The Basalt Series: Sketching the perimeter of an unusually blue-color moon.
Performance #2, Lisbon.
Calçada portuguesa, a traditional paving technique, creates elaborate patterns of black and white cobblestones. In recent years, these beautiful public spaces in Portuguese communities are being cheaply replaced. In the proposed project, Basalt Series, the artist will cover a Portuguese sidewalk with linen canvas and rub it with blue chalk to make a frottage imprint—the basis for a large painting. Drone video and photographs will also be captured. Through joyful acts of documentation, the Basalt Series will bring awareness of calçada portuguesa and advocate for the preservation of this dying cultural practice. The completed five-year project will be expressed through performances, object making, video, photographs, and a catalogue, as well as exhibitions across Portugal and its independent territories, former colonies, and cultural sites.
Performance #1, Ponta Delgada City, São Miguel Island
Similar to the role brick plays in the distinctive industrial look of New England cities, Portugal’s architectural identity is basalt, a result of volcanic eruptions that bring to the surface rich lava textures. In calçada portuguesa, black basalt cobblestones are combined with white limestone to create walkway patterns. On other surfaces, thirteenth-century azulejos, or blue and white painted tiles, similarly dazzle. This architecture style had organically influenced the aesthetics of urban public spaces of former Portuguese colonies around the world. In the Basalt Series, I plan to lift primary calçada portuguesa patterns in situ by making frottages or rubbings, a method developed in 1925 by artist Max Ernst, who laid sheets of paper on a wooden floor and rubbed them over with a soft pencil to lift the wood texture. Unlike Ernst, I am going to an urban scale of 7.5x300 feet! The use of cobalt chalk in this project blurs the lines between calçada portuguesa and azulejos, briefly allowing both decorative forms to be seen and appreciated with fresh eyes. There is urgency to this project. Due to the high cost of maintenance and the loss of traditional practitioners, the highly specialized art of calçada portuguesa is vanishing, being replaced by ordinary pavement. Publications have celebrated this medium before, including António Correia and Ernesto Matos’s Calcada Portuguesa, Lux Platearum (2017) and Renata Lima’s Tapetes de Pedra (2010), but broader discussion and direct conversation about the significance of this cultural loss remains an untapped topic. My five-year project, over time, will compile a unique overhead video and photographic site-specific global archive of these works, aside from the artwork itself.
With drone video rolling, I will wash the sidewalks, lay down linen, and commence rubbing it with chalk to lift the texture of the sidewalk. The finished frottage will be carefully rolled back, stored, and catalogued. The drone video operator will record the original sidewalk, the performance and packing up, and the final colorized sidewalk--the cobalt-colored chalk marks an imprint on the fabric and also goes through it, temporarily coloring the sidewalk itself. Notably, there is no existing overhead documentation of calçada portuguesa, as drone photography technology was not available during the making of the earlier studies and publications. In addition to providing invaluable documentation of a unique cultural expression, the Basalt Series will celebrate and activate public spaces, playfully interrupt daily routines, and, by re-presenting familiar sidewalks with a new temporary color, refresh the eye of habitual pedestrians and the larger community, hopefully encouraging new aesthetic valuation of these traditional designs.