Anna Maria Maiolino (1942 - )

Por um fio (1976)
By a Thread

Photographic print on paper
height: 27cm
width: 40.5cm

Donated by Anna Maria Maiolino 2004


Translated literally as 'by a thread', the actual expression 'por um fio' appropriately, if somewhat surprisingly, translates into English as 'by the skin of one's teeth'. Rarely do expressions translate with such visual coherence. Admittedly the appropriateness of the translation seems to be restricted by the context of this particular image, this 'fotopoemação'. The image refers to two very distinct histories which are weaved together by a poetic gesture that entwines the artist's family with Brazilian culture.

Por um fio presents 3 women (Vitalia, Anna and Veronica: respectively, the artist's mother, the artist and her daughter) connected at the mouth via a 'thread'. The thread also connects three origins: respectively Ecuador, Italy and Brazil. It is in this sense a map, a life's trajectory. The thread suggests the unquestionable connection of love but also the fragility of it, the temporality of life. A lifeline despite all else, a trajectory traced by the skin of her teeth.

The mouth in Maiolino's work is recurrent theme. It refers to speech, hunger and in the context of Brazilian art history it also denotes Oswald de Andrade's Anthropophagite Manifesto of 1928. The manifesto proposed the devouring of the culture of the other as it is appropriated into one's own. It represented the climax of the absorption of modernism in Brazil that had 'officially' began in 1922 with the Modern Art Week in São Paulo.

Maiolino arrived in Brazil with her mother and father in 1960 a time in which the influence of concrete art and poetry was strongly present and is reflected in the subtitle 'fotopoemação'. Indeed, language has always been central to the work of Maiolino, whether as an element within a painting, the denial of it in a film, a title such as in this case, or as the sole means of maintaining an artistic practice due to family commitments.

Michael Asbury, 2008

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