In Conversation with

Aline Motta: The Archive As Part of Ancestry

Seeking to “invent through an inventory”, Brazilian artist Aline Motta works with archives from a starting point of distrust. When dealing with archival research and tracing her family’s genealogy, Aline finds deep connections with ancestry, revealing a memory that is constantly updated.

C&AL: How would you describe the experience of dealing with archival research, tracing the genealogy of your own family history, particularly your maternal lineage?

AM: When you’re dealing with documentary archives, you often find stories that aren’t exactly related to your family, but could be, and this exercise of imagination sometimes takes you to places of profound encounter with what we call “ancestry”. These are shared experiences, often traumatic. The idea that this chorus of women’s voices could come out from behind the scenes and take center stage of the narrative was what moved me to keep going, not by reenacting the suffering, but transmuting some of these experiences into creation.

C&AL: In your works, archival documents appear in their materiality and not just as accessory virtual images, but becoming active elements of the narration, taking on an autonomous role of protagonist. What is the meaning of highlighting this interaction between the archival image and the world beyond it?

AM: I think it’s the understanding that the archive isn’t located in the past but in the future. It’s situating the archive as a memory of a future in an infinite process of updating. The idea of spiraling time is combined precisely with the dimension that a fragment of a 19th century newspaper contains a capsule of what will be experienced tomorrow, with other characters and nuances, but placing the events within a historical and cyclical perspective.

C&AL: Montage, editing, superimposition, switching of perspectives. I’m thinking, for example, of your work Filha Natural (“Natural Daughter”, 2022), exhibited at MASP during the exhibition Histórias Feministas. How, in your artistic practice, does the use of techniques taken from cinema make the presentification of memory possible?

AM: Cinematic language allows the condensation of various points in time and the view of a given scene from various angles. I think that in Filha Natural this use of the camera highlights the superpositions of these temporalities, suggesting a path, a crossing of a gaze. Memory becomes a spectator and also a character in the narrative.

C&AL: I heard you wanted to turn the book into a feature film. Could you tell us about the status of this new project?

AM: Yes. For the moment, the film that was shown at the São Paulo Bienal is half an hour long, but many parts of the book haven’t been filmed yet. So, I’m looking for financing to film the entire book and turn the project into a feature film. The way the film market is set up, there are more possibilities for feature films to be exhibited, so it’s another interesting format for disseminating the work and for the discussions it raises. This aspect relates back to your previous question about the circulation of works. I can see that the works contain this desire for growth and naturally seek their own ways to express themselves, often growing beyond themselves and in constant dialogue with works by other artists and from different languages.

Aline Motta was born in Niterói, Brazil in 1974 and lives in São Paulo. She is a multidisciplinary artist who combines different techniques and artistic practices in her work such as photography, video, installation, performance and collage. Critically, her works reconfigure memories, especially Afro-Atlantic ones, and construct new narratives that evoke a non-linear idea of time.

Giulia Menegale (Venice, Italy, 1975) is a researcher, editor and curator who works between Italy and Brazil. Her research explores radical conceptual artistic practices from the sixties to today, with particular attention to the Latin American context .

Translation: Zoë Perry