Architecture has played a major role in Ângela Ferreira’s research-based practice, in which buildings and structures are used as starting points for works of art that often engages with complicated colonial histories in Portugal and sub-Saharan Africa. For Ferreira, who was born in Mozambique, buildings are anthropological, sociological, political and aesthetic structures. Her work at DPAM triangulates a dialogue across time and geographies between the modernist forms of Mies van der Rohe, Mozambican architect Pancho Guedes, and vernacular architecture found in Portugal, Brazil and throughout countries in Africa.
This exhibition, organized on the occasion of the second Chicago Architecture Biennial, brings together two installations that come out of her in-depth research and represent geopolitical conflicts that are still being played out today. Zip Zap Circus School (2000-2002) references two failed projects: one by Mies van der Rohe in Den Haag and another by Mozambican modernist architect Pancho Guedes in Cape Town. Its sculptural and architectural materialization points to the idea that architecture can be seen as an object of desire and social change by a largely ignored community in a highly politicized and socially explosive South Africa of the end of the twentieth-century. By building a portion of Guedes’s architectural project as an art work, the artist rendered the idea of the dream as a political act.
In the second installation, Wattle and Daub (2016), a building that was used as a slave market in the 15th century in Lagos, Portugal, is depicted through a slide projection, enclosed behind a renovator’s scaffold. In front of the image emerges a new sculptural screen that is constructed according to traditional African and Brazilian building techniques -wattle and daub – thereby doubling the sense of enclosure and transporting it to a different architectural language and different continents. The performance through the sculpture evokes the memory and power of the escapee slave communities in Brazil through the image of its most charismatic leader- Zumbi dos Palmares.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website