The photography of Brazilian artist Anna Paola Guerra is an exercise in depicting almost nothing. Ostensibly a record of human activity – a stool locked to a bench; crates stacked between a tree and a wall; tissue paper slipped inside a paper bag – her images are quiet and uninhabited and still, dissociated from the bustle of human existence, from movement, from the noise given up as a by-product of the reaction of person on person on thing. It is a contradiction – documenting an action, something having been done, while motionlessly, impassively redacting meaning – that discourages any effort to understand and interpret.
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Wandering the streets of Belo Horizonte where she lives and works, Guerra seeks “fortuitous encounters” with objects and situations; she is driven by serendipity rather than systems or planning. “When I photograph,” she has said of this process, “I try to separate myself as much as I can from my knowledge, to remove the cultural references we use everyday, including language, from how I look at the world.” Thus Guerra’s images, stripped of signs and signifiers and significance, function as an anti-language – unteaching, uninforming; affirming of Samuel Beckett’s maxim that “there is nothing to express, nothing with which to express, nothing from which to express.” We are left only with the surface of the image, the materiality of her subject and its essential detail: shape, colour, form, texture.