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Penelope, Chapel of Morumbi, São Paulo, Brazil (2011)
By Tatiana Blass
Thank goodness for the internets because I would never have ended up in Brazil to see this amazing installation by Tatiana Blass. Let’s take a look at the scale of this piece from the interior:
And from the exterior:
(Photos by Everton Ballardin)
At one level, the work can be read as a representation of the myth of Penelope as we know it from Homer’s Odyssey. The loom suggests both the never-ending shroud Penelope weaves and her secret nighttime unravelings. For the viewer, this creates a sense of uncertainty since one cannot determine whether the cloth is in a state of construction or deconstruction.
The feeling of uncertainty is further heightened by the rather unsettling impression that one has of having stumbled on the scene of a bloodbath. We know from Book XXII that the suitors which Penelope had so deftly kept at bay with her cunning are violently cut down by Odysseus and his son and the maids are hung for having cavorted with the suitors. Penelope’s happiness comes at a steep price, as the artist reminds us.
The location and the unique conflation of interior and exterior spaces suggests a discourse on the role of the viewer and the relevance of context. The necessity of moving from inside to outside the chapel forces the viewer into the role of active participant rather than passive observer. This forced participation inserts the viewer into the narrative and by extension, implicates him (or her) in the tragedy that has or is about to occur.
I wish I knew more about Blass’ work and the thought process behind this installation in particular. I find myself constantly coming back to this image and thinking about the myriad issues which this work invokes.