THE SKIN BETWEEN THE OCEAN AND THE SKY, 2016. Single channel video installation. 10:00, with sound.
The Skin Between The Ocean and The Sky is a work of mesmeric quality, where we follow a mass of what appears to be plastic debris, floating adrift in the sea like an iceberg. We see this mass moving thanks to a camera operating under water, sometimes showing what is in its surface too. The camera has also recorded the sound made by things moving. Perfectly, this soundtrack, which has an electronic feel, echoes somehow the sounds made by dolphins and whales. Thus, the film, besides celebrating the action of seeing and the ability of wonder in small things, suggests ecological concerns too. The floating mass has an organic shape, referring to jelly fish, seaweed, squid and octopi, while its colours are artificial, like those of industrial debris or rubbish left behind on our contaminated seas.
SOMERSAULT, 2015. Single channel video installation. 0:55, with sound.
Oscillating between abstraction and figurative representation, Somersault enables various systems to coexist simultaneously, amplifying and distilling the spectator's reference points and defying the laws of gravity. Literally created by the action of a constant somersault, the constant movement becomes a quest for climax: the exact instance when the artwork reaches its culmination. Somersault is an immersive experience. Surrounded by image and sound, the spectators dive into an aquatic universe, loose their landmarks, and are carried away.
FERNWEH, 2014. Two channel video installation. 03:03 (noite) and 4:55(folha), both with sound
Fern Weh surrounds the idea of an island and how our imagination interprets our perception of an island. The design of an island promotes the feeling of isolation, an urgency to escape and the desire to explore. Consisting of two video channels, small in scale and projected on separate walls, the video is fragmented and dreamlike. Proposing the thought, are we in search of the island, desperately trying to reach it, or are we fleeing, escaping to the depths of the ocean. The video has no “narrative”, just fragmented images and an ardent sound guiding you through the sensation of one; initiating a narrative that will never complete. Like being at sea, out in the open water, realizing that there is no end to the horizon.
THE GHOST IN BETWEEN, 2013. Two channel video installation. 10:11, with sound.
The Ghost in Between proposes a subjective journey by flirting with the romantic idea of the search for the unknown. We see a woman navigating through the landscape, reflected in a motionless and mirrored Rio Negro. The image becomes abstract, like the symmetric splotches of a Rorschach psychological test, and the known world thus opens a space for the existence of mystical beings. The woman metamorphoses into a girl and into a creature, and returns to being a woman. There are scenes peopled by children and anthropomorphic beings that sometimes remain motionless, as in ethnographic documents, and sometimes interact with nature in scenes juxtaposed to the landscape sequences. In an ambiguous narrative, at times bordering on the exploration of the exotic, the artist subverts and precisely questions the place of the observer and the observed. The imaginary and fantastic world, steeped in a veiled naive romanticism leads us to a place where nothing can in fact be defined, the place where ghosts dwell.
THE OCEAN WITHIN, 2012. Single channel video installation. 07:52, with sound.
The Ocean Within shows natural growths equated with balloon-like shapes that point into a universe of abstractions and intangibles. Evoking a kind of artistic magic realism, which went mad. In the coupling between the life like and the abstract, one senses a longing for the exotic, the extra-sensory and the fantastic, where all things are possible. The supernatural rooted in the form be understood in a concrete sense an accepted on its own terms. The emphasis on the spontaneous layering of the forms creates a more ethereal environment. Uniformity is revealed not through formal precision but expressive freedom. Distinguished by casual elegance and propelled by the flow of shapes and colors, the imagination of the artist is made palpable to the viewer.
BALLGAME, 2012. Single channel video installation. 09:28, no sound.
About 60% of our body consists of bodily fluids, and their concentration is about the same as that of seawater. Tschäpe’s first name, Janaina, means “water god” to Brazilian people of African descent. Having been bestowed this name; Tschäpe regards water, the sea, and their flows and currents as important motifs. Her works obey the ceaseless flow of seawater and bodily fluids that constitute vital phenomena for the human body. At the same time, this tendency mingles with the desire to control and direct this flow.
In biology, the process of exchange between cells known as metabolism, as well as the heredity and reproduction of these same individual particles, are thought to be the origin of life. The smallest possible units that possess these qualities are cells, which are also the smallest possible units of life. The bouncing balloons seem to depict the movements of primordial, unicellular organisms like ocean plankton and amoebae, as well as the continuous motions of membrane-enclosed mitochondria and lysosomes that support life. Even as Tschape recounts to us the myths of the ocean, she also observes, like a scientist, how it harbors the origins of life.
ENTSCHUPFT (BREATHING WOMAN) and ENTSCHUPFT (BREATHING BALLOON), 2011. Two channel video installation. 08:28, with sound.
Entschüpft (Breathing Woman) and Entschüpft (Breathing Balloon) display a thick, enveloping garden where life blossoms and flourishes, only to decay and die or perhaps breathe new life. There is an acute, iridescent use of light –articulated by an unconventional palette suggesting South American flora and fauna –absorbing the viewer into its open-ended narrative. Time eerily stands still, even as we contemplate forms, which seem to grow and catch us in its thickets. The effect is simultaneously light due to its soft and comforting mammalian nature, and almost threatening in its ability to remind us that nature can overwhelm the physical body.
HE DROWNED IN HER EYES AS SHE CALLED HIM TO FOLLOW, 2000. Single channel video installation. 20:11, with sound.
In an early performance titled He drowned in her eyes as she called him to follow, Tschäpe introduces water as a fully developed theme that links the substance with metamorphosis and death. Filmed in Brazil, Spain, England, and New York on Super-8 and digitally, it is a semi-narrative tale of a sea creature that appears to have been ensnared by a fishing net and brought ashore. Our heroine wanders disoriented through a sequence of activities tethered loosely together by dream logic: a ride on an old-fashioned carousel, a climb on seaside cliffs, and a serenade in a karaoke bar. A Russian love song that the sailors spontaneously sang while Tschäpe was filming provides the soundtrack.
The story is interspersed with enigmatic clues that insinuate the mermaid’s death and that of a sailor. One particularly ethereal moment shows Tschäpe’s head submerged in an opaque pool of marshy water swaying like a metronome. The image was extracted from the film and looped as an independent piece titled Moss (2000). Reminiscent of the Pre-Raphaelite John Everett Millais’ painting Ophelia (1851–52), the video once again evokes nineteenth-century romanticism to make youthful melancholic longing palpable for audiences well versed in new media technologies.
ACQUA ALTA, 2010. Two channel video installation. 25:27, with sound.
Rooted in personal mythology and fantasy, the aquatic – a recurring theme in the artist’s work – is revisited in Acqua Alta. Venice is used as a stand in for an imaginary city floating in water navigated by two costumed characters/creatures. Narrative is suggested but never made explicit, leaving the story open ended. As in previous works, the female body is used as a site for transformation with organic forms extending from the bodies of the subjects.
DRAGOON I-IV, 2008.
The memory of the desert as sea is revisited during our monsoon season when the arid landscape is transformed by the rain. The vast expanses of grey and brown lay brittle and desiccated until the monsoons arrive. Things that appeared long dead spring to life, insects better suited to the tropics swarm as if by spontaneous generation and thick cactus skins swell like ripe balloons. Tschäpe, like a sage diviner, tracked the areas of the desert where water gathers—down the chutes formed by the agave leaves, along the depressions in the rock worn away by millennia of flooding. She found the dew gathered on the delicate creosote and the wet mud lingering beneath the rock ledge, not yet dried by the noonday sun.
And she imagined creatures—long dormant—reborn and christened by the monsoons rains. Her giant sea monster, composed of carnival costume debris, makes the long journey across the desert to an arroyo, awaiting resuscitation when the rains flow by. Just as a desert plant orphans limbs in the dry season, Tschape’s sea monster abandoned tentacles during the journey across the desert floor. The limbs drop to the ground, dormant until a new rain comes. The pro-genetic tentacles of the monster seek out the water, slowly creeping across the desert floor in search of nourishment to begin anew. Tschape’s water filled balloons become egg sacks released by the monster along the way. They rest, prone and swollen on the desert floor, to seed the desert with a new generation. For a brief time, the desert is lush, fecund, and ripe. Tschape’s creatures will thrive in this time, as they writhe across the landscape, expanding their terrain, urged on by their biological destiny. And then the rains will cease. And the sun will again burn hot. And the air will clear and the focus will sharpen and the land will appear fallow.
INSOMNIA I-III, 2006. Three channel video installation. 11:14, 16:32 and 00:11, no sound.
The videos are silent, inviting the viewer to contemplate the fragmented narrative of the figures interacting with their surroundings. In Insomnia I, a woman stops in the midst of her journey through the dense forest of Parque Lage. Pulling along a suitcase of her wares, she pauses next to a tree where a piece of green fabric hangs down to the ground from the branch it is wrapped around. She scales the fabric effortlessly, like an acrobatic nymph, and then begins the process of ritualistically wrapping and unwrapping herself in the fabric. Twisting and turning, she creates a pocket out of the fabric to rest in, as if coddled within a cocoon. Often changing positions, the woman cannot seem to find a comfortable positions, the woman cannot seem to find a comfortable position; she is in a constant state of flux. After brief pauses, the woman slides down the fabric, puts on her shoes, and then continues on her journey through the forest. This is the only imagery within Melantropics in which the human figure is completely revealed; here Tschäpe provides a glimpse into the transformation of the models as they shift from reality to imagination. In Insomnia II, a mythic figure lurks restlessly in a cave, pulling and carrying her appendages and moving from one side to another, endlessly searching for a place to be still. This repetitive movement continues in Insomnia III, where the same figure from Ovalaria Floris tumbles down a hill over and over again. In all three videos, the subjects are in a state of suspension—stuck in a recurring cycle of restlessness.
BLOOD, SEA, 2004. Four channel video installation. 13:48 each, with sound.
Blood, Sea alludes to the chemical composition of the sea as analogous to the blood and investigating the possibilities of a metaphor for evolution. The work approaches a symbology that remits us to questionings about the origin of the world, of life itself. The art critic Lisette Lagnado, in a text about this piece, brings our attention to the vast symbology that water bears: “the unconscious and the erotic, both shuffling and uncapturable... because it is an internal fluid, a uncontrolled spilling of this viscous liquid conspires in favor of danger. Lack of blood, loss of senses. Rituals and mutilations usually attract artists who use the body as support, taking aesthetic practices to the limits of the tolerable. It took place after the War years. But the mollusks that inhabit Janaina’s images feature white blood, and are able to move between exteriority and interiority without suffering. It is the fiction that comforts us in the face of bloodbaths, the laws of man." (Lagnado: 2005)
UNTITLED (SCREAM), 2004. Single channel video installation. 05:34, no sound.
Untitled (Scream) took Janaina Tschäpe to Florida, and to an underwater theatre in which ‘The Little Mermaid’ is enacted daily by women in costume. The artist’s video features one of the Florida ‘mermaids’ letting out a great howl of frustration, air bubbles streaming from her mouth. This venting of raw emotion is seen in slow motion, and then in reverse, in a continuous loop. The mermaid’s rage is therefore without end: worse, it is not only continually reabsorbed back into the creature, but also rendered silent. Here, Janaina Tschäpe reintroduces something of the horror and abjection of the original tale, prior to its prettification by Disney and others. (In the original Hans Christian Andersen story, the little mermaid has her tongue cut out, walks with constant, searing pain after her fish-tail is transformed into legs, and fails to win the love of her prince.)
THE SEA AND THE MOUNTAIN, 2004. Two channel video installation. 29:56 and 57:17, with sound.
Janaina Tschäpe’s marine creatures are Iemanjá’s children, those offspring who are fish. Their strange pneumatic forms, trembling and sensitive, monitor the subtle changes of the tides; their skins, those infinitely supple surfaces, register the passage of the winds as they race across the surface of the lands. Metamorphosing, these creatures reflect change upon the earth; moving in space, they echo the actions of the moon and stars, the growth of nations, the birth of flowers and the death of kings. In other words: as they grow and change, as they respire and expire, as their monstrous appendages crawl through the land and float through the seas, they are the embodiment of physical life itself, with all of its twisted roots and misshapen limbs. And so the narratives within which they find themselves -- the tales which Tschape is telling as she places them in forests or beaches or castles -- are always mythic fables, parables told through the medium of video or drawing or photographs.
LACRIMACORPUS, 2004. Single channel video installation. 03:36, with sound.
Lacrimacorpus takes place in a man-made interior and evokes history as well as myth. The setting is the castle of Ettersburg near Weimar, which the artist was drawn to because of its dual history as both a summer residence of Goethe (who composed poems on its grounds) and a building overlooking the Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald. In the video, a female figure, adorned in a costume from Goethe's time, dances in an empty hall until collapsing to the floor. Her spinning motion, along with the frame of the room, the mechanical winding noise at the video's beginning, and the chiming music, evokes a child's music box. This playful allusion and the setting's pristine elegance lie in tension with the site's tragic history. The work's title, Latin for "tear body," suggests that the bubbles of inflated latex attached to the dancer are a cascade of tears—a silent expression of her buried sadness.
CRIME DA BOCA, 2004. Single channel video installation. 05:51, with sound.
The project Crime da Boca intends, through oral narrative, to redeem and recreate the memory of a region almost fixed in time. Our objective is to protect this universe, through rural tales widely known to the residents of Bocaina Mineira, situated in the interior of the State of Minas Gerais, Brazil. To do that is to bring to surface another part of a puzzle, which is the fragmented Brazilian reality.
THE MOAT AND THE MOON, 2003. Two channel video installation. 16:44 and 09:56, with sound.
Tschäpe takes drawing as a point of departure, bringing the viewer into her imagination as she sat thinking of new realities in the studio. In this sense, Tschäpe gives form to the trance of art making, portraying not a dream world, but the sensation of being in one. This portrayal is ever present in The Moat and the Moon. The work focuses on the movement of time in the act of making art. The two videos, displayed as diptych, take their cue from landscape photography, giving life and movement to moments usually frozen in time. Rather than bending reality to her will to enhance her own creative force, Tschäpe uses her art to celebrate the wondrous and monstrous creative force of that which is most profoundly real: nature itself. A prominent subject is the longing to preserve the fleeting moment when the work of art is being made, and the emotional inputs of the artist remain fresh.
AFTER THE RAIN, 2003. Three channel video installation. 08:30, 10:31 and 11:32, with sound.
“After the Rain shows the metamorphosis of nature in the twilight between the time when it stops raining and the sun appears, a moment of fiction were I am able to insert creatures and colors that could be born in that magical moment.” The video is a “universal aquarelle” comprising performances with various creatures, a detailed drama of nature revolving around the mysteries taking place between the sky, the earth, the sand and the water, between octopus, mermaid, seaman and sea, when the sun and the rain mingle, when the roots of the forest – the place of procreation – tell stories, when bodies shrouded in metabolic garments rise to the heavens like swollen balloons and burst.
AGUA VIVA, 2003. Single channel video installation. 28.24, with sound.
The jellyfish occurs in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors. It is possible for the Jellyfish to appear once and never appear on that body of water again. It is ever changing, living on the curiosity of what is to come next. Agua Viva explores the creation of worlds, magical landscapes and forms exploring physical and cultural boundaries.
EXERCISE 1-8, 2002. Eight channel video installation. 20:28, no sound.
Exercises concentrate on minimal body practices. This reduction of movement seems to maximize self-awareness, her own breath and her own weight appear to be more intensely experienced, as if this concentration on biological life would be a necessary starting point in order to achieve an artistic and emotional threshold.
DREAM SEQUENCE I-III, 2002. Three channel video installation. 02:11, 02:23 and 5:38, no sound.
In Dreamsequence the artist locates the action in a grey-painted niche-like segment of space, which is open to the sky. White tubes, a bed, a balloon, a human being, water, wind and cloths are the stock items from which the artist creates the short dream sequences. In Dreamsequences I & II she focuses from a fixed camera position on a bed, which stands frontally before a wall. Draped white cloths shine out over the grey tones of the room, filing the scene with life by moving slightly in the wind. A white balloon, which rapidly grows bigger and bigger, lies on the bed. The first time, the bed sags under its weight, it slides to the floor and bursts; in the other sequence, the balloon actually explodes on the bed, with water pouring into the room in both cases
CAMALEOAS, 2002. Single channel viddeo installation. 20:00. with sound.
Transformation and desire are constant themes in my work – “Camaleoas” is a collaboration, which enabled me to evaluate these for myself. My collaborators, who chose their name “Camaleoas” are women who live in the community of Jacarezinho in the North zone of Rio de Janeiro. In this work, the main objective was to show different forms of desire within the mythic figures similar to superheroes. My principal role in the work was to create the atmosphere and environments where Crystal, Fatima, Jani and Claudia, could show.- through video and photography, a wide range of situations and discrepancies related to basic human ambition, which each of us has to face.
SALA DE ESPERA, 2001. Three channel video installation. 08:00 each, with sound.
Sala de Espera tells the story of a woman seeking new identity to discover that two lumps growing on his shoulders. The anxious wait plunges her into a hallucinatory dimension of the unknown. She is continuously morphing, is she an angel, a bat or bird. Should she accept and reject these new identities? The piece reflects on the mental space of this change of identity, halfway between the mystery and documentary, between beauty and horror.