In Sara Ramo’s first solo exhibition in her native Spain, a humble collection of photographs and video works revealed her resourcefulness in the face of limited resources. In Traslado (On the move, 2008), we see the artist kneeling on the wooden floor of an apartment, pulling items out of a suitcase. Through the work of a simple filmic trick, she removes from the small suitcase what seem to be the contents of her entire house, furniture and all. While this could be taken to be a statement about the transient lifestyle of this Spanish-born, Brazilian-based artist, it rather seems that she works with these items simply in order to give herself the most basic set of material restrictions. Other works suggest the same canniness with accumulations of material goods: in the video Meia Volta, Volta e Meia (Half turn, a turn and a half, 2005), the camera rotates around a sparsely decorated bedroom with the jumpy speed of CCTV footage. Each time it makes a revolution, her clothes and furniture seem to congregate closer and closer together in the middle of the room, eventually resulting in what looks like a tornado of possessions.
Each of Ramo’s photographic series functions as documentary evidence of a simple, humble performance, perhaps spawned from boredom or claustrophobia. In ‘Como aprender o que acontece na normalidade das coisas’ (How to understand what happens in the natural order of things, 2002–5), we see a pink-tiled bathroom intact in one image; in the next it seems to have been neatly but thoroughly ransacked – each perfume and shampoo bottle unpacked and arranged on the floor. Works like this were only enhanced by the inspired exhibition that took place simultaneously at the same venue: like Mark Mandel’s and Larry Sultan’s collection of confounding found photographs of men in white lab coats performing mysterious tests (‘Evidence’, 1977), Ramo’s photographs could also be seen as evidence of obscure experiments.
Even if they’re set in cramped closets or narrow corridors, Ramo’s works are characterized by a light touch and a playful, sometimes fanciful approach. ‘Zoo’ (2008) is a modest but delightful series of snapshots of animals found in the consumer landscape – a loaf in the shape of a fish, a pig made of butter. These are also some of the few works realized outside of cramped domestic surroundings. Ramo seems to be seeking a route out of the claustrophobia created by a small apartment or studio, while wanting to remain faithful to the everyday reality of her immediate context. Alguns dias passados no espaço (A few days spent in space, 2005) recreates astronomical phenomena in a corner of her apartment, using small objects to signify larger ones – spilt milk becomes the Milky Way, crumpled balls of paper become meteorites. The artist seems determined to make expanded worlds out of everyday ones.
First published in Issue 126