mariah anne johnson

Zaratan Arte Contemporânea / Lisbon / 2022

Talk to the Sea is a video meditation on Lisbon’s many drips, puddles, and ruined fountains.

During June 2022 I was in residence at Zaratan Arte Contemporânea in Lisbon, Portugal. I am always impressed by millennia-old civilizations, and my time in Lisbon, which contains evidence of human habitation from the Stone Age forward, was deeply moving and inspiring. The juxtaposition of sharp, clean, new architecture with crumbling palaces and past infrastructure caused me to think often of my own roots in the American South and William Faulkner’s idea that the past is never past. No, its tendrils are long and direct the choices we make in the present moment.

I became particularly fascinated by the past’s solutions for water delivery. Like Los Angeles where I currently live, Lisbon has never had enough fresh water for its inhabitants and has always been importing it from elsewhere. The current city is full of dried up fountains and an enormous aqueduct that supplied Lisboetas with their drinking water in centuries past. From intimate corner basins to grand plazas, the fountains’ forms tell us stories about former patterns of daily existence, social interactions, and civic life.

In my work I began to consider less examined sensory inputs — sound and touch — to guide my explorations of Lisbon. These more visceral sensations, harder to articulate than what is merely seen, led me into the idiosyncrasies of my studio and conducted me into the city beyond, creating bodily links between sites. My work in Lisbon toggled between the concrete and the poetic, the practical and the fanciful, the real and the imagined.

This video collects a series of actions performed as explorations of my studio space at Zaratan.

A video meditation on my physical explorations of my studio space.