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  • Writer's picturePaula Damasceno

when I "studio"..., how I "studio"...

A good morning routine contributes fundamentally to my studio practice.

Ideally, it involves yoga or swimming and meditation. The first two don’t happen as regularly as my lower back needs but the latter has been one of my studio practice foundations for the last 10 years. It awakes my mind to my deepest desires, and connects all my realities - mind, body, spirit - in one. It gives me the freedom to engage with life acknowledging all the sorrow and joy in this world and at the same time, it teaches much more but what is important to my studio ritual is that I am there present and whole. Then, I read, I make notes, I surf online, I check the news on days I feel I can handle it and not be totally down by it. There is a dance between attention and distraction that I consciously let happen here unless I have a deadline, then I read and write with a purpose.

Gap. Jump.

When I “studio”, I like to lose my body around the shape and perhaps sing a song to integrate myself into this space. Perhaps then the space needs a modification, perhaps it is all good to start to work. I like to go through all the works I am working on and have a sense of a thread between them, organize my mind around what I am creating, reconnect to the basic concepts, rearrange works in space, sort out some materials, and sequence and re-sequence materials and works. That is a warm-up, a recognition.

Gap. Jump.

Some days after warming up I will stop and not be able to do anything. Then I will “studio” otherwise, attending to other aspects of my life. Some days I will figure out many problems that the day before seemed elusive to me.

Gap. Jump.

Lay down on the studio floor is lovely and necessary to me.

Gap. Jump.

Now - a now that extends until the end of my summer residency at SAIC - I have a couple of problems to solve and productions to make.

One of them is the production of new tableau photographs for a work titled If He Change My Name, in which a pair, and collapse images from colonial churches in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, staged cross-cultural religious altars, text, religious handouts and more to reflect on the violence upon enslaved people's spirituality and moreover what unsettled and ambivalent practices resulted from it. I have been to a couple of places in Chicago and found some great implements: vernacular photographs, religious devices, small gesso figures, plants, and candles.

I have been walking in Chicago connecting to each step, to each ancestor, to each predecessor that I have in this town. They are all symbolic, they are all real. The steps help me to navigate the clash between 20

+ stores I have to go through when going to my studio and the many more individuals who experience homelessness on the streets. The steps help me not forget about the Chicago torture machine, the Chicago strikes, the Chicago BIPOC communities, the Chicago immigrants, and the Chicago joys and sorrows. Is with all that that I am creating these new tableaus. They are not about that, but they are embedded with that daily attention to the city.

Once I got my implements, I then could make compositions and study the light they require. Meanwhile, in the back of my mind, I keep questioning if I will make these tableaus into a Kente-Book to both re-signify photography, cultural clash, colonial ambivalence reminiscences and produce liberated (?) results in the shape of a wearable book? How do I address the debate between “traditional” Kente making and printed Kentes?

Or, the traditional format of the flipping book is enough to express the complications of spiritual violence, religious conversion, and syncretism….

Or, both?

If all the problems I’ve had were just those questions….no. I am still learning to deal with failure. I had a tremendous one this past Saturday when I shot for 5 hours and then the film got stuck in the camera, then got exposed during my anxious attempt to liberate the film from the machine, and finally:

I WILL HAVE TO DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN! Liberation takes time…

Gap. Jump.

I am practicing love and action towards it now. Embracing what is to do it all over

again. This is not true because it will be all anew, not again. I will encounter new situations when walking on eh streets, new readings will be done by the next shooting session, and new learnings, and unlearnings.

The first image bellow is a record of the composition I've made on my Iphone before to loose it all...then one of the BW from Rio's churches.

Gap Jump.

Grada Kilomba - Decolonizing Knowledge = Biography + theory

How would that work with the abstract, the non-figurative…?

Perhaps this is a path, not an end…?

Khalil Gibran - What if Time? - On Parabola Magazine (Our African Unconscious, 2021)

““Racial” diversity as we think of it today only began approx. 25,000 years ago…” (103)

“...the template of humankind - the psychic and genetic roots of all present-day humanity - was nestled in east Africa for at least 2.5 million years before leaving the continent.

Gap. Jump.

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