A Portal Experiment: Multimedia/ Archive Installation  [2016/2018]

A Portal Experiment: Multimedia/ Archive Installation [2016/2018]

Vídeo Charlie and the Elephant 3’41” (2015); Artist’s book: A Portal Experiment; Sound installation (2016): 7’ with collaborators (voices): Clara Isenmann, Steve Nietz, Marcia Penna Lima, MV Hemp, Peter Schmalz, Raul Santiago, Viviane Ribeiro, Papo Reto and Ocupa alemão collectives and other (anonymous).

This time the portal is open, the artist shares some objects and works in progress on her open desktop: a sound installation, an artist book and a video. The viewer can have a seat, listen, browse and touch the objects, beyond or bellow the limits of a certain comfort zone. While some messages are intercepted by her laptop,  a choir of multiple voices from two remote territories is heard. The uneasy continuities in-between them expand possible symbolic projections/connections from Berlin to Complexo do Alemão, and vice versa. The cartography installation was part of the exhibition Syntax_Error – misunderstandings as a creative process (Transmediale Vorspiel 2016).

A Portal Experiment consists of an ongoing interdisciplinary cartography* shared with the public in the form of collaborative actions and mixed media artworks/ exhibitions/ archives, where feedbacks in-between both territories are also taken into account for the next editions. It takes place in-between two remote territories: one is Complexo do Alemão (=“complex of the german guy”/ “german complex”), a group of 16 favela communities located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the other is Berlin, Germany. My own personal stories “excavate” the “his-tory of the world”, as well as the “silent” histories of my country, yet to be told by many minority groups. The many layers overlap in different crossings, resisting the limits of the official maps, borders and narratives.

Shown in 2 versions, at the exhibition Syntax_Error – misunderstandings as a creative process (Transmediale Vorspiel 2016) and ¡n[s]urgênc!as program’s public presentation and exhibition at Agora Collective, 2018.


Transmediale Vorspiel 2016 | Syntax_Error – misunderstandings as a creative process
Plateau Gallery/8th floor  | Green House Berlin
Curator: Christian Heck  
Website: https://noparts.org/syntax_error/

Only humans communicate through symbols. According to Flusser, we speak hereby of  “unnatural” communication because the “natural” transmission of information would aim at a transparent, understandable exchange of messages. However, an artwork represents in its aesthetic coding actually a communication barrier, because it rather hides than spells out clearly its meaning. Schlingensief said: “Art is only interesting when we are facing something that we cannot completely explain”. In this paradoxical tension between the symbolic displacement of reality and the urge for its cognition myriads of failed systems of human codes are standing and being created.

The exhibition undertakes an artistic dialogue between six artists, and a seventh, whose performance is pointed directly at the visitors. It shows how false understanding creates new originals and new spaces of meaning. Errors and misunderstandings enlarge our world, which means the amount of information grows. Through ambiguities new knowledge and spaces of meaning arise. The exhibition shows conversational situations between the artworks and invites visitors to intervene and to continue the discourse in their own understandi

Exhibition // Syntax Error at Green House Berlin

Excerpt from article by William Kherbek, on Berlin Art Link online magazine – an insider’s guide to contemporary art and culture  // Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016.  > see complete article on pdf Online: http://www.berlinartlink.com/2016/01/21/exhibition-syntax-error-at-green-house-berlin/

“We are the subjects of gadgets and instruments of mechanical data processing.” Or so Friedrich Kittler, the philosopher and media theorist, remarked on the strange ways in which machines usurp human prerogatives. Kilter’s argument would have made sense to a number of the artists included in the exhibition Syntax Error at the eighth floor gallery of Greenhouse. The exhibition examines the ways in which networks are established between human beings and the objects they create, as well as the emergent relations that follow: communities, symbol-reference chains and, of course, aesthetic dialogues.


Moana Mayall’s ‘A Portal Experiment’ examined the networks formed by humans and technological interfaces from a different angle. ‘A Portal Experiment’ brings together a variety of media, digital video, paperback books, and a disembodied, spoken audio soundtrack that provides, and then dissolves, narrative touchstones. The work focusses on a favela community in Brazil – the Complex do Alemão, (translated by the artist as “the German Complex” or “The Complex of the German Guy”) – and communities in Berlin, concentrating particularly on the period attending the fall of the Wall. Mayall states her concerns as focussing on the role of the observer, and, specifically, on her own status as an “outsider” in both the German Complex and in Germany, but equally potent in the work is the sense it evokes of incompletion. No story, no matter how faithfully recounted, can capture the truth (and falsity) of direct experience. The use of the archetype of contemporary “creativity” the wi-fi enabled MacBook Pro as a site of image display in the work wrote an extra level of irony into the piece as messages for its owner occasionally blinked into view in the upper righthand corner of the screen. The messages were hidden, of course, by the artwork, but as they piled up, 11 messages, 12 messages, 13 messages, they became an important component of the narratives Mayall’s work sought to explore. Were they from Brazil? From Germany? From spam generators invisible behind a thousand and one proxy servers? It was impossible to tell but as the cascade of languages in the work came through the speakers, they deepened the awareness the piece generates of exposed subjectivity and information loss.”

Excerpts (Sound installation)

– Ogum foi quem se manifestou pra mim no último terreiro que fui antes de vir pra cá, pra Berlim. É o Orixá das guerras e batalhas da vida, e também das travessias, das viagens, da tecnologia. Seu elemento é o metal. Ogum é o senhor das guerras, senhor das demandas, cabeça de Zumbi dos Palmares.

– I have collected seeds since 5 years ago. For when the third world war begins. I saw all of these catastrophes in my dreams, as in the prophecies! Lots of thunders and yellow toxic rains…the Russians will come again!

-Eventually through many adventures, the violence of these warrior gods grows increasingly wild and ferocious – symbolized by the great wolf Fenrir.

– Quando você entra pro tráfico, você sabe que a morte também te espera lá

– They were mortal, subject to the finality of Death, at Ragnarok, the end of the world. This reflects the Viking warrior mentality. Humans must die in battle to reach their warrior heaven.

– Willkommen mein Sohn, meine Tochter, im Königreich deiner individualität. Nicht einmal mir, deiner mutter, ist es erlaubt einzutreten.

– Sou formado nas práticas da realidade. é através da realidade, do que eu vivo, que eu escrevo as minhas teorias

– Meu complexo de alemã é o meu complexo de classe média “branca”. Branca na paleta “mestiza” brasileira… Meu corpo não é alvo dessa guerra, e meu peito respira em compassos mais dilatados que a de meus amigos favelados, ou apenas negros ou pobres. Não sou branca nem negra nem índia, apesar de ter em mim todos esses gens, e mais o árabe e o judeu.

– I don’t have any German complex. Hmmm…Bratwurst! Bratwurst is a typical german complex.”

–  Quando eu era criança, minha mãe tinha que me ensinar onde ficavam os ” muros invisíveis ” no Alemão: “Não pode passar além daquele lugar ali. Não pode entrar naquele beco… senão você pode levar um tiro”. Não havia muros de verdade, mas eu tive que aprender a localizar cada um desses muros invisíveis no complexo do alemão. Imaginar esses muros na minha frente. Saber de que lado da guerra a gente estava andando, a cada momento.”

– Quando eu vejo esses buracos de bala nos muros do Alemão, não é difícil me imaginar às rezas, me “agarrando em Jeová”, a Jesus, como tantos dos meus amigos favelados.

– The preachers shall be paid from the great tithe. A potential surplus shall be used to pay for the poor and the war tax. The small tithe shall be dismissed, for it has been trumped-up by humans, for the Lord, our master, has created the cattle free for mankind.

– The 12 demands? Martin Luther didn’t listen to the 12 demands

– …e a porta que esta aberta no momento da sua necessidade, desespero, é a porta de uma igreja protestante …

–  Minha vó era atriz e vivia com a boemia intelectual. Deu um padrinho gay, artista e escritor para o meu pai.Pouco antes da guerra começar, meu avô e minha tia vieram para o Brasil. A intenção era minha avó e meu pai juntarem-se a eles em pouco tempo.com a guerra meu pai foi enviado para a Hitlerjugend de vez. Minha vó não queria pendurar o retrato do Führer na parede da sua cozinha, como todos faziam. até que recebeu visitas que gentilmente solicitaram Q ela mudasse de ideia. Ela se negava a ter a foto do homi em casa, ou o “Mein Kampf”. morreu durante a guerra, complicações medicas. Algo com o fígado.

Prega uma plaquinha de espinhos nas costas, com uma seta escrita: polícia! Não entre na minha casa pra me roubar…
Polícia! Devolva o meu iphone que tava no sofá! 
Polícia! Deixa o meu perfume da jequiti no lugar! 
Polícia! Retira-se da minha casa pô favô!

– We accepted Nazism here in Germany during the war … when I was about 16, I started to wonder why all this happened. For some years I was reading everything about it … until I felt I really needed to spend some time outside Germany, to see all of this from distance. My grandmother lived at that time, and it seems she was ok with the Nazis. She is a lady with whom I do not speak or have any contact.

– Je suis naïf. Charlie, je ne suis pas. As bombas que aqui explodem, não explodem como lá

– As favela são os quilombos urbanos

– Free Cuvry! Free Cuvry! Free Cuvry!

– Quanto estão levando pra determinar o valor da minha vida? Senhores capitães… Não tenho crack, não tenho maconha, não tenho cocaina! Tenho um montão de lixo que transformo em grandes proveitos!

– Macht kaputt was euch kaputt macht!

– …por sofrer preconceito da sociedade, eu não via o crime no tráfico de drogas como algo errado

– Aus dem Weg Kapitalisten, die letzte Schlacht gewinnen wir! Die rote Front und die schwarze Front sind WIR!!!

– No início, era o instinto/ agora tinto em instituição/ onde a guerra nunca cessa, disfarçada em códigos de paz/ No início era o instinto/ e por instinto também, nós homens guerreávamos/ por comida ou por sexo ou por amor e pra ter paz/ ou pra ter mais/

– A favela foi a minha faculdade e continua sendo

– Römer nannten uns Barbaren, unzivilisiert. Heute nennen wir Griechen und Latinos faul, ineffizient, zu leidenschaftlich … Unsere größte “Barbarei” ist heute unsere industrielle Effizienz!

– O mundo é uma favela

The favelas sometimes attack the city, as Germany also attacked other countries. Favelas are sometimes invaded, as Germany was. The structures of the favelas sometimes are destroyed, as the structures in Germany were. And, as the favelas also rebuild themselves, Germany had to do so.

– Wir bauen eine Favela aus kreativen Utopien und Lebensentwürfen, die sich wie eine Stadt ausbreitet und vermehrt.

– das guerras do meu dia a dia/ e do dia a dia em guerra lá fora/ poucas vezes mantive um posto/ ganhei medalha de desertora// errando alvos, perdendo o timing, me expondo a tiros e bombas de outra sorte/ caindo do cavalo/ abraçando pequenas mortes// me distraindo nas trincheiras/ sonhando com revoluções possíveis em saltos quânticos e sem dor/ fugindo, mesmo, da guerra/ no sonho/ e a esmo

*A Portal Experiment 
Complexo do Alemão <->Deutscher Komplex

This is a collective project that happens in constant collaboration, friendship and solidarity with collective Papo Reto , residents of Alemão and other favela communities in Rio.

Among hundreds of favelas in Rio, one was called Morro do Alemão (=“German’s hill”), actually named after a Polish man, Leonard Kaczmarkiewicz- who moved to Rio after World War I. He bought the land in the Northern Zone of Rio de Janeiro, at the time the first industries were being installed on Avenida Brasil, and became a faveleiro (=land owners who used to rent the ground to the favelados, in this case poor workers coming from Rio and other regions of Brazil, namely the Northeastern, also to work in these industries). It was not long before the place became known as Morro do Alemão (German’s Hill), due to Kaczmarkiewicz’s physical looks (a person of stereotypical European complexion is informally called “alemão”, “galego” or “russo”, in Brazilian Portuguese). Nowadays, the biggest complex of favelas in Rio, formed by the 16 neighbor favelas around Morro do Alemão, is known as Complexo do Alemão (German Complex).

Alemão (German), due to the inflated imaginary of World War II in all media, became a war code among drug dealing factions and nowadays it’s still a very popular slang in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, which means: 1. outsider; 2. enemy; 3. the police

A Portal Experiment consists of an ongoing interdisciplinary cartography* shared with the public in the form of collaborative actions and mixed media artworks/ exhibitions/ archives, where feedbacks in-between both territories are also taken into account for the next editions. It takes place in-between two remote territories: one is Complexo do Alemão (=“complex of the german guy”/ “german complex”), a group of 16 favela communities located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the other is Berlin, Germany.

The cartography* is formed by opening some “portals” in-between the official maps, which gives me access to different layers of history and (psycho)geography: traces, gaps, records, memories, affections, synchronicities … Usually two places, themes or situations are chosen-one in Complexo do Alemão and the other in Berlin. Some autobiographical nodes are also highlighted in the portal cartography: my own personal stories “excavate” the “his-tory of the world”, as well as the somewhat “silent” stories of my country, histories yet to be told by our own people.. . in each approach, the “excavation” continues, a great deal influenced by personal experiences and random (interdisciplinary? non- disciplined?) linkings. The many layers overlap in different crossings, resisting the limits of the official territories and narratives. Beyond the juxtaposition of fragments from both diverse worlds, the idea of the portal also provokes the perception of continuity between historical processes in Brazil and Germany.

In the favela, my “German complex” is my “white middle-class complex” . I’m an outsider, in-betweener, set apart from the favela, in an apartment in the southern Zone of Rio.

Initially sponsored by Dom Pedro II (end of XIX century), the colonization of Brazil by Germans and Italians not only had the objective of populating uninhabited regions of Brazil, but was also a eugenicist project for the creation of a genetically and culturally whiter middle class.

An important, practical and ethical dimension of this long term project- so far independent from institutional funding- is the ongoing exercise of listening and horizontal collaboration with favela social movements in Brazil. Since 2013, the project is in collaboration with the media activism collective Papo Reto (formerly members of Ocupa Alemão), a network of activists reporting issues that are relevant to Complexo do Alemão and other favela communities, engaging in copwatch and counter stereotypes, while also fostering spaces for dialogue and exchange.

What is it like to talk about a so called “other”, in a context where I am also considered an “other” myself ? While my social status of “white middle class” in Brazil entails a more privileged condition in terms of Brazilian society, in Europe it’s my South American “mestiza” background that will connect me to Afrobrazilian and Indigenous references, not refusing the problematics and critical, colonial, reflections both categories may bring about. The way I inhabit Alemão, being now in Berlin, as an outsider in both places, leads me to some other kind of “territory”, yet to be explored as both places relate and talk to each other, as they recombine or remix in voice, image, imagination, history and fiction: “synchroni-cities” in progress…

Ich bin nicht typisch/ Ich bin nicht so Brasilianisch in Brasilien./ Vielleicht eine echte Brasilianerin bin ich hier, in Deutschland./ Eigentlich, bin ich eine “Alemã” (Deutsche) in der Favela.” [I’m not typical/ I’m not so Brazilian in Brazil./ Maybe I am a real Brazilian here, in Germany./Actually, in the favela, I am an “Alemã” (German)

The portal is the opposite of the wall. Through the poetic strategies of collage/remix/ text cut ups, “decolonial décollage”, streams of consciousness, multidirectional memory** and psychogeographic drifts, this project intends to activate a dialogue environment between the two territories- yet generating a new hybrid territory which remixes intimate and geopolitical landscapes. I work with very diverse media, depending on how the contents inspire me- the experimentation with formats and methodologies is also part of the process.


*    by “interdisciplinary cartography” I mean alternative ways of mapping, expanding the meaning of territories through their living realities, dialogues and the research references of the project. The methodology consists of bridging different fields of knowledge, namely history, visual arts, poetry, sound arts, as well as an ongoing personal archive of experiences. 

“The practice of a cartographer refers to, fundamentally, the strategies of the formations of desire in the social field. And little does it matter which sectors of the social life he/she chooses as an object. What matters is that he/she remains alert to the strategies of desire in any phenomenon of the human existence that one sets out to explore: from social movements, formalized or not, the mutations of collective sensitivity, violence, delinquency. . . up to unconscious ghosts and the clinical profiles of individuals, groups and masses, whether institutionalized or not.

Similarly, little matters the theoretical references of the cartographer. What matters is that, for him/her, theory is always cartography-and, thus being, it creates itself jointly with the landscapes whose formation he/she accompanies (including, naturally, the theory introduced here). For that, the cartographer absorbs matters from any source. He/she has no racism whatsoever regarding frequency, language or style. All that may provide a language to the movements of desire, all that may serve to coin matter of expression and create sense, is welcomed by him/her. All entries are good, as long as the exits are multiple. ” 

in Sentimental Cartography, Suely Rolnik

**    Michael Rothberg proposes the concept of multidirectional memory from concluding that  the assumption of a competition or comparison between different victim histories is analytically unprofitable. “Against the framework that understands collective memory as competitive memory – as a zero-sum struggle over scarce resources – I suggest that we consider memory as multidirectional: as subject to ongoing negotiation, cross-referencing, and borrowing; as productive and not private.”. (Rothberg 2009:3 in Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization (Cultural Memory in the Present). He proposes to observe the worldwide memory of the Holocaust as not diminishing the importance of other victim stories, but rather as able to produce articulation. In doing so, the reference to other stories may function beyond their temporal and spatial location, contributing to the collective recognition of suffering.