We live in constant rotation, attracted by a force proportional to the mass and size of this sphere we call Earth. Not exactly a sphere, with its flat caps, thus defined for geometric approximation and convenience of representation.
In the seemingly harmless combination of geometric approximation and convenience of representation of the world is where Marina Camargo establishes her artistic practice. Much of her recent work dives into the margin of error of cartographic conventions that record, perpetuate, and expand hegemonic conceptions of territory. We often forget that all maps arise from projections and act as tools for control (be it cognitive, symbolic, technical, or effectively military). Marina helps us renew our unfamiliarity and doubts, coupling said maps with another kind of projection: the shadow.
Born of the concealment of rays of light by opaque bodies, shadows give hints of the size and shape of things and their surfaces, therefore revealing unmeasurable dimensions and leading to ambiguities and misconceptions. An eclipse, for example, proves positions, distances, and sizes of celestial bodies, while also hiding the source of the light. It is an instinct to want to avoid the shade, to delay the eclipse, to let go of the discoveries arising from it, and to dream of the absolute (and unattainable) correction of maps, without distortions and arbitrariness. Marina resists this instinct, stepping back into the shadow, reaching the antumbra, from where there is enough distance to see the halo of light behind the opaque body causing the eclipse. Staying with the map, making it into shade, allowing it to soften, to tarnish, to dissolve, to sing.
What we see in the exhibition A Certain Shade is a new step in Marina Camargo’s journey, as she begins to touch the shards of this softened shade-cartography and bend it like an origami, a fable, an animal.
Those who walk around Instituto Ling will find a framed work installed on the front wall of the hall even before the title and the curatorial text begin. The work in display is Geographical Outline: Sertão (“Esboço geográfico: Sertão,” 2023), a typical school map of Brazil that the artist transforms through three interventions. The map was created from a cropped area cut in the approximate form of the area known as the Sertão (Hinterland), a key region in the history of the Brazilian territory, with geographical contours that are difficult to ascertain. Behind the frame, the same shape was painted in gray by the artist as a shadow cast by the emptiness of the map. In the lower corner of the canvas, where there would usually be a legend of the cartographic codes used, she presents another kind of information, a collection of definitions of the Sertão found in dictionaries:
“The interior, the heart of the lands, opposing the maritime, the coast. Vast desert. Profound desert. Sertão.”
Thus, the accumulation of interferences expresses the obstinate attempt to map something that, nonetheless, forever escapes. The Sertão can be the vast emptiness (desert), but it can also be what provides a pulse to the soil (the heart of the lands). The Brazilian Sertão is both a fact and an invention. Its map, therefore, points to a geopolitical territory, a land, an allegory, a shadow. A landscape, a poetic territory, an emptiness.
After facing the overflowing emptiness/ fullness of the imaginary Sertão, the visitor will find two videos that approach the opacity of the territory. Lighthouse (“Farol,” 2023) evokes childhood memories of the Maceió waterfront with a sequence of photographic images eroded by digital cutouts, while the text indirectly refers to the results of the indiscriminate exploitation of salt in the city’s subsoil, which brought entire blocks and neighborhoods to structural collapse and abandonment – visible effects of underground movements. On the other hand, Sensing latitudes and longitudes (“Detecção de latitudes e longitudes,” 2021) comes into existence by the artist’s hands spinning the terrestrial globe, to the almost whispering sound of the reading of numbers and words found on the cartographic surface – an unlikely variation of an experiment in ASRM (autonomous sensory meridian response) that restores some sensory load to the abstract procedure of reducing the representation of the planet to a ball that can be carried in one’s hands.
MAP AS DRAWING AS MAP
The pioneering thinker of Brazilian culture Mário de Andrade pondered: “What pleases me the most, in the very complex nature of drawing, is its infinitely subtle character, of being at the same time a transience and a wisdom. The drawing speaks, it even becomes a sort of writing, a calligraphy, more than a mere visual art. (…) It is an intermediate art between the arts of space and the arts of time, being materially an art in motion, drawing is the intermediate art undertaken through space, because its matter is still.”1
It would be difficult to find better words to support the relationship between Marina Camargo’s interest in drawing and her approach to words and cartographic practices. It can be argued that much of the artist’s work consists of making tangible (and manipulable) the fact that all cartography is a kind of drawing and, therefore, not unlike a subtle transient writing between time and space. The next stage of A Certain Shade (“A Certa Sombra”) is organized around this notion that a map, despite its heavy implications as a device for knowledge, control, and territorial exploration, is also a poetic form.
The painted panel Unfolded Geographies - Panorama (“Geografias Desdobradas – Panorama,” 2023) was installed at the back of the path leading to the exhibit hall. With its wide dimensions (82.6 x 144.8 in), it consists of numerous and imposing maps that project authority to a genealogy of spaces of power ranging from royal halls of colonial empires to multinational hotel chain lobbies and United Nations meeting rooms. Up close, however, the image of the world presented by the work proves to be less stable and consensual than one would imagine. The position and shape of the continents are familiar enough to denote a global board, but each piece of the board is arranged to be multiplied, bent upon itself, rotated, inverted. The artist created a set of reverses and straight lines using techniques typical of graphic composition, working with mobile molds in order to establish contours that she freely filled with black paint, relying on the color of the medium (wood) to compose the image.
The infinitely subtle complexity of this cartographic drawing soon spreads to the works that keep it company when entering the exhibit hall. Three of the drawings called Disturbances (“Distúrbios,” 2020-2022) feature a countless repetition of the silhouette of South America, with its outline shaped by ink lines applied with a calligraphy pen. A fourth drawing employs the same process to outline the African continent. In all cases, the drawn lines undulate, their thickness varies with the alternating pressure and direction of the quill, misaligned, ever multiplying – demarcating gray painted areas while suggesting movement and vibration, as if in a seismographic cartography hypothesis in which the disturbances are below or beyond the geological tremors.
Soft-Map: Spectrum (“Mapa-mole: Espectro,” 2022), in turn, pushes the principle of projection to its limit as a necessary step for the creation of two-dimensional representations of a spherical surface. The piece is created through cuts in a rubber plane, from which pieces are removed. The rubber medium is then suspended next to the wall by its upper vertices, and the weight of the rubber distorts these sections. As if by a spell, the indentations in the rubber cast shadows on the wall and, again, the ghostly silhouette of South America emerges from its cuts.
This is followed by another group of recent works by Marina Camargo. Pink Africa (“África Rosa”), Expanded America (“América Expandida”), Shadow-Light America I (“América Sombra-Luz I”) and Shadow-Light America II (“América Sombra-Luz II,” 2023) are small paintings that frame the silhouette of specific continents and unfold them in repetitions analogous to those already described in Unfolded Geographies. The mostly centralized composition of these canvases is added to the somewhat diluted application of paints with colors rarely used in cartographic conventions (such as black, purple, and lilac) to generate affective, almost emotional evocations. The paintings are, as much as possible, psychological portraits of the territories.
A WORLD OVERLOADED
The back of the exhibit hall reveals works that expand the limits of the reinvention of cartographic making through drawing. First, there is a collection of small works from the Flux: Atlas Antiquus (“Fluxos: Atlas Antiquus”) and Flux: Taschen-Atlas (“Fluxos: Taschen-Atlas”) series (2022 and 2023), which were created using pre-existing maps, originally published in ancient atlases, representing not only continents but oceans. On these maps, the artist drew multiple parabolic arcs using Indian ink, creating vectors similar to those that usually represent sea routes, though gigantic in their thickness and density. These opaque lines accumulate especially over the Atlantic, a crossing path and mass grave to the enslaved people that were key to the functioning of the colonial machine for centuries, obscuring the map to the point of indecipherability, subverting the conventional hierarchy between terrestrial bodies and dynamic streams in cartographic representation.
Finally, there is the large rubber installation called Re-Pangea (“Re-Pangeia,” 2019- 2023), in which the continents, which one day formed a single terrestrial body, reconnect in solidarity through metal rings, forming a mass that hangs from a raised bar and spreads across the ground. In this work, the tactile (haptic) quality of black rubber alludes to the iconic soft works of Lygia Clark, while also evoking the fetishism of rubbery bodysuits that simultaneously shelter and mask, dress and reveal ambivalent bodies.
In both cases, the surface of the world is overloaded with itself. Its codification as cartography does not protect it from some carnality and veiling that can be both a sign of desire and erasure. Perhaps that is why there is no surprise in the subsequent encounter with Bent Continents (South America) (“Continentes dobrados (América do Sul),” 2019), since the work incorporates a continent with its upper part flexed on itself with its use of the reflective and golden brass surface, as if, by yielding to its own weight, it reached an initial stage of melting or bowing in greeting or invitation.
Songlines (2019-2021) is a musical performance by Marcelo Cabral in collaboration with Marina Camargo. With its creation in 2019, the artist compiled five books with drawings of the land borders of all continents and invited the musician to freely interpret the sequence of border lines in the acoustic bass, turning geopolitical limits into an experimental sound score of sorts.
The five border booklets are opened on music stands, closing the exhibit with a monitor displaying a recording of the first live performance given at A Certain Shade’s opening. In the fluctuation between languages – from the printed line to the reverberant sound, from publishing to video – the breadth of the processes employed by Marina Camargo is evident.
All borders are (asymmetrical) fields used to create a thickening of differences, tensions, and geopolitical collisions. If this tension is noticeable at the oceanic limits of the territories, it becomes even more tangible at land borders materialized by walls, gates, customs offices, and migratory controls. It is precisely the whole of these lines that the artist isolates and orders, a typical process of the analytical scientific method, generating – in a counterintuitive way – a body that is made available to the musician and composer as a subject open to his interpretation. In the live version of the performance, the meaning of “interpretation” is threefold: reading the lines, translating the visual into the audible, and performing the composition in real-time. In this threefold interpretation, abstract lines with concrete effects on territories return to abstraction, liberated and available to sensorial shareable invention.
The performance relates to drawing, as defined by Mário de Andrade: an intermediate art between the arts of space and the arts of time.
 Mário de Andrade. “Do desenho”, In: “Aspectos das Artes Plásticas no Brasil”. 2a. Ed, São Paulo: Martins, 1975. p. 69
 This reading was initially suggested to me by Nik Neves, the artist’s life partner and (in)formal collaborator in several of her works. Then, I also remembered the so-called psychological portraits of Flávio de Carvalho.
Paulo Miyada is a curator and researcher of contemporary art. He has a master’s degree in History of Architecture and Urbanism at the FAU-USP, where he also graduated. He has been the chief curator of the Instituto Tomie Ohtake since 2015 and assistant curator of the Centre Pompidou since 2021. He was assistant curator at the 34th Bienal de São Paulo (2019-2021) and the 34th Panorama da Arte Brasileira at the MAM-SP (2015). Among his curator projects, stand out: AI-5 50 Anos – Ainda não terminou de acabar (AI-5 50 years – still hasn’t ended yet, 2018) and Anna Maria Maiolino – PSSSIIIUUU… (2022).