Laura Belém

Laura Belém, The Temple of a Thousand Bells, 2010. Photograph by Thierry Bal

Laura Belém, The Temple of a Thousand Bells, 2010. Photograph by Thierry Bal

Narratives of memory, displacement and transience are central to Laura Belém’s (b.1974, Brazil) context-responsive artworks. Her poetic and meditative interventions touch our emotions, and so cause us to shift our perspectives on the everyday. In her 2004-05 installation  Enamorados (Enamoured), for example, two rowing boats animated by searchlights continuously signalled to one another across an expanse of water, as if they were lovers engaged in a romantic tryst.

The delicacy of her artistic gesture often contrasts with the gravitas of her subject matter. For instance,  Shipwreck, a video that showed a drawing of a caravel gradually melting into an indistinct pool of colour, where loss, death and disillusionment were evoked as the image gradually becomes unrecognisable and then disappears. The work refered specifically through the caravel to the colonial occupation of South America, but also acted as a wider metaphor for migration, exile and nostalgia.

Similarly the installation created for Touched focused on the relations between past and present and introduced the viewer to a new realm of possibilities for the future. It was a free adaptation of an ancient legend, the story of an island temple whose most remarkable and distinctive feature was its endowment of a thousand bells. Allegedly, the sound of these bells could be heard by travellers crossing the sea even at a great distance from the island. Over the centuries, the island sank into the ocean, and so did the temple and its bells. But the island and its shrine are not completely forgotten, as shown by the unremitting attempts of a sailor to hear again the music of the sunken bells. Although their sound has long vanished into the depths of the ocean and his undertaking seems pointless, the man does not give up trying and obsessively pursues his search.

The artist could not guarantee that the lost music of these bells (possibly symbolising our continuous and somehow frustrated quest for spirituality) would be heard during the exhibition period. But traces of their sound might have found a resonance in the ears and hearts of those who were most able to open themselves to their surroundings and interpret silence.

Laura Belém at Liverpool Biennial

The Temple of a Thousand Bells, 2010
1000 hand-blown glass bells, nylon string, 5.1 sound system, lighting
Music by Fernando Rocha
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 2010
Exhibited at The Oratory

Supported by

The Henry Moore Foundation