“Forgiving Night for Day” is showing at PICA, Northbridge from 18 February to 16 April.
Australian artist Jacobus Capone’s latest installation at PICA has its roots in Lisbon, responding to both a Portuguese musical tradition and the Portuguese term, “saudade”, which reflects deep nostalgia and a longing for people. This sombre tone is well captured in the darkened setting of the PICA gallery.
Projectors show restricted viewpoints, set at different levels around the gallery. These are occupied by lone figures, looking out over different parts of the city of Lisbon at day, on different days. Men and women look away from one another, and one at a time sing the Portuguese translation of Capone’s English-language poem. These acts of translation, casting, shooting and then display all compound a sense of remoteness and unavoidable distance. The source material and even the singers are all pointedly removed from one another. At dawn for seven days, a different Fado singer performs the poem. The overall impact, for a viewer sitting in the darkened room, is one that oscillates between deeply melancholic and determinedly hopeful.
Taigo Torres da Silva has translated Capone’s piece from English, the full text of which is printed on the wall at the entry to the exhibit. The piece is a meditation on the connections between place, self, and time.
Forgiving Night for Day
I die each day at dawn
only to be reborn at dusk
The four cornered night sky my enabler
cradles my being
and within its darkness I become I.
Guided by uncertain co-ordinates
I roam the city’s streets
a foreigner to humankind
feeling with my thoughts
and thinking with my feelings.
The city sleeps, the streets fall silent
As my shadow carries my spirit
out to the edge of the night
only to return me back where I begun.
Time rests in pause
whilst the universe awakens from slumber
and the world half opens to reveal
a moment without weight or duration.
Whoever I was yesterday ceases
as its apparition journeys into morning light
welcoming all chance encounters
with silent reverence
and farewells each former self shed.
There is a cyclic nature to this journey to self-awareness, ultimately progressing beyond the melancholy roots of saludade, to a more optimistic feeling of growth, making on-going meanings out of all fleeting encounters. Alienation and uncertainty are ultimately undercut by the speaker’s burgeoning comprehension of universal facts, their position within these complex systems, and subtly supportive images embedded within the poem.
This is the atmosphere that permeates the gallery; though the speakers do not face one another, they do not appear disparately lonely. The longing of their voices is cast out over the city, yet ultimately appears inward, self-reflective. Forgiving Night for Day takes a potentially grim focal point and turns it into a more uplifting meditation, creating a similarly meditative space for viewers within the space.
Forgiving Night for Day is being held from 18th February to 16th April 2017 at PICA, Northbridge. For more information, please see the event page here.
– Siobhan Hodge
Siobhan Hodge has a doctorate from the University of Western Australia in English. Her thesis focused on Sappho’s legacy in English translations. She is an Associate Editor at Rochford Street Review, Reviews Editor for Writ Review, and contributing reviewer for Cordite. Born in the UK, she divides her time between Australia and Hong Kong. Her chapbook of reflections on Sappho, Picking Up the Pieces, was published in 2012 as part of the Wide Range Chapbooks series. She has also had poetry and criticism published in several places, including Westerly, Limina, Colloquy, Cordite, Plumwood Mountain, Page Seventeen, Yellow Field, Peril, Verge, and Kitaab.