Tamar Guimarães and Kasper Akhøj. Still from Captain Gervasio’s Family. 2013/2014. Courtesy of the artists, Galeria Fortes Vilaça and Ellen De Bruijne Projects, BMA 17774.
Tamar Guimarães and Kasper Akhøj. Still from Captain Gervasio’s Family. 2013/2014. Courtesy of the artists, Galeria Fortes Vilaça and Ellen De Bruijne Projects, BMA 17774.

Captain Gervasio’s Family takes a meditative look at the mediums of Palmelo, Brazil

BALTIMORE, MD (February 7, 2017)—The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) presents Black Box: Tamar Guimarães & Kasper Akhøj, on view February 8 through June 11, 2017. The exhibition includes a presentation of Guimarães’ and Akhøj’s 16-minute film Captain Gervasio’s Family (2013-2014), featuring the many spirit mediums of Palmelo, Brazil. The presentation of the film is organized by Senior Curator of Contemporary Art Kristen Hileman and presented in the Black Box Gallery in the museum’s Contemporary Wing.

Throughout their work, the Copenhagen-based collaborators explore the structure of social space and hierarchies, within both small communities and geographically or racially defined groups of people. Captain Gervasio’s Family provides a view into the Spiritist community of Palmelo, a town of 2,000 people of whom at least half are psychic mediums. Spiritism is a practice influenced by Allan Kardec, a 19th-century French scholar whose theories about communicating with the dead reached an international audience. The artists do not undertake a critical view of the practice, instead they deploy the luminous, flickering effect of 16mm film to evoke the movement of psychic energy between this world and the “astral cities” that hover above.

The film’s montage of closely cropped images of Palmelo’s mediums and details of Brazil’s modernist architecture suggest surprising relationships between the organization of the psychics’ activity and their country’s bureaucracy. Many of the mediums work as civil servants, and their descriptions of the cities of the dead include physical and administrative structures that, while idealized, resemble that of government offices. Visually, the interconnected steps, window ledges, and paving blocks of characteristically Brazilian buildings recall the joined hands of mediums performing “magnetic chains” to aggregate their healing powers. At the same time, opposition between Spiritist belief and official Brazil is revealed in the recounting of the government’s closure of a Palmelo psychiatric facility dedicated solely to treatments using psychic forces.

Tamar Guimarães (Brazilian, b. 1967) is a video, sound and installation artist whose work has been exhibited in numerous art fairs, including the São Paulo Biennial and Venice Biennale. She has also had solo exhibitions at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane (2009); Artspace Sydney (2010); Gasworks, London (2011); and the Århus Kunstbygning, Denmark (2012). Her work was nominated for the Premio Investidor Profissional Art Prize (PIPA) 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Kaspar Akhøj (Danish, b. 1976) is a mixed-media artist whose recent solo exhibitions include Welcome (TO THE TEKNIVAL) at the Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, Overgaden at the Institute for Contemporary Art in Copenhagen, and After The Fair at the Wiels Centre for Contemporary Art, Brussels. His work has also been shown at Ludlow 38/Goethe Institute, New York and 28th São Paulo Biennial. In 2010, he was an artist-in-residence at the 29th São Paulo Biennial, in addition to Platform Garanti in Istanbul, Turkey.

Captain Gervasio’s Family is presented in partnership with The Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Advanced Media Studies (CAMS). Guimarães and Akhøj will be in residence at The Johns Hopkins University this spring.

About the Baltimore Museum of Art

Founded in 1914, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) inspires people of all ages and backgrounds through exhibitions, programs, and collections that tell an expansive story of art—challenging long-held narratives and embracing new voices. Our outstanding collection of more than 97,000 objects spans many eras and cultures and includes the world’s largest public holding of works by Henri Matisse; one of the nation’s finest collections of prints, drawings, and photographs; and a rapidly growing number of works by contemporary artists of diverse backgrounds. The museum is also distinguished by a neoclassical building designed by American architect John Russell Pope and two beautifully landscaped gardens featuring an array of modern and contemporary sculpture. The BMA is located three miles north of the Inner Harbor, adjacent to the main campus of Johns Hopkins University, and has a community branch at Lexington Market. General admission is free so that everyone can enjoy the power of art.

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