Beto Shwafaty’s (Brazil, 1977) project is based on a historical and geographical research about the region where the gallery is located, the district of Butantã. While delving into the colonial past of the site the artist notes that, in the seventeenth century, São Paulo’s first sugar cane mill was assembled there, an engine used to grind sugarcane, which was moved by human or animal traction.
Although it seems like a minor historical datum, the fact is that these devices were part of one of the first and most important colonial “industries”, and were also responsible for the strengthening of a patrimonialist and slave-based socio-spatial hierarchy, whose echoes are still felt today. This type of engine is also a symbol of a strong relationship between power and land ownership that underpins what would be the structuring model of the Brazilian territory over the past 200 years, responsible for a late urbanization process loaded with many disorders.
For his installation, Shwafaty occupies the gallery’s courtyard with an original sugar mill and engenders an installation in three successive moments. First, the mill is exposed with a constant movement powered by an electric motor that the artist juxtaposes to the ancient piece. After, the device is dismantled in all its parts, which are catalogued and reorganized. Finally, the pieces are removed from the space, which is occupied by its traces marked on the ground and by a sound-installation with the recordings of processes connected to that object