Observatory of
Unreachable Images

Leka Mendes’ impressions of the future


By Kate Mothes

The Catasterismia lost work attributed to Greek polymath Eratosthenes of which only a summary survives, was a comprehensive survey of astral mythology and the origin myths of the stars. To catasterize is to transform into a star, constellation, comet, or other celestial entity. São Paolo-based artist Leka Mendes is fascinated by the translation of the physical or the real into imagery, and in her solo exhibition Observatory of unreachable images at Paço das Artes, the artist explores interplanetary image-making in an imagined near future in which humans have successfully colonized Mars—having taken quite a bit of Earth with them, of course.

Trained in photography, Mendes has focused her interest on the nature of image itself, utilizing found objects and debris to transfer impressions of light and artifacts onto various fabrics and other surfaces. The dust, debris, and fragments of human activity provide the materials to make images and, with the future in mind, to build an archive. The debris she collects around the city carries memories of where it came from. By looking skyward, Mendes reflects on the connection and interaction between humans and the landscape, especially in urban settings, as curator Ana Roman says “can be read as a kind of synthesis of the Anthropocene” in which enormous and irreversible change is imminent—what Yanomami shaman David Kopenawa describes as the “falling sky.”

You can find more of Mendes’ work on Instagram and her website.

'Observatory of unreachable images'
Left: Planetary structure (galaxy), 2021. Construction debris, fabric and iron, 120 x 50 cm. Right: Skyfall (detail), 2022. Construction debris, minerals, bleach, fabric and iron, 190 x 100 x 70 cm.
Planetary structure (detail), 2022.
Telescope and installation view.
Planetary structure (pink cloud), 2022. Linen, synthetic fabric and copper, 60 x 70 cm.
Planetary structure, 2022. Linen, felt and iron, 30 x 30 x 30 cm.

All images © Leka Mendes and shared with permission.

Header image: Planetary structure (MATISSE) (Multi Aperture mid-Infrared SpectroScopic Experiment), 2022. Fabric, bleach, photo developing filter, copper, and wood, 80 x 25 x 20 cm.

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