Beto Shwafaty

Phantom Matrix (Old Structures, New Glories)

Installation view at SITU project4, Leme Gallery, São Paulo 2016.

Sugar cane wooden mill*, electric motor, sound system.
(Colonial model device moved by animal or human traction, destined to grind sugar cane)

Context-specific intervention in three phases:
02.04.2026 – 23.04.2016 Mill exposed in its initial state.
28.04.2016 – 10.06.2016  Mill disassembled with its parts cataloged and reorganized.
11.06.2016 – 25.06.2016  Parts removed from space. Audio installation with the sounds of processes connected to this engine.

The work results from a reflection on the urban context of the Situ Project (Galeria Leme) understood as a broad physical and social matrix, and which is simultaneously related to the exterior of the gallery building and the adjacent  public space.

For this installation, Shwafaty takes over an original wooden sugar mill, using it to structure, both materially and conceptually, his entire project. With this piece, the artist occupies the gallery’s courtyard and engenders an installation that is transformed in successive moments. First, the plant will be exhibited (in relatively constant movement with aid of an electric motor), although unproductive (no sugar cane grinding). Throughout the exhibition, this device will be gradually dismantled into all its parts, which will then be cataloged and reorganized, in order to be re-displayed and re-signified. Finally, the pieces will be removed from the courtyard, which will then be immaterially occupied by a soundtrack that carries the memory of processes linked to the mill.

By bringing this type of colonial machine back to the neighborhood where it first appeared, the artist voluntarily creates a collision between two different historical eras.

And what could be considered just an operation to rescue a historical fact of the city, becomes a process of displacement, dematerialization and disappearance. This colonial piece, a proto-industrial device, becomes an artifact, in order to disappear during the exhibition, evoking the same processes of erasure and disappearance that permeate the spatial development of cities and the very history of urbanism, but also of economies. and cultures that inform it.

With this action, Beto Shwafaty ponders the notion of “heritage” that runs parallel to the imminent obliteration of certain historic buildings, cultures, information and societies. These actions provide, in the end, a space for reflection that makes it possible to question whether the modernization project in Brazil meant effectively a rupture with its colonial past, or if, in fact, it is just the continuity of a colonizing process, with repressed logic that still persists in many contexts.

Curatorial text by Bruno de Almeida.

Exhibited at: Projeto Situ, Galeria Leme, São Paulo 2016
Now it is lent to FAMA collection, Itu / Brasil