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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » April 26, 2012
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Dreaming and Flying
April 26, 2012   
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A young couple dozing in an airport lounge, a young woman sleeping in a street and another taking a nap on a rock on a battlefield are some of the memorable scenes in When I Dream..., an exhibition of work by Brazilian photographer Mercedes Barros at the ZPAF Old Gallery in Warsaw.

Dreams and a sleepy ambiance are pervasive in Barros’ pictures. In her trademark photographic collages, Barros incorporates sleeping people in such unlikely contexts that it seems the characters fell asleep suddenly and unexpectedly. Edges in her pictures are softened and blurred, which makes the subjects’ facial features seem remote and untouchable. Sometimes they sleep with their eyes and mouths slightly open while the aura of sleep lends a sensual beauty to them.

The sense of drowsiness is also there in Barros’ photographs which deal with flying and airports. To Barros, flying in a plane is akin to a dreamlike state of levitating and hovering, a dream where anything is possible. Many of her photo series feature birds and insects depicted in unnatural dimensions and unrealistic, surprising and somewhat unsettling colors.

The theme of flying is explored the most explicitly in a photographic series entitled Attract to Fly and the most recent one, Runway. It consists of photographs Barros takes of airports and runways which look almost the same around the world. She uses the collage technique to paste cliché landmarks (bull fighting in Seville, Islamic culture in Marrakech) onto runways to allow the viewer to identify the location. Thus altered, the airport scenery has a fantasy feel to it. Barros also composes surrealistic scenes, such as white horses on tarmac that looks like a chessboard.

For many years, Barros’ favorite themes have also included cities. In her latest work, Barros portrays cities as an urban jungle which she sets against pictures of real wilderness in the Pantanal sprawling topical wetland of South America, where she was raised and which she frequently visits. Barros sees cities as uncontrollable and ever growing metropolises that devour everything around them.

Made up of rich downtown streets amid a restless and colorful sea of favelas, the cityscape serves as the backdrop for sublime and theatrical rites of seduction where beautiful women shine like movie stars. At the same time, the city is where disasters, accidents and violence happen.

Photographic compositions by Barros refer to the legacy of surrealism. She likes to change the proportions of objects and human figures, combining contradictory settings and juxtaposing subtlety with brutality, a sense of danger with a carefree spirit.

Until May 5. ZPAF Old Gallery. tel. 22 635-47-83. 8 Zamkowy St.
Open Mon.-Fri. noon-6 p.m., Sat. and Sun. 2 p.m.-6 p.m.,
free admission
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