My studio visit with Elaine Tedesco is strictly speaking not a real visit. Since she lives in Porto Alegre, a city in the South of Brazil, we decide to use technology and have a meeting on Skype. Elaine explains that she enjoys living in Porto Alegre, where not everything feels like it has been done before. She does not need any larger infrastructure or facilities for her artistic practice, but puts emphasis on the importance of an atmosphere shaped by the people who live in a place. And with 1.5 million inhabitants, the capital of the state Rio Grande do Sul is not that small - even if measured by Brazilian standards. The city‘s location is quite convenient for Elaine, who has participated twice in the Bienal do Mercosul (1999 and 2005), the well-known biennial event focussing on artists from the countries of the Southern Common Market economic and political agreement, taking place in Porto Alegre.
Elaine‘s work is highly influenced by photography. She explains that she got her first Leica camera when she was only 15 years old. Her work today can roughly be described as an entanglement of photography and participation. Starting point of her practice is the body and our physical relation with the world. With her works “Cabines para Isolamento“ (Cabins for Isolation - 1999) and “Camas Públicas“ (Public Beds - 1999), she proposed contrary behavioural options to the audience in the Mercado Público de Porto Alegre, the large commercial market hall with more than 100 stands, where the work was exhibited on the 2nd floor: One could decide to enter the wooden cabins and close the doors, leaving the outside world with all of its stress behind, or lie down on the large scale bed conceived for six people, and by exposing oneself share the intimate experience of being in a bed with the public passing through the market.
In 2007, Elaine was invited to participate in the 52nd Venice Biennial, where she showed her work “Guaritas“ (Sentry Boxes - 2005/2007). The piece is a series of photographs of the tiny guarding stations found throughout Brazilian cities. Elaine explains that as a child, she used to go inside similar sentry cabins located on the beach to look out on the sea. In the 1990s, she realised that these cabins moved more and more into the cities. They can be interpreted as sign of the economic gap in the country, where one small group feels they need to protect their belongings against an exterior threat, and who thus hire guards who watch and protect their houses - usually in gated communities - day and night. Due to the size of the cabins, the guards can‘t lie down to sleep and thus stay alert, watching from their cabins that so immensely differ from the houses of their employers they protect.
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