Maria Secio

River bodies
Bodies like rivers
        pulsate        in         stream
                Sometimes they
Like synchronized
            swimmers are
Like impressionist
            nudes are
            River bodies
In Mile End sleeping
            a bridge,
                        I see them pass.

by Bárbara Campos

berlin, germany


One day I read that traumas can be genetically transmitted.
At that time I was unaware of my father’s traumas. It was only some years later that he told
me the story when he saw River Gurara sinking in a marines rescue mission. The orders
given were to observe but not to get close. The ship broke into two pieces and rapidly was
swallowed by the sea alongside the coast of Sesimbra.
For eight days my dad picked bodies that surfaced, already dead. When he told me this I was already taking pictures of water without knowing what was driving me to do it. When he
told me I already suffered from Thalassophobia without knowing why. My dad answered me
to the fear.
Using water as a theme was never something I deliberately chose. It happened naturally. Water is easily influenced by its surroundings and that metamorphic component fascinates and scares me at the same time.
River Gurara became, then, the title for this project as a tribute to the fear of a father and daughter. The seeming disorganized balance of the photographs speaks of a trauma silenced by a frightening and mysterious atmosphere. The subjects are left alone, wandering before a storm. They emerge from the water as ghosts that never forgave, dressing my emotions. There, they await for the courage to swim again.
River Gurara abandones the shape of a ship and becomes the purgatory that this characters cognise as the only reality.

INTERVIEW by Kim Kleinert

Hi Maria, thank you for your time! How are you spending the last summer days?

Hello back Benzin. First of all thank you so much for this opportunity and your interest in my work. I am honoured to be part of your new edition together with more artists that are super important and influential to me.

This summer has been very special actually. Throughout the month of August I had the opportunity to experience two different situations of living in an artistic community. First organised among friends, we all went to a country house of one of us and helped doing some renovations so the house would become more comfortable to live in. Parallelly to that we also exchanged artistic workshops between us and tried to make a small artist residency among each other. From there I had to straight away go to Amsterdam to set up my first solo show, which was a super rewarding experience. And last, myself and our newly formed artist collective, <3 aka below three, went to spend another week at Grabowsee, a super special place that every year at the end of August turns into an arts residency. The community built by Globe Gallery on the premises of an old Russian Tuberculoses Hospital was an extremely unique experience. There, we did our first collaboration as a collective on a 'multimedia installation' joining together painting, video and sound. Coming back to Berlin after all this adventures was a bit rocky since as soon as I landed back I was forced out of my flat, but it is what it is and gladly there is always options for those who keep searching.

A question that directly came to my mind, mostly because I’m asking it myself frequently, is: do you only Photograph analogue? Is that an important aspect to your work?

I do only photograph analogue. However my process of working is not merely analogue. At the end, my work results in a back and forth in between analogue and digital. Mostly I like to photograph with 120mm. Since I work a lot manually, editing directly on the negatives, a bigger negative is much more satisfying to hold and work with. But the reason why I only photograph analogue is not only about this physical aspect of film. With analogue I also train my patience and somehow restrict myself to the infinite confusing possibilities that the digital world is for me. On the other hand, digital editing is something that also fascinates me and while doing so I have been morphing a painting like plasticity into photographs.  The same physical negative will suffer a constant change throughout my process of work and at the end it might end up just not existing  any more after so much analogue intervention. Then, from all the different stages of the same picture I create a single one.

Most of your pictures have a dream like, surreal, blurred atmosphere. Is that the way you see things?

One comparison I like to make related to this question is : you know when you are looking somewhere but at the same time not really looking at anything, you seem like you are focusing something but everything is kind of blurred, morphing shapes and colours are more like stains? I find myself in this state a lot. Since I am also so aware that I do this, I explore it consciously. I know I am not necessarily looking of what it is in front of me, rather than that I am letting my eyes merge sharp reality with a blurred one. Unconsciously, I always found myself focusing reflections or where specs of light shine brighter or darker. Normally, where this happens you find with your eyes the most trippy abstractions of reality. And I am always and always searching for this trip-like elements. Another example is my obsession of seeing things through glass, specially when there is different opacities and transparencies.

Water is an important and recurring and very personal Topic of your work. As you have mentioned in the statement, through your artworks you are trying to process the traumatic experiences of your father, wich you have inherited.

Thinking of inheriting traumas in forms of phobias gives me a very determined feeling. Does it help you to have this kind of explanation for your own fears, or is it rather frustrating?

For me, it felt comforting to know that my dad shared the same fear as me. My brain doesn't work when my body is underwater and my point of view is mostly just of an observing one. But I see it like this :  as for my dad's experience, he had orders to not save the people in the sinking ship because it was impossible to get close. He had to observe and observe without being able to do anything. This is kind of the state I am at the moment. My fear doesn't really let me do anything else except observing water, reflections on the water, people in the water. And for some reason I can't stop looking at it. Water is for me the most pleasing and agonising thing to look at and work with. It is so anonymous, it has no major identity and can exist almost everywhere. At the end of the day water has always this transparent or mirror like surface that never stops, its always moving, always flowing in a perpetual morphing state.

Can your artwork help you overcome your fears?

I sure hope so. The other night myself and Allistair (my boyfriend and also part of the same collective as me) went to the lake while we were at Grabowsee. This time I didn't go with the intention of taking pictures or filming but I simply wanted to swim, float on my back and see the stars. Well, walking to the water during the day is already challenging, so at night its almost impossible. I jumped in and all cramped in fear I run out. Whilst Allistair swam away and did what I most desired to do. I just stood at the shore imagining his experience, which must have been amazing. Its one of my biggest dreams to float at night and look at the sky. However, this project will most certainly lead me somewhere. Like I was comparing before with my dad's experience : after he waited without being able to do anything to save the people drowning he then, after 8 days, had to also go to the water and collect the floating dead bodies. Of course his experience is a real traumatic one, he had no choice but to jump in and clear the surface even though he was afraid of it. In my case its mostly a metaphorical comparison to his. I do too have to jump in the water and experience my subject and my ambition is to eventually be able to continue this project completely underwater. That is the aim to be able to overcome my fear. Some people have no choice, like in my dad's situation. I do have a choice but mine is to follow that same path of not having a choice but to overcome it. I hope this makes sense.

Does (good) art have to be personal? Have to have something to do with the artist itself?

That is a very good question. I find myself wondering about it a lot and talking about it too. And honestly I don't think its a question that you can simply answer with yes or no. Yes or no, good or bad, this extreme category division have corrupted so many things, laws, ideals so I keep distancing myself from answering it straight forward. However, I do like to know about the personal aspects of the artists I like. I love to get to know them as much as possible and understand why they create what they create, but I also don't really like to be told by someone else what am I supposed to feel or see when looking at art. Inherently the artist will always leave a bit of her/him in the work and if I am honest, the art I prefer is the one I can feel identity. We are all different and similar at the same time so everybody creates something different but similar to each other. Which leads me to another topic on this matter : Nowadays there is so much art and so many artists that its basically impossible to create something new and fresh. However, when you are lucky enough to meet artists that are creating a similar world as yours then you might aswell join personal experiences, taste and atmosphere and create a bigger identity than just yourself. Its nice to live in my own world but its even nicer now that I can share this world with people that understand it and also give me a bit of their own. Myself and 3 other friends have just started this collective project called <3 aka below three, in spoken word. We joined together because before we even met in person we already knew we wanted to work together. Even though we do not all work in the same medium, the world around it feels similar. So this personal aspect of our work actually brought us together and now we have the vehicle to create something bigger and better than just us and above all support each other.

Lets talk a bit more about your person. You grew up in Lisbon, Portugal, have studied in Bournemouth, UK, and now you live and work in Berlin. That is a lot of moving and change.

Where did you like it the most?

I have been moving since I am a baby. I remember once counting, before moving to England and I had lived already in 10 different places around Lisbon and its outskirts. I know nothing better than this constant move. Which probably adds up to the fact that I can't concentrate on something for too long. I knew in high school that Lisbon was provisory, then in university I also knew that England would be provisory. Both were necessary experiences and I met amazing people but none of the above two provided any security. I didn't feel like I belonged anywhere for a really long time. By this I mean physically, I always had somewhere I belong inside my own head but it gets lonely when you don't have someone to share it with. While I was studying film in university I also had for a bit the opportunity of sharing realities but it didn't last because I also realised that film industry and working only in teams is not for me. I love to be surrounded with people but I need to be able to have my own space like everybody does. And since I live in what I do so much I need at least my practise to be my rescue. I know it sounds contradictory sometimes but its one of this cases that some people can relate and others can't because their safe spaces are different.

Berlin is by far the place I felt the best, the more relaxed and closer to myself. A big plus was also to find the people that are now together with me in <3. We all respect our individual practises, but are aware that at some point they meet and live together. But yes, Berlin is good for me even in bad days and that is something very important to have.

Does your creativity need a change of circumstances from time to time or can you work the better in a routine, same surrounding?

Not at all the same routine. I do like routines but routines don't last longer than 2 months for me and then change again. They are routines while they last and structure is important for everyone but everyone needs to know themselves and know how to apply routine. For me its like this, I am used to change my surroundings so even if I don't change places I do change something. Its addictive and not bad so far. But I go by instinct and there is times to stop and times to move I just need to listen to myself.

What do you do if you feel a lack of creativity?

Mostly I freak out, cry and think I am drained and over. Myasaki says that an artist only has 10 years of primal creativity and for some reason this keeps echoing in my head even though I don't necessarily agree with it. But it echoes as a anxious pressing voice that tells me I don't have time for lack of creativity. On the other hand, I strongly believe that lack of creativity is extremely important for an artist to progress. So when I feel a lack of creativity I stop for a bit and live my day to day a bit more concentrated on experiences rather than actively searching for inspiration. Because then, when I am not thinking about what inspires me, something will and eventually I will find myself again taking the pictures I want to see.

What is the next upcoming thing you are working at right now?

This project River Gurara is meant to became a photo book that I have been working on for almost a year. So this is my main priority. Since I won a photography award in Lisbon I will have some support from the photography institute in Portugal which I am super thankful for. I will also have a solo exhibition in Lisbon at the end of the year (still negotiating dates), and since I am super picky in ways of presentation I have a lot to think and plan about.

Another important project is what we are trying to convey as <3. Soon we will have our first show together in Berlin and as a collective our aim is to collaborate between visual and time based arts. The urge for this symbiosis between practises is one of the characteristics that unifies us. So we are collectively working on it and hopefully also starting a small arts residency project for next year in Portugal.

Good luck with that and thank you for your time again!
Thank you so much again for the opportunity and this questions felt very good to answer.