One Traveller After Another

Project built from the archives of the Swiss geographer Edgar Aubert de la Rüe (1901–1991) at the Geneva Ethnography Museum. He travelled to Brazil’s caatinga scrubland region in 1953 on a geological mission for UNESCO and wrote an account of his apprehensions about the journey for a publication. The book published by Gallimard became a best seller in France and remained unknown in Brazil until Bethônico—who did not have previous knowledge of the French language— undertook its translation for a project she named Um viajante depois do outro [One traveller after another]. At the same time, studies about De la Rüe in the archives of MEG and the scientific investigations and photographs enabled an understanding of the history of his life and work. 

Edições Capacete published the translation, and subsequent readings of this book combined with accounts about the author’s archive yielded narrative performances. In 2015, Bethônico travelled along part of the route described in De la Rüe’s travelogue and produced a photographic essay under the title Caatingas: a journey southwest from Natal, passing through Santa Cruz and Currais Novos to Seridó in Paraíba, and then northward to Fortaleza passing through Caicó, Apodi, Areia Branca, in the coastal region, and Mossoró. Bethônico’s investigation relocated in an exhibition space brought together images from De la Rüe’s photographic collection presented in dialogue with the translated book. The exhibition peruses the traveller’s interests while seeking to make out that strange and foreign caatinga he surveyed.

[2013–] BOOK: Mabe Bethônico. How Mabe Bethônico travelled the caatinga region, in Switzerland, through the archives of traveller-author Edgar Aubert de la Rüe, and learned the French language from Brésil Aride (La vie dans la caatinga) in the process of translating this geological study of Northeast Brazil, which De la Rüe visited on a Unesco mission to locate mineral deposits in 1953–4, consisting of a map of the mines with focus on human geography and photography, showing landscapes, occupations, and lifeways in the Polígono das Secas (drought-stricken region). Rio de Janeiro: Editora Capacete, 2014. INSTALLATION: photographs [variable sizes], video, screenings, books, posters. Video: Biography and Landscape, 6’, 2017. Performed narratives, approx. 30’. 

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