UCT BAS 1 Final Project - Guest Lecture on Curatorial Approaches

Sample slides of online lecture: On Curating


Honoured by Dr. Huda Tayob’s invite to present a guest lecture to first year (BAS 1) architecture students at the University of Cape Town last month, to complement their design process thinking for their year-end Design+Theory Studio project. 

Because their project brief is a Micro Museum for an Object, I spoke to students about curatorial approaches with two of my own projects as case-studies: Memento Vivere (Maputo, 2020) with art by Maqueleva and Mussiro Concept Store (Maputo, 2018-2019). 

Always a pleasure, honour and privilege to share knowledge! 


Art and Covid-19: Curatorial Statement for Maqueleva´s MEMENTO VIVERE (EN subtitles)


Who will bear witness?

Honoured to be in such illustrious company as a participant in this incredible project, DISEMBODIED TERRITORIES, co-organised by the Department of Sociology at the LSE + the Flanders Architecture Institute.

I will be contributing an essay, Who will bear witness?, relating my experiences as a young female student in Cape Town, conceptually exploring (in)visibility, memory and the need to have witnesses as a way of mapping territory.

Coming soon in September 2021

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Excerpt from the organisers´ Concept Note:

 < What is the use of a map for an African body? How can we map against our own epistemic displacements while most of the maps we know are devices of that displacement? When can this practice of mapping be of ceremonial use? We have recognized the map in its complicity in the colonization of our land and bodies. It is especially complicit in the division of this world into countries, regions, cities, towns and streets, in orienting us in particular ways towards space. It became the documentation and the realization of what Fanon describes as “world divided into compartments.” (…) >


TRAVESSIA published as part of the Archive of Forgetfulness

TRAVESSIA - Impressões de Viagem | Field Notes is a travelogue-essay that presents a personal reflection on memory, archiving and family heritage. The essay was submitted and published to the Archive of Forgetfulness, a project supported by the Goethe Institut - Johannesburg. Thankful to the organizers to be a part of this journey! Head to the project´s webpage to read the full essay here


ESSAY PREVIEW - AoF Website


POSFÁCIO | ENDNOTE


TRAVESSIA - Impressões de Viagem | Field Notes

“…But unlike our emotional geographies, which may be intact, time and place are not.

TRAVESSIA - Impressões de Viagem | Field Notes is a travelogue-essay that presents a personal reflection on memory, archiving and family heritage. Coming Soon in April 2021


Art and Covid-19: Curating Maqueleva´s MEMENTO VIVERE

Installation Concept

Starting point: Embroidered masks. Base-masks “origamasks” by Iria Marina Designs

Hand-embroidery reproduction on canvas by David Leonardo

Hand-embroidery on canvas

Installation view

Mural by Maqueleva & poem by Taíla Carrilho

Framed embroidered masks

Installation in progress

Exhibition team

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MAQUELEVA - MEMENTO VIVERE

Showing: 4-18 Dec 2020, at FFLC

Maputo, Mozambique

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Exhibition Team (last slide, L-R):
Curatorship & Installation Design: M. Gabriela Aragão / A Oficina
Art: Maqueleva
Poem: Taíla Carrilho
“Origamasks”, used as canvas: Iria Marina / Iria Marina Designs
Production & Communication Design: Pablo Ribeiro / FFLC
Not pictured: Hand-embroidery reproduction on canvas, by David Leonardo
Co-Produced and Hosted by: Fundação Fernando Leite Couto (FFLC)

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Scroll down for the full Curator´s Note - EN/PT

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What is art curation? 

A curator extracts meaning from the artist’s work, its essence. S/he provides the knowledge framework for a specific  interpretation of the art and then conceptualises how to present it in a way that is easy to comprehend and accessible to the viewer, especially to the public at large. 

For this exhibition, the artist Maqueleva (aka Celso Yok Chan) approached me with a complete collection of embroidered face masks (framed and unframed), and the challenge was to identify some aspects of the art that could be amplified to tell a narrative of the human experience under the Covid-19 pandemic so far.

Using the masks as starting point, we devised different manifestations of this same art so that the theme could be more clearly understood (the large-scale embroidery on canvas, the murals, the poem commissioned to fellow artist Taíla Carrilho). 

This was all done taking into account the room in which the installation would be mounted. And since I am an architect, I could also provide a visual simulation of the desired final result to the team, so that we all knew the end goal.

EN - CURATOR´S NOTE

With this collection of fourteen (14) embroidered cloth masks, Maqueleva presents a keepsake for future generations. Created at a time when the COVID-19 infection rates have yet to reach their peak in Mozambique, the collection captures not only the anxiety of the moment but also the stubborn hope that is required to carry on living. From the sick, emaciated faces and a terrified mouth mid-scream, to the lovers (or friends, or relatives) physically distancing and yet connected by their mutual love for each other, these drawings capture the present we live in. 

Another theme clearly discernible is the collective – the notion that we are all in this together, irrespectively of our individual differences, clearly drawn in one of the masks. The collective is otherwise depicted as a homogenous mass of indistinct faces, once accompanied by the slogan Fight the Power, a rally cry to resist the propagation of the virus. There is also Don´t be Good, Be Great, which is at once an appeal and a demand. An appeal that, as a duty to the collective, every one of us rises to the occasion and goes above and beyond to do whatever is necessary to get through this. And a demand that, as a duty to oneself, each of us take this once-in-a-lifetime, life-threatening event to reflect on what we are really here to do in our lifetime, and to do it well. For if life must go on, let it be well lived. 

 The material aspects of this collection are also representative of the moment, since Maqueleva chose protective face masks as a primary canvas. In Mozambique, the re-usable cloth mask is now generalised as a more cost-effective alternative to the disposable surgical-grade mask. A local industry has quickly developed around this demand, with capulana cloth patterns being the most widely available. Using the masks as canvas is yet another way that Maqueleva found to remember this particular time in the future.

In this art collection, the linen “origamasks” are by local designer Iria Marina (using an open-sourced pattern) and provide the ideal blank canvas to Maqueleva´s characteristic continuous, single line drawings. The masters on paper were reproduced as embroidery on cloth and should last as long as the masks themselves. In this way, the face masks become both art and artifact: something to be displayed, something to be worn, and something that in being worn is displayed. 

Their usefulness as protective gear remains, whilst simultaneously transforming each wearer into a micro art gallery, carrying these quotidian hope and despair mementos into the future, until such time they are no longer necessary and simply become embodied memories of a time when we had to remember to carry on living. 

M. Gabriela Carrilho Aragão 

Curator 

Maputo, 22 November 2020

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PT - NOTA DA CURADORA

Com esta colecção de catorze (14) máscaras bordadas, Maqueleva conjura uma lembrança para as gerações futuras. Concebida numa altura em que as taxas de infecção da COVID-19 ainda não atingiram o seu pico em Moçambique, esta colecção regista não só a ansiedade da vivência presente como também a obstinada esperança que é necessária para que a vida continue. Desde as faces emaciadas e uma boca aterrorizada em meio-grito, aos amantes (ou amigos, ou parentes) que se distanciam fisicamente ainda que unidos pelo seu amor mútuo, nestes traços captura-se o presente em que vivemos. 

Outro tema facilmente discernível é o colectivo, a noção de que estamos todos juntos neste barco, independentemente das nossas diferenças individuais claramente desenhadas numa das máscaras: o vírus não vê caras, nem corações. 

 O colectivo é ainda retratado como uma massa homogénea de rostos indistintos, uma vez acompanhada pelo slogan Fight the Power, que incentiva a resistência contra a propagação do vírus. Há também o Don´t be Good, Be Great, que é simultaneamente um apelo e um imperativo. Um apelo a que, como um dever para com o colectivo, cada um de nós esteja à altura da ocasião e faça além do necessário para ultrapassar este tempo difícil. E um imperativo para que, como um dever para connosco próprios, cada um de nós aproveite este acontecimento único e potencialmente letal, para reflectir sobre o que estamos realmente aqui para fazer nesta vida, e fazê-lo bem. Pois se a vida deve continuar, que seja ela bem vivida. 

As características materiais desta colecção são também representativas do momento, já que Maqueleva escolheu usar máscaras faciais protectoras como tela principal. Em Moçambique, a máscara de pano reutilizável generalizou-se como alternativa mais económica à máscara descartável de grau cirúrgico. Uma indústria local desenvolveu-se rapidamente em torno dessa demanda, sendo os padrões de capulana os mais populares. Usar a máscara como tela, é mais uma das formas que Maqueleva encontrou para lembrar no futuro este peculiar presente. 

Nesta colecção de arte, as máscaras de linho origamasks são da designer local Iria Marina (usando um padrão “open-source”) e proporcionam o fundo ideal para o traço único de Maqueleva, com a sua linha contínua. Os masters em papel foram reproduzidos como bordados em tecido, que deverão durar tanto tempo quanto as máscaras em si. 

Desta forma, as máscaras tornam-se arte e artefacto: algo a ser exibido, algo a ser usado, e algo que ao ser usado é exibido. A sua utilidade como artigo de protecção permanece, ao mesmo tempo que transforma cada usuário numa micro galeria de arte, levando esses registos quotidianos de desespero e de esperança para o futuro, até que eles deixem de ser necessários e tornem-se, simplesmente, memória corporizada deste tempo em que tivemos que nos lembrar de continuar a viver. 

M. Gabriela Carrilho Aragão 

Curadora 

Maputo, 22 Novembro 2020 

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Tributo a Calvino: Prints to Order


ZAIRA - Framed

ZAIRA - In a Room

ANASTÁSIA - Framed

ANASTÁSIA - In a Room

“It is not certain whether Kublai Kan believes everything Marco Polo says when describing the cities he visited on his missions, but the truth is that the Emperor of the Tatars continues to listen to the young Venetian with greater attention and curiosity than to any other of his envoys or explorers…” - Italo Calvino, The Invisible Cities (1972)

This project is inspired by Italo Calvino´s celebrated literary work. I began this project nearly five years ago, as a private practice to stimulate the imagination.  The project consists of reading each of the cities at a time, to then quickly sketch the first image that comes to mind. The drawings were not meant to be precious, and I challenged myself to draw them in 15-20min max, in a sort of race against the clock. The project is ongoing, and  I have only covered roughly 25% of the book (about 14 cities).

I shared the drawings on social media, and had many positive feedback and purchase enquiries.

For this reason, I´ve selected the five (5) most emblematic cities drawn to date and made them now available to the public as  Limited Edition Prints (Series: 20/20) with high-quality printing on 100% cotton archival papel. Read more about it here .

Watch a short narration of the illustrations available to order (PT version):



Translating Architecture

I was honoured to be invited by the author and the publisher, Cavalo do Mar, to make the PT-EN translation of this book. This is Part 1 (pre-1975) of two in the analysis of Maputo’s façades, with Part 2 (post-1975) coming soon in 2020. Stay tuned…

Maputo, Para Lá da Pele (Maputo, Beyond the Skin) is a timely tome which “reads” the skin of Maputo’s building façades pre-1975, to derive meanings that go beyond what the eyes see. States the author, Júlio Carrilho:

“To see beyond the skin requires the ability to x-ray the built environment and understand its spatial qualities, establish temporal references, gauge the interior levels of comfort provided by natural light, ventilation, adequate exposure, in short by respecting the place as physical entity. Moreover, it requires being able to dive into the anthropogenic dimensions that are revealed, and question the reasons and processes that determine them. Without this insight, the specialized analysis of form, function, space and appearance, although interesting, results in fragmentary visions of the city, decontextualized or even prejudiced”.


Showcasing Design: Shopfront Approach

Standing out from the crowd: I had to consider a row of identical shops, and think about how to make the one I was designing more distinctive, with a simple gesture. And so I changed the geometry with the introduction of a visual frame, in addition to 3D signage. Whether one notices the name sign first, or the arches, both are informing the public - making for a memorable and distinctive shopfront. 

The Mussiro Concept Store, together with the adjacent Xirico Art Gallery (already opened), creates a new art and design node at the centenary Hotel Cardoso, close to the Josina Machel Secondary School, the nearby Natural History Museum and other art dedicated spaces such as DEAL Creative Space and Núcleo d’Arte, the oldest artists association in Maputo.

Together, they speak of past, present and future, and help push the conversation forward on the national arts panorama.

Principles behind my interior design proposal for the soon to be opened Mussiro Concept Store in Maputo, which will showcase the best of locally designed and exquisitely produced utilitarian objects, textiles and organic cosmetics. Opening soon.


Showcasing Design: Folding Planes

Consider how a product display stand will look alone, and in a group. 

Give it the right personality. Make it sculptural. Bend the light, force a shadow. Fold and repeat

Principles behind my interior design proposal for the soon to be opened Mussiro Concept Store in Maputo, which will showcase the best of locally designed and exquisitely produced utilitarian objects, textiles and organic cosmetics. Opening soon.


Showcasing Design: Counterpoint

Detail views of custom-designed shelving for Mussiro Concept Store

I designed minimal shelving so that it appears to “float”, with just enough substance (or body) to support the products where necessary.

So not only does the shelving emerge from the walls as a series of separate elements that do not support each other and are not visibly grounded - thereby floating - but the shelving is also very, very thin, which was achieved by bending sheet metal.

Incidentally, the metal’s cool, razor sharp edging provides a calm visual counterpoint to textural and visually busy products displayed.

Visual pause moment. The space between product displays can be as important as the displays themselves.

Principles  behind my interior design proposal for the soon to be opened Mussiro Concept Store in Maputo, which will showcase the best of locally designed and exquisitely produced utilitarian objects, textiles and organic cosmetics. More details soon.


Showcasing Design: Complementary/Opposite

When the product displayed is made with natural materials and painstakingly finished by hand, you want to highlight its exquisite nature by contrasting it with its complementary/opposite: warm wood to cool stone, hand finished to machine honed, buffed wax to high-shine mirror effect. 

The result is a subtle conversation between two natural materials which have been processed very differently, or, hand vs. machine.

At some point, a design decision needed to be made about the geometry of the product display units, shelving and stands. I saw two possible approaches: creating a “total environment” where the shelving echoes the same qualities of the products (warm, handmade, “organic” in patterning and shaping), OR - and this is what was done - choosing a contrasting and quietly refined aesthetic that is visually more neutral than the objects on display.

This means that the objects on display which are full of character, are not visually competing with the store’s décor, which is nevertheless present with a sort of quiet elegance.

Principles  behind my interior design proposal for the soon to be opened Mussiro Concept Store in Maputo, which will showcase the best of locally designed and exquisitely produced utilitarian objects, textiles and organic cosmetics. More details soon.


Showcasing Design: Multi-Brand vs. Single-Brand Concept Store

In some ways, it is easier to design a single-brand concept store than it is a multi-brand one.
When the products displayed are carefully handmade and exquisitely finished by different suppliers, there needs to be a balance between the personality of the interior design and display stands, and the soulful character of the products themselves. 

The store´s personality wants to be distinctive (Does it look good when empty of stock? Is a design language evident?) , but the carefully crafted design objects on display also want to stand out and have all their main features highlighted in the best possible way. One must not overpower the other, but rather complement each other.

Principles  behind my interior design proposal for the soon to be opened Mussiro Concept Store in Maputo, which will showcase the best of locally designed and exquisitely produced utilitarian objects, textiles and organic cosmetics. More details soon.


Memorial to Absence: District Six, CT, Published in 10+ Years x 100 Projects


A full 12 years after it was first presented, my BArch Thesis is being published on 10+ Years x 100 Buildings - Architecture in a Democratic South Africa (Ora Joubert, Bell-Roberts Publishing) as one of the selected 100  “most meritorious design dissertations from the eight South African universities offering architectural tuition at a post-graduate level, including the submissions of the national winners of the Corobrik Student of the Year Award from 2002 to 20017. The work has not previously been assembled and the information is gradually being lost. (…) This book is intended to serve as a reference for South African students of architecture, and also for professionals. (…) It moreover provides an extraordinary range of highly relevant and exceptionally innovative architectural interpretations, which would also find appeal to everyone associated with the building industry.” 

Memorial do Absence: District Six (UCT, 2006) was the regional finalist (Western Cape) for the national Corobrik Student of the Year Award (2007).


Memorial to Absence: District Six, Cape Town (2006)

Thesis Statement:

District Six as a site of collective memory 

District Six is emotionally charged for those who inhabited it or experienced it prior to the forced removals and demolitions of 1968-1982, or to those who, not having known it, are outraged by the totalitarianism of the Apartheid state - which decided the fate of the people of this country according to the colour of their skin. 

The site today reveals no trace of the fine fabric it once possessed. None, except for remnants of former streets, today trails covered in grass. Memory, without evidence, is doomed to fade with time from the public/collective consciousness, even though interpretations are present in historical treatises, records, archaeological data, museums. 

I am convinced that once the original residents pass away, then their children and finally their grandchildren –sixty, one hundred years after Apartheid – the power of their testimonies (the original: of the body) will fade, especially if replaced with a different built environment as is intended. 

Creating a future memory 

For an outsider or foreigner, someone displaced in space and time, the emptiness of the present site would be devoid of meaning if not for the records of the District Six Museum – photographs, illustrations, mappings, music and individual narratives, which contribute greatly to the understanding of the human dimension – the tragedy – of the forced removals, demolitions and their traumatic consequences. However, this emptiness – the absence – cannot be engaged at a physical level, since not even ruins are present. 

I believe that the site of what was District Six – the actual ground – is the only physical remnant of the settlement, and thus holds more authority – or authenticity – for engaging with interpretative and/or
interactive buildings/ memorials that actively explain and engage with the past. The absence of District Six is a powerful (if not physically experienced) evidence of the history of Cape Town – of this country – that attests for the power of a political ideology of state and must be remembered in the future. 

The role of architecture: Accessing the memory of loss 

A memorial is built so one can never forget.
The absence (forced removal) of District Six from Cape Town’s urban life and fabric is a loss which must be experienced by future generations as proof – one of many – of the excesses of Apartheid. 

But what is the capacity of architecture to capture the memory of loss? 

As urban intervention, the memorial suggests a presence which is no longer, a walk-in sculpture that partially re-creates the experience of walking along sections of the former Richmond and Hanover streets, a cut into the ground that gradually digs deeper into the earth, recovering the characteristic steepness of the uphill streets of the District and gradually absorbing the visitor from the rest of the city, whose sounds fade to a complete silence. 

The sculpture reproduces the District’s characteristic street morphology to the original scale in an abstracted and uncanny way that speaks of its lifelessness and gives it an otherworldly character. It lends itself to daily use as a thoroughfare, to be built prior to the area’s future re-development; a wound from which the new settlement would grow. 


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