20.11.14 – 17.01.15
Ausência Permanente is Angolan-born Délio Jasse’s first solo exhibition in South Africa. For this show, Jasse has chosen to present an installation produced on the occasion of his nomination for the BES Photo Award in 2014, a meditation on the transformation and (dis)ordering of the city of Luanda, its present and past inhabitants and their memories.
Throughout his production, Délio Jasse’s focus has been on imperial debris, on the ruins of the Portuguese empire, dispersed on the chaotic tables and spreads of merchants, antiquarians, second hand bookshops and flea markets around Lisbon, and on the busy streets and the bricoleured façades of Luanda’s architecture. Over the course of his many journeys and wanderings, Jasse has managed to assemble a stockpile of other people’s discarded memories and memoires; passports, visas, letters, albums, photographs, death notices – a body of colonial and migratory signifiers which he employs in his work. To this store of images and remnants of the colonial years of Portugal under António Oliveira de Salazar, from 1932 to 1968 or the period thereafter – which one might term that of “imperial decay” – Jasse adds his own record of contemporary Angola; the multiform sites of less love for the bygone, those of disregard and abandonment which he sees in roads, buildings, compounds. These locations, these degraded environments, form a part of the psychic and material space in which Angolans or “Luandinos” live and move today. They too are urban sites of “imperial decay” in that they too contain the material and immaterial, the tangible and intangible, the visible and invisible traces of the waste of colonialism, that is, a type of refuse – material but also ideological and institutional – that degrades personhoods. This is evinced in the manner people are forced to live with the effects and affects of its damage. [i] Looking at Jasse’s images, we see slivers of spaces stubbornly inhabited by those displaced, requisitioned either to make way for commodity-life in the form of tourist consumption, mining or shopping malls, or occupied by those with nowhere else to turn. Unlike his romantic counterparts, Jasse’s does not look with an introspective, nostalgic gaze on ruins, he rejects their pathos and the rush of sentimental identification, looking instead to the lives of those living in or amongst those ruins, opting for a celebration of their survival.
A tireless experimenter, Ausência Permanente is a reflection of Delio Jasse’s practice, one that involves the re-appropriation, rescaling, reterritorialization and relocation of images. It also speaks of his print methodology, which is both intuitive and improvised due to the dwindling spectrum of analogue material available to him in the cities he inhabits. Jasse’s images evince the use of intertextual processes and a personal methodology. By applying layers and superposing diachronic elements from found images or civilizational artifacts on a single photographic plane, and leaving the imperfect trace of his at times home-brewed light sensitive emulsion on paper, Jasse deftly performs what we witness in his images: ghostly resuscitations. The way he chooses to present and install his work, on screens and racks, reinforces the sense of fractured time, of contradiction and multiple reading that he seems to pursue. In the case of Ausência Permanante, he has created a specific environment for his images, a dramatic darkroom-like setting where images float, individually illuminated in nine ‘baths’, reflecting that catalytic phantasmagoric moment, where specters emanate, unbound by the photographic process.
Perhaps the trope that best addresses the structural and aesthetic quality of Délio Jasse’s work is that of the palimpsest, with its metaphorical qualities of “reinscription, relationality and hybridity,” where the temporal mode adopted is that of the past made present.[ii] For those less familiar, the term literally refers to the reading and publication of manuscripts where scholars uncover, examine and piece together layers of rewritten text. During the medieval period in Western Europe, erasure of existing texts for the purpose of recycling parchment was a common practice. A chemical mix between the processes of erasure and oxygenation resulted in the ghostly reappearance of the original text “beneath” the new one. These “layered” texts are known as palimpests. Involuted, Délio Jasse’s images, like these textual predecessors, show signs of previous drafts, takes and thoughts, which are found amidst newer “rewrites.“ Otherwise unrelated images are involved, entangled and intricately interwoven so as to interrupt and inhabit each other.[iii] Time and space become compressed, past and present commingle, teleology fails as beginnings and endings disappear as points of orientation.
[i]See Ann Laura Stoler, “The Rot Remains,” in Imperial Debris: On Ruins and Ruination, ed. Ann Laura Stoler (London: Duke University Press, 2013).
[ii]Kimberly A. Powell, “ReMapping the City: Palimpsest, Place, and Identity in Art Education Research,” Studies in Art Education: A Journal of Isssues and Research 50 (2008): 6.
[iii]See Powell, p. 7.