Por Hélder Ramos


O artista desta semana, Miguel Rocha, é já conhecido aos leitores habituais deste espaço mas, em vésperas desta nova exibição dos seus trabalhos, quisemos trocar novamente impressões.

Miguel Rocha nasceu no Porto em 1970 e veio para o Canadá com a família em 1975.  Ele estudou na Universidade de Toronto, no Ontario College of Art & Design, e fez uma aprendizagem em Portugal com o realizador Manoel de Oliveira.

Incluímos neste epaco uma breve entrevista, um texto de Miguel Rocha, e uma descrição do trabalho deste artista, por Anna Camara.

Concluímos assim esta semana a série de artigos e entrevistas aos quatro artistas luso-Canadianos que irão expôr no Sem Saudade: Contemporary Art by Canadians of Portuguese Heritage, patente ao público de 18 de Maio a 29 de Junho, 2002 no Cambridge Galleries em Cambridge, Ontario.

A abertura oficial desta exposição é hoje, às 19h00.  Haverá tambem uma "mesa-redonda", sobre a importânçia da arte e educacão na comunidade Portuguesa, às 14h00 no domingo, 26 do corrente. 

Info:1-519-621-0460 ou na internet: http://www.gallerycambridge.on.ca




S.P.  How did you become an artist? That is, how did you "know"?


M.R. Not "know", "NO"! I dropped out of the old school only to find myself trying to swim with different fish.  You can never swim on your own, no matter how much you try. And i've tried!


S.P.   Did you get any encouragement or support for your chosen field from your family?


M.R.  My parents always supported my (and my brother's) artistic tendencies, by placing us in art programs at the AGO and ROM.


S.P. How has your "Portuguese" upbringing affected your work, if at all?


M.R.  Although i've always gone back to visit my family, I always felt quite removed from Portugal until 1993, when I lived there for half a year. I became quite involved politically, especially with the events happening in East Timor around the same time, and I began to show more of an interest in recent Portuguese history. Witnessing how generally racist Portugal was, it was during this time that I started to develop the idea for "Lost Heroes", a kind of anti-romance that takes place on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the 25 de Abril.


S.P.   How was it recieved?


M.R.   We shot the film in 1999, and it was quickly ignored by the world's film cognoscenti. The director of Fantasporto (Porto film festival) rejected the film back in 2000 for it's negative political portrayal of Portugal. We took that as a compliment.


S.P. What are you working on at present?


M.R.   There are several documentaries that (my partner) Trish and I are working on, all at different stages.  We have two in particular that we've shot and that are sitting on our shelf until we can edit them.  One is a travelogue that shatters the borders (geographic, moral, political, idealogical) that "separate" Canadian and American identity.  The other is a family portrait...a self-portrait i suppose.  The artist is the ultimate prostitute...no matter the government, we must always beg!


S.P. Where do you see yourself going, as an artist? That is, what areas do you want to explore, in what directions are you headed? 


M.R.   Spain. Cataluña.  Like Hannibal. And Ernest Hemingway.  And Orson Welles.  I have to keep swimming because i'm feeling stagnant here.  Different fish, remember? We have two films in development; one is a documentary looking in detail at the New York City free jazz loft scene of the '60s and '70s.  Back then, most American jazz musicians following challenging routes found the only friendly ears in Europe.  Cecil Taylor, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Archie Shepp...it's absurd because they are all so respected now...30 years later.  The other is a narrative film about a Jack Kerouac-type character who escapes from society to a small town and is befriended by a young boy.  You can say it's a nostalgic look at people and places I know only in dreams.


S.P. What's next for you? Any shows?


M.R.  After Sem Saudade i'll continue to help develop the growing masterpiece that is my baby son, Cooper.  When he allows, i'll continue obsessing over "Lost Heroes" (its final edit is a great work brewing in my head), the new script, and keep taking photographs.




In a Field (or If I Was…) (photo installation, 2001-2002)

by Anna Camara


In his first feature film, Lost Heroes (Super 16mm, 2000), Miguel Rocha paid homage to Portugal’s seminal 20th century moment, the April 25, 1974, bloodless revolution that in one day replaced the country’s 50-year-old military dictatorship with a liberal/leftist democracy. Born in the northern capital of Porto, Portugal’s second largest city, Rocha was inspired by a visit there in 1993, at a time when he was most politically active. East Timor had erupted violently in 1992, the old Portuguese colonial power perpetrating genocide even in its dying days. Rocha experienced a heightened awareness of what the old Portuguese engine of repression must have exacted and might still exact, given a different set of political circumstances. For Lost Heroes, he constructed an elaborate, romantic plot, set in the present, with the fallout from the April 25 coup at its centre. In 1995, twenty-five years after the revolution, he and his partner, Patricia Teckert, ..

Using filmmaking techniques learned at the Ontario College of Art and Design, and a trained architectural eye for composition, he was satisfied that he was making a film, albeit from an outsider’s point of view, that showed the country as it really was. Interestingly, the Porto Film Festival turned down Lost Heroes on the basis that programmers did not like the way that Portugal was portrayed, “almost like a third-world country”. The reaction of what Rocha calls Portugal’s urban nouveau riches, is an unexpected postscript to his earlier misperception that only rural people upheld the constrictive conservatism of old. To date, the most positive interest in the work has come from U.S. film festivals. 


Rocha is an admirer of Portuguese filmmaker Manuel de Oliveira, with whom he apprenticed in Portugal, and of the French New Cinema director Jean Luc Goddard, both of whose styles rely on the detachment of the camera from the subject and other alienating techniques. In future edits of Lost Heroes, Rocha hopes to expunge errors that stemmed from his naiveté and inexperience - he believes that artists should continually re-examine their achievements, physical and spiritual, in order to communicate the essential mystique of life.


In a Field (or If I Was…) is constructed of thirty-six 35mm photographs shot by Rocha in an Iberian field on September 10, 2001 - the entire roll of film was printed and assembled in Toronto. Coming upon a summer-scorched field of (mostly) dead sunflowers, Rocha was instantly reminded of the colourful tourism posters he had seen as a child. For once, the sunny icon, so emblematic of Portugal, did not mask the dark reality of the country. To Rocha the site seemed another apt metaphor for Portugal, like the one he named and attempted to deconstruct in Lost Heroes. Against a leaden, early morning sky, the human scale of the dead plants and their apparent desolation made a powerful impression on Rocha. Like a regiment of shell-shocked old soldiers, punctuated by a few alert survivors, this field represents for Rocha the birthplace of potential luminaries and the grave of the pathetic and obscure. Rocha has photographed sunflowers before and has experimented with exposure...

1 de 36 fotos da instalação fotográfica In a Field (or If I Was…), 240 x 300 cm, 2001- 2002


practicum: 7am, monday, the 10th of september, 2001

by Miguel Rocha


patricia loves sunflowers.  with a carpet of clouds lying overhead i felt it was time to finally visit the sunflower field only a 5 minute walk from our summer apartment. by now dead from the brutal sun endured over the long iberian summer, the field seemed pathetic yet, somehow, glorious in the early morning grey yellow light. i set it upon myself to bring patricia back a vast array of sunflower photographs that she could remember this place with. the baby was still sleeping, and someone had to stay in the apartment.


i was introduced to their absolute beauty in the tourism posters of portugal i had seen as a child. when you’re a child, the sunflower is like a smiling friend. they keep you naive to the darkness which exists in the country. portugal is an apt metaphor for the human condition, a metaphor i made an attempt at deconstructing a few years ago with my feature film lost heroes. the film portrayed a country (a world) simultaneously romantic and violent, educated and ignorant, focused and lost, cynical and hopeful. it is not like a sunflower. rather, it is like the field of dead sunflowers. from this vast field grow the brilliant luminaries who go unnoticed to the drooping heads of the withered bodies, grotesque dying, and dead.


posters of happy sunflowers living in happy sunflower fields. great things come unnoticed but to those who are not blind to beauty.  i tried to take dark photographs of sunflowers but discovered how difficult it is to be entirely cynical when dealing with this specific flora. like portugal. the home in my heart.