A cloud of orange smoke forms against the backdrop of a tropical bay. Light and transparent at first, the orange becomes brighter, the cloud grows and develops into an apparently heavy substance that conceals the landscape behind, until finally it slowly begins to dissolve. The 16 mm film Rescue Submarine Signal from 2002 is one of the first smoke works by Brazilian artist Camila Sposati (São Paulo, 1972, lives and works in São Paulo). Sposati uses these brightly coloured smoke actions to intervene in the natural or urban environment at unexpected moments, permitting a temporary outbreak of chaos.
It is the notion of chaos in an apparently ordered system that underlies Sposati’s practice and prompted her to undertake further research into the relationship between art and chemistry. During her residency at Gasworks in London, she worked with the chemistry department at University College London to develop the project Entropy: Smoke and Crystals. The idea of entropy was formulated in the nineteenth century as the second law of thermodynamics. It describes the process of disorder in an isolated system and measures the distribution of energy towards imbalance or balance. Smoke and crystals are two extreme forms. While the invisibly small particles of smoke move freely, unpredictably and continuously, crystal is rigid and retains the same position. Sulphur Rock (2009), for example, is a photograph of a moment in the predictable process of development of chemicals manipulated by Sposati, as the molecules assume the form of a crystal. The gold-coloured object, with its delicate, yet rough surface, is photographed against a uniform, clinical background.
Although Sposati’s work can be discussed in terms of chemical principles, the beauty of the result is of at least equal significance. With her interventions, she literally adds a second layer to the landscape and intensifies our experience of it, an experience that is suffused with drama. Sposati allows us to perceive the landscape in a new way. For Lustwarande ‘11, she created four fumaroles in the ground, with varying diameters, inspired by sinkholes, like the gigantic Mirny diamond mine in Siberia or Darvaz in Uzbekistan, where an enormous accumulation of gas has been burning for over 35 years, earning it the nickname of the ‘door to hell’. These collections of natural energy bring to mind both scientific stories and myths.
At unexpected moments, smoke bombs were set off in Sposati’s fumaroles. The air above the ground slowly turned bright blue and the clouds dispersed through the park, becoming a fine mist before disappearing as though nothing had happened, a small reminder of the entropy that is part of life. Sposati’s work was essentially a form of temporary monument, both as a performance and a painting.