Marcelo Moscheta Pays Homage to Analog Tools, Now Eclipsed by Apps

Artsy Editorial
Jun 24, 2015 8:56PM

Ah, the card catalog, a relic of the libraries of yesteryear. Once a practical fixture for organizing a book collection, it is now a romantic emblem of the pre-internet era—and the subject of a new exhibition by the Brazilian artist Marcelo Moscheta at SIM Galeria in Curitiba.

Moscheta is wise to go beyond mere remembrances, however. “Carbono 14,” an ambitious collection of installations, collages, and mixed-media works, is no ode to the card catalogue—a task that would be like shooting fish in a barrel, given that many of the rusty old library cabinets were replaced with an online system with a name as thoroughly unromantic as Online Public Access Catalogue. In his recent works, the artist is more interested in the ways in which information was organized on the catalog’s now outmoded cards.

Think back to the ’80s, or the ’90s, depending on where you did your book borrowing and how quickly a library adapted to widespread availability of computers. In a given catalog drawer, cards were arranged alphabetically according to the authors’ surnames and labeled with numbers and symbols indicating subject and genre. The organizational system created intriguing juxtapositions between neighboring cards, as Paulo Miyada—Brazilian architect and former assistant curator at the 29th Bienal de São Paulo—observes in his discussion of Moscheta’s works.

Today’s digital catalog user, Miyada says, has an entirely different experience when exploring a collection of books. “To use [the online catalog],” he writes, “it is not necessary to know the author’s name nor even know what you are looking for; a few keywords, a question or a sentence fragment is sufficient to activate an algorithm that, at extremely high speed, processes the largest database of history of mankind and tries to ‘guess’ the registers most likely to interest the user.” The pieces in “Carbono 14” are, in part, Moscheta’s expressions of this shift: a requiem, perhaps, for the quirky charms of the past or, at the least, an acknowledgement of a technological sea change that’s occurred in our own lifetimes.

Moscheta’s Linnaeus (2011), a large-scale installation consisting of 2000 handwritten paper labels, aluminum, iron shelves, fluorescent lamps, electric wires, plastic boxes, and stamps on paper, is the most straightforward representation of the card catalog. Batismo (2015), featuring index pages from old books tacked to wooden panels that resemble bulletin boards, also channels the spirit of bygone library culture. But Moscheta’s show isn’t only about the card catalog—it’s about abandoned (or soon to be abandoned) analog tools, across disciplines. Images of similarly archaic workaday objects turn up elsewhere in the show, as in the protractors and rulers of  Bicho do Paraná 007 (2015).

Rulers, after all, might still be used in classrooms, whether in Brazil or the United States. But Moscheta’s work seems to suggest that the wooden objects are likely to be replaced by an iPhone app, with little fanfare, any day now.

—Bridget Gleeson

Carbono 14” is on view at SIM Galeria, Curitiba, Brazil, Jun. 18–Aug. 1, 2015.

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Artsy Editorial