Frutos estranhos [Strange Fruits], the title of a series of works from 2006 by Rosângela Rennó, born in Belo Horizonte in 1962, also became the title of this exhibition which surveys more than two decades of her work (1991-2012). The choice was made because the title has an enigmatic, and therefore seductive, quality, generating a desire to see, to observe and engage with this strangeness, but also because we believe that it successfully synthesizes Rennó's attitude to photography and, more broadly, to the world of technical images.
The artist does not photograph, she is not a photographer. The images in her work are not the result of a physical and mental act initially instigated by her: she has not pressed the shutter, nor composed or recorded. Her artistic act is to collect images from various sources, from family albums to photographs from newspapers and news agencies, as well as obituaries, identification photos and archival records or even tourist snapshots. The images - with the exception of her video work - are always found and selected, extending Duchamp's concept of the found object to encompass all representation: these are found images, not made by the artist but re-contextualized, reframed, expanded, reprinted. They are thus somehow the fruit of a living tree which the artist only collects and then exhibits and arranges - in a way that is sometimes unusual - encouraging us to look at these fruits of the gaze and memory of others in a new light, their cosmogony redefined.
Conceptual and political in approach, Rennó shows us victims of acts of violence and social exclusion, from prisoners to anonymous figures, yet she also denounces photography as an act of manipulation, as offering the potential for endless manipulation and reconfiguration as in Puzzles (woman and man), from 1991.
In the series A última foto [The last photo] (2006) she compels us to reflect on the implications of the shift from analogue to digital photography, and also contemporary notions of authorship and reproduction.
Another thread which runs through the exhibition is that of the journey or diaspora of images or the way in which the method of capturing images varies according to whether we are tourists, travelers or emigrants and how, in turn, images travel from one place to another, from continent to continent (Bibliotheca, 2002), from one context to another, according to personal necessities and desires, which are susceptible to the laws of the market and individual fetishism (Menos-valia [Minus-value] 2005-2007).
In these itineraries, trips, or movements, the colonial question is fundamental. The subject of the video Vera cruz (2000) is an imagined representation of the first contact - after a long journey - between Pero Vaz de Caminha, the first Portuguese chronicler to arrive in Brazil, and Amerindian natives or, in other words, the first contact between the future colonizer and the future colonized people, whose languages and codes were utterly different.
And since we are all, particularly in this context, a result of this encounter, the Lisbon exhibition begins right there, in that primitive (in the psychoanalytical sense of the word) colonial scene. And it ends with other journeys, with the series of videos and texts of a supposed "transcendental tourist" (Turista transcendental, 2009-2011).
Language and space, related to her earlier studies in architecture, are other components which are fundamental to an understanding of Rennó's work and which, from a curatorial point of view, make working with her such a pleasure.
Strange Fruits is not about the exotic but focuses instead on a cartography, or cartology as Rennó would put it, which runs through much of human life, from the way in which we identify ourselves or are identified/registered, to what we record of and how we relate to our environment, touching inevitably on the history of photography itself as a resource and means of mutual communication.