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  • Writer's picturePaula Damasceno

SHARED ANCESTRY OR UNIDENTIFIED SUBJECTS - Removed from Self-Affirmation, If Possible


Shared Ancestry or Unidentified Subjects, is a work that started in 2017 with a cardboard prototype exploring prosthetic devices. As such the pice should replace or augment a par of my body. Upon reflection, I decided to work with a feeling of separation and the possibility of transcending by wearing the piece and activating it via movement.

Further research both formal and conceptual ld me to work with the trend of DNA testing and genealogy seeking. Isn't that trend collaborating to that feeling of separation I have identified in myself? How would I feel if I took a DNA test? So I took a test. From my varied emotions, most of all, there was joy and wonder, but such thrill faded fast and was replaced by a sense of sadness about the limits of such testing: they leave invisible deeper human and non human ancestral connections. If we go far back enough, we have plants as our ancestors and before them, the stars! And we are ancestors to the future, and what this future holds if we keep attached to heritage limited to physical, representational and self affirmed ideas. At the same time as an undercurrent, I always though about Mohammad Ali and the delivery of a speech when he no longer could articulate long sentences: "Me, we."

I wanted to challenge the disarticulation of heritage beyond physical boundaries, the attention to phenotypes and individual genealogies to bring "Me, we" as a visually dynamic potential collective healing tool.

I came to a certain structure and aesthetic strategies: semi-erased portraits transferred onto 1x1 squares of Iroko wood (the Western African tree of connection between the sacred and the mundane worlds and an Orisha tree itself) that are serially attached by conductor wire to strings of raffia, composing a vestment activated by a performance.The piece is an elegy to the Western African deity Omolu - whose main characteristic is healing and whose ritual vestment, in Brazil, is made entirely of raffia. The portraits transferred onto the Iroko wood - indicate the elusive quality of portraiture, “modes of self,” and modes of “others.” They are hundreds of individual portraits from multiple regions of the world whose fixed identities had been transferred, erased, and that are completely blurred and unified by the ritual/performance of repetitive swirling.

NOW I am continuing to:

1 - experiment with light as a way to create images that transcend the dichotomy between enlightenment and darkness without erasing neither.

2 - shoot in the studio and to create more digital overlays. This has been joyful because I have had the wonderful collaboration of Ydania Li Lopez in doing so.

3 - scan each individual square of Iroko wood and edit then into 10x10 squares to be printed individually. This makes me think about how nothing is separated and while I am expressing collectivity as a healing tool, it is only possible through the existence of each individual.

4 - reflect on my meeting with Fred Moten, which demands another blog post.

MY GOALS for the upcoming week is to:

1 - edit and print with care and attention

2 - understand how and why white light became red and blue during some of the shootings, and how it illuminates the concept of this work

3 - research more about individual and collective genealogy and how Western African and African Diaspora knowledge deals with it in the present through artists, thinkers, scientists, priestesses...

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