The Great Unknown: Catarina Fontoura’s Conjures




The gaping hole into the deep reveals an unnatural world that is most natural of all. Its alienation is brought with its access, and how humans manage its environment. The deep is treacherous. It is a nightmare of human hazards, a collective mix of the fascinating and the life-threatening. As our oxygen levels plummet, as artificial air takes hold of our breathing apparatus, our venture into the deep continuously lowers us as momentum builds down not up, physically. Our hearts might beat faster; a tentacle might brush our leg. Animals may scurry past our eyes, our bodies, as each layer of the deep reveals itself, it is almost like walking into a mirror and living in the world beyond that – a world based on reflection. The opposite tilts our senses as we depart from dry land entirely, left wondering in amazement what might attempt to approach us, how it may affect and make us feel.

Equipped with the means to record, Catarina Fontoura plunges deep down into the depths of the unknown but the frequently travelled. We have been here before – we have not broken new ground – but each personal experience can become universal, recuperating collective memories of Finding Nemo, discovering the Life Aquatic like we’re Bill Murray with a marvellous beard. The environment appears closer to alien life-forms than human interactions, as the city breeds below us. Species meet species; one destroys the other, feeds the rest, for survival.

Patterns emerge as fish scurry though the water with no care for your presence, only the need to escape their foe. As creatures begin to take note, the spare-timers, floating about, begin to bob up and down in your presence, staring and wondering what you are, not who you are. The same feeling is projected back to the creature. It becomes a friendly stand-off between two captivated creatures.

Descending lower, plant life grapples with our heels, with no power to divert our attention, swaying in the water like the wind may stroke them back and forth. Traffic signals, not conventionally set up, are followed as the hierarchy of the food chain implies importance amongst its inhabitants. Stopping at red lights, preparing at amber and going when it reaches green, the order of human life made its way somehow into the reversed land. With the instinctive survival being key, not bombarded with adverts, no pollution of human need, merely existing to exist in the most fantastic way.

This place was not designed for us, not made for our lungs, and when our technology finally reaches three quarters empty, our bodies rise up. As we float, the world becomes clearer as the sun bears down on the layers of the sea, to dive through to meet us so we can begin to see more clearly, the animal world oblivious that we were ever there or were leaving. The fascinated creature, bumbling around looking up in wonderment as his memory will forever remember the time a human came to see him, to stumble across his path, until the next person resumes his fascination. Peering up to see the beacon of sunrays overexposing our vision, releasing a sudden rush as the surface dawns nearer. Feeling happier by the minute, as if we have taken something from under the sea.

Our head breaks through the water edge as oxygen resumes at an instant. We are back but with expansive ideas of the world that lies underneath ours, the great unknown.













Written by Alexander Norton / Published 24 February 2014