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Walk to Remember
[in the occasion of the solo show at CAIXA Cultural São Paulo]

[1] CARERI, Francesco, Walkscapes, walking as an aesthetic practice, Gustavo Gili, Espanha, 2002, p. 73: "a Dadaist city is a city of the banal that has abandoned all the hypertechnological utopias of futurism. (...) For the Dadaists, the visits to bland places represented a concrete way of achieving the total desecration of art, with the aim of arriving at a total fusion of art and life, from the sublime to the everyday”.
Jacopo Crivelli, 2014

    One of the first artistic dérives, or drifts, known was by the Dada group, carried out in a very improvised manner on April 14, 1921, in which the public was invited to join a group of artists and discover unknown corners and aspects of Paris with them. The first of several (planned but not realized), the action had the specific purpose of visiting some of the "more mundane" places in town. With this action Dada emphasized participation in the artistic act, instead of simple observation, anticipating, to stay on the subject of dérives, the situationist theories which would be spread throughout Europe from Paris a few decades later. But the aspect that needs to be highlighted and placed in perspective is the decision to visit the "banal" places instead of other theoretically more fascinating or beautiful places. In the words of Francesco Careri, "a Dadaist city is a city of the banal that has abandoned all the hypertechnological utopias of futurism. (...) For the Dadaists, the visits to bland places represented a concrete way of achieving the total desecration of art, with the aim of arriving at a total fusion of art and life, from the sublime to the everyday”[1]. The production of works from drifts through the city has become a recurring practice in artistic production throughout the 20th century as well as at the beginning of the 21st, and it is interesting to note how most of the places visited by artists to this day continue being banal and anonymous. Think of the suburbs described through texts and photos by Robert Smithson in his work A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, of the desolate neighborhoods of Mexico City or the deserts on the periphery of Lima that appear in famous works by Francis Alÿs, the dusty and sad borders between Israel and Palestine crossed by Emily Jacir, among many other examples.

    In order to bring together the material that would serve as the starting point for the realization of the works that are now part of her exhibition at the Caixa Cultural, Bel Falleiros decided to resume the practice of drifts, which were the basis of her final work at FAU-USP. By defining the utopian goal of her walks, which correspond to the four cardinal points, as where the city of São Paulo theoretically ends, she placed herself on the periphery of the metropolis and at the heart of the artistic lineage of drifts. By passing through wastelands, desolate streets, ruins and open spaces, however, Bel was not limited to photographing,



drawing or other forms of registering these places. Her journey to the ends of the city also took place in the physical and imaginary realm, the elements of reality around her were constantly compared with memories of the city Ituveravawhere her father was born and where she experienced the feeling of reaching the edge of a city for the first time. The displacement that any drift assumes was duplicated here because the journey happened simultaneously in the imagination and in reality. In this sense, it is extremely revealing that among the anecdotes discovered by the artist in her walks through the city, the most fascinating were exactly the ones that spoke about displacements. A lighthouse that never had light, lost far from the sea, the central landmark of the city, removed and placed in another location; the historic place where the independence of Brazil was declared, chosen a posteriori to be more appropriate than the original...

      Despite the importance of these episodes being relative throughout the exhibition, the artists interest in them is significant because it shows that the displacement is, in a more subtle way than it might seem at first, the privileged strategy of the works presented. In the huge "panels" that should portray the high points of the walks, ie, the physical limits of the city of São Paulo, there remains virtually no trace of the city. What we see are rural settings: a mountain, a bridge, a lot of water. Almost without realizing it Bel left São Paulo to return to Ituverava, and she is, in fact, the one being depicted. Beyond the undeniable strength of the panels, it is interesting to note that a project that was conceived as an urban drift, of an effectively urban nature, with the (vaguely utopian) objective of finding the limits of a metropolis, became a field excursion rich in personal reminiscences. In this sense it could be significant to remember that the artist Richard Long who, more than any other, made walking in nature an artistic action, also considered his relationship with his father and childhood memories as central issues in his practice. The English artist has recently stated that for him the act of walking, despite or in addition to having become an artistic strategy of a career spanning several decades, still remains very attached to the memory of walks that he took with his father every year with the students from the school where he taught: one more example of a walk made to be remembered.

Profile [Bel Falleiros]
For Wish Casa Magazine
Gabriela Longman, 2014

    São Paulo is big, enormous, perhaps infinite.  Last year, the artist Bel Falleiros, 30, invented a personal ritual – leaving from Praça da Sé, her ground zero, and wearing typical civil construction worker garb, she would begin walking, always following a compass direction: north, south, east and west. She would travel kilometers in a state of alertness. With a recorder in hand, she would capture her impressions and idea associations.

    These outings led to the creation of four large-scale paintings on display at the Caixa Cultural in January and February. Entitled On Ruins, Memories and Monuments, the artist’s first solo show also displayed her previous collages, photographs, annotations and fragments, revealing drift and discovery. Curated by Paulo Miyada, the exhibition stressed one of the fundamental concerns of contemporary art: that the process can be of equal or greater length than the result.

    “My way of discovering a city is always to walk and let myself get lost,” explains Falleiros, who has lived in Berlin and New York. “I wanted to walk until I found the end of the city, even though I knew already I wouldn’t get there.”

The issue of urbanity is present in al her visual arts research. An architecture graduate of FAU-USP, it took her a few years to take on board the decision to be an artist. She took a course in collage at the Parsons (NY), was a member of a study group at the Fidalga Atelier and took time to study art history. She is also currently a member of .Aurora (pronounced Ponto Aurora), an independent atelier and exhibition space in São Paulo’s República area, which opened in June last year.

There, in various spacious rooms on the second floor of an old building, the activity of art co-exists with others: cultural management, curation, business administration, communication. Everyone does a bit

of everything. “At the beginning the space consumed all our energy. It was as if I had shot myself in the leg,” she recalls. Little by little, though, the group organize itself in a manner capable of preserving agendas and individual identities. “The space has put me in touch with incredible people.”

    Bel did not find the end of São Paulo in her walks, but came across a series of lonely places – desolate avenues, bizarre terrains – an all types of people. She was surprised by the number of rivers, streams and brooks that pass through the different regions, and discovere the Jaguaré Lighthouse, built far from the water and emitting no light. Some of the surprises of the megalopolis.

“My overalls ended up being an important part of these outings, creating a sort of protectiv layer. It was an attempt to pass by unnoticed, and to eliminate all social difference as well as the pressure of being a woman on her own strolling aimlessly.”

On writing about the artist’s work, the critic Jacopo Crivelli Visconti mentioned other artists who too have focused on the city’ “banal” areas, from the Dadaists in 1921 to the suburbs described through Robert Smithson’s texts and photos in A Tour of the Monument of Passaic. “His journey to the edge of the city took place in the physical and imaginary realm in parallel, considering that the elements of reality surrounding him were constantly compare to memories,” writes Visconti.

Without realizing it, her incursions into São Paulo ended up recalling Ituverava, her father’s small hometown in upstate São Paulo. “That’s one place whose extremities do come clearly to mind, along with a series of affectionate memories,” the artist concludes, as she waits to see where her future paths will take her. For she knows that affection is constantly dislocating.

A Navel for Burnside Farm
A Reflection a year after
Kate Daughdrill, 2018

In 2011, I bought a house for $600 on the east side of Detroit. Over the years, thehouse and the land around it have grown into an urban farm that is a hub for art,gardening, and gatherings among our diverse neighbors (who are a mix of Bengali,Yemeni, Polish, black, and white). It is an enchanted place where art blends withdaily life, plants, beauty, good food, soulful growth, and very real community.

Bel Falleiros arrived at Burnside Farm at exactly the right time. The season beforehad been a tough one for us on Burnside. We had experienced artistic burnout, moldin the main farmhouse, core community members transitioning to new projects, anda year of letting the land lay fallow. We were in need of some re-grounding. Belwanted to dig a “navel” for the land.

When Bel proposed the idea to me, I immediately said yes. “A belly button forMother Earth!” “A space to reconnect to the feminine nurturing of the land!” Theidea was so core, so simple, so primal. What I did not realize was how deeply Belhad already begun embodying this grounded energy of the navel—the center, the point of connection. I knew that Bel would create a beautiful work of art; I did notrealize how powerfully her presence and the presence of the open ground woulddraw our community closer together and into such a felt experience with the land.

When Bel arrived at Burnside for her summer-long residency, she had beenimmersed deeply in her research for months. She put up her drawings, references,and poetic inspirations. She cooked herself nourishing meals and did yoga everymorning. And then each day, in the cool spring air, she went outside…and listened.

Bel listened to the birds and to the call to prayer coming from the nearby mosqueand to women talking as they walked by in their saris on the way to theneighborhood corner store. But mostly, she listened to the land. She tuned into howthe trees were oriented on the property, how the perennial, annual, and wild plantswere relating to each other, and to where the center of the garden really was. Amonth after she arrived, Bel began digging.Each morning, Bel would go out into the garden and dig. She would dig for threehours, come inside for lunch and a shower during the mid-day heat, and then go outinto the garden for three more hours of digging.

I had told her that there might be alittle clay in the middle of the garden where an old burnt-out house had beendemolished. When Bel began digging, she found that there was actually a circle ofclay about 20 feet wide in the middle of the garden! This made the diggingprocess…very slow.

The slowness of the navel digging actually ended up being one of the most poignantparts of the project. It necessitated approaching the work and the land at an even slower pace—a pace that ended up being very conducive to building trust and veryreal relationships with the surrounding neighbors and the Burnside community.

People loved digging in the navel with Bel. And they loved to talking to Bel while shedug in the navel. Neighbors of different backgrounds and different ages, artists andnon-artists, were drawn to the earth that Bel was so lovingly opening in the centerof the garden. Our neighbor across the street would joke that Bel was out in her“ditch” again. But when she came over, Mela would sit in the navel at night as Beldug and share stories about her six children and how her heart was doing.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that Bel was not only creating a sculptural installation with the earth but that she was also embodying a durational performance. And it was one in wich the neighbors and the clay and the rocks and ephemera  

she was finding and washing each day were all a part of the performance.

As Bel dug the navel, she saved everything she found. She would wash the objectsand rocks and organize them with care. She began installing them in a tiny shed inthe garden that we use for art exhibitions as well as storing tools. An old nail forgedby hand, a burned piece of house siding, a fairly fashionable shoe, ashes from thesite of our former fire pit. This was not work about displacing things; it was the opposite. Bel’s earnest curiosity and sincere respect for the land translated into animmersive installation in the shed. The shed installation was a testament to themultiple layers of history and presence that had been honored in the digging of thenavel. It honored the past cultures and wildness of the land. It was about openingthe ground in a way to give a ‘whole’ experience of the land (past, present, andfuture) with such respect that She would really invite us in.

As she was working, Bel saved all of the clay that she dug out of the navel. Weconverted my wood shed into a clay shed, and it now holds the Burnside clay thatawaits its transformation into bathroom tiles, dinner bowls, and ritual art objects.

Bel also created an exhibition of drawings, photographs, and texts that wereexhibited in the main art gallery of the farmhouse. While the navel physicallygrounded us into the earth, the accompanying drawings, writings, and installationsgrounded us in the psyche that gave rise to the work. Much of the lessons of thiswork are in that psyche. How does one truly ground? How does one find theircenter? How do we do that in relationship with others?

In the days before the opening celebration for the navel, Bel and I planted 40 sweetgrass plants on the protective mound surrounding the circular opening to theearth that Bel had sculpted. We blessed these plants known as “grandmother’s hair”as we planted them by candle light.

At the opening celebration a few days later, 30 children danced to Bengali music inthe navel, laughing and dancing 3-feet down in the earth. At a gathering thefollowing week, a group of about 20 neighbors sat peacefully along the edges of the navel, looking meditatively into the fire as they talked quietly with the people sittingnearby. Over the past year, I have spent many nights outside alone in the navel,cuddled against the sloping curves of the space, just being still, listening,remembering what it feels like to feel held and fully in my body.

By the end of the summer, I had come to understand that the navel was the work.The relationships around it were the work. The shed installation and the farmhouseexhibition and the clay shed were the work. I was in love with the psyche that hadcreated this work and the land that had quietly guided it. The work became atestament to me of the grounded inner space that is needed to create a groundedouter space for others.

In Bel’s work, there is a deep resonance of the feminizing of ways of working withthe land in art. While the land artists of the 60s and 70s worked with more assertive,masculine strategies, new feminine ways of working with the land are calling us tolisten, to receive, and to savor as we create nourishing, deep relationships that arelife-giving over the long-term.

Bel Falleiros’ navel for Burnside Farm is an artistic blessing that held space for there-connecting and re-attuning of our community during an important time in the lifeof the farm. Each year, it teaches us, deepens us, and attunes us to what a moregrounded future could feel like.

Eye of the Earth
A residency at Massapê Projetos
Julie Dumont, 2019

Walking as a cure, a breath in the middle of the urban chaos, a way to understand the city, how it was created and how it grew. Walking to understand our origins, walking the path of the past to understand the present and reveal the essence of the landscape, the topography of a place hidden by skyscrapers and asphalt.

This practice has been the core of Bel Falleiros’ research and of her solo show “Sobre Ruínas, Memórias e Monumentos” (“About Ruins, Memories and Monuments) at São Paulo’s Caixa Cultural in 2014. For the exhibition, the artist mapped and walked the Indigenous’ ancient trails that laid São Paulo’s foundations, discovering that the official “zero” landmark of the city didn’t match the original one, exposing a primordial cause to the lack of grounding in São Paulo’s inhabitants and the megalopolis’ ongoing disdain for its origins.

After five years away, Bel Falleiros, now living in New York, came back to São Paulo as a resident artist at Massapê Projetos to further research São Paulo’s origins. The very day she arrived, the newspapers reported that a truck ran into the city’s “zero” landmark, dragging it away from its current location. It was returned to its spot days later, but this serendipity confirmed, somehow, that São Paulo’s inception was the right subject for her to follow.

Intuition is a guide to the wanderlust artist, as is the connection to the earth, the soil. These guided Bel Falleiros to discover, during one of her walks in residency, a lot full of São Paulo’s natural soil (from construction waste). She brought full bags of earth back to her studio and recreated the landscape during a spontaneous performance. Returning to Mother Earth’s womb, she eventually lay down and was gradually covered by the reassuring presence of raw matter. In the twilight of the room, shadows projected by a candle installed in the center of installation recalled São Paulo’s ancient geographies.

“Inhampabuassu*” or Olho da Terra (The Eye of the Earth) designates the plateau from where the city center originated. The artwork has been developed as a performance, captured in a video, and as a physical installation, echoing the synchronicities and processes favored by the artist.

Olho da Terra’s poetic proposal indirectly tackles the indigenous peoples’ situation in Brazil, whose rights, lands and lives are repeatedly forgone in the name of natural resource exploitation. Indeed, the violence towards the legitimate inhabitants of Brazil has increased dramatically since the election of Brazil’s ultra conservative new government, reproducing the colonial aggression that created the country as we know it.

Bel Falleiros, with her symbolic proposal reveals her interest not only in architecture and arts but also anthropology and a certain kind of magic, like the one that lies in the Brazilian collective psyche. In this process, she brings a new closure to the show she developed in 2014 in a cultural institution that is located at Olho da Terra’s original place. Seemingly closing a circle, the artist nonetheless spirals up, towards new developments. Bel Falleiros’ wanderings help her and the viewer to better understand our relation to the earth and to the world at large, bringing the perspective of the essence, the perspective of nature and of ancient wisdom in a frenetic and somehow disconnected life.

*site’s name and meaning in tupi-guarani language

An Installation to Immerse and Reconnect
To Ripple with Water at The Border Project Space

Iara Pimenta, 2021

In unstable and changing times, haunted by a pandemic and conflicts unfolding worldwide, the installation by artist Bel Falleiros creates an introspective space that allows us to pause and reflect on how we relate to ourselves and the environment. Presented at The Border Project Space and curated by Jamie Martinez, “To Ripple with Water” is an invitation to be present, to disconnect from the frantic times we live in, and reconnect to our bodies and to the earth, in a quietly performative experience.

By combining ceramics, sound, and natural elements, the gallery has been transformed into a transcendent space in which our senses are activated. A layer of chipped tree covers the whole floor and, at each step, a soft sound and sense of freshness take the forest inside. A large ceramic sculpture occupies the center of the room and is surrounded by a circular curtain made of small ceramic spheres arranged in lines that go from floor to ceiling, taking us to walk around this space. Composed by two reversed conic shapes-like an hourglass—the top part of the sculpture is filled with water, reminding us of the relevance of this element, celebrated here as the title of the show indicates. Bringing the space together is a mantric song recorded mostly in visits to a water stream near the artist’s home in Upstate New York. The sound of her voice naturally meets the movement of water, rhythmically connecting body and landscape. Visiting the show, one perceives how all elements were carefully brought together to create a whole new space. The installation embraces us as if we were, in these moments, immersed in water.

Water and the earth are both crucial to the work and carry symbolic meaning in the show as well as in the artist’s practice. Bel Falleiros’ work investigates connections between land, history, memory, and identity. Guided by ancestral understandings of the world, the artist looks at shared stories across territories and how different cultures have established a harmonious coexistence with the natural and built environments, expanding a perspective on issues such as environmental degradation, the memory of places, and notions of belonging.

Earth is a recurrent element in her work and appears as a major unifier in performances, installations, and drawings with sacred forms such as symbolic knolls, ‘navels’, and sites of connection to the land and the cosmos. Considering water healing and cleansing capacities for many cultures and its representation as “potentiality of existence,” symbol of death and rebirth ––as pointed out by Mircea Eliade––, the show invite us not only to celebrate these natural elements and what they represent but to involve ourselves fully with them.

The work is not to be observed, but experienced, and it affects us. As we walk, stand still, listen, and get in tune with the sounds and smells, we are reminded that we are agents here and in the artist’s considerations. Not by chance, the installation departs from the human body as Falleiros questions: “How do we understand the relationship between us and the landscape? Up until which point in space do our bodies resonate in the world?” All the pieces and the design of the space were based on the artist’s measurements, celebrating the female body and its dialogue with the landscape. The height of the main sculpture matches her center of gravity, while the ceramic spheres fit the palm of her hand. Distributed in lines, the almost 500 beads go from floor to a height that looks like an arm’s reach as if expanding the gallery––figuratively, unifying the underworld and the cosmos. This element not only supports the structure of this symbolic space but together with the lullaby sound, they give a sense of guidance in the whole experience and take our bodies to move with the show.

At a time of emotional distress, “To Ripple with Water” provides a moment to reconnect to ourselves and the symbolic landscape around us in a more gentle, harmonious, and ultimately vibrant way. We are taken to pay attention, to make ourselves present, and to connect to what pulses inside us. As we experience this warm, yellowish space, a sense of the dawn of a new day carries us over with the hope of new beginnings.