John Wood and Paul Harrison, installation view from ‘I DIDN’T KNOW I DIDN’T KNOW IT’, Contemporary Art Gallery, February 12 – April 24, 2016. Photography by SITE Photography

Song of the Open Road | Lisa Tan by Michelle Martin

Installation view from 'Song of the Open Road', Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, April 1 - June 18, 2017. Photography by SITE Photography

On February 1st, 1977, Clarice Lispector sat down for her first and only television interview. That same year, Lispector would be diagnosed with inoperable ovarian cancer and would pass away on December 9th, on the eve of what would have been her 57th birthday.

Enigmatic and unflinching, Clarice Lispector is undoubtedly one of Brazil’s greatest writers. Marked by a mystical and highly introspective quality, most of Lispector’s novels and stories were sensations upon their publication. For both admirers and critics, Lispector the authour was elusive. She spent long periods of time abroad which only fueled the rumors and myths surrounding her.

Lispector and her only onscreen interview are central to Sunsets, a video work by Stockholm-based artist Lisa Tan.  Part of a series exploring the personas of writers Virginia Woolfe, Susan Sontag and of course Lispector, Sunsets is conversational and draws from Tan’s own experiences, friendships and history. At once literary, personal and historical, Tan’s work looks at the intersections between language and image.

Although we catch glimpses of her on Tan’s computer screen, Lispector’s presence most often takes the form of her words as translated remotely by Tan’s friend via Skype. Acting as a soundtrack, the translation is informal, full of hesitations and pauses that trace the movement of one language into the next. Sunsets unfolds almost episodically, fading to black in a way that makes its structure much like its namesake. Recorded in Sweden in the early hours of morning during the summer and the mid-afternoon during the winter, Lisa Tan’s work reflects the rituals of its making. Her close ups are often inscrutable but what they produce is unmistakable: the strange and contradictory feelings of loss, anxiety, hope and renewal that the waning light of the day brings.

Lisa Tan’s work is part of Song of the Open Road open until June 18th, 2017.


-Michelle Martin