MANUEL MORA SERRANO | Studies on Skin, by Floriano Martins
BRAZIL IN THE LATIN AMERICAN CONTEXT | The notion we had of Brazil in Spanish America and particularly in the Caribbean has been changing over time. At first, no mind, especially on the Islands, could conceive of a vast and entirely green continent blessed with masses of water, as if the Amazon covered the entire nation. Gradually, through the movies, with Carmem Miranda and her wry smile, and the multicolored street market of Hollywood in a Disney travel adventure, which were compounded in my country when poet Héctor Incháustegui Cabral was Ambassador in Río de Janeiro and published Por Copacabana buscando, followed by documentarues and news stories about Carnival in Rio, the mystery turned into tourism and we all wanted to learn the samba. And so we became familiar with its culture. In fact, for a period during the Trujillo dictatorship – and because of his daughter’s marriage to a Brazilian man – schools were required to provide notions of Portuguese, although, as typical of any tyranny worth its salt, Latin replaced the language as soon as the marriage ended, and Portuguese learning was never officially implemented again.
And even though we saw it as a beast of a country, Brazil gradually emerged as a whole with unique traits. The architectural design of Brasilia held us in thrall from the beginning and felt like a dream as it was for Juscelino Kubitschek (who history rewarded or punished, who’s to tell), as executor of an 1890 constitutional mandate that the capital city should lie in the interior and not by the seemingly endless ocean.
In the 1960s, the Spanish-language version of the magazine O Cruzeiro changed the perceptions we had, particularly in my country.
Among other things, readings of Brazilian poets began and Amidverza (“Amigos de la verdad y la belleza” – Friends of truth and beauty), our literary group, was amazed by the self-confidence and grace of one particular poem (which is not that important in its country’s literary history). We refer, of course, to Jandira, by Murilo Mendes.
Why did we choose it? We were fiery tropical youths and, above all, became fascinated with the grotesque metaphors that reminded us of The Giant by Baudelaire, and the lack of verisimilitude appealed to us. The fact was that in a Mediterranean village on the Island of Hispaniola several young poets learned Jandira by heart and recited it at meetings amid droughts of cachaça criolla (the rum of the Islands).
At first it was samba, then black magic, then came story tellers and poets, but we still regarded it as a distant and strange land, despite the movies, the vast rivers, the magical wild lands, the vigorous poetry.
Why do I write of these things as an introduction when we are to talk about Floriano Martins, who wasn’t even born when we started to speak our first words in Portuguese?
Because, just as the tropical islands had but foggy notions of Brazil, Brazil had mistaken views of the world around it to the south, the west and the north, because that country, green-and-yellow like its flag, maintained similar language ties as those some call the mother homelands of the Iberian Peninsula.
This is not to say that Brazil had its back turned to its South American neighbors. There have always been ties and agreements and disagreements, as between any neighbors; but the cultural interaction that should exist between sibling peoples was absent, despite Pan Americanism, despite the OAS, despite countless treaties, until the term Latin America was able to comprehend Portuguese, English, French, Dutch speakers, as well as people who spoke Native languages and dialects like papiamento and novel languages such as Haiti’s creole.
Nor will I point to Floriano Martins as the single party responsible for the increasing international togetherness that arises from contact with and awareness of our continental literatures, but will dare to say that he has been the most decisive force behind those trends.
Thanks to the Web, the Argonaut he is was able to perform a miracle, not only with words, but with an active presence in every relevant cultural event held across Latin America in the past ten to fifteen years.
This feat of an almost planetary importance is something we have come to regards as natural and logical.
And, so, who is Floriano Martins? Attempting to describe him while thousands of miles away from Fortaleza seems like a feat, although the Internet hold scores of interviews and exhibits about his life and work. Even so, before talking about his art and the exhibition titled Studies on Skin featured on this issue of Agulha Revista de Cultura, we must summarize what we have learned of his life and of himself and has raised him to the standing he enjoys in his country as well as our own.
FLORIANO MARTINS THE MAN AND THE ARTIST | Let us begin by highlighting some sections of his biography.
Floriano was born in Fortaleza, Ceará, on June 30th, 1957, as Floriano Benevides Junior. Because his father’s name was Floriano José Martins, the younger Floriano chose this as a pen name in honor of his forebear. His mother was María Consuelo Feijó Benevides.
His first twenty-one years of life brought on events that marked him for life. From 1957 to 1978, chronologically, he awakes to culture in a home where his father, an avid reader, collected magazines and newspapers and a few books that included nothing less than Shakespeare’s Sonnets and Milton’sParadise Lost. Standing tall amid the masses of publications were photographic novels and comic books. They would provide an ubiquitous direction to the author’s aesthetic path.
The 1970 death of Marcos Vinicius, Floriano’s only brother, was a momentous event. It was the beginning of a painful episode, not only because of the loss of a loved one, of a comrade, but also because it led to an endless longing for companionship, since the quest of the lost brother, although not so generously covered in literature as that of the father, as Telemachus in the Odyssey, or of the prodigal son in the famed parable Jesus told, is a need for pure and selfless friendship, a wellspring of purity that never quenches Man’s thirst.
The restlessness of that lonely lad from Fortaleza, then an emerging city in Brazil’s torrid north, shows its rebellious nature in many ways. Let’s summarize. While other young men formed gangs and crews, the lonely dreamer stayed at home and entertained himself by cutting out magazines to invent new shapes, making things he didn’t know had a name: collages.
His love of imagery and literature dates back to his solitary teenage years, and would push him to an incorruptible teen life. In 1970 he wrote a few short stories, his first literary attempts, and changed his name to Floriano Martins; he was no longer Floriano Benevides Junior.
Lethargic years passed until the rebel rose again and quit school in 1975, still in his teens. The decision naturally brought on internal and household quarrels. He had become a rebel without a cause who, as the age demanded, wanted to try everything and longed to great thrills.
His passion for music, for the hippie movement, led him to visit with people from the dramatic arts and folk arts. There is a short distance between rebellion and lack of restraint.
His first book of poems comes out one year after Floriano entered this hallucinating world: Composição (Composition), in collaboration with visual artist Alano de Freitas, and published in his home town. The word alone was not enough for young Floriano. And the hippie fell badly in love with an older Italian woman who took him to Bahía. He began to feel the taste of rootlessness. The passion the arts and his romantic adventure turned him into a rebel with a cause.
No one knows where the passionate adventure might have led him had not an event occurred that once again plunged him into existential solitude. His mother passed away in 1978 and he had to return to Fortaleza. The first loves lost in the mists of poetry.
Then, tired of loneliness and needing to settle down – he was twenty-one and had to consider his future – he met Socorro Nunes. A woman’s name seldom reflects a man’s true need. She in fact succorred him, rescued him from his solitude and his past, and became the faithful companion he had been desperately searching for since his brother and mother were lost.
Because his romantic adventures could not be orphaned from poetry, he then publishes, in collaboration with photographer Paulo Aécio, a book whose title portrays his loneliness and helplessness in a nutshell: Ruínas de silêncio (Ruins of Silence).
We might linger, but no. Let us instead turn to other details that would mark his fate . He giot married to an accountant. The same profession as the foreign adventuress. He, who lives in the airs of art, needs women with their feet firmly set in the land of numbers.
Another important fact is that he now has a family and must work. Which he does, but in 1979 begins and adventure into the realm that is the great passion in his life: he joints the Siriará literary group, which published a one-issue review anthologizing several generations of writers from Ceará state. This would later be of great use to help him maintain his creative independence and his openness to avant-garde influences, as the next book showed:
Its title was a full personal program: Nenhuma correnteza inaugura minha sede (No current can unveil my thirst), with drawings by Itamar do Mar. It sounds like a declaration of independence, even if he retained support for the relevant illustrations.
In 1980 he starts working as a designer for the Ceará State Official Print.
In 1981 he almost simultaneously got devastating news and raised the curtain on a new outlook on life. His father passed and Flora, his first daughter, was born. Such things come up magically in a life rich in contrasts. Something had happened. A new generation with his blood and his name had come into this world. Solitude was beaten on the affective, familial front. But he must keep on fighting without abandoning the passion for literature and illustration.
Death brought about resurrection in words: Floriano published Di versos em versos with illustrations by Caú. The marriage of imagery and poetry remained faithful.
That year he passed a public exam and won a job with the National Housing Bank. Rebellion and independence bore fruit.
In 1982 Floriano published O amor pelas palavras(The love for words) in Río, with xylography by Norberto Onofrio. Again, the union with visuals still stood.
The year 1983 was marked by another decisive event for Floriano's life and work. He moved to Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil. This opened up vast opportunities for the young poet. He also began to dedicate himself in earnest to the language of the neighboring countries. With Francisco Carvalho, he translated Vicente Huidobro's Altazor, giving rise to a transcendental element in his aesthetic mission.
Still, there was something missing in his life anda family to make up for the absence of his brother and father. In 1985 André, his second child, arrived. Another void was filled. And Floriano proceeded on the path of his artistic passion.
In 1986 he returned to Fortaleza and continued on his bureaucratic career even as he resumed his journalistic endeavors, including articles in the Suplemento Literário Minas Gerais, from Belo Horizonte. This also marked the beginning of a cultural effort that would soon gain continental acclaim: translations of great writers such as Sábato, Bataille, Blake, Pasolini, Paz, Arp, Huidobro, Mutis, and others, and the beginning of his interviews with writers from Brazil and the Spanish Americas.
We have so far been following a path that brought us to the beginning of a series of actions and efforts that shaped a man who gradually organized himself, who advanced through his own efforts to support his family, naturally assisted by Socorro, and who carved himself a high place in literature, not only in his home town, but across Brazil.
In November 1987, his book As contradições terríveis (Awful contradictions) emerged. In it, Floriano blended poems and collages, and no longer required the collaboration of others to express himself visually. José Alcides Pinto highlighted his composites and poems in the daily Tribuna do Ceará as a magical beat, a piece of sheet music, pointing out that it was a new aesthetics that took advantage of the avant-garde.
There is certainly something new and exciting about the work of this laborer of images and words.
And the title showcased what his life had been and what it would remain in the future: Awful contradictions.
In December that same year, Floriano began his international contribution to the Prosa*Verso supplement of the Portuguese daily El Comercio do Porto, translating and disseminating the work of important Spanish-speaking poets.
In August 1988 he launched the periodical Resto do Mundo (The Rest of the World), dedicated to translations, essays and poems. It was another premonitory title. A shout proclaiming that they were not alone in the world because good literature was happening elsewhere in the continent as well. His field of interest included other points of restlessness beyond the graphic arts.
In fact, Floriano's experience with drama and music are part of his human essence. What amazing things the cultural maelstrom he has become can do and effectively does. He has in-depth knowledge of his home country's musicians and artists, and is current on what is going on in Europe and in the Americas, including the United States. A man never seen without spectacles has become the one who sees the most, who hears the best, behind and beyond the stage, the loudspeakers and the camera, which was also one of his youthful obsessions.
To recap, so far we know that from a single child (his brother was born when Floriano was 4 and only became a comrade 2 or 3 years later), he became interested in what was around his home and armed himself with scissors and glue to make strange collages; that he lost his brother early on, when they were already companions, giving rise to his rebellion and leading him to abandon his family and his people for an older foreign woman. He converts to obstinacy. The death of his mother, boosted by a volcanic passion at the peak of youth, threw him into the arms of the one with whom he would share the rest of his life.
These events turned the happy hippie that he was (and somehow managed to remain, at least in his long hair and full beard) into a Man. He had to work on things other than literature and the arts, starting as a designer and ending up a banker. In the meantime his daughter was born, his father died, and his son was born while in Sao Paulo; a return home pushed him to contribute to cultural periodicals and this gave him international reach. The man of today is ready, steeped in surrealism, in new trends, in the knowledge of what his neighbors and other Spanish speakers do and aware of Europeans, Asians, Indigenous peoples, humanity. An aerial about to become a radar dish, given his flair for making the most of new technologies.
All that he has done based on his experience resulted in what he is now: Floriano Martins entered a career as endless as the galaxies.
Let us point out, as supplementary information, the main accomplishments in his life and path, because so far, near the end of the 20th Century, the outline of his history is completed: he will become a poet, he will become a full-time writer, and he will disseminate culture, particularly through interviews with every artists and writer to cross his galactic orbits.
FROM 1991 TO 1999, THE BIRTH OF AGULHA REVISTA DE CULTURA | The years leading to the new century were decisive in Floriano's career.
As we have seen, he was ready for new things. the 1991 death of his maternal grandmother was a terrible blow; another link to his roots was broken. In an interview with Luiz Alberto Machado for O Guida de Poesia about his book Cinzas do sol (Ashes of the sun), he said:
Cinzas do Sol is marked by an accident, by chance, or fate. The main character is my maternal grandmother. She was bedridden, very ill, clearly awaiting death. Standing before her, thinking of how vital she was throughout her life, I barely resisted the impulse of killing her myself. I left and never saw her again. Back home, I opened Georges Bataille's Le coupable, and fortune gave me a start as I read the phrase: “Life is an effect of instability, of imbalance,” followed by something no less revealing: “But it is the firmness of form that makes it possible.” Since then, I have no longer been just an observer, but find myself a character in my writing as well.
The writer, in his own words, had found absolute freedom by turning into a character in his own writing.Cinzas do sol was released in August, and by December (a key month for him) he was already publishing Sábias Areias(Wise Sands), which became a scandalous book in many senses, as Jose Alcides Pinto wrote for O Escritor in April 1992:
In the sense of a boundary experiment, in the tidal verticality and luxurious extremes with which he handles the language. He uses classical form and the most subterranean imagery (to which only true initiates are privy) of a mysticism lost in time, all to tell – there is a subtle narrative that pervades the entire book, making a single poem out of the 33 free sonnets, “sonnets of sand,” as the author points out – about a magical scenery of circumstances and tense voices in a dialog between a man and his lost mother (“mother without basis,” “mother who loses her children,” “mother of all nights,” “peaceful mother of lightning”), a powerful display of images.
We offer the quotes above because we believe that these two books and these experiences completely transformed Floriano Martins, both within and without, both as a person and as a writer. It was his true coming 0f age. From this point on, he will become a human torrent.
In 1992 he joints Sao Paulo's surrealist group and in July that same year he already appeared publicly under this artistic banner in the metropolis's Contemporary Art Center.
In 1993 he releases Tumultúmulos in Rio and his work is launched in English as Dedalus Book publishes The myth of de Word – Surrealism 2, where, with the likes of Breton, Desnos, Artaud, Prévert, etc, a total of 47 authors from around the world, Cinzas do sol appears in a translated version. The book was edited in the UK and distributed in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. His name traveled to the opposite end of the world, preceding his blood by years, since his daughter went to live in Australia when she got married and the nation was where his first granddaughter Maya was born. The author went as far as his words.
Since then, his work for periodicals as never ceased, nor has his recompilation of interviews and anthologies, or his lyrical work and essays.
Finally, just search his name on the Internet to view the flood of mostly surrealist activities he developed until 1999, the threshold of the 21st century.
In December that year he created Agulha Revista de Cultura, entirely dedicated to culture. In August 2000 Claudio Willer becomes a co-director and they publish a special edition that stands as the true inaugural issue, and whose editorial reads:
In a country where Web browsing grows at leaps and bounds, with remarkable foreign investment in the industry, Agulha Revista de Cultura'sleast concern is with the reconciliation of medium and message. Its purpose is to convey articles that do not surrender to excessive, banal repetition that now usually passes for cultural journalism.
This is where we should stop: these lines are intended precisely for a special issue of the magazine in a new age.
To keep from exhausting the reader, let us conclude quickly by saying that, from that point on, Floriano Martins's life and energies revolved – without disregard for his other endeavors – around Agulha Revista de Cultura. He dedicated himself to his labor as an anthologies editor, attended every relevant activity held in his own country and across Latin America as a special guest, curated art shows in his hometown, and finally became a landmark poet throughout his country and the rest of the continent, with repercussions in the Old World. Before writing about the photographs that illustrate this issue that is many ways anthological, I will allow myself to imitate his nimble style s a cultural reporter and reproduce the interview I had with him in September past, on his decision to offer the splendid series Studies on Skin, in which, armed with a camera and his indisputable artistic sense, Floriano produced magical artistic composites.
MMS I have been reading about your life and work, and realized that no biography, no matter how many volumes or pages in length, could possibly tell all of your experiences, whether in mortal life or in your work with culture and literature. It would be amazing for anyone in just 54 years, of which forty-something count as far as literature is concerned, to have been able to accomplish half of what you did , with the added fact, given that I know you, that from now on, with your knowledge and domestic and international contacts, you will start to achieve your innermost aspirations.
FM Aside from the time one employs (but doesn't waste) on all the lessons the senses have to teach, there was a period of almost 15 years when I could say that something was lost, when I worked for a government bank. It was a very fruitless period in terms of experiencing the arts, including as a creative. As for the second half of my life, which stands before me, what you point out is true. Just look at the past ten years, when my production increased significantly.
MMS To keep from turning into your biographer, which I couldn't do all the way from Santo Domingo, given the sheer volume of your tangible accomplishments, I would like to ask you things about your love of photography that you have already partly answered in a few interviews and your prose .
I know about your childhood and the collages, and know that you don't like to hear what you make called photographic composites, combinations, or superpositions;the activity predates your acquaintance with surrealism, even though no one can escape it after knowing it, since it seems to always have been around in the great illuminates, such as Hölderlin, for one, and I don't mention Kafka because he is not only almost contemporary, but also one of our sacred icons.
I would like you to tell me in minute detail about your earliest experiences as a photographer, about when you got your first camera and what you did with it, and about your evolution since your collages as a child.
FM One of the things about collages is the choice of sources. It seems to me that the method used to choose and cut out fragments of images to compose another image, the end-product of a collage, does not define an artist's aesthetics any more than the source material. Max Ernst, for example, had his main source Gustave Doré engravings, which almost established a dialogue between two ages, two worlds, two visions. Chile's Ludwig Zeller is very fond of working with old magazines and engineering and mechanics manuals, as well as others that are just as scientific. When I first started to do collages, I was unwittingly drawn to a specific source that I would only understand later on; above all, I realized a connection with something from my past. The source: 17th century still-life pictures. The connection with the past: the still-life paintings at my grandmother's, done by one of her brothers in law, and my passion for Velásquez's paintings. Later on, when I had already done a few collages, I discovered artists like Pieter Claesz, Evaristo Baschenis, Antonio de Pereda, David Bailly, Ludovicus Finson, to name a few. I had found my own voice in collage, but one thing made me uneasy: using material that was not my own. That was when I thought of taking pictures of textures to insert them into my collages. The next step was to completely abandon the sources and, with this, I thought of no longer cutting surfaces, but superposing them. I first printed the pictures onto slides, but then decided to work directly on Photoshop, using only superposition as a resource. Two things disappointed me in the collages, not in the technique itself, but the frequent presence of the mere placement side by side of two generally different images, and the sometimes unbearably exhausting aesthetic repetition of certain styles. On the other hand, I discovered the strength of nudes, which does not interest me as isolated images, but rather as a resource to compose something to express my uneasiness about the world. This is how I came to think, guided, perhaps, by the magic of Antonio Bandeira's paintings, in mixing surfaces representing the body, nature, the object, in a combination that was first and foremost an act of love. This was how the first pictures came to be, marked by the joy that the material was all mine, that I didn't use pieces of other people's work.
MMS My second question is related to the first one: we would like to know how you evolved from analog to digital photography and if there are any differences in how you process the superpositions.
FM I never worked with analog photography, except when I used it for collages. My superposition technique is the simplest of all. I have an endless collection of pictures I categorize by subjects: water, evening, stones, trees, utensils, textures, nudes, etc. I'm not a proper photographer, and the pictures are resources to create new images. In fact, I am making poetry, even as I did the collages. The images I create – via superposition – seek a poetic context just like the images I associate while creating a poem.
MMS Third, I have read about digital manipulation that everything will hinge on context. Pedro Meyer, from Mexico, argues on the Web: “I believe that everything will depend increasingly on context: from where and to what end one displays or publishes, as well as how one presents one's self to the public. Secondly, we should take photographs for what they are: interpretations and interpretations only. If we understand photography's context and inherent nature, I believe we will be driving digital photography in the right direction. Let us not forget that context is almost always given by the publication on which a picture is featured, and not by the photographers.” And in your case, a writer of poems we read and try to find similarities with or suggestions of, or rather coincidences with a picture you treated artistically to achieve a certain equally artistic result. The difference between arts and artisan crafts lies in the fact that art is unique, while craftsmanship involves repetitive skills that, even if they do not repeat or copy another's models, may be the fruit of an artistic temperament. Now, in the case of something mechanical, technically a craft at least in part, as is the case with superpositions, how do we tell one from the other in dramatic terms? That is, at what point do you realize you are working as an artist and not as a photographer who uses a medium that is still mechanical, such as the camera, that with all of its changes and modifications still retains the name of old, when it was called camara oscura?. I'm not asking you to explain the artistry, since it is present precisely because of your spirit of adventure, your leaps into the void, that is, the indescribable creative emotion and the instant of the ongoing boom of everything in the universe, shock and light, shadow and splendor, silence and noise.
FM The meeting point lies in a balance between what you call “artistic temperament” and mastery of the technique. When one reaches that point, he no longer knows – and nor does it matter – how to tell one from the other. When I speak of context, I believe it is dictated by the creation itself, not its supporting medium. Any work of art will always hold a different meaning given by its receiver. There is no escaping this fact, and therein lies the beauty of art, in the meeting of what the artist imagined and what the lector finds. Craftsmanship is part of creation, as in music, writing, etc. The camera is no different from the guitar or the pen. Every creation is partly mechanical, and I don't attempt to idolize creation or to demean its mechanisms. My experimenting with one image on top of another on the editing table is the same as a musician's with his chords or a poet with verbal resources. All of a sudden, surprise, shock, light penetrate the image, darkness loses its unknowable status, and there is the song, the poem, the photograph. Of course, technical mastery allows a closer intimacy with the elements at hand, the game becomes more fun, and what you aptly call “a leap into the void” is done cheerfully, reaching new heights of boldness and surrender.
MMS Note: this is not an interview, but a search for motives to reach my area of doubt, which concerns when and how you decide to manipulate one image and superpose it on another to achieve a third objective that is the poem, or if, instead, having seen a picture a “composite” emerges for you, or the context of another image that you subsequently associate with a poem, or vice-versa. Anyway, notwithstanding you early experiments with collage as a boy or a teenager, ¿when, exactly, did you propose to pursue this art form? Was it before or after our first surrealist readings, or images by René Magritte? For example, I have seen lots of pictures by authentic surrealist photographers and realize they are very different from you. Oddly enough, they are looking for something logical in the frame, which is the farthest thing imaginable from true surrealism; you, on the other hand, keep going deeper and deeper into the territory of the abstract, sometimes with a completely surreal effect.
FM I think I have already largely answered your question. Bringing poetry and photography together is like one complementing another, or simply a step between two planes. Usually, photography comes after the poem. Perhaps there is something of the collage there, this union of two apparently distinct worlds that show their affinities once joined. I don't remember who once said that Magritte used collage in his paintings as Ernst used painting in his collages. I think my photographs are more and more like paintings. Besides, as has always been the case with my poetry, I am interested in the love affair between the abstract and the concrete, the stress zones between two worlds: dream and reality. This is precisely the gamble of surrealism in its attempt to seek out what lies beyond reality, but without losing touch with it, that is, enriching it.
MMS Finally, let me ask you: Is there a Floriano Martins ars poetica when you work with photographic art?
FM While preparing a series for my exhibition in Sao Paulo's CitiBank gallery, I discovered another magical wellspring that came from my decision to resort to nudes. The female form gave way to other evocations of the body, usually birds or something suggesting flight, a plunge, a leap into the void. When nudes were present, the action came from the scenery. In its absence, this other body determined movement. In both cases, what mattered was the same that could already be seen in my poems: eroticism at its most philosophical, a magic contact between two worlds, the realization of otherness in its broadest sense, surrender. My life is like that. Photography could be no different.
PERSONAL ACQUAINTANCE WITH THE AUTHOR | I met Floriano Martins in Fortaleza, Ceará, Brazil, in November 2007. I was invited, with seven other Latin American literary agents to attend very fruitful meetings. We attended the next year's Book Show, which he curated in Fortaleza, and Floriano visited my country for the International Fair of 2009. In addition, through Agulha Revista de Cultura we have maintained our literary, and our personal friendship is sustained via the Internet, and grew over the years due to similar character traits and aesthetic coincidences.
His concern with imagery dates back from his days as a lonely and imaginative boy who made collages. His very first books were already illustrated. He even figured out how to personalize his collages when the magic of Photoshop enabled him to create the composites (as he calls his superpositions) that often illustrated his own poems and those of contributors.
We learned about his adventurous youth, his marriage and the birth of his children, events that led him to bury, at least on the surface, the hippie he once was, and to settle down as a husband and a parent.
We saw how he played an active role in surrealism, to such a point that one of his works was translated into English and had unprecedented international dissemination to the ends of the earth. Although Floriano was eclectic and free enough to accept others, deep down surrealism has always been latent in him.
The Studies on Skin series is perhaps rather illustrative, as anyone watching his parade of unreal images will admit, first, that they represent an authentic art form, since although photography has long been deemed an art in its own right, the image that the camera, as a static being, sees and captures by whatever means is one thing and a man's translation of those fixed objects into a different aesthetic language is quite another.
No one questions that new technologies and the sharper pictures they allow have enabled many photographers equipped with the skill and patience of the craft to showcase and amplify their own thoughts and personal ideologies. Even so, this is another miracle that goes beyond technology itself and enters the grounds of true art.
ON THE ART PHOTOGRAPHY OF FLORIANO MARTINS | The final portion of the conversation reproduced above mentions Floriano's view of the intense eroticism that surrounds his life and work.
Given the interested party's confession, there is little we can add besides the mystery that lies in each superposition, or composite.
We will attempt to discuss each of the scenes that make up the exhibition that will remain permanently open in the cloud, relying on the same surreal resources as the author.
The very title of the exhibition, Studies on Skin, indicates that it is the nude female form we are talking about. Breasts, thighs, chests, buttocks, nipples, all of which would be delectable on their own. It so happens, though, that despite the sensuality, the desperate desire, the yearning for a touch that they convey, the phrase female nude appeals to the inner voyeur in every human. It is, and is not, about all this.
The language of Floriano Martins is free from morbid élan; instead, it offers eroticism subtly transformed by nature or objects, sometimes shifting like rapids, misty like the ever-changing clouds, or decidedly dark, or garishly colorful sunsets, or infant dawns.
Many a painter has certainly wanted to create paintings such as these images that some of us will print and keep for the true works of art they are.
Because there are days when Adam the myth, Adam the dream, Adam César Vallejo, Adam Porfirio Barba Jacob and Adam Murilo Mendes will find himself quietly reciting that the world began in the breasts of Jandira. / Then came the other parts of creation (O mundo começava nos seios de Jandira. / Depois surgiram outras peças da criação) and she was bare naked in the prairie, at the foot of the mountains, amid the rapids, just created, and evebeing out of thin air, and eveforming before our eyes as the word of color also rises and the founding breasts grow and the caves from which the world barks arise, to the point of being her as well, because the eyes appeared to keep watch over the body. / And mermaids emerged from Jandira's throat: / the air was all surrounded by sounds / more real than birds (E surgiram os olhos para vigiar o resto do corpo. / E surgiram sereias da garganta de Jandira: / o ar inteirinho ficou rodeado de sons / mais palpáveis do que pássaros).
And it so happens that Floriano too appeared in Florianópolis, Floriano in martinbeing, martinforming in the photographic gospel, learning the magic word that breaks all shapes apart and builds them anew, that grows pastures over ruins and over jungles where he readily bares the power of late afternoons and the torrent of the evening or the cacophony of dawn. Birds that are shadows or shadows that are birds fly between the thighs of maidens, the mountains spring blushing pink nipples, and sudden rivers emerge from between lustful thighs. It is a new paradise, the demiurgic power to make and unmake reality in a riot of shapes.
It is the mystery of creation we watch. And the aerials in Jandira's hands picked up animated, inanimate objects, / mined for the rose, the fish, the engine. / And the dead awoke in the visible paths of air. / When Jandira combed her locks... (E as antenas das mãos de Jandira / captavam objetos animados, inanimados, / minavam a rosa, o peixe, a máquina. / E os mortos acordavam nos caminhos visíveis do ar / quando Jandira penteava a cabeleira).And Floriano then pulled out from his camera details sometimes as dark as Rembrandt's, sometimes as surreal as Benjamín Péret's but ever alive like the exquisite corpses of Apollinaire, Tzara and the surrealists.
At any feast of art we end up sick with lights or shadows alone, it must all be there to see. At exhibitions we go from frame to frame, lingering for long before some, evading others. Me, I beg the watcher-reader to stop reading. Let him return to peacefully and slowly taking in the photo gallery and then come back to this exordium to end our conversation.
Floriano Martins has us drunk on the treachery of strange shapes; we point our finger as we progress: this is real surrealism; lyrical over there; dramatic beyond; sometimes it makes us think, sometimes hallucinate; it intrigues and startles. Let’s face it, this is art. Nonetheless, if we are left with a subtly scented mist of sensuality, we have failed and must resume looking to become true voyeurs when the intense aroma floods our souls.
Until we find ourselves defeated by this exhausting sensation, by this revelation of woman among things like the founding goddess, like Gaia, like Pachamama herself, we will meet the same fate as Jandira's mate: And Jandira's husband / died in the influenza epidemic. / And Jandira covered his grave with her hair. / From the third day the husband / made a huge effort to resuscitate: / He cannot accept, from the dark room where he lies, / that Jandira should live alone, / that her breasts, her locks should cause trouble for the city / while he lies there idling. (E o marido de Jandira / morreu na epidemia de gripe espanhola. / E Jandira cobriu a sepultura com os cabelos dela. /Desde o terceiro dia o marido / fez um grande esforço para ressucitar: / não se conforma, no quarto escuro onde está, / que Jandira viva sozinha,/ que os seios, a cabeleira dela transtornem a cidade / e que ele fique ali à toa).
This is where we stand idling as Floriano astonishes with his studies of the female skin. But no. Because:
We choose to revisit each picture again and again, but for one of them we wrote notes of the impression others caused; and as we continued to revisit the 108 photographs I decided to write down the impression each particular one caused. I soon realized that at different times I had different experiences, and assumed that readers will have the same experience, since this issue has other wonders in store.
I realized that my notes were authentically surreal because they barely passed through the filter of reason. So that now, gathered together without the number that corresponds to each picture, but in the order they were sent to me, the reader will be able to catch glimpses of them all in the unified visions. What the reader will see ahead is not a prose poetry; it is, as we say, a surrealist abduction of impressions that may often coincide with the reader's, but without separating one picture from another or point out divisions except those required by some sense of order out of disorder.
(ABDUCTIONS FROM) STUDIES IN SKIN | You know you are pure flesh, but will never know that flesh is where a hand can grasp shadows. The hands make and unmake life and love. The roasted leg is juicier. Steps on towels lead nowhere. The royal peacock of desire, the dark royal peacock of life. The snail could enter the flesh.
All at once a nude female body can become dusk over a rough land that stands for desire's death, because from her navel come the afternoons that herald the night, touching fertility in the shapeliness of breasts.
Or a monstrous tree that is a charmed hand caresses the grass with roots and yearnings where the clouds darken the senses because one must gently touch what is pleasant. A wonderful costume of tulle or shrouds and ghosts erect a sleepless nipple to form a surreal painting, for here lies a breast set in gauze, shrouds and ghosts.
The illusion of a strange black bird while two nipples like fragile ruins pretend to be an abandoned nest and suggest Edgar Allan Poe's Never More or the Phoenix's roost.
Inquiring about the mystery of sensuality a female form becomes blurred and turns into a titan carrying the weight of the night on its shoulders and the dark skies look like a jesting storm that reeks of Rembrandt.
Sometimes contradiction is the all-transforming magic touch like the aridness of rock against the nubile breast of a maiden or the head of a dog drinking sensuously. Stony vista full of suggestions. The subtlety of a scenery that contrasts the snowy peak and the nipple that rivals the clouds to create utter beauty. The apotheosis of a breast and the misty buttocks.
There is a dark, classic, Rembrandtesque picture of a woman's body amid shadows and tools and a torrent of water that looks like desire, as do other Rembrandtesque companions.
Seldom is the torrent of desire over the fragility of the flesh as evident as in the suggestion of a woman's sex. The legs and the rapids over the sex impart a sense of touch, and the light and shade make the painting a surrealist message.
Hands and dark shadows, the vague outlines of the areolas. The hand caressing a breast is transformed amid the clouds that suggest flickering lights one a blade, explaining the sensual tension.
A waterfall erupts in the scenery, contrasting with human organs. A bashful figure just between the forest and the rocks. The rocks and bashful nakedness. Who dances a magic dance carved precisely into a shadow? A ritual ball amid the rocks , images carved into the rocks.
Fabulous vision of a cloudy dawn over the naked skin, hands, fog and sex. A precise touch upon the stone of a dry river-bed; fingers and nipples like fruit.
Journey to life after a nipple with suitcases. The traveler of being is come.
In the sensual grove the nipple is a charmed wart. A husk of a tree with fragrant breasts.
The hand that flees between intense scarlet in a black cluster and the obstinate piercing scarlet. The grotesque cherub crosses a desert of flesh at nightfall; the beastly cherub roams the afternoon's body.
The hand that caresses the lighted mists. Oh hands and cliff of sin.
The itsy-bitsy spider climbs down from a breast to the misty reality of the grove. The rain-soaked spider of the nipple above the mist. Like an exercise by Juan Gris, the earthenware pots of a broken breast's nipple.
Suggestions of infinity setting sail from a bellybutton to reach the open sea of desire. The quay of farewell. The nipple's dark locks, a symphony of breasts and shapes. The deep hole of secret desire.
Three-dimensional buttocks light up the view. Hand and nipple suggest a strange kind of gluttony. Like a book o trembling flesh. Endless transit of the woman and the book. There lies the body-hand tree and the lewd contour of the trespassing apple, delicious, creamy sense of juiciness. Sighs, cream and the body, a structural composition rife with erotic suggestions, the light is shining at the bottom of the cave.
A battle between the harp and the woman. Dark music comes forth from the crotch. The hollow that suggests that the woman is the world. Sensual scenery. Alcohol and sex simulate an erotic dusk in the drunkenness of the flesh, like rapids of cream over skin. The arc of desire can be felt. The hand and the bead-lined skin. A foot like a lightning bolt of silk. The foot of the maze in the water. How a woman fades into the scenery.
The warm possession of a breast in the blue window. the door of life to another world. The allegory of pleasure. The pillars of the world.
The strange tree living on the beach and the road of desire driving into dreamland. A path of wonders that doesn't go anywhere.
The flesh of desire sometimes becomes clear in a cloister or a prison. We will never know what it was that we saw between the bars. Strange beings decorate the skin, the mysteries of the flesh and the sob, for mysteries sometimes shed light.
Swimming among the mists the skin is suddenly gorged with drops of honey.
When images blur a woman has been lost among the lights.
Joinings are as everlasting as the path of death in the dark. Love is a sobbing fossil.
The nipple of nightmares and dreams also sow the cockroaches of desire.
True surrealism in a grove of life. The skull doesn't always mean death when a crane is resplendent over the night of the legs as they wander through the roots of the world and another bird clashes with the body's respite. Birds love the spring.
The tiger and the zebra are not too distant from the woman. Sometimes the mystery is completely solved. The prairie bear catches sniffs between the thighs and catches the scent of the breath of desire as it drinks the waters of angst.
Light crackles amid navels and shadows. The dark river of delirium. The mysterious crossing of death. A strange and deeply surreal composite. May the legs go all the way there.
Feet caught in the circle. A foot lost and found.
The full beard of the lustful patriarch. Braque and Rembrandt struggle in the deepest of pits.
The land of moss arises when Aphrodite returns from the sea made all into sex and the mist of dusk embraces the belly. Graffiti delights in the ruined triangle. A massive sensation.
The three hallowed snails and the hand that strokes the rising nipple. Day emerges from the night like a loyal dog.
Hand amid rocks. The hand prepares. Aphrodite is lost as she hails from the water. An impossible journey since the nipple lies close to the ruins of love. Love's flag and coat-of-arms: a triangular fancy. The window of desire. The balance of a dream buried and the covert hand. A hatching and the lights and colors of paradise like multicolored birds. A nude fancy.
Manuel Mora Serrano (Dominican Republic, 1933). Narrator, poet and essayist, author of de Literatura Dominicana y Americana (A History of Dominican and American Literature). In 2008 he worked as a lecturer for the Ministry of Culture and attended several domestic events, as well as others abroad, in places like Puerto Rico and Miami. He is currently under contract with the Ministry to complete investigations includingHistoria de los movimientos de vanguardia (History of the avant-garde movements). Translated by Allan Vidigal. Contact:email@example.com. Page illustrated with works by Floriano Martins (Brazil), the guest artist for this issue of ARC.