What remains of what it was – Album Martim Moniz


Started in 2012, with the International Residency “Transitante: entre álbuns e arquivos”, co-sponsored by the Lisbon City Archive, the Archive collections would become the inspiration source for some of the works by participating artists, particularly for that developed by artist Carla Cabanas, which evoked the place where the residency was taking place: the Martim Moniz.
Her artistic research was focused on the images of this area that were available in the LCA-Photography’s database, particularly in a set of images from the 1950s, taken by Judah Benoliel (1900-1968).

This album would resume the questioning the artist had been developing in previous work, namely identity loss and the role of time in failing memory. This new work, nevertheless, would reflect an aspect that had not been yet explored: memory of place.

Her image selection revealed a part of the city that was changing massively, where one can see the urban interventions taking place, especially demolitions of buildings. From this outset, all the erasing done to the image (by scraping off the photographic emulsion) became a demolition itself , since the artist would still be taking more information and possible references, making the identification of the place almost impossible.

This intervention, carefully executed on the buildings that were not being taken down, is deliberate and wishes to draw our eyes to the absence, the rubble, to what remains of how it was.
This technique, however, somehow betrays the artist, since the “vanishing” incisions end up producing a surprising effect that adds yet another dimension to her work. The result is an uncanny combination of what remains of the image and texture now being added to it.
Carla Cabanas would also come to develop other ways to retrieve the memory of the place.
She interviewed old Martim Moniz dwellers, recording their testimonies, personal recollections and experiences that somehow recover a collective memory of that place and of city history. The artist also asked those interviewed to draw her the central square, from memory, in any of the shapes they remembered, thus gathering a group of maps and street plans that unravel other social dynamics of the city.

In 2014, O que ficou do que foi – o álbum do Martim Moniz recovers this/these story(ies) in a site-specific installation created for the City Museum, a reference in the preservation and construction of Lisbon’s memory.

Sofia Castro