T E N T A C U L A R
Held between 2008 and 2023, the exhibition TENATACULAR by Renata Pelegrini presents part of a set of works gathered together for the first time. As in Portuguese, tentacular requires the same spelling and meaning in different languages, such as Spanish, Italian and English. The word tentacle comes from the Latin tentaculum and means antenna, from tentare, signaling feeling and trying. The spider, a tentacular arachnid, and the octopus, a tentacular mollusk, have fingers like humans, and because of their tentaculate form, they are capable of establishing sophisticated networks and interconnections of lines, not points or spheres. Articulating tasks, circumstances and occasions throughout the preparations for the show, there was a specific moment when Renata made a comment expressing feeling full of arms like an octopus. Her immediate awareness was then to share, through conversations, a text by Donna Haraway (1944), American biologist and philosopher, entitled: Tentacular Thought: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene, 2016. From the perspective of geohistory, octopuses are called marine spiders not only because of their habits. Gaia’s relationship with Chaos goes back as far as science and philosophy. Selected for the show, the artist presents in chiaroscuro a tenuous web of works, situations and distinct periods of her production, conforming in b/w and color a mesh of light and shadow ties. Tentacular is the name of both her artistic research and her incessant search and way of operating. It represents the place where the horizons of land (roots), water (sea) and air (sky) meet in a single direction/wander. Without temporal definition, the fossilized idea of a future is her recycling of concepts, practices and materials. In the exhibition, we are faced with the rearrangement of the noise and the pause for observation. The sensorially of silence is below ground and at the bottom of the sea. The antagonism of white and obscured stillness is present in the architectural details and in the lighting of the exhibition room. The artist’s body is sometimes anchored at land, sometimes free in the sea intersection space, which goes from the coast to the high seas. With sea and with the mud, comes the calm, after the storm.
The famous award-winning documentary Professor Octopus (My Octopus Teacher, 2020) by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed spread the reality of multispecies communication. We are all lichens, says the phytolinguist. We organize ourselves like mushrooms, assumes the mycologist. Cities look like a coral reef, imagine oceanographers. Let’s play cat’s bed?, invite the children. One of Renata’s constant works is the exercise of archival reorganization of her own production. Among influential texts recently read by the artist is the Autobiography of an octopus and other narratives of anticipation, 2021, by Vinciane Despret (1959), a Belgian philosopher of science and nature. It is yet another strengthening reference that moved her to the exhibition of pieces that lie between the calm on the shore and the loosening of the edge.
The grouping of works proposed by the TENTACULAR exhibition is unprecedented. As s master nautical chart, the sculptural piece of paper with scriptures Olísipo (the name of Lisbon in Ancient Rome) appears along with Attaccati, which resembles a thought-provoking logbook of everyday life, highlighting the fragility of life during the most acute pandemic phase. Yet Strata places calligraphic expressions side by side, and Mappa sews geographic designs such as navigation maps in cities, urban plans and cartography. From Sentient (the meaning is that of being who perceive with their senses), one can see displayed on flat surfaces, such as archeology and paleontology offices, the series Fossils and Arteries and Guts – with masks, brushes, corals, cirandas, needles, sticks, coins, tools, insects – a tribute in preserving the memory of the ancestral land. Under a family tree structure, the pieces create a relationship with the history of the exhibition environment, resulting in an object-artistic-scientific cataloging of the female universes of the artist’s ancestors.
Sea charts reminds us of a timeless method of instinctively using a pitchfork (hydroesthesia) to find water in the driest regions of the planet. The objects are inspired by a sensitive graphic, built by sticks like a rudimentary compass, and which serve to reconnect states of mind and awaken the sense of direction in ocean navigation of ancient Polynesian canoeist.
TENTACULAR is the current corpus of Renata Pelegrini. The perception of the dexterity of the card game in hand imbued in the artist’s work is the hypothesis of the curatorship. For this exhibition, like a jigsaw puzzle, there is the desire to connect fragments of exchanges by fitting together everything from notions of mind maps to almost fictional impressions of the underwater scenario played by Dumbo octopus. In her book released during the period of the exhibition, we can clearly see her milieu as an artist, as it is a unique manipulation of editing, a shuffling of works in the finite, inciting successes, mistakes, attempts, interweaving and accidents in endless combinations.