Maria Thereza Alves is best known for her projects that encompass ecology, indigenous knowledge and the enduring impact of imperial conquest. Although her work often bears witness to specific histories of erasure, these instances shed light on modern regimes of thought and production that have been the focus of the artist’s sustained inquiry since the 1980s.
Exploring the relation between desire and infrastructure, Alves’ work Machine Désirante [Desiring Machine] (2017) draws on Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the same name as well as recent scholarship that explores infrastructural development as a means of ‘sensing’ modernity in both body and mind.
In her research, Alves has taken particular interest in 1960s and early 1970s stamps that were issued for Sharjah by an American entrepreneur. Resonating with notions of progress in her home country of Brazil during the same period, these designs include a skier at the 1968 Grenoble Winter Olympics, French President Charles de Gaulle, a fighter jet, satellites, a cowboy, the 1965 New York World’s Fair and US President John F. Kennedy, who is surrounded by an aerial view of Sharjah. For SB13, the artist has digitally printed these visions of modern life from old Sharjah postage stamps onto hand-tufted carpets, which, like most household items, shape our vision of the larger world.
This project was part of Sharjah Biennial 13.