Lost in translation
Peter Callas has had a long interest in Brazil as a site of fascinating cultural convergences: indigenous, African, Portuguese and other. The complex origins of the population are reflected in a culture in which religion, history, art and politics have evolved from a set of differences into a unique montage. This cultural layering feeds into Callas’s works made after extensive research and numerous visits. In ‘Lost in Translation’ cartography represents a system for containing difference but it also becomes a metaphor for imagination as the mapping in this video is closer to the fantastic realms invented by early cartographers to fill in the gaps in empirical knowledge.
Callas’s videos are characterised by rapid montage sequences, layering and a seeming free association of images, patterns and colour. In some ways his work is paradigmatic of post-modern aesthetics in his reuse of found images and his participation and intervention in the image flows that are a defining feature of late 20th and 21st century life. In Callas’s works there is always a rhythm that unites the disparate image sources, a syncopation that recalls the work of earlier avant-garde film makers such as Len Lye who also worked with the formal qualities of their media.
As Stuart Koop has written about this work:
“In Lost in Translation, images from the Hispanic and Portuguese collections at the Library of Congress mingle like wafts of different gas: emerging from the ether only to return to televisual static. We see the cartographer at his table. The map he draws is projected through space; the places he draws bulge and become people, who die and are re-born (and re-drawn) as planets and sun, the cartographer’s line a continuously transforming cartoon. The succession of images is continuous, mellifluous, one image comfortably wrapping around another, gently swaying, rocking back and forth. It’s the perfect correlate form of abstract fantasy, which is, here, the cartographer’s dream of South America.
Stuart Koop, ‘Not so fast: Peter Callas’, in ‘anti-terrain Peter Callas’, Asialink, Melbourne, 2002, p. 11.