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EVENTS

2.24.21

a soft launch + reading celebrating the work of the iTi MFA Class of 2020 at the Printed Matter Virtual Art Book Fair

“Anosmic Blues” & a list of things that quicken the heart

Marissa Iamartino in translation with Hugo Gallo











Anosmic Blues, what a beautiful title. I had to look it up, but anosmic is defined as: partial or complete loss of the sense of smell. The day I Googled it is the same day I learned that my entire family contracted Covid. I don’t live near them, but the day-by-day wait to see if things got worse felt like walking around with a brick taped to my chest. They all lost their sense of smell for a week.

I live in a basement apartment with four front-facing windows and a back area that butts up against the concrete floors and junkyard wood of the not-lived-in part. My bed is separated from the furnace only by a thin wall. Sometimes I picture it while falling asleep at night. I’ve never owned a house or spent an intimate amount of time with a furnace, but the rumblings of one are somehow both eerie and comforting. In my head it's a cylindrical metal object with pipes and tubes coming out from all sides. A cartoon, really. I picture it right near my head as I sink heavy into my pillow—it warms the floor and the wall and the air and finally, me. I thank it sometimes, but as it warms, it sucks up all the moisture in my small space and I’m left with nothing else to blame for my constant nosebleeds. Even boiling pots of water on the stove hasn’t stopped red liquid from gushing out the center of my face. And because of the nosebleeds, I’m singing with a sexy soprano’d nose whistle that harmonizes with my every inhale.

All this nonsense is to say that I immediately knew I wanted to spend time with and write about Anosmic Blues. The title felt like a sad (and silly) synchronicity—perhaps a nod to this challenging year. As I first paged through “Take The Ship Apart”, it was the anchor spread, set right into the middle of the publication. I encountered the text side first, with written fragments that swirled around cosmically, anchored by a few core images. Two brothers. Men in a television audience. A round mirror on fabric. As I began to read, I immediately knew it was Hugo’s work. My heart soared.

I turned myself around the big piece of paper on the floor and as the words folded inward and around the spiral, I followed them until I couldn’t anymore. I was forced to accept the fact that my language limitations prevented me from reading the sections in Portuguese, and even knowing that inaccuracy was likely inevitable, I began transcribing the sections one by one into Google Translate. While doing this, I had a vision of sorts. I pictured someone else looking at the page spread out on a floor. Would they have moved their body to read it? Or moved the paper itself? Would they be reading the English? The Portuguese? Both? Would they use Google Translate? Or Know Both Languages? Or would they resolve themselves to Not Knowing Everything? Would they ask a friend to help them read a section they couldn’t understand? Who is the mediator here? Who is the translator? Did they look at the pictures first, or the text? How much agency should I have right now? And what would Hugo want?

Experiencing an artist and their artwork in tandem feels rare. There’s always that constant tug of knowing the person versus knowing what comes from them. We can’t always be reduced to our makings—reduced meaning boiled down to simple form from individuals who are constantly changing through time—but perhaps knowing the maker is just a way of providing a context. Opening a pathway for interaction with the work that otherwise, might be hidden away. As I flipped the broadsheet around to unveil the slug trails, my eyes traveled across the glittering streams, aiming to find a directional logic. Looking at them again and again feels like looking at radio waves or star pathways. Particles of life strung together. Celebratory streamers laid across a lichened rock.

Hugo is warm, generous, and has a quiet-but-commanding presence. I wonder how he would feel about me calling him a performer—but in my mind, he is one. The type of person that is so intelligent, you can hear their stored knowledge both in their voice and see it in the way they move through the world. An artist of fluidity—whether writing, making films, putting work into a publication, or acting in a short play, he is a connector. And in this work, with his insightful prompting and deep devotion to openness, he invites readers to become more than just readers.

In his words, we are:

Invited to take part in the experiment as both subject and observer. This role may include, but is not limited to, the following suggestions/directions to be experimented with freely in the act of reading:

To offer support to the structure, laying the page flat on a crooked, protruding surface (or by way of kinaesthetic empathy)

To dance, by way of entering and leaving

To destroy, by way of fragmentation and reassemblage (with the optional use of sharp objects/opinions)

To go all the way to the end, and upon arrival, recollect one’s own trajectory (as if watching a film of oneself as the observer/reader)

My goal was to engage with Anosmic Blues (Improvisation #4) in all of Hugo’s suggested ways, understanding that my experience with the work is merely one breath of it; one translation that even while “following directions” forces me to confront my own tendencies, flaws, and limitations. Below is a list of my encounters. This is my glittering slug trail.

To offer support to the structure...

Set the page between my kitchen table and the wall behind it in an “L” shape. It flopped over on top of itself. Looked like a muppet mouth. It watched me as I cooked dinner and made a cup of tea. We breathed together in the same room.


To dance, by way of entering and leaving...

Laid the page flat on my bedroom floor, word side facing up. Put over-the-ear headphones on. Took off shoes. Played a playlist of house music - the one I have been listening to all winter. Moved my body. Stepped on and over the page, but tried to be gentle. Left the room dancing, and re-entered the room dancing multiple times. Felt the serotonin release in my brain. Smiled. Forgot page was there. Kept dancing.


To go all the way to the end, and upon arrival recollect one’s own trajectory...

Read the work from the outside of the spiral to inside of the spiral, using Google Translate for the sections in Portuguese. Saw vine charcoal and a black pen on desk. Traced my trajectory. Wrote “The End?” where I thought the end might be. Traveled backwards, re-reading each passage until I was back at the beginning. Pictured each section being a breadcrumb. Made sure to recollect each breadcrumb.


To destroy, by way of fragmentation and reassemblage …

Decided to thoughtfully destroy Anosmic Blues. Body urged me to respond to the work in a physical way. It felt right. Description mentioned sharp objects, so grabbed an Exacto knife and cutting mat. Turned on the microphone that sits next to my laptop. Decided to draw some faces in vine charcoal, inspired by the images near them. Decided to make a cup of tea. Began reading the fragments of text out loud, one by one. Certain phrases felt nice to speak. Tried speaking them loudly. Tried whispering. Repeated them.Tried typing them into Google. Watched for search results. Spoke search results out loud. Some were strange. Began cutting sections of text out from the page. Circles felt right. Messy circles, like rocks. Texted Hugo, “yo is this a song” referring to the phrase in his text, “a list of things that quicken the heart”. He said “it’s a quote from Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil”. Googled that. Recorded the first words of the film. I think they are in French. Next, searched Youtube for “a list of things that quicken the heart”. Found a song by someone called “I Am Robot And Proud”. Recorded the song. Continued cutting circles out of the page. Found black tape under my desk. Thought about memory. Thought about holes in my memory. Thought about slugs. Thought about slug goo plugging the holes in my memory. Began rearranging the circles of text. Taped them in the holes they might fit in, like fitting pieces into a puzzle. I am bad at puzzles. Began realizing that my hole choices were incorrect. Committed to my incorrectness. Kept taping.Taped them all inside out. Cut out the photographs. Taped them inside out too. Looked at the page, the side where words stick out from rocks. Flipped it. Looked at the page where rocks stick out from no words. Unsure which side to favor. Set it on the floor beside my desk. Stopped recording. Played back sound. Cut out sound fragments. Mixed them together. Used the song. Felt grateful. Thank you Hugo Gallo. Thank you “I Am Robot And Proud”. Thank you Image Text Ithaca. Hung the page on my wall, rock-circles-side out, with the intention of flipping it soon.

Hugo Gallo is an artist from São Paulo, Brazil, who makes work at the intersection of filmmaking, photography, writing, and performance.

Marissa Iamartino is engaged in an exploratory practice that looks deeply at Luck, light, and perpetual flux.