whole bodies sketch images through dance, music and other visual and performing arts. With our neurons and the rest of an entire orchestra of thousands of instruments in harmony and synchrony within each of us (a metaphor brilliantly sustained by Portuguese neuroscientist António Damásio), we forge and foreground, l would say, artefacts of metaphorical light.
Reacting to what we see, and that may very well be what we seek (or imagine) to see, as well as to what we think (visually or not), artists reproduce and transform what exists. So, with our hands, feet, or our bodies as a whole, we, humans – actors, dancers, sculptors, writers, painters and photographers, in particular – create or suggest what can, could or will exist. For some of us, painters, set designers and photographers, light is the most basic element to examine and to employ. It is no surprise that etymologically speaking, the word “photography” combines the Greek terms photo and graphe to mean nothing but “drawing with light.” Light and color, light and movement, light and shadow – these are definitely major dynamics that shape and reshape what we see and the images we can create and disseminate through art. It is probably fair to infer that the penchant for some sort of image creation is as old as the human capacity to think abstractly and dates back to the days, when we still lived in caverns and had not invented the wheel or, of course, the camera, first built by British scientist Fox Talbot, in 1839.
For British art critic John Berger, what served the place of the photograph before the camera’s invention, something even older than engraving, drawing and painting, was reflection. (I must be a very primitive man, since reflection, as I will mention later, is one of my favorite photographic subjects.) American writer and activist Susan Sontag is right when she argues that a photograph is not just an image or an interpretation of the real, but something “stenciled off the real,” for which her metaphors are “footprint” and “death mask.” Even though the human eye and the camera lens register images of an event through their sensitivity to light, what the camera does and the eye can never do, explains Berger, is “to fix the appearance of that event.”
As I recall it, I was probably excited about printed photographs of memorable events, loved ones and familiar objects as early as many other children did. In my case, that was more than half a century ago. In the last nine years, though, my own penchant for reproduced images of people and nature has gradually neared a state of obsession. As a result, I have become a prolific and unrelenting photographer of all things, large or small. They include entire towns, like my birth-town, Paraguaçu, in Minas Gerais, and minute insects, like flower bugs. Undoubtedly, though, these are some of my favorite subjects: the moon, sunsets, clouds, trees, flowers, roads, windows, and, most of all, water bodies of all kinds, particularly the abstract, impressionistic, protean, static, or wobbling images on their bottom or surface.
Another major component in the development of my photography is travel. As a college professor, I have been fortunate to give lectures and attend conferences in various corners of the world. In the last three years or so I have visited and photographed nine countries with mesmerizing human and natural attributes, such those in Egypt, Greece, Morocco, and Turkey. The photographs selected for this exhibit convey images from the two of the countries I have visited the most: Brazil, where I was born and raised, and Portugal, from where the Brazilian language and most cultural roots have come. The selection comprises three parts: three images with neon effects, seven shots of water bodies and four of unknown people. They span the south and southeast regions of Brazil, plus the south, north and central parts of Portugal.
Dário Borim is Professor of Luso-Afro-Brazilian studies at UMass Dartmouth. Apart from a passionate photographer, he is a blogger, a concert producer, a creative writer, an Internet/radio show host-programmer, and a translator. He has produced and presented the music and culture show Brazilliance on WUMD (89.3 FM) since December 2001. Among his books is the advanced Portuguese textbook Crônicas Brasileiras: A Reader (U. Press of Florida, 2014), the English version of Helena Jobim's Antonio Carlos Jobim: An Illuminated Man (Hal Leonard 2011) and cultural studies volume of essays Perplexidades: raça, sexo, e outras questões sociopolíticas (Eduff 2004). His current research interests relate the senses to memory, and thought processes to life narratives. Borim’s creative nonfiction appears regularly in magazines, blogs and newspapers. His academic texts, mostly focused on the interplay of literature and music, have been included in distinguished volumes, such as Music and Dictatorship in Europe (Turnhout 2010), and Latin America and Bodies and Biases: Issues of Sexualities in Hispanic Cultures (U. of Minnesota Press 1996). Other books and periodicals from Belgium, Brazil, France, Peru, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and the United States have featured his writings.