Imprints is an installation-performance which gives access to references which populate my art practice. It comprises materials from my own archives and the archives of Nan Hoover (New York, 1931 – Berlin, 2008) and Lourdes de Castro (Funchal, 1930 – Funchal, 2022). Departing from the idea that performance practice is a process of re-appropriation of movement language of many others, this work is constructed as a transmission, reproduction and contamination of these influences. This collective archive of past and living artists is presented as a mobilised assemblage of texts, materials and body languages. The installation is built from documents which are digitally available to the public. Does this predispose them to transformation and alteration?
We have today unprecedented access to information on and documentation of artworks, and yet many of them come to us, just as Walter Benjamin has described, as reproductions void of context. By decoupling my archive from a genealogical approach, I try to re-enter the ecology of practices, positions, materials and texts which bring my performance practice about. The work of copying and alteration frames the performance as a complex weaving of its influence. Foregrounding the ecology of the artworks’ gestation while it is being performed demystifies the ghosts of originality and authorship. Can we look at performance differently if we situated it in a world of altered copies?

Vera Sofia Mota (PT)
Vera Sofia Mota is a visual, performance and dance artist. In her research, she explores how artists and artworks are constituted today in relation to the archive. Her initial practice unfolds as a series of conversations with dead and living artists. She assembles these conversations into a spatial and performative archive that explores the relationship between her own movement practice and canonised works of art. This archive is the space where the heterogeneous objects, relationships and practices intertwine around one of the many questions of authorship: how does an artist engage with the art of others? In its craftsmanship of reinterpretation and reproduction, her research awakens the ghosts of originality, ownership, status, and value.



Imprints is a presentation of my research about how artists and artworks are constituted today in relation to the archive. Exploring living and past artists, I question the process of art-making and the impact of possible institutionalisation on the contemporary canon. The research raises questions about how one artist can influence and engage with the work of another.

I was curious to explore the process of appropriating and quoting the work of other artists in greater detail. I wanted to do this by looking at the way an artist’s legacy can be continued by another artist, be it through re-performance of the original work, its transformation or reinterpretation.
I focused on the works of the performance and media artist Nan Hoover (New York, 1931 – Berlin, 2008) and the archive of the Portuguese visual and multimedia artist Lourdes de Castro (Funchal, 1930 – Funchal, 2022).

This research project started in 2015, at the invitation of LIMA Media Art Institute Amsterdam, which holds the paper and digital archive of Nan Hoover. This invitation arose in the context of a wider research at LIMA on the importance of reactivating the work of pioneering artists from the past and on reinterpretation as a modus operandi for mediation, preservation and documentation for their archive.

My proposal was to enter the LIMA archive through establishing a conversation with the work of Nan Hoover. I dived into the archive of her works and activated strategies to listen and familiarise myself with them. A process emerged where I started to inhabit, recompose and embody her artworks. This process became fundamental in how I now approach the preservation and taking care of another artist's legacy.

From 2021 I started a trilogy of reinterpretations - “Movement Dissolves: Composition with Red and Shadow” & “Walking” (2021), “Silence”, “Movement in Light”; reflecting the experience of what it is like to be immersed in another artist’s archive. For me it was a process of wandering between works, getting lost and returning - each time with a different perspective - offering new possibilities for creation. A conversation with another artist, where one can lose the boundary between oneself and the other artist.

I chose Lourdes de Castro as a second case study because her work has an affinity to both the work of Nan Hoover and my own work as a choreographer: the use of light and shadows, simple compositions, her interest in simplicity and emergent compositional processes. She has a light approach, working in expanded and loose performative timeframes. She tries (as she says) to stay with the flux of life, including randomness, accidents, and situations of the everyday in her compositions.
Castro talks about her art practice as a way of living: “I always drew and painted, I don't think this is a very special thing, nor that this is art. For me this is not art, it's a way of living. I can't call it a profession... It's the most natural thing to do. I like to do these things, and I am very happy that others also like it as well, that is why I exhibit.”1

The 1970's were one of the most radical and experimental art periods. It was an era which challenged the status of art and the author, feminist movements asked radical questions of gender, body and their politics. And yet in most dance educational programs it is unusual that works from this period become repertoire or are reenacted. I feel that we are still in the process of digesting the impact of this era. Therefore I have a need to go back and insert my body into these works, to attempt to understand how they function, how they work in my body, and what they can tell us now, decades after their time.

My work on Imprints started when I tried to reproduce the installation “Metropolis” (Nan Hoover, 2006, a site-specific piece made for Museum Wiesbaden, Germany). The installation consisted of a room filled with yellowish-red light and some black towers in a white cube, which reminded visitors of skyscrapers and the city environment. The audience inhabited this space creating a play with shadows by moving around the installation space.

Having not had the opportunity to experience this installation myself, I was curious about its scenographic and choreographic possibilities. I tried to reproduce the work on a smaller scale, with paper, books and small lights. Immediately the scale of the scenographic experiment changed as light and shade started to interact with the larger space.

Looking at the giant dimensions of the little paper shadows, I became fascinated with the process of varying scale, folding and unfolding paper, constructing movable cardboard walls, and playing with the different images created by the shadows. Using research materials I already had in my studio as improvised props, I realised I was now introducing the archive itself directly into the work.

I continued this exploration by spending time in this archive: an environment of endless copies and documents, a pixelated, altered world of copies, reproductions, inscriptions and abstractions. I was orientating, and disorientating my material again, finding systems to organise it in its incomplete and messy nature, wandering through the lights, through darkness, through the shadows cast by the performers’ bodies. Folding paper, folding perception, folding our moments together, unfolding stories, impressions, memories and traces.
Imprints became an homage to the work of performative copying. This process opens up the potential of copy to be a practice of learning, preservation and care.

1 “Um dia com Lourdes de Castro” [“A day with Lourdes de Castro”], Luís Cunha, Manuel Amorim, João Barbosa, Pozal Domingues, Navarro de Andrade and Martinho Simões, Documentary, 1970).



Mentors: Adrijana Gvozdenovic, Anna Rispoli, Antye Guenther, Elke van Campenhout, Hans Andreas R., Heide Hinrich, Julien Bruneau, Kobe Matthys, Myriam van Imschoot, Rob Ritzen, Samah Hijawi, Sara Manente, Tom Engels
Curators: Adrijana Gvozdenovic, Antye Guenther, Isabel Burr Raty, Rob Ritzen, Sara Manente, Sina Seifee, Rob Ritzen, Vladimir Miller
Co-researchers: Ana Paula Camargo, Amy Pickles, Anna-Sophie Lugmeier, Asli Hatipoglu, Adriano Wilfert Jensen, Andrea Zavala Folache, Chloe Janssens, Carolina Mendonça, Federico Vladimir, Federico Protto, Gary Farely, Inga Gerner Nielsen, Jimena Pérez Salerno, Kasia Tórz, Martina Petrovic, Nada Gambier, Nathaniel Moore, Martin Sieweke, Quinsy Gario, Rui Calvo, Sarah Pletcher, Túlio Rosa
A.pass team: Joke Liberge, Kristien Van Den Brande, Kristof van Hoorde, Lilia Mestre, Steven Jouwersma
Performers: Jaime Llopis, Lilia Mestre, Nada Gambier, Vera Sofia Mota
Architecture: João Leite/Kale Studio
Design: Melle Hammer
Sound: Miguel Tavares / Unfixed & Broken
Acknowledgements: Anne Jespers, Cathy Calonne, Gaby Wijers, Guida Ines Maurício and Margot Otten
Support from: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (Lisbon), LIMA Media Art Institute (Amsterdam), CG De Kroon (Brussels), CG de Rinck (Brussels)




© Vera Sofia Mota 2017