Quintan Ana Wikswo’s CATADORES / SCAVENGERS is an encounter with unmarked sites from the Portuguese and Spanish Inquisition, explored through a prismatic suite of multi-panel photographs, field recordings, artist’s books, original poetry and prose in English and Portuguese, video installation and collaborative live performance works.
Between the antiquated satellite dishes and television antennae, tomorrow’s laundry is strung like phantoms along old telephone lines that loop through the medieval ghettos of Lisbon and Porto. The light strikes the convents and cathedrals, plazas and piazzas that once held the victims and the perpetrators of millions of State-sponsored murders.
Quintan Ana Wikswo created CATADORES in the coastal cities of Portugal and Spain, and their isolated mountain villages that cluster along the ridge of mountains between the nations. She worked with salvaged fascist-era military and battlefield typewriters and cameras manufactured by Franco’s dictatorship.
I always wanted to go to Lisbon – an empire that launched a thousand ships, as well as the technology of navigation that unfurled the globe’s oceans. I associated Portugal with exploitation, colonialization, and the conquistador mythos. With catastrophic human rights abuses and atrocities by the Catholic Church. But also with the soulfulness of saudade – I discovered a place where there was no pressure or expectation around happiness. And sometimes, that can be a good thing.
I first went to Portugal through a kind of accident. In 2008, a traumatic brain injury forced me into a leave of absence from my work at a human rights agency – I was at home recovering amidst cognitive problems and memory loss that made reading and writing nearly impossible. I received an email from an airline advertising low rates to Lisbon. I clicked “purchase” and then forgot all about it until a reminder email appeared in my inbox a week before departure: I had reserved a ticket for a month of travel. I packed my bags, and flew to Portugal.
When I arrived, my brain was extremely sensitive to color and shape, to sound and pattern and the nature of the light. As a writer, I was accustomed to responding in language. But without my words, I decided instead to turn to images. In an old shop, I found several broken and damaged medium format military cameras and a box of expired 120mm film, and began my exploration of the sites of empire.
The work I did with color and the transparencies of multiple exposure was an attempt to inhabit the planes of time that overlap throughout Portugal and Spain. But it was also an embrace of how my familiar narrative could newly express itself through image. It became a celebration of the way in which my damaged brain could encounter place and time in new ways. A collision between the wreck of the old and the mystery of the new, and the damages and allure that accrue within each. Much like the colonial legacy of Portugal itself.
All photographs were created in Portugal (Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra) and Spain (Seville), at the sites of the Inquisition and the Jewish ghettos. The photos were made using a salvaged 120mm military film camera manufactured during Franco’s dictatorship. The colors, textures, shapes and multiple layers within the photographs are all created using only the unique aberrations of the cameras’ optics, and the chemistry of the film. There is no software or computer manipulation in the images.
THUMBNAIL GALLERY BELOW. CLICK TO VIEW FULL-SIZE PANORAMIC IMAGES.
excerpted from CATADORES
by Quintan Ana Wikswo
translated into Portuguese by Rafael Liebich
Whispering, whispering. All is whispering, and so still.
All the feet are covered in velvet.
All the fingers are dipped in fat.
The bats now kill in silence.
For the ones with lips and tongues, all is whispering.
Sussurrar, sussurar. Tudo é sussurrar, e tão calmo.
Todos os pés estão cobertos por veludo.
Todos os dedos imersos em gordura.
Os morcegos agora matam em silêncio.
Para aqueles com lábios e línguas, tudo é sussurrar.
In the streams, the frogs
are the only ones now to disobey.
Their throats creak with it,
that voice that does not know constriction.
Nos riachos, os sapos são agora
os únicos a desobedecer.
Suas gargantas rangem com a sua desobediência,
esta voz que não conhece restrição.
All winter they have been frozen in the water.
The streams and ponds.
The lakes. Where water dwells, they turn to statues.
They are the stone reptiles and then afterwards they move.
They know no constriction. They sound, and resound.
Whereas with all others, the feet are covered in velvet.
The fingers one by one are dipped in fat,
so as to make not a sound in working.
Todo o inverno estiveram congelados na água.
Riachos e charcos. Lagos.
Onde água habita, tornam-se estátuas.
Eles são os répteis em pedra e depois movem-se.
Eles não conhecem restrição. Eles soam, e ressoam.
Ao passo que com todos os outros, os pés estão cobertos por veludo.
Os dedos um a um estão imersos em gordura,
para que não façam nenhum som ao trabalharem.
To eat soft cheese, and suck on lemon balm, and take naps.
This is all that remains to me.
The cherry trees, still with green nipples on the branches.
The blackbirds are sucking on every limb.
Their beaks glow yellow: the color of old cheese,
which reminds me of hunger and the desire for lemon balm.
Comer requeijão, sorver bálsamo de limão, e fazer sestas.
Isso é tudo o que me resta.
As cerejeiras, ainda com pequenos mamilos em seus galhos.
Os melros sugando em todos ramos.
Seus bicos brilham amarelos: cor de queijo antigo,
que me faz lembrar a fome e desejo de bálsamo de limão.
This kind of consecration has gone on for days,
according to the Capitularies of Charlemagne,
who called upon this sweet green plant magic for the convents.
Este tipo de consagração durava dias,
de acordo com os capitulários Carolíngeos,
que convocaram a magia desta doce planta verde para os conventos.
the pure form of the human soul.
Plump and soft, alight in a whispering blur.
Apiastrum for the bites of mad dogs.
The venom of low beasts.
The edge of the sword that has inflicted a wound.
a forma pura da alma humana.
Arredondada e macia,
acesa num borrão sussurrante.
Apiastro para as mordidelas de cães enraivecidos.
O veneno de bestas rastejantes.
A ponta de uma espada que infligiu uma ferida.
We have here balm from the bee hive –
pollen, wax, the stirring of wings, honey, queens.
Temos aqui bálsamo da colméia –
pólen, cera, o agitar das asas, mel, rainhas.
This hive of cloister, white against my wounds.
Some languid flutter from the wimpled wings above my head.
Their nectar an extraction of rare events within this sacred space,
titrated like an antidote into my drinking water,
into my body wrecked in other rooms.
Esta colméia de clausura, branca contra minhas feridas.
Um agitar lânguido das asas como um véu sobre a minha cabeça.
O seu néctar um extrato de raros eventos neste espaço sagrado,
titulado como um antídoto na minha água,
no meu corpo destroçado noutros quartos, numa torre, longe daqui.
The wings mesmerize in a lazy way.
All is whispering, whispering, and velvet gloves.
As asas hipnotizam de um modo preguiçoso.
Tudo é sussurrar, sussurrar, e luvas de veludo.
In all the glasses, candles –
as though it is now possible to drink the light.
Em todos os copos de vidro, velas –
como se agora fosse possível beber a luz.
Photographs, Films and Text: Quintan Ana Wikswo
Voice: Rafael Liebich
Field Recordings: John Wikswo
CATADORES is supported by the Center for Cultural Innovation, the Artist’s Resource for Completion, the Durfee Foundation, Can Serrat, Yaddo, and the Ucross Foundation.
Performances, exhibitions and presentations include Yeshiva University Museum (New York City), People Inside Electronics (L.A.), MicroFest (L.A.) and Catalysis Projects (L.A).