Alexandre Nitzsche’s ‘Mapa Império’ | cartographies of history - Bubblegum Club

Alexandre Nitzsche’s ‘Mapa Império’ | cartographies of history

Historical “fact” is a topic that has come under an increasing amount of scrutiny in recent years, and rightly so. Within context, history often presents us with an engrossing tale of humanity’s greatest achievements and our most heinous atrocities. However, history or at least the way in which historical information is disseminated tends to be flawed due to power and perspective. History is often twisted and distorted into a narrative that best serves the interests of the powers that be, and in this process of abstraction, that narrative becomes historical “fact”. It is precisely this historical ambiguity this ebb and flow within the historical narrative that serves as the inspiration behind Rio de Janeiro based multi-disciplinary artist Alexandre Nitzsche’s captivating Mapa Império project. 

At face value, Mapa Império registers as a fashion project; a beautiful and intricately constructed four-piece cloak akin in structure to the Iris van Herpen cloak donned by Jordan Roth at the 2019 Met Gala. However, unlike the world of high fashion, where concepts will inevitably play second fiddle to the garments and designs themselves, Mapa Império’s relevance is far more intrinsically linked to the story than the structure of the garment. In essence, merely defining it as a fashion project, would be shortsighted as its strengths reach far beyond such narrow classifications. With Mapa Império, Nitzsche has actualised a fully developed performance art piece, simultaneously rooted in archival work and a dystopian futurist approach, without the project feeling disjointed. I guess I could say that many aspects of history inform Nitzsche’s work, history: past, present, still being made, factual and fabricated. The cloak forms a cartography of sorts, a map of moments made up of 43 individual hand painted scenes. Nitzsche shares: 

In total, 43 scenes from a past, present, and future, real and ‘fictional’, were inserted, in which we can find, for example, the fire at the North American Grand Circus in 1961 in the city of Niterói; the fall of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon; the illegal market of rhino horns in South Africa; the culture of the Ama swimmers of Okinawa; the first pleasure blessed by the blue of the skies, and the successful theft of Cristo Redentor in 2078, among others.

I think the constructed cartography works as the perfect canvas for the message Nitzsche is attempting to convey. Although hegemonic history is the space written far and wide by those who hold social power, people who have been made marginal have found, and continue to find other ways and spaces to write their own histories. Historical narratives are also constantly in flux as new information is excavated and contemporary scholars and people alike are forced to reevaluate their ideas about the world. As such, I think that Nitzsche’s adoptions of fictionalised narratives within the collage of cultural experiences is actually a masterstroke.

Not only do these fictionalised narratives imagine the future we might be heading towards with Nitzsche settling on a cold, desolate dystopia, but they also create alternatives to the history we know, may love or detest. Understanding and appreciating the brilliance of Mapa Império lies in accepting that in truth, history is to a large extent, nothing more than confabulation and conjecture. Narratives created and gaps filled in, with incomplete information. What Mapa Império excels in is not its critique of history or the knowledge that can be mined from it, as the project isn’t pushing us to reject our histories and the impact they have on the present and our future. Instead, it serves as a stark reminder that we should be sceptical and continue to ask questions regarding the past, present and future, rather than being passive consumers of information.


Art Direction: Alexandre Nitzsche
Photography: Marcus Sabah
Make-up: Barbara Donatello
Colour Retouch: Lucas Affonso
Styling: Alexandre Nitzsche

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