Charlie & the White Elephant [2014/ 2015]

Video, 3’41’’
Argument, (Mobile) Camera and Edition: Moana Mayall

The wall is not there…as it used to be. What remais from history sometimes is only fiction. A portal is open between Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin, and Teleférico do Alemão (Cable car stations connecting six favela communities of Complexo do Alemão), Rio de Janeiro. On her first day visiting both touristic venues, the narrator, an outsider herself, experiences some events and synchronicities that, later on, bring both places together. What do they have in common? The way they embody official discourses about “victory”, expressed as “freedom” or “pacification”, is a starting point to realize these venues are not so far as it seems. What can we say about freedom and peace after the wall fall and in contemporary societies from the so called “developed world”?* Did the pacification police units (UPPs) really bring peace to Complexo do Alemão?** The video’s project was developed during ZK/U Berlin’s art residency program, 2014/2015.

See the video. *Ask me for the password on [at]

* “Neoliberalism describes the state of current society very well, because it’s about exploiting freedom. The system strives towards increasing productivity, and so it switches from exploiting others to exploiting the self, because this generates more efficiency and more productivity, all under the guise of freedom.” (…) “Freedom is the opposite of compulsion. If you subconsciously see the compulsion that you are subjected to as freedom, then that’s the end of freedom. That’s why we’re in a crisis. The crisis of freedom is that we perceive compulsion as freedom, so no resistance is possible.” – in: Byung-Chul Han: “I’m sorry, but those are facts” Interview to Niels Boeing and Andreas Lebert.November 3rd, 2015. Berlin philosopher, Han is seen as a rising star in his profession, who can topple thought structures that underpin our everyday existence with a few sentences. For this, he is both admired and attacked.

** “The UPP [Pacification Police Units ] never eliminated the drug trade, it only brought a false sense of security to the middle class. The vacuum left by the state, has always opened space for a parallel power. The presence [of the police], says the activist, did not ease the problem. Before the UPP, we were forced to respond to the drug dealers. Today, if anything happens, I can not call the police because the trafficker will see. Nor can I call the drug dealer because the police watch over me. We do not have anyone to complain about” – in “UPP não acabou com o tráfico, só trouxe falsa sensação de segurança-A polícia divide espaço com traficantes no Complexo do Alemão, acusam moradores” by Marcelo Pellegrini. Carta Capital 


2018 ¡n[s]urgênc!as – curated by Paz Ponce, Daniela Labra and Kap Hoorn
AGORA Collective, Berlin

2017    Transmediale Vorspiel |  autobiographical.rituals
8th floor  Gallery | Green House Berlin

2016    Transmediale Vorspiel  |  Syntax_Error – misunderstandings as a creative process
Gallery 8th floor Berlin
Curator: Christian Heck  


Participating artists: Matthew Crookes, Paul Cullen, Neele Hülcker, Wirad Kaddo & Reham Alkassar (SODOM), Jan Körbes, Ekaterina Kravtsova, Moana Mayall and Byungseo Yoo.

Participating guests: Sungseok Ahn, Elisabeth R. Hager, Matthias Kaul, Jiwoo Mun


Participating artists: Alicja Dobrucka, Roslisham Ismail aka ise, Ekaterina Kravtsova, Birgitte Ejdrup Kristensen and Line Sandvad Mengers, Moana Mayall, Rafael Nassif, Kyung Lae Oak.

Programme: 6 pm – Bar opening/ 7 pm – 7.20 pm – Rafael Nassif (music)/  7.20 pm – 7.30 pm – Kyung Lae Oak/ 7.30 pm – 7.45 pm – Moana Mayall/ 7.45 pm – 7.55 pm – Alicja Dobrucka/  7.55 pm – 8 pm – Roslisham Ismail aka ise/  8.20 pm – 8.40 pm – Birgitte Ejdrup Kristensen, Line Sandvad Mengers/  8.40 pm – 9 pm – Rafael Nassif (music)

*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.