In Naufrágio (Shipwreck) we see a drawing of an ancient sailing ship in blue ink slowly dissolved by drops of water. The ink runs. The water soaks through the entire body of the ship and dissolves its image, leaving only a large stain on the white paper. The Brazilian artist Laura Belém drew the inspiration for this work from her first journey to Portugal in search of her roots. The ship represents the Portuguese conquest of Brazil. While the image creates a link with that past, its extraneous nature is expressed at the same time through the use of the two techniques of drawing and video. A distance is created between today and yesterday. The image dissolves. The past fades until it disappears completely. The video makes the artist’s search visible once again and transports its result – her present life – into the here and now.
A creator of visual and sound installations, operations on space, sculptures, photographs and videos, Laura Belém addresses places and their meaning in a whole variety of ways, drawing upon the different levels of perception. In works like Conspiracy for Pleasure (2004) and Escultura (2001–2005), she places sounds and smells in unexpected places so as to focus the observer’s attention on their significance for the perception of our environment. The same sensitivity is shown in installations that address the past of a place and bring it back to life. Naufrágio is also characterized by this salvaging of ties lost in the past. In this case, however, the ship does not endure in its role as figurative representation of the past but remains at the level of an ephemeral image serving to prompt the memory.
Laura Belém (Belo Horizonte, 1974) has been awarded numerous international grants by bodies such as the Triangle Art Association in Brooklyn and the Casa de Velázquez in Madrid. She has exhibited works in Brazil at the Museu de Arte Aloisio Magalhães in Recife and the Museu de Arte da Pampulha in Belo Horizonte. She has also taken part in group exhibitions at venues such as the Museu de Arte Moderna in São Paolo, the Casa de América in Madrid, the 51st Venice Biennial and Vidéoformes in Clermont-Ferrand (France).