Gustavo Balbela (Porto Alegre, 1997) is a Brazilian artist and designer who uses photography as a means of support on which to discuss issues related to his culture and society. In past projects, like The Last Sigh of Materiality (2018) and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (Revisited) (2019) he explored dichotomies and tensions between the material world and our way of interacting with, representing and imagining it. Gustavo has participated in collective and individual exhibitions in Brazil, Uruguay, Poland and Hungary, and his work can be found in private collections in Brazil and Europe.
In Letters to Ultramarine I attempt to create an anthology of the discomforts that emanate from the urban space that surrounds me, collecting fragments from the upper middle class Latin American landscape stressed by the echoes of colonialism and by the consequences of globalised capitalism.
As outdated and exogenous models of progress quietly yet violently mould the environment, I run out of landmarks and solid ground on which to set my feet. From buildings to trees, everything looks like a function of a culture whose main purpose is consumption, but which nevertheless produces nothingness. The Anthropocene’s heterogeneous foam expands, suffocating everything, and is smashing me in between the beauty of the sight and the rage of reality.
This space becomes a collage of structures that come from afar, often from the Global North, and that help to shape our dreams and ideals. They overlap, layer upon layer, with only minor consideration for the origin, message or context, creating an environment that is hyper-codified, and yet, deprived of a deeper meaning.
By carefully observing these pieces of absence that surround me, I seek to modulate the unavoidable tension sparked by growing up in this environment where meaningful bonds and experiences are built amid (and, sometimes, drawing from) intense cultural interference.
I am the banana tree: I came from afar. The larger part of me, at least, came for sure. Just above me, a bem-te-ví bird native to the Pampa planes in South America, where I live. His name in Portuguese or in Spanish means ‘I see you well’, and when he sings we hear him saying these words. I see you well, I see you well.
He saw us while we took the place over. But, just like the banana tree, no one seems to take note of us. On the contrary, they take note of the others. The ones who have always been here. We’re normal, the weirdness is in the bem-te-vi. The weirdness is in what has always been there.