"Passageways" (Installation view) Jersey City Museum 2009 - Images Courtesy: Jersey City Museum 2009

"Passageways" (Installation view) Jersey City Museum 2009 - Images Courtesy: Jersey City Museum 2009

Passageways - exhibition brochure
Text by Priscila De Carvalho

My installation at the Jersey Museum will be my largest and most ambitious work to date. It is a 10 ft. long and 35 ft. wide labyrinthine city constructed in paint, foam, paper, photographs, collage and rubber. Passageways, the title of this exhibition, is related to the absence of streets in the slums, where circulation is provided by stairways or simple tracks.

This installation conveys the complexity, chaos and paradoxes of contemporary life that affect America, my native Brazil, and all of humanity in the age globalization. While I address the great ills of humanity such as war, poverty, conflict, drug trafficking and other contemporary issues, they are presented within the full context of a humanity that also hungers for joy and happiness. This body of work incorporates photographs taken during Carnival in Brazil, parades in New York City, as well as portraits of my own friends and photographs taken from everyday life experiences. Carnival in Brazil becomes a prism through which to view universal themes and concerns. The idea of transformation, which is at the very heart of carnival, allows night to become day, the poor to feel rich, and the plain to become glamorous. For a brief period of time, barriers dissolve. These concepts of inversion and transformation allow a life without hope to become, however briefly, a life without limits. 

My images are collected from the realms of memory, documentary films, 
the internet, and photography. The narratives presented are personal interpretations of a world that seems at times to be humorous, intense, contradictory and chaotic. For instance, I chose to include a particular image of parachutes dropping artificial limbs after seeing the film Kandahar, directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf. In a memorable and haunting scene, a group of one-legged war victims races with their crutches to claim the artificial legs that are being dropped by parachute from Red Cross helicopters. The image of artificial limbs being dropped over the slums/favelas of Rio de Janeiro may at first appear incongruous. It begins to make sense if one understands that poverty and war are both great cripplers of humanity. While dropping artificial limbs may be a sadly inadequate answer to war, it is, at least, a desperately needed act of compassion. In the face of overwhelming and seemingly infinite poverty, one can also hope for some gesture of compassion, and one can wonder about the powers of transformation that might be released by even the most inadequate of gestures.Within this installation I aim to create platforms for an open international dialogue, and to address foreign and American culture in a way that reveals the common notions of happiness, joy, inversion, transformation that are central to all of our stories.


Priscila De Carvalho, New York, March 2009