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ArtNexus Brasil en Colombia

ArtNexus Brasil en Colombia ArtNexus Arte en Colombia Anthology of texts Adriano Pedrosa (ed) Arte en Colombia SAS - Publisher Cra. 5 No. 67-19 Tel: (571) 2495514 - 3129435 Fax: (571) 3129252 Bogotá, Colombia © ArtNexus / Arte en Colombia © The Autors of their texts © Projeto Lygia Pape Signed articles and reviews express the opinions of their authors Cover Jac Leirner, Adriana Varejão, Carlos Garaicoa, Rivane Neuenschwander, Regina Silveira, Jorge Macchi, Damián Ortega, Valeska Soares, Rosângela Rennó Coordination Sofía Bullrich and Diana Rojas Garzón Editorial Researcher Sofia Bullrich Marisol Martell Isabella Rjeille Cordeiro (São Paulo) Art Department Alvaro Cáceres, Diego Erazo and Pilar Ortiz Proof Reading Francine Birbragher, María José Ramírez and Vanessa Adatto First Edition December, 2011 ISBN: 978-958-57191-0-1


Ministry of Culture

Ministry of External Relations

ArtNexus Brasil en Colombia

ArtNexus Arte en Colombia Anthology of texts Adriano Pedrosa (ed)


8 Foreword Celia Sredni de Birbragher

9 Introduction Adriano Pedrosa

10 19th São Paulo Biennial María Elvira Iriarte. Arte en Colombia 36, 1988


Art in Latin America. The Persistence of the Picturesque Aracy Amaral. Arte en Colombia 42, 1989

26 20th São Paulo Biennial. A Retrospective View María Elvira Iriarte. Arte en Colombia 44, 1990

34 21st São Paulo Biennial María Elvira Iriarte. Arte en Colombia 50, 1992


Art and Ecology. Eco Art / Amazon Art Ivo Mesquita. ArtNexus 6, 1992


Mira Schendel María Elvira Iriarte. ArtNexus 8, 1993


Cartographies. 14 Latin American Artists María Elvira Iriarte. ArtNexus 13, 1994

54 22th São Paulo International Biennial María Elvira Iriarte. ArtNexus 15, 1995


Cildo Meireles Santiago B. Olmo. ArtNexus 17, 1995


Daniel Senise Adriano Pedrosa. ArtNexus 21, 1996


Waltercio Caldas Lisette Lagnado. ArtNexus 22, 1996

76 23rd São Paulo Biennial María Elvira Iriarte. ArtNexus 44, 1997


Tunga. A Survey (1977-1997) A Universe of Exquisite Links Reinaldo Laddaga. ArtNexus 27, 1998


Miguel Rio Branco. The Reality of Irresolution Octavio Zaya. ArtNexus 28, 1997


An Insidious Reticence. The Sculptures of José Resende Reinaldo Laddaga. ArtNexus 31, 1999


The Inside is the Outside: The Precariousness of Boundaries in Lygia Clark Mónica Amor. ArtNexus 31, 1999

102 Lygia Pape and Ernesto Neto Ana Isabel Pérez. ArtNexus 31, 1999

104 24th São Paulo Biennial. A Cannibalist Proposal María Elvira Iriarte. ArtNexus 30, 1999

111 Eduardo Kac Pablo Helguera. ArtNexus 31, 1999

112 Adriana Varejão. The Presence of Painting Stella Teixeira de Barros. ArtNexus 34, 2000

118 Rochelle Costi Issa María Benítez Dueñas. ArtNexus 38, 2001

119 Marcantonio Vilaça Paulo Herkenhoff. ArtNexus 36, 2000

121 Franklin Cassaro Carla Zaccagnini. ArtNexus 38, 2000

122 inSITE 2000 Collette Chattopadhyay. ArtNexus 39, 2001

126 Ricardo Basbaum Carla Zaccagnini. ArtNexus 40, 2001

127 Rubens Mano Valeria Piccoli. ArtNexus 40, 2001

128 Versions of the South. F(r)ictions Issa María Benítez Dueñas. ArtNexus 41, 2001

131 Leonora de Barros Ana Paula Cohen. ArtNexus 42, 2001

132 Fernanda Gomes John Angeline. ArtNexus 43, 2002

133 Iran do Espírito Santo John Angeline. ArtNexus 43, 2002

134 Panorama of Brazilian Art Lisbeth Rebollo Gonçalves. ArtNexus 44, 2002

137 Carlos Garaicoa Pablo Helguera. ArtNexus 44, 2002

138 25th São Paulo Biennial. Metropolitan Iconographies María Elvira Iriarte. ArtNexus 45, 2002

146 Artur Barrio. Art in Transit Fernando Cocchiarale. ArtNexus 45, 2002

152 Jac Leirner Adriano Pedrosa. ArtNexus 45, 2002

154 25th São Paulo Biennial Rodrigo Moura and Carla Zaccagnini. ArtNexus 46, 2002

158 Tempo Pablo Helguera. ArtNexus 46, 2002

160 Rivane Neuenschwander. Veronica Cordeiro. ArtNexus 47, 2003

163 João Modé Carla Zaccagnini. ArtNexus 47, 2003

164 From Latin American Art to Art from Latin America Gerardo Mosquera. ArtNexus 48, 2003

170 Hélio Oiticica. Quasi-Cinemas Environments Luis Camnitzer. ArtNexus 48, 2003

174 Valeska Soares. Sculptures That Feel Rodrigo Moura. ArtNexus 50, 2003

180 Renata Lucas Rodrigo Moura. ArtNexus 50, 2003

181 Jorge Macchi Veronica Cordeiro. ArtNexus 51, 2003

182 Reticence, Nelson Leirner Or, How to Maintain a Balance in the Work of Art Adolfo Montejo Navas. ArtNexus 52, 2004

188 28th Panorama MAM, São Paulo. 19 Disarrangements Lisbeth Rebollo Gonçalves. ArtNexus 44, 2002

191 Marepe Carla Zaccagnini. ArtNexus 53, 2004

192 Beatriz Milhazes. In the Sway of the Bossas: “Waves” José Augusto Ribeiro. ArtNexus 67, 2007

197 Thiago Rocha Pitta Rodrigo Moura. ArtNexus 54, 2004

198 26th São Paulo Biennial. Free Territory María Elvira Iriarte. ArtNexus 55, 2005

205 Edgard de Souza Camila Belchior. ArtNexus 55, 2005

206 José Damasceno Rodrigo Moura. ArtNexus 56, 2005

207 Cao Guimarães Carlos Jiménez. ArtNexus 58, 2005

208 Beyond Geometry Eugenio Espinoza. ArtNexus 57, 2005

210 inSITE 05. Art Practices in the Public Domain Rubén Bonet. ArtNexus 60, 2006

216 Regina Silveira. Where Shadows Vanish Fernando Castro. ArtNexus 61, 2006

220 Marcelo Cidade Carla Zaccagnini. ArtNexus 61, 2006

221 Ana Maria Maiolino and Víctor Grippo Eugenio Espinosa. ArtNexus 62, 2006

222 27th São Paulo Biennial. “How To Live Together” A walk through the Ciccilio Matarazzo Pavilion María Elvira Iriarte. ArtNexus 79, 2010

230 The 6th Mercosur Biennial: A Look at Contemporary Art from Latin America Lisbeth Rebollo Gonçalves. ArtNexus 67, 2007

238 MDE07. A Local Bet for Taming the International Biennial Model Carlos Uribe. ArtNexus 67, 2007

245 The 1970s in Brazil: Brazilian Contemporary Art Revisited (or Visited Thoroughly for the First Time) Ana Magalhães. ArtNexus 67, 2007

248 Jarbas Lopes Richard Leslie. ArtNexus 68, 2008

249 Nicolás Robbio María Iovino. ArtNexus 70, 2008

250 Ivo Mesquita. São Paulo Biennial Julia Buenaventura. ArtNexus 71, 2009

257 Sandra Gamarra Camila Belchior. ArtNexus 72, 2009

258 Rosângela Rennó Elizabeth Matheson. ArtNexus 72, 2009

264 San Juan Poly/Graphic Triennial. Guardian of Collective Memory Adriana Herrera Téllez. ArtNexus 73, 2009

270 Sandra Cinto Paulo Reis. ArtNexus 75, 2009

276 Damián Ortega Richard Leslie. ArtNexus 75, 2009

277 Leda Catunda José Augusto Ribeiro. ArtNexus 75, 2009

278 Tupi or not tupi, 31 Panorama da Arte Brasileira 2009. María Inés Rodríguez. ArtNexus 76, 2010

281 Marilá Dardot Júlia Rebouças. ArtNexus 77, 2010

282 29th São Paulo Biennial María Elvira Iriarte. ArtNexus 79, 2010

291 Carla Zaccagnini Wendy Navarro. ArtNexus 80, 2011

293 About ABACT/ApexBrasil project 294 About ArtNexus / Arte en Colombia 295 Acknowledgements




hen Mônica Novaes Esmanhotto, the manager of project ABACT/ApexBrasil for the internationalization of Brazilian Contemporary Art, first asked me about joining forces on a project, I thought of an idea I’d been considering for some time: an anthology of articles from ArtNexus/Arte en Colombia, about Brazil. Mônica embraced the concept immediately. We wanted to publish an anthology in celebration of the 25th anniversary of ArtNexus/Arte en Colombia, following a suggestion by Gerardo Mosquera, but the project didn’t come to fruition at that time. Our first anthology was published some years later, a selection of texts written by Luis Camnitzer for the magazine between 1979 and 2006, edited by Clara Bernal and Felipe González with the collaboration of Ivonne Pini, Executive Editor of ArtNexus. The project had the support of the Arts and Humanities School at the Universidad de Los Andes, in Bogotá. Since then, I kept returning to the idea of producing another book. The happy coincidence of seventeen Brazilian galleries participating in Miami’s Art Fair season in December, 2011, Mônica´s energetic and constant support, and the funding generously provided by ApexBrasil and ABACT, have made it possible this year. The name of Adriano Pedrosa came up immediately as we considered possible editors for the publication. Adriano joined ArtNexus as a writer in 1996, he was editorial coordinator for Brazil between 2000 and 2007, and has been an editorial advisor since then. Our paths cross often in fairs and biennials; Adriano’s knowledge of both Brazilian and international contemporary art, and his long-standing association with ArtNexus, made him the suitable candidate for the project. Adriano proposed a theory he has been developing about the nexus of “foreign” artists to Brazil and it was also his idea to publish the book in a facsimile edition. The result is an interesting experience that on the one hand revisits concepts and valuable information from texts published years ago, and on the other, illustrates perceptions of Brazilian art in parallel to the magazine’s evolution. The goal of this book is to contribute to the promotion of Brazil’s valuable visual arts activity. While, as Adriano explains, this is but a selection of the many articles published on the topic throughout these years, it is also a privileged opportunity to celebrate the 35 years of ArtNexus/Arte en Colombia. Celia Sredni de Birbragher Publisher and Editor ArtNexus /Arte en Colombia




hen I was invited by ABACT —Associação Brasileira de Arte Contemporânea— and Art Nexus to edit a selection of Brazilian texts that had been published in the magazine, my first response was to state that I would not work with a conventional Brazilian territorial demarcation, widening the circle in order to include a number of non Brazilian natives. At the 31st Panorama da Arte Brasileira that I curated in 2009, the Brazilan art exhibtion organized every two years by the Museu de arte Moderna de São Paulo, I only included “foreign” artists1 whose work somehow referenced Brazilian culture. The exhibiton’s title was in fact borrowed by a work of Claire Fontaine made especially for the occasion: Mamõyguara opá mamõ pupé, which in Old Tupi, the first known language spoken in Brazil, translates as: “foreigners everywhere”. The rationale for the exhibition detected an inversion of antropofagia, the Brazilian modernist concept introduced in 1928 by Oswald de Andrade in his famous “Manifesto Antropófago”, in which he provided a model for the Brazilian intellectual in the tropics to establish a productive relationship with metropolitan culture in Europe—appropriating it, digesting it and producing something hybrid and singular of her own. Almost 80 years later, it is Brazilian culture itself that is being appropriated by foreign artists who reference art, architecture, music and poetry. The anti-territorial and anti-national stance has become a key set of lenses in my work as an editor and a curator, always attempting to question and push the limits of borders and demarcations.2 The very title of this book is a play on territories, languages and meanings and may prompt different readings. Art Nexus and Arte en Colombia are the two titles of the magazines published in Colombia, the former with a title in English, in tone with its more international outlook, and the latter with a title in Spanish. As we explore the Brazilian topic, my approach was to look for a Brazilian nexus, as opposed to a Brazilian origin, and it is for this reason that the book includes texts on the works of artists Sandra Gamarra, Damián Ortega, Carlos Garaicoa and Jorge Macchi, all of which have developed in different ways relationships with Brazilian culture, showing regularly in the country.3 In order to underline this inclusion, we have chosen to reproduce in this book’s cover the three magazine covers dedicated to Damián, Carlos and Jorge alongside those of Adriana Varejão, Jac Leirner, Regina Silveira, Rivane Neuenschwander, Rosângela Rennó, and Valeska Soares. On the other hand, as the magazine is published and edited in Colombia, the Brazilian nexus of this publication is produced and published en Colombia—it is a certain representation of Brazil that has been filtered through the editorial work in Colombia, although now it is being re-filtered through my own selection. In this sense, the non-domestic, multi-national character will reflect in the multi-linguistic title of our publication,

Art Nexus Brasil en Colombia brings together the English Art Nexus, the Spanish en Colombia and the Portuguese Brasil (which of course is also Spanish). Latin America has seen many interesting art magazine projects, from Poliester, launched in the early nineties by Kurt Hollander in Mexico, for which I was a contributor and part of the editorial board, to Trans>arts., launched in the early nineties by Sandra Antelo Suarez in New York, for which I was senior editor. Art Nexus however has outlived them all. Issues such as continuity, distribution, financial sustainability are enormous challenges in Latin America, yet Celia de Birbragher and Art Nexus have bravely managed to tackle with them all, enduring 35 years of circulation. I myself was editor of Brazilian reviews and articles from 20002007, a period of intense coverage from the national territory, during which I counted with the contributions of a dedicated group of (then) young writers such Ana Paula Cohen, Carla Zaccagnini, José Augusto Ribeiro, Rodrigo Moura, Valeria Piccoli and Verônica Cordeiro—I am grateful to them all for their contributions. Many Latin American luminaries (Brazilian or other) have contributed to the magazines, and this edition is an opportunity to reread some of their articles—including senior figures such as Aracy Amaral, Fernando Cochiarale, Gerardo Mosquera, Ivo Mesquita, Luis Camnitzer, Monica Amor, Paulo Herkenhoff. My approach in selecting the articles for this book was to gather a wide number of artists, and much beyond those who customarily receive international attention. In order to trace a history of exhibitions, all articles on the Bienal de São Paulo published by Art Nexus and Arte en Colombia have been selected, as well as some of the articles on the recent editions of Panorama da Arte Brasileira and on the Bienal do Mercosul. Articles on exhibitions organized by Brazilian curators have also been included—Paulo Herkenhoff’s Tempo at MOMA in 2002, Ivo Mesquita’s Insite 2000, in San Diego and Tijuana, and my own Insite 2005 and 2nd Trienal Poli/ gráfica de San Juan, as well as F[r]icciones, which I cocurated with Mesquita. Our initial selection included over 600 pages, yet a published archive such as this one has its limitations. We hope Art Nexus Brasil en Colombia will provide interesting material for an encounter with history or memory, forgotten or recollected. Adriano Pedrosa

1. With the exception of one long time Brazilian expatriate, Tamar Guiarães. The exhibition also included 4 artists selected by Argentine Nicolas Guagnini, including the Brazilian native Valdirlei Dias Nunes. 2. See Adriano Pedrosa (ed.), Panorama da Arte Brasileira, Mamõyguara opá mamõ pupé, São Paulo, Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, 2009. 3. The four artists were included in the 2009 Panorama da Arte Brasileira exhibition, aat mam-sp.


Arte en Colombia Magazine 36, year 1988. pp 44 - 52


São Paulo Biennial An enormous number of the works on show are linked to artistic movements of the last 25 or 30 years, from the abstract expressionism of the 1950’s to the installations of arte povera and ritualistic spaces. If we accept this premise as our general starting point, we can also discover a respectable number of excellent works in the exhibition which balance the quantity with quality.

Gustavo Naklé. Figure of his installation Judgment, Purgatory and Paradise, 1987.

MARÍA ELVIRA IRIARTE There is a fair-like atmosphere of fiesta and entertainment about the 19th edition of the São Paulo Biennial, which is housed in the Ibirapuera park in a gigantic construction of three floors, a horizontal box of freestanding platforms and glass walls. On

one of the smaller sides there is a curved ramp, which looks like a kind of flattened corkscrew, leading into an enormous interior atrium flanked by undulating balconies. The edifice is mounted on more than 150 interior pillars. In presenting this year’s Biennial, the organizing committee’s Department of Architecture has used partitions and wood


panels to create a veritable temporary city on each of the different floors. The visitor to the show, which opened on the 2nd of October, can choose between a variety of possible itineraries. This means that there will inevitably be a variety of interpretations of what the Biennial has to offer. We can, for example, opt for the general tour, the most orthodox approach recommended by the organizers themselves, covering a distance of just over six kilometers which will give us a bird’s-eye view of the almost three thousand works in the show. Alternatively, we could choose a more “conceptual” approach, taking our inspiration from the “Iaureate” of this year’s Biennial, Marcel Duchamp; this would be a sort of short-cut covering just the works of some twenty artists, the highlights of this enormous exhibition. Of course, such a synthesis can only be achieved if we have a full knowledge of the facts and if we have already completed the general tour. A geo-political reading of the show is not possible; neither is it possible to view it historically, since the curators have based their organization on quite different criteria. The objective of “subverting museological syntaxes” (1) may be interesting in theory, but it certainly does not help the public in general to make a productive visit to the Biennial. The visit offers no kind of guide or rhythm, but produces a simply accumulative experience in which it is difficult to identify any specially privileged exhibits.

Teresa D’Amico. Map, 1962. 25 x 30 in.

Overall, the three floors of the building have been organized into sectors grouped around the respective paths of access. The ramp and the staircase serve as points of reference and open on to two of the three central halls on each level (2). On both sides of the central spaces the organizers have created semiprivate areas, rooms, passageways and, on the third floor, a sort of gallery housing works of very different origins, subject matter and language. Yet, in spite of the enormous difficulties facing the curators of a collective exhibition such as the São Paulo Biennial, it must be said that in this case a more rigorous criteria should have been used in the mounting of the show, beginning with the information included on the inscription cards submitted to the committee several months in advance. A clear example of this was the pitiful space allocated for the retrospective show of Amelia Peláez one of the highlights of the Biennial which obliged the Cuban curator to hang the works at various levels, in a semitriangular room-cumcorridor, obstructed by two cross-wise structural columns and with no lighting. Or, the dispersion of the Argentinean exhibit which, according to the catalog, was supposed to be an installation. By placing the respective works of the live artists separately, nothing remained of the installation since the sense of the whole was lost (and it was one of the few works which bore in mind the title of the Biennial: “Utopia versus Reality”). Another defect was the number of cuts imposed on the

entries of a great many artists, because of the lack of space available to show all the works received. The impression which the show makes on any serious visitor who has taken the time to explore all the various approaches to the Biennial is that the overall panorama is more conservative than avant-garde. An enormous number of the works on show are linked to artistic movements of the last 25 or 30 years, from the abstract expressionism of the 1950s to the installations of arte povera and ritualistic spaces. If we accept this premise as our general starting point, we can then discover a respectable number of excellent works in the exhibition which balance the quantity with quality. In my opinion, the final result was a positive one. Special exhibitions Two of the special exhibitions of the Biennial, “In Search of the Essence” and “Singular Visionaries”, were dedicated to Brazilian art. Both were based on historical considerations and proposed a series of unusual reflections on the recent past of the country’s art. The first comprises a group of twenty living artists who use an abstract language, generally dominated by geometry, from the standpoint of the “reduction” (3) – a concept close lo minimalism – of self-referential art which in itself represents Utopia (4). Particularly outstanding in the group were two great artists: the sculptor Almicar de Castro (1920) from Minas

Tarsila do Amaral. Anthropophagi, 1929.


Gerais and the painter Arcangelo lanelli (1922) from São Paulo. The first presented powerful sculptures in black or oxidized iron and four impressive drawings: a continuous line, done with a broad brush, to form a series of forceful, spatial signs closed in on themselves. lanelli showed recent oils done in mysterious and enveloping colors, chromatic experiences which “constitute the essence itself of painting” (5). Interesting too were the painted iron sculptures of Franz Weissmann (1914) and his ideas on angles, and the labyrinth of Mauricio Bentes (1958), presented like a large scale space modulator. The overall objective of “Singular Visionaries” is less clear. The exhibit seeks lo provide a reading of the works of eleven figurative artists who, in one way or another, do not fit into the two major currents which have dominated recent Brazilian art: modernism and expressionism. There is no common denominator linking these artists, except for “their capacity to resist, at any price, the temptation of social commentary” (6). From the beginning of the century to the present. The section includes works which are very different from one another, such as those of Tarsila do Amaral (1886-1973) and Wesley Duke Lee (1931), or those of Flavio de Carvalho (1899-1973) and Waltercio Caldas (1946) and which, apart from their intrinsic qualities, simply constitute an incoherent collection of Brazilian art; their presence in the Biennial is justified only by the fact that they are Brazilian. For the uninformed visitor, this is not an exhibition but rather a haphazard collection of painting and sculpture with a marked preference for “nail” language (Jose Antonio da Silva (1909)) or related styles (Alberto da Veiga Guignard (1896-1962), including that of Teresa d’Amico (1914-1965). Special mention should be made of the sculpture of Maria Martins (1900-1973), figurative bronzes on anthropomorphous themes which include the exuberance of tropical vegetation and the echoes of old sea legends. The Marcel Duchamp Exhibition The Marcel Duchamp section, a selection from the collections of Arturo Schwartz, is organized thematically into two main groups: paintings and some late engravings; and secondly, ready-mades, including facsimile reproductions. The project was valid in that it provided an overall view of works which

Gustavo López Armentía. On Everyday Life. Oil on canvas. 51 x 74 2/5 in.

very rarely can be seen together: the readymades dating from 1913-1917 and their miniature reproductions in the suit-case dated 1939, or the drawings and preliminary calculations for the “Large Window Pane” (not exhibited), as well as some paintings pre-dating the “Nude descending the stairs” of 1911 (also absent). While the presence of this great artist in the Biennial served to confirm his fundamental intention of constant defiance, the collection as a whole was too schematic to allow the uninformed public, i.e. the large majority, to assimilate it properly. ln other words, the Duchamp exhibition was for specialists. Historical facts deprived of their appropriate context became incomprehensible and gratuitous: instead of furthering understanding, they simply encouraged a rejection. The other three special exhibitions of the Biennial dealt with design, video and music. A Combination of Itineraries I pointed out above that the Biennial is not susceptible lo any geopolitical reading. The national representations, almost without exception, are dispersed throughout the show. Nevertheless, for the purposes of clarity, I have decided lo discuss the works by either regions or nuclei. Such an approach may, hopefully, also result in more balanced value judgments. The reader will be left to draw his own conclusions.

Latin America Regarding the countries of the Southern Cone, the star entry and one of the most spectacular presentations of the entire Biennial, is that of the Uruguayan sculptor Gustavo Naklé (1951), a resident of Porto Alegre. His entry is an enormous installation entitled Final Judgment, Purgatory and Paradise, made up of 80 figures in polychrome polyester resin. In the first enclosure, the “Final Judgment”, the visitor proceeds along a narrow corridor facing a tribune where all the divine and human hierarchies are organized: saints and generals, prelates, presidents and doctors; the assembly is presided over by a central figure, a divinity with one hundred eyes, flanked on each side by a mythological animal. The figures are slightly larger than human size and are the product of a riotous imagination, as well as a thorough knowledge of historical predecessors such as El Bosco, Magritte or Dalí; and, present realities, for example the masks and disguises of carnival. The space is provided with very little light and produces a kind of start. Still shrouded in shadow, we pass on to the next corridor, set at right angles to the “Judgment” section. We are now in “Purgatory”: six bathrooms, six spaces with an equal number of openings onto the corridor. Each cubicle-bathroom has a real washstand and toilet bowl, which are placed in the same position in each cubicle and one or more occupants, except for the first. All


this immediately suggests something repulsive: piles of toilet paper realistically littering the floor, a sordid atmosphere dominated by the following graffiti: “Utopia is to shit upwards. Reality is to shit downwards”. The other bathrooms are occupied by various figures, such as a rhinoceros and on its back a grotesque female nude looking at herself in a mirror (the lady and the unicorn), a male angel, with a grey striped suit and hat, about to masturbate (and thus settle the ancient dispute about the sex of angels), a figure à la Archimboldo, with the head made of vegetables and fruit emerging from a confusion of white paper. The light gradually increases from one bathroom to the next. In the final cubicle, a mirror replaces the wall in front of the spectator, who thus sees himself, all of a sudden, included in the satirical universe of Naklé. Thus purified, he moves on lo Paradise, an enormous space occupied by a huge tree – seven meters high and with a circumference of several meters – around which the chosen are frolicking: the capacity for irony and leg pulling and the imagination of the Uruguayan artist appear to be limitless. Everything revolves around the most unlikely form of eroticism, so excessive that it ceases to be offensive. It produces laughter and this is the general reaction to the public. The tree of life is made up of phalluses and vaginas, as if they were branches and fruit. The earthly and divine figures, as well as the spectator, rub shoulders in a perfectly natural manner in an ambience

reminiscent of the circus or some joyful nightmare. Sexuality has been absolved of absolutely any guilt and the complete irreverence of Naklé refutes any possible accusation that the installation could be considered pornographic. It is rather a colossal joke, the result of the artist’s manipulation of “vulgar” and “popular” language recalcitrant in both form and content. The halogens light of Paradise, shining upwards from the floor, picks out brilliant figures and makes the spectator forget the solidness of the floor on which he is walking. The Argentinean exhibit, which as noted above is dispersed in its presentation, lacks any real meaning. Each painter prepared a small, three dimensional model symbolizing reality, and eight canvases, representing utopia. The quality of the oils by Seguí (only seven are on show) and of the drawings by Luis Benedit, on the voyage of the Beagle, is undeniable. On the other hand, the work by López Armetía and Castilla is very derivative, and that of Clorindo Testa a ceramic box with one of its edges broken simply insignificant. Chile is represented by tour artists, all painters, who seem to be doing everything they can to be part of the transavant-garde. The symbolic or conceptual content of their work weighs very heavily on their art, complicating its language. These young artists use expressionist figuration in large format works dominated by much color and pictorial techniques reminiscent of abstract

Óscar Muñoz. Installation of his work in São Paulo, 1987.

painting (although they have never practiced abstraction). It is a work filled with written texts, collages, pictorial gestures and outlines, at times gratuitous. The Paraguayans – five painters – offer nothing new, apart from the correct handling of their respective individual language. A common characteristic is the use of drawings which are superimposed on the paintings. As for the Bolivarian countries, the best is clearly the Colombian entry, comprised of work by two very different artists: Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar and Óscar Muñoz, who offer two undeniably excellent and serious exhibitions. In the case of many other exhibits there are clear formal similarities between very different works: those of a Japanese, a Portuguese, a North American and a Danish artist. The Colombian entry is exceptional within the general framework of the exhibition. Both the medium format sculptures of Ramírez Villamizar, somewhat dispersed over the area in which they were finally placed, and the “Bathroom curtains” of Muñoz were applauded by both the critics and the public and were even mentioned in the non-specialized press. Venezuela was represented by Cornelis Zitman Hazenberg (1926), a Dutch artist who has lived in Venezuela since the 1940s. A figurative sculptor who almost invariably works with one single theme, woman, with related allusions to time and space in the tropics, Zitman sees sculpture in the

Eduardo Ramírez V. Mask No. 4, 1987. Iron melting and rust.


Zitman. Partial view of the setting. Bronze sculptures and drawings.

traditional sense of closed, full, rounded volumes. The curator and the artist himself opted for an accumulative type of presentation that included the package cases (7), which were used as the base for dozens of small format sculptures. The general area of this exhibition, in one of the central spaces of the third floor, was marked out by a circle of sand, a sort of circus track containing other larger size figures. The amount of pieces shown and the enormous range of the different scales proved very detrimental to an appreciation of the work. It was impossible to see the details, which were important, for the finish. The same was true concerning the excellent drawings which formed the backdrop panel of the exhibit. Bolivia was represented by one artist, a resident of Dusseldorf and a student of Nam J. Paik: Ricardo Peredo Wende (1962). His entry is a video, installed on three simultaneous screens which form a triangle, so that the spectator can see only one screen at once. The screens are partially masked by geometrical forms, although this does not affect the result. The video is extremely poor. Ecuador was represented by five painters, ranging from the surrealistexpressionist figurative work of Stornaido (1956) to the abstract painting of Svistonoof (1945) dealing with the concept of the void; the abstract work of Artieda (1946),

with its graffiti, signs and numbers was very pleasing. Peru presented the work of four artists, headed by Antonio Maro (1928), who currently resides in Caracas. His large semi-abstract canvases, almost precious in their elaborate detail, do not seem to be the work of the same artist who produced the sculptures forming part of the exhibit. These constructions appear to be images of the early attempts at kinetic art and while there is poetry in the painting, the sculptures appear to be aborted experiments, devoid of any meaning. The installation by Esther Vainstein (1947), a geometric work recalling the world of the Nazca signs done with desert sand on the floor, loses much of its effect because of its poor location, which makes it into a kind of horizontal picture. The spectator has to look at it from a single angle. Mirko Lauer, in his presentation of the artist, says that “she has rehabilitated the desert as one of the major organizers of culture in Perú, and geology as the primordial language of the country’s visual reality” (8). The installation on show at the Biennial did not manage to substantiate such overwhelming claims. The central-American countries were not lucky at this Biennial. The Panama entry appeared only in the catalogue; and, as for Guatemala, only one of the lour artists was present in the exhibition. Mexico sent a representation which distinguished itself as a national exhibit. By coincidence, it was located in a relatively unified sector of the exhibition area. Two of the five Mexicans already belong to the country’s history: Siqueiros (1898-1974) and Remedios Varo (1908-1963). Four medium format little known works by Siqueiros were on show: three reliefs and one painting done on a curved base. They are dated between 1935 and 1956. The contrast between the paintings and the drawings of Remedios Varos could hardly be greater: 15 small works, oil paintings or temperas on wood, an extremely light, archaic, precious technique in which the surrealistic element makes the spectator doubt the reality of the image which he sees before his eyes. The figures are almost incorporeal and yet at the same time they appear to be cunning. Fruits which levitate, magicians, wizards, fairies. Old men who go around on bicycles made of their own beards. “Veritable revolutions

against order or the sacred laws of nature”, writes Raquel Tibol in the text which presents the work of this artist, fifteen paintings which are an invitation to magic and the total abandonment of reality. Marisa Lara (1960) and Arturo Guerrero (1956) paint subjects taken from contemporary popular mythology: singers, bullfighters and saints. The language is violent and in the final analysis totally foreign to the influence of the European transavant-garde. In these medium format works the color combinations are strident, harsh and antispatial. Between the irony of Naklé and the populism of these Mexican artists – who at times work in a team – it is not difficult to establish certain links regarding form and content. Marta Palau (1934), of Spanish descent like Remedios Varo, works with natural elements such as corn husk and amate “paper”; in the Biennial she presented an installation with several “trunks” (amate paper tied in cylinders), organized in the form of a large circle with bundles of straw tied halfway up the cylinders, and a sort of central totem made of tied corn husk. The ancient skills of tying, weaving, piling and making knots are present in this beautiful poetic installation. From the Caribbean, Cuba presented, in addition to the Amelia Peláez exhibit, two artists working with installations, half way between arte povera, ritualism and kitsch. Both use Afro-American and indigenous elements or objects in works of the conceptual bases of which prove in the end to be too obvious. Special mention should be made, on the other hand, to the beautiful carnival costumes of Peter Minsahll (9), the representative from Trinidad and Tobago. “Callaloo” are the costumes of a real carnivalesque group, all in white and designed on the basis of a circle. The textiles are mounted on curved frames which stretch the material into semi-rigid surfaces. The costumes, which are worn by mannequins, are complemented by fashion drawings and a video with a sound track allowing the public to appreciate the work of the group in action. United States, Canada and Australia A kind of drawing of a red neon on a blue background (S. Antonakos, 1926), an installation with a red wood structure recalling the rafts from the Amazon with a huge painted snake appearing to emerge


from the structure (R. Stackhouse, 1942), a continuous drawing with brushes on huge sheets of paper forming a circular space (Pat Steir, 1940), and a structure of woods and natural stones (M. Singer, 1945) are the entries from the United States. With the exception of the work by Singer, the exhibit is uninteresting and frankly mediocre. Although all the pieces were specially done for the Biennial and located in prime areas, they hardly constitute more than an enormous “brincadeira”. The same comment can be applied to the two pictures presented by the North American artist Donald Baechler invited to the Biennial. He sent two large canvases with infantile images, in almost flat colors, with elements of collage beneath the painting, like spots on the canvas. Most of the six Canadian artists represented at the Biennial work with machines or rather, anti-machines. Absurd apparatus à la Tinguely, although with a more sophisticated technology. Would these works not have been better placed at the recent Venice Biennial, where the main theme was precisely art and science? Another entry which combines the two fields are the holograms of the Australian artist Alexander (1927), three panels with the allegoric theme of censure, prison or repression. The installation of Alfredo Jaar (1956), a Chilean resident in New York and another invited artist of the Biennial, appears to establish a bridge between the two poles of the American continent. Jaar made his installation by setting face to face two photomurals illuminated from behind by neon light; one shows a Cascabel tank made in Brazil and the other a wheat field. A thick black tube extends the cannon of the tank, directed against the wheat. Empty gilt frames hang from the tube. “Utopia and Reality”, which is the title of the work and the theme of the Biennial itself, find their best expression in the work of Jaar, confirming the validity, intelligence and extraordinary vigor of this artist. Europe European art is fully represented in this XIXth edition of the Biennial. The best countries are the Federal Republic of Germany, England, Greece, Switzerland and Spain, and the worst, France. A disciple of Beuys, Anselm Kiefer (1945) is the only artist representing the Federal Republic of Germany. He has brought four

Remedios Varo. The Escape. Detail No. 3 of a triptych. 1961. Oil on wood. Antonio Maro. Chronic-Cosmos, 1986. Mixed media on canvas. 118 x 157 2/5 in.


enormous pictures and one sculpture. Of the pictures, three are paintings and one is a montage on sheets of lead, one of his favorite materials. The exhibit, which is accompanied by an excellent catalogue, is surprising. The three immense and desolate landscapes carried out with several layers of superimposed different media (oil, acrylic, emulsion, enamel, metallic objects) evoke an apocalyptic world, motionless, without color or inhabitants. It is the total erosion and wearing away of the earth – sometimes Kiefer uses a blowlamp to burn the paint – reflection which has reached the depths of

bitterness, the apparent negation of any kind of hope. Armin Zweite, the curator of the exhibit, writes that for Kiefer, man is not the subject of history and that the latter has no finality or purpose. The pictures, he adds, reflect the artist’s resignation. For Kiefer, “it is a resignation seen from afar, that is directed towards possibilities which are still unknown. I do not understand resignation as capitulation...I try to see where I am in all this immensity and I try to reproduce what I see around me” (10). The work on lead, “Women of the Revolution” is based on a text by Michelet. Several lead frames are

Marta Palau. Trunks. Installation with Amate paper cylinders and corn fiber stacks.

Alfredo Jaar. Project for installation, 1987.

screwed onto live juxtaposed large format lead sheets. Each frame holds a dry flower, with a handwritten female name below characterizing the frame. Queen Mary Antoinette is a dry rose. The sculpture entitled Small shovel with wings is hardly any less oppressive: in a very direct way it is about the freedom of the artist, subject to numerous obstacles, such as that of facing the flight of the small shovel, the lead from which it is made of. Kiefer, who is one of the current stars of the European art world, is also one of the highlights of the Biennial. David Mach (1956) and the Boyle family are the representatives of Great Britain. The work of Mach, carried out “in situ” as are all his pieces, appears to be an enormous wave, or several waves, made up of meticulous piles of magazines, weighing several tons, arranged in interminable chromatic sequences. These waves are like lava (because of the solidity of each form) and carry with them several everyday objects from our technological, consumer society: a piece of a computer, a manual concrete mixer, a wheelbarrow, even a bulldozer, and which cannot be contained. The forms overflow from a point of fact the space allocated to the British artist was insufficient and so he linked this space to the adjacent space. The sculpture begins in one area and continues into the next, thus reinforcing the idea of invasion. Mach, a sculptor who


graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1982, uses a number of premises to guide his work. The first and most important is his conviction that there is no reason for sculpture to be necessarily the result of an arduous and solitary battle between the sculptor and his material, generally considered to be a noble one. Mach prefers to work in the open air and in public places, using a variety of industrialized materials such as tires, bottles, plush bears or newspapers. He always uses a local team and often invites the public to participate in the construction process. The heterogeneous materials used are not waste products but real parts of the world and they return to the world once the exhibition is over, because, of course, his montages last only as long as the exhibition does. It is an art which cannot be consumed or bought, made with objects of consumption: the irony is indeed very British. The painted glass fiber works presented by the Boyle family are, in the first place, a considerable technical feat. And the family is indeed a real family: the father is Mark Boyle (1934), the mother, Joan Hills (1935) and the children Sebastian (1962) and Georgia (1964). The “Studies of the surface of the earth” seek to establish an encounter with truth which, according to the group, can be achieved only through our physical senses, to the total exclusion of the emotional and social factors which condition our lives. In this sense, to discover the truth is to discover freedom. And while the Boyles, without doubt, do manage to make visually perfect facsimiles of a piece of platform, beach, ploughed field or quarry, two fundamental doubts arise concerning the validity of the premise upon which this work is based. Firstly, does the recreation of a piece of land by means of a kind of relief hyperrealism really constitute an encounter with truth? Is it really a form of liberation? And secondly, do we really want this kind of “freedom”? George Lappas, one of the Greek artists represented at the Biennial, installed a really delightful montage in an open space on the third floor. It consists of three thousand little figures cut with a blowtorch from thin sheets of lead. The scale of the work, the subject matter and the arrangement which suggests the world of lead soldiers, lined up to begin a game on white squares set regularly over the floor – everything suggests an atmosphere of play, a sort of magic box

George Lappas. Map of the World, 1986. Iron.

which has just been opened by some wise child. The spectator enters, visually, into an infinite story by means of the suggestions evoked by the pieces. Lappas constructed a small house which can actually be visited; some of the planks are cut to form a way in and out of the imaginary space. Switzerland was represented by two artists: the photographer Barnabas Bosshart (1947) and the painter Matias Spescha (1925). The collection of seventy excellent photographs in black and white, taken last year, invites the public to the distant city of Alcantara de Maranhao, in the north east of Brazil. The Swiss photographer, who made live trips to the region, managed to capture aspects of Brazil which have been forgotten in the great cities of the coast. lt is a journey back into time, to enormous broken down houses, to negroes lost in the depths of their minds, alienated from their own history: the old people, or unable to understand it: the children. The series of twelve paintings by Spescha, placed on the floor like a slightly concave wall, evoke metaphysical and religious considerations. Zones of light and shadow, almost black and white, there is a movement across the panels from darkness to clarity, from ignorance and void towards plenitude. Ouka Lele (1957) is a Spanish photographer who gives a very unusual rendering of the “richness of the baroque tradition” (11). On elaborate color photographs, the artist adds watercolors which modify not only the baroque but also the surrealistic

content. There is, for example, the heart of a steer on a plate, which is part of a strange still-life set on a window sill; the other elements are a white cloth à la Zurbarán, a slanting pane of glass over which water is running and an empty glass standing on the pane. The heart has been pierced by an arrow. In the background, an urban landscape: the roofs and chimney stacks of an anonymous neighborhood. The title of the work is “Where are you going, my love, oh my love, with air in a glass and the sea running over a pane?”. Only a conceptual effort by the spectator makes it possible to differentiate the photographic reality and the painted utopia. The technique is impressive, although the ultra-shiny finish is somewhat distracting. Five of the French artists presented at the Biennial are terribly preoccupied with ideas; so much so that they have almost completely forgotten to communicate these in artistic terms. They presented an installation with painting, popular African sculpture (facing away from the spectator), votive prints the size of playing cards and various objects in metal, all of which were placed haphazardly on an enormous green wall. They showed a “museological project” consisting of seven pictures totally incoherent as a single whole (the catalog says there are nine pictures). They also showed other oil paintings based on the most obvious lessons of their transavantgarde colleagues. They used scaffolding to set three enormous letters from the word


Hollywood outside the building and which, when viewed from a specific point to the windows on the second floor, were seen to be completed by the remaining letters. The title was none other than “Hollywood suicide”, in English. Fortunately for France, and for the public at the Biennial, all this nonsense was vigorously countered by the exhibit of the French-Polish artist Roman Opalka (1931). Opalka paints the inexorable flow of time, time as substance. Since 1965, when he began his work entitled 1965–1 (infinite), he has painted or drawn numbers in an uninterrupted sequence which will end only with his death. At the end of each work session, he photographically records his face, always in the same frontal position, always using the same lighting. He also records his voice, pronouncing the numbers and invoking time. White numbers on an

almost white background, like the white hair of the artist. Of the numerous entries from the Central European countries, mentions should be made to the high quality of the engravings and drawings. Far East, Asia and Africa Japan and South Korea were present in the 19th edition of the Biennial. Of the Japanese artists, the most interesting was Kawamata (1953), who works with structures in wood which are similar to walls, labyrinths or scaffolding in the midst of urban landscapes. The work shown at the Biennial consisted of photographic documents and design models of these projects. Kawamata frequently chooses actual demolition sites as his place of work. For a period of three or four days he halts the demolition process, constructs and destroys his structures and then looks

for somewhere else to work. In São Paulo he actually worked in a favela and ideally in three other points of the city, including a building on the Avenida Paulista which was demolished after a fire there in recent months. The wood, consisting generally of linear planks, creates a subtle envelope for the architecture, a sign that something strange is happening inside. The three Korean artists were much more traditional: painting derived from calligraphy, beautiful watercolors on themes from nature, hyper realistic oil paintings depicting droplets of water. India and Bangladesh were also well represented with a pot-pourri of folkloric paintings, drawings and a large amount of engraving done in a technique similar to that of colography. The African countries of Angola, Egypt, Morocco and Mozambique emphasized the violent clash which has occurred between their own traditions and Western art. Most of the entries were pictures, an imported form which is difficult to reconcile with the native forms of expression of these countries. And so we come to the end of this utopian journey through the XIXth edition of the São Paulo Biennial. ln a subsequent visit we shall look at the entries from the enormous territory of Brazil itself. Notes

Anselm Kiefer. Zweistromland. 1985-1987. Familia Boyle. Study of the Surface of the Earth. 71 3/5 x 143 3/4 in.

1. Sheila Leirner, General. Catalog, p. 17. 2.On the first and third floors, only two of the sectors were allocated for the exhibition. The Museum of Contemporary Art and the administrative services of the Biennial itself occupied the rest. 3. “Reduzionismo” in Portuguese. 4. Gabriela Suzana Wilder, General Catalogue, p. 338. 5. Idem. 6. Sonia Salzstein-Goldberg, Ivo Mesquita, General Catalogue, p. 343. 7. A similar experiment was carried out by Marta Menujin at the last Venice Biennial. 8.Mirko Lauer, General Catalogue, p. 284. 9. The catalogue does not give the date of birth of this artist. 10. Anselm Kiefer, General Catalogue, p. 166. 11. Fernando Huici, General Catalogue, p.I84. Translation: Brian Mallet

María Elvira Iriarte Ph.D. in Art History, University of Paris I, Sorbonne. Member of the Editorial Committee of ArtNexus l Arte en Colombia.


Arte en Colombia Magazine 42, year 1989. pp 54-59

Art in Latin America The Persistence of the Picturesque When the Europeans or North Americans hold exhibitions on Latin American art – or the art which is being done in Latin America – it is difficult for the artists and intellectuals south of the border to approve with much enthusiasm the curatorial criteria followed. Aracy Amaral

An art exhibition dealing with one cultural

group but organized by another is always a source of perplexity and hypersensitivity by the cultural group under scrutiny. If a European is the curator of an exhibition of Asian art, it will be difficult for the Oriental cultural group to accept its criteria; and, if we in Latin America were to prepare an exhibition of art in the United States in the twentieth century, the North American critics would smile ironically at such a project. Thus, when the Europeans or North Americans hold exhibitions on Latin American art or the art which is being done in Latin America it is difficult for the artists and intellectuals south of the border to approve with much enthusiasm the curatorial criteria followed. Such exhibitions have become frequent of late, perhaps because of the situation actually being

Manuel Manilla. Poisoning and the Jury. Zinc engraving. 3 x 5 ½ in.

experienced by art. In 1987, in the Indianapolis Museum, there was the show entitled “Art of the Fantastic: Latin America”, which even included Torres García. In 1988, in the Bronx Museum in New York, Luis Cancel presented a major project centered on the Latin American art shown in the United States between 1920 and 1970 – a project which in the final analysis attempted to provide a full view (1) of a partial aspect of Latin American art. “Modernidade”, despite all the criticisms that were made in Brazil and the noncriticisms and sympathetic articles which appeared in France in December 1987, was the only exhibition in which a European curator, Marie Odile Briot, wanted to share her work with Brazilian colleagues.

This year, once again and this time in London, at the prestigious Hayward Gallery on the banks of the Thames, there was another show, titled “Art in Latin America”, organized by the curator Dawn Ades, an art historian specializing in surrealism (her works include Dada and Photomontage) and lecturer at the University of Essex. And there is more: the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington has been preparing for some time an exhibition of art from our continent. The truth of the matter is that a curator will not, for a moment, give up his or her control over the conception of a show and the selection of the works, since his objective is to present an exhibition for “his” public and not for the public of the country or countries covered. And so, what


Circle of the Calamarca Master. School at Titicaca Lake. Archangel With Pistol, late 17th century. Oil on cotton. 17 x 12 1/5 in.

Philomé Obin Toussaint L´Ouverture Receives a Letter From the First Counselor, 1945. Oil on canvas. 22 x 17 in.

emerges in the final product is always seen from the point of view of the curator and his culture and there is no alternative. We may become irritated at this or even express our disgust, but it is a fact that everything leads us towards an attitude of modesty when we see that every culture has its own point of view. And even though the Western metropolis are a reality in the history of art, this does not mean that there are not other artists on the periphery who are not taken into consideration by the First World, blind as it is and confined within the restricted provincialism of the “center of the universe”, arrogantly ignoring other creators. The examples are legion. Furthermore, to see simultaneously in London the exhibition on Latin America and a show entitled “One Hundred Years of Art in Russia”, based on private collections from the Soviet Union, clearly confirms the idea that there are in fact several possible histories of art and that the art of nonmetropolitan peoples should not necessarily be seen as “second-rate”, which was the general tone suggested by the British reviews concerning the Hayward show. Art in Latin America – The Modern Era 1820-1980 could be read in various ways: by reference to the exhibition in itself, with its careful book catalogue of 361 fully illustrated pages, which itself suggests

another reading in the simple comparison of works; another reading, this one much more severe because of the limitations and out of date character, concerns the bibliography at the end of the book-catalog; and finally, we could arrive at yet another reading based on the articles published by the London press. The first contact I had with Dawn Ades was in Buenos Aires, at the end of 1986, when she already had in hand a preliminary draft of the show, which was

Manuel Álvarez Bravo. The Dreamer,

to be called “Art of Latin America since Independence”, apparently unaware of the comprehensive show with the same title which was presented in 1966 by Stanton Catlin (Yale University and the University of Texas at Austin). On that occasion, the meeting of the ICOMI, Dawn Ades met Catlin and asked him to write one of the texts of her exhibition, on the travelling artists of the nineteenth century; another, concerning the section entitled “A radical leap”, covering the neo-concrete artists,


Venezuelan kinetic artists and others, was to be commissioned from Guy Brett. When she came to Brazil in 1987, for the Biennial, progress had been made on her preliminary draft, which retained its marked historical approach. My reservations concerning the choice of Dawn Ades must be withdrawn when account is taken of the fact that there are, to my knowledge, only 50 Latin Americanists (in all areas: economy, politics, history, literature, the arts, etc.) in England. So we can only express our professional admiration for someone who had challenged the “system” governing the arts and the domestic circuit which is totally centered on the United StatesEurope axis and who wanted to do a project on the art of persons born in the southern hemisphere. Such a situation is

Arden Quin. Niory. 1948.Oil. 35 2/5 x 25 1/2 in.

almost like finding someone here with a firm interest in contemporary Morrocan, Chinese, Egyptian or Australian art. For this same reason most of the British press was ironical at best and sometimes simply colonialist in its attitudes. Although Edward Lucie-Smith examined the show on a market-oriented basis, he was still right to question the absence of Pettorutti (Argentina) the first Cubist of the continent, or a master such as de Szyszlo (Peru); and, he was quite correct when he ironically observed that not even the Latin Americans themselves are interested in their own art except as an investment or source of social advancement (in the case of the drug mafia in Colombia). Dawn Ades was also upset that Lucie-Smith should have overstressed the sponsorship of one fourth of the show (by Christie’s, a

beer factory from Mexico, a bank and two Venezuelan collections) when three quarters of the costs were subsidized by the British Council. The fact is, however, that the catalogue does not make this clear. Although in The Independent, GrahamDixon stressed that in the context of the histories of modernism Latin American art seems to be very dated, at the same time he clearly identified the weakness of the final segment of the show which should have been on contemporary art and which Dawn Ades entitled “History and Identity” and which seemed to be a sort of pot-pourri of different countries and artists to which she perhaps had haphazard access and which, furthermore, did not seem to be interrelated. The only conceptual artist who was included was Santiago Cárdenas, from Colombia, with a work from the 1970s (where was the Colombian Antonio Caro or the greater Brazilian conceptual artist Cildo Meireles?). The presence of the Uruguayan sculptor Díaz Valdes was possibly due to a recommendation by the critic Angel Kalemberg, from Montevideo, one of the committee members. Without a doubt the most fulminating article was that written by Tim Hilton, in The Guardian, entitled “A feast and famine”, and which reduced to nothing the art of our continent: he saw our primitive visualism as something to which Europe had already accustomed itself as considering a petit bourgeois matter. “There was an area of Latin American art”, he wrote, “in which the popular and ‘naif’ characteristics find a conscious political expression. Europeans tend to find pleasure in such pictures, a pleasure which is not fully intended by the painter”. In what regards the selection by Guy Brett, although he did not manage to do justice to the Venezuelans who were undervalued and confined to a less than discrete space in the show he did at least receive a barb from the same critic, who argued that his claims concerning a “radical leap associated with the concrete-opticalkinetic artistic movements of the 1950s and 1960s were not convincing when one looked at the work. Soto, Cruz-Diez, Camargo “et al” are as bad now as they were when they first appeared in London in the 1960s”. And the critic did not even remember to mention Otero, the third name in the Venezuelan triad of kinetic artists, or the Argentinian Le Parc of the Groupe de


Xul Solar. The Four Plurentes, 1949. Tempera. 19 2/5 x 14 3/4 in.

Recherches Visuelles, curiously absent from the show. In her historical approach, Dawn Ades examines the geography, the religion and the magic of the New World, its men and their work, the participation of the artist in the social problems of the continent. It is without doubt a European vision. But when we talked about this with the curator, she said: “When I conceived the exhibition, I realized that my point of view had to be subjective and therefore European. It would be a mistake to say that I could be objective in looking at this art”. When I tried to point out that the exhibition, according to the catalogue, went up to 1980, and contained practically nothing after 1960, or of only residual importance in the show as a whole, she replied, in terms similar to those used in the introduction to the catalogue, that to go up to 1980 would be too much: “It would be a different exhibition”. Mexico dominated the show and as a result all the other countries of Latin American paled in importance. Dawn Ades in fact recognized that she had been fascinated, as I suggested, by the history of this country and its artistic achievements throughout history (“Perhaps because I am more familiar with Mexican art”). There were

Emiliano di Cavalcanti. Five Women From Guaratinguetá, 1930. Oil on canvas. 38 x 27 1/2 in.

practically five special rooms dealing with Mexican art: the landscape paintings of Velasco (nineteenth century) and Posada and the popular graphic tradition, muralism, the Taller de Gráfica Popular, and the photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo – an artist of extraordinary talent. But as a whole the show continued to be focused as a space dominated by picturesque qualities; the regional and national feel of the exhibition was very real, whether Dawn Ades accepts this criticism or not. The urban context was largely non-existent, or perhaps a European phenomenon (situated in the northern hemisphere?). At no time did it emerge in the exhibition rooms (furthermore, the Hayward Gallery was indeed transformed into a museum for this show), and the European-oriented concerns which dominated the behavior of the recently independent nations of Latin America in the nineteenth century is clearly evident in the academic pictures. This fact, which was absent from the exhibition, is quite visible from the history of the nineteenth-century painting of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, for example. Even so, the works on show, (although selected a little haphazardly) did highlight the character of this art, its nature, its mestizo quality and

differentness. Brazil was a clear example of this: instead of Belmiro de Almeida, Amoedo, Pedro Américo, Vitor Meirelles, Visconti, the artists selected were Debret, José Correia Lima, Leandro Joaquim, Miguel Benicio Dutra, Almeida Junior (The Guitar Player), as well as Weingartner (with a forest landscape) and Porto Alegre (drawing of a Brazilian Forest), as well as a large number of works from all countries by anonymous and popular artists or by European travelers visiting our countries. AII this would seem to be a reaffirmation of the fact that we are condemned to being rural nations, the exporters of raw materials, the mandrills of “erudite” forms of behavior which are the prerogative of the First World. Hence the absence of any consideration of the urban or sub-urban context in which most of the population of Latin America now lives, its industrialization and its manufacturing capacity. As well as being “picturesque” in its approach, the show was also, as the writer in The Guardian noted, “culture-happy”. Apart from our “exotic” aspect and differentness, the only thing that seemed to interest the organizers was the fusion of art with social and political matters. No-one doubts that Mexican muralism was one of the most powerful movements


Diego Rivera. Landscape of a Zapatista The Guerrilla, 1915.

Carlos Cruz-Díez. Physichromie No. 42, 1961. Cardboard. 12 1/5 x 12 1/5 in.

of the century which anticipated the intricate relationship between art and politics which would sweep all of the Western nations from the 1930s onwards. Even so, how can we accept that a section entitled “Private Worlds and Public Myths” should mix artists so different as Matta and GTO, Mestre Didi and Merida, Tamayo and the primitives of Haiti side by side to the metaphysical artist Aizemberg, from Argentina? It is obvious that in this section on surrealism, which is the specialist interest of Dawn

Ades, the curator would have preferred to have concentrated on all the expressions of the unconscious and magic, mixing together all the above-mentioned names and putting them on a par with Remedios Varo, Leonora Carrington and the painful work of Frida Kahlo. But the most serious mistake was to have excluded such important names as those just mentioned, without giving proper emphasis to artists who are not Cuban or Chilean or Latin American, such as Matta and Wifredo Lam, but who

Frida Kahlo. My Grandparents, My Parents and Me (Genealogical Tree), 1936. Oil and tempera on metal panel. 12 x 13 1 /2 in.

nevertheless are important because of their artistic contribution to the history of Western art in our century. The failure to give proper emphasis to Matta’s contribution, for example, would appear to ignore not only his links with Gorky and Masson but also hid decisive role in the United States and in the emergence of the North American abstract expressionist movement as well as the influence of surrealism on it. At the same time as the emphasis on the constructive movements in Latin America, one of the great contributions of our artists in this century was particularly unfortunate. This aspect was fragmented into three parts: Torres García – the author of “constructive universalism”, mentor of the Argentinean concrete artists (and of Nevelson!) – was weakly represented by two canvases and a relief in the section entitled Modernism and the search for roots, and not alongside the Argentinean concrete artists who emerged in the 1940s (Madí and Concrete Art / lnvention). The latter, in their turn, were also scantily represented (Girola, lommi, Kosice and Quinn) and did not have the force of rupture with the twodimensional surface in its articulation with space, the great innovation of the Madí group. And why was Guy Brett not entrusted with curating all of the Latin American constructivism (the 1930s in Uruguay, the 1940s in Argentina, the 1950s and 1960s in Brazil, the 1960s in Venezuela and the


1970s in Mexico)? The sensitivity of this critic would, without a doubt, have offered a useful reading of the force of this movement which reflected the impetus of the industrialization of these countries as seen through their urban expression. The section organized by Guy Brett offered a personal and sensitive vision resulting from his previous contacts: thus he paid homage to Mira Schendel, who recently died, highlighted works by Oiticica and Lygia Clark, although the space devoted to these artists was not sufficient to illustrate their exemplary careers. Moreover, Mathias Goeritz, from Mexico, was represented by only a “maquette” of his Serpent, although this great sculptor anticipated the minimalist movement in the United States. Equally inexplicable was the absence of (at least) reproductions of the Towers of Satellite City, a landmark work from 1957 and which announced, in sculptural terms, the scenographical character of post-modern architecture. In the case of the major Venezuelan kinetic artists – Otero, Cruz Diez and Soto – the same economy was all too evident: they were present, but without the inclusion of any significant works. Perhaps a large space should have been given to the absent environmental sculptures of Otero, or to the indescribable sonorous Penetrable of Soto, from his museum in Ciudad Bolívar, in Venezuela. These are three artists who work on an urban and gigantic scale and they were represented here by small works. The concretism of São Paulo, in its turn, did not appear even

Mathias Goeritz. The Serpent, 1953. Steel sculpture at the patio of El Eco. Joaquín Torres García. Two Men, 1920. Painted wood. 11 parts.

Hélio Oiticica. Nucleus 1, 1960. Painted wood, mirror.

with the Manifesto Rupture (included in the list at the end of the catalogue) although the poetic contribution of the brothers Campos and Pignatari was mentioned. In conclusion, the entire exhibition offered considerable enchantment in its selection of nineteenth century works and in the pride of place accorded to Mexico with its artists of social commitment. There were, however, clear curatorial difficulties with regards to the tendencies of other periods and cultures. In other words, if we cease to think in “picturesque” terms, it is difficult to focalize art outside Europe or that of the North American culture which already has its framework. The same difficulty would obviously result if we tried to show the special characteristics of contemporary art in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, etc. At the same time we can understand the concern to show at every turn and in each section of the exhibition the popular art of the Latin American continent (after all, it accounts for the great mass of our population and culture), and this was in fact possible in the case of Brazil, thanks to the Jacques van de Beuque collection, from Rio de Janeiro. However, looked at as an attempt to achieve communication through the visual arts, the show was like a conversation between the deaf. What was said was, once again, simply what they wanted us to hear.


Arte en Colombia Magazine 44, year 1990. pp 50-57

Joseph Beuys. Ray Illuminating a Deer, 1958-1995. Installation. Aluminum, iron, bronze.

20 São Paulo Biennial th

A Retrospective view Curiously, without there being any kind of prior agreement amongst the artists themselves and without any regulations being imposed by the organizers of this Biennial, one of the few common denominators of the exhibition was its ecological content, the rediscovery of nature and even a certain nostalgia for a world which is fast disappearing.


María Elvira Iriarte

he 20th edition of the São Paulo Biennial was held between October and December 1989. Since it was an event marked by a number of serious internal disputes, sudden appointments and noisy resignations – the first conflict arose in connection with the poster for the show – the local press directed its microphones and cameras more towards the protagonists of the scandal rather than the actual works being presented. Without

doubt the climate in which the Biennial was prepared was far from being ideal for the tremendous task of organanizing and mounting such an event. Even so, a good general level was achieved and there was a pleasing fluidity in the presentation of the works. Once again there were prizes – an International Grand Prix, awarded to an individual artist, another for the best representation by a country and a third, for acquisition, reserved for the Brazilian participants. There was a

return to a montage by country, instead of the presentation by analogous language which had characterized the two previous Biennials. On the other hand it was decided to suppress the conceptual framework which, in the guise of a title, had served as a guide-line and point of reference on past occasions. Naturally these decisions caused sharp criticism and the show was accused of being retrograde and antiquated. There were three main curators: Carlos von Schmidt, for


the international section; Joao Candido Galvao, curator of the Special Events; and, Stella Teixeira de Barros, curator of the Brazilian section. Furthermore, the national historical exhibitions each had their own curator (1). This triple curatorship was a compromise formula, arrived at after an agitated and long debate on the names of a possible general curator. Moreover, in his presentation text, Alex Periscinoto, Director-President of the Biennial, spoke of “the three twentieth biennials” (2). Concerning the difficult situation of the curators, Aracy Amaral quite rightly pointed out: Those who are involved in the holding of biennials know that what is exhibited does not depend on the “will” of its curators. In addition to budgetary restrictions, which impose limitations as regards transportation, insurance, catalogs, etc., there is an obvious dependency on commissions which in other countries can defend – or not – such a Biennial as that of São Paulo” (3). What appears to be a reproach totally justified by this eminent Brazilian critic in fact encompasses a complex dilemma regarding cultural policy. Should the participating countries, especially those from Latin America, send work by established artists, widely recognized at the international level, front rank artists who will bring sparkle and brilliance to the Biennial, despite the enormous costs which such a selection would imply? Or, should they prefer the less ostentatious and more risky policy of opening up the way to young artists, whose career is becoming established and for whom

participation in an event such as the Sao Paulo Biennial would provide a timely and valuable form of support? It is easy to give arguments both for and against these two approaches. On the other hand it is not easy, in all consciousness, to opt for either. The difficulty is probably due to the fact that the objectives proposed in the organization of the Biennial are not identical to those established by the authorities responsible for sending in the foreign exhibits. Carlos von Schmidt tried to guarantee the high level of the Biennial by inviting a brilliant list of international artists for the special rooms, including Ives Klein, Richard Hamilton, David Hockney, Maria Helena Vieira Da Silva, Alfredo Hlito and Guayasamín, Frank Stella and Alan Belcher. Some of these artists were represented by retrospective-style exhibitions (Klein, Hamilton, Vieira Da Silva, Guayasamín); others, by recent works, including pieces done specifically for the Biennial, such as the drawings sent by telefax by David Hockney. It is obvious that these major names offered few surprises to the average fairly well-informed visitor. This in no way detracted from the enormous pleasure of seeing their work at the show, as landmarks already known in the adventure of contemporary art. From this viewpoint, the shows by Klein, Vieira Da Silva and Hamilton were the highlights, whereas the three works by Frank Stella – constructions from the Moby Dick series (4) and set in a clearly insufficient space – made one long for the rigor and elegance of his production of twenty five years ago.

Alfredo Hilto. Effigy With Pink Background, 1979. Acrylic on canvas. 39 ¼ x 59 in.

The representations from the participating countries were distributed over the three floors of the Biennial, thus eliminating the connotation of privileged space which had been so obvious at the last Biennial. The Brazilian delegation was grouped together in the middle of the second floor, while almost all the invited artists were presented on the top floor. The special and historical exhibitions occupied part of the ground floor. The central hall on the ground floor, next to the ramp, was reserved for the Federal Republic of Germany, which presented the last installation done by Joseph Beuys and the recent sculptureinstallation by Ulrich Ruckriem. The work by Beuys, entitled Thunderbolt with resplendent deer – a spatial ensemble of 42 pieces in aluminum, bronze and iron – was done between 1958 and 1985 and is in fact a sum of small and medium format works, very different one from the other, and unified conceptually by the central piece of the Thunderbolt. This piece, an enormous element in cast iron, was suspended from the second floor of the building, near the curved ramp which led to the upper floors. The visual conflict was obvious: an optimistic, upward thrust, as K. Gallwitz, the German curator (5), called it, with all the force of the work being rooted in the ground. As in all Beuys’ installations, Gallwitz added, “this one has characteristics which can be interpreted either traditionally or speculatively. Prehistoric reminiscences, very clear allusions to objects and abstract parts which establish a series of constantly changing meanings...[it is] a

Oswaldo Guayasamín. Women Crying, 1963-1965. Collection. Oil on canvas. 58 2/5 x 31 in.


Partial view of the Colombia Hall.

Ofelia Rodríguez. Three Characters On Air, 1989. 67 x 110 1/5 in.

critical mass...a heritage which still has no explanations nor replies “ (6). Isolated from its surroundings by a cordon which prevented the public from moving around the various pieces, the installation became even more cryptic. Near the Beuys installation there were the spaces allocated to Spain, Belgium, Venezuela, Colombia, Denmark, Korea, Portugal and Italy. And a void, the contribution of Austria, proposed as a “visual tranquilizer”. The most luminous and freshest exhibit was that of Colombia; the densest, that of Venezuela; the most solid, that of Spain and the most disappointing the Italian. Three artists represented Colombia: Ofelia Rodríguez, Diego Mazuera and Nadín Ospina. The three belong to the most recent generations and use languages which are close to expressionism, although their techniques and procedures vary. They are as much constructors of objects as painters, sculptors and sketchers. The selection of work sent to the Biennial made it possible for the pieces to be mounted in a single space, although the specific personality of each artist was respected. The Colombian exhibit was one of the most popular amongst the public. The canvases and Magical Boxes by Ofelia Rodríguez, as well as the objects and installations by Nadín Ospina, attracted attention by their originality. The denser work of Mazuera Gómez was seen as more in line with the dramatic situation which Colombia experienced during the final months of last year.

Gladys Meneses, who is known mainly as an engraver, was the sole representative of Venezuela. She installed enormous assembled plates of melamine and steel and worked in various direct incision techniques. Most of the works were composed of three or more modules on which abstract forms unfurled, enormous fluid extensions like currents of water over an ever changing horizon. The color depended on the materials: chestnut, brilliant areas of polished metal, black. Unfortunately the space allocated was insufficient for the number of works presented and this made it difficult to view them properly. Spain sent work by two young artists, both sculptors, Fernando Sinaga and Manuel Saíz, whose careers have been

José Miguel Tola de Habich. The Eunuchs of War IV, 1989. Series. Enamel on wood. 70 4/5 x 94 2/5 in.

developed within the orbit of the postminimalism of the late 1980s. Sinaga works with unadorned forms, materials of industrial origin and with a very subtle handling of such variables as light, composition and balance. Saíz incorporates into the oxidized iron some living element (grass, small shrubs) which adds a sense of time. The works become modified and this is the process which most interests the artist. The Italian curator, Augusta Monferini, wanted to show four stages in the contemporary sculpture of her country with works by four artists, selected as representatives of their generations: Arnaldo Pomodoro (1926), Luciano Vistosi (1931), Mario Ceroli (1938) and Roberto Gnozzi (1947). The works were in metal, polychrome wood and glass, an absolutely heterogeneous collection in which not even the three recent bronzes by Pomodoro managed to generate interest.


Germán Cabrera. Displacement 3, 1976. Metal and wood. 20 2/5 x 13 3/5 x 16 1/2 in.

The second floor housed eighteen other foreign delegations and the exhibitions of the twenty four Brazilian artists selected by the curator Stella Texeira de Barros. Particularly interesting were the exhibits from Japan, Canada and Mexico, as well as works by individual artists from other delegations. This floor also housed the exhibit from France, selected by the curator Catherine Millet and which won the prize for the best national representation. Apart from the Ives Klein retrospective – very cleverly installed by the curator alongside the work of three present-day artists, rather than being presented in the space allocated for specially invited artists on the third floor – the French exhibit did not indisputably merit the prize. The excellent Klein show lost some of its brilliance with the acrylic montages which unnecessarily complicated the reading of the monochrome works. The canvases, enclosed in boxes, were converted into objects. Nothing was further away from Klein’s intentions when he painted his absolute colors. Alain Jacquet presented six recent works in the line of the de-codification of the images of the mass media which has characterized his production for almost three decades. His enormous canvases are based on the reading and re-composition of images transmitted by satellite through the use of highly perfected electronic instruments: the graphic document obtained is transmitted to a computer which reads the

Guillermo David Kuitca. Foreground: Christ’s Childhood. Mixed media. 23 2/5 x 47 1/5 x 15 3/4 in.

chromatic scale by means of a laser belong to everyone), achieved some beam. The equipment then retransmits interesting results. France was allocated the information to an electronic pencil one of the best spaces available to the inwhich can cover canvases measuring vited countries (twice as big as that of the several square meters, for example 3 United States and at least twice as large by 5. The artist can thus work “with- as that of the Beuys show). One wonders out putting his hands on the picture, to what extent the jury’s decision was except for a few strokes to touch up the affected by the montage. One of the clearest cases of partiality oil” (7). The results are images which, only when seen from very close up, are in the distribution of space this time was different from blown up photographs. Japan. Represented by three sculptors A technical feat, no doubt, but does his who work with wood, the Japanese representation as a whole was undoubtedly have much purpose? Antonio Somerero, an Italian resident one of the most interesting of the national in Paris, was another of the French repre- shows. However, it was presented in sentatives. He presented five enormous what was in fact a corridor, a transit area canvases with uniform white back- which made it necessary to put up safety grounds on which he set closed semi-geometrical Gladys Meneses. The Moon Was the Accomplice of the Nabaraos, forms (one or two in each 1988. (6 panels). Melanin, steel. 47 1/5 x 31 2/5 in. composition) and which, because of the irregular treatment of the perimeter, generated a volumetric illusion. Since the time of Malevitch there have been so many antecedents to such an approach! The “spontaneous” selection by the French curator seemed to be inexplicable. Finally, there was an excellent photographer, Philippe Thomas, who either through his hypertrophied images of detail or the anonymous images of the world of advertising agencies (Readymades


when everything – and nothing – is possible. Katsure Funakoshi uses a more explicit kind of figuration: his heads, busts and complete figures could be read as extremely refined mannequins. Sculpted in wood, polychromed with great skill, these Micha Ullman. The Vessel of Time, 1988. Rusted steel and soil. anonymous figures inevitably take us back to cordons around the works. The curator, a world which we only partially underTadayasu Sakai proposed as the basis of stand. The artist himself has said: “It is not his selection a novel by Kobo Abe, entitled a question of opening up new paths, but The Box Man, which discussed the loss to avoid letting things become superficial. of individual identity in contemporary They must be made meaningful by scatsocieties. By means of metaphors, both tering different flavors over them ...’ (8). figurative and abstract, the Japanese art- The boxes by Kanje Wakae, receptacles ists illustrated this predicament: to what with unexpected contents – a row of extend does a human being become eggs, for example – were less suggesresigned to a non-individual existence? tive, although no less meaningful. Of the Akiro Kamiyama sought an answer in an individual works presented on the same imaginary world where ludic elements – floor, mention must be made of those in particular toys – offer a possible solu- sent by Alejandro Montoya (Mexico), tion. His constructions in painted wood, Rubén Torres Llorca (Cuba), José Miguel half model, half fantastic creations of a Tola (Perú), Germán Cabrera (Uruguay), poetical world, remind us of childhood, Guillermo Kuitca (Argentina), Betty Goodwin (Canada) and Micha Ullman Akira Kamiyama. Is There a Moon Tonight? (Israel). Thirty six drawings (ink on 1989. Painted wood. 59 x 59 x 70 4/5 in. paper) by Alejandro Montoya, aged 30, formed the Mexican exhibit. AII had the same subject: bodies in the morgue. The artist takes us into these terrifying places with their accumulation of bodies of nobody, without identification papers, the anonymous victims of urban violence. With energetic lines, which Katsura Funakoshi. Installation with four sculptures. Polychrome wood. Height of each piece: 72 in.

however distant from expressionism, are extremely powerful and delicate, objective but never realistic, detailed yet economic, Montoya records, like some delirious spectator, the anomaly of the megapolis; this “unprecedented attack which our itching for progress, civilization and domination has waged against the universe” (9). The theme of death, a commonplace in Mexican art, appears in these works without any mythical, religious, exemplary or histrionic value: it is a hypnotic register, both intimate and totally depersonalized. AII this seemed very distant from the Brazilian culture evident at the Biennial, a culture which considers death as a necessary accident, without any transcendental importance. Rubén Torres Llorca (Cuba, 1957) presented Labyrinth, an installation which consisted of a journey through narrow black corridors in which, like icons, the visitor could see twenty or so sculptures, photomontages and reliefs; objects dealing with the popular culture of Cuba. The journey-installation was an attempt “to negate the frontiers governing the conventional reception of a work of art” (10). The objects appearing along the circuit were figurative and had a heavy rhetorical content, accentuated by the title-texts of each piece. For example, a box placed like a relief against a wall had a small slit in it through which a head – just the eyes could be seen – along with the text: Solitude is the worst torment. This tautology was apparent at other points in the work: the photograph of an old man with a huge patch covering one eye was part of a triptych entitled Remedies for eye ache. The popular aspect, the ironic use of religious images – Catholic or animist – the conceptual collages suggested by the forms joined together in impossible objects and an almost unlimited range of possible interpretations made the Labyrinth one of the most suggestive works of the show. José Miguel Tola de Habich, a Peruvian artist, presented five paintings on wood from a series entitled The Eunuchs of War. The irregular formats, the beautiful coloring, the forms themselves at once suggested an association with the painting decoration of Nazca ceramics, although this in no way restricted the interpretation of the works. The veteran Uruguayan


sculptor Germán Cabrera (1903) sent twelve pieces produced between 1965 and 1979, abstract forms in metal and wood. The metallic assemblages – the expressionist part – were only half contained by regular structures in unpainted wood. The suggestion of dialogue was irresistible. Of the two Argentinians, Kuitca (1961) brought nine works from his recent production: paintings with a heavy conceptual content and objects. In this case, ridiculously small beds with the mattresses worked like maps of regions of Eastern Europe. The closed, isolated spaces, the impossibility of communication (the maps are of regions which could not, until very recently, be visited) are ideas which the artist handles in an obsessive manner, using apparently neutral language: little color, gray tones, fragmentary transcription of texts, maps, a floor plan. Kuitca, the youngest of the Latin American artists at the Biennial, is also one of the most talented. Canada was represented by Betty Goodwin (Montreal, 1923), who was trained in print-making. However, the curator France Morin chose for the Biennial some of her large format drawings, done in a wide variety of techniques (oil, pastel, graphite, charcoal, gouache), two free standing and several wall sculptures. The language of this Canadian artist combines abstract elements with figurative lines, almost always of the human body. The result retains the freshness of a sketch and the expressive nature of direct lines which appear to be corrected over and over again, in a profound and mysterious space. The three magnificent pieces by the Israeli sculptor Micha Ullman suffered from a lack of space. The enormous external geometric volumes, in plaques of oxidized iron and almost minimalist in their conception, contained inside an interplay of planes of the same coloring as the iron, but done with ocher earths from the State of São Paulo. The earth planes, inclined against the horizontal base of the three sculptures, enriched their contents by providing a surprising poetic note. It was impossible, however, to overlook the fact that during the exhibition the metallic surfaces of the three pieces were savagely scratched with graffiti – a

Alain Jacquet. Space Craft, 1988. Acrylic on canvas. 76 3/4 x 173 1/5 in.

Antonio Semeraro. Untitled, 1989. Oil on canvas. 133 4/5 x 220 2/5 in.

fashion nowadays amongst the youth of Sao Paulo – which caused serious problems for the international curator and gave rise to enormous tension between the artists of other works which could be similarly attacked. The Biennial authorities had the works restored very quickly, but the moral damage had been done. For obvious reasons, the works which represented Brazil were much more numerous than those of the other countries. The curator decided to present her selection in a framework of individual exhibitions, barely related the one with the other by their common geographical origin. There is not enough space available here to examine all these exhibits one by one; I shall thus confine myself to mentioning four, all of which were really outstanding – those of Sergio de Camargo, Carmela Gross, Katie van Scherpenberg and Marcos Coelho Benjamin. The first of these, Sergio de Camargo (Río, 1930) presented fifteen medium format works, almost all from 1985, white marbles or black stones from Belgium, from which the sculptor extracts his geometrical forms related to cylinders and diagonals. Compared with his work of a few years ago, Camargo’s language has become more simplified: he now prefers single forms or pairs of closed forms, limpid and forceful. His work impresses the spectator effortlessly, with the serenity

Fernando Sinaga. Untitled, 1989. Lead, aluminum, crystal. 80 1/4 x 20 x 8 3/5 in.

of a language tried and tested over many years of professional activity. Perhaps this explains the great beauty of his work. Carmela Gross (1946), an artist from São Paulo who has worked in painting, sculpture and drawing, studied at the University of São Paulo where she al so teaches. She presented a poetic space created with enormous abstract blotches based on reiterative lines. Moments before the sign was how Ana María Moraes described them in her text for the catalog of the Brazilian artists. The subtlety of the surroundings of the installation came from its conceptual character as well as the very refined working of nontraditional materials: a fine covering of plastic foam placed on the wall drawn in charcoal, two enormous sheets of banana craft paper stuck to the wall as a support for a silver background and


Martín Puryear. Yearning, 1981. Wood. 16 x 32 ft. Courtesy: Ofelia Rodríguez.

gray drawings, laminated mica and iron rods used as lines. The space had two visual axes. Let us suppose that east and west are the drawn walls, with north and south being those with sculptural elements. Using subtle tones of ocher, pink and gray, the artist contrasted her open, nebulous configurations with the solidity of the elements used on the north and south walls. The layers of mica formed a conical kind of object, screwed to the wall at its base. Opposite, the centripetal arrangement of the rod-lines encompassed an indeterminate space, which tended to slip away. The installation required the spectator to adopt a kinetic vision and proposed a totalizing experience of space generated by the treatment of the four walls (11). Unfortunately the jury declared this work hors concours and awarded the acquisition prize to the tired expressionist painting of the JapaneseBrazilian artist Flavio Shiró. Fourteen paintings on wood, worked with thick pigments extracted from natural earths and added together with elements incrusted in the chromatic mass

formed the Sacred Way by the works of the artist who won the Katie van Scherpenberg. Grand Prix at this Biennial, the North The pieces were installed American sculptor Martin Puryear. Howin half-light, in a room ever, it was applied to the works of the painted ocher-pink. The sculptor Marcos Coelho Benjamin (Minas paintings were isolated Gerais, 1952), who also won one of the from their surroundings prizes reserved for the Brazilians. The text and created a very special continues: “Recovering the traditions of atmosphere. “The main artisans and the santeiros (popular artists idea is the place of ritual; who fashion sacred images), Benjamin the sequence of works endows artisanal craft with a spirit which leads the spectator to try is not just contemporary but also a-temand decipher a sense, a poral...” (13). The objects created by this way of seeing. The forms artist, free standing sculptures or reliefs, are of the simplest kind have a very special kind of magic which (planes of color, irregu- combines by means or formulas known lar lines, pointillé, circles); only to Benjamin elements of traditional they are suggested by the knowledge going back to the beginning material itself and repre- of history and a formal glossary which is sent absolutely nothing familiar to us: that of abstract art of the (12). They may, in fact, not geometric kind. This “cultured primitive” be figurative, but rather brought to the 20th Biennial one of the best evoke in an eloquent man- exhibitions representing Brazil. ner the images of some On the third floor of the Niemayer primitive world, intimately building, in addition to the works by sperelated to nature and man’s cially invited artists already mentioned, early attempts to harness its there were thirteen foreign exhibits, inforces. Curiously, Carmela Gross. Vase Cone, 1989. Detail. Installation. Painted without there wood. 59 x 59 x 70 4/5 in. being any kind of prior agreement amongst the artists themselves and without any regulations being imposed by the organizers of this Biennial, one of the few common denominators of the exhibition was its ecological content, the rediscovery of nature and even a certain nostalgia for a world which is quickly disappearing. AII this was achieved through the most varied kinds of languages, from the extreme complexity of Beuys’ installations or the intellectualized poetics of the Belgian artists, to those artists who sought to recover primitive gestures, such as Gross or van Scherpenberg. “A rough piece of wood, tools, hands which work feverishly, and a headful of dreams…” (13) would seem to describe


cluding in particular those from Holland, Chile and the United States. Holland was represented by the conceptual sculptor Marinus Boezem (1934), with eleven works. The surprising and poetic installations of this Dutch artist are made with objects such as drinking glasses, ventilators, coffee tables with their table cloths, plans of a gothic cathedral, photographs, wooden birds, lights and air. The last element mentioned was made clear by the working ventilators, aerial photographs or the presence of the birds. Obviously the central theme of the “sculptural thought” of Boenzem, to use the phrase applied by the curator Gije van Tuyl (14), is space – a disquieting subject for the artist, who suffers from acute agoraphobia and has never gone anywhere except on his own two feet. Gabriel Barros, the Chilean curator, chose four artists interested in the language of the graphic arts and in matters dealing with ecology. Bernadita Vettier (1944), the most interesting of the four, created a multi-media installation with polyester material, dyes, light and sound; a space which alluded to the deterioration of the quality of life in our large urban centers and in which the figure of the cow served as a metaphor for the stupidity and passivity of the urban masses. The artist says that “... both are useful, produce benefits and are manageable and domestic, they let themselves be labeled, enumerated, agglomerated and they live in houses/enclosures ... “ (15). The presence of the sculptor Martin Puryear restored the prestige which his country had lost with its poor showings at the last three Biennials. A native of Washington (1941), Puryear has had vast training, which includes two years of voluntary teaching in Sierra Leone, another two as a student invited by the Royal Academy of Art of Stockholm, a good dozen scholarships and national prizes, including a post-graduate scholarship in sculpture at Yale Universtiy and another from the Guggenheim Foundation – which permitted him to study the architecture of traditional Japanese temples and gardens. He has shown his work regularly since 1962. The selection of works which were presented at the XXth Biennial was organized by the curator Kellie Jones,

Marcos Coelho Benjamim. Untitled, 1989. Metal, wood. 82 1/5 x 19 3/5 x 3 in

with the sponsorship of the Jamaica Arts Center. In the presentation text the curator emphasized some of the main aspects of his work: firstly, its very clear place in the field itself of sculpture, in the strict sense of the term. Puryear creates volumetric objects, with a perfect mastery of mass and volume and an “innate elegance”. The forms, apparently simple and related to the minimalist vocabulary, give rise to a series of sensations: “... they are vaguely familiar and at the same time unknown…they seem to be able to ‘function’, but this does not happen…they are possibly pre-historic or from some contemporary culture which uses traditional building methods” (16). Puryear uses artisanal procedures and techniques commonly associated with the work of

carpentry, blacksmithing and the building of boats. The manual process of making the pieces is perfectly visible. There is an extraordinary harmony between the materials selected and the forms of the sculptures, as if the latter were the obvious result of some organic alchemy and not the product of intellectual work and the hands of the artist. The Grand Prix awarded to Puryear was, without doubt, a just recognition of the best exhibition of this year’s Biennial. NOTES (1) Vilanova Artigas and Paulo Mendes da Rocha, architects. Curator: Gabriel Borcha. Abstraction, The Biennial Effect 1954-1963. Curator: Casimiro Xavier de Mendoca. Brecheret and Brennand. Curator: César Luis Pires de Mello. “Octavio Pereira - Master Printer”. Curator: María Bonomi. (2) Alex Periscinoto, Presentation, General Catalog, XXth Biennial, pp.8 and 11. (3) Aracy Amaral, A XX Bienal (Anotaçoes de un observador), Estado de Sao Paulo, 9 December 1989, Cultural Supplement. (4) The Chase: First, Second, Third (says). 1988-89. Mixed media on magnesium and aluminum. 256 x 582 x 127.5 cm; 280 x 555 x 131.5 cm; 480.7 x 694.7 x 174 cm. (5) Klaus Gallwitz, General Catalog, XXth Biennial, p.122. (6) Idem. (7) Catherine Millet, General Catalog, XXth Biennial, p.70. (8) Katsura Funakoshi, General Catalog, XXth Biennial, p.92. (9) José Santiago, General Catalog, XXth Biennial, p.101. (10) Rubén Torres Llorca, General Catalog, XXth Biennial, p.58. (11) The space of Camela Gross measured 11.20 x 9.60 x 4.95 meters. (12) Katie van Scherpenberg, General Catalog, XXth Biennial, p.I72. (13) Affonso Henrique Temm R., General Catalog, XXth Biennial, p.174. (14) Gije van Tuyl, General Catalog, XXth Biennial, p.80. (15) Bernardita Vattier, General Catalog, XXth Biennial, p.27. (16) KelIie Jones, Martin Puryear catalog, p.13.

María Elvira Iriarte Ph.D. in Art History, University of Paris, Sorbonne. Member of the Editorial Committee of ArtNexus, Arte en Colombia.


Arte en Colombia Magazine 50, Year 1992. pp 84-88

Alejandro Otero. Partial view of the exhibition. 21st São Paulo Biennial.

21 São Paulo Biennial st


maría elvira iriarte

ajor art biennials have always been the target of all kinds of criticism, as Bélgica Rodríguez pointed out in a recent article on the 9th San Juan Biennial (l). Very few people have come to their defense, and even less have recognized the enormous effort which is required to devise, organize and mount a biennial. In the case of the most recent edition of the São Paulo Biennial, held from October to December 1991, the critical deluge reached almost absurd levels. Of the local critics and press, only one voice that of Aracy Amaral defended the event (during a meeting of artistic personalities organized by the Latin American Memorial Foundation). All the others were critical, a situation which by any standards is both unjust and nonobjective. It is true that the presentation of this edition of the Biennial was almost a miracle and held in the worst circumstances imaginable:

funds frozen by a Government which is totally uninterested in culture; widespread economic crisis; very serious problems within the Biennial Foundation itself, which resulted in the resignation of some members of the Technical Art Committee and the general Curator. Two weeks before the event opened, its feasibility was still being debated within the Municipal Council. Even so, the show managed to open on schedule. All these obstacles were circumstantial. Others, which were more serious and really damaged the institution, arose as a result of the criteria governing the preparation of the regulations. A biennial cannot just sit back and wait for artists to participate. If there are no clear concepts concerning the objectives being sought, then the curators will inevitably be faced with an avalanche of heterogeneous works which make it impossible to establish any unified and coherent reading. The task would be

reduced simply to the establishment of a relatively satisfactory montage. lnstead of promoting ideas and concepts, they would simply be functioning as editors, not to say interior decorators. On the other hand, it is obvious that the local jury which selected participants on the basis of slides would not be accepted by artists of international stature (whether Brazilian or foreign). Those who were presented referred to an article which made provision for “critical revision projects”, used for better or worse. This was the case with the Colombian, Argentinean and Chilean artists as well as the anthology of work by Alejandro Otero. Art criticism is an activity which is necessarily dependent on very specific factor of time and place. De-contextualized, it can result in gross errors. A selection jury exercises a critical activity. The Brazilian selection committee, none of whose members enjoyed an international reputation, with the exception of the general Curator, Joao Cándido Galvao – although in the sphere of scenography, he was not in a position to assume the role which it claimed, or to fulfill the functions which were the responsibility of the curators of each country. A specific example was the inexplicable acceptance of the Venezuelan artist Mariana Bunimov – whose professional activity extends over


a period of less than three years – and the rejection of all the other Latin Americans who presented themselves motu propio. Geopolitics are still important in the world and to try and invite “all artists” to apply for the Sao Paulo Biennial is an absurdity, or an inexcusable act of ingenuity for an institution which has existed for some forty years. Another critical point is that the São Paulo Biennial has built its reputation in the sphere of the plastic arts, not in any other. Because of the absence of any classification criteria, and on the very dubious pretext of trying to be “up to date”, it has in recent editions been giving attention to languages which run parallel to the plastic arts. Such languages are of course valid, but clearly different: they include video art, design, and scenography. If the São Paulo Biennial is now to be declared a Festival of Art(s) and the entire structure of the Foundation is modified accordingly, then there is no problem. But if this is not the case, the so called parallel events will end up by smothering the original nucleus of the Biennial. This was particularly the case in this last edition. Ballet and theater were more significant than the show in the pavilion in the Ibirapuera park. But the fact remains that the specificity of each language is still undeniable. The newold utopia of their “integration” does not have any real basis, except perhaps in the very few works of some real geniuses. In my view, the dispersion of efforts simply leads to an overall weakening, because the resources available are inadequate. Because the audience is much closer to illiteracy than polyglottism, and because the felicitous age of homo ludens pre- or post- historic does not matter, it is no longer a reality. The Biennial ended on the 10th of December 1991. On that day the names of the prize-winners were published. There were no actual “prizes”, since the Biennial was unable to raise the necessary funds to make the actual awards. The jury, exclusively Brazilian, selected two German artists, Horst Antes and Max Uhlig, for the first and second prizes; and the Brazilians Gerardo de Barros, Cristina Canale, and Alex Cerveny. It also mentioned the names of Alejandro Otero, Livio Abramo and Andrei Serban. The temptation to add the rather hackneyed “without comment”

Ann Hamilton. Parallel Lines, 1991. Detail. Installation. 26 x 89 x 16 1/5 ft.

is very strong indeed; but I would like to be constructive, since I rank myself amongst those who want to defend rather than detract from the Biennial. The least that I can say is that the prize list, since there was one, seemed to be totally incomprehensible. Let us try, however, to discuss the matter. Horst Antes (1936) is a painter who has been known in German-speaking circles for at least twenty years. He could be said to be a forerunner of the New Savages of Berlin of the 1980’s, without there being any direct relationship. In his earlier work he used figurative and anthropomorphic themes; his figures with their heads

resting directly on their shoulders, seen almost always in profile, were a violent criticism of the dehumanization of the urban context. The works presented in the Biennial were closer to geometry, with a systematic use of a strange kind of blue (very close to the blue of Klein) and an obvious reference to certain objects of aboriginal cultures – such as that of Australia – objects which the artist has been collecting for a long time. One of the works consisted of a showcase with small cut-out humanoid figures embossed with a sheet of gold metal. One inevitably thought of the “tunjos” of the Muisca culture. The works as a whole were quite

Horst Antes (Germany). 1st Prize at the 21st São Paulo Biennial.


Ryukaku Moriwaki. Untitled, 1989. Installation. 5 x 23 x 7 1/2 ft.

respectable, though in no way worthy of the first prize. The other prizes were even more difficult to understand. With the obvious exceptions of Alejandro Otero and that of the theatre director Andrei Serban, who was represented by a set of photographic documents and the now famous Ancient Trilogy – originally mounted by the New York La Mama group in 1972-73-74. Otero and Serban are “classics” in their fields. What was the point, therefore, of their “mentions” in São Paulo? A further consecration of already consecrated artists? Would it not have been better to reserve these distinctions for younger artists? Another point which the São Paulo Foundation will have to examine seriously is the historical placing of the participants in the Biennials, both in terms of conceptual meaning as well as their actual physical placing within the exhibition. To go back to the prizes, the drawings of the German artist Uhlig – we could call them “action drawings” – were nothing more than inconsequential mannerism. It is even more difficult to speak of the Brazilians who were awarded prizes. Geraldo de Barros (1923), a concrete artist from São Paulo of some importance in the 1950s, is completely out of context in the current

scene; Cristina Canale, an artist from Rio who is thirty years old, has been skillfully promoted by the network of commercial galleries in that city (she does neo-figurative work with floral elements) (2); Alex Cerveny from São Paulo (1963) draws “the memories of a juvenile universe, made up of stories, almanacs, prints of saints and the first books of universal history” (3). A kind of notebook or journal, it is a weltered path in which only the most exceptional artists distinguish themselves. And Cerveny is not one of these. Liviano Abramo, another “historicist” mention (he was one of the first important print makers in Brazil), offered only a mediocre series of drawings at this 21st Biennial. Thus although it may well be debatable that prizes should be awarded at an event of this kind, such an unusual list of prizewinners as this one is more than disquieting. At least ten works, which were not even mentioned, could have been granted the prizes and mentions. The first was the installation by the North American artist Ann Hamilton. Born in Lima (Ohio) in 1956, she has presented, or rather carried out her projects, for a little less than ten years. Her language is an attempt to establish a visual, tactile, sensory, and auditive atmosphere in which she

questions the physical and psychological relationship between “animated and inert matter, the mechanical and the organic, what is gigantic and what is microscopic” (4). In Brazil, according to the artist, these tensions and contrasts appear in an “extravagant” manner. Ann Hamilton has always worked from personal and direct experience. For her installation at the Biennial, she began a journey at the beginning of 1991 which look her from the jungles of Panama to the industrial districts of the city of São Paulo. As a result of her experiences, her installation at the Biennial referred to death. This formed a sharp contrast with the stereotyped images of Brazil as a vital and virgin country, symbol of the future, etc. Her interpretation was much more lucid: under the guise of vitality, exuberance, and tropicalism, she saw the unequivocal signs of decadence and the transformation of matter, highlighting a phenomenon which the average Brazilian rarely sees: death. The installation consisted of two chambers, one larger than the other, at the back. In the former, a huge fluted support, a kind of symbolic boat, with a cargo of wax tapers arranged horizontally and with the wicks pointing to the smaller chamber. The floor, as well as the walls and roof of the second chamber, were covered with little plaques of copper, facsimiles of the “dogtags” of miners, arranged carefully like a mosaic. The walls of the main chamber were veiled with vertical outlines, with the wax tapers serving as the central element. In the back room, a double horizontal showcase, which was sealed, contained the rotting corpses of two buzzards. Such a description does not do full justice to the emotive and evocative power of the installation, which was extremely expressive and beautiful, despite its dramatic message. Before referring briefly to other interesting works presented at the Biennial, I would like to mention the overwhelming presence of installations, direct or veiled references to ecological concerns and the use of languages inspired by primitive motifs. The installations heralded the arrival of theatre machinery and refined lighting techniques, the “showcase presentation” format of show business contaminating the world of art. In this way, mediocre work can be “packaged” and made more impressive precisely because of all the


paraphernalia used than a work presented in a more sober fashion. This was the case with the Colombian artists, whose extreme seriousness and integrity, coupled with a sober montage on the third floor of the Biennial, meant that they passed unnoticed in the overall scandal and exhibitionism which marked the event. The quality of the triptychs by Carlos Rojas was undeniable. As were the paintings by Manuel Hernández. I do not have the same respect for the set of work sent by Edgar Negret. Although his two Eclipses confirmed the best qualities of his work, the fabrics contained gratuitous elements, an unjustified transposition from three to two dimensions and a rather trite use of color. On the same floor as the Colombians, on the other side of the entrance ramp, there was an exhibition in homage to Alejandro Otero, who died recently. This was a firstclass museological project, which enabled the visitor to follow the career of the artist, from his early landscapes to the final computer graphics. Another well-known name (or pseudonym) on the third floor was that of the German A. R. Penck (1939), represented by five enormous canvases from the Michel Werner gallery in New York. Once an apologist for aggressive individualism in Eastern Germany, his painting is now looser and appears more playful than critical; his wire men have gained weight and the anguish of twenty years ago has lost some of its pain. To return to the installations, I should like to mention the works

BiII Woodrow. Stem, 1991. 59 4/5 x 131 x 90 in.

by Luis Pizarro, a Brazilian (1958) who created a regular structure in PVC covered with aluminum, a kind of gigantic scaffold reflected in a sort of apparently bottomless pool, all set in a darkened atmosphere; another Brazilian, Mauricio Bentes (1958), also used water, red and darkened neon lighting: three horizontal elements, at floor level, like tomb-ponds of iron cut with a blow pipe, suggested the reddish reflection of the light and only on the days following the inauguration the circulating of the water. Water was the nucleus of at least five or six installations in addition to those which have been mentioned. In the main hall of the ramp, the Japanese artist Ichi Ikeda

Max Uhlig. Mount Vegetation 2, 1990. 43 1/4 x 110 1/5 in.

(1943) constructed a work entitled Mirror of Water for São Paulo, the framework of a performance which the artist called “transformational”. Every three or four minutes, the mirror of water moved, thanks to an electrical-mechanical system hidden at the bottom, and seemed to boil, bubble and ripple gently. This was, I think, the public’s favorite installation at the Biennial. The painting by the Brazilian artist Jadir Freire was excellent; extremely weak, on the other hand, were the works of the Chilean Vergara and the Mexican Marín. There was some good sculpture by Osmar Dalio and the English artist Bill Woodrow. The work of many of the Japanese artists was a high point, although the collective project entitled


L’exces et le retrait, with the participation of six French artists, including Michel Combas, was mediocre. The 21st São Paulo Biennial was just another edition in a series, without any special place in the history of the event as a whole. Let us hope that the next edition will re-examine and correct some of the show’s guiding principles, with a reorganization of the regulations and a restoration of the meaning which this most traditional artistic exhibition in Latin America ought to embrace. NOTES

(I) Art Nexus, No.1. (2) Prize of the Secretarial of Education of the State of Sao Paulo. (3) Araújo, Marcelo. General Catalogue of the 21st São Paulo Biennial, p.l72. (4) Bruce, Chris. Individual Catalogue of the work of Ann Hamilton, 21st São Paulo Biennial, p.5.

Jadir Freire. Untitled, 1991. Acrylic on canvas. 118 x 102 1/4 in.

Manuel Hernández. Double Black Sign, 1990. Oil on canvas. 78 3/4 x 67 in.


MarÍa Elvira Iriarte History of art, University of the Sorbonne, Paris. PhD, She is currently working with the Armando Álvares Penteado Foundation.


ArtNexus Magazine 6, year 1992. pp 156-158


Art and Ecology Eco Art Museum of Modern Art. With the impressive sum of nearly five million American dollars, the Bozzano Simonsen Bank had hoped to legitimize its presence among the participants of the World Conference on the Environment, Rio de Janeiro 1992, as a financial institution on the international scene, as an art collector, and as a company concerned with its participation in society. It therefore proposed the realization of the ECO ART exhibition, inviting 120 painters from the three Americas to present one work each on the theme of the artist’s vision of the environment. There was no overall curatorship for the project. Artists were “rounded up” according to recommendations by critics, dealers, collectors, other artist and curators. The apparent “democracy” of the selection criteria resulted in an exhibition of extremely low quality due to the gathering together of different artistic generations, anachronistic expressions, and conflicting styles within contemporary painting. For the organizing committee, the twelve prizes of US$ 50.000,00 and the acquisition of all works presented for US$ 2.000,00 a piece were sufficient to insure the show’s impact as well as the interest of the invited artists. The latter was exactly what happened: beyond the award-winning works and four or five exceptions, all the others were not worth more than US$ 2.000,00. One can well imagine how difficult it was for the jury, made up of Gilberto Chateaubriand, Federico Morais, Maria Alice MiIliet, Gloria Zea, Angel Kalenberg, Diana Nemiroff, Thomas M. Messer, Roberto Tejada, Carlos Silva, Rafael Squirru and Ricardo Pau-Llosa, to come up with twelve award-winners who did, in fact, present the best works in the exhibition.

Jorge Tacla. Representation and Notes. Oil on canvas. 69 3/5 x 58 3/5 in.

But the disaster did not restrict itself to the event’s conception. The mounting of the exhibition, devoid of critical criteria and with insufficient space for the number of works exhibited, made a tabula rasa of the works themselves, rendering them invisible. Even interesting paintings such as those of Daniel Senise, Nelson Ramos, Gerald McMaster, Jorge TacIa or Beatriz Milhazes were lost among the panels and labels which called attention to the names of their authors. The catalogues, edited in two versions –a more popular edition at US $12, and a US $70 deluxe edition– made no contribution to the knowledge and diffusion of American art. The exhibition was devoid of the major names which have made the history of Latin American art, such us Noé, de Szyszlo, Quintana Castillo, Solari, Rojas, Viteri, Antonio Henrique Amaral and Tornie Othake, among others (the organizers were unable to invite or attract any prominent artists from Canada or from United States, where important artistic work has been done on environmental issues). The prize-winning artists were: Geoff Rees (Canada), Miguel Ángel Rojas (Colombia), Miguel Castro Leñero (Mexico), Miguel von Dan-

gel (Venezuela), Kenneth Kemble (Argentina), Nelson Ramos (Uruguay), Jorge TacIa (Chile), Beatriz Milhazes, Daniel Senise, Arcangelo Ianelli, Antonio Henrique Amaral and Flavio Shiró (Brazil). The exhibition, in truth, was a little more than an effort to seek legitimization on the part of the Bozzano Simonsen Bank, by appropriating the names of artists and critics to market its image and promote its collection. Not that this is an illegitimate business, and it was all done in a financially professional manner. The problem lay in the erroneous decision to not include professionals in the organization and conception of the event, in not having clearly defined the cultural program of the sponsoring institution, in the absence of criteria for the selection of artists, and, above all, in aspiring to make a social contribution without considering the destitute reality in which it was itself inscribed. It was a great deal, but it was not good business. The works acquired for the Bank’s collection will never be accepted by any institution which is oriented by a well-informed and pertinent curatorial policy concerning contemporary art being produced in the Americas.


BIENNIAL Amazon Art Unlike the Eco Art exhibition, Amazon Art, curated by Alfons Hug and Nikolaus A. Nessler –organized by the Goethe Institut, the German Ministry of Foreign Relations and the Museum of Modern Art of Río de Janeiro, under the sponsorship of the Siemens Cultural Program– provided a critical counterpoint. It was a courageous undertaking because it risked the challenge of proposing the production of art, of assigning a meaning to this action and ensuring its specificity at an important moment –during the environmental debate– on one of the planet’s crucial problems: the Amazon rain forest. It proposed that the artists should leave their own territories and experience another landscape in which they could carry out their work without allowing themselves to be seduced by it. It believed in the possibilities of art as a builder of models of thought and perception. Thus, on February 1992, 27 artists (*) from various cultural backgrounds arrived in Belem, Manaus and Porto Velho for three weeks’ work –far from their studios– to undergo the impact of a life experience in the Amazon region. The artists would, it was hoped, bring a subjective, artistic perspective to the problem of the tropical forest through their inquiries and research on the nature of that region. During the first week, the artists settled into collective studios, visited the cities, the forest, museums, and research institutes, and made contact with specialists on the forest, with prospectors, natives, and local populations; during the second week they developed their projects and collected indigenous materials: wood, minerals, scrap metal and objects found in public places; during the third week they carried out and finished their works, frequently in collaboration with local artisans, caboclos who lived near the river, or shanty dwellers. Accompanied by a catalogue rich in images, reflections and informative texts which registered the

project’s development, the exhibition was somewhat uneven in the context of the contemporary artistic and cultural debate: multiculturalism, political strategies in art, the predominance of discourse over language. In the first place, the concentration of the works on man’s presence and his intervention in the jungle, the conditions of life in the Amazon, the urban vs. rural life binomial, transformed them into another set of sociological or anthropological testimonials, even when they avoided facile telluric interpretations. Secondly, with regards to the montage, the Museum of Modern Art devoted too little a space to the works, and did not need the request of the artist for an almost Amazonian silence (as in Rolf Julius’s sound installation), intended to create a solitary experience for the spectator similar to that enjoyed by the artists. Three-dimensional works (sculptures, environments and installations) dominated the exhibition; and, the photographs of Río Branco and Braga, as well the videos of Cravo Neto and the Indians Kukram, Arquimedes, Pitu and Miti, stood out by virtue of the qualitative leap of images which avoided a mimeticism that presupposed the sociological nature of the proposition. On the other hand, many of the works either

Beatriz Milhazes. Why Are You Forgetting Me? Acrylic on canvas. 70 x 70 in.

reaffirmed the characteristics and qualities of their authors (whether or not they were related to the place where they were produced, such as Abramovic, Tunga, Woodrow, Lambrecht, Gormley and Nassar), or turned out to be obvious, illustrative or sociologically naïve (such as those by Jaar, Lovin, Boonma, Noguera, Katase and Romero). There was a group of works, however, which, along with those already mentioned, gave interest and luster to the project. María Fernanda Cardoso gives us the Amazonian terror of the piranhas, domesticated as costumer goods by ecological tou-

Marina Abramovic. From the exhibition Arte Amazonas. 1992.


rism; Mark Dion retraced the route of 17th and 19th century naturalists and revealed the possibilities of unrefined knowledge which exists in the tropical jungle, capable of transforming our comprehension of the region and of contemporary man; Félix Droese presented a poetic installation about the pain and emptiness generated by economic determinants in the relationship between man and nature which distort the meaning of ecology; Waltercio Caldas presented a booth of zeros made from different kinds of Amazonic woods, placing a check on the contemporary concept of value; Christian Lapie satirized the Northern hemisphere’s idealized and pacifying vision of the Third World’s reality through the use of delicate European wallpapers with prints of tropical flora and fauna; Rainer Görss alluded to the cycles of history and the relationship of dependency and economic and political exploitation, with an installation significantly titled The Miracle of Interest; Nikolaus Nessler confronted nature and civilization in a symbiosis between nightmare and passion: and Juliâo Sarmento constructed a sort of Amazonian peep show: a fragile though impenetrable shack which could be seen only through the cracks in the walls. Inside, painted in a loud green, the viewer could see the dirt floor, garbage and small graffiti of scenes of sex and violence. The work was a sort of metaphor of any project such as Amazon Art: in seeking to transform the reality of the natural landscape into language, we shall always be “voyeurs”, perceiving only parts and issues which we already know and which interest us. ( *)

Marina Abramovic (Yugoslavia); Luis

Braga (Brazil); Mark Dion (USA); Rolf Julius (Germany), Kasuo Katase (Japan); Karin Lambrecht (Brazil); Emmanuel Nassar (Brazil); Pere Noguera (Spain); Pedro Romero (Spain); Juliâo Sarmento (Portugal); Montien Boonma (Thailand); Waltercio Caldas (Brazil); María Fernanda Cardoso (Colombia); El Anatsui (Nigeria); Rainer Görss (Germany): Alfredo Jaar (Chile); Björn Lövin (Sweden); Tunga (Brazil); Antony Gormley (England); Christian

Lapie (France); Nikolaus Nessler (Germany); Raffael Rheinsberg (Germany); Miguel Rio Branco (Brazil); Bill Woodrow (England); Felix Droese (Germany); Mario Cravo Neto (Brazil); and Milton Becerra (Venezuela).

Ivo Mesquita


ArtNexus Magazine 8, year 1993. pp 83-87

“Para mim não ha nada a dizer além do que está dito (e não dito) nas obras apresentadas”.*

Mira Schendel



etween November 1990 and March 1991 the Museum of Contemporary Art of USP presented an excellent anthology of the work of Mira SchendeI. It was a just homage to a first class artist and provided a unique opportunity to retrace the subtle paths of creation and the artist’s rare sensibility and intelligence. Very little biographical information is available on Mira SchendeI. Most of the catalogues simply note that she was born in Zürich in 1919, that she spent some of her youth in Milano and then immigrated to Brazil in 1949. She originally lived in Porto Alegre, where she began her artistic career as a self-taught artist. Three years later she moved to São Paulo, where she was to live until 1988. In contrast to such laconic details, the list of her individual and collective exhibitions, both in her country of adoption and abroad, is considerable. There are, in addition, the good dozen or so prizes which she has won, and the long bibliography on her work, mostly in the form of catalogues and critical articles. Even if we take account of all this material, Mira Schendel is still one of the least well-known figures of the most important generation in modern Brazilian art. The definitive break made with earlier models at the end of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, and the opening up of Brazilian art to the most advanced post-war trends were much indebted to the generation of artists born around 1920, and many of whom were nationalized foreigners in Brazil. The same generation also promoted Brazilian art abroad, mainly in Western Europe. Almost all the artists of this generation began their careers in figurative art. Then, depending on their

34th Venice Biennial. 1968. Graphic objects.

individual development, many moved towards abstraction (1). As occurred in other countries of the Americas, there was first geometrical abstraction, followed by the various kinds of informalisms. Although the activity of Mira Schendel is to be set within this generation, a detailed study would seem to suggest that neither she nor her work can be comfortably placed within such a grouping. Schendel was one of the most interesting voices of her time, and one of the most isolated. There were many reasons for this, in particular her personality and character. At the same time, the explicit characteristics of her work go well beyond abstraction. Few temperaments would appear to be less suited to such an informal society as that of Brazil. During the many interviews held in conjunction with this work –I did not have the opportunity to meet the artist personally – the words “severity”, “demand”,

“timidity”, “introspection”, “personal insecurity” and “transcendence” cropped up over and over again. Very few persons established an intimate relationship with the artist; an exception was Paulo Figueiredo, who handled her work from 1981. Of her family almost nothing is known. Why did her family move from Zurich to Milano at the end of the 1930s? Who were the members of this family? In one of her rare interviews, Schendel recalls that she used to draw with genuine passion in the Milan tram which took her to and from schoool. This distant memory of an epoch, which the artist has jealously kept secret, highlights one of the constant features of her character: passion, not seen as a voracious and devastating (and transitory) vortex of “paxiao”, in the Brazilian fashion, but as a twofold concept involving both restlessness and tenacity. Why did she settle in Brazil? She arrived at the


end of the war, like so many other Europeans who came to the Americas in search of better conditions than those existing in their own countries. Many of these were artists and intellectuals. But apart from the fact that Schendel was not an artist, nothing is known about the reasons which led her to Brazil. Did she come alone or with her family? How did she (or they) manage to survive in Porto Alegre? She once said that life was very difficult at that time, but that is all we know. Physically, she was not very attractive, short, with a short masculine hairstyle: her dress was very sober, at times also almost masculine. Although she had an easy smile, she seemed to hide behind her enormous glasses, her small inquisitive eyes almost contradicting her smile. In her own “vernissages” she sometimes almost seemed to sulk, her head bowed, barely acknowledging the effusive congratulations extended to her for her work. She found it difficult to express herself in public. She spoke Portuguese, although she could never get rid of her heavy German accent. This tiny aggressive woman was gifted with a rare intelligence. She was deeply interested in philosophy and religion –she was an expert on Oriental religions– and above all, she had one of the sharpest and most refined sensibilities of her time. Those who knew her said categorically that she was a self-taught artist. In an interview cited by Paulo Malta Campos (2), Schendel said: “I began to paint in Brazil. Life was very difficult; I had no money to buy good quality paints, I bought materials of any quality and began to paint with passion. It was a matter of life or death”. Once again passion, the exercise of painting as a compulsive activity. For someone who had survived the war in Europe, who had escaped death, these words of life and death could not be interpreted as mere literary expressions. Perhaps because her artistic expression had this deep-seated motivation of vital activity, the content of her work –even for a relatively uninformed public– seemed to transcend its plastic form. And, this is one of the characteristics

which distinguished her from most of her Brazilian contemporaries. Schendel began to show her work from 1950, winning several prizes in 1951, 1952 and 1953 (3). She was also accepted for the 1st São Paulo Biennial in 1951. Until she moved to São Paulo (in 1953?), her painting was figurative. Frontally viewed heads, small still-lifes with a line of objects “presented” in a first and almost single plane: glasses, cups, round forms suggesting fruits, actors in a scene organized into divisions, like a shelf or a sideboard. Although these works were done in ink and wash on paper, they have a strong sense of texture. They were signed M. Harges-Heimer (family surname or the name of a first marriage?) (4). The artist would return to still-Iife work in 1964, as one of the multiple facets in her production (5). In his analysis of Schendel’s work, Paulo Malta refers to five main periods ranging over almost forty years of artistic work. This chronological approach is a useful instrument for discussing her work which defies any linear or sequential description. Each period comprises between three to five years of intense production, like bursts Untitled, 1965. Ink and oil on Japanese paper. 18 1/2 x 9 in.

of creation demanding multiple solutions. Thus, synchronic series appear, which are formally contradictory and, apparently, unrelated to one another. Each creative burst is followed by little or no production (6). The first period –from 1949 to 1953– is the only one which can be analyzed in a traditional manner. There is a direction, an emphasis on composition which clearly predominates over other elements of the pictorial language. The texture is dense, the colors (where they exist) are somber and deadened. Between 1950 and 1953 her work is unified: after, it was never again to be so. The same analysis highlights another aspect: Schendel might be self-taught, in the sense that she never received any formal artistic training; but, her early work shows that she was well conversant with the neo-figurative tendencies in fashion in the 1930s. Giorgio Morandi was one of her favorite artists. Schendel settled in São Paulo and shortly afterwards –perhaps a year or so– held her first one-woman show in the city, in nothing less than in the Museum of Modern Art, directed at that time by Sergio Millet. The move from Porto Alegre to São Paulo also remains shrouded in mystery. We can assume that Schendel visited the First Biennial in which she was participating; perhaps she established contact there with some of the main artists, such as Max Bill –a Swiss Iike her, and who won the First Grand Prix. She must also have met some of the major critics of the time, beginning with the director himself of the Museum of Modern Art, who was a member of the board of the Biennial. Intimately convinced of her vocation and despite the negative comments of several of her colleagues in Porto Alegre, Schendel probably decided to move to a more cosmopolitan and less conservative city that the capital of Rio Grande do Sul. In a relatively short process, the figuration which initially characterized her work gave way to a geometrical kind of abstraction, although one which remained intensely concerned with the problems of texture. As if the two tendencies in abstract art were combined in subtle proportions, her forms


were not regular, but rather fields for structuring a texture which was rich and thick, a carefully built-up layer through layer to achieve tonalities which were essentially indefinable. The small-format geometrical works refuse any recourse to precision instruments – there are no straight lines or 90 degree angles. It is a kind of “hands off geometry” which recalls certain watercolors by Paul Klee. A newspaper photograph, preserved in the archives of the Paulo Figueiredo gallery, illustrates the curious montage of the exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art: some of the pictures were hung on their sides, perpendicular to the wall. It is undeniable that the 1954 exhibition opened the door for Schendel to the city’s art circles. It is less sure whether she went through that door and joined those circles. Between 1957 and 1960 Schendel did not produce any highly significant series and she presented no exhibitions. Between 1962 and 1964 Schendel produced her series entitled Embroidery, a title which (exceptionally) she herself chose. The series comprised several dozen drawings done with “ecoline” (liquid, translucent pigments, the effects of which are comparable to those of watercolors), on partially dampened rice or Japanese paper. The compositions have the freer features of brush work. The actual characteristics of the support used, as well as its high degree of absorption and velvety character, seem to complement the gesture of the artist. The earlier structures now appear like an ordered series of rounded blotches, mostly in black, gray and ochre, all more or less ferruginous. More than embroidered material, these works, for me, seem to suggest the geometrical motifs of indigenous handicrafts. During the same period, Schendel produced her series known as Textures. These are paintings in which the number of geometric elements used is considerably reduced. The forms occupy the most varied positions on uniform backgrounds, with a specific texture characteristic to each of them. Frequently, the texture of the general surface comprising the support is thicker and more apparent than that

Untitled, 1954. Painted wood. 20 x 26 in.

of the minor forms, as is the general space which acquires a greater body. In the works in which a line –or several lines– are used, instead of forms, the latter feature is even more evident. With the series entitled Monotypes, which she began in 1964, we come to the third period of the artist’s production, possibly the richest and most complete in her oeuvre. These years (1964-1974) coincided with the

first successes of the Latin American kinetic artists in Europe. Over these years Schendel presented no less than ten one-woman shows in Europe, participated in three São Paulo Biennials, represented Brazil in the Second Córdoba Biennial and in the 34th edition of the Venice Biennial, and was an outstanding participant in several major collective shows in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Her work multiplied in se-

Untitled, 1985. Acrylic tempera on Duratex, 1985. 47 1/5 x 35 2/5 in.


From the beginning of her career, all of Mira Schendel’s work had flirted with the three dimensions: with collages, suspended elements, with pictures installed perpendicular to the wall. ries characterized essentially by the use of materials and techniques. However, print-making was a predominant feature of her work during these years. The Monotypes –more than 1,500 of them– were, according to Paulo Malta, the result of the frustrated insistence by the artist in working on a very fragile support –rice paper– with direct drawing instruments (Comté or bars of Chinese ink). The support could not take the fine, but energetic, thrust of the strokes. From one attempt to another, she finally created the same drawings through prints stamped with a matrix, worked with black oil on glass. I do not recall any other monotypes in the history of contemporary Western print-making which have the same fine drawing characteristics of those of Mira Schendel. Three, four, five small lines structure an entire page. Or gestures which recall calligraphy, combined with a single form. Or just letters, words which do not become a text. In a letter sent to the English critic Guy Brett, Mira insisted on the fact that a simple line works as a “stimulus” for the void. The pregnant void of Zen philosophy, rather than the void of negation or absence in the Western sense. The characteristics of rice paper allow for the drawing to permeate the support completely. The monotypes can be viewed from both sides with the same clearness –there is neither front nor back and the support becomes almost transparent. Almost three hundred of these works filled the three levels of the Signals Gallery in London in July 1956. According to a press report, there was not a soul in the gallery on the opening day. The works were then shown in Rio de Janeiro, where the rooms of the Mu-

seum of Modern Art remained almost empty – not only on opening day but throughout the period of the show. A subsequent development of this idea is to be found in the Graphic Objects, in the São Paulo and Venice Biennials of 1967 and 1968: the fragile sheets of paper were mounted between two acrylic sheets which gave them solidity without removing the transparency. They thus appeared suspended in space, rather than against the wall, and on a scale consonant with that of these exhibitions. From calligraphy, Mira moved on to the use of Letraset, as well as collage. She used letters in an unorthodox manner –as graphic signs– stripping them of their function and forcing the spectator to confront a somewhat unusual plastic situation. She speculated on hundreds of formal possibilities with various types of alphabets, insisting on certain letters. A conscious effort is required to view these objects without trying to “read” them. The third period also comprises the series of the Bombas, the Droguihnas, the Toquinhos or Linear Drawings, and the Dactiloscritos. Broad strokes of black Chinese ink on damp paper are the essential features of the first of these series. In relation with the support, which is small format, the strokes become form; and, these forms emerge from the physical limits of the paper and move inward, highlighting once again the function of the void. The imprecise edges of each form generate a kind of optical vibration. The paper is not perceived as surface but as a kind of space. The Droguinhas are objects made with twisted pieces of rice paper, stretched like pieces of string and woven in a haphazard form. They are objects that invite the spectator to touch and feel them; in this respect, Mira was one of the many artists of the late 1970s who developed the idea of the public participating in the creative process. In Brazil, Ligia Clark and Helio Oiticica also worked along these lines. The Toquinhos are collages made with pieces of black Letraset and little squares or rectangles of Japanese paper soaked in strong colored Ecoline. The support is white card measuring

46 x 23 cm. The chromatic elements become color signs with a language which is both subtle and allusive. The Dactiloscritos, from 1974, are drawings which combine printed characters and signs (done with a typewriter) and letters drawn along the horizontalvertical structure established by the typewriting. Visually these false letters are a thousand and one variants of rigorously ordered reticular outlines. During the following five years (1975-1980), Mira Schendel worked in pizzicato on some of the elements which had already appeared in her earlier series. Paper soaked in color, calligraphy, prints based on the Dactiloscritos. The multiple experiments of these years did not result in any extensive series. The most well-known are the Japanese Papers (1975-80), the Landscapes (1978-79) and the Triangles (1979- 80). The sphere is more one of painting, although calligraphic elements and strokes remain. The Japanese Papers are done with supports and collages of forms which are basically geometrical, impregnated in Ecoline. Despite the difference in tonalities, the texture serves to unify these surfaces on which very fine lines in gold and minute letters are drawn. The space, magnified by the enormous tension generated by the touches of gold on the color surfaces, suggests cosmic maps. The Landscapes are works in dark tempera on a dry cardboard-like paper. The idea of landscape is created by the zones which extend from one margin to the other of the support. This is complemented by calligraphy which insistently traces the letter A. The manuscript sign seems to fill an enormous field, conferring sense and meaning. The Triangles comprise a short series of drawings and/or prints in intaglio on thick paper. The surface of the support is contained by a margin finely drawn in gold pen, or marked like a cast. In the zone which is marked out, a triangle floats diagonally in relation to the support. It may be black or done with a matrix stamped without ink. The final period in Mira Schendel’s production runs from 1979 up to a year before her death. It comprises the extensive series of Temperas with


Untitled, 1988. Brick dust on wood. 39 1/3 x 78 3/4 in.

gold –her only commercial success and the closest to the production of the geometric artists of her generation–, the Japanese Papers in black and white and the Sarrafos (long pieces of wood in a square section). Geometry dominates these final series. Gesture, the use of calligraphic signs, textures, transparencies, all disappear. Paulo Malta sees in this the reflection of a more peaceful personal situation, a certain becalming of the artist’s spirit. The Temperas, on canvas or wood, are planimetric paintings in which two or three fields of flat color extend over the surface, including the fine molding of the frame. A small triangle or a narrow band of gold anchors each composition. In the final works of the series there is a barely perceptible element of relief, like a virtual line cutting the support. The Japanese Papers in black and white (1986) consist of only 12 works. On a collage of two unpainted, untreated Japanese papers, which generate almost invisible geometries, Schendel traced a thick, dry line, like a single obvious gesture. The gesture acquires the solidity of a bar; it is a clear antecedent of the three-dimensional works known as the Sarrafos. In these, the base is a panel of wood measuring 0.90 x 1.80 m., slightly plastered and painted white, on which the stroke is placed: a longitudinal piece of black wood with a square section measuring some 0.60 m. on the side. The wood is detached from the support, generating

a real three dimensional structure. From the beginning of her career, all of Mira Schendel’s work had flirted with the three dimensions: with collages, suspended elements, with pictures installed perpendicular to the wall. Finally, with the series from 1987, her work became firmly installed in real

space. Before she died, she outlined another series which was never finished, work done with brick dust. The color and textures of these “pictures” are consubstantial with the materials used: from the surface-support there emerge forms which are approximately rectangular.

* “To my judgment, there is nothing to add to what is said (or unsaid) by the works presented.” ** There has to date been no monograph published on Mira Schendel or her work. The architect Paulo Malta Campos, a collaborator of the Paulo Figueiredo gallery, was kind enough to spend several hours talking with me and providing me with a copy of his thesis entitled Percurso de Mira Schendel (A Review of Mira Schendel), which was presented in February of last year for a post-graduate degree in the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of São Paulo. NOTES 1) This phenomenon was usefully examined, not without irony, by the critic Casimiro de Mendoça, curator of the exhibition entitled Biennial Effect, one of the parallel shows at the XXth edition of the Sao Paulo Biennial. 2) Malta Campos, Paulo. Percurso de Mira Schendel, 1991, unpublished. 3) 1951: Drawing Prize, Fine Arts Salon of the University of Bahia, Salvador, Bahia.1952: First Prize. First Exhibition of Modrn Art, Santa María, Rio Grande do Sul. 1953: Mention of honor in painting. First Salon of Art and Music, Bento Gonçalves, Rio Grande do Sul. 4) In Sao Paulo the artist married the bookseller Knut Schendel, an Austrian resident in Brazil. 5) These works were to be presented only after the death of the artist, at the retrospective presented by the Paulo Figueiredo gallery in 1988 as a homage to Schendel. 6) It is worth noting that the list of exhibitions does not always reflect this alternation. Mira selected her shows with great care and never presented various series at the same time. 7) lt should be noted that many of the titles of the series were invented by critics and gallery owners. Ninety per cent of her work was untitled. The word “series” refers more to the typological characteristics of certain works, rather than the idea of any sequence. Translation: Brian Mallet

MARÍA ELVIRA IRIARTE Ph.D. in Art History, University of Paris, Sorbonne. Member of the Editorial Committee of ArtNexus / Arte en Colombia.


ArtNexus Magazine 13, year 1994. pp 60-64

Guillermo Kuitca. Untitled, 1990. Acrylic on canvas. 80 x 76 in.



uring the final quarter of 1993 the Luis López de Mesa exhibition rooms of the Bank of the Republic (1) presented a show entitled Cartographies. The idea for this collective exhibit of work by Latin American artists dates back to 1987, following a meeting between the Brazilian critic Ivo Mesquita –then working with the São Paulo International Biennial– and Bruce W.

José Bedia. The Little Revenge from The Periphery, 1993. Installation.

Can refer to both an art (making geographic charts) and a science (studying the charts); to the field of sensibility as well as to that of methodical and structured knowledge.

Fergusson, curator of the Winnipeg Art GalIery, and who was responsible for the Canadian exhibit at the Biennial. After several years of work, countless trips, consultations, visits to workshops and artists, the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the Brazilian curator made a selection of works by fourteen artists from various Latin American countries (2). To date, the show has been presented in Winnipeg, Caracas and Bogotá. It wilI subsequently travel on to Ottawa and New York (3).

Iole de Freitas. Untitled, 1993. Metal. 126 x 126 x 35 2/5 in.

According to the definition in the Dictionary of the Spanish Language, the word “cartography” can refer to both an art (making geographic charts) and a science (studying the charts); to the field of sensibility as well as to that of methodical and structured knowledge. The tremendous challenge posed by putting on an exhibition of current Latin American art without adopting the prejudices which European and North American historiography and criticism have es-

Gonzalo Díaz. I Am the Path, Kiss Me A Lot, 1993. Installation.


Julio Galán. Now, 1998. Oil on canvas. 78 x 62 1/2 in.

Mario Cravo Neto. Saturn. Black and white photograph. 39 1/3 x 39 1/3 in.

Carlos Fajardo. Untitled, 1993. Tyndale stone and fabric. 4 3/5 x 59 x 20 2/5 in.

Marta María Pérez Bravo. Macuto, 1991. Black and white photograph. 15 ¾ x 19 3/5 in.

Germán Botero. Cresol, 1992. Bronze and iron. 70 4/5 x 49 1/5 x 20 2/5 in.

Nahum Zenil. Once Upon A Time, 1977. Mixed media on paper. 25 x 19 1/5 in.


The montage in Bogotá was excellent, These objects, ranging from Brazilian tablished, and which have in turn been so rightly censured in recent times, with works by Germán Botero and stones to articles of clothing, were incould not have been met otherwise. Kuitca being placed at the beginning. tervened in various ways, for example, Beginning with the idea itself that there The former –sculptures in metal, bronze with texts which redefine them with is a “Latin American” art in the sense of and aluminum, bronze and iron– were subtle irony. Despite his large number an unambiguous category and quality rounded, inter-related forms which of his works, Leonilson remained the which can be attributed to the artistic constituted mini-installations. Apart most cryptic of the artists in the show. Julio Galán’s painting makes sysmanifestations of our continent: as the from the chromatic effect created by text by Ivo Mesquita points out (4), one the combination of metals –a frequent tematic use of the superimposition of the objectives of Cartographies is “to practice by this artist– his current work of heteroclite images –the human present a selection of the contemporary reveals an exploration of the world figure (frequently an adolescent who Latin American artistic production and of object forms, –spheres, crucibles, seems to have been taken from posters participate in the current debate on this vases– a move away from the linear from the 1930s), a Scotch plaid, texts, geometry which characterized his early imitation frag¬ments of a wrought supposed artistic category”. It would appear that a question, career, some twenty years ago. From the iron railing. The visual effect is one of rather than a certainty, was the starting upward moving line, Botero has moved collage; the conceptual effect is that point and guiding light of this entire on to the use of mass which is set on of a charade offered up to the public project. Such a position is consonant the floor horizontal, without any inter- as a kind of challenge. Echoes of surrealism seep through his with the second objective work, in particular through a of the show: to propose a One of the objectives of Cartographies is very special version of Frida methodology of curatorship Kahlo; according to Juan Carwhich would question insti“to present a selection of the los Emerich, he “parodies his tutionalization and the role contemporary Latin American artistic morbid self-observation like of the curator as an arbiter. production and participate in something from an aesthetic The achievement of these fair, overcoming all the celeobjectives was uneven. It is the current debate on this supposed bratory limits of the virtuality undeniable that the show did artistic category of physical handicaps, which propose a fresh and unprejuis moral, social and political” diced vision of contemporary Latin American production. But it was mediary supports. The spectator views (8). His fellow countryman Nahum B. less clear whether the curator mana- the works from above; the upper plane Zenil also explores the world through ged to avoid the very process which generally coincides with the polished an image, his own, but a false one – an he denounced: the show has become a bronze surface. Botero’s work has been archetypical face which is repeated landmark in the recent series of exhibi- consolidated through its careful finish hundreds of times, foreign to all that surrounds it, static, impassive. The fine tions devoted to the same subject and and the balance of its forms. The show included six works by drawings, some with marked erotic the very exercise here of the function of the curator –the selection of works Kuitca from his personal universe, in content, clearly allude to typical Mexiimplied an unequivocal act of power. which he expresses through paraphrase can contexts, so that Zenil becomes The artists selected for inclusion in obsessional psychic realities, spaces and the most obviously “Latin American” Cartographies work in very different times – maps, illegible maps, mattress artist included in the show. The next room presented works by spheres. Thus the show offered a wide maps. It is a production which combipanorama of current poetics without nes strong conceptual elements with Marta María Pérez Bravo and Cravo establishing any predominant ten- the restoration of pictorial craft evident Neto, María Fernanda Cardoso and Juan dency or line of expression. Neither from the 1980s, in a very personalized Dávila. The first two are photographers; did the artists selected constitute any vision of the “secret, melancholic and Cardoso manipulates objects from the everyday world and Dávila is a painter. single generational group (5). Further- fruitful game of life” (6). The next room presented works by The Cuban photographer has carried more, some, such as Bedia or Kuitca for example, have an international Leonilson, Galán and Zenil. The Brazi- out a long process of self-analysis and reputation, whereas others are just lian artist, who recently died, belonged examination of her own, special feminibeginning to be known outside their to what in his country is known as ne nature. To this end, she has invented own environment. Each artist was the generation of the eighties. After a series of rituals “which have as their represented by a meaningful set of working with immense figurative back autobiographical nucleus the experienworks or by an installation – Bedia, drops, which were half ingenuous, half ce of maternity” (9), with references to Gonzalo Díaz and Wenemoser. An pop, and a parody of both styles, he synchretic cults and primitive liturgies. The lens of Mario Cravo Neto also interesting feature was the presence of moved on to collecting hundreds of photography, usually ignored in this objects which constituted “a kind of focuses on a ritual world which is secret primer or book of initiation” (7). proposed to the spectator like some kind of exhibition.


unknown cult. The careful framing gives these photographs a considerable degree of seduction; the forms unfold into deep, indeterminate spaces, with a subtle interplay of light and shadow generating intriguing images of great plastic beauty. María Fernanda Cardoso presented three works: one with dissected frogs (1989), another, entitled American Marble, from 1992, –an installation of cattle bones– and Flag, also from 1992 –a rectangle made up of goyave sweetmeats. The unusual materials encompassed a wide range of content; from the linear interpretation –the reference to preColumbian cultures, for example, to more subtle associations– the bones arranged in such a way to recall certain decorative patterns to be found in colonial pave¬ments (in fact constructed with brick and bone tiles). I do not know if Flag has much meaning outside the country’s cultural context, since the “sweetmeat” used is not very familiar outside Colombia. The painting by the Chilean Dávila, who has lived for a number of years in Australia, marked the most aggressive point in the show. The catalogue texts invite us to view the work as a critical parody of reality, as a denouncement of the mechanisms of power. The artist uses real collages of cultural quotations from Rivera up to Jasper Johns, colonial painting of the Quito school or the recent campaigns against AIDS – in works which bear an affinity with pop art, the street art of graffiti and certain aspects of the new figuration. A special area was reserved for the work of the Chilean Gonzálo Díaz, which the catalogue defined as a photoperformance and installation. Justo Pastor Mellado has classified it as demonstrative art, a metaphor which embraces economics, politics and religion. The reference to these last two is evident in I am the Path; Bésame mucho (Kiss me a lot), from the title itself, a sign in blue neon, –like a sickle, at the back of the installation, to the sacred space defined by the poles with Iight, sickles and hammers– or the parody of the leader of the Shining Path, Abimael Guzmán (three photos of the artist dressed like a convict behind bars). The reference to economy

is less clear, unless there is communion with the Marxist ideology. AlI in all, the work was more amusing than profound. The next room was shared by Iole de Freitas and Alfred Wenemoser. The Brazilian sculptor works with solid –although not rigid– materials: for the most part wires, tapes and metallic fibers. Her works are often reliefs, with some similarity to the tradition of randomness established at the end of the 1950s by such artists as Ligya Clark or Helio Oiticica. The folds, bends, curves and wrinkles –which the artist leaves on her materials– are combined together in works of great sensibility, although they are nevertheless minor, at least in the current Brazilian art context. Caracus, the installation-construction by Wenemoser, takes us back to the sphere of strongly conceptualized art. Two metallic booths, partially covered with airpack, support a sort of false roof or platform, suggested by an alignment of angular metallic profiles. One of the booths, open to the public, contained an aircraft seat, a ventilation system and an audio programme. The other booth was closed. One offered an invitation to travel, the other meant a prison. Each spectator, at the personal level, gave the installation a formal identity according to his or her own experience and associations. The last room of the exhibition contained an installation by José Bedia and three recent works by Carlos Fajardo. There was a mural work by the former, whose title in English –The little Revenge from the Periphery– was explicit. A large black, circular line materialized the periphery vis-a-vis the central area, occupied by an old print illustrated with each of the characteristic races of the five regions of the globe, according to the Anglo-Saxon criteria of the midnineteenth century. The white man is in the center. He has been the target of many weapons: arrows, pea-shooters, lances and even a dagger. Four small jet planes placed on the black circle seem to leave toxic gasses in their wake. To the bottom right, the inscription of the title, in excellent English Palmer script. The installation was a sophisticated version of the rituals which nourish Bedia’s work. Here the cultural forces

[...] against the stereotype of Latin American art, the show contrasts a conceptual and formal repertoire that is much wider and richer and which lays the ground for the emergence of “other points of views, other cartographies. have replaced the natural powers and the language becomes universal. “Fajardo’s work has as its essential subject a ‘constituent incompleteness’ (10)”. The most varied kinds of supports are used in opposition: stone and tulle, ceramic and massed clay. The materials are arranged to create evanescent forms, the sketch of some conceptual reflection on form and content. Cartographies was accompanied by a handsome three-language catalogue which in addition to the texts already mentioned and the customary biographical and bibliographical texts, contained an essay by the Chilean Justo Pastor Mellado –which discusses the position of the curator of Latin American art, and a comprehensive glossary (in English only) of Latin American art sources, elaborated by the Brazilian Paulo Henkenhof. This contribution seemed to be very questionable in the context of the panorama opened up by the exhibition itself. Semantics, to be valid, cannot be personal. In the words of its curator, Cartographies promoted the emergence of artists who thanks to their own and irreducible proposals have themselves become markers and sign-makers. These alter and renew the territory already marked out by contemporary academicism. In fact, against the stereotype of Latin American art, the show contrasts a conceptual and formal repertoire that is much wider and richer and which lays the ground for the emergence of “other points of views, other cartographies”. It is this “openendedness” which gave Cartographies its full meaning and its true merit.


Alfred Wenemoser. Caracus, 1993. Detail. Installation. 126 x 236 1/5 x 78 3/4 in.

María Fernanda Cardoso. Flag, 1992. Detail. Guava candy. 1/3 x 41 x 64 in.

Juan Dávila. Weathering Heights, 1990. Detail. Oil on canvas. 78 3/4 x 275 1/2 in.

NOTES 1. The Casa Luis López de Mesa is one of the buildings making up the cultural center of the Luis Angel Library of the Bank of the Republic, in Bogotá. 2. José Bedia, Havana, Cuba (1959), works in Miami; Germán Botero, Fresno (Tolima), Colombia (1946), works in Bogotá; Marta María Pérez Bravo, Havana, Cuba (1959), works in Havana; María Fernanda Cardoso, Bogota, Colombia (1963), works in San Francisco, California; Mario Cravo Neto, Salvador (Bahia), Brazil (1947), works in Salvador; Juan Dávila, Santiago, Chile (1946), works in Melbourne, Australia; Gonzalo Díaz, Chile (1947), works in Santiago; Carlos Fajardo, São Paulo, Brazil (1941), works in São Paulo; lole de Freitas, Belo Horizonte (M.G.), Brazil (1945), works in Rio de Janeiro; Julio Galán, Muzquiz (Coahuila), Mexico (1959), works in Monterrey; Guillermo Kuitca, Buenos Aires, Argentina (1961), works in Buenos Aires; José Leonilson, Fortaleza (Ceará), Brazil (1957), died in May 1993; Alfred Wenemoser, Graz, Austria (1954), works in Caracas; Nahum B. Zenil, Chicontepec (Veracuz), Mexico (1947), works in Mexico City. 3. Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg (Manitoba), Canada, 19 March to 6 June 1993; Alejandro Otero Museum of Visual Arts, Caracas, Venezuela, 12 August to 19 September 1993; Luis Angel Arango Library, Bogota, Colombia, 21 October to 12 December 1993; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (Ontario), Canada, 18 February to 1 May 1994; The Bronx Museum of Arts, New York, 6 October 1994 to 22 January 1995. 4. Exhibition catalogue, p.l4. 5. See list in note 2. 6. Jerry Saltz, “El toque humano de Guillermo Kuitca (The human touch of Guillermo Kuitka)”, in Un libro sobre Guillermo Kuitca (A book about Guillermo Kuitka), Contemporary Art Foundation, Amsterdam, 1993. 7. Casimiro Xavier de Mendoca, Leonilson: Cartilha Secreta, catalogue of the exhibition with the same title, Galería de Arte Sao Paulo, 1991, quoted in the catalogue to Cartographies, p.l54. 8. Luis Carlos Emerich, 100 pintores mexicanos (100 Mexican painters), Museum of Contemporary Art, Monterrey, 1993-1994. 9. Exhibition catalogue, p.100. 10. Sonia Salztein, Fajardo, exhibition catalogue, André Millan Gallery, São Paulo, 1992-93, quoted in the Cartographies catalogue, p.100. José Leonilson. Fertility, Coherence, Silence, 1991. Mixed media. Height: 43 ¼ in.

Translation: Brian Mallet MARÍA ELVIRA IRIARTE PhD in the history of art, University of Paris, La Sorbonne. Member of the Editorial Committee of ArtNexus / Arte en Colombia.


ArtNexus Magazine 15, year 1995. pp 64-70

22 São Paulo International Biennial nd

After a major administrative overhaul, this Biennial was based on the general idea of the breaking of traditional supports, with the multifaceted appearance of contemporary art being proposed as a common denominator. The show exhibit was made up of three sections: a museological space, special show rooms illustrating the central idea of the curator and his team, and the works sent by the participating countries. The reading proposed was not limited to events of the moment: «today» also included the presence of history.


T his twenty-second edition of our Biennial is opening not two but three years after the twenty-first edition. This is not due to an oversight: it is a special tribute to the Venice Biennial, our most famous predecessor, which in 1995 will celebrate its hundredth anniversary.... Thus began the text by Edmar Cid Ferreira, President of the São Paulo Biennial Foundation, which signaled the opening of the latest edition on October the 12th. Af t e r a major ad m in is trative overhaul, this Biennial was based on the general idea of the breaking of traditional supports, with the multifaceted appearance of contemporary art being proposed as a common denominator. The show exhibit was made up of three sections: a museological space, special show rooms illustrating the central idea of the curator and his team, and

the works sent by the participating countries. The reading proposed was not limited to events of the moment: “today” also included the presence of history. Special Show Rooms: Museographical Projects An enormous and meritorious effort was invested in the eight museological exhibitions on Mondrian and Malevich, Diego Rivera, RufinoTamayo, Joaquín Torres García, Lucio Fontana, Tal Coat and Joan Mitchell. In specially air-conditioned rooms –on the third floor of the building– the Biennial offered some memorable lessons on the history of art of the twentieth century. However, the list itself of the artists shown suggested major disparities: Malevich, Mondrian or Torres García are seminal artists. But Tal Coat or Joan Mitchell are of secondary importance.

Why were they included? Of these exhibits, two were clearly outstanding: those devoted to Malevich and to Torres García. The work of the Russian artist was presented for the first time in Latin America, with the cooperation of the Stedelijk Museum of Amsterdam and the San Petersburg Museum. The collection of twenty seven paintings ranging from the early periods down to the portraits painted towards the end of the artist’s life, was a small part of the monumental anthological show organized by curator Wim Beeren, Director of the Stedelijk, in 1988 in Amsterdam, St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) and Moscow. In Saõ Paulo, the Malevich exhibition had an undeniable pedagogical function and represented a landmark in the list of illustrious visitors attending the Biennial’s history. Similarly, there was an excellent presentation of works by Torres García,


curated by Jorge Castillo. Painting, wood constructions, drawing and prints, as well as a comprehensive bibliographical documentation –catalogues, sketches, letters, photographs and manuscripts– offered visitors a clear and well-founded panorama of the importance and achievements of the Uruguayan artist. Furthermore, the presence of Torres García in this edition put a final end to the unfortunate episode of the fire at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio (1978), where many works by the artist from public collections in Montevideo were lost. A luxury catalogue accompanied the show at the Biennial. The exhibits by Tamayo and Fontana were less ambitious, comprising some fifteen works by each artist –an acceptable basis for presenting or reminiscing about these two great figures– who often participated in the Biennial. The works by the Mexican were on loan from the Museum which bears his name and from private collectors; they included the splendid Portrait of Olga (1964), a Conjugal Portrait (1981) and the Picasso Nude (1989). Among the Fontana works a reconstruction of the Spatial Neon Environment (1951) stands out, a gigantic arabesque in white neon tube, hanging from the ceiling over a large ramp. Unfortunately, the Fontana Foundation, which was responsible for the exhibition, did not provide any theoretical material to accompany the works, such as the Spatialist manifestos, for example. Fontana was not merely a great achiever: his intellectual work was an integral part of his work and in this edition, the central theme of which was “Art beyond the limits” (“A arte fora dos limites”), Fontana’s thinking constitutes an unavoidable historical precedent. The exhibition on Diego Rivera, curated by Juan Coronel Rivera, included very uneven works –both in quality and interest– mainly from two private collections: that of the curator himself and another owned by Rafael Coronel Arroyo. A good number were sketches for murals; the rest consisted of isolated works scattered throughout Rivera’s extensive production: from a landscape of his childhood (1896-97) down

to the May Day Procession in Moscow (1956). The project seemed directed to specialists in the work of the Mexican artist, rather than to the vast public at the Biennial. Furthermore, the catalogue text dwells on the artist’s stormy relations with the Biennial Foundation, another episode in the conflict which arose towards the middle of the century in Latin America between the nationalists (Figurative) and the internationalists (Abstract). In conclusion, Rivera was not well represented and the show room did not provide the pedagogical dimension characteristic of other exhibitions in this area. In the space reserved for Mondrian, the last studio occupied by the artist for Joan Brossa. Tales, 1986. Single object. just over four months – between the 4 x 11 x 13”. Collection C. Taché Gallery. end of 1943 and February 1944 – was reconstructed; Mondrian organized it Biennial. They were headed by three according to the strictest Neo-Plasticist universal Brazilians: Mira Schendel, criteria: “all the seductive graces of Lygia Clark and Helio Oiticica. Other nature were eliminated in the forms, artists included Soto and Bedia, Chamlines and colours. Curves and diago- berlain, Schnable and Rauschenberg, nals were taboo...” (1). The São Paulo artists invited from China and Hong setting was the work of Young-Wom Kim. Emptiness-Energy I, II, III. Jason Holtzman, the son 1994. Cast iron, fiber. 197 x 157 x 98”. of another Dutchman, Harry Holtzman, who gave Mondrian much help during his exile from Europe. Brushes, spatulas, palettes, the scanty furniture made up of fruit boxes painted white, square and rectangular pieces of colored cardboard, pasted to the walls, and the empty easel on which Mondrian worked his Boogie-Woogies. A video, strategically placed outside the “window” of the studio, completed the room. The Mondrian installation gave a romantic note to this edition of the Biennial. Special Show Rooms Some twenty special show rooms were included in the tightly worked network of the


Kong, Marcel Broothaers, Jorge Molder, Per Kirkeby and Richard Long, as well as four video artists: Plessi, Gary Hill, Judith Barry and Paul Garrin. As is often the case with museum galleries, the special show rooms vary in tonality and presence, some exhibits being uneven, others splendid and some insignificant. The three historical Brazilian artists reflected the basic premise of the overall curatorial objective: each, in his or her own way, illustrated the breaking of the traditional support, the going beyond the limits, the expansion of horizons which art has over the last three or four decades been keenly seeking. Of the three shows, that of Lygia Clark was the most comprehensive. The curator, Luciano Figuereido, tried to show the public –especially the new generations– the meteoric rise of the artist who began with Neo-Concretism and who, breaking all barriers and definitions, moved from the Bichos –those fantastic articulated sculptures– to the proposals of experience art, the “sensorial” and therapeutic objects. Thanks to the presence of a good team of monitors and guides, these works came alive again with the enthusiastic participation of the public. Oiticica’s installation, also curated by Figuereido, was less convincing – perhaps because it reduced the historical range of the work to a series of specific, inexpressive moments out of context. For example, few of those who attended the inaugural act related the boisterous sounds which echoed throughout the three floors of the building with Oiticica’s famous “Parangoles”. The three show rooms devoted to Mira Schendel included Ondas paradas de probabilidades, an installation with nylon thread suspended from the ceiling, which was a reconstitution of a work for the tenth São Pablo Biennial in 1969; several works from the Objetos Graficos series, calligraphic drawings on sheets of plexiglass hanging from the ceiling; and, a dozen of the Sarrafos, the artist’s last series, half way between painting –a rectangular, white, smooth surface– and sculpture –pieces of square black wood, like small beams, resting on and extending beyond the

support. According to the general curator of the Biennial, Professor Nelson Aguilar, the purpose of these three exhibitions was to provide a compass to guide the public in the course of contemporary art and the breaking of the traditional support. There was a penetrable by Soto, constructed of thick nylon thread, placed near the entrance. Unfortunately, it was outweighed by the paneling of a nearby installation (3) and the counters of the cloakroom and catalogue stands. Its curator, Freddy Carrero, ought to have placed it outside the building, where the work would have recovered its ludic dimension and would not have seemed so much like a barrier. Another work inexplicably placed inside the Biennial was White River, by the English artist Richard Long. The mere mention of this artist suggests his work in landscape, his passages and crossings. Why was he confined to the inside of the Niemeyer building, when surrounded by the Ibirapuera park? The meanderings of white plastic paint which filled the floor of the ramp hall frankly lacked expression, despite the excellent individual catalogue accompanying the installation. Seven large pieces by John Chamberlain (the catalogue included eight), four mega-pictures by Schnabel and more than a dozen works by Rauschemberg dated between 1980 and 1982, also had special show rooms. The three North American artists were of course important landmarks and clearly illustrated such ideas as the breaking of the support and the theoretical and pragmatic limits of artistic activity. Their presence in the Biennial was justified by their historical contribution to the central thesis of this edition. A private selection made by the curatorship among many. Of the special show rooms, the most surprising were those showing work by the artists invited from China and Hong Kong, curated by Chang TsongZung. All of them, three from each country, presented painting influenced by pop art. This might at first appear to contradict the theoretical axis of the Biennial, as well as our traditional Western image of the Chinese world

(3). Chinese pop, the curator said, is “fascinated by the glamour and theatricality of the revolution, exploiting its reds, shine and luminosity” (4). It was an unusual mixture of ironic socialist realism, kitsch populism and attraction towards a consumer world bordering on pornography. This was in violent contrast with another Chinese artist, also invited to the Biennial, Deng Lin. Trained in the age-old tradition of ink drawing, she presented the transformation onto silk tapestry of some works from the Distant Echoes series. The result was an amalgam of her vast calligraphic experience, her knowledge of the history of painted ceramics and a method reminiscent of the Rorschach test, the work of free association based on symmetry generated by the folding of paper on an ink stain. It may be that the tapestry technique limits the fluidity of the calligraphic gesture; even so, these almost monochrome tapestries were extremely elegant. The special projects also included an installation by Bedia, consisting of two elements: an immense black silhouette etched directly on the paneling, the target of various missiles – arrows, shafts, axes – and “crowned” with an epigraph reading Lección No.1 Abajo... quien tú sabes; it formed the left background panel to a small wooden boat, under the effigy of a Red Indian chief, with his back to the painted silhouette. A thin cord formed the semantic and visual link. Perfectly explicit, the installation would easily have filled the allotted space. But three or even four canvases also occupied the side walls. The reading thus became complicated for a public not familiarized with Bedia’s work (5). Of the four special video presentations, the most interesting were those of the Italian Fabrizio Plessi –screens placed horizontally around an installation with Roman fountains in the background– and the White Devil, an interactive installation with computer and laser video, by the North American Paul Garrin. A ferocious white pit bull terrier shut inside a simulated ditch made up of twelve video monitors “attacked” spectators as they looked


over the iron fence, behind which several buildings were “burning”. International Participation The 22 nd edition maintained the antiquated system of inviting foreign countries through their diploma tic representations. Although this is unobjectable in the case of nations whose official institutions have expert advise –such as the British Council– such a system prevents many valid artists from participating unless they are endorsed by the official entities. The general curator should be able to participate in the organization of the show as a whole, and not just of the so-called special show rooms. The general catalogue –three heavy and expensive volumes of more than 400 pages– contained an alphabetical list of the countries represented –seventy-one, including the host country. However, the montage did not always group together artists from the same place. The question of what space should be given to this or that representation is always, in such mega-exhibitions as the Biennial, a matter of controversy. In the end, all these problems could be solved if real channels of communication were established sufficiently in advance between the Biennial and the authorities responsible for the national exhibits. Whereas the Chilean delegation – which its curator Gabriel Barros

conceived as a whole, was crammed into a very uncomfortable space – a splendid area on the third floor, next to Mira Schendel’s project, was left empty...because Colcultura did not inform the Biennial in time that the Colombian artist María Fernanda Cardoso, whom it itself had selected, could not participate because of lack of funds. Mention should be made of some exhibits, in the same alphabetical order used in the catalogue (except for Brazil, which I shall discuss later). The German exhibit included, amongst others, an installation and video by Asta Gröting (Herford, 1961). A circus cage, empty and open, along with a long row of black leather jackets, to be taken for animals, perhaps elephants or rhinoceroses, reduced in size. The video also worked with contrasts: a ventriloquist, his dummy and an inner voice, suggesting the title Die innere Stimme. Both pieces used allusion and metaphor to express the artist’s concerns. The Argentinean curator Jorge Helft chose the historical figure of Libero Badii –polychrome wood sculptures from the 1970s– and nine works by Eduardo A. Vigo (La Plata, 1927). The latter pieces, a refined legacy of Duchamp’s world, offered a number of ironic surprises: The River PIate PIug, an enormous wooden plug, accompanied by a series of photographs on how to find it and use it in the river; Oppressed Cyclist, a montage

made up of a bicycle whose presumed rider had been put in a box – traces of red paint could be seen on the number board s of the box; Armas para mate cos(c)ido, a box which alluded to the smuggling of both alcohol and arms. Many other works evoked shameful events in recent Argentinean history, although none was devoid of humor. A certain poetic aura surrounded the work of the artists from Barbados: Scarred Dream, by Annalee Davis, an installation made of dry vegetables and strips of fabric, like bandages, and Sour, sweet, strong and weak, an installation made of waste products from a sugar refinery, by Gayle Hermick. Of the three artists from the Chilean delegation, special mention must be made of the unusual dolls by Hugo Marín. The basic material, ceramic, was combined with hints of feathers, shells, sponges and textile fragments to create sculptural objects reminiscent of the pre-Columbian funeral bundles. The pieces had (glass) eyes and (real?) teeth, which generated a disturbing sense of presence. The Colombian exhibit was late, badly installed and incomplete – due to the total incompetence of the bureaucratic officials in charge, and despite the efforts made by the curator Alberto Sierra and one of the artists, Hugo Zapata. The latter’s ambitious sculptural project - water vessels used as mirrors in the Inca fashion, with laser beams pointing to the constellations in the

Toshikatsu Endo. Fountain, 1991. Wood, tar (fire). 37 x 37 x 758”. Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo. Photo: Tasuyuki Ogura.


Cathy de Monchaux. Holding Back From Nothing, 1993. Velvet, leather, brass. 28 x 32 x 4”. Private collection.

city sky, was severely amputated for lack of funds. All that was left of the idea made more or less explicit in the little catalogue –it was the sculptural part proper– was extremely beautiful, but rather lost in the immensity of the Biennial. Perhaps one day, Mirrors of Water will achieve its full dimension elsewhere. The presence of Bernardo Salcedo at this edition was rather pointless: his Flowers of Evil, the nucleus of the exhibit, lacked any sense of innovation both in its treatment. The Korean artist Young-Won Kim carried out a performance in which he marked with his fingers and toes the surfaces of several iron pillars covered with a malleable substance, to the rhythm of a majestic Zen dance. The installation was completed with fragments of mannequins, broken, scattered on the floor around the pillars. Cuba presented one of the most moving exhibits, with installations by Kcho (Alexis Leyva Machado) and Tonel (Antonio Eligio Fernández). The drama of the island was reflected in painful, poetic forms. Kcho presented a recent work entitled On the Horizon, consisting of a continuous succession of mangrove sticks set in boards from old school chairs. Resting in a diagonal against the walls, they evoked oars,

Mónica González. Mujer, pilar malabarista. Installation. 138 x 31”. Photo: Pedro Caballero.

ready to sail. The discourse reached the level of tragedy: the content, made of minimal formal elements, was a moving paraphrase of classical resonance. The mural installation by Tonel was less profound: a map of the island

Ana María Mazzei. Untitled (detail), 1994. Installation. 291 x 787”. Photo: Ricardo Pérez.

made up of hundreds of plastic objects, with the words Desired Country below. The Slovak Matej Kren (Trencin, 1958) produced another of the outstanding installations at this Biennial. With books piled on top of one another, in successive lines, he created an enormous circular tower closed at the top and lower parts by two round mirrors which multiplied ad infinitum the internal illuminated space visible through a kind of window. A bottomless pit, an endless Tower of Babel, the installation was an exploration of space, its reality and virtuality. “The sense of uncertainty produced by this virtual infinity must certainly cause, if not shock, then a sense of insecurity in the spectator as he becomes conscious of his self in space and time” (6). The Spanish curator Estrella de Diego based her country’s exhibit on the idea of “look now and see later”, with works by an established poet, the Catalan Juan Brossa (1919) and two young artists: Ana Prada Castro (Zamora, 1965) and Juan Luis Moraza (Vitoria, 1960). A loose conceptual bond linked the three productions: the objectpoems by Brossa –for example, Contes (1986): an old typewriter which gave off a tumult of colored streamers– were enchanting. Ana Prada used ordinary


objects like drinking straws and paper bags, which she reworked in unusual ways to create ironic associations and authentic visual traps. The work by Moraza was more virulent, mixing cultured traditions and popular, everyday images. In the case of each of these three artists, the works demanded complicity from the spectator. In addition to the three artists in the special exhibitions, the United States sent works by Betye Saar and John Outterbridge. Well-known as political artists, both work with heteroclite materials, deeply rooted in family traditions, as the text by the curator Lizetta Lefalle-Collins pointed out. Saar creates real icons which point to spiritual concerns, while Outterbridge protests against the destruction of the environment and the degradation of cities. The work of the French artist Toni Grand, entitled Du simple au double (1993), based on a complex thought-out structure (7), was surprising and even shocking: the large plastic tubes, lined up as veins or residual matter at the bottom, resin-covered eels. The dialectic interplay of contradictory elements seemed to be the raw material

for the work by the English sculptors Cathy de Monchaux (1960), Comelia Parker (1956) and Helen Chadwick (1953). The first produced objects suggesting the elaborate world of the late gothic. Using wrought brass, velvet and satin, glass and photocopies, she created complicated montages which both attracted and repelled unending flirt and desire. Parker revealed how relative our concepts of solid and permanent are in a literal way, through a three dimensional montage with the elements of an explosion. We see the moment in which a dynamitized garden shed flies into the air. Chadwick used photography to perpetuate impossible amalgamations: floral arrangements floating in viscous and frequently toxic substances. The circular photographs entitled Wreaths to Pleasure were also attractive and repellent, like the fountain of toxic chocolate bubbling at the centre of the exhibition. Giovanni Anselmo (1934), one of the best representatives of the Italian renovation of the 1960s, brought along his installation Particolari visibili e invisibili lungo il sentiero verso alfremare. Natural elements –earth, stones– were combined with technological products Adriana Varejão. Extirpation o, evil thru overdose. 1994. Oil on canvas and objects. Painting 87 x 59”. Supports: 87 x 15,2 x 15.7”. Thomas Cohn Gallery.

Valeska Soares. Untitled, 1994. Roses, marmor and syntethic hair. Installation. Photo: Eduardo Orteg. Camargo Vilaça Gallery.

–slide projectors– which “cut space and in doing so, conspire to create a kind of microcosmos, an idealized trajectory which leads back to the reality of the human condition” (8). This same backdrop, although presented differently, permeated the work by the Japanese artist Toshikatsu Endo (1950): Fountain and Plantation are sculptural installations of great visual force, evoking the four primordial elements of water, fire, earth and air and man’s action on them. The Paraguayan curator Osvaldo González Real closely adhered to the thematic guidelines proposed by the general curator and selected works by Carlos Colombino (1937), sculptural paintings which in a sense suggested the narrative world of Quiroga; an installation by Marite Zaldivar (1955), which examined the colonial and Guarani past of her country; and, another by Mónica González, an attractive metahor of women’s tasks, both trivial and fundamental. Mention should also be made of the presence of the Venezuelan Ana Maria Mazzei, with an installation entitled Eiwaipanoma, a battalion of plastic pillars (receptacle inflated like a boxer’s sparring bag)


with images alluding to those human phenomena found by the conquerors of the Americas – “other” beings not integrated into the Western world and now threatened with disappearance. The installation, however suffered from a lack of space. Brazilian Participation The twenty-three Brazilian artists invited to this edition provided an uneven range of proposals. The presence of some –for example, that of the late Ibere Camargo– seemed to challenge explanation. Others in no way fitted into the overall context proposed for this edition. Some proposals were so poor that they even cast transitory doubt over the vitality of current Brazilian art. Let us review some of the more interesting work, beginning with the unusual montage by Adriana Varejão (Rio, 1964). The artist freely manipulates references to Brazilian baroque, to the Chinese influence evident during the same period, and to the traumas of the colonial expansion process. Her method suggests that of the surgeonanatomist who dissects the body to discover a disease and begins to cut, to perforate, to bleed...all in accordance with established practice. Visually strong, the installation bordered on being art understood as catharsis. There were also four works with resin and wax on fiberglass by Didi Maia Rosa (São Paulo, 1946). They comprised large monochromatic surfaces which disoriented the viewer’s eye, inviting him to enter their jelly-like presence. Nuno Ramos (São Pablo, 1960) presented a series of volumetric pieces made of unusual materials: tar, paraffin, glass, salt, vaseline, chalk and copper. A strange beauty emerged from these installations combining organic forms and geological strata, found and made materials, the hand and mind of the artist and his view of the natural world. The eclectic Saint Clair Cemin (Cruz Alta, RGS, 1951) had two works on show from the Robert Miller Gallery in New York (9): Form with Overturned Vase (1987) and Chair (1990). Separated from the rest of the artist’s work, they did not seem very impressive. The

project by Tunga (Palmares, Per., 1952) could not be installed. According to the official in charge of architectural projects, the artist substantially modified his original proposal, and the Biennial refused to install the immense smelted bells, which might have endangered the building’s structure. Bells, inspired by a poem by Poe, thus remained a theoretical proposal. A floor covered with wax and red roses constituted the main part of an installation by Valeska Soares. The artist sees her work as both individualized elements – each installation – and as a continuous research process of research on specific materials, images and content. The episode mounted at this edition communicated an undeniable visual pleasure, tinged with certain anguish at the fleeting, tragic nature of the flowers. Homage and requiem fused together. It is already a tradition for the Biennial to include certain activities

outside the main venue. This time, there was a series of film by the director Philippe Garrel; a montage by M. Ramershoven around the Ettore Xemines Independence Monument (Ipiranga Park), a project entitled Matiere Premiere by the Canadians Lyne Lapointe and Martha Fleming in a large old house in the Bexinga district; Photoidea, a collective photography show by Italian artists and a one-woman show by the painter Sophie Boursat. Scattered throughout the enormous metropolis, all these activities required considerable time and were therefore not very accessible to most visitors. In conclusion, the contrast between the historical segment of this edition and the works by contemporary artists seems to highlight, once again, the climate of uncertainty which is characteristic of art at the turn of the century.

NOTES 1. The new studio was located at 15 East 59th Street, New York. S. Davidson Lowe, “Piet Mondrian's last Studio Creations: The Wall Works”, Catalogue, special exhibitions, 22nd São Paulo Biennial, p.291. 2. Closed environment by B. Saar. 3. In this connection, the next Congress of the AICA (International Association of Art Critics) will be held in China. 4. Chang Tsong·Zung, The remaking of mass culture: Pop art in China, Catalogue, 22nd São Paulo Biennial, p.99. 5. José Bedia was invited directly by the Biennial. His space was identified under the double place name Cuba-Miami. 6. Ada Krnacova-Gutleber, En el límite de la realidad, General Catalogue, XXllnd São Paulo Biennial, p.206. 7. The General Catalogue included a long interview with Grand by the curator, Catherine David, pp.236- 237. 8. Lucilia Sacca, General Catalogue, XXII São Paulo Biennial, p. 287. 9.The catalogue includes six works. Translation: Brian Mallet MARÍA ELVIRA IRIARTE PhD in the history of art, University of Paris, La Sorbonne. Member of the Editorial Committee of ArtNexus / Arte en Colombia.


ArtNexus Magazine 17, year 1995. pp 56-61

Meireles’s preoccupations are not directed towards the sociological or political spheres as a first impulse, although his perspective is never out of sight; his concerns lead to substantial proposals for an approximation to the artistic phenomenon of modernity, in terms of criticism and the posing of questions. SANTIAGO B. OLMO

There is a permanent and repeated use of the fiction that contemporary art can be explained in global terms to justify the keys of power. Reference is made to the importance of contexts, precisely in order to dismiss them,

and difference is stressed merely to impose uniformity. It is true that transnationality, multiculturalism, and such concepts as global art and the melting pot of multiplicity are all attractive and provide some real parameters of the functioning and behavior of art, although they all hypocritically mask

strategies of power. Even a cursory glance at the essential features of Brazilian art (and this is true of Latin American art in general) of recent decades offers a much more suggestive interpretation, reflecting an almost visceral attitude towards crossbreeding as experienced by those who have


Glove Trotter, 1991. Metallic net and balls of different sizes. 204.7 x 165.4 in. Artist’s collection.

lived the process, rather than being just mere actors in some pre-established scenario. This open-ended approach, the origins of which can be traced back to the profound impact on Brazilian culture of Oswald de Andrade’s Cannibalistic Manifesto (1928) is reflected in the works of Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica, as well as those of many other artists from subsequent generations, including, of course, those of Cildo Meireles. The cannibalistic attitude is one of digesting, i.e. integrating all those elements which can be used as basic

materials for a new configuration of reality; a bastard version, perhaps, but one which is more intense, richer, and more complex, a reflection of reality itself. Cildo Meireles’s way of working is “cannibalistic” in the sense that he “swallows” and “digests” (to assimilate and melt) elements from the history of art as well as from his own social and political environment, adopting a permanent strategy of the work as action, but in which he avoids an excessive presence of manual elements (1). Catherine David (2) quite rightly speaks of Meireles’s environment as a culture in formation subject to chan-

ge, and she defines his work more in terms of transformation than in terms of rupture. During the 1950s and 1960s, Brazil as a country had all the structural and economic conditions necessary for the development of a concept of progress based on utopia: there was the enormous wealth of its minerals, the population was dynamic and growing, the country was an enormous and as yet unexploited territory, but above all, there was a desire to achieve modernity based on the country’s tropical “difference”, a country with its own characteristics and own vision of development. Major infrastructure works were undertaken, including the construction of Brasilia, the new capital, closer to the Amazon jungle and in the heart of a country which wanted to be “new” and modern. This vitality also gave culture an eminently constructive edge – as reflected in the Sao Paulo Concrete movement and the immediate reaction it created in the form of the Neo-Concrete movement in Rio. There was also the development of the cinema novo of Glauber Rocha and popular music reached new levels of exquisite refinement. Cildo Meireles was nurtured in this environment in which unbridled optimism was soon confronted by the immediate and irreparable failure caused by the collapse of the dream of economic, social, and democratic progress, following the advent of the military regime in the 1960s. This gap between the country’s aspirations and everyday reality, this crack between the dream as a desire and reality as failure, was to condition the work of Meireles (and that of many other Latin American artists of his and subsequent generations), although it also helped generate the creative and integrating vitality of that work (3). Initially, the work of Meireles can be directly linked to the Duchampian message of seeing artistic problems as the result of a mental process, encompassing above all a reflection on the perceptual conditions of the artistic work. Meireles often coincides with Robert Smithson in reducing the work to a documentary residuum


Inserçoes em Circuitos Ideológicos. Proyecto Coca-Cola, 1970. Coca-Cola bottles.

of some activity or action, as in Mutaçôes geográficas: fronteira Rio - Saô Paulo (1969), where he proposes the emptying of content in the concept of frontier as applied to geographical space, through the interchange of earth and plants in two holes on both sides of the (arbitrary and artificial) frontier between these two Brazilian states. A leather suitcase recreates, through its compartmentalized form and earth contents as if it were the model for some project – the idea of action. This action-work, which is part of a broader more general project on the alteration of geographical conditioners through their transfer or elimination, inevitably takes us back to the “sculptural” Site/ Non-site counterpoint established by Smithson. In similar fashion, Arte física: Cordôes / 30 Km. de linha estendidos (1969), consisted of a rope stretched out along the coast of the state of Rio which was then gathered up, documented, and stored in a wooden box, to show the relative nature of length – a question which had already been examined from another perspective by Piero Manzoni, using other formulations more directly linked to painting. The connections and coincidences with Duchamp, Smithson, and Manzoni reflect some of Meireles’s basic concerns, including the absolute need for the idea, the mental process project, the concept, to dissolve the material or objectual connotations of the work. However, the dematerialization of the work of art does not, in the case

of Meireles, mean a nihilist desire or tension as in the United States or Europe, but rather an artistic action in the sense of a project for the conquest of new and unexplored mental territories, which Catherine David defines as the expression of a utopia or a project for emancipation (4). Cildo Meireles incorporates and develops in his work a language of conceptual strategies; his stance is sufficiently diffuse and imprecise to allow him to include reflections on social and political subjects and at the

same time to explore matters of artistic perception. He does so with the freedom and autonomy of someone using his own tools to construct an original discourse free of any formalist continuity. Frequently, both aspects, the artistic and the social, are fused together to create a “density”, the purpose of which is to make complex the appropriation of the work in experience, to transform it into action. Such action is simultaneously sensorial, physical, i.e. perceptual and mental. Meireles’s conceptual language, as to some extent in the case of other artists, both from Brazil and other Latin American countries, does not have the coldness and distance characteristic of North American proposals: the concept and the thought become warm, even begin to burn, enveloping the surrounding contexts, incorporating the social dimension, not in the local typical sense but as a key to political and global positioning (although not fully doing so). The concept and the thought become a strategy which enables abstraction to be made specific, concrete and rich in content, with the philosophically toned elements being set in an extremely corporeal, visceral dimension.

Money Tree, 1969. Bills and elastic band.


Guy Brett has defined this sliding process as a transition from an abstract towards a social reading of space seen as a flux of densities in transformation and at the same time, as the source of other transformations (5). The opening up to the outside, towards experience as a commitment to the reality surrounding the artist, is an essential requirement for Meireles. In this, there are some points of contact with Oiticica. However, Meireles takes a different path: whereas Oiticica directs his action and intervention towards aspects which are ludic, sensorial, perceptual, and even sensual (action is the pure expression of the work and the participation of the spectator results in a magical experience [6]), Meireles is inclined more to the mental, the thought process, or rather, the invitation to reflection through the use and stimulation of the senses to subvert the norms of perception. The exhibition which was recently presented at the Valencian Institute of Modern Art (IVAM, Valencia, Spain), curated by Vicente Todolí and Nuria Enguita, presented a selection of works covering the extensive career of the

Meireles constantly returns to the experience of dispersion as a means of understanding and thinking space, as a continuity without limitations. The space of art is prolonged in the space of life, but not as a place where both poles are to be bound. artist from his early pieces, such as Espaços virtuais: Cantos (1967-68), which brought him attention as an artist, down to some of his most emblematic works, such as Eureka / Blindhotland (1970-75) or Glove trotter (1991). Until now, the work of Cildo Meireles had been shown on only isolated occasions in Europe, with single installations, or within the context of large shows such as the Magiciens de la Terre in Paris, or the last Kassel Documenta. The Valencia show allowed his work to be viewed and set within a global and integrated perspective. Meireles constantly returns to the experience of dispersion as a means of understanding and thinking space, as a continuity without limitations. The space of art is prolonged in the

space of life, not as a place where both poles are to be found, but as contiguity which permits transformation. The dispersion is set against, but also complements, a desire for concentration and density, a project for expression and action beyond forms and appearances. Meireles’s preoccupations are not directed towards the sociological or political spheres as a first impulse, although his perspective is never out of sight; his concerns lead to substantial proposals for an approximation to the artistic phenomenon of modernity, in terms of criticism and the posing of questions. Meireles tries to resolve these problems through answers which are strategically set in a social context but which are at the same time endowed with poetic qualities which

Missao – Missoes (How to build cathedrals), 1987. Coins, wafers, bones, rocks. Fundación lochpe and Artist’s collection.


Fontes, 1983-89. Installation. Courtesy: Galerie Luisa Strina.

can only be understood as an unusual form of belonging that has nothing to do with either national concepts or nostalgic evocations for lost or disappearing arcadia. On the contrary, Meireles’s discourse is energetic and forceful, re-exploring situations and problems to show the mistakes and contradictions of the “institutional” responses of the past. In many of his projects Meireles approaches his plastic elements through the senses as a means of gaining access to certain critical spheres. Missâo / Missôes (How to build Cathedrals) (1987) is

perhaps one of his most well-known pieces, and is related to another work, Oblivion (1987-89). Both propose a reflection on the subtle methods of colonialism and the oppression exercised by dominant cultures over weaker ones – and in particular, the fate suffered by the Amerindian cultures. Excluding any hint of rhetoric from his discourse, and avoiding any simple and vacuous pitying of the victim, both installations create a sense of poetic tension which comes close to an oneiric and metaphysical vision based on touch and color.

Missâo / Missôes was inspired by the utopic project of the Jesuit Missions which in the eighteenth century brought the gospel to the Guaranis and organized a collectivist society. But Meireles gives a turn to the screw and proposes another way of understanding the role of the Missions: as a subtle means of introducing the oppression of colonialism acting at two parallel, overlapping levels – the political and the theological. A surface of golden coins evoking the gold of power is “lightly” linked by a fragile column of wafers to the motley roof of bones: the objective is the construction of an atmosphere of power, the cathedral, the emblem of the colonizer. Oblivion, for its part, shows in a less metaphorical and more directly political way the destiny of the indigenous cultures and peoples of the Americas: in the middle of a circular area covered with bones and enclosed by a small wall of candles, there is an Indian tent papered on the outside with countless banknotes of the countries of the Americas in which the indigenous peoples lived. Inside, painted black, is the terrible sound of an electric saw. Through (1983-89) examines the forms of prohibition from a strictly contemporary and almost police-like perspective through a labyrinth of barricades, grilles, fences, partitions, venetian blinds, elements which obstruct and impede movement, set against a surface covered with fragments of glass and crystal which leads up to a huge ball of crumpled cellophane. This work is closely related to Malhas da liberdade (1976), a formally minimalist although expressive proposal of a political kind. Meireles uses artistic action with the clear-sightedness of someone who criticizes pop art, to focus on one of its most emblematic fetishes, the Coca Coca bottle, while he ironically sifts through some of the power circuits incrusted in the social mass consumption machinery. This is precisely the political back-drop of the project entitled Inserçôes em circuitos ideológicos / Projeto Coca Cola (1970): a Coca Cola bottle filled with refreshing liquid is covered with messages printed on white


on a sticker. As the liquid disappears from the bottle, the message (Yankees go home!) associated with the content also disappears, swallowed up by the transparency of the glass. The bottle is now ready to be reintroduced into the distribution system, and is now a carrier of the subversive message-virus. An essential feature of Cildo Meireles’s work is its capacity to convert action into intervention: the concept of strategy is linked to action and intervention at various levels. Inserçôes em circuitos ideológicos can and should be defined as an anti-ready made: Meireles does not appropriate the fetish-object of the Coca-Cola bottle, the Warhol emblem of capitalist consumption, but rather the market mechanisms. It is precisely these mechanisms, those which cause the bottle-containers to circulate from the producer to the consumer and back to the point of departure for recycling and subsequent re-circulation after refilling, which in the end, are transformed into a new kind of immaterial and ideological ready-made. However, when the squandering of consumption swamped the market with nonreturnable glass and plastic bottles, such a strategy was no longer viable, becoming an historical condition impossible to make into a fetish, contrary to what happened with Duchamp’s bottle drier. A similar direction is evident in the works which used money or banknotes as their support. Belonging to Inserçôes em circuitos ideológicos, the Cédula project comprises the introduction, through tampons, of disturbing messages which are politically or socially subversive, onto legal tender banknotes, messages which are of course circulated through everyday payments. In The Money Tree (1969), the artist explores the differences in the use of value and exchange value of a wad of banknotes, and in Zero Cruceiro / Zero centavo / Zero dollar (1974-78), produces a fictitious issue of paper money almost exactly the same as that of legal tender, but with ironic differences in detail (such as the caricature of Uncle Sam on the dollar bill worth 0). In the

Oblivion, 1987-89. Camping tent, American Countries bills, bones, candles, charcoal , audio. 315 x 157 in. Artist’s collection.

case of the bill worth 0 cruzeiro, the effigy of a patriotic hero is replaced by the image of a native from the Amazon, with a patient from a psychiatric hospital on the other side. Those who have been forgotten in a system of exchange rates become the protagonists of their zero value, i.e. their lack of any value, and their presence in turn claims their social and political existence. In the Eureka / Blindhotland (197075) project, which proposes a radical analysis of the relationship between time and space in terms of the equivocal relationship between density and volume, space is tactile, sonorous,

physical, and eminently mental. It is not a space for perceiving only with the senses, but with concepts – but once again, not in the style of the North American conceptualists, but in a more sensual manner. The same is true of the concept of space and density in Glove trotter (1991), in which a steel net encloses balls of different sizes and colors. Although at times Meireles’s work seems to be excessively intellectualizing, the door is always left open to the “possibility for poetic materialization”. It offers a kind of space for withdrawal, a place for contemplation and above all, for reflection and questioning.

NOTES 1. Wilson Coutinho, A estratégia de Cildo Meireles. 2. Catherine David, “Da adversidad e vivemos”, in the catalogue of the exhibition Tunga Lezarts / Cildo Meireles Through, Kunststichting - Kanaal - Art Foundation, Kortrijk, 1989. 3. In this sense Carlos Basualdo sees the Latin American avant-garde and modernity as a living project within a constant process of evolution. See Carlos Basualdo, “Bodywise”, in Art from Brazil in New York, 1995, exhibition catalogue. 4. Catherine David, op.cit. 5. Guy Brett, “Cildo Meireles”, in Tunga / Cildo Meireles exhibition catalogue, op.cit. 6. Helio Oiticica, Anotaçôes sobre o Parangolé, published by the artist on the occasion of the exhibition Opiniâo 65, Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro, 1965, and reproduced as an abstract in the catalogue of the traveling exhibition Hélio Oiticica, 1992-94. Spanish edition Fundació Antoni Tapies, Barcelona, 1994. Translation: Brian Mallet SANTIAGO OLMO Spanish art critic and historian, based in Madrid.


ArtNexus Magazine 21, year 1996. pp 36-39

Beddangelina, 1989. Mixed media on canvas. 159.4 x 120”.

Senise’s works may have a distinctive contemporary quality. However, their author seems less inclined to represent the specific conditions of his time and place in history.

ADRIANO PEDROSA It is ever so difficult to begin. Very much aware of this, Brazilian painter Daniel Senise (Rio de Janeiro, 1955) has developed a technique of forging a history onto his support which will allow him to initiate and subsequently perform other inscriptions. At least since 1988, the majority of his paintings follow a distinct method with regards



to their first lines. This mock-historical work-process has been concisely described by Fernando Cochiaralle as follows: “Cretonne is stretched on the studio floor and then covered by a [layer] of pigmented glue and allowed to dry. It is then lifted and together with the canvas, comes all his pictorial substance – paint spots from other paintings, fibers, leaves, etc. – which had been on the floor” (1).

Such method recalls a certain construction of (the painting’s) history, how it is written and counterfeited with one gesture alone seemingly fashioning layers of inscriptions. Daniel Senise’s paintings reveal another concern with history which requires further consideration. These, after all, are times when the historical discipline, along with its idea of progress and linearity, its neat articula-


Three Paths,1995 Mixed media on canvas. 53 x 74.8”

tion of time and events has been called into question. The writing of History, as we once knew it, with its claims of representation and recording, totality and universalism, has been discovered unattainable. Forever partial and biased, the traditional activity of the historian has had to be rethought in terms of fragments, partialities, and, yes, fiction. It would appear that Art History, or most of what is produced under that name, has been reluctant to take these issues into consideration. The History of Art, for one thing, remains highly modern (despite its flirtation with the postmodern). The desire to translate, organize, and record –such modern desires after all– persists in both academia and in much of the art press. The work of Daniel Senise does not evidently address these issues, although –as I have written elsewhere (2)– his paintings tell us that it is impossible to be certain. In this unsettled context, the artist draws from several sources, engaging not so much in a postmodern appropriation (as in the case of Sherrie Levine or Jorge Luis Borges), which questions authorship and originality, but rather in a tactical and ill-behaved usurpation of the archive.

She Who is Not [Here, There, or Present] (1994), for example, is a series of paintings made after a Giotto fresco. Senise usurped from the fresco precisely what was originally not there: Patina of detritus which history, in a vandalistic fashion, had deposited on it. The series is emblematic of a certain outlook vis-a-vis the history of art, the archive, which the artist at times reveals: it is the detritus itself that interests Senise, what has been left aside, what is devoid of any value;

she (3) that is not (t)here: the junk of (art) history. The palimpsest: a manuscript, typically of papyrus or parchment that has been written on more than once, with the earlier writing incompletely erased and partially legible; an object, a place, or an are a that seemingly reflects its history. As a metaphor for Senise’s paintings, the palimpsest signals the several layers of pictorial text which have been inscribed, obliterated, and erased from the thin cretonne.

Bunny - Duckling, 1995. Acrylic and dust of iron on cretone. 43.3 x 74”.


Furthermore, it evokes the ultimate indecipherability of the painter’s writing, the unattainable certitude. The palimpsest, however, both typically and conceptually, bears true marks which reveal the true history of its support. In Senise, however, the text deceives us, the paintings reveal signs of premature or simulated aging; often torn and stitched due to the severe treatments they have undergone, they peel off and, here and there, have their skin patched. Take Beddangelina (1989), for example: the central figure is obviously the inverted, flattened, whitened, and translucent image of a swan. A symbol of classical beauty, the swan may also elegantly announce death (of history, of the archive, of the author), and Beddangelina means literally “the tomb of Angelina” in the Welsh language. If the swan predominates against the somber background, we can nevertheless attempt to perceive other elements in the planes behind and in front: hammers, a twisted column, clusters of unrecognizable detritus, bits and pieces which have fallen from or adhered to the painting’s surface, layered under and over dark or washed out spills and drips of paint. Death, history, and the palimpsest recall yet another metaphor for Senise’s paintings, one that has in fact been invoked by the artist himself and others (4); the sudário (in Portuguese the

shroud, veil, and also the sudarium of Christian mythology, the cloth which bears the imprint of the face of Jesus). Here, the sudário establishes another interplay with history: between memory and forgetfulness, true marks and the fictional ones. Much like a fossil, the sudário has been marked, pressed, and monotyped with the negative image of the body it once held. The technique of the monotype itself is often used by Senise: not just when the cretonne peels off the detritus from the floor, but also when the painter places metal objects such as nails for several days on his paintings, which will then bear the nail’s rusty marks and their memory. In a direct reference to the metaphor, Senise’s Sudárico (1990) bears a translucent white cloth in the center of the canvas with larger-than-life nails pointed at it against a cave-like background. Where is the true mark? The sudário here is draped in such a way that we are unable to unfold its face and discover the true imprint it holds. Truth: complete assurance and unfailing certitude are characteristic of an encyclopedic desire. In modern and enlightened terms: to record and translate everything in to the all-encompassing book. Senise’s Everything that Exists (1989), is a play on such terms. A painting first exhibited at the 1989 São Paulo Biennial, its quasi-figuration may suggest disparate elements in a landscape or a seascape: a silhouette

She Who is Not (Here, There, or Present), 1994. Mixed media on canvas. 75.9 x 74.8”.

Sao Sebastiáo, 1991. Acrylic and oil on canvas 68 x14.5”.


of a bird, the fine neck of a swan, architectural motifs, full and outlined circles. In the painting, however, these elements are played off against the background. It is indeed a challenge (as in many other of Senise’s paintings) to distinguish clearly where the latter begins and the former ends. The formal play extends beyond the skin-deep game of the figure-ground relationship when account is taken of the painting’s caption. As is so often the case, the title of the work is conceptually crucial and changes the reading of the painting. In different bluish tones, as well as with white, gray, black, and a dash of red, Senise paints everything that exists; a futile encyclopedic task elsewhere, but here fully achieved due to the title which art alone admits. With Buddha: all that exists is a composite that one day will dissolve. Senise’s works may have a distinctive contemporary quality. However, their author seems less inclined to represent the specific conditions of his time and place in history. Brazilian? Carioca? Late 20th century? The 80s, the 90s? One can never be sure. In fact, coupled with the paintings’ contemporary quality is a fin de siècle mood, rather decadent (with regards to the fine arts and histories), painfully melancholic, yet reluctant to desist. O beijo do elo perdido (The Kiss of the Missing Link) (1991) is an eloquent symptom of this mood. Two fantastic skulls are locked in a never-ending kiss. This deadly pas de deux is painted in earthy tones and defined in somber shades. Rendered over an infinite background, it may be seen as a double portrait or a sterile landscape. The resulting image recalls the very symbol of the infinite, which may in turn point to the endless links of a metaphorical chain of signifiers (which ends in death alone), or the fatality of primal love. Once again, we are never sure. The uncertainties of writing and history constitute the unfolding of an earlier uncertainty which is suggested by Tres caminos (Three Paths) (1995): seeing. In profile and silhouette, two girls face and stare at each other, and the different possible paths their gaze might follow are illustrated through

The Kiss of the Missing Link, 1991. Acrylic and oil on cretone. 54.7 x 79.9”.

sinuous serpentines. The noise which obstructs their clear vision is indicated by several slabs of detritus which float around and between them. Clearly, there is no cloudless, unimpeded trajectory. The painting would be a plain illustration of the trickeries of seeing if we were to forget the subject which, although materially absent from the image we see, is inescapably implicated: namely ourselves, the spectators of Three Paths. Can you see? It is difficult to perceive, yet our memory of the gloomy images which Daniel Senise inscribes on his sudário and palimpsest is very much at stake. Hammers and nails; swans,

ducks, birds, and dolphins; columns and shells; brains, skulls, and bones; mothers and little girls; clouds and smoke; landscapes and seascapes; shrouds and votive offerings; the infinite – the indecipherable image repertoire. If it is impossible to forget (5), it is even less possible to remember (we are thus brought back to the fundamental questions posed by Freudian psychoanalytic theory). Among the infinite uncertainties about everything that exists, Senise’s work signals an anarchic usurpation of the archive (which is in fact a symptom of the death force [6]). If it is ever so difficult to begin, it is no less difficult to end.

NOTES 1. Fernando Cocchiarale, Daniel Senise, exhibition catalogue, São Paulo: Subdistrito Comercial de Arte, 1989, XX International São Paulo Biennial. 2. Adriano Pedrosa, “Dura norte / Hard death”, in Daniel Senise, exhibition catalogue, Rio de Janeiro: Paço Imperial, Thomas Cohn Arte Contemporánea, 1994. 3. History, in the Portuguese language, is a femenine word: a histária. 4. See, for example, Paulo Herkenhoff. “Sudário e esquecimento”, in Daniel Senise exhibition catalogue. São Paulo: Galería Camargo Vilaça, 1993. 5. See Paulo Herkenhoff, op cit. 6. C.F. Jacques Derrida, Mal d’archive, Edition Galilée, Paris, 1995.

ADRIANO PEDROSA Brazilian artist and writer. Lives in Rio de Janeiro and Los Angeles.


ArtNexus Magazine 22, year 1996. pp 60-63

For Ricke, 1992. Paper and stone. Photo: Wilton Montenegro

LISETTE LAGNADO To enter the work place of Waltercio Caldas is to let the attention go towards a flow, doubly marked-out, by the innumerable volumes of a wide-ranging library and by the view, which precipitates from the top of one of the oldest neighborhoods in Santa Teresa. One can imagine a dimension in which the sculptures of the artist embody the silence of the contemporary atelier (just one not too random example of the current situation) and, in a reciprocal gesture, the poetry of Ponge fills with the vertigo of a magnificent view over the city of Rio de Janeiro. Beginning with this place, which embodies the ancient dichotomy between nature and culture, Caldas’s parti pris is to extract gravity from a chaotic and

«...there are processes which take place in silence, which are almost imperceptible. There are only inexact words to designate something exactly». Gilles Deleuze (Dialogues) artificial world. His process, which is deliberately slow, has given the public a series of intermediate products, whose characteristics elude the descriptive effort: between design and sculpture, between graphic gesture and installation, between logic and poetry, and above all between creation and criticism. Sometimes he manages to jolt the traditional definitions in an attempt to incorporate the context of human experience. It must be pointed out that the artist works more with the movement of hypotheses than with the static notion

of representation, thus avoiding to postulate a purity of sensibility or a logic of reason, in the style of “either-or” binary machines. Thus, perception is not an a priori matter. “It is a characteristic of the nature of artistic objects to preserve their destiny as hypotheses, even after they are finished” (1). But against what kind of reason does such a work rebel, since non-reason has also been rejected? The objective, in a kind of endless challenge, is to combine nature with the history of thought and set the alluded work within a context of multiplicity. These


are pieces which were constructed with each glance, inhabiting an imponderable distance between the “self” and the “other”: thought / desire, throbbing / machine, writing / reading, reading / rereading (2). A sense of throbbing gives tension to space: without a privileged point of vantage, how can the meaning of sculpture be apprehended? Frontality, now an inadequate means, gives way to the continuous mobility of a horizon which is constructed in the nucleus of the relationship with things. The shell which protects the yolk of the egg is increasingly fragile. As recipient of this work it supposes an active subject (meditator and not contemplator, as the poet would say), preferably someone endowed with a sophisticated awareness able to navigate through the dense mist of modernism which hides crucial aspects of tradition – like the reader of Borges, who must always be alert to the duplicity of the fiction. In this sense, it could be affirmed that the theme of recognition in Caldas’s work surreptitiously appears in the quotations of tribute to the history of art (Duchamp, Matisse, Mondrian, Morandi, Picasso, Rodin, Velazquez...). Distancing himself from the jolts produced by rupture, Caldas undertakes to a principle of continuity – a gesture which recalls the elegant outline of Mark Tansey, in the dance of the masters (Paul de Man, Derrida ...). There is no melancholy in the work of Waltercio Caldas, a fundamental difference with Tansey, for whom literary incest is the vital system of production both in representation and in the figures of irony. It is worth asking now what kind of certainty can arise in the “in-between” space, the space between differences. Since his exhibition entitled “The Nature of Games” (1975, MASP, São Paulo), the artist has been discussing a logic of reason as applied to the act of looking. On that occasion, he placed his bet on the manipulation of the other, the place of origin of the author’s gesture; hypothetically, anyone could present this work (Matisse’s book sprinkled with talcum powder on any page). “What is an ‘apparatus’?”, he asked. Or even better, “what is an ‘apparatus of art’?”,

Duchamp relentlessly invoked without respite. A pause for an historical digression: how can we interpret three painted iron bars, measuring 120 x 60 x 30 cms., placed on the wall at asymmetrical intervals? It would appear justifiable to locate the roots of this work in the constructivist movement (of the 1920s), in the battle against illusionism and subjectivity (Sol Lewitt, amongst many others, with whom Caldas shared the attention at that edition of the São Paulo Biennial). From 1978 (when the above-mentioned work was exhibited at the Museum of Modem

Art in Rio), down to the present, Caldas has spared no effort in trying to correct a misunderstanding which always caused a lot of unease: the integration, in an always reductionist manner, of the language of minimalism into his work. The fact is that, at that artistic moment, that was the nature of the artistic agenda. The discourse of the 1970s told the story of the world parting from a consciousness – whether Cartesian, Kantian, or in the best hypothesis, phenomenological. The limits between consciousness and body, subject and object were maintained, once the glances had merely noticed

Untitled, 1992. Wool. Photo: Wilton Montenegro Untitled, 1978. Dice on Frozen Water. Photo: Río Branco


Godard Sculpture, 1988. Painted iron. 43 1/3 x 15 3/4”. Photo: Cesar Caldas

the austerity and straightness of the black bars. No-one looked at the space in between; “To give a name to the space between things”. What has changed: the work or our perception of it? From the periphery, we reach the core of the problems which concern Caldas: the art of constructing a problem whose objective is to continue exploring. To resolve a problem would mean eliminating its points of tension, combining all the possibilities (of truth and of flight) into rhetoric. It is important to distinguish between the work which raises a real problem and the traps which are nothing but clumsy gagues (jokes) of the worst disciples of Duchamp. In 1993, for the first time in São Paulo, in one of those collective exhibitions which generally go unnoticed –and, it is curious to note, it would appear that the essence of Caldas generates its own procrastination– the artist mounted a single sculpture composed only of a handful of woolen threads. Four tons of yellow in

the air, subtle and almost imperceptible elements, which gave precision and determination to the exhibition space. There once again were the lines which, although disengaged, did not totally negate their relationship with the irreducible two-dimensionality of the white wall. To bring them out of the surface Caldas broadened the relationship of the body with the work, and thus the sense of enjoyment with the work – something much more complex than the mechanism of recognizing a three-dimensional object. The artist introduces virtual fields into his sculptures (virtus: power, virtue), the description of a workshop as a poetic rather than a physical space. Once again, we must be careful with the perversity of words. I do not say that these words are devoid of reality. But they do have a strength which fragments the crystallization of a territory. The sculpture with woolen threads conquered the potentiality of the virtual field: this is the work (its body, its consciousness) deprived of

Untit/ed, 1978. Powder on Matisse book. 11 3/4 x 15 3/4”. Photo: Wilton Montenegro.

any rigid form, suspended from a thread, almost nothing. But then again: what does the choice of wool mean? Since, if there were some splitting into two of the reasoning characteristic of conceptual art, it could be situated in the experience of the material which is not transformed into products (such characteristics as the origin, texture and color of the raw materials are rigorously maintained). Given the excellence of the descriptive definitions, we learn that this “hair that covers the body of certain animals” interprets the external prolongations of epidemical cells. Each of these stained filaments imposes itself on our perception in the transpiration of a slight bodily heat. It is so slight that an observation of this kind seems to belong to a realm of unimaginable subtlety. Indeed, in a period of ever-increasing speed, few remain attentive to the emergence of new ideas or hypotheses. There is another relevant aspect about these thread sculptures: the material nature of the woolen thread is so light that it becomes virtually impossible to photograph. This is another feature of the virtual destiny of these oscillating sculptures. Although they make up an impressive set of eight pieces with sixty two colors of interwoven wool (National Museum of Fine Arts, Rio de Janeiro) (3), I am writing these lines without ever knowing whether the reader will be able to see the object in question. And this unrealizable fact – writing, reading – is intentional: the same author contrived our separation. Caldas insists on the experience which results from direct transmission, and a few vertically arranged woolen threads are enough for this purpose – since there is still the possibility of raising a number of (weighty) concerns about contemporary sculpture. The artist tells us that the void is as concrete as a stone, and that it must be considered as a volume which breathes between the fibers; “Nothingness also claims it’s due, ceaselessly”. The incorporation of something impalpable concerns the reasoning of work and is a constant concern of Caldas throughout the crea-


tive process. The exactitude of a register is not achieved, but there is a living and variable record. The interest in the work itself cannot be usurped by its technical reproducibility, irrespective of the medium used (graphic or through online communication). A counter-example of what has just been said, and an irrefutable proof that we are constantly placed in a kind of quicksand, is the piece entitled Ice Dice, from 1976, which is perpetuated only through its reproduction. A fragile and ephemeral construction (the ice) encompasses the place, originating probabilities (the dice). There is no way of knowing the duration of the instant, not even by solidifying water. Caldas’s coup de dés consists of destabilizing any kind of logical forecast, or in this case, duration. lt is expedient to remember that the artist did countless works with mirrors and dice. An element of chance and hazard par excellence, this little cube concentrates all the force of multiplicity and the unknown – perhaps the most exact nature of poetic space. As for the mirror, any comment on its reflective surface would run the risk of plunging us into a labyrinth. Caldas knows that things are immobile in the world only in appearance; “To observe the movement of unmoving things. To take the distracted soul by surprise”. A murmur arises which prevents any absolute repose. A classic example is when we look at a cloud in a clear and windless sky. The white bob appears fixed on the horizon; however, we know that the thousands of droplets which make it up are fluttering although we cannot see them. This is one of the implications of the piece from 1968 entitled Godard Sculpture, consisting of a curved tube placed on the floor. Caldas’s work began with problems related to elementary optics, platonic images and the recurrent use of two discs, volumes, stones or recipients attempting to communicate with each other. But there is a perfectly exemplary piece (Untitled, 1994) which reflects all this discussion on the volatile nature of the spirit and matter. In communicating glass vessels, a certain quantity of alcohol remains permanently suspended, marking lines (of level) which are equalized

in space. This colorless liquid would evaporate if it were not sealed inside. Without giving off its characteristic odor, the alcohol retains a mystery in the handsome branches which emerge from the wall. No one could testify to the nature of this substance, except the artist’s word (once again, Duchamp). We must therefore be very careful so as not to confine poetry to the immaterial, with the inherent evocation of a mystical spirit. If we had to recall here a category of the sublime, it would necessarily refer to the prohibited exile of passion. The mad ecstasy which fills us with emotions seems inadmissible in its tyranny. And the lightness of these Untitled, 1994. Glass and alcohol. 19 3/4 x 14 1/4 x 10 1/4». works has the intelligence to Photo: Romulo Fialdini. exclude the realm of the indefinite. There is desire to organize which without phrases, or better, they are the runs against the random discoveries structure of a whole resting in the parts”. of irrational creative processes. Hasty Indeed, to plunge in the specific time of readers of ltalo Calvino will recall the these notebooks involved a distancing presence of multiplicity for the next from the fine irony which permeated millennium, but they forget that this is the artist’s installation at the 17th edition preceded by a lesson in exactness. Con- of the São Paulo Biennial in 1983, a cotrariwise, Caldas looks for equilibrium at rridor of thousands of boxes of chewing the limits, with no contamination from gum, which the visitor eyed quickly in sentimentalism, and even the pressed a gesture characteristic of all those who leaf is scrupulous (É, 1987). Although frequent blockbuster exhibitions. any cognitive process involves difficulty, Caldas’s sculpture functions in space in the ignorance of common sense, the with all the power of the so-called Carresult does not generate pathos. tesian anguish. To penetrate into this The public could savor this enveloping universe is to believe that a work is only serenity in a recent exhibition (Paço Im- a sensitive idea, that it is not inexorable perial, Rio de Janeiro), where the artist tied to a label, that all production is inevipresented a selection of 59 notebooks and tably the production of a concept. Within objects collected over almost thirty years, this curved line of perception, Caldas’s in an attempt to update graphic gesture invitation to reasoning takes us towards a in space: “They are like parentheses place of order, beauty and calm. A luxury of rare voluptuousness.


1. AII the quotations are Irom the artist himself. 2. From 1972, auto-adhesive labels printed with bold letters on a gold background: I am you and I am not you. 3. This exhibition (1994) won the Mario Pedrosa Prize for the best exhibition of the year, awarded by the Brazilian Association of Art Critics. Translation: Brian Mallet LISETTE LAGNADO Brazilian art critic and curator.


ArtNexus Magazine 23, year 1997. pp 82 - 87


23rd São Paulo Biennial The guiding concept of the Biennial was: “The dematerialization of art at the end of the millennium”. as the general curator and his assistant, prepared proposals on other geopolitical regions of the world, while in another section, the second floor of the building housed the exhibits of the invited countries – a total of 75 were present, with one artist per country. The dispersion of the Biennial outside its own premises was less evident, with a series of parallel exhibitions which broadened the panorama of Brazilian art for those visitors to the Biennial (1). There is no space in this review for any discussion of the particular qualities of each of the rooms making up the museological space Anish Kapoor, Turning the World Inside Out, 1995. on the third floor, the Cast aluminium. 56 5/8 x 72 1/2 x 74”. Special Rooms. Eighteen “historical” artists MARÍA ELVIRA IRIARTE from Goya down to Anish Kapoor, Tomie Ohtake and Basquiat were repnce again, the São Paulo Biennial resented under the guiding concept of underwent substantial structural changes the Biennial, “The dematerialization of of an administrative, financial, conceptual art at the end of the millennium”. and operational nature. After almost two This complex conceptual framework years’ work, the general curatorial team, resulted in a variety of interpretations, headed by Professor Nelson Aguilar, from the most literal to other contradicproposed a division of the show into three tory views, in the three segments of the sections. event. The thesis of the general curator The museological section, already pres- concerns the recovery of essences, rather ent in the 1994 edition, was significantly than appearances; it is an attempt to emexpanded. In another section, entitled Uni- phasize conceptual content rather than versalis, six independent curators, as well its direct incorporation. A contradiction is


suggested between two possible readings, at the morphological and semantic levels. In his text on The voices of dematerialization, Professor Aguilar explained his objective: “…It is impossible to deal with art without a work, without material; the mark of the immaterial is featured in a unique and varied manner in each masterpiece. Accordingly, dematerialization in art is performed in various manners, as for example in the precedence of the fantastic over the prosaic, as in Goya, Munch, Louise Bourgeois and Wiig Hansen; in art’s conversion into its own constitutive elements – the flat cubist canvas in Picasso, or the line, tonality and colors of the artist / teacher Paul Klee, or yet in Cy Twombly’s work; in the transformation of volume into lines, in Gego, or near the opposite, the breath of calligraphy turned three dimensional in Tomie Ohtake; in the dialogue with the divine, in Wifredo Lam, Mestre Didi, Rubem Valentim and Arnulf Rainer; in the rendition of contemporary society as trademarks by Andy Warhol or Jean-Michel Basquiat; in the indexes of nothingness in Anish Kapoor; and the return to one’s birthplace in Pedro Figari and Qiu Shihua” (2). The text refers to the artists of the museological rooms, but the idea of dematerialization held sway over the entire Biennial. Similar or equivalent arguments can be invoked concerning the work of many artists. The works in the special rooms, under the direct responsibility of the general curator, illustrated a curatorial thesis which seems foreign to the works themselves. The result was incomprehensible and even misleading for the general public: the term “masterpiece” could not be used univocally in the case of Goya and Picasso, Valentim and Basquiat. It should


also be noted that the 18 artists belonged to quality levels which varied considerably in the history of art. What was undeniable was the attraction of these rooms, or at least some of them, for the Biennial as a whole. One did not go to see the Biennial, but to see Picasso, Goya or Klee. In fact, there were special tickets with different prices for such visits, which was an excellent idea, and of educational value for many people. But it is worth asking whether the enormous effort involved in this museological presentation was consistent with the main objective of the São Paulo Biennial. It would seem that those objectives should be redefined and clarified. Could the event not be made a showcase for art from the continent, for example? That this third floor of the building, properly amplified and equipped to house major traveling shows, is used when there is no Biennial is a fine idea. But does the Biennial as an event need a mini-museum as an annex? It would seem rather that the special exhibitions should serve as a complementary argument to the Biennial exhibition, rather than a lamp shade to obliterate it. One point worth making is the following: of the 18 master artists presented in the museological rooms, six were from Latin America: three Brazilians – Tomie Ohtake, Mestre Didi and Rubem Valentim; along with the Venezuelan Gego, Lam and Figari. The Figari exhibit, curated by Jorge Castillo, was very moving, with more than fifty high quality pieces (3): the pampa and its human, animal and vegetable inhabitants; the urban rites of the fiesta, the earth streets and the patios; the sky and the moon in several landscapes. The memory of an imaginary past which the artist places at the center of modernity through his unusual plastic language. But can the work of the great Uruguayan artist be seen as a path towards dematerialization? With the Lam exhibit, Gerardo Mosquera insisted on an argument which has been developed for some time now: the resituation of the fundamental criteria which govern Latin American art production and its analysis. A similar posture was event in the exhibitions of Mestre Didi curated by the artist Emanoel Araujo and Rubem Valentim, presented by the Foundation of

the same name. If Lam is a universal artist, the other two are local artists and outside their immediate context, their works are very debatable. Neither were the enormous curved white cubes by Ohtake part of the best work of this great artist. The calligraphic gesture becomes materialized and made more concrete in a banalized material. “Set around the exhibition room and arranged at different height, the pieces function according to the movement of the spectator’s eye...” (4); neither the idea nor the solution proved particularly significant. A criticism can be leveled against the white exhibition room housing the pieces by Gego: the montage included too many works. The almost magical transparency of the pieces was thus masked and almost obliterated by the inevitable visual congestion. The sculptor did not propose her works in terms of a continuum: each piece has its own characteristic structure, and this was lost in the cluttered montage. Another criticism, this time concerning an interloper in the museological floor: the panels of Sol Lewitt, the national representative of the United States. Why this special placing of the works? This was the only apparent flaw in the well-designed overall installation.It is true that Kapoor’s pieces were on the first floor, but they are so heavy more than two tones that it was impossible to put them on the museological level.

Mestre Didi, Opá Osanyin Gbegá, 1995. Magnificent scepter of plant leafs with serpents. 35 7/8 x 16 7/8 x 4 6/8”.

The Universalis sector divided the artistic world into seven regions. The curators appointed for each region selected between five and seven artists whose works did not necessarily constitute a single discourse. Thus Universalis was a reflection on the manner of exhibiting, a tautological situation in the show which

Tomie Ohtake. Untitled, 1996. Tubular iron, installation view. At the back: Sol Lewitt, Painting on wall #808, 1996.


Pedro Figari, Candombe. Oil on cardboard. 24

proposed itself as an object of study. The system of perception is enhanced, with groups of works being organized through interpretational means made explicit by each curator in their texts; an attempt was made “to establish a debate focusing on this state of things that characterize contemporary life” (5). The subtitles chosen by each curator indicated the enormous variety of responses: Marginal notes (Brazil), The alienation of the other and the perversity of Western influences (Africa and Oceania); Fools’ gold (North America), Re-materialization (Latin America); Hearing the others (Asia); Diaspora 96: An art to freeze better times (Western Europe); Utopia, irony and dislocation (Eastern Europe). Universalis was the most interesting section of the Biennial. Although somewhat uneven, the works presented by the seven curators helped situate the complex problem of contemporary art, by emphasizing the tensions created by globalization, justly denouncing the elements of artifice and artificiality in this concept, and highlighting particular situations with languages which can in general be considered universal. In the Latin American exhibit curated by Mari Carmen Ramírez, particularly interesting was the performance by María Teresa Hincapié, whose poetics focus on the condition of women, the act of doing and undoing, collecting, keeping and arranging, the marking out


/2 x 32 1/4”.

of a territory of one’s own. The work lightened the somber atmosphere of the other pieces: the terrifying cell by Luis Camnitzer, the heavy installation of the Chilean Gonzalo Díaz Díaz, the rather obvious proposal by Brey (Cuba), consisting of worn out tires, feathers, ventilators and a graffiti referring to wings the reference to Kiefer was immediate or the montage with “poor materials” by Hernández-Diez (Venezuela). If we add the latter artists to the Brazilian representatives, in an exhibit curated by Aguilar and Agnaldo Farias, we can say that Latin America offered a dense, highly intellectualized language; the late inheritor of Duchamp and Beuys, along with certain technological resources, in particular closed circuit television screens. The trend towards the return to the sources, to artisanal crafts, which was very visible in previous editions, was not very noticeable this time, with the exception of the work by Flavia Ribeiro. A counterpoint was provided by the selection by the North American Paul Schimmel, curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Los Angeles. Six artists from the latest generation who “has found (the generation) that it can renew the potential of art through devalued elements, such as decoration (the gigantic curtain of artificial flowers by Jim Hodges), craft (the architectural models of Julie Becker) and obsessive fabrication” (6). The proposal

was audacious, although perhaps not fully convincing. Schimmel seeks a parallel between this generation and that of the pop artists, who dared to deconsecrate abstract expressionism. The exhibit made me think of The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Milan Kundera) rather than in any future Warhol, Oldenburg or Lichtenstein. The artist as a critical conscience vis-avis telematic globalization seemed to be the main thrust behind the Western European selection, curated by A. Bonito Oliva and Nicolo Asta. The section included Ben Jakober and Yannick Vu, with their Came of Suffering and Hope, – an installation in which the spectator “received” the impact of a double mechanism for target practice the semantic- and visual oppositions of Fabro, the ironic utopia of Panamarenko–, whose submarine was beached on one of the ramps of the building, the radiant colors of the electronic pictures by Wim Wenders, the critique of history by Braco Dimitrijevic, works by Enzo Cucchi and the visual games of Shirazch Houshiary. The artistic range established by the exhibit was closer to aporia than definition. Katalin Néray, the director of the Ludwig Museum of Budapest, selected six artists from the countries of Eastern Europe, all of whom make a critique of the now defunct totalitarian system. They presented an anguished world of waste material, of broken illusions, unfinished projects. The curator herself spoke of post utopia (7). What was a source of anguish for the Western spectator was that the hope, the possibility of a new democracy, the recovery of freedom, did not seem to have left any mark on artistic expression. Is the past such a heavy burden, or is the hope of a better future yet another utopia? The presence of artists from Africa and Oceania proposed the need for a nonEurocentric view already emphasized by the French curator Jean-Hubert Martin in his exhibition Les Magiciens de La Terre(8). There is a good dose of a Messianic, crusading spirit in such endeavors. Despite the various attempts made to date to establish equality in exhibition terms between the Western artistic tradition and the so-called primitive expressions, they have failed – if not at the theoretical level, then certainly in terms of the artist-public circuit. In the final analysis, the problem is more ethical than aesthetic, but the


confrontation goes beyond the subject of Western agnosticism vs. “primitive” religiosity pointed out by the curator. The West does not have the right cultural keys to make a correct semantic interpretation of the symbolic production of other cultures. Inevitably, therefore, it de-contextualizes such production, altering it and subjecting it to foreign codes and distorting it – as reflected in the title of the text which justified its presence at the Sao Paulo Biennial. The call for recognition of alterity and cultural plurality which has come forth from Latin America, for example, is still not universal or sufficient. The imaginary museum continues to be imaginary. The five artists from Eastern Asia selected by Tadayasu Sakai, Director of the Museum of Modern Art of Kamakura, Japan, reinforced the anti-Western thesis proposed by other regions. But they did so, paradoxically, with languages which did not pose any insurmountable barriers at the conceptual or visual levels. The critique of the rationalist and scientific twentieth century – which led to the creation of the atomic bomb – in the work of the Chinese artist Cai Guo Qiang, or the curious systems of deconstruction of the flags of the world which the Japanese artist Yukinori Yanagi entrusts to living

ants in his work entitled World Flag Ant Farm – which was awarded a prize in the invited artists section in Venice in 1993 – were both explicit metaphors. Whether from Indonesia or Korea, China or Japan, these contemporary artists are searching for a compromise which will reveal the nature of their current societies: an energetic mixture of tradition and the future. The most traditional section of the Biennial, the country exhibits, occupied the entire second floor, with the exception of the United States artist mentioned earlier. A joint effort by the general curator and the montage team, under the direction of the architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha, achieved a balanced distribution which put an end to the unfair regional discrimination so evident in earlier editions. As noted earlier, the countries which attended the Biennial each sent only one representative. Paradoxically, the question of nationality thus became a matter of secondary importance. The works had to speak for themselves in the resulting Tower of Babel. A dozen or so artists managed to achieve this goal. A similar number occupied a secondary level and acted as a counterpoint. A good many did not emerge from the general background, which helped to focus attention on the

Jim Hodges. In Blue, 1996. Silk flowers with thread. 144 x 83 7/8”.

outstanding works – although the montage itself did not set any a priori system of valuation. The attentive visitor had to make his or her own reconstruction of the regionalized proposal on the second floor in the context of the Universalis exhibitions. The catalogue for this section, without any special title, presents the works alphabetically. Special mention should be made here of the following national exhibits: the South African representative Willem Boshoff, with an installation entitled Blind Alphabet – an open work began two years ago, which proposes ways of avoiding prejudice based on black / white vision. This three dimensional alphabet has so far a total of 338 finished units and more are being constructed. In São Paulo, 77 were on show from the letter C (Coculiferous to Cymbiform). Each unit consists of a tall pedestal, a kind of black box-base with a mesh box on top. Inside, there is a sculpted wooden object. On the lid, a long description of this object in Braille; “If we invert the power relationship, the work generates a dependency on touch and the ability to read”. “Without the presence of blind persons, Blind Alphabet becomes a futile exercise in aesthetics”, the artist

Panamarenko. Panamá, Spitzbergen, Nova Zemblaya, 1996. Sculpture. 236 1/4 x 82 5/8 x 145 5/8”.


Yukinori Yanagi, The World Flag Ant Farm (detail), 1990. Ants, colored sand, plastic boxes and tubes, and video documentation on LCD monitor. Collection of Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum, Japan.

pointed out. Those who cannot see can show those who only look how to see. The proposal of the Argentinean artist Graciela Sacco was to generate critical interferences in the established circuits. These intromissions are based on the use of counterfeit stamps, postcards, streetposters and television. The barricade The Fire and the Vespers, the installation I am also from here, – a table covered with a map of the world, with a fork piercing a stamp with a vociferating mouth, and

on the Argentinean territory, hundreds of stamps with the images of other mouths approaching the table or the mural relief Waiting for the Barbarians eyes prying between the cracks – were direct works, well resolved and solidly constructed. Brazil chose Waltercio Caldas as its national representative, and it was quite right to do so, because Caldas is not only one of the artists most closely linked to the overall idea of the Biennial, but his refined proposals – suggested through

Graciela Sacco, They’re Also From Here, 1996. Heliography installation on wood and paper. At the back: The Fire and the Vespers, 1995. Heliography installation on wood.

slight curves in steel or wool – “create a sense of suspension in the spectator”, “pulverize the acuity of vision” and emphasize “the consciousness of an interval” (8). With a reductive language reminiscent of minimalism, and rejecting any kind of parody or mimesis, this Brazilian artist is one of the most universal voices of Latin America. The Italian architect Umberto Cavenago explored the theme of the Biennial in the most literal manner possible. His immediate referents are the hackneyed phrase of Leonardo that “... art (painting) is a mental affair”, and the remark by Blake that all men are capable of dreaming and having visions. His medium is the complex cybernetic installation. The exhibition space included a table in which the drawing sheet is a television screen full of photograms of film sequences on “casual” urban aspects of various Italian settings. The videos were projected onto a screen that closed the exhibition space, which was urbanized with an appropriate sound track. Between these two polarities, eight television screens provided a kind of photographic exhibition in which the spectator, with a light push, could “dematerialize” any of the components of the urban setting (generally a monument), making them disappear. Was it a reflection of the quixotic dream of trying to improve our surroundings, mentally getting rid of clutter, ugliness and dirt? Venezuela was represented by Jesus Soto, an obvious choice in the context of the theoretical premises of the event. Ten works, almost all recent, were a masterly demonstration of the artist’s own affirmation that “the immaterial is the sensitive Graciela Sacco. Waiting for the Barbarians, 1995. Heliography on wall and wood.


Peter Robinson. Installation. Mixed media. Variable dimensions

Willem Boshoff. Blind Alphabet ABC, 1995. (work in progress) Installation, mixed media.

reality of the universe. Art is the sensitive knowledge of the immaterial...” (10). In the national representation section, the presence of Soto brought a sense of confidence, certainty and fullness. He is a master in the true sense of the word. There was also on the second floor a high percentage of works using electronic media, including many installations which explored with varying degrees of sophistication the potential of such technologies. These artists are from Barbados, Finland, Estonia, Chile, Colombia. Technology today is a globalized medium which can be used in the most varied contexts and circumstances. Frequently the equipment used seems to overshadow the artistic event proper, with cables, television screens, sound and light equipment, computers, etc. With such a range of paraphernalia, the actual works often fail to survive. One telling example was Quiasma, by the Colombian Jose Alejandro Restrepo. Set in a small format cubicle, the four television screens and the dense network of interwoven cables with the same configuration as that of the optic nerves were enough to make spectators glance inside for a few seconds, and then continue on their way. The work cannot be seen but just the monitors and cables.

Less organized and arranged than the other sections of the Biennial, the national representations do however perhaps give a more accurate idea of current artistic practice. There were not many memorable works, but the pieces taken together were illustrative. The section could be seen as an open work that did not displace the critical function or history or the curator’s role. For this reason it is valuable, although less gratifying than the other sections. It is the vital center of the Biennial, and should have been understood as such.

Finally, a few words on one of the substantial changes to which I referred to at the beginning. The archives of the Sao Paulo Biennial, an important documentary source established since the first edition in 1951, was reorganized and is being computerized on the initiative of one of the assistant directors, Dr. Edgardo Pires Ferreira. Congratulations. The institution will thus be able to recuperate its own memory, which had been lost in a soaring mass of documents, and which constitutes a very useful source of data for researchers throughout the world.

NOTES (1) Museum of Modern Art, building of the former Town Hall- both in the Ibirapuera Park, commercial or cultural promotion galleries. (2) Nelson Aguilar, “Las voces de la desmaterialización (Voices of dematerialization)”, Special Rooms catalogue, 23rd Sao Paulo Biennial, p.25. (3) Curiously, the luxurious catalogue of the Special Rooms does not contain a list of the works on show. (4) Fernando Cocchiaralle, “La poética de la línea en el mundo del color (The poetics of the line in the world of color)”, Special Rooms catalogue, op cit., p. 451. (5) Agnaldo Farias, “Notas al margen (Notes on the margin)”, Universalis exhibition catalogue, p.37. (6) Paul Schimmel, “Fool’s Gold”, Universalis catalogue, p.132. (7) Katalin Néray, “Utopia, ironía, dislocamiento (Utopia, irony, displacement)”, Universalis catalogue, p.320. (8) Centre Georges Pompidou and Parc de la Villette, Paris, 1989. (9) Agnaldo Farias, General Catalogue, 23rd São Paulo Biennial, p.74. (10) Jesús Soto, individual catalogue, 23rd São Paulo Biennial.

María Elvira Iriarte Ph.D. in Art History, University of Paris, Sorbonne.


ArtNexus Magazine 27, year 1998. pp 48-53

Lizard III, 1990. Installation with iron, magnets and embroidered silk. Various dimensions. Artist’s collection. Courtesy: Bard College.

A Survey (1977 -1997) A Universe of Exquisite Links During these fifteen years, Tunga has been first and foremost a sculptor (builder of the objects included in this exhibit), a creator of performances and an inventor of fictions. REINALDO LADDAGA In September the first comprehensive exhibit of the work of Tunga, curated by Carlos Basualdo, opened at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, located a few hours north of New York City. Tunga, who lives and works in Rio de Janeiro, is the youngest member of the great generation of Brazilian artists (Cildo Meireles, José Resende, and Waltercio Caldas are a few of the others) who

followed the figures of Helio Oiticia and Lygia Clark. It is the shadow of the latter (along with those of Robert Morris and, more tenuously, Joseph Beuys) that colors the majority of these pieces of felt, rubber, and leather of the end of the seventies –Tunga’s first important works and those that open the show at Bard College. Remarkable as some of these pieces are –and even when they contain elements that anticipate his later work– a fairly neat break is

visible in Tunga’s work toward the beginning of the eighties: it is basically from this moment on that the uniqueness of his work unfolds. The fifteen-year period that follows from that moment through the middle of the current decade constitutes the core of this exhibit. During these years, Tunga is above all a sculptor (builder of the objects included in this exhibit), a creator of performances and an inventor of fictions (he has generally published his work in pamphlet form


BIENNIAL which sometimes complements some of his sculptures) (1). It is a triumph on the part of the artist and the curator that it would be as difficult to imagine any one of the objects displayed in the exhibit, once one has seen them together, separated from one another as it would to imagine them assembled in any other fashion. Thus, in what follows, they will be described precisely as they appeared at this site and on this specific occasion. The assembled works from 1981-1994 are spread out in a ring in six rooms. In the first room at ankle height this is a film loop in constant motion and a projector. This is a work from 1981, Ão. The image registered on the film that circulates through the semi-dark room is projected on a wall. It is film of a tunnel in Río de Janeiro, shot from a caro The tunnel is deserted, the atmosphere nocturnal. The image advances in slow motion in a slightly burnt black and white. Since the two ends of the film ha ve been glued together, it is as if one never manages to traverse the tunnel. Music can be heard: an old ballad, Night and Day. A voice, accompanied by a large orchestra, begins to sing in English the standard lyrics of the ballad: Night and day/day and night. But as in sorne of the works of Bruce Nauman from the period of Ao (Live and Let Die from 1983, for example) the discursive situation grows increasingly complicated -or rather, deterioratesand the voice ends up singing nonsensically, Day and day/night and night as if it were unable to keep from losing coherence. Like the film image, the soundtrack repeats ad infinitum. One’s impression is that of a suspended degradation, a bit like certain novels of Maurice Blanchot (The Death Sentence or Aminadab,) or even sorne tales by the narra tor w hose name Tunga mentions frequently

Ão, 1981. Film and sound installation with black and white 16mm film. Track: F. Sinatra, S. Provost. Ph. M. Sales. Various dimensions. Artist’s collection. Courtesy: Bard College.

when speaking of his education and influences: Edgar Allan Poe. The installation is, at first, banally pleasant, and then immediately becomes enervating. The room in which it is housed is at once part cinema, part dance hall, and part torture chamber. The link between the banal (even the idiotic at times) and the frightening is constant in Tunga’s work as it is, in a different fashion in the work of

the American artist Mike Kelley, his contemporary. The link reappears in the gigantic sculpture in the room that opens to the left of the Ao room - which is where the viewer would probably go as he continues his tour of the exhibit (a tour in which, it should be mentioned, one never escapes the music, the variously spliced voice, the orchestral accompaniment, the words night and day.)

Palindrome Incest, 1990. lnstallation with copper, iron, magnets and iron thermometers. Various dimensions. Artist’s collection. Courtesy: Bard College.


Sedative Paintings, The Madame de Sade’s Jewels. Installation in mixed media. Various dimensions. Courtesy: Bard College.

Palindromo incesto (Palindrome Incest), from 1990, is not easy to describe - nor easy to look at. Three enormous metal thimbles, one of them with its iron surface exposed, another covered by thin copper sheets, the third with filings, all with chunks of magnets attached to their surfaces here and there, lie on their sides throughout the space, connected by handfuls of copper wire on which hang equally enormous, curved and straight sewing needles. Three glass thermometers filled with mercury complete the conglomeration. The entire repertory of materials which Tunga usually employs are included in this work: magnets, iron, copper, glass. The trios, the braided triad s that recur obsessively in his pieces are here as well. But there is something in Palindrome lncest tha t is particularly disconcerting. The referential universe of this work is conventionally feminine: it is the universe of a specific femininity. It is boudoir or sewing-room femininity, a femininity of languor, of slow and languid pleasure. (It is significant that one of the first groups of truly important sculptures by Tunga is titled Les Bijoux de Mme. de Sade (Mme. de Sade’s Jewels). But while that universe has been preserved it has also been curiously disturbed. For there is something absolutely brutal in the work and something absolutely painfuI. As seen in certain paintings by Balthus, an absolute violence is shown in the space

of tranquil, domestic delights which culture has set aside for women. (The theme of a woman is violated is present in a more or less constant fashion in Tunga’s works.) The power of the piece is linked in part to the contact -which, when seeing it is difficult not to establish - between the scene of reference, the faint world of the sewing room or the boudoir, and the massive presence of those metal forms. The very same thing occurs in the following room, which is wholly occupied by a piece from 1989 entitled Lagarte III (Lizards 1m. Here what we find are two standing rectangular assemblages formed of clothes irons and types of combs to which are adhered, by means of small, piled-up blocks of magnets, thick bundles of copper wire that allude to strands of hair. On the copper hair are arranged, here and there, several tiny statues of beings made of lizard halves joined together. There are tiny brains on the irons. The strands of ha ir weave together in two corners of the room with two garrotes covered as well in magnets. The object presents a chalienge to anyone describing it as well as in terpreting it in terms of profound meaning. It is useless to attempt to decipher this work -or any work of Tunga’ s- as if it were a matter of allegory. The only thing that can apparently be discerned about what the artist wished to do is that he wanted to place certain things in contact with

one another: copper wire like hair and magnets, brains and chimeric lizards, hypertrophied combs and garrotes. Is it this a sort of surrealist object? The answer to this question is not simple. Surrealism was a central part of Tunga’s education, but less its painting than certain surrealist works of literature, less Miró or Matta than Breton, and less even Breton than several artists who renounced the movement like Antonin Artaud or Georges Bataille, not to mention sorne who belong to the canon of Surrealism like Raymond Roussel, for example, or Poe himself. And nevertheless, if the composition of objects of surrealism were arranged so as to produce what Walter Benjamin called a profane illumination, a luminosity, there is nothing less surrealist than Lizards, which produces a screech more than a spark, a disgust more than a brilliance. It is a piece in which the components come into contact with one another less as do an umbrella and a sewing machine on a dissection table (according to Lautréamont’s image which Bretón would quote as the exemplification of the surrealist image) as does a fingernail come into contact with the surface of a chalkboard. Paul Valéry, in a 1932 text on Corot, says there are two great types of artists. On the one hand, there are the artists whose goal it is, to quote Valéry, to make us companions in his happy gaze on a beautiful day. Corot would exemplify precisely this group. And on the other hand, there are the Delacroixs, the Wagners, the Baudelaires, whose goal it is to procure from their environments the most energetic action upon the senses, to be preoccupied with the domination of the soul through the channel of the senses, anxious to reach and as if to possess (in the diabolical sense of the term) that weak and hidden spot of the being that exposes it and governs it entirely by the deflection of its organic depths and guts. (2) Tunga (like Nauman,like Richard Serra) clearly belong to this last category. In the large installations, the artist’ s desire to make an impact on the viewer and to control his or her reactions is clear. There is something of a hypnotist (magnetist as they used to say sorne time back) in the


The day of the opening of the show, artist who composed those works. That desire is less visible, however, in his this group of columns or portraits resmaller works which are distributed in sonated with two other mobile groups two identical rooms in the back part of of women: the participants in two the building - in the part of the building performances. In one Xipófagas capilares that faces the room where Ao spreads (Capillary Xipophagi) from 1985,) two out-joined by a somewhat narrow girls were braided together by the hair hallway. One part of these pieces are as if they suffered from a relatively beseparate versions, in general realized nign (for them) form of being Siamese earlier, as if they were sketches, of ob- twins, and simply walked back and jects that make part of the composition forth. In the other performance, Sera of the installations: garrotes, rings, te Amavi (Belatedly I Loved You) from braids, combs, bundles of copper wire. 1992, three adolescent women wearing Everything in these rooms resembles shirts, with thimbles, needles, and rings a human organ and at the same time in their hands, assumed, frozen, a sea piece of jewelry. The combination of ries of poses. In each one of the poses, cruelty and luxury that appears to bear each of the women, to all appearances down on these two rooms imbues the indifferent to the others, would lean works in the hallway that separates against the other two. (There was always something insufficiently erect them with a strange light. In fact, in the passageway between in the figures, in the constructions the two rooms one finds the most, let they formed.) What idea regulated the us say, lyrical works of the exhibit. composition of the poses of these three They are a series of sculptures, made women? There is a topological figure over the last ten years, since 1986, ca- called the Borromean knot which readers lled Eixos Exóginos (Exogenous Axes). of the latest works of Lacan should be Anyone would surely remember those very familiar with. A Borromean knot is urns commonly used in psychology composed of three interlocking rings books on vision in whose outline one such that should one of the three be could pick out the profile of a human broken the other two will also be freed. face. The same principle operates The same thing occurs with a braid of in these works. They are columns three strands: if any one of them is cut turned in such a manner that in its the other two will disperse. These three edges one can perceive, l Loved You, 1992-97. Performance, candles, rubber in each case, in the nega- Belatedly tubes, shirts. Various dimensions. Courtesy: Bard College. tive or in their absence, the profile of full, naked body of a woman, different every time. There are five of these works in the exhibit and as a group they make one think of an elemental and frozen dance. They are related of course to the impressions of women made on paper or fabric produced in the fifties and sixties by Robert Rauschenberg and Yves Klein. But their appearance recalls more closely certain works by the sculptor which, in conversation Tunga, curiously seems to mention most frequently: Constantin Brancusi.

adolescents acted like a Borromean knot or a three-stranded braid: all it took was for one of them to fall for the other two to come down as well. Such that, at every moment throughout the course of the group’s performance, each adolescent made contact with the others and stuck to the others to the extent possible. What is the origin of these beings? The inspiration for this work (and the wording of its title) comes from a passage from the Confessions of Saint Augustine. The model for this group, this conglomeration, or this braid is the Holy Trinity of Christian doctrine. But


what might this artist; so little Christian to all appearances, find especially attractive in that traditional figure? What is there for Tunga that is so particularly fascinating in the Holy Trinity? The first time i saw this performance, in New York, only a few years ago, the three adolescent women were at the far end of a long gallery. In the front part of the gallery was an acrylic box packed with paper through which three snakes slithered. What is the relation, I wondered at the time, between a bunch of snakes and three immobile adolescents representing (the word is probably inadequate) the Holy Trinity? No being appears more in the work of Tunga than snakes, in particular, intertwined snakes. One of their appearances is now a decade old. In 1987, Tunga produced the sculptures and concepts for a film directed by Arthur Omar with the title Nervo de prata (Nerves of Silver). In one sequence of the film, the camera focuses with evident delight on several snakes that are intertwining. The camera captures the rubbing of skin against skin. It is as if the snakes were being moved by a desire to make contact with one another as completely as possible even at the price of losing their own distinction in apile or mass of indistinguishable parts. However strange the idea might seem, it is possible that Tunga finds the figure of the Holy Trinity fascinating to the extent that it reminds him of the fascinating

spectaele of intertwined snakes. Is not the Holy Trinity traditionally a composite of three beings who make ecstatic and total contact with one another? In which are combined the maximum absorption on the part of each one, abandoned to the pleasure of becoming experience and the maximum communication with the other parts, equally abandoned? The reading is violent and yet, I believe, fitting. An idea of the Holy Trinity, the trio of adolescents, the braided snakes. The braids of metal that appear briefly throughout this piece are perhaps momentary appearances of a fantasy of total pleasure in the perfect absorption of and pure communication with others. Is it the insistence of this figure of pleasure which makes this piece so disturbing and fascinating? The remains of the performance can be found in Bard College in the room following the second of the rooms of small objects, opposite in the building to the Lizards room. Flexible rubber tubes extend from three corners of the room, the kind used for exampIe in doctors’ waiting rooms or offices to encirele the arm about to receive an injection. The three sections of tubing knot together Borromeaneously in the middle of the room and on that knot are small (which is to say, normal-sized) versions of the objects magnified in Palindrome Incest: three thimbles (with a bit of red wine in each,) three thermometers, three needles that

Torus, 1983-1989. Iron. Various dimensions.

somehow manage to Borromeanously knot together. Several shirt sleeves hang from the tubing. Three enormous candles which are lit during the performance lean against one another and are bound together with additional tubing. The three shirts of the three adolescents lie on the floor, spread out in a circle and touching each other, stained with wine and bearing a few tiny fragments of red glass and rings. A mute record of the performance, the three adolescents fallen down on the floor: it is the following moment that we now witness after the inauguration in this room. The arrangement is manifestly ceremonial but is also that of the crime scene preserved intact. Is it the tenuous drippings as if of highly diluted wax on the walls of the room that make its atmosphere -which is a rarity in Tunga’s work- infinitely pallid? Everything in the room remains yet everything looks as if it were about to vanish. There is a text by Poe that seems to me to describe something of what takes place in this installation by Tunga. At the beginning of The Fall of the House of Usher the narrator of the story, standing in front of the old mansion mentioned in the title, is surprised by what he calls a wild inconsistency between its still perfect adaptation of parts and the crumbling condition of the individual stones and he compares the appearance of the whole, its extensive decay to the specious totallity of old wood work which has rotted for long years in some neglected vault, with no disturbance from the breath of the external air (3) There is something at once of confinement and of desperate fragility in these fragments and something deceiving in its apparent wholeness. It is a sight of final moments. That fragility of the vestiges of Belatedly I Loved You does nothing to prepare the viewer for the installation in the final room, altogether occupied (overoccupied, one might say) by the massive presence of Cadentes låcteos (The Milky Fallings) from 1994. The last two rooms constitute in the show a sort of brief suite to the fall. What falls in the final work of the show are several enormous metallic bells. The gigantic scale of this work is similar to that of Palindrome Incest, which is located in its corresponding room. There are five bells in


Exogenous Axes, 1988-1997. Installation with metal and wood. Five of seven. Various dimensions. Artist’s collection. Courtesy: Bard College.

the room, three hung and two tumbled on the floor. Several objects resembling vessels are stuck to their surfaces which are additionally covered with a whitish substance that reminds one of semen, and which trickles down toward the floor. In a particulary splendid passage in Residence on Earth by Pablo Neruda, the poet communicates the following vision: And although I close my eyes and fully cover my heart, I see a deaf water falling in enormous deaf drops. It is like a hurricane of gelatin, like a waterfall of sperm and jellyfish. (4) Putting aside Neruda’s expressionist tone which Tunga doesn’t share, The Milky Fallings could be presented as a rather idiosyncratic illustration of the poet’ s lines. The artist would probably appreciate the combination, the contrast between the literally hurricane whipped violence of vision and the inconsistency of the materials that appear within it: gelatin, sperm, or jellyfish. But Tunga would also find it immediately attractive that, under the title of Sexual Water (the title of the poem from which the quoted lines were taken), Neruda evokes a catastrophic state of the body. A recurring figure in the recent performances of the artist (performances that have not been included in the Bard exhibit) is a man carrying a suitcase. The suitcase suddenly opens

and out of it falls a pile of selected limbs mixed with cubes of gelatin. Do these limbs belong to the disappeared adolescents in Belatedly I Loved You? We are not in a position to answer that question. But it is interesting that the Bard show would close with an image that indicates, beyond itself, some obscure disaster. It is not impossible that, at this stage in the viewing, he who has come through the exhibit might perceive that that voice that in Ão keeps falling into a stunned babbling, or the scene of a sewing room invaded by metals, or the Siamese lizards and tiny brains mixed with hair that extends itself without limit, or some bells tossed like dice and

impregnated with a milky liquid, or the somnambulist collapse of a knot of adolescents, that all those figures refer to a threatened existence. (In a video which is shown at Bard in a side room, Tunga is constructing several pieces. His gestures are strange; it is as if, at the same time he is making his constructions, Tunga wishes to keep them at a distance to avoid who knows what danger.) A specific action is capable, I believe, of producing this show: a pleasure, a euphoria, in total contact, entirely intertwined, in every one of its moments, with an uneasiness. The specific nature of this action is, for this writer, new.

NOTES 1. A comprehensive list of these activities can now be found in a book by the artist published this year: Barroco de lirios (Baroque of lilies), (São Paulo: Kosac & Naifv, 1997). The bibliography on Tunga is still limited. Texts written by Guy Brett, Suely Rolnik, and Carlos Basualdo, will be published in the exhibition catalogue. 2. Paul Valéry, Pieces sur l'art (Pieces about art) (Paris: N.R.F., 1936), pgs. 137-138. 3. Edgar Allan Poe, trans. D. Rolle and J. Gómez de la Serna (Madrid: Cátedra, 1991), p. 169. 4. Pablo Neruda, Residencia en la tierra (Residence in earth) (Madrid: Cátedra, 1986). Traducción: Brian Mallet.

Author and PhD Candidate at New York University. He teaches at several universities in Argentina and the U.S. and has published extensively on aesthetics, art and literature issues.


ArtNexus Magazine 28, year 1998. pp 56-59

Fruit, 1983. Cibachrome. 24 x 35.5”. Courtesy: D ‘Amelio Terras.

Miguel Rio Branco The photography of Miguel Rio Branco does not reveal the nature of its genesis but the fragility of its beauty; and, the mysterious aura which seems to envelop so many of his Double Mirror, 1992. Cibachrome. 31.4 x 31.4”. Courtesy: Camargo Vilça Gallery.

images has convinced many critics to see a link here with painting.


Lady Vanishes, 1984. Color photograph. 25 x 35”. Courtesy: Camargo Vilaça Gallery.

The Reality of Irresolution OCTAVIO ZAYA


ontemporary photographers do not usually encourage the idea that their art is particularly enigmatic. From the 1960s, photography had already begun to direct the spectator’s attention towards the reality that lays beyond the subject matter of the photograph, focusing the interest on the image as image, as artifice, an act of fabrication. Some photographers have even explored their own role in the process of creating the image, thus contributing to the gradual loss of confidence in photographic observation. Others, freed from the supposed ability of photography to exorcize through its “privileged moments” the anxiety and remorse created by the disappearance

Havana Back, 1994. Color photograph. 31.4 x 31.4”. Courtesy: Camargo Vilaça Gallery.


Roman Bath, 1993. Color photograph. 31.4 x 31.4”. Courtesy: Camargo Vilaça Gallery.

Out of Nowhere II, 1995. Installation view. Various dimensions. Courtesy: Camargo Vilaça Gallery.

of such moments, have thus embarked on the adventure of creating other more “realistic” fictions. Still others, as the stability of the material world (dominated by special effects, digitalization, and the communication media) crumbles under the weight of suspicion and doubt, have tried to claim another surer and more reliable kind of reality. The photography of Miguel Rio Branco does not reveal the nature of its genesis but the fragility of its beauty; and the mysterious aura which seems to envelop so many of his images has convinced many critics to see a link with painting here. The chromatic vibrations in the work of this Brazilian photographer and in particular, the dramatic effects that his compositions achieve in terms of light and shadow, would seem to justify such a comparison. A few writers have mentioned the names of Titian and Tintoretto, no doubt in the belief that the spatial dynamism, lighting, and sense of drama in the work of both these masters of painting have their counterparts in the spatial tension and extraordinary light characteristic of Rio Branco’s photography. However, the one name that is mentioned as a historical reference by everyone in relation to Rio Branco’s work is that of Michelangelo Caravaggio. The clearest relationship between Caravaggio and Rio Branco would seem to be that of the tension which exists in both artists between quietness and movement, darkness and light, silence and sound. Equally obvious is the “realism” or extreme “naturalism” with which both endow their respective subjects; and, their capacity to discover the extraordinary in situations and characters of the most ordinary and mundane kind. But, beyond any simple oppositional resonance, beyond the escape from canons and the transcending of the ordinary, what links them is their mutual interest in de-centering; the displacement, dilation, and degradation of the center; what Severo Sarduy, in explaining the cosmology of the baroque, called “the invalidation of the single center.” All this may help us to understand the source of the ellipses in Rio Bran-


co’s work, the intensity of his compositions and the incandescent nature of his images. However, it does not help to explain the discontinuity, the insistent irresolution of his narratives and the disarticulated images that have become characteristic of his work. In the end, what Rio Branco proposes in a good deal of his photography (whether from the 1980s or the 1990s) are representations of figures and objects of an apparently familiar kind but yet unrecognizable, endowed with the supposed veracity reflected in the world which we perceive; but, to what extent do they possess the autonomy that painting continues to claim for itself? Of course, this does not in any way imply that the photographs of Rio Branco are simply crude depictions of a phenomenological kind. Yet can we attribute to them any other function than that of bearing witness retrospectively and the process is by definition retrospective and of affirming that something (whether real or fabricated) has occurred or existed? Miguel Rio Branco’s photography has, on different occasions, already evoked the paradoxical nature of these questions. Lady Vanishes (1984), for example, shows objects on the sand that seem to be the belongings of a woman, or what remains; while, in Double Mirror (1992), a boxer, who apparently jumps rope in front of two mirrors, then fades away. Both are privileged images but unresolved, discontinuous and lacking in any identity. In both cases, we have arrived too early or too late. And yet, this irresolution is precisely what makes them more in tense, more “real” as in Le Feu et la Lionne, which shows a lioness about to jump through a hoop which has not yet become a circle of fire. In each case, Rio Branco uses different kinds of artifice and resources to produce a paradoxical and indirect sense of intensification, so that the

Blue Tango, 1984. Cibachrome. 21.6 x 17.7”. Courtesy: Galería Camargo Vilaça.

reality of the image is confirmed by its absence. As in most of his photographs, the search for a perceptible immediate reality or rather, a correspondence with what we might understand as immediately real is precisely what distinguishes his artistic endeavor an endeavor always rooted in the reciprocal action of opposing forces. None of his images, however, seem to be able to maintain a fixed or definitive form, unless we isolate them completely, totally eliminating the universe surrounding them, subtracting them from the universal field of history’s transformations. Perhaps Rio Branco wants to preserve them as immutable entities by immobilizing or freezing the displacement within the photographic frame. But the details, references, transgressions, erasures and corrosions, wounds, scars, tattoos, and traces all point towards an existence partaking of continuity, participating in the passage of time. And so the images are part of the dialectics proposed by Heraclitus: as a unitary structure within which opposites plurality are not only necessary, but actually challenge any unity. In the work of Rio Branco the image is never a finished entity, but a relationship. In this way, the image can never be com-

pleted, and when an image is made, it is by definition always open to change. The photography of Miguel Rio Branco is thus both realistic and enigmatic since, even in those examples in which the limits of verisimilitude are transcended, his objective seems to be the expression of life, the life which we all live and suffer and the flux which makes up our own being. Despite this interest, his photography is not based on any anecdotes or dramatic elements, which would compromise or weaken the sensory impact of his work. Above all, he knows that neither the one nor the other is able to penetrate reality. On the contrary, his photographs establish for us a link with reality, because we participate in its beauty, although he reminds us too of its extraordinary dissonance: the anguish caused by that hostile imminence, death, which any apparently total understanding of life reveals in our most intimate being (Michel Leiris).

Octavio Zaya Critic and curator, based in New York since 1978. Associate editor for Atlantica (Spain) and correspondent for Flash Art (Italy).


ArtNexus Magazine 31, year 1999. pp 36-39

Cor- Ten Steel, 1998. 74,8 x 232,2 x 116,1”. Courtesy: Centro de Arte Hélio Oiticica.

An Insidious Reticence

The Sculptures of José Resende

…it is as if Resende’s pieces disintegrated before the gaze and, in that insistence, that obstinacy of disintegrating, they distended the time they occupy

Years ago, at the family gatherings at Christmas or New Year’s, long after midnight, some children and adults, small imprecise beings, fiddled with the wire structures that covered the corks on the champagne bottles. I was immediately reminded of some of the finest works in a recent José Resende show at the Hélio Oiticica Art Center and in the Paulo Fernandes Gallery in Rio de Janeiro. The same, almost pathetic, grace of those animals of no species suddenly seemed to be inhabited by an object made of four iron sections, linked by rings, and supported upon a block

of hay, which opened the show at the Oiticica Center; or a long “z” made of metallic tubes wrapped with thin sheets of lead and tied with thin cables, which closed the show. This impression seems to have been shared by the Brazilian critic Ronaldo Brito, who wrote the text for the show’s catalogue, and who praises “the way in which [Resende’s works] appear in the world, quickly and fortuitously”, in such a way that, in them, “the provisional is positively reevaluated” (1). Indeed, it seemed to me from the very beginning that there is something provisional in these pieces, something that is merely for now, and they propose themselves more as possible states of a


body than as definitive and, therefore, in some way, necessary profiles. But, who is José Resende? He is doubtless one of the central artists of the generation of Brazilian artists who, born between the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, perpetuated certain essential developments from the late ‘60s (developments especially associated with the names Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica). These artists include, for example, Cildo Meireles, Waltercio Caldas, Jac Leirner, and Tunga. Resende himself was born in Sao Paulo in 1945. He graduated with a degree in architecture in the same city and has shown his work primarily in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro since 1964. His work was recently shown a t the Robert Miller Gallery in New York and Documenta 9 in Kassel. Curiously, Resende’s work is easy to describe. The description, however, gives a rather poor idea of his rare way of affecting the viewer. Let us consider a piece from 1994 which is particularly emblematic of his work: an object, whose title in English would be velvet, paraffin, copper, and steel cable. It is a composition made of these materials placed in an unstable equilibrium. The piece is a sort of velvet sleeve spread out on the floor. Paraffin has been poured over the ends of the sleeve. The composition is pierced by a curved steel bar whose tips are joined by a tense metallic cable. The fragility of the construction (of the precipice) is extreme; it is obviously elegant, but at the same time there is something vaguely obscene about it, as if that elegance were to disappear from itself at the last moment; as if, upon presenting itself, instead of maintaining its composure, it were to lose it at the decisive moment. It is quite suggestive that the majority of Resende’s works have for their titles a list of materials used to make them, written in small letters – thus avoiding a title that refers to its contents or form, and avoiding the conventional use of Untitled. Resende’s titles are minimums of denomination, denominations in their minimal form. However, minimal as they are, these titles never cease to indicate something: as far as the labeled objects are concerned, the titles indicate material rather than motive or form.

Few artists adjust themselves better than Resende to what Roland Barthes wrote with respect to Cy Twombly’s paintings (in a text from 1979 titled Wisdom of Art). What is unique in Twombly’s operation, according to Barthes, is that he “imposes material, not as something that is going to serve a purpose, but rather as an absolute material...that pre-exists the division of meaning”. The power of the painter, says Barthes, is that “it makes material exist as material; even if one meaning rises from the canvas, the paintbrush and the color continue to be ‘things’, obstinate substances from which nothing (no subsequent meaning) can undo the obstinacy of ‘being there’ (2)”. The title of this object is a discreet list of his materials, primarily because the program that Resende obeys as he works is that of presenting certain materials in their obstinacy. However, this object, this scene, this unadorned theater not only finds its titles in the materials with which it is made, but its title is also in small letters: I believe that this is an indication of Resende’s desire to avoid the melodrama of materials characteristic of certain art forms of the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. The materials in Resende’s works are deliberately exposed, but as something common and uncultivated: the banal materials with which everyone negotiates daily life, presented in their banality,

with nothing especially “original” or “alchemical” (nothing in them, for example, of the felt and grease of a Joseph Beuys). There is nothing telluric or cosmic in the work of this artist (who has been realizing what I would call an art of urbanity, albeit a perturbed urbanity). Resende’s most auspicious pieces show or “impose” certain materials (and, more precisely, the contact between certain materials), but they also possess forms: even suggestive forms. Like the imaginary universe of a Lygia Clark, Resende’s world is fundamentally animal: it is a universe of imaginary animals, of forms and attitudes that evoke imaginary animals that, nevertheless, have the virtue of perturbing the faculty of identification. In the face of those more – shall we say – animal objects, we are not finished telling ourselves “that’s an animal”, when we begin to ask ourselves “what type?” These compositions make me think, in fact, of what the French philosopher Jean-Luc Marion calls, in a recent book, an “incident”. According to Marion, an “incident” is “what arrives in such a way that it consists in nothing more than this first and final arrival, without preexisting in any way and without making itself visible before the incident”. The “incident” consists entirely in the act of its own obstinate appearance, “with no background, no prevision or provision

Front: Copper, lead, steel cable, 1998. 62,9 x 78,7 x 394”. Background: Copper, steel cable, 1998. 66,9 x 75,9 x 0.01”. Courtesy: Centro de Arte Hélio Oiticica.


reduced to that act (3)”. An incident, such as Marion defines it, is something that appears without allowing the person for whom it appears to identify it fully: something that begins by escaping its viewer, as if we had it on the tip of our eyes (as we say when words that escape us are “on the tip of our tongue”), and which arrives, which comes to occur, to present itself, at the same moment in which its identity is lost. Resende’s most intense compositions (which are gene rally the most squalid) recall the work of Clark (especially the Clark of the Bichos [Animals, or Beasts]) or Richard Tuttle, much more than certain arte povera sculptors like Giovanni Anselmo, with whom he shares some important propensities concerning matter and form. The same spirit of Tuttle’s miserable constructions is found, for example, in a solid pouring of plaster, pierced by wires, that hung in the Paulo Fernandes Gallery; or, a fragment of

fabric that enclosed another fragment of leather in the Hélio Oiticica Center; or finally, a small arabesque pendant of twisted lead that seemed to have been improvised (a work of quick pincers and hammers that is the three-dimensional equivalent of a sketch) bearing the scant title plomo (lead). Works like these make me think of a text in St. Augustine’s Confessions (in which he deals with lost identities). The text is found in Book XII, and the context is a discussion on the notion of matter, which is, in the traditions referred to in the discussion, something that lacks form. St. Augustine explains the difficulty of imagining anything that completely lacks form, yet nevertheless exists. He writes: “For I could more readily imagine that what was deprived of all form simply did not exist than I could conceive of anything between form and nothing –something which was neither formed nor nothing, something that was

Copper, 1998. Metallic structure. 70,8 x 35,4 x 25,5”. Courtesy Raquel Arnaud Art Gabinet, Sao Paulo. Photo: Rômulo Fialdini.

unformed and nearly nothing (XII, 6, 462)”. The stupor of not being able to propose to the imagination something that would be almost nothing can only be overcome – says the saint – by concentrating on one phenomenon: the mutability of bodies. Only by concentrating on the change of bodies can we imagine, momentarily and unstably, something formless. “And so I applied myself to the bodies themselves and looked more deeply into their mutability, by which they cease to be what they had been and begin to be what they were not. This transition from form to form I had regarded as involving something like a formless condition, though not actual nothingness”. But what is that mutability between two forms?, asks St. Augustine. Answer: “Could it be said, ‘Nothing was something’, and ‘That which is, is not’? If this were possible, I would say that this was it”. In my judgment, it would be the same to say that Resende fails at the exact moment in which his constructions acquire consistency, density, and the weight of the monument. This is the case with certain female silhouettes that he has realized in recent years which, unlike the great majority of the artist’s work, have a big title (they are called Venus). It is also the case of a work from 1996 that recalls Giacometti. This composition is made of two large, curved steel sheets that evoke legs, installed in Rio de Janeiro’s Largo de Carioca, bearing the title Pasante (Passerby). The Brazilian artist finds himself at the polar opposite on the spectrum of sculptors, of a Richard Serra, whose effect is inseparable from the sensation of an overcome resistance and, in sum, a sensation of force. The impression of ease in the realization of his pieces is essential in Resende’s sculptures: the impression that they were completed in a minute, almost without thinking, with no effort. And the impression that they are works (not so much works as operations) of leisure which issue from him, and which are directed towards him. Why has Resende received less international exposure than other recent Brazilian artists, contemporaries of his who are at the same level? There is probably not an entirely good answer to


Venus, 1992. Steel. 137,7 x 236,2 x 59”. Courtesy Paulo Fernandes Gallery.

that question. But it seems reasonable to think that one reason is that this work, unlike that of Cildo Meireles or Tunga, for example, is not made to impress, move, enthuse, but rather has another purpose. But, what other purpose? Our critical vocabulary is so permeated by the idea that art is a basically exciting activity that it is difficult to pinpoint that purpose. The virtue of these works does not reside in their ability to excite, but rather elsewhere. They do not appear except in the measure in which they are given time. The time that we are able to give them is directly proportional to the energy (we could say to the weak energy) of their unfolding. For the naturalness, which is one of his immediate characteristics, gestures, ways of appearing before us, is what these compositions lose in the measure in which we give them time. But, likewise, they are eminently able to give us time, a certain time, a certain quality of time: they give us a time not made taut, but rather one that expands. In a certain way, it

Monument to the One Hundred Million Tons, CNS, 1997. Steel sculpture. 236,2 x 102,3 x 590,5”. The National Steel Mill Company, Volta Redonda, Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Cesar Barreto.

is as if Resende’s pieces disintegrated before the gaze and, in that insistence, that obstinacy of disintegrating, they distended the time they occupy (and, of course, their space). It seems to me that these pieces are aimed more at moving, impressing, and dazzling, than tentatively making an advance (as we speak of “advances” in the vocabulary of seduction), leaving the viewer with the impression of a light touch. Is that what Ronaldo Brito refers to when he speaks of these pieces as “problematic evidences” that “insist on remaining there, throbbing,

when they should be finished or undone”? I believe so. In reference to a string quartet by Paul Hindemith, the great Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector wrote that he “is before maturity”, like a “root fallen asleep in its force” or a “smell that has no scent”. This kind of entity (both reserved and insidious) constitute the greatest pieces of this artist: bodies without profiles?, accumulations without character?, volumes without body? It is as if a reticence to exist were the passion that stimulates José Resende’s finest works.

NOTES 1. Ronaldo Brito, "Em forma de mundo (In shape of the world)", José Resende (Rio de Janeiro: Centro de Arte Hélio Oiticica, 1998), p. 17. 2. Roland Barthes, Oeuvres completes (Complete works), vol. 3 (Paris: Seuil, 1995), p. 1021. 3. Jean Luc-Marion, Etant donné. Essai d'une phénomenologie de la donation (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1997), p. 213.

Writer and essay producer based in New York. He teaches at the New York University and has published extensively on literature and art in Latin America and the United States.


ArtNexus Magazine 31, year 1999. pp 52-59

The Inside is the Outside:

The precariousness of boundaries in

Lygia Clark

Clark postulates, following Neo-concrete’s search for a total experience, a model of subject identity bound to the contingency of time and thus not graspable by conventional structures of representation

MÓNICA AMOR Might it be that in the constructivists like me the exit is the real space. Lygia Clark, 1960 A complete life may be one ending in so full identification with the non-self that there is no self to die (1). Bernard Berenson An early statement by Lygia Clark, “The surface is only two-dimensional when it pre-exists the time-space (2)” already in 1959 indicated not only the complexity of her work but also its unconventional character. Indeed, a glance at this body of work reveals that it engendered an artistic praxis signaled by a systematic undoing of artistic conventions. It is not surprising then that a review of the artist’s recent retrospective should begin with a question relevant to many contemporary artists and certainly unavoidable in the case of Clark (who at some point considered

herself a non-artist): how to apprehend a work that was not intended for the institutional space of the museum, that was not conceived as an autonomous object, that was not only ephemeral but that required the direct and continuous participation of the spectator without whom the “work” did not exist? It is unquestionable that Clark’s late practice broke radically with the system of production, circulation, and reception that characterizes the work of art; but, one could easily argue that the seed of that rupture was already contained in the above statement written in reference to her early geometric, constructivist influenced paintings. By appealing to the intertwined philosophical categories of time and space, not in their abstract and absolute mode but to their phenomenological dimension, Clark underlines the aprioristic, conventional, and artificially fixed status of the pictorial surface. She reveals it as only a concept destabilized when exposed to the contingencies of time and space. The show, a meritorious effort of the Fundació Antoni Tapies, opened

in Barcelona in October of 1997 and then traveled to Galeries Contemporaines des Musées de Marseille (MAC) in January of 1998. The two other venues were the Fundaçao de Serralves in Oporto and the Société des Expositions du Palais des Beaux-Arts, in Brussels, where the exhibition concluded its tour at the end of September of 1998. In Marseille, the exhibition space was signaled by white walls and quadrilateral spaces populated by low pedestals on which part of the work rested. The first gallery included the artist’s paintings from the mid-to-late fifties, of which the most important series is the Modulated Surfaces. These pieces were considered by the artist “experimental fields which integrate within an environment (3)”, a proposal that recalls not only canonical figures like Mondrian, Van Doesburg and the members of De Stijl in general, but also figures closer to home like the Argentinean Raúl Lozza, who since the forties has devoted himself to the development of pictorial environments through paintings conceived as models that would supersede the figure-ground relationship inherent to visuality.


But, unlike the earlier Argentinean concrete artists, or for that matter, her contemporary Brazilian colleagues, – also practicing a rationalist-committed concrete art with which Clark and other artists like Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Pape broke to inaugurate Neo-concrete art in Brazil – Clark was exploring destabilizing venues that would lead her away from painting. The Modulated Surfaces occupy a transitional place in this process. They manifest the artist’s interest in questioning the fixed bidimensional pictorial plane by giving the line – the line-space as she called it (later line-time) – a new role. This line or space between the wood panels that structured the surface was not compositional but tried to dismantle the surface as ground by penetrating it with real space. Here, as Ferreira Gullar lucidly pointed out, “the space becomes a vehicle of time and time reveals it (4)”. These pieces colored with liquid industrial paint concluded her investigation of the conventional nature of the frame and the surface. The next series of works exhibited in this gallery, the Casulos (meaning womb or egg in Portuguese), are plaques made of metal, tin or iron, which unfold themselves to incorporate space in a literal way. The small pieces split, creating irregular geometric structures half way between painting and sculpture. They attest to the artist’s initial effort to break away from the pictorial object, an effort that would conclude in her groundbreaking Bichos (5) – initiated in 1960. The Bichos, exhibited in a continuous gallery, are made of aluminum plaques, circular, triangular, and rectangular, articulated by hinges. These pieces were created to be manipulated by the viewer and to be mass-produced so, from the outset, the show could not deliver what was intended. Only one Bicho was available for manipulation, and though the opportunity to see the great variety of structures together resting on a low large pedestal was very impressive: the Bichos merely looked like beautiful objects (albeit of an experimental nature). As conceived by the artist, their flexible but carefully developed structure incorporated contingency by relying on the

intimate temporal dialogue between spectator and object, since it is mandatory that the viewer manipulates the Bicho, altering it continuously. Here, there was no pre-established way of apprehending the object, no correct point of view, no final composition. By making the work rely on the viewer and vice-versa, Clark undermined the clear cut separation between observing subject and observed object on which so much constructivist (rationalist) sculpture is predicated. Although Clark’s Bichos antecedents can be traced back to the “spatial forms” of the Russian Constructivists – the former shares with the latter the rejection of sculpture’s “traditional connotations of mass, gravity, immobility, and permanence”, and the incorporation of empty space as “concrete” material (6) – the Bichos’ structure is unpredictable and is never fulfilled because it relies on something other than itself. Nothing is further from the Constructivist’s spatial forms than this lack of distancing from the object. For the Russians, objective, organized, and planned structures predicated on clarity and coordination were necessary metaphors used to fight the shattered political and economic situation that characterized post-Civil War Russia. In Brazil, Fifties Concrete art absorbed the legacy of the Constructivist avant-garde to build models of representation that would suit the aspirations of an underdeveloped country eager to supersede its backwardness through State planning and industrial growth. But the last link in the long chain of Constructivist tendencies of the twentieth century, and the one that influenced the most the Brazilian art scene, was the Concrete art of Max Bill and his Ulm School. In its Swiss masquerade, the legacy of Constructivism – built upon the pitfalls of the Bauhaus – represented an effort “to instruct with aesthetic values, the production of forms in society...”. As Ronaldo Brito explains, “At the base of its (the Ulm School) reasoning, is the old reformist project of rationalizing production relations at the interior of the capitalist system (7)”. The artistic production concomitant with this ideo-

logy, predicated on seriality, mechanical movement, and objectivism derived in a fetishization of technology that finds its best examples in the optical games of Kinetic art. It is against this exacerbated appeal to scientific (calculated) models, mannerist examples of the logical structures in which the constructivist mind recognized itself, that the Bichos stood. Their utmost complexity drew from Constructivism an emphasis on coordination and structure but imbued the bodies of these unpredictable animals with an arbitrariness that emerged from the fluid interaction of boundaries between subject and object. It is interesting to note that while much of Western sculpture has been associated with the organic metaphor, in the sense that the former follows the functionalist models of nature, the Bichos are organisms that one does not associate with exemplary natural models. While Clark adheres to the organic metaphor as a functionalist model, Bichos are rather debased animals, bugs that one is not eager to cultivate, like cockroaches. That they do not quite stand for an idealist paradigm of artistic production is exemplified by their latter transformation into rubber pieces arranged according to the “laws of chance (8)”. The rubber pieces, entitled Trepantes (Obra mole) and Grubs (Soft work) from 1964, were to be seen in front of the Bichos, falling from the white pedestals to arrange themselves onto the floor. The installation of these pieces was the most effective as it seemed to defy the institutional paraphernalia designed for traditional sculpture. The Trepantes do away with structure and signify Clark’s rupture with the residues of Constructivism still present in her Bichos. The circular and linear cutouts inscribed on the black rubber allow space to penetrate the work and let these pieces hang from trees or rest on rocks, as photographs of the period show. More importantly, they submit to gravity and thus radically break away with western sculpture’s aspirations to elevate itself from the ground (9). The jump into space, prompted by Constructivism, paradoxically led Clark away from this artistic movement,


and into the precariousness of form exposed to time and action. The triggering gesture that led her towards this new paradigm of production was her proposition (as she called her postobjects works) Caminhando (Trailings) which took place in 1964. Here, Clark not only does away with structure and construction but with the object itself; it is now the subject that creates the precarious experience that will substitute for the work of art. It all starts with a Möbius strip: “Then take a pair of scissors, stick one point into the surface and cut continuously along the length of the strip. Take care not to converge with the preexisting cut-which will cause the band to separate into two pieces. When you have gone the circuit of the strip, it’s up to you whether to cut to the left or to the right of the cut you’ve already made. This idea of choice is capital. The special meaning of the experience is in the act of doing it. The work is your act alone. To the extent that you cut the strip, it refines and redoubles itself into interlacings. At the end, the path is so narrow that you can’t open it further. It’s the end of the trail (If I use a Möbius strip for this experiment, it’s because it breaks with our spatial habits: right / left; front / back, etc. It forces us to experience a limitless time and a continuous space.).” Later in the same text she adds that there is “no more separation between subject and object. It is an embrace, a fusion (10)”. And precisely, what signals Clark’s post-object work is a continuous undoing of the conventions that allows us to establish identities. Her project becomes then a systematic shattering and fragmentation, a problematization of the notion of art and self. An important text of 1964 entitled “On the Act” establishes the epistemological parameters within which the artist’s work will be deployed. An emphasis on the dispersal of boundaries, on the continuous destabilization of the body as a fixed entity, on the ephemeral and the immanence of the act, will give place to the precarious, not only as a paradigm of production, as I already indicated above, but as a

conceptual principle to understand the instability of the self, the uncertainty of the Cartesian cogito. “I am sucked in by the others. Such an impressive perception that I feel pulled up from my roots. Unstable in space, it seems like I am coming apart. To live perception, to be perception...(11)”. And in a diary entry from October 28th, 1963 she asks herself, “how can I feel that I am a total unity if precariousness, permanent movement, is the essence of my work, and has therefore become mine also... (12)”. It is this type of thinking that will inform the propositions that took place between 1966 and 1968 under the title of Nostalgia do corpo (Nostalgia of the body), a series of gestures that stood between the impossibility of recovering something lost and a desire, a longing for it. “I am crying for a stability that doesn’t make sense anymore instead of accepting the precarious with great joy as a concept of existence (13)”, Clark wrote. In these series of propositions Clark used simple materials with which the viewer interacted through touch, while vision, as the privileged sense through which we apprehend the world was almost obliterated. In Pedra e ar (Stone and air) from 1966, for example, one takes a bag of plastic filled with air and puts a little stone on one of its corners. With both hands the once spectator pushes the bag so that the little stone moves up and down. What interested Clark was the perception of the very simple materials interacting together as a living thing. To recognize the body outside one’s own body. Another proposition, Respire comigo (Breathe with me) from 1966, emphasized the fragmentation of the body through perception by alluding to the respiratory system. She described it thus: “A rubber tube, normally used in underwater swimming equipment. Pressing it with one’s hands, one puts one end into the other. Stretching and pulling the tube back repeatedly produces a sound similar to that of breathing, due to the air that enters and leaves the interior of the tube (14)”. This dispersal of the bodily underscores a model of identity that does away with the transcendental ‘’I’’, “uprooted with respect to the spatiotemporal bearings

of (the) body (15)” in order to dwell on the logics of alterity. These concerns were further explored in her seminars in the late sixties and seventies where she created interactive corporeal situations with her students at La Sorbonne. But Nostalgia of the Body points at something else – the body as a site of cognition in opposition to an objectivist perspective that assumes a purely mental, God’s eye view that transcends human contingency to access a rational and universal structure that explains how the world is. Livro Sensorial (Sensorial book), a work from 1966, and not recreated for the show, is emblematic of this. Made from transparent plastic bags (18 x 18 cm) that act as pages, the book is composed of different materials: aluminum, wool, shells, stones, and water bubbles contained inside the paginated plastic bags that the reader is supposed to touch as opposed to read. As the artist explains, “…in the last page –something that I think is very important in dialectical terms there– is a mirror where man finds his own reality and that of the world, after having touched everything, through a sensorial and tactile way (16)”.By relying on the tactile manipulation of objects, bodily deployment in space, and perceptual interactions, Clark opens up the boundaries of the body, now posited as a producer of meaning in its interaction with the world. Imagination plays here a crucial role as a mediator between the body and the mind as sites of understanding. As Mark Johnson points out, in a “nonObjectivist theory of meaning (…) understanding is treated as a historically and culturally embedded, humanly embodied, imaginatively structured event (17)”. This impossibility of separation between the inside and the outside was systematically thematized by Clark starting with her Bichos: “In his dialogue with my work O dentro é o fora (The Inside is the outside), the active subject re-encounters his own precarious nature. He also –like the Bicho– does not have a static physiognomy which defines him. He discovers the ephemeral in opposition to any type of crystallization. Now space belongs to


time, continuously metamorphosed by action (18)”. As Johnson describes it, “the key notion is embodied understanding”, which points out to the fact that “we are never separated from our bodies” and that “the world is always with us”. Structures emerge from “our meaningful interaction with things outside us”, from the “mediated understanding of our experience”. Like Clark, he concludes that “it is a think of an organism and its environment as two entirely independent and unrelated entities; the organism does not exist as an organism apart from its environment. The environment as a whole is as much a part of the identity of the organism as anything ‘internal’ to the organism (19)”. The above was to signal Clark’s late sixties and seventies projects in a way that her work becomes a reflection on the complex issue of subject identity. The failure of the exhibition to convey this essential aspect of Clark’s work should not surprise us. How can a work predicated on the contingency of interaction, precariousness and alterity be submitted to the structures of fixation, exhibition, objectification, and fetishization that inform museum practice? Although an effort was made to allow the viewer to touch duplicates of the sensorial objects that Clark worked with, the inappropriateness of the site was instantly felt. The carelessness of the installation failed to make an effective impression onto the uninitiated viewer (water from one of the pieces was running through the table were some of the sensorial propositions were located, fading and peeling labels were hard to read, and dirty white painted pedestals, covered with hand’s prints, were the norm). The feeling of archaic remains was most strongly felt in this part of the show. In a contiguous room, the most informative images on Clark’s practice of the period came forth from two slide projectors; they were very impressive due to the great variety of formal configurations that these interactions achieved. The room also contained, hanging on the wall or scattered around an empty arena where weekly performances took place, all the ephemera that the non-artist used

in her seminars (20). A video (not in working order at the time of my visit, but later sent to me by the Fundaçio Tápies) was supposed to be projected by a monitor located in the corner of the space. It showed a recreation of Clark’s activities with her students at La Sorbonne. But, as I said, the slides were the most effective medium to convey the non-theatrical quality of these dialogues. They concentrated on the array of collective gestures developed by Clark under different titles that indicate her concern with the complex constitution of the self. Thus, under the titles The House is the body, Man, living structure of a biological and cellular architecture, and Phantasmagoria of the Body, Clark deployed proposals of a philosophical and poetical nature that pondered on the dynamics of identity. Three propositions were particularly relevant in regards to the above: Estruturas vivas (Living Structures) from 1969, Baba antropofágica (Cannibalistic Slobber) and Red de elástico (Elastic Net), both from 1973. The first was made up of elastic bands attached to the feet of four people lying down and to the hands of four people standing up. As Clark explains it, the location of these people in space obeys the design of a web, and the ordering of the movements of the group forms a structure that is lived through the gestures of its participants. It is fascinating to imagine this disintegration of one of the most cherished structures of Constructivist and Concrete artists alike – the grid – by an operation that relies, not on the mind of the constructor but on the bodily interactions of ordinary people. More importantly, whatever form the web achieves, it is the product of a collective movement in which one gesture affects the whole and the gestures of others. These operations through which the constructive subject gives up authorship (by revealing how the other is constitutive of the work’s meaning), the object, and the possibility of a fixed, graspable structure, was further developed in Cannibalistic Slobber (21). Here the disintegration of the self is elaborated symbolically but in a revealing way that explores further

Clark’s interest in the dialectics of the inside and the outside. A group of participants introduce bobbins of colored cotton threads in their mouths that are to be pulled out slowly and then used to cover the body of another participant who is lying on the ground. In the end, the fully covered body is re-covered through the participants’ entanglement with the threads. The cannibalistic metaphor is of course related to a model of identity that had been profusely elaborated by Oswald de Andrade in his writings, specifically in his “Manifesto Antropofágico” of 1928. In it, de Andrade proposes that Brazilian modernity and Brazilian identity is signaled by the incorporation of otherness, of things foreign, and by “a persuasive appetite which urges it to devour constantly, a genuine process of building a body by continually incorporating fragments of other bodies (22)”. Faithful to this model, Clark elaborated on it to propose a model of subject identity predicated on the self as another. Her Elastic Net proposal of 1973 is emblematic in this regard. In it, the participants weave with elastic bands a net in which later the bodies intertwine themselves to form, as Clark defined it, a collective body. As in Living Structures, the movements of the participants do not follow any predetermined pattern. But due to the greater number of participants and the simultaneity of their movements, the absence of structure is, at times, total, because the net disappears as a form in this exchange of bodies mediated through a flexible structure that undoes itself in its absorption of its surroundings. Clark herself indicated the link between these propositions: “I am aware that the elastic bands I propose to attach people is the slobber that has crystallized in the real space (23)”. And, aware of the conceptual implications of her practice she wrote in 1975: “I have lost my identity, I am diluted in the collective. I see myself through all people independently of sex or age. I try to reconstruct the architecture of my face, by appropriating the physiognomies I see. ‘I am the other’. I feel so elastic and malleable that I adapt to all sorts of contacts. I live out all sort of secret and imaginary situations (24)”.


The clear thread that runs through Clark’s work is emphasized when one approaches her particular take on the notion of subjectivity. If Constructivism posited a rational subject, a productive imagination that would recognize itself in the mathematical transparency deployed by the constructive mind, Clark postulates, following Neo-concrete’s search for a total experience, a model of subject identity bound to the contingency of time and thus not graspable by conventional structures of representation. Akin to Paul Ricoeur’s model of identity, where a dialectic between otherness and selfhood produces otherness of a kind that can be constitutive of selfhood as such, Clark’s concept of subject identity displaces the classical structure of the ‘’I’’. Oneself as Another, as Ricoeur entitled his book on the topic, “suggests from the outset that the selfhood of oneself implies otherness to such an intimate degree that one can not be thought of without the other, that instead one passes into the other... (oneself in as much as being other) (25)”. This dialectic, which Ricoeur differentiates from the dialectic of the Same and the Other, – begun by Plato in the ‘metaphysical’ dialogues – is characterized by the polysemic character of otherness which implies that it does not refer only to the otherness of another person. Otherness, in Ricoeur’s scheme, is deployed by the experience of one’s own body (the flesh); by the relation of the self to the foreign (inter-subjectivity); and, by the relation of the self to itself. This dimension of otherness is traceable in the phenomenologically oriented work of Clark, particularly in her conception of the body as site of cognition, as a mediator between the self and the world, but also as a body among bodies, a condition in which “the multiple ways in which the otherthan self affects the understanding of the self by itself marks, precisely, the difference between the ego that posits itself and the self that recognizes itself only through these very affections (26)”. The collective body, a series of proposals in which Clark’s students practiced “collective relaxation” is emblematic of her search for an identity that would

supersede the oneness of the “I”. Here, some people would lie on the floor while others touched them and made them experience tactile stimuli from materials applied directly over their bodies. Air blown through a tube, bags filled with polystyrene balls, sea shells over the ears, plastic bags filled with air, and tactile contact in general were Clark’s means to disassociate the body from its feeling of enclosure. At times, she would create a labyrinthine structure with strings that her blindfolded students followed until arriving at a sink were water was running. On their way the students interfered with each other and tried to recognize themselves through touch. The idea was, once again, to eliminate the image of the individual body that reconstitutes itself through a collective body. These experiences led Clark to develop what she termed “Structuring of the self” or “Therapy”, private sessions in which the non-artist manipulated her “Relational Objects” – an array of sensorial devices that included all those mentioned above, plus others like rubber tubes, socks, honey, and particularly bags, bags filled with air, with sand, with water, with polystyrene balls – onto the body of her patients in her “consultation room”. One can still recognize in this work a commitment to identity as a process through a decentering of one’s interiority. The latter takes place via an intensification of the perceptual, a situation where Clark pushes to the limit the dismantling of art’s conventions (through her particular dialogue with western sculpture’s logic), while at the same time deploying a plastic knowledge of the body that functions in intimate dialogue with her understanding of materials, space, and form (27). Ultimately it is this indissoluble entanglement between body and mind, form and concept, life and art that her work embodies through and through. Clark does, however, abandon the collective dimension of her propositions to engage in a therapeutic practice that dismisses this very important aspect of her work. Her radical break with artistic practices is definite, as if the impossibility of

representing the self and the inability of the artistic institution to deal with it had pushed her away from art and into the abyss of a search, of a “Structuring of the Self”, leading nowhere. NOTES 1. Quoted as an epigraph from the book by Clarice Lispector, Passion according to G.H., Barcelona: Ediciones Península, 1988. 2. Lygia Clark, “Lygia Clark e o espacio concreto expressional”, reprinted in Lygia Clark, Barcelona: Fundació Antoni Tapies, 1997, p. 86. 3. Ibid., p.84. 4. Ferreira Gullar, “Uma experiencia radical (19541958), in Lygia Clark, Rio de Janeiro: Ediçao Funarte, 1980, p.12. 5. Usually translated as beasts or animals, but rather, used to define the latter in a pejorative way or to refer to bugs. 6. Maria Cough, “In the Laboratory of Constructivism: Karl Loganson’s Cold Structures”, October 85, Spring 1998, p.95. 7. Ronaldo Brito, Neoconcretismo: Peak and rupture of the Brazilian constructivist project, Funarte: Rio de Janeiro, 1985, p. 101. 8. Here, the paradigmatic (and paradoxical) figure is Jean Arp. His work and his writings embody clearly the organic metaphor so dear to Western sculpture. In 1944 he would write in relation to Concrete art: “We don’t want to copy nature. We don’t want to reproduce, we want to produce. We want to produce like a plant that produces a fruit, and not to reproduce. We want to produce directly and not by way of any intermediary. Since this art doesn’t have the slightest trace of abstraction, we name it: concrete art”. (See “Concrete Art”,1944, in Arp on Arp, ed. Marcel Jean, New York: Viking, 1972, p.139.) The causality implied in this model of creativity in which – like God – the artist creates forms suspended in a process of growth is reflected in those sculptures of the artist that seem to expand outwards or grow upwards. An exception to the rule though, were his Collages Arranged According to the Laws of Chance (1916-1919) and his Torn Papers (1930’s), based on tearing and pasting to create the effect of chance in detriment of composition and virtuosity, and in opposition to the geometrical structures he had explored in his first collages. Moreover, the Torn Papers freed Arp from the demands of artistic creation: “When I make papiers déchirés, I feel happy. What diverts me once again from these procedures is the fact that there is no longer a person forming within me. I gain peace and calm but lose as a creator. Thus, I am forced to become a ‘shoemaker’ again, for in a state of relaxation I am no longer capable of forming” (my emphasis). It is this spirit, rather than Arp’s commitment to “an essential order, and to ‘harmony’” which one can detect in the early sculptural work of Lygia Clark. In regards to the implications of this paradox in the work of Arp see also, Yve-Alain Bois and Rosalind Krauss, Formless, A User’s Guide, New York: Zone Books, 1997, p. 208. 9. It is interesting to note that Clark’s Trepantes, in their anti-compositional, anti-monumental quality, and in their submission to gravity, keep a close affinity with the post-Minimalist work of Richard Serra, Robert Morris, and Eva Hesse, whose process oriented experiments she precedes. See Yve-Alain Bois and Rosalind Krauss, op. cit, pp. 89-103. 10. Lygia Clark, “1964: Trailings”, reprinted in October #69, Summer 1994, p.99.


11. Lygia Clark, “On the Act,” reprinted in Lygia Clark, Fundació Antoni Tapies, p. 164. 12. Ibid, 168. 13. lbid 14. Ibid, p.209. 15. Paul Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992, p.5. 16. Lygia Clark, Lygia Clark, Fundació Antoni Tapies, p.206. 17. Mark Johnson, The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1987, p. 175. 18. Lygia Clark, Lygia Clark, Fundació Antoni Tapies, p. 165. 19. Mark Johnson, Op. Cit., p.207. 20. “It is around this time that Clark”, Yve-Alain Bois recounts, “dismiss(es) the art world, once and for all”. Not long ago he wrote: “It was 1973, and Lygia...asked me to be present for a visit from a museum curator who wanted to propose a retrospective exhibition of her work...Lygia categorically

rejected the idea of an exhibition, arguing that since 1968 all she had done was distance herself even further from the object – that her current work, in which the individual bodies of participants became a collective body in the forming of an ephemeral architecture. It no longer bore any relationship to art, particularly since the very notion of spectator was entirely banished from it”. See Yve-Alain Bois, “Lygia Clark: Introduction”, October #69, Summer 1994, p. 87. 21. These experiences, and Clark’s commitment to an undoing of structures, is clearly related to her and to other neo-concrete artists’ – like Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Pape – engagement with a “mobilizing space” that defied the Gestalt perception advocated by Concrete artists. It is worth noticing that by the same time, two other women artists, Gego in Venezuela and Eva Hesse in the United States, were also engaged in dissolving: the grid, seriality, and the search for a clear Gestalt that characterized prominent artistic movements in their respective countries. I am referring to

Kinetic art in Venezuela and Minimalism in the United States. 22. Carlos Basualdo. “Bodywise”, Future, Present, Past, La Biennale di Venezia, 1997, p.62. 23. Lygia Clark, Lygia Clark, Fundació Antoni Tapies, p. 292. 24. Ibid, p.266. 25. Paul Ricoeur, Op. Cit., p. 3. 26. Ibid, p.329. 27. I am indebted to Carlos Basualdo for his thoughts on the therapy as intimately related to Clark’s plastic practice.

Translation: Vincent Martin MÓNICA AMOR

Candidate in the Ph.D program of Art History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She writes regularly on contemporary art.


ArtNexus Magazine 31, year 1999. pp 88-89


Lygia Pape and Ernesto Neto Carrillo Gil Museum

Ernesto Neto. Poff, poff, poff...n, 1996. Elastic stockings full of gypse, curry, cloves and cumin. Variable dimensions.

Lygia Pape. Don’t step on the grass, 1996. Lettuce and text. Variable dimensions.

Copyrights © Projeto Lygia Pape


Poff, Poff, Poff...was the title of the installation which the Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto (1964) presented between July and September in Mexico City. In addition to schematizing in onomatopoeic terms, his enormous

elastic bags full of plaster and cement falling from high up and scattering over the floor, the artist wanted to bring together, in an integrated manner, the visual and auditive experience of the spectator. For her part, Lygia Pape (1928) reconstructed several of her works in the generous space

of the recently remodeled Carrillo Gil Museum of Contemporary Art, which provided a pure and clean setting for these recent or updated versions of five installations. Both artists are associated with the neo-concrete movement – in the case of Pape, as a founder member,


along with the Brazilian artists Helio Oiticica and Lygia Clark, and in the case of Neto, as a descendant of the movement – and their meeting here had its high points and particularities: Neto’s work appeared more spontaneous and ludic in comparison with the (con)textual elaborations by Pape, whose context was lost in their transfer from the Amazon to the urban aridity of Mexico City. The starting point of the neo-concrete movement, which emerged in 1959, was the impact of the work on its surroundings, encouraging the interaction of the spectator. It shared with action art and process art the concept of temporal (im)materiality, a central idea of conceptual art down to the present; hence the use of situations to emphasize the qualities themselves of the materials. Neto uses polyamide stockings full of gray powder, which he stretches up to the ceiling or releases and bunches together, according to a pre-determined action, to modify the sense perception of the spectator. As the spectator zig-zags between the bulky network set out at floor level with enough room to move between, or in random, vertical arrangements, taking care not to step on the traces of powder which give a kind of aura to the surroundings, the works evoked a twofold kind of memory: that of the gesture of the artist and that of the visitor, which has been accumulated and which acts on the works and space. At the back there was a dash

of yellow – color and smell at the same time, since this piece is filled with saffron – reminding us that the world is not only made up of dichotomies (black and white), but multiple, like our perception of it. Neto endeavors to approach space as matter through which, by means of a process-based reflection, the spectator is integrated into the work. In Mexico, where the neo-concrete movement is not very well-known, the semantic reflections proposed by the work of Lygia Pape are more difficult to understand. Her long career as a member of various groups – Frente (1953-1955), Concreto (1956) and Neoconcreto (1957-1963) – reflects her need for experimentation in the sphere of body art, action art, tropicalism and the new cinema, in which she explores such concepts as synaesthesia and organolepsis (simultaneous excitement of the senses). Her installation entitled Não pise na grana (1966) focuses precisely on the decomposition of cabbages in an enormous brick box, and on which she has placed a sign with the title of the installation in a wordplay on grana (grass, and also “coins” in Portuguese). The smells emanating from the work and the various color changes that it undergoes during the exhibition are metaphors of the absurd prohibitions based on the circulation of food supply / money values in our society. In Alba de plata (1977) – consisting of flour (in this case, of maize, which is a staple in

the Mexican context) on which blood drips, alongside a machete – some of the effect is lost since the piece seems to lack any contextual references to make the message more impressive than obvious, and which could help establish a link with the denunciation made by the smell against domestic violence (which the work seems to deal with). However, there was one work which gave real quality to the rest of the show and it was, in my opinion, the best piece by this artist: Telaraña, in its 1998 version, is a subtle, almost imperceptible network of threads set in one of the corners of the white room. As the spectator is forced into following its forward and backward structure, and the reflection of light on the golden threads, the work warns us of the impossibility of completely capturing with our senses anything at all, except through the dynamism of this kind of obligatory movement which integrates the experience of the spectator. In Telaraña, Pape embodies the metaphor of our (non)senses and once again uses the language of the material to make reference to a construction, both artificial and seductive, of a personal and cultural symbolism and its ideological implications. Translation: Vincent Martin ANA ISABEL PÉREZ Researcher for the Museo Nacional del Virreinato and independent curator.


ArtNexus Magazine 31, year 1999. pp 60-66


24th São Paulo Biennial A Cannibalist Proposal Compared to previous Biennials, especially the one held two years ago, the present exhibition made several important modifications. The most significant was that of assuming as a point of departure an individual position: “to introduce the lens of Brazilian culture in order to visit history and contemporary art”.

Tarsila do Amaral. Anthropophagy, 1929. Oil on canvas. 320 x 360”.

Albert Eckhout. Tarairiu Dance, n.d. Oil on wood. 66,1 x 115,7”. Collection of The National Museum of Denmark.

Tunga. Club, 1986-1997. 40,5 x 7,8 x 11,8”. From the artist’s collection.


Under the presidency of Julio Landmann and the general curatorship of Paulo Herkenhoff, and with the assistance of Adriano Pedrosa, Sao Paulo’s most recent Biennial opened its doors October 5th, and they will remain open for just over two months. Compared to previous Biennials, especially the one held two years ago, the present exhibition has made several important modifications. The most significant was that of assuming as a point of departure an individual position: “to introduce the lens of Brazilian culture in order to visit history and contemporary art” (1). Consequently, a top priority was to unify the show with a directive grounded in the complex idea of density – I’épaisseur – as an operative concept, according to Jean François Lyotard’s outlines (2). The dust jacket of one of the four books that make up the theoretical framework of this show reads thus: “In search of an extremely dense event in the history of Brazilian culture, curatorship...the moment and historical concept of cannibalism have arrived...”. The Biennial’s slogan emanates from the manifesto of the same name, published by Oswald de Andrade in 1928: Only cannibalism unites us. This Biennial proposes a new reading of the Cannibalist Manitesto and develops an exercise in hermeneutics as it rereads that work in accord with contemporary parameters. The majority of works shown take refuge in one or several of the many senses enveloped by the idea of cannibalism: from the literal illustration of tremendous acts that befell upon the Portuguese and Dutch colonists of the seventeenth century, to refined metaphors in accord with the global situation of culture at the end of the twentieth century. The event is divided into four exhibition segments. Another important novelty cropped up when one of these segments was dedicated to contemporary art in Brazil itself. The other three segments are: “Historical Kernel”, which replaces the former “Special Rooms”; “Roteiros...”, the presence of different regions of the world under the command of ad hoc curators; and “National Representations”, which highlights one single artist from each of the guest countries. The sectorization of a show of such impor-


Gabriel Orozco. O-S, 1993. Installation. Various dimensions.

tance seems inevitable. But this grouping resource generates, in turn, tensions and conflicts. Are we dealing with a Biennial or rather several exhibitions that have been juxtaposed? With the embellishment of cultural promotion that inevitably accompanies a show with works by van Gogh or Magritte, it is obvious that the so-called “Historical Kernel” weighs much heavier than the section of national participation. On the other hand, “Roteiros”, like “Universalis” in the last Biennial, also constitutes a show in and of itself. The articulation of the biennial’s different segments may be clear on a theoretical level, but it is not so clear for the public, who rarely reads the curators’ texts. Taken to the limit, this reflection might encompass the validity of mega-shows that propose very complex curatorial discourses to a mass public. In the area of documentation, another questionable background change issued forth: the traditional catalogue was replaced with a much more complex editorial program coordinated by Pedrosa, the adjunct curator. The Biennial published four books (3) with an emphasis on the curators’ essays as well as another series of useful writings. The merely organizing function has been suppressed. There is no list of works exhibited, and the biographical information on the artists has been reduced to a few lines at the end of each volume (4). Nor do we find in the publications, though illustrated, a photographic index of the show. To be sure, the books are an interesting complement, but the lack of traditional tools that condense, order, and conserve the show’s real history stands out. In addition to the books, there is a cyber-presentation of a web site available within the Biennial itself (5), as well as audio guides that accompany the visitor through the show’s most celebrated pieces. “Historical Kernel” The conceptual guideline for density, grounded in Lyotard’s thesis, refers (among other things) to a critical stance before history. With this tool, the curators established several significant moments in Brazilian art history: the baroque period, modernism, neoconcretism, and the ‘60s and ‘70s. The “historical kernel” establishes a dialectical discourse between Brazilian production and its surroundings in western art, supporting the curatorial thesis through seemingly disparate works: from a Malevich, a

Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle. Doug, Joe, and Genevieve (from The Garden of Delights), 1998. C-Print of DNA analyses. Edition 1 of 3.60 x 69”. Courtesy Max Protetch Gallery.

Cildo Meireles. Detour into red, 1967-1998. Installation. Various dimensions. Photo: Wilton Montenegro

Mondrian, and an Albers, to a room with twenty landscapes by Reverón, another with works by Magritte, and another with works by Bacon, just to mention the twentieth-century artists. It is an exhibition understood as a unified discourse, not the sum of special rooms of great historical artists, which was the formula employed in the previous Biennial. The proposal never ceases to be daring. Indeed, it illustrates the cannibalistic attitude commended by Oswald de Andrade, who serves as an immediate and instrumental referent in the entire Biennial. Here and there, works of contemporary Brazilian artists are grafted onto peripheral spaces of the installation. Tunga is there with his gigantic magnets; a TaCaPé; the macanas (blackjacks) of the Tarairiu Indians painted by Eckhout; an Envoltorio sangriento (Bloody bundle) by Artur Barrio undermines the substructure of one of the panels with works by Bacon; a portrait of Sigmund Freud, worked in chocolate by Vic Muniz, stands six meters high above the surrealist space. The concept of cannibalism as a metaphor for cultural assimilation was extensively analyzed in its most diverse meanings. Naturally, the “Historical Kernel” recounts some real episodes of the phenomenon, illustrated by European artists of the seventeenth century like Albert Eckhout and Théodore de Bry. Several expeditions of Portuguese, Dutch, and French colonists found native cannibals on the coasts of Brazil. The cannibal, for the European of the Enlightenment, embodied the paradigm of


Victor Grippo. Tables waiting, 1998. Written tables and text on the wall. Installation. 370 x 130”.

Priscilla Monge. Make-up Lessons, 1998. Video. Sequence detail.

Abigail Hadeed. From the Steel Images series, Curtis Edwards, 1995. Gelatin print. 13,7 x 19,6”.

the savage, of the pre-culture reflected in tremendous ancestral myths, like that of Saturn. The cannibal also reflects the preculture of more recent, but no less terrifying, histories like those of Ugolino or the Raft of the Medusa. Some works by Rodin, Goya and Géricault make up part of the artistic discourse between the seventeenth and the nineteenth centuries that was proposed by the curators. However, let us observe that, with the Christian mystery of the Eucharist being cannibalism’s most extended metaphor – “Take, eat: this is my body”, as the Gospel says – the Biennial evaded this interpretive aspect. It also avoided any direct references to cannibalism as a symbol of erotic desire. The most interesting thing about “Historical Kernel” deals with the Brazilian modernists themselves, beginning with Tarsila do Amaral (1886-1973). The group of paintings and drawings collected for the Biennial is extraordinary. And, precisely because they are well contextualized in their own period, they reveal the importance of this artist. We wonder, however, how it was possible that Antropofagia (Cannibalism, 1929) was not highlighted in the installation – a work that, with Abaporu (1928), magnificently condenses the attitude of the modernists.

As we tour through the closed section of Historical Kernel (6), we come across a respectable group of white paintings by Armando Reverón (the color devoured by light justifies their presence). We also find works by Magritte and Picabia, Francis Bacon, Siqueiros, Matta, Eva Hesse and Robert Smithson, Louise Bourgeois and Bruce Nauman. In addition to complementary names among the Brazilian modernists, we find Giacometti and María Martins, Lygia Clark and Volpi, Oiticica and Kuitca, the Cobra Group and Denis Oppenheim. Some of the curators had to tighten the thematic thread quite a bit in order to tie the pieces to questions of density and / or cannibalism. This section contains museographical nuances, in spite of the claim for a unified discourse. Should the Sáo Paulo Biennial be a museum? The argument for the educational function, employed by the directors and adjunct curators, may also turn out to be perfectly demagogic. “Roteiros. Roteiros. Roteiros. Roteiros. Roteiros. Roteiros. Roteiros.” This is the name of the space organized in the 24th Biennial by the different regions of the world, gathered together through each of the curators who acted as cartographers of their respective territories. We are warned that these ideal tours do not intend to be totalizing, and that the curators have acted on the principle of “coming and going”. They have based their work on the concept of density “as the process of condensing meaning” (7) and the idea of anthropology as a metaphor for transculturation. The Portuguese term appears translated as “routes” in the English version of the sector’s books. The word, repeated seven times in de Andrade’s text, alludes to the heterogeneous experience of culture. In Spanish we might call them derroteros (pilot charts). This section of the Biennial turns out to be extremely complex. It is like a small biennial within the Biennial. It reflects a power structure generated out of a general curatorship, superimposed onto national consignments, and justified in its ever more imperial desire for choosiness or selectivity. The different curators make their ideas, programs, and methods of work explicit in the texts of the book Roteiros. Thus, Louise Neri proposes to explore – not master – Oceania through photographs, video, installation, and painting. Rina Carvajal confronts the subject of displacement in Latin America. Ivo Mesquita


discusses matters related to art history and museographical institutions in the United States and Canada. Apinan Poshyananda grounds her research on Asia in cannibalism, while Bart de Baere and Maaretta Jaukkuri emphasize the European distancing of the same concept, calling their contribution A-Antropofagia. Lorna Ferguson and Awa Meite propose a reading of Shakespeare’s The Tempest according to Aimé Césaire in order to present African artists. Ami Steinitz and Vasif Kortum work on the dis/ appearance or annulment of distances in the Middle East. For this chronicle, I am selectively focusing on the Latin American “Rutas” (Routes) organized by Carvajal. Point of departure: a flat denial of all general characterizations for Latin American art. Time and again, the curator elucidates her conviction that contamination and the multiplicity of influences oppose all limits and conceptual borders – formal or geographical. On the continent, cannibalism serves as a metaphor for cultural assimilation, a “paradigm for the analysis of notions of decolonization and cultural emancipation” (8). She also demands the valuation of the process of creative discourse in light of the icon of the finished work. García Canclini’s appropriate agitation remains up in the air: “Will we soon be living a postmodernity in Latin America without having lived a modernity?” The exhibition is made up of works by the Mexican Gabriel Orozco (1962); the Brazilian – by adoption – Ana María Maiolino (1942); the Chilean – living in Australia – Juan Dávila (1946); the Belgian – living in Mexico City – Francis Alÿs (1959); Íñigo Manglano-Ovalle (1961), born in Madrid and living in the United States; the Venezuelan Meyer Vaisman (1960); the Colombians José Antonio Suárez (1955) and Doris Salcedo (1958); Miguel Río Branco (1946), a Canary Islander living in Rio de Janeiro; and the Argentine Víctor Grippo (1936). This is truly an irregular group of artists, generations and, consequently, dispositions, influences, trajectories, and languages. There are objects, installations, sculptures, photography, and video, in addition to the aforementioned mixed media. The conceptual marrow of the curators is perfectly sustained: it is one of the best structured pilot charts. The D-S Peugeot chopped by Orozco is pit against Doris Salcedo’s tremendous furniture sealed with concrete, from Alÿs’s photographically registered, melancholic wanderings through Mexico City, to Grippo’s Mesas blancas a la espera (White tables in the waiting). From Suárez’s graphic introspection to Vaisman’s Carlos Garaicoa. City viewed from the table at home, 1998. Wooden table and recovered glass objects. Various dimensions.

explicit introspection, and Maiolino’s manual, artisanal, and obsessive labor, to Manglano-Ovalle’s sophisticated technology of discourse. The possibilities of reading incessantly direct us to an irreducible otherness. The cliché of Latin America shatters into a thousand pieces. The Roteiros share the second floor space with a display of pieces by contemporary Brazilian artists. Next to widely recognized names like Tunga, Senise, Meireles, or Leonilson, the curators of this section – actually, the Biennial’s general curatorship – propose emerging names like those of Sandra Cinto and Nazareth Pacheco. And these are the most exciting. It could even be said that the works of the best known artists are poor figures in the Biennial’s totality, in part because they are dispersed throughout many points in the exhibition – as is the case with Tunga. Sandra Cinto composes very fine drawings of imaginary configurations on large panels. The tenuous lines that seem drawn with a light feather describe impossible islands, stairways, swings, and glass spiders that hang in infinite spaces. They remind us of Klee or of Saint-Exupéry’s elephant swallowed up by the boa, like dreams with no beginning or end. They are like linear spider Leonilson. The port, 1992. Embroidering on weaving on mirror. 9 x 7”.

Toshihiro Kuno. Unlitled,1996. Detail. Installation, wood, funerary urns, bronze urn, rope, Fuji sand. Various dimensions.


Fernando Alvim. Amnesia, 1998. Installation. Various dimensions.

Arturo Duclos. Transit #2, 1997. Electric pump, catheter and blood. 98,4 x 78,7 x 5,1”.

represent a moment with épaisseur, with a density absent from the most recent Brazilian production taken as a group.

Nicola Constantino. Clothing with human skin, 1998. lnstallation, silicon and human hair. Variable dimensions.

webs that dissolve the surface of the support in order to create oneiric spaces. Pacheco’s “jewels” – pendants, diadems, and necklaces – are made with glass beads and metallic elements: hooks, razor blades, scalpel blades, and suture needles. They exert an undeniable and perverse fascination onto the viewer. If they were not protected in their exhibition boxes, at least one visitor would surely try them on. Other interesting works included Antonio Manoel’s installation Fantasma (Ghost), Arthur Omar’s great wall of photographs, Anna Bella Geiger’s Lugar de acción (Scene of the action), and Claudia Andujar’s photographs – at once intimate and distant. As a rhetorical exercise, the works of contemporary Brazilians may be pit against those of their historical predecessors. Many names essential to modernism uphold the Biennial’s historical kernel. Such works or groups of works turn out to be much more meaningful than recent productions, not only because of the prestigious patin of history, but rather because they decidedly

“National Representations” Installed almost without exception on the first floor of the pavilion, this section of the Biennial welcomes the works of artists sent by invited countries. It is the most traditional section and has been a constant in the history of the Brazilian exhibition. As stated above, each foreign country participates with just one artist, who may show one or several works. It is obvious that a single artist cannot very well “represent” the actual production of his or her country. More than one curator points out this difficulty (9). If this part of the Biennial were called “national consignments”, the title would better describe its content. An outstanding fact at the installation level: this time all exhibitors received the same treatment and attention. There are no privileged sectors nor disfavored areas. The building’s entire area was treated in an open, almost octagonal, manner, thus avoiding as far as possible those labyrinths and dead spaces. The outcome was a much more legible and unified show. The hand of Paulo Mendes da Rocha, one of Brazil’s most prominent architects, was quite visible. The overall reading of the first floor returns to two concepts that modify and sustain the entire group. On the one hand, there is the appropriating concept of cannibalism: de Andrade’s contention that, “I’m only interested in what is not mine”. On the other hand, the atomizing idea that stems from recognizing the differences and specificities of each work. In its totality, the general level of national representations, 54 according to the corresponding book (10), is more than interesting. A good twenty-something works would deserve a detailed commentary, but the space of the present chronicle will not allow it. Let us begin with the artists situated in the eastern wing of the building: to the right, one of the two pieces by the Angolan Fernando Alvim (Luanda, 1963). It is a shrine whose interior walls have small horizontal roots standing on end like bristles that point to the center. The floor is shaped by shallow boxes sealed with a transparent top. Each box contains hundreds of


Elías Heim. Flower Yard, 1998. Plastic, porcelain, cable, flexible tube, engines. 12,9 x 27,5 x 13,3”.

chicken feet. The first interpretive clue lies in an ancient myth that regards bound chicken feet as a symbol of bad luck. In order to annul it, one must urinate upon them. Another clue alludes to the internal war, to the diaspora imposed upon thousands of inhabitants throughout various regions of the African continent. It points to the upheaval and confusion of cultural memory generated by successive colonialisms. On the second floor, another of Alvim’s shrines (included in the African regional show) becomes equally stirring: a closed block in which an inner space opens to one side, like a chapel or funeral monument, urinal, or morgue, covered with small white floor tiles. One corner reveals the impact of several shots. The title refers to amnesia, to the form of creating amnesia. Next to the Angolan, the curators placed the works hailing from Central America and the Caribbean. Here there is a regional grouping, selected by one single curator, through the express request of Paulo Herkenhoff. This task was commissioned to Virginia Pérez-Ratton, director of Costa Rica’s Museum of Contemporary Art. The strategy to make the consignments from the American region cohere produced positive results, although it José Antonio Suárez. Notebooks, 1998. lnstallation. Variable dimensions.

seems inevitable to raise at least two questions. First, why was a series of very different nations “regionalized” and grouped not in Roteiros – the area of the world’s regions – but rather in the national consignments? And second, why does Cuba not deserve a different and specific treatment, considering its relative importance? Virginia Pérez-Ratton articulated her selection concerning photography. The text “Una historia en blanco y negro (A black and white history)” and the corresponding group of works focus on a reality that breaks touristic and chromatic clichés of the region. Refined irony in the montages photographed by Moisés Barrios (Guatemala, 1946) for his Café Malinovski; the indigenous Panamanian world in Sandra Eleta (Panama, 1942) euphuistic lens; the nostalgia of the panyards, make-believe places, and popular concerts of steel drums, revealed by Abigail Hadeed (Trinidad, 1963); or Priscilla Monge’s (San José, 1968) chilling video, Lecciones de maquillaje (Makeup lessons), in which, after four minutes of being professionally made up, a model (whom we see in profile) turns to show us the other half of her face... and we discover that she has been brutally beaten. Photography, drawing, etching, and collage, plus an upholstered table with small glass objects that refer to Havana, all make up the work presented by Carlos Garaicoa (1967). The artist looks at his city with fondness and nostalgia. Like a retrospective utopia, a vague memory of the time of the glass spiders. The city is, beyond its current circumstance, the city that can be. Vista

Daniel Senise. O Beijo do Elo Perdido, 1997. Mixed media. Meyer Vaisman. Meyer Vaisman, 1998. Plastic and resin. Variable dimesnions.


urbana desde la mesa de casa (Urban view from the table at home) turns out to be one of the most poetic and unique installations at the Biennial, and it completely fulfills the proposal of “establishing a critical discourse on contemporary society” (11). On the other side of the building, crossing its central space, stands the beautiful installation of the Japanese Toshihiro Kuno (Obu, 1948). This artist uses objects of his daily world – ceramic vessels, coal, fabrics, dry branches – and elements like earth, ash, and salt. The meanings instituted into Kuno’s art do not depend so much on the objects in themselves, as on the combinatory ability demonstrated by the artist. With his back turned to globalization, to its massifying and banal activity, the Japanese artist delves into his world, attaining an unusual density. Kuno is the only Asian artist at the Biennial who does not seem to be seduced by the vociferous languages of western postmodernity. His immediate neighbors are a couple of Portuguese artists, Lourdes Castro (Madeira, 1930) and Francisco Tropa (Lisbon, 1968). Until now, each one had developed a unique trajectory. Castro has worked extensively with shadows. Tropa is interested in the relationships between mass and space. For the Biennial they created a metaphor based on a large dressmaker’s table, centered in a dark space and covered with a piece of white cloth, yet to be cut. The work of the German Mischa Kuball (Düsseldorf, 1959) closes the central space of this floor. Actually, it is the visible trace of a complex artistic act centered on the meanings of determinate objects (electric lamps, in this case) and their use in both public and private settings. Some seventy families from the city of Sao Paulo went to exchange their own lamps – often a mere light bulb socket – for another, a unique model distributed by the artist. The lamps collected in this way, duly labeled with a card that shows the milieus from which they were retrieved, are on display next to a video monitor that gathers incandescent signs, fragmented or obliterated in such a way that the first letters of each sign end up composing the alphabet. Luz pública, luz privada (Public light, private light) brings a note of unusual humor to the Teutonic participation in this Biennial. Arturo Duclos’s (Santiago, 1959) installation, Pasaje n. 4 (Passage #4) is made up of four symbols mounted with catheters each on its own panel, insinuating a polygonal space. A fluid circulates through each symbol: milk in the cross, positioned toward the north; urine in the hammer and sickle, positioned toward the east; blood in the southern star; and saliva in the crossed swords of the west. Each fluid is propelled by an electric pump that recalls the rhythm of the human heart. Some words in Latin characterize each montage; a deconstruction or rereading of symbolic forms of western culture? Three contributions stand out on the second half of the first floor. The first is that of the Argentine Nicola Constantino (Rosario, 1964): a deceitful fashion showcase, made with dresses worked in a synthetic material that imitates human skin. The material sports photo-engravings of nipples, navels, etc., and human hair that constitutes necks and stoles – a perfect paraphrase of cannibalism. Next to this piece lies an immense pool of ice whose dimensions overflow the building of the Biennial and invade part of the adjoining garden. This work belongs to the Dane Olafur Eliasson (Iceland, 1967), an artist affiliated with land art move-

ments. The public can walk, skate, roll, and touch. Andrade’s phrase – we are only interested in what is not ours – becomes a justifying link between the artist and the public. To be sure, ice is an element foreign to the daily experience of residents of Sao Paulo. Its use implies a technical challenge in order to maintain the installation, despite the nearly 30° centigrade time between October and December. In the back, against the glass facade that overlooks the park, we find the complex montage of Judy Pfaff (London, 1946) who represents the United States. Metallic tubes, scaffolding, and dry tree stumps with roots sticking up, a catwalk, and various white configurations placed over the floor visually blend with the structure of the building and the woodsy landscape of the backdrop. There is an immediate and direct reference to ecological worries, and another, more subtle reference to the endophagic attitude of western culture. The participation of other invited countries – Colombia, Peru, Mexico, Canada, Korea, and Holland – is interesting as a series of particular events. However, given their distance from the concept of density, as well as from the discussion of cannibalism, they appear as isolated episodes in this section of the Biennial. Having visited, seen, and reconsidered the exhibition, and in spite of the various problems pointed out, it is worth mentioning this 24th Biennial was one of the best in at least the last decade. I wish to quote from the brief opening address delivered by the Minister of Culture, Dr. Francisco Weffort: As he reiterated the notion of cannibalism which, from the European paint of view, constituted a primitive and barbaric practice contrary to the mast elemental principles of humanity, Oswald de Andrade proposed an ironic and irreverent interpretation of how, in Brazil, alien influences are incorporated into the native body, transformed into nourishment that fortifies it without disfiguring it. In the era of globalization, that concept is universalized and may well be applied to many situations pertaining to contemporary art and artists. NOTES 1. Paulo Herkenhoff, “Introducción general (General Introduction)”, Núcleo histórico, p. 23. 2. Jean-François Lyotard. Discours, figure, 1974. 3. The volume corresponding to the contemporary Brazilian artists will only be available beginning in November. 4. For the brief biographies at the end of the books, the artists are listed in alphabetical order according to their Christian names, a common practice in Brazil – though unheard of in the rest of the world. 5. 6. For museographical reasons, the third floor is equipped with air conditioning. 7. Paulo Herkenhoff, “Ir y venir (To come and to go)”, Roteiros, p. 22. 8. Rina Carvajal, “Rutas, América Latina”, Roteiros, p. 76. 9. Jon Tuper, Canadian curator. Representaciones nacionales, p. 188. 10. China does not appear in the book Representaciones nacionales, although its representative consignment was exhibited in the corresponding segment. 11. Carlos Garaicoa, cited by R. Carvajal, “Rutas, América Latina”, Roteiros, p. 74.

Translation: Vincent Martin MARÍA ELVIRA IRIARTE Ph.D in the History of Art at the University of Paris, La Sorbonne. Teacher and research scholar based in Chile.


ArtNexus Magazine 31, y ear 1999. pp 119-120


Eduardo Kac Museum of Contemporary Art

Few artists in Chicago have the inquisitive creativity of the Brazilian artist Eduardo Kac, who has moved from working with holography to computer programs, from installations to performance events. In one case, Kac surgically inserted into his thigh, in full view of the public, a computer microchip, which recorded him in an electronic farming database used for locating stray animals. Kac has also invented an electronic robot (which he calls an Ornithorhynchus, or platypus), which can be remote-controlled by various users through the Internet. Kac’s different experiments in poetry, holography, computerization, and robotics not only reflect his creative curiosity, but the clear, focused and rigorous interests of a sensitive intelligence which is attracted by the seduction of the new, but which does not forget the essence of literary and visual poetics. Though Kac has spent many years in Chicago (first as a student and then as a teacher at the Art Institute of Chicago), most of his exhibition projects have been carried out in other cities. After a brief absence from Chicago, Kac has now returned with fresh energy and an interest in showing his work there. The result was the exhibition recently presented at the Aldo Castillo Gallery, entitled Language Works, and curated by Julia Friedman. In this exhibition, the visitor was shown a sample of Kac’s constant fascination with a series of themes, including the way language functions, and the frontiers between the visual and the textual, the technological and the literary. From very early on Kac has explored language through holography, a medium that allows him to present a specific image in a threedimensional form that seems to be

Eduardo Kac. Erratum II, 1994. Iris print on Arches paper. 20 x 30”.

moving. Using this medium, Kac worked for ten years on the develop¬ment of what he called oholopoetry: poems which can be read in different ways depending on the direction or the position in which the spectator looks at them. Without a doubt one of the fundamental influences on Kac’s work has been the legacy of Brazilian and international concrete poetry. Subsequently, as seen in Language Works, Kac explored other kinds of interactivity through computer programs. In this exhibit, the visitor was able to enter a program through which he could read a poem in many different ways, depending on the decisions made by clicking on the screen. Creating a poem in this way with many reading options (a wellestablished literary tradition in Latin America: see for example Rayuela, by Julio Cortazar, or Blanco, by Octavio Paz) makes the reader more active and a creator of meaning. The works in the show had complex conceptual origins. For example, another work, entitled UPC, consists of a video projected onto the wall with diagonal letters crossing the screen to form phrases such as Nothing above to Left or right nothing below. Kac has a great familiarity with semiotic theory and provides significant explanations of his experiments. It is difficult to imagine, however, that any spectator would notice the connections between this work and the fact that, as the artist points out, his work adopts a nihilist position, suggesting that the

rigid dichotomies of the past, such as the political left or right or the “above” (heaven) and “below” (hell) of religion, are being overcome by economic forces (UPC, incidentally, is the acronym for universal product code.). Seen in this way, the ultimate strength of Kac’s work does not necessarily lie in the conceptual structure on which it is based or the source of the artist’s inspiration (but not the starting point for the spectator), but rather the impact of the intrinsic poetic dimension. There is no need to be a specialist in semiotics to understand that there is a language, both visual and literary, in these cold pieces of apparatus known as computers. For a moment we can forget that we are in front of an electronic screen, and momentarily feel the illusion of poetic space. In the final analysis, the objective is not to explain, but to present an infrastructure that generates a multiplicity of experiences and interpretations. Wittgenstein believed that language was only useful in allowing us to realize how inefficient it was in describing the world: “I am only describing language, I am not explaining anything.” In Kac’s case, too, language is not definitive, but neither is it useless: its usefulness lies in its ability to be many different things as we use it to navigate through the seductive labyrinth of his works.

Translation: Vincent Martin

Pablo Helguera


ArtNexus Magazine 34, y ear 2000. pp 48 - 53

Map of Lapo Homem, 1992. Oil on wood and suture thread. 43,3 x 55,1 in. Alfonso Pons Collection, Caracas, Venezuela. Courtesy: Galeria Camargo Vilaça, Sao Paulo, Brazil.



Equinox Line II, 1997. Oil and ink on canvas, ceramics, chinaware and resin. Canvas: 98,4 x 98,4 in. AII: 129,9 x 78,7 in. Photo: Vicente Mello. Collection: Galeria Camargo Vilaça, São Paulo, Brazil. Courtesy: Soledad Lorenzo.

lot has been said about the symbolic premises in the work of Adriana Varejao. In fact, outstanding in her painting are the relationships between symbol and history of repression – elements that, stemming from the dream of the Conquest and the beginning of the colonization process, confronted the European imagination with a radically different type of society, with a culture never before seen; and, Westerners never hesitated to impose onto that culture, by force, their perception and conception of the world. Perhaps the essence of iconography in her work is, truly, a history of repression. To be more precise, a history of transmutations and shifts printed in records of the period, thus configuring the oppression exerted by the Europeans after the seafaring discoveries in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Those records surpass the contours of Portuguese colonization in Brazil, for, by covering both East and West, they achieve a universal size penetrated by a pan-humanistic tone that evokes the synthesis and fusion of elements of different geographical horizons, of diverse cultures and histories that touch one another as a consequence of the great maritime expeditions. In her painting there is no insistence on reinventing time, nor is there an attempt to make the past present, for past and present are shown completely. Memories


Adriana Varej達o The presence of painting In her painting there is no insistence on reinventing time, nor is there an attempt to make the past present, for past and present are shown completely. Memories shift among nostalgic motivations; they are mirrors of ourselves that envelop us like whirlwinds.

shift among nostalgic motivations; they are mirrors of ourselves that envelop us like whirlwinds. Few artists are able to develop the ability to show coherence and freshness in painting based on the symbolic elements of a historical reality like Adriana Varejao. Freeing herself of the imposing and limiting sense of a mere transposition of images and symbols, she realizes a subversion of the imagination stemming from the Portuguese colonial inheritance manifested in the cruel abuses implicit in power relations. Subversion often begins through references that extend inside or outside the space of the canvas. The artist gives a new dimension to painting as she approaches or distances herself from the two-dimensional plane: the images decompose into a dissociating effect that transforms the pictorial matter into intoxicating condensations, into contractions, and into impulses of desire and blood, of destruction and death. Recourse to an excess of pigment, which at the beginning of her career as an artist seemed to turn to an exacerbated opulence of a baroque nature, gradually began to take other directions. The images, bodies, objects, maps, decorations, and tiles all spoke of a cartography in which the history of colonialism makes evident that its anxiety for power and possession of wealth encompasses the globe. Parallel to the process of corrosive destabilization unchained by the conquistador from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, the

Tongue with X Pattern, 1998. Wood, aluminum, canvas, poliurethane, oil paint. 78.7 x 66,9 in. Rubbel Family Collection, Miami.


Doctrine Proposal, Part 1, 1993. 55,1 x 94,4 in. Courtesy: Galeria Camargo Vilaça, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

missionaries reorganized the indigenous customs: they covered their nudity, they attempted to make them literate and, principally, they tried to catechize them. In spite of the missionaries’ good intentions, which were frequently able to contain the savagery of slavery and the massacres undertaken by the colonizers, the effect of their intervention did not turn out any less devastating for the native cultures. This is a matter of a pictorial work that reflects the wrenching of our own time, which rarely limits itself to the plane of the canvas. At times, a deep blow tears the painting, as in Mapa de Lopo Homem (Map of Lopo Homem). There are moments in which, on the contrary, the pigmented matter arrogantly extends outside. If the incision resorts to spatial ambiguity, as in Fontana’s scratch – to the relation between inside and outside, and especially to the precise cut and line – then it distances itself from that conceptual proposal as it signals that the numb fissure opens like an ethnographic wound, like an outgrowth of agitated entrails, not completely scarred over. Another experience is revealed when the pictorial matter abundantly flourishes from the canvas, dissolving among plates and pieces of

oriental porcelain, as in Línea Equinoccial II (Equinox Line II), and spreading into decomposed forms of torn flesh (Lengua) (Tongue): in these cases, the fleshy prominence maintains a certain resonance with the dissolving neurosis of Francis Bacon when, upon diluting the image it transforms it into chromatic matter and makes the figure lose the privilege of representation, for the figure itself is treated as matter. The artist shifts through various strategies and her work simultaneously speaks of the body and of the history of humanity, of the spirit and of the flesh, of the center and of the periphery, of Brazil and of the world, of archeology and of races, and principally of the history of art. To once again use the codes of the past and insert them into the present is an activity that does not create a mythical spacetime, but rather brings to the present all the baggage of history. We know that, after the discontinuous crystallizations and appearances of the past, the past is here; the present does not exist without the past. The voyage of European culture towards the other side of the ocean, understood as an ethnic and anthropological step, results in decentralizations where

contamination is inexorable. The result is presented, for example, in the diaphanous epiphany of the tattooed female bodies before the sea (photographic piece taken for the journal Trans), and likewise in the bottles of castaways with messages relating to themes like Chinese porcelain, tiles, and female cannibals. The bottles refer to those that contain a first-aid kit and that have labels that allude to the sea, to the sky, and to the beach, like those found on the shelves above the old white tiles of Distancia (Distance). In Adriana Varejao’s work, the absence of stable foundations is indicative of the fact that everything must be questioned. And the destruction of illusions implies the renunciation of the symbol, which forces us to always move between scenes and images in constant transformation. Just as the approach of the “I” with the other constitutes the imagination of the traveler, the circulation and superposition of cultures affect Adriana Varejao’s painting like material density of juxtaposed membranes, of condensed outgrowths, of epidermal inscriptions. The indigenous societies show the European what he did not know, namely, that different societies exist. To admit the difference without seeking to abolish it


was the impossible task for Eurocentrism. The word transformation was key for the relationship with non-Europeans. In the paradise of luxuriant forests and societies “without faith, without law, and without a king”, where the indigenous people are pagans who seem controlled by terrible demons, it became necessary to baptize them quickly in order that they might abandon their savage customs: cannibalism, polygamy, and the constant practice of wars with no apparent cause. The right to the conquest is a prerogative of the European, and his duty is to Christianize the idolatrous. For the European, there is no room for a social system different from his own. Therefore, he does not hesitate, in an unequal confrontation, to impose norms and institutions that reflect his way of conceiving society. In a bloody liturgy, the Indian cannibals believe they acquire the courage and the virtues of the enemy they devour. The Europeans only see cruelty in that custom. The recourse to catechesis, the interpretation and invocation of the divine will as a decisive and propitious occasion for the conversion of the idolatrous and the authoritarian, repressive paternalism of the missionary would serve as the master key to extend his colonization efforts.

The recovery of the tiles that the IberoLusitanian tradition brought during the colonial period serves to restructure those situations of conflict that engender many of the contradictions of Brazilian culture. Obeying a rigorous and geometric sequential order, the craftsmanship of the decorated tiles (which pleased the Rococo taste in the eighteenth century) preserves, in Varejao’s painting, a patina of time in the small, intricate grooves, in the crevices, in the dark bits, in the patches, and in the restorations. She speaks of many forms in which power relations are manifested, predominantly of those expressed as inscriptions of the body. Through the tiles, the artist points out moral and political tyrannies of the institutional discourse that underlies the representation of the body. From the cannibalism / catechesis dichotomy, as in Propuesta para catequesis, Parte 1 (Proposal for catechesis, Part 1), to the insertions of sectioned bodies, as in Azulejos azules (Blue tiles) and Varejao academico-Musas (Academic Varejao-Muses); from the tattoos that refute the decoration of the tiles on the human scalpels stretched over the cold surface, both in the West and in the East, as in Piel a la moda de los azulejos (Skin in the fashion of tiles) and Irezumis gemelos (Twin irezumis), to the internal disorder

provoked by disordered montages of drawings, as in Figura de invitación (Invitation figure) or Tea and Tiles (Te y Azulejos). The spongy flesh of the diverse Lenguas falls abundantly near the tile like an enormous ripped wound, red raw, inside of which are mixed convulsed layers and layers of spilled mucous membranes. As an organ of taste, the tongue resorts to cannibalism. But as an organ of speech, it summons the fervent sensory perception of the lacerated flesh, thus provoking an extermination process in which it eats itself. Adriana Varejao’s work inscribes itself in the terrain of the exploration of the body and reveals how the impact caused by the perception of another sexuality was transformed into a fertile field for the exercise of domination. A wider cultural promiscuity corresponds to the promiscuity of bodies, for the mechanisms of domination that ground promiscuity have not been extinguished. On the contrary, as Foucault pointed out, such mechanisms tend to make themselves more complicated through time: they lose the apparent virulence while they create more efficient strategies. This is how, under the innocent appearance of academic paintings like Testigos oculares X, Y y Z (Eye

Eye Witnesses X, Y and Z, 1997. Oil on canvas, chinaware, photography, silver, crystal and iron. 33,4 x 27,5 in. per canvas. 6,2 x 34,6 x 9,8 in. per object. Frances Marinho Collection, Rio de Janeiro.



Skin in the Fashion of Tiles, 1995. Oil on canvas. 55,1 x 62,9 in. Photo: Vicente de Mello. Courtesy: Galeria Camargo Vilaça, São Paulo, Brazil.

witnesses X, Y and Z), the ethnographic self-portraits of a European woman, an Indian woman, and an Asian woman inquire into these women-objects that pay tribute to crossbreeding. Before each painting, a ceramic eye and a magnify-

ing glass can help whomever wishes to explore, without forgetting that that spherical eye is a box that, when opened, reveals a small photograph of tattooed cannibal women, an image taken from the unadorned recollection of one of the

Twin Irezumis, 1999. Oil and animal skin on canvas. 78,7 x 78,7 in. Photo: Vicente Mello. Courtesy: Galeria Camargo Vilaça, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

witnesses in a destabilizing circulation of epidermis. In the work Reflexos de sonhos no sonho de outro espelho (Reflections of dreams in the dream of another mirror), a study of Pedro Américo’s Tiradentes, the artist approaches the theme of Pedro Américo’s painting, as in Tiradentes descuartizado (1893) (Tiradentes quartered [1893]), interested more in semantics than in rhetoric because of the didactic insistence with which the work is reproduced. The representation of the unequivocal grandeur of the drama of Tiradentes conforms perfectly to the role of mythic hero, necessary as a tool of reinforcement for the period of the Republic’s implantation. It is worth recalling that the dream of the ideal of liberty that Minas Gerais inspired in the eighteenth century, and which was related to the discovery of the other, had led a small group of enlightened conspirators to be inclined toward an independent republic in the region, an ideal that was quickly suffocated by the Portuguese Crown before a revolution could begin. Some of those involved were condemned to exile, but torture and quartering were reserved for Tiradentes. The event fell into oblivion during the Empire and was recovered as a pictorial narrative by several republican artists during the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth. But not only the republicans adhered to the figure of the martyr; his transformation into a national hero was an adequate contribution for the political and ideological unification, permeated by what Machado de Assis called “nationality instinct”. Adriana Varejao executes an exhaustive reading of the references of the hero and destroys the literalness of Tiradentes: she molds a fragmented doll out of the divisions of ripped and bloody flesh in Pedro Américo’s painting. In a room she spreads out the segments of the mannequin hanging by threads, in conformity with the proportions and staging of the composition of the original painting. The slices of meat are reflected over 21 mirrors attached to the walls, changing each angle upon which the gaze fixes and generating a continuous instability of the bloody modules. She portrays each mirror and reproduces them faithfully in the pictures. The result is an installation of segmented outgrowths that are multiplied with the


reflections of the mirrors / paintings in an unbridled carnal lust. It is a painting generated by metaphoric pulsations of violence and laceration that proposes new articulations of images, but which remains a diffuse and malleable materiality. Happiness (1999), the theme of one of Adriana Varejao’s most recent pieces, is propagated in the photographs of the marketplaces of Taxco and Xochimilco (Mexico). In these images, amidst the warm colors of daily life imbibed by the ruckus of workers and passersby, pieces of bleeding meat spread across the counters of the butchers’ shops abound. The meat market provokes the curiosity of a child who looks at a pig stretched over the counter. It also provokes the perception of the shiny smoothness of the dense textures and of the related crimson tones as it says that “happiness is the acceptance of reality”, as inscribed on one of the light boxes. By inverting a possible presence of pop, these photographs remove reality in order to demarcate the intensity of the carnal fabric and living color while procuring once more to tie down a time without interruptions, a harmonious time, and one illuminated from within. Once more, the artist offers us a rich game of semantic suggestions where the course of history is no longer delineated as before. The autonomy of the symbol engenders a reality gathered from the material itself. That is, “it is the hand of the artist”, as Bachelard fittingly recalls, “that seizes reality as it works a material that, at the same time, resists and yields like a loving and rebellious flesh”. She [the artist] thus procures to rescue memory, not as the actualization of the past, but rather as its prolongation into the present, for the present depends on the past in order to manifest itself. Adriana Varejao’s work is a release transposed with rare mastery for the world of painting. Through a powerful and free transfiguration, she evokes testimonies of memories and of the present, made of matter and rebellion, dream and reality.

Reflections of Dreams on the Dream of Another Mirror (a study of Pedro Americo’s work Tiradentes), 1998. Installation view with 21 paintings. 118,1 x 118,1 x 118,1”. XXIV Sao Paulo Biennial. Ricard Akagawa Collection, Sao Paulo.

Translation: Vincent Martin Stella Teixeira de Barras Professor of Brazilian and Contemporary art at the Santa Marcelina Art Faculty. Art critic and curator.

Happiness, 1999. Detail. 2 light boxes of 4. Variable dimensions. Photo: Vicente Mello. Courtesy: Galeria Camargo Vilaça, Sao Paulo, Brazil.


ArtNexus Magazine 34, year 2000. pp 133



MEXICO D.F. Rochelle Costi Nina Menocal Gallery

This past summer the Nina Menocal Gallery presented a project by the Brazilian artist Rochelle Costi specially conceived for Mexico City. In a work entitled A House of One’s Own, Costi proposed a reflection on the way in which we live and move between public and private spaces in the city. This concern with the house is a constant feature in the work of this photographer. In the 1997 edition of the Havana Biennial, she presented a series in which she reworked popular plastic tablecloths printed with flowers and fruits. In the last edition of ARCO, she successfully showed a group of large format photographs, in almost life size, of a series of bedrooms reflecting the habits and customs of the people using them. The large photographs functioned as a means of peering into the intimacy of other people, exploring the role of voyeur played by those who look at art. The photographs that she developed and presented in Mexico City are part of a project which she began in the city of Sao Paulo. In both cities, Costi constructed, with waste materials found in city garbage dumps, a series of small houses for dogs which she then moved around and photographed in various distinctive places in each city. In the case of Mexico City, she went with her little colony to the Zocalo, the lake of Xochimilco and the Torres de Satelite. Subsequently, she presented the little installed houses in the gallery, along with an excellent series of mediumsized photographs that seem to call into question our concepts of scale and proportion, particularly in the case of Xochimilco, where the small houses appear to harmonize perfectly with the natural environment, just like the precarious constructions that randomly spring up around communities formed by the middle and upper classes in the city.

Rochelle Costi. A House of One's Own, 1999. Color photograph. 33 x 43,3 in.

But the integration has to be understood with certain nuances: within t h e “ n a t u ra l ” e n v i r o n m e n t o f t h e lake or the Torres de Satelite, the little houses looked like an unplanned housing estate and yet as the same time as something which has become a perfectly ordinary ingredient of this city’s landscape. What is surprising is the fact that we are not surprised, and more than one visitor believed, before seeing the installation of houses in the gallery, that this was a real settlement. For the artist, the reference to the unstable houses for dogs is also a reminder of the role which these animals play in the bourgeois residences of our great cities, not only as faithful companions, but above all as physical and metaphorical guardians of the social status of their owners. At the same time, the stray dog, the street dog without an owner, is a perfect urban symbol of the person who is abandoned, the homeless person who wanders around the city. Costi’s settlements evoke the real need which we all have of building a safe and comfortable niche in the city, a need which we assume can be satisfied by a house of our own. At the same time, the fragility of this sense of security is reflected in the material precariousness of the appropriation of urban spaces by marginalized groups in the so- called “poverty belts”. Paradoxically, in terms of symbolic appropriation, Costi’s images also show

us how we have lost the city, and how the latter has become a kind of noman’s-land. Translation: Vincent Martin Issa María Benítez Dueñas


ArtNexus Magazine 36, year 2000. pp 40

NEWS Marcantonio Vilaça Marcantonio Vilaça decided that art would be his destiny at an early age, and he began to collect when he was still an adolescent. His sharp and trained eye was interested in experimental works, young artists and taking risks. The scope of his interest was enormous. At the age of 20, in a country in which people collected national works, he was already traveling abroad to collect art. At the end of the 1980s, there was perhaps no-one who had gathered together a collection which better illustrated Brazilian art of that decade than this young man still under the age of 30. At the beginning of the 1990s, he worked as a lawyer and entrepreneur, but he was unhappy. He decided to experience art as a gallery owner, since he had always had a passion for collecting. Before he was 30 he was already making his first donations to museums. Vilaça liked public collections. He was a man of pure energy and passion. He was thoroughly familiar

Marcantonio Vilaça. 1999 photo.

with the Brazilian dealers and learnt much from his many contacts with them. Perhaps he was the first Latin American gallery owner to understand the international contemporary art system, which allowed him to participate at all levels. Through his experience, capacity and dedication to strategic action,

Vilaça became a voice with authority in the Latin American art market. His mission was to understand the way in which international dialogue necessitated an active role in the market. For culture to be modern, it seemed to require a modern market system, and to this end Vilaça was extremely efficient in his contacts with museums, biennials, critics, magazines and collectors. He symbolized the current attempts to place Latin American art in international collections. He had few equals in his task of breaking down the walls of the ghetto. He became excited when a museum or a collector acquired a work. It was as if he was collecting through others. In the final analysis he simply loved art. At the personal level, I would say that he managed to forget himself through art. Perhaps for him life and art were the same thing. He died on a very symbolic public holiday: on the morning of the 1st of January, 2000.

Translation: Brian Mallet Paulo Herkenhoff


ArtNexus Magazine 38, year 2000. pp 132

REVIEW Brazil SÃO PAULO Franklin Cassaro Baró Senna Gallery

One night some time ago, just before going to bed, I was reading a sequence of Julio Cortázar’s Final del juego (End of Game) – the one that begins with “Continuidad de los parques” (Continuity of the Parks), and I came across the story “Axolotl”. Slowly, the narrator becomes the strange animal he describes, and in the end the reader is forced to look at his own hands, laying there on the bed alongside the open book, to verify that he is still a human being. Cortázar imprints in our imagination the pink, translucent little body of the axolotl; its large, round golden eyes lined with black, its hand-like limbs, its appearance resembling a Chinese figurine covered in rust after a long time underwater, its reddish gills growing at both sides of the head like tree branches that assert the animal’s quiet, inert nature; and so many other of the dreamlike creature’s characteristics. The following afternoon, I was wandering the city streets, window-shopping without any particular purpose. And then I saw them. Two of them inside a medium-size fishbowl, flanked by caged hamsters and cockatoos. I was startled by the very fact of their existence, by the realization that the axolotl are living creatures of this world. And, after the initial shock of finding the two fantastic animals I had been reading about for sale, I was surprised by what seemed their peculiar relationship to time. Time seemed to float in suspension around them, and they seemed arrested in the middle of their own existence, stopped at some half point in their biological development. Like tadpoles, they are runts of a creature more dignified than the simple toad. Another night, again before going to bed, I found myself at Baró Senna Gallery looking into a different fishbowl full of axolotl-like creatures. Yes, since that first encounter, I find them everywhere. Following some kind of reductionism, and in order to identify them with a short word, I use the name axolotl for any creature that seems to inhabit that same suspended time. Such as Franklin Cassaro’s Vulvas, silently gathered inside their glass cases as though looking outwardly, through

Franklin Cassaro. Metallic Vulva, 1998. Steel. 8,6 x 11,8 x 7,8 in.

a window and in waiting. That collection of Vulvas metálicas (Metallic Vulvas) – resembling family groups with the smaller member sitting up front, as in the theater – looked at us as we entered the show. They welcomed us and offered us their farewells, and they would still be there, waiting for us, upon our return. Looking at them, we understand the movements and foldings compressing the metallic planes and giving the material their present form. We can step back and deconstruct with our gaze those simple gestures, recreating the open circles that, in truth, are still there. Franklin Cassaro leaves that to our discretion, cutting and transforming generic metal pieces with everyday techniques, with movements we ourselves have made and are capable of recognizing. Thus, his vulvas look somewhat uncomfortable, constrained, still unaccustomed to be – at the same time, what we see and what we know they are. Like the axolotl, the Vulvas seem trapped within the artificiality of an outstretched time, within and impossible permanence, inside a public aquarium. Hunched over, submissive, immobile and outward looking, almost calm and always at rest: because they will never be able to turn back or to move ahead. As I continued to make my way into the gallery, passing under a larger Vulva, silvery and alone, seemingly lost atop a vertigo-inducing pedestal, I saw Templo (Temple). It is an inflatable newsprint construction, miraculously standing by virtue of the air produced by common fans. Once again, Cassaro bares before us his materials and the trivial mechanisms he uses to build his dreamed creatures. Like the vulvas and the axolotl,

Templo inhabits a more dilated time. Full of air, it rises from the floor as if in respiratory movements. But it is not constrained by any live being’s need to exhale and inhale; it is like an extremely light prehistoric animal, frightened or startled, seen just before it realizes there’s no danger and breathes again. An extremely extended instant. Templo is also its own possibility of deflation, since, given its simplicity and our habit, we know its parts all too well, and we recognize its previous states. We know what would happen if we turned a switch to cut off the flow of air. Templo is also a loose newspaper page, the news it contains, the breakfast table on which it is read, and the comments we make as we read it; the rise in the price of gasoline, a new film that just opened, the cure against cancer, the review of an art show in which sculptures are like “larval forms with gills, some kind of batrachian of the general amblistoma”. Translation: Vincent Martin Carla Zaccagnini


ArtNexus Magazine 39, year 2001. pp 82 - 85

inSITE 2000 Presenting – without apology – art charged with contemporary social consciousness, the triennial profiles an array of artist projects that strategically address the complex realities of the hybrid, globalized culture that is emerging here.

Collette Chattopadhyay


ince its inception in 1992, the young and ambitious international art exhibition known as inSITE, has commissioned and presented artworks in the binational metropolis of two abutting cities – San Diego, located in southern California, and Tijuana, situated in northern Mexico. Presenting – without apology – art charged with contemporary social consciousness, the triennial profiles an array of artist projects that strategically address the complex realities of the hybrid, globalized culture that is emerging here. Situated in an arid dessert topography, with the Pacific to the west and mountains to the east and conjoined by twined

Alfredo Jaar. The Cloud, 2000. General view of the performance.

interests in trade, commerce, and material prosperity, the two cities are at times beneficent, at times threatening, inspiring on one hand dreams of a better tomorrow and on the other hand obliterating them without remorse. inSITE 2000 is the fourth incarnation of an arts extravaganza that began in 1992 and has grown into a triennial event. Backed by a consortium of 27 cultural institutions in the United States and Mexico, and funded by a bevy of private, government, and corporate sponsors, the realization of each event fosters cross-cultural communications in a multitude of ways. Sponsoring 30 commissioned projects by artists selected from throughout the Americas, this season’s edition was spearheaded by the curatorial team of Susan Buck-Morss, Ivo Mesquita, Osvaldo Sanchez and SalIy Yard. The projects are accompanied by an impressive array of scheduled


artist talks, panel discussions, and public symposia that are slated to feature intellectuals such as Serge Guilbaut, Mary Jane Jacob, Melson Brissac Peixoto, Cuauhtemoc Medina, Catherine David, Michael Taussig, and George Yudice. The opening weekend in midOctober featured roughly half of the exhibition’s projects, with the remaining works scheduled to be unveiled in the upcoming months. Strewn, as in years past, across a labyrinth of spaces, the projects appear along highways, footpaths, fields and canyons, as well as in schools, public markets, and museums. While a number of artists accentuated the border as a physical and conceptual axis mundi, others variously explored the nature of community in postindustrial society, notions of public and private space, stymied international relations, and even ecological themes. Interested in engaging the general public, as well as the artworld co-

gnoscenti, the exhibit as a whole seeks to underscore the relevance of art to life. Pushing and pulling at entrenched concepts of what art is, of who can be an artist, and where art can be found, a number of works encourage a liberal and skeptical regard for extant social systems that govern art and life in these cities. Following in the conceptual footsteps of Documenta X, presented in Germany in 1997, this year ’s inSITE accentuates the ongoing precariousness of the art object. Focusing attention on artistic processes and on postindustrial information dissemination systems, many of the exhibiting artists are presenting ephemeral, onetime only performances, participatory works, or project exhibitions comprised of documentary remains of an action or event. While more immaterial than in past seasons, this array of works continues to champion the contemporary artist

Valeska Soares. Picturing Paradise, 2000. Installation view. *

as a cultural critic, extending presuppositions concerning the role of art in contemporary life that were rekindled in the ‘60s and ‘70s by such conceptually based artists as Helio Oiticica, Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape, Joseph Beuys, Marcel Broodthaers, Ana Mendieta, and others. Evolving from resid e n ci e s in the region, the presented projects emerge from encounters with the spatial, material, and sociopolitical contexts of the TijuanaSan Diego area. For many artists the demarcation of the border is paramount. Presenting multiple interpretations of that corrugated, rusted steel reality, the artists in this year ’s extravaganza variously identified the border as a metaphor of dreams and desires, as a manifestation of international dispute, and as a threatening phenomenon associated with surveillance, psychological fear, and even death. At one end of the spectrum is Soares’ Picturing Paradise that pro-


files large mirrored stainless steel plates mounted to both sides of the border fence. One of the most poetic works unveiled during the inaugural weekend, this installation from selected angles creates the illusion of portal passageways through the fence, replacing its unaesthetic essence with reflected images of earth and sky. Of course, approaching the alleged passageways, the mirages give way to the material reality of physical substances, brutally dissolving apparitions of space beyond. On the face of the mirrors, Soares has inscribed text from Italo Calvino’s fictional work Invisible Cities that speaks of two cities bound together in a quarrelsome and tumultuous relationship. For each, the other is both an object of desire and contention, where dreams of a more tranquil existence perennially seduce and elude tourists and émigrés alike. Like Soares, Alfredo Jaar ’s performance ceremony, The Cloud, adopted a romantic tone, but with a different emphasis interpreted the border as a site of violence and death. Rather than focusing on the fence, Jaar ’s work shifts attention to the human body as the contested site of border disputes. Commemorating the thousands of Mexicans who have died in the last decade trying to illegally cross the border into the United States, Jaar staged a multi-sensory event in which a cloud constructed of over a thousand white balloons, was Arturo Cuenca. You Are Aquí, 2000. Installation view. *

temporarily suspended above the border. With refrains of Bach and Albinoni wafting through the air, the balloons were released into the sky, commemorating those whose lives met with a violent and inhumane end. The theme of the human body as the actual contested site of border disputes was explored from other angles by Arturo Cuenca, Jordan Crandall, Mark Dion, and Sylvia Gruner, whose projects focus attention on the heavy surveillance of the region. Cuenca’s highway billboard, You are Aquí, which collages English and Spanish texts with satellite imagery of the region, announces to the public headed north in their vehicles at the San Ysidro b o rd e r c ro s s i n g , t h a t t h e y a re under satellite surveillance. Crandall’s filmic work, Heat Seeking, takes such observations further, revealing the predatory practices of border surveillance that are usually concealed from the public. Edgy and informative, his work is made with technologies used by the police, including surveillance cameras, night-vision devices, infrared thermal imaging systems, and hidden “stealth” cameras. Seeing Crandall’s work, it becomes evident that Jaar ’s commemorated victims never had much of a chance. By comparison, Mark Dion’s project Blind / Hide, wryly parodies the surveillance practices of police. Strategically situated on the US

side of the border in a wildlife reserve, Dion’s bird blind functions, on one level, as an ecological station, while subliminally alluding on another to the parallels between science and surveillance that both observe, categorize, and entrap the subjects of their respective studies. Questioning established paradigms of cultural procedures and knowledge is also central to the w o r k o f J e ff re y Va l l a n c e , w h o created three wax sculptures (of Dante, Richard Nixon, and the Virgin of Guadalupe) and interspersed them amongst the Tijuana Wa x M u s e u m ’ s e ff i g i e s o f p o p stars and politicians. Accentuating the razor ’s edge that exists between the trompe l’oeil illusion and reality, his works examine distinctions between the dubious and the credible, the fictive and the factual. Toying with culturally inscribed certainties regarding the knowledge of spiritual, political, and cultural things, his works are simultaneously incredulous and engaging. W h i l e Va l l a n c e c re a t e s m i n d games, the projects of Gustavo Artigas and Roman De Salvo openly use games as metaphors for life. Artigas’s staged sports event, The Rules of the Game, was a highlight for many during the inaugural inSITE 2000 weekend. In a Tijuana high school gymnasium, two Mexican soccer teams and two US basketball teams tried to play their games simultaneously on the same

Mark Dion. Blind/Hide, 2000. Installation view. *


court. What ensued was by all accounts an engaging and powerful metaphor for the logistical wranglings and anathemas that plague cross-cultural dialogues. While many of the artist’s projects solicit varying forms of viewer participation, the works of Diego Gutierrez, Monica Nador and Alberto Cara Limon were interactive in ways that engendered a sense of community. Emphasizing innovation and experimentation as keys to the resolution of social and political impasses, these projects crossed a different kind of border, infusing life with the energy of art. Whether orchestrating the building of a community park in Tijuana as Cara Limon did, or organizing the decoration of architectural walls in the Tijuana community of Maclovio Rojas as Nador did, the community based projects tapped into art’s stunningly powerful potential to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, and to ennoble the disenfranchised. While building upon the legacies of past artistic precedents, this season’s inSITE certainly captures the complexities of the emerging Pan-American artistic scene. Given a specific geographic context as the sole working premise, the extravaganza is engaging for the parallels and dialogues that unwittingly emerge between projects created by artists heralding from cities strewn throughout the Americas. The peripatetic

Jeffrey Vallance. Tijuana Wax Museum Project, 2000. Installation view. *

Román de Salvo. Techno Bolero, 2000. Installation view. *

nat ure of t his t riennial – from its diversified artistic base to its multiple location sites and comp l e x i t y o f i n t e r p re t a t i o n s a n d viewpoints – embraces an exploration of art and culture that steps b e y o n d i n h e r i t e d a ff i r m a t i o n s of the centrality of nationalistic identity. At the same time, the relation between place, identity, and community remains critical to any premise of human society. So it is to the credit of the inSITE 2000 directors, curatorial team, and project artists that these issues are explored with humor, passion, and poignancy in projects that capture the fragile but

flourishing spirit of an increasingly globalized world.

Gustavo Artigas. The Rules of the Game / Part 1, 2000. Installation view. *

* Photo: Alan Decker.

COLLETTE CHATTOPADHYAY Writer and lecturer living in the Los Angeles basin. She is a member of the International Association of Art Critics (United States division) and contributes regularly to Artweek, ArtNexus, Art Asia Pacific, and Sculpture magazines.

Diego Gutiérrez. Untitled, 2000. Installation view. *


ArtNexus Magazine 40, year 2001. pp 128-129

BRAZIL RIO DE JANEIRO Ricardo Basbaum Museu de Arte Moderna

(NBP x I-You): New Bases for the Persanality Versus I Trace the Union of You –that was the name of Ricardo Basbaum’s recent exhibition at the Museu de Arte Moderna in Rio de Janeiro. In it, he proposes a game of interchangeable, permeable, and flexible relationships between the subjects involved in the functioning of the piece (I and you, you and I), from its inception to this date– that is, if an indirect description of those partial impressions can reach a distant reader such as me, for whom they were time-resistant. The environment (the ball field or a checkerboard) is composed of four cabins in the middle of a hall. The cabins are made out of wire mesh, each one ready to receive a body laying down over a light mattress covered with clear-colored sheets; a different color for each cabin, a certain amount of pillows. In each cabin there’s an opening that allows anyone to see, in different measures, inside the wire mesh. These body niches, almost-bed, almost-cage, are occupied by the participants who lay down in full concentration, listening to a recording of the artist explaining the way the game works. At the same time, the participants can decipher the diagrams hanging from the walls next to the cabins – two planes of thought in which we see a graphic mapping of the same ideas uttered by the speakers. We’ll all fall captive. Some for believing in prison bars, some others for not having sheets; others, for not being able to run away, and still others for not being able to draw closer. Or, the two possibilities of ourselves – you and I – can fuse us. It could be because we’re interested on the text, or because the voice reading them seduces us, or it’s because we are worried about the train of thought or the lines being read. It could be a mixture of all. In fact, we are held captive, we’re inside the structure, a part of the diagrams and the syntax, as participants in a game that wouldn’t exist if there weren’t a he / she, a you, and an I. In this game, our objective is the observance of rules – the players and

Ricardo Basbaum. NBP x eu-vocé, 2000. Installation with cushioned objects and metal. Variable dimensions. Photo: Wilton Montenegro.

the pieces are always you and I; I, the one stopping the discourse or the other player, although my place can be switched. And if at the beginning we nestle or jail ourselves in the semi-bed, semi-trap cabins and listen to you read your observations regarding how the game works and to see the diagrams codifying the word; and right now the game has shifted a little. And this is what’s happening: I speak and you listen, I write and you read; or, with my hands I let you say. Like in this very moment, when I decide to let you say, “I speak”, you listen. They both speak [I’d say, ‘we speak’] at the same time: you, who wants to be I hurling itself at you; “I [and you couldn’t have known it]” give you a confrontation that you’ll react to only when it’s too late. Such a fair confrontation, full of traps, just like the one you have proposed in (NBP x I-You). The game’s purpose – you being an observer and a participant as well – is parallel to the one I’ve spoken to you about, in which each he / she who plays it (and sets the rules) is also a part of us. We are (both you-I and all) arbiters, announcers, players, participants, pawns, bet runners, observers, observed, spectators, first balcony, points, and score. And the game is to accumulate as many different positions as possible. Maybe you’re right when you say that the artist should remain silent and involve the audience with his silence. But maybe you’d be even more on target by establishing mobile rules, ambivalent possibilities, when the public’s not only public and this same rule applies to the artist. When the game’s about thinking

and thinking again, and about repeating a structure, its mechanisms work by proposing the strict observance of those rules once and again and again. In that perceptive encounter in which you say you, you “involve sublimination, persuasion, and repetition as techniques to reach an instantaneous transformation, a memory implant”. Here it seems impossible not to have conscience of the positions occupied. You speak too much of myself, of what I am, while at the same time I listen so as not to recognize you within your territory. You give me too many prison bars, too many pillows so as not to think of the human body as a piece in the checkerboard. The train of thought is too structured, the diagrams are too organized, and the words and sentences are too perfect for me to get used to them. At no moment I forgot it was you who told me who I was, nor did I forget the positions I had in your texts and the traps that had been set. From the moment you told me that the game was the place from which it was seen, I realized that I thought about laying down to listen to you, without knowing that it was really you who was telling me to lay down and make truth of your words and allow you to repeat them. This seems to be the precise moment to let you remember “the impact of these two important places: he / she who talks and the other”; as if once in a while it is only fair to be the other person.

Translation: Ricardo Armijo

Carla Zaccagnini


ArtNexus Magazine 40, year 2001. pp 126

BRAZIL SÃO PAULO Rubens Mano Galería Casa Triángulo

The first big surprise awaiting the visitor in photographer Ruben Mano’s show at Casa Triángulo Gallery – and a rather unsettling surprise at that – was the sensation of entering an empty house. The only “visible” object for was a large stainless-steel scale, formed by two circular, concave surfaces joined at their central points. Leaning on the floor, those surfaces functioned as giant mirrors, turning around, distorting, and reproducing infinitely the images of whoever crossed by and of the space around. Casa Triángulo’s space deserves an aside. It occupies the first floor of an old commercial and residential building in a central section of Sao Paulo, a part of the city that used to enjoy high-class prestige but has since decayed considerably. Inside, the gallery retains traces of its former residential use, especially noticeable in the space’s subdivision into separate rooms with individual doors and windows, and in the wooden floor’s colorful design. It is the antithesis of the “white cube”. The very way in which the exhibition area is structured forces visitors to walk around, denying them a complete panoramic of the show upon entering. Ruben Mano takes wily advantage of these circumstances. The space’s organization is the reason why the piece mentioned above was placed so as to be seen first. To reach the rest of his work, it was necessary to walk around the rooms, and only by walking around could we perceive the artist’s intervention in the gallery space. These were not large works, nor were there many of them; just small gestures sensibly altering our perception of the space. The color of some doors and skirtings had been changed. In another area, some frames and a portion of the floor in between two rooms had been covered with mirrors, so that moving through there became

a playful experience: watching one’s own image in motion. Later, we encountered a small optic fiber cylinder anchored to one of the galleries external walls, projecting an intense light beam onto the opposite wall. Mano’s most impressing intervention on the gallery space, however, were two walls painted with a reflective liquid, of the type used for route signals. It was extremely difficult to focus our sight, still affected by the optic fiber light, on that surface, which reflected the movement of images and shadows

as people entered or left the hall. It was as if walls were neither vertical nor straight. Lastly, Mano’s photographs were also shown, documenting larger-scale interventions on the urban space carried out by the artist in recent years. Like the rest of the works in this exhibition, these photographs impressed the viewer with their effective simplicity. They reveal sophisticated optical mechanisms through which we can experience a familiar space in utterly unfamiliar ways. Translation: Ricardo Armijo

Valeria Piccoli

Rubens Mano. Scales, 2000. Installation view. Variable dimensions.


ArtNexus Magazine 41, year 2001. pp 86-88


Versions of the South


Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid According to what was announced in our last edition, in this issue we are completing the coverage of the exhibitions which under the general title of Versions of the South took place in Madrid from December 2000, through March 2001. The four shows reviewed below, comment on the diverse forms in which their curators proposed to analyze several aspects of Latin American art. Art Nexus ISSA MARÍA BENITEZ DUEÑAS


he year 2000 ended with the opening at the Reina Sofía of what may be the best show of contemporary Latin American art on Spanish soil to date: Versiones del Sur (Versions of the South). It consisted of five large-format exhibitions that did not attempt to show the totality of the plastic production of America that exists south of the United States as much as offer different “versions” of what has been

considered the history of art in these places. Much has been written about the way in which the Western, Eurocentric gaze has constructed the idea of a Latin American art that can be contained and unified under its own criteria of difference, otherness, and, in the worst cases, exoticism. In this sense, the simultaneous show of five versions of art in America is not only necessary, but also enlightening. Seems that the confrontation most consistent with the

Gabriel Orozco. Ball on Water, 1994. Cibachrome. 12,4 x 18,6 in. Courtesy: Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.

Lorenzo Vaccaro. America, 1692. Silver. 72,4 x 45,2 x 45,2 in. Collection of the First Cathedral of Toledo.

historiographical and museographical stereotypes that the project attempts to question is that of the exhibition F(r) icciones (F[r]ictions) curated by Adriano Pedrosa and Ivo Mesquita. The long curatorial experience and the profound knowledge that both curators have of art in Latin America, together with a vision that is not only critical but also highly propositional, make this show a real lesson that is in no way insignificant for the “independent curators” from every country, who in recent years have been popping up from fair to fair and biennial to biennial. The idea around which the entire exhibition turns can already be intuited in its title, which has obviously been appropriated from Borges: it is a question of revealing the fiction of notions such as History, Art, and Latín America, but also of the friction that is conceptually established between them, and which is materially established between works of diverse formats, supports, origins, and periods. The most interesting thing about this subject, which has been proposed on multiple occasions on paper,


is that, in this case, it is effectively resolved in the show without seeming confusing, baroque, or gratuitously postmodern. An attentive visit shall suffice to capture the central lines that the exhibition proposes, at the same time as it allows for sufficient blank spaces so that each person may construct his or her own path. We arrive at the fourth floor of the Reina Sofía, which normally houses the permanent collection, by two elevators that lead to two different entrances. In this case, both entrances have been totally covered by mirrors and both present the same photograph by Gabriel Orozco: a white sphere over a background of blue water (Ball on Water, 1994) that reminds us more of a view of the Earth in space. In addition to this image, one of the entrances is taken up by a magnificent allegory of America by Lorenzo Vaccaro (America, 1692) made of silver and precious stones in which the opulent, generous figure, seated on the terrestrial sphere distributes her riches to the point of self-sacrifice. The other access hall is taken up by an extremely small drawing in Indian ink by Leonilson (Favourite Games, n.d.) in which the unadorned figure of a man stands over the words truth/ fiction, while at the center, inside of a display cabinet, we find a book by Waltercio Caldas (The Collector, 1974) opened to two pages that repeat the same word: FIM. Notwithstanding, the latter does not strictly direct the sense of sight, which in fact is not explicit on either side; and with a clearly Borgesian touch, it is perfectly possible to begin with THE END and finish at the beginning. Both corridors of mirrors lead to a long hallway that serves as a central thoroughfare of the show that is finished off on both ends by a fake wall on which the curators’ introduction is written (the same on both sides). It is thus a question of entering a show that may be physically approached from any direction. Towards one side of the main area, a series of rooms begin to open up in which more concrete themes are proposed, but that are always tied to themes proposed by the central core. It is thus the most faithful construction possible of a labyrinth.

Waltercio Caldas. The Collector, 1974. Book of 13,7 x 19,6 in. Collection of the artist, Rio de Janeiro.

In effect, the labyrinth is one of the central themes of the exhibition, which nonetheless presents a series of works that, like Ariadne’s threads, remind us where we are: all along the central hallway and even inside some rooms we find ourselves with the piece titled Ghost (1991-2000) by Jac Leirner – a sort of gigantic necklace made of millions of papers the size of a bill, all linked by a nylon thread. Halfway down the hall, Francis Alÿs’s Leak points out with a string of blue paint a path that in fact extends beyond the exhibition, leaving its mark throughout the whole museum in order to go out to the street and surround the grounds before returning to the fourth floor. Furthermore, the déja vu recurrent within the show is the piece in modules titled Banco (Bench, 2000) by Leonilson which, dispersed throughout all the rooms, is often used by the worn-out viewers. Another element that is also found

Jac Leirner. Ghost, 1991-2000. Paper, polyurethane chord. The size of a bill with two holes in the center. Variable dimensions. Collection of the artist, Sao Paulo.

throughout the visit are the pages marked by Courtney Smith which, titled Laberinto (Labyrinth), scarcely allow us to lean over a fragment of a text that we can only imagine. In addition to these pieces, which I consider central, we may discover other versions of the maze: from Xul Solar ’s imaginary landscapes (Cavernas Troncos / Caves logs, 1944) to Helio Oiticica’s scale models for underground projects, passing through the geometric labyrinths of TorresGarcía (Estructura-Composición Abstracta / Structure-Abstract composition, 1935) and the abstract work of Pablo Siquier (9712,1972), among others. In this main area, a large number of pieces are shown which begin to unfold the rest of the themes that are detailed in the small rooms: maps, travels, roads, landscapes, genealogies, and biographies. One example of the visit could be constructed thus: a labyrinth


Nahum B. Zenil. Oh Holy Flag (Homage to Enrique Guzman), 1996. Mixed media on paper. Tryptich. 93,7 x 28,1”. Collection of the artist, Mexico D. F.

dreamed by Julio Galán in a largeformat painting (Roma, 1990), an installation of beds with maps by Guillermo Kuitca, a series of photographs of the “dysfunctional details” of Mexico City by Jonathan Hernández (Conozca México / Get to know Mexico, 1996-2000),

a landscape by José María Velasco (Paisaje mexicano con lago Chalco / Mexican landscape with Lake Chalco, 1885), the autobiography of Félix González-Torres, and a untitled photograph of Adriana Varejao (from 2000) in which a red line with the word “equator” crosses the center of a hand. The visit could also be read inversely, going backwards from the micro to the macro. Continuing this idea, the concrete themes unfold with the same friction in the small rooms. In the room in which the genealogies are developed, for example, we can see several nineteenthcentury lineage paintings brought face to face with Íñigo Manglano-Ovalle’s piece Paternity Test (Self-portrait with parents) (1999) – a triptych of three impressions of DNA analysis enlarged to the point of looking like a neopsychedelic digital video experiment – as well as the small pencil drawing by Frida Kahlo titled Mis abuelos, mis padres y yo (My grandparents, my parents, and Me, 1936). In another room dedicated to the fiction of the construction of Latin American history, we find a photograph of Che cooked up by Vik Muñiz (Che Guevara, n.d.), a blanket by Oiticica in which he invites us to “be marginal, to be heroes” (Seja marginal, seja herói, n.d.), and a creative proposal by Nahum Zenil on the places where one may place the national flag (Oh Santa Bandera. Homenaje a Enrique Guzmán / Oh holy flag. Homage to Enrique Guzmán, 1996). The show also includes a colorful maze by Gabriel Orozco inside of which a series of his pieces has been mounted which includes airplane and train tickets, as well as tickets from different countries that the artist himself has used. The piece has a sort of shortcut through several kitchen doors of the type with a glass window above. The viewer can go through the doors in a straight line, cutting right through the art that is hung inside. The subtle lesson of the piece which resounds throughout the entire exhibition is that, by taking the short road, one loses a good deal of all there is to see. An attitude that also legitimizes our venturing to follow the blue detour proposed by Alÿs.

It is difficult to speak in detail of the entire show, but this is its main virtue. Of all the possible paths, only one or two have been chosen. Fortunately, we find ourselves with an exhibition that must be lived in order to be understood. At the moment of writing these lines there is no catalogue for the show, and in this case that is almost a virtue. In fact, scattered throughout the exhibition there must have been some forty pages in the halls that reproduced texts from diverse sources (although Borges dominates), which allude or make reference to the themes touched upon in the works, and which the public may take home (1). Significantly, on one of the two walls that finish off the show in its horizontal core, and behind which we find the curators’ introductory text, we can see the minute piece Untitled (Buraco de fechadura) (1999) by Irán do Espirito Santo. This is a sculpture about seven centimeters high placed right at the center of the wall, at eye level. The piece has, in effect, the shape of a sizeable keyhole – and the idea of looking out onto a world is already contained within. If we approach closely enough, we can see reflected therein the exhibition’s entire core: a sort of Aleph that contains everything and at the same time is contained by everything; the center of the labyrinth, the place where all roads converge, the works, the histories, and the drifts that the show proposes. Merely the point of departure. NOTE 1. In fact, on my second visit, there were no pages felt, just as there were no more copies of the posters of heaven that make up Félix González-Torres’s piece Aparición (this is equivalent to taking away a piece of the show). The two pieces that required some minimal technical infrastructure – Tunga’s installation with film Ão (1981) and the projection of two slides Juego de Romance II by Waltercio Caldas – did not work, at least on the day of the opening and the two later occasions on which I visited the exhibition.

Translation: Vincent Martin ISSA MARIA BENITEZ DUEÑAS Art historian, specialist in Contemporary Art and Art Theory. She is currently a doctoral candidate at the Universidad Carlos III in Madrid.


ArtNexus Magazine 42, year 2002. pp 134

Reviews São Paulo / BraZil

Leonora de Barros Galeria Millan

Once the spectator has taken a seat in the Cadeiras Pussy installation, the whole of Leonora de Barro’s exhibition has been covered. The last work comprises nine chairs equipped with rearview mirrors, headphones, and video-projection backrests. Through the mirror, we try to watch the projection, without being able to see screen in its entirety. Although the video was realized on the basis of prior works by the same artist, the editing, montage, and sound create a new work, which doesn’t present with clarity the older ones. Among the many images it is possible to discern important landmarks in the history of Brazilian art: a self-portrait by Geraldo de Barros, significant figure in the São Paulo concretista movement and the artist’s father, in a photograph that has been appropriated by Leonora (In a Family Form, 1995). The fast succession of images in Cadeiras Pussy, and the act of literally looking backwards through the rearview mirror, refer to the idea of revisiting the past through images that have been fragmented by memory. The specta-

Leonora de Barros. What's New, The Pussyquete Once Again? Pussy Chairs, 2001. Grima Grimaldi’s video.

tor’s focus on visual and auditive stimuli can generate a feeling of disconnection with the show’s space and of absence of anchors for a mental plane —the speed and concatenation of images link to thinking—, inducing the suspension of “real” time. This experience motivates, in turn, a reflection on the passage of time, and on our ways of perceiving and recreating history. When we stop searching for images in the mirror, we remember we are seating in front of an art show: looking backwards, we see prior works of the artist; looking forward, her current work. The installation’s soundtrack is made of musical samples and spoken words, with a beat resembling a game of ping-pong: novo, de novo? novo, de novo? nada de novo no ar... nada de novo no ar... nada a ver com nada a ver com nada a ver... Slowly, the words become recognizable: all of them have appeared before in this exhibition, both in the titles and within the different pieces. The expression “nada de novo no ar” (nothing new in the air) poses one of the show’s dominant themes —there’s nothing new in contemporary art— and at the same time it names a piece with three ping-pong balls suspended in the air above a glass sheet imprinted with the phrase nada de novo no ar. Another piece, nada a ver, also contains printed-over balls hovering above a glass sheet. The expression nada para ver, meaning (in Portuguese) to be entirely besides the point and unrelated to things at hand, has here a literal sense: there is nothing to see in this piece beyond just a number of ping-pong balls with just those words printed on them. Similarly, all 17 works in the exhibit are constructed with elements of the game of ping-pong. Plastic, transparent boxes mounted on metal structures, lids open or closed, are filled with balls on which words have been printed, as in the case of novo de novo, dividir imagens multiplicar idéais ou me pese me leve. Two objects, Pussycat1 and Pussycat2, are formed by two or three paddles arranged in parallel on a wall-mounted vertical structure, a play-like situation hindered by gravity. The name pussyquete is a combination of the word for “paddle” and a reference to pop music, from which the exhibition’s title comes: “What’s new, Pussycat?”; even if the spelling is Portuguese, the pronunciation is English. Among the other works there is one consisting of a white ping-pong table, paddles, and two words in orange acrylic on top: Ping on one side, Poem on the other.

The visual work, contained in the title and in the formalization of the same expressions with changing meanings, in the last installation becomes a combinatory of rhythms and sounds, and acquires yet a new set of meanings. The appropriated ping-pong element is in this case the continuous, repetitive sound the game produces, used as poetic rhythm (“Ping-Poem”). Leonora de Barros’ work refers directly to São Paulo’s Concrete Poetry movement of the 1950’s and 60’s, particularly to its predilection for lyrical wordplay. In this show the artist deals with the diverse formats and fields of meaning present in language — visual, textual, auditive— highlighting often the fact that there is, in her own treatment of the topic, nothing new. Finally, though, what should she do? Her work expresses considerable irony towards conservative reactions to modern art, which need to find value in novelty and originality, and which summarize today’s artistic production in a sequence of pastiches. As a whole, this exhibition connotes an ironic criticism of the problem of the new in art, a criticism to be understood, in practice, by the spectator. The artist creates all her works from fragments of various histories (of Brazilian art, of her own family, of her own work) and through appropriations from the worlds of art, play, and language. As we move through her show, coming in contact with different ways of presenting the same expressions forces us to acknowledge the many possible understandings of any given object or issue, depending on its context. In the final installation, the words we read before, or even the artist’s older works now resignified, create a new experience. Even without ;“saying” anything new as her point of departure, Leonora de Barros demonstrates that the different ways of recontextualizing and resignifying ideas, images, and words can generate a new meaning for the work of art.

Translation: Ricardo Arm ijo Ana Paula Cohen


ArtNexus Magazine 43, year 2002. pp 125-127

Reviews New york / ny

Fernanda Gomes Baumgartner Gallery

Before entering Fernanda Gomes’s recent installation at Baumgartner Gallery one must walk past a busy lumber yard on a city block that seems to be a constant work in progress, perpetually rebuilding and reinventing itself. Amidst all the construction and raw materials, Gomes’s accretion of wood beams, scaffolding and random found objects can almost go unnoticed. But its initial innocuous transparency soon yields to a more intense scrutiny, and this turns out to be one of the more intriguing gallery shows this fall. In what has turned out to be a strong Brazilian tradition, Gomes has found a way of evoking poetic possibilities from the humblest of objects and most subtle of arrangements. Given the loosely placed sheets of paper, rickety scaffolding, and seemingly discarded tools and planks of wood one could possibly read this as a scene of abandoned construction or even demolition. Yet the meticulous arrangement and evocative moments allow for a feeling of creation that overrides any sense of destruction.

Fernanda Gómes. Untitled, 2001. Installation view. Variable dimensions.

Gomes lists the objects in the gallery as if they were separate sculptures, although it is hard to imagine any of these parts separate from the whole. Some of the details are large and have a strong theatricality to them. Elements like the large scaffolding that reaches the ceiling but looks abandoned and a wooden door that leads nowhere and is adorned with cardboard molding suggest the sets to an action that has already played itself out. Other elements, such as dull butter knives that balance in the air, hung by a single string or a razor blade stuck into the back wall, impossibly small but seizing their own space, suggest potential movement not yet enacted. Still other details, such as the glass of water and sheets of translucent white paper that catch the abundant natural light in the gallery and soften the overall impact of the installation, seem to exist largely for their visual effect. Admittedly there can be a frustratingly unavoidable sense of missed narrative. At times Gomes also seems to be relying heavily on references to what has now become the history of finding the inherent potential in the everyday object. She particularly seems to be referencing Duchamp, the father of the found object, with the door that leads to nowhere and the inclusion of a suspended glass lens that is a reminder of his To Be Looked At… One also thinks of Juan Muñoz in the sense that one is moving through a theater piece of shifting referents and scale. Other artists like Susan Sze and Jason Rhoades, as well as numerous artists from Gomez’s native Brazil, have made extensive use of finding the fascinating in the quotidian. Unlike many other such arranged environments that one finds in art today, the work by Gomes remains raw and precarious enough to avoid falling into an empty formalism. Yet it remains full of small pristine touches and human interventions that we are constantly reminded of the deliberate mastery of its execution. I hesitate to add these final thoughts since they are anachronistic and call into question the issue of artistic intent, which tends to fall outside of the scope of an art review. However, it is impossible to look at and think about this work in New York City after the events of September 11th and not see provocative parallels: the residual detritus of some destructive event; the random miscellany of daily life suddenly fetishized; evidence of human presence now vanished; even the potential threat of airborne knives and razors

sticking out of walls all have their unavoidable associations with the grand scale theater of Ground Zero. Perhaps the most compelling aspect of this new and admittedly unplanned reading of Gomez’s piece is how in life and art we can experience a new set of possibilities in the very midst of collapse, violence and decay. John Angeline

São Paulo / brazil

Iran do Espírito Santo Galeria Fortes Vilaça

Birds fly high, symmetrically and identically shaped, varying only in size: a clue to the proximity of the eye that views them. Square-framed within a baby-blue sky, a computer-generated image of a black flock of birds is composed of the same figure repeated several times in different sizes. When viewed horizontally the flock moves from right to left towards the edge of the frame, yet, when seen from the top or the bottom, there seems to be no movement but a silent, motionless suspension. This is the first work one sees before visiting Iran do Espírito Santo’s (Mococa, São Paulo, 1963) solo exhibition at Galeria Fortes Vilaça, entitled Nada mais natural (Nothing more natural). It is the invitation to the exhibition. Movement and stillness are just one of many meticulously devised dualities that are manifest in Iran’s work, both conceptually and technically. In this image, reproduced through the exhibition’s announcement, the figure of a bird is simplified to a sign whose repetition composes a pattern that one immediately associates with something known. In Iran’s work, most objects and paintings are characterized by a formal economy, which is not concerned with 1960s minimalism, or with geometric abstraction. Rooted in design, most of his works represent common objects, images and notions in contexts alien to their original existence. This form of objective displacement studies the beauty of the image/ form at the same time that it makes the spectator question its original (functional, natural) role and current historical or cultural status. Iran’s interest in graphic and object design is closely linked to a broader concern with the use of space. Throughout his career he has incorporated the architecture of a particular space in site-specific installations or used it


Iran do Espírito Santo. Nada más natural, 2001. Installation view. Variable dimensions.

generically as an underlying theme and/or object for other works. In Floresta Paralela [Parallel Forest], 2000-2001 a series of thick black stripes painted with tempera on the main wall of the gallery bring to mind a gigantic bar code enlarged to architectural dimensions. Repeated minute scratches carried out with a cutting blade along the black vertical stripes, revealing the white wall beneath the layers of paint, imitate the vein-like lines of wood, a pattern that Iran has employed in numerous formats and exhibitions since the early ’90s. The remarkable characteristic of this work lies in its seemingly industrial quality, which even on close inspection conceals the laborious craftsmanship behind its precise execution. If in this case Iran spent days on end painting and scratching the wall to achieve such mechanical accuracy, in other works his manual ability is excluded from the “industrial” process of creation altogether. Contrary to the wall paintings, the emphasis lies solely on concept and design. Such is the case with the other four works displayed in the exhibition. Opposite Floresta Paralela, resting firmly on the floor were two groups of nine and one group of six irregular blocks of gray granite measuring approximately 60 x 30 x 40 cm that were geometrically cut and polished according to their natural formation.

Correções (Corrections) from 2001 are “corrections over nature’s own cuts,” the artist explains. A geometric representation of the found object, this work is almost didactic in its evident relationship with the object’s original raw state. Yet, it is chance—or an intuitively perceived “natural geometry”— that guides the direction of each straight, controlled cut. Correções are at once found objects interfered upon to become irregular polyhedrons, and land art sculptures that have been extracted from their environmental habitat and ironically placed inside the art gallery, as natural specimens. Order, control and reason versus chaos, instinct and chance are divergent forces mutually present in each one of these works and what grants them the formal-conceptual tension so characteristic of Iran’s production. In this exhibition, the relationship between the natural and artificial worlds – the duality between nature and culture - increases in complexity to the point where the boundaries that distinguish each category become blurred. In Untitled (Relief, I, II, III, IV, V) from 2001, Iran took an artifact rather than nature in its pure state as the starting point for another geometric analogy. Inspired by stone fragments of revetment seen in building façades of the 1950s, Iran designed five aluminum reliefs where metal replaced the ancient material used in construction. The shadows created by converging planes were enhanced by the clean-cut quality of the objects, which were hung side by side on the wall to the right of the entrance. As occurs also with Correções and the black bands of Floresta Paralela, the repetitive aspect of serial work reinforces the interconnections between nature and artifice while geometry acts as the pivotal force of ambivalence between metaphor and reality. On the top floor of the gallery a green woolen carpet measuring 300 x 200 cm rested quietly on the floor. Breaking the monochromatic black-gray-white quality of the ground floor works, the carpet seemed, at first sight, a little understated and out of place in comparison with the block stern bulkiness of the rest of the exhibition. Geometry is also at play here, but the carpet has texture, elicits touch, reminds one immediately of the artificial, instantaneous world that man has neatly manufactured for a cleaner and more comfortable urban existence. Nostalgia, (1999) is the subtlest work precisely because it is so commonplace, both as an object and as an ideological concept. Paradoxically,

Nostalgia adds natural warmth to a reasoned environment in which modern culture has come to replace nature; where a synthetic bed of grass brings back memories of a lost arcadia: a nostalgia for a past condition, where history and nature were synonymous. Strategically placed at what could be the end or the beginning of the exhibition, isolated against a bare white wall next to the gallery entrance hung Untitled (keyhole) from 1999, a small convex keyhole made of stainless steel. The smooth polish of the keyhole reflects the image of the onlooker within his/her larger surrounding, subverting the voyeuristic symbolism of this object. Rather than peeping into a secret interior, the spectator sees him/herself amid groups of works that question the relationship between an environment controlled by reason (geometry), inspired by nature, and determined by modern culture. Confronted with such dualities, one can no longer remain a passive visitor to the exhibition. Untitled (keyhole) is a subtle interactive device that in itself reflects more than an optical causality: it epitomizes in form and content Iran’s artistic concerns.

Translation: Ricardo Arm ijo Verónica Cordeiro


ArtNexus Magazine 44, year 2002. pp 138-140

Panorama of Brazilian Art Museu de Arte Moderna São Paulo, Brazil

The “Panorama of Brazilian Art” exhibit is presented with innovations in format, revealing new trends in contemporary art. “Panorama of Brazilian Art” is a tradition inside the country’s cultural circuit. Its purpose is to establish itself in the main trends of today’s Brazilian art. The event is linked to the history of the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art. It exists since 1969; it was first thought out as an annual event that would not only disseminate modern art in the country’s cultural scene, but it would also update the Museum’s collection by awarding prizes. At the beginning, the exhibits alternated yearly between painting, sculpture, and paper-based art. The artists’ participation was defined by the Museum’s Artistic Council in collaboration with art critics from different regions in the country. In 1995, the emphasis shifted to the aspects of the language of contemporary art. Since then, each event has a single, specialized curator who, after choosing a central axis, selects a certain number of participating artists. It becomes evident that from that moment on, in the contemporary language’s complex scenario, the exhibit would reveal to the public a vision about this artistic reality, generating personal critical readings among many other options; in other words, there would be an accredited version of the production of contemporary art. “Panorama 2001” constitutes the event’s 27th edition. The first show of the new century brought with it some novelties in terms of organization and format that should be highlighted. It opened October 25, 2001, and it remained open until January 20, 2002. It was the result of the coordinated work by three curators who’d been invited by Ivo Mesquita, the Museo’s technical director. The curators are: Paulo Reis, from Paraná; Ricardo Basbaums, from

Jarbas Lópes. Reduced Environment, 1998. Woven vegetable fibre. 67 X 31 1/2 X 4 in.

Marcia X. Pancake, 2001. Performance register.

Rio de Janeiro; and Ricardo Resende, from São Paulo. The curatorship highlighted four trends present in today’s artistic production: 1. the one working on the constitution of the artistic language as sensory perception; 2. the one that evidences subjective narratives, especially those dealing with the individual’s body; 3. the one gazing at the dynamics between subjective space and social space; and 4. the one criticizing the art system and its circuits. Beside all this, the curators rethought the reality of the country’s art circuit, and changed the exhibit size and profile. The show is no longer confined to the Museo’s physical space; now it has the support of a book that besides being the show’s documentation, has been conceived as a space for artistic experimentation. This space was used by several of the artists who participated in the show, as it was also the space through which the visitor was invited to enter art’s territory. In this fashion the public, aside from walking through the exhibition, found another modality for artistic experimentation. It’s a publication where the proposals done only for the “book” are found. According to the curators, the book’s point of departure was the work of

some artists whose poetics demand the idea of “register in action,” like, for example, the works by Artur Barrio (notebooks-books) and Paulo Brusky (artist books). The book was also presented as a space of challenge for artist organizations such as Alpendre (from Fortaleza, Caerá), Agora/Capacete (Rio de Janeiro), and Torreão (Porto Alegre), and groups such as Camelo, Mico, Atrocidades Maravilhosas, Clube da Lata APIC —all invited to take part in Panorama 2001.This participation indicates a new tendency in Brazil’s current artistic scene: the presence of groups. The curators also explain that the design given to the show was clearly intended to show and discuss these contemporary practices, pinpointing at possible paths between the production and the distribution of art. They exemplify their concept with the Linha imaginaria (Imaginary Line) project, a co-operative dedicated to the organization of collective shows for young artists throughout Brazil. They also organize a data bank of modern art, telling us also that the APIC (Artistas Patrocinando Institucões Culturais [Artists Promoting Cultural Institutions]) project was created as an ironic gesture —to problematize the practical and economic relationships between


GROUP SHOWS thought out for contemporary art exhibits. This “Panorama”, more than hurling questions about novelties in Brazil, revealed itself to the public as a space thick with experience, inviting visitors to participate in a critical dialogue with the art circuit of their time. A enterprise that has been undertaken with courage by a museum. Lisbeth Rebollo Gonçalves

Carla Zacagnini. Panorama, 2001. Photographic Enlargements from glass negatives belonging to the Museu de Aeronáutica da Fundaçao Santos dumont.

individual artists and art institutions. There is, in both group actions and independent organizations, an effort to turn upside down those spaces of artistic action that have been privileged by the art circuit. Another aspect that can be highlighted in the 27th edition (a fact that is also appearing in collective shows and biennials) is the significant presence of performances that have been scheduled throughout the show. In this “Panorama”, we have Marcia X’s, Jarbas Lopes’, and Laura Lima’s performances. There was also a parallel show presenting videos from several of the artists who participated in the exhibit. Among its participants, the 27th edition has nothing less than 29 artists, 7 groups, and 3 independent organizations whose field of action is in different Brazilian cities. The tendencies established above can be identified by the work of Ivan

Do Espiritu Santo, Carina Weidle, Tatiana Grinberg, Gilberto mariotti, and Paulo Brusky, who among others, deal with the sensory perception and the problematization of the limits of representation; Marcia X, Cao Guimarães, Laura Lima, Fernanda Magalhães, Janaina Tschäpe, Rosana Paulino, and Mario Ramiro, who among others, discourse on the body’s subjectivity. The critical dimension of the subjectsociety relationship appears in the works by Marepe, Eduardo Coimbra, Jarbas Lopes, Marcos Chaves, Mónica Nador, and in the projects by Clube da Lata and Atrocidades Maravilhosas. Criticism of the art circuit figures in the works by Kim and Carla Zaccagnini, and in the collective projects by the Camelo, Chelpa Ferro, Agora/Capacete Alpendre, and Torreão. The curatorship’s modality elaborated for “Panorama 2000” innovated and exceeded the conventional limits

Janaina Tschäpe. He drowned in her eyes as she called him to follow (moss), 2001. Super 8 video image and digital film transferred for DVD, in color, with sound. Duration: 22 minutes.

Artur Barrio. Green grass-tied up sheet, 1976. Installation.


ArtNexus Magazine 44, year 2002. pp 119-120


Carlos Garaicoa United States, New York Lombard-Freid Fine Arts

As it was seen at the Bronx Museum in 2000, Carlos Garaicoa’s work has a special resonance in New York City, the place that has inspired and informed him in his creative activity. As again demonstrated in his latest show at Lombard Fried, Garaicoa is interested in confronting, perhaps reconciling, opposite poles of urban realities. His exhibit, titled Porque cada ciudad tiene el derecho de llamarse Utopía (Because Each City Has the Right to Call Itself Utopia), summarizes, without targeting a particular city, a series of works representing various aspects of New Yorkers and their fetishism toward their city: on the one hand, to promote the myth of the ideal city, the utopic one, advocated by the tourist industry and mythically portrayed by the innumerable movies, novels, and works of art; and on the other hand, the urban violence, disorder, and chaos originated by the social, racial, and politicial tensions. Garaicoa shows two installations. The first, originally made for the Yokohama Triennial, represent aerial views of this city [Yokohama], New York, and Havana projected on a DVD player. The second installation consists of shelves with images of paper lamps representing an urban landscape. Other works include a series of photos of Havana buildings with added images, and a group of drawings made with threads suspended by needles directly onto the paper, that represent architectural landscapes with dramatic perspectives in the Renaissance style. After the September 11th events in Manhattan, it’s inevitable not to interpret Garaicoa’s work —particularly his photos of streets in Havana — as a reflection on the “poetryfication” of city ruins as monumental wounds promoting collective nostalgia. As in Havana, where there is a romantic fas-

Carlos Garaicoa. You Can Build Your Own City at Your Own Risk, 2001. Metal and plexiglass shelves, japanese rice paper, wire and lights. 64 x 24 x 160 in.

cination and a maniac effort to idealize its crumbling houses and aged streets, in New York today the World Trade Center ruins are a site for tourist peregrination. In both cases, the landscape resulting from a certain social situation no longer promotes the reflection on the negative aspects that led to that degree of deterioration; instead, it becomes a instrument of commercial promotion. In other words, and as these images remind us, even the images of greatest deterioration can be subjected to idealization. It is possible, through this interest in portraying the idealistic escapism, that Garaicoa presents his installation puedes construir tu ciudad bajo tu propio riesgo (You Can Build Your Own City at Your Own Risk). The installation, which resembles the showcase of a Japanese lamp store, is an imaginary scenario worthy of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. Being both sophisticated and attractive objects, they are also metaphors of society and its containers. Architecture and utopia have gone hand in hand since the times of St. Augustine and Thomas More. Buildings are the ideal framework where the perfect society can exist. Unfortunately, this alliance has also given place to the marriage of art and dogmatism. In this installation, Garaicoa’s reference to architecture is something more than an imaginary divertimento of God’s city. By juxtaposing ruins and utopia

in the widest sense of his work (as his retrospective show at the Bronx was called), he alludes to the two painful sides of Cuba’s reality coin: On the one side, the argument of the steps taken to achieve a better world; and on the other, the powerful reality of shortage and deterioration. It is in this sophisticated orchestration of works, and in his simple, refined architectural drawings, where Garaicoa opens a new chapter of his criticism on urban utopias. Translation: Ricardo Armijo

Pablo Helguera


ArtNexus Magazine 45, year 2002. pp 32-38

25 São Paulo Biennial th

“Metropolitan Iconographies” Few memorable entries, too many photos and videos of little significance, and a theme that dissolves in the exhibition as a whole. Some clearly urban issues shine in their absence: graffiti, for example; the forced cohabitation of diverse strata that define the social fabric of a city; the spaces of rest and recreation; historical contents.



wo years behind schedule, the 25th São Paulo Biennial finally opened its doors on March 23, 2002. Few of these megashows have been as conflictive as this one. The curator originally designated for this exhibition, Ivo Mesquita, and his team were dismissed a little over a year ago. The alleged motive: an irreconcilable difference of opinions over the conceptual and formal bases that would frame the show. Other, much more concrete causes of the delay: the show “Brazil 500 Years” occupied the central office of Ibirapuera Park for a long time, and it also exhausted the financial resources available. Naturally, the very conflict and deferment had generated enormous expectations, which this show does not come close to satisfying.

Shirin Neshat. From the series Soliloquy (Water over head). Production still.



In order to settle the problem that arose in Brazil’s artistic medium, the Fundaçao Bienal named a German curator: Alfons Hug, ex-director of one of the Goethe Institutes in Brazil. This complex function had never before been carried out by a foreigner, although this is a current practice in several of the more important biennials across the globe. The Brazilian section was curated by Agnaldo Farias, ex-director of the Museum of Modern Art of Rio. “Metropolitan Iconographies” refers, as a germinal idea, to Borges’s story “El Aleph”. In his introductory text, Mr. Hug states: “Like the Aleph, a minute point in space, it contains all the points of an inconceivable cosmos, the images dealt with by our exhibition show the diversity, the contradictory and multifaceted aspects of Earth”.1 And from the first paragraph of his text, he warns us of

Spencer Tunick.Queensboro Bridge, NYC January 2002. Chromogenic photograph sealed with acrylic.


BIENNIAL the fundamentally pessimistic tone that dominates both the story and the show. The curator’s long introduction explains and justifies the options that structured the exhibition in its early stages as well as in the elimination of the museological section. It also insists on the clearly international nature of the show, with the participation of many countries that do not belong to the traditional AmericaEurope axis, even at the risk that many items do not in any way adhere to the proposed theme. The show was organized in two original sections. The first section was comprised of twelve group shows that refer to eleven real cities and one imaginary or utopian city. The other section, the traditional national entries, was placed under the care of one artist per country.2 Both sections are spread out across the three floors of the building. In addition, there are nine Special Project Rooms that replace the museological space that was highlighted in several of the past biennials, an area of Net Art,3 and the many Brazilian representations. Added to the aforementioned is a small independent show of several African video artists. Some of these videos are very interesting. The artistic languages that largely dominate are video—from the simple monitor with a fixed image to complex video installations that border on filmed theater or cinema—and photography— almost all digitally manipulated—in a multiplicity of techniques. At this point, we should raise the following question: to what point is the massive use of filmic, fixed, or kinetic media a trend? In many of the entries, emphasis is place on technology per se, on the media stripped of Luis Molina Pantín. Scenary #2. Chromogenic photograph.

content. They may dazzle, but they say nothing. Technology wins, but art does not. “The medium is the message”.4 We also find many installations, in the original sense of the term. And some, very few, examples of more traditional expressive media. Nearly all of the invited artists express themselves in the apocalyptic tone that dominated the transition into the new millennium, reinforced, of course, by the attacks of September 11th on the United States. Such polyphony obliged a complex montage, resolved with elegance by the team of architects Mario Biselli and Artur Katchoborian. This in spite of the fact that many videos required the space to be compartmentalized into an endless series of small, dark rooms. Three catalog books accompany the show: Brazil, Cities, and Countries.5

The biennial could not help but underscore the fact that conflict characterizes our era. Peace is reduced to a utopia generated by centers of power that are relatively far from the battle fields. That peace that was the panacea of modernism, before the Great War, never arrived. If an Athenian from the fifth century B.C. could see us now, he would say “nothing new”. The metropolises evoked by this biennial coarsely reveal the internal war that defines contemporary societies. The curators’ central thesis aimed at the idea of the large city as a paradigm of the world today. It almost seems useless to point out the fact that a large part of the works present at the biennial have nothing to do with this theoretical framework. Even some that comprise the core of the eleven cities, and practically all of those shown in the Special Project Rooms. Seen through the biennial, the

Lina Kim. Cry me a River. Installation with strain shirt, buckets, handwasher, mirror and lamp.

Emilia Azcárate. Untitled. Poliptych with wood, wax and pigments.

Michael Wesely. 4.4. 1997-4.6.1999 Postdamer Platz, Berlin, 2001. Color print.




Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba. Memorial Project Nha Trang, Vietnam. Towards the Complex. For the Courageous, the curious, and the cowards. Video

metropolis differs little from the hells configured by Byzantine and medieval art: a den of iniquity, decomposition, depravation, and punishment (at least in the Middle Ages such punishment had a theological justification). None of the positivist theses about the city survives. Progress, comfort, numerous opportunities, a realm that favors the development of the individual, etc. No. The metropolis is a devouring, hostile, crushing, dirty, cacophonous, and fire-emitting monster. Or an illusion conveyed by the propaganda for marginalized groups. The cities—they do not appear as metropolises in the catalog—are Berlin, Caracas, Istanbul, Johannesburg, London, Moscow, New York, Beijing, São Paulo, Sydney, and Tokyo. Plus the (im)possible city, utopia. Five artists from each city were called upon by local curators to respond to these kinds of interrogations formulated by Hug in his attempt to turn this section of the biennial around a common theme. The responses are uneven in tone, in quality, and in attitude. These are neither common nor coordinated projects. Each artist acted individually, and this considerably diluted the central idea. I shall review the entries that I consider to be the most outstanding. On the whole, Berlin might steal the applause.

The German capital fluctuated between the neopop painting of Franz Ackermann (1963), flowing over the frames onto the support panel, and the marvelous photographs of the city under construction, seen by Frank Thiel (1966). In the middle, a marginal note that is more specific to a political event: Olaf Metzel’s (1952) installation with canvases for camouflage uniforms tautened between two of the building’s structural columns, and with a series of baseball bats as accolades. The action of time on the city is recorded in Michael Wesely’s (1963) nostalgic photos. They are large formats in grays that were shot for up to a year. The long exposure of the films gives the positives an engraving quality that shows us a phantasmagoric and empty city. Caracas. Overwhelming and frightening photographs of walled up buildings presented by Alexander Apóstol (1969). Images of the city as the negation of itself. Several-storied constructions with their doors and windows walled up and closed. They are useless and absurd buildings, not in their essence but rather in their becoming. Totally incomprehensible were Emilia Azcárate’s entry and her supposedly pre-Columbian stamps, semi-hidden by a layer of wax. On the other hand, the photographic work of Luis Molina-Pantin (1969), which gath-

ers scenes staged in TV studios for soap operas, was rather fun. A play between fiction and reality: what the city is, or pretends to be. And an obvious allusion to the power of mass media, which dominates to a large extent the events of the metropolises. Moscow. Curated by Víctor Misiano, this section is testimonial art with no beating around the bush. The elderly, the poor, child prostitution, all in large format, chilling photos with no manipulation or touch-ups. Raised next to this is a construction made of boxes for packaging, deliberately arranged haphazardly, as a wink to the constructivists from the beginning of the twentieth century, which contrasts with the viewer’s trajectory through a small closed space that precedes it. At either side, the city that once was “goes by”. It goes by because the image is that of both videos read as a linear journey over the facades of the old city. Nostalgic images that at times seem to be reflected in a canal, since we see them inverted. History turns out to be deaf before the current situation. New York, the metropolitan icon par excellence, has two outstanding representatives. Nancy Davenport (1965), noted photographer of Canadian origin, who constructs a disquieting fiction in her series “The Apartments”. To the more or less neutral facades of the residential buildings she adds—on a credible scale—images of armed terrorists who are the only residents. A discourse that began years before the attacks, but which has naturally been strengthened by them. Shirin Neshat (1957), Iranian filmmaker who lives in the United States, participates with her Soliloquy, filmed in 1999. “She creates a dialectic of closedness and openness, oppression and freedom, the traditional and the modern”.6 The work is presented on two facing screens that the spectator must watch, alternately and in a staccato rhythm, from the central space. The character is a woman from the Middle East, majestic, totally covered by a black chador that passes through two antagonistic worlds, the East and the West, the alter ego of the artist’s inner being. One screen shows the film shot in Albany, N.Y., and Manhattan. The other, filmed in Turkey, combines images of an old


construction that could be an isolated madrasa. The actress moves through both universes and gazes profoundly and carefully on her subject, whether it be the silhouette of a skyscraper, a subway escalator, or—in the East—a group of kids playing under a water fountain that sprinkles the building’s inner patio. Like an internal witness, without intervening. The metaphor could not be any more eloquent: globalization produces an estrangement, we become strangers everywhere and we are alone even in the middle of a crowd. Outstanding among the group of Chinese artists who personify Beijing is Gong Xin Wang (1960). His video installation is comprised of four translucent screens, like loose curtains that receive both projections. The curtains generate a central space, like a patio that invites the visitors. Projected over each curtain is a large closed door. These doors are massive, old, and dusty. In a sequential fashion, each one opens in order to allow us to see different scenes:

a military parade, gym exercises in the public parks, a market, a concert, a field, a street vendor, and a street musician. A few seconds later, the door is slammed shut. The shadows of the viewers jam the projection, and they become part of it. The diluted images (partially due to the filming itself, partially due to the quality of the curtains), refer to the tensions generated by time, yesterday and today, presence and memory. A great poetic quality defines the work as a whole. An installation and a couple of voluminous works are the most interesting contributions by the group from São Paulo. The first is that of Lina Kim (1965).

A space defined by walls made with small circular mirrors, like a network, in which we see ourselves partially reflected, serves as an area for storing, in apparent disorder, hundreds of straightjackets, aluminum shelves, and a couple of old sinks. A good allegory of São Paulo, a chaotic, modern, and backward metropolis, both extremely rich and extremely poor, rational and alienated. The works of Artur Lescher, on the other hand, do not refer to the city. They have been characterized for years by their impeccable finish. They are large volumes of simple shapes that the artist sets in opposition to urban

María Papadimitriou. T.A.M.A. (Temporary Autonomous Museum for All) (Project of Social facilities for itinerant populations in Greece). Multimedia Installation.

Chien-Chi Chang. The Chain. Detail of the installation with silver gelatin printed photographs

Dino Bruzzone. Italpark. Detail of maquete of mixed media.

Philippe Gruenberg / Pablo Hare. Dark camera 01. Installation with a dark camera projection.

Marco Maggi. Hotbed. Installation with 50.000 paper sheets with incisions.


shapes. Curator Agnaldo Farías says that they are constructions opposed to the constructed world. In the biennial there are two pieces that dialogue with one another through their apparent contradictions. One, made of wood, is resolved in a large plane supported on a curved base, like a cylindrical segment. The upper plane is a box of glimmering planks. The second work is another square, a plastic, silver-plated mattress full of water and placed directly on top of the floor. The public is invited to touch it, shake it, and rock it. Despite the austere forms and the apparent hermeticism of its geometry, these pieces are interactive, and therefore they somehow evoke the works of two distinguished Brazilians from the modernist period: Lygia Clark and Helio Oiticica. “From Nineveh to the digital spatiotemporal matrix: the twelfth city” was the title chosen by curator Lidia Haustein for the group of artists—twelve individuals and groups—that designed the non-existent city. The proposals range from complex technological systems, like that of Rio de Janeiro native Roberto Cabot (1963), to the ludic and ingenuous scale models of Bodys Isek Kingelez (1948), an artist from the Congo, and the delirious construction of Sarah Sze (1969), delicate and monstrous still of tubes, mechanisms, bands, toys, real and plastic plants, coils, water, and light. Eduardo Frota. Untitled. Industrial chipboard with glue, 14 cones of 106,2 in. Of diameter x 122 in.


The Cuban group “Los Carpinteros” (the carpenters) used tubes and Plexiglas to construct three sentry box watch towers,7 while Huang Yong Ping (1954) and Shen Yuan (1959), Chinese artists living in Paris, reinterpreted the headquarters of the Brazilian Senate: an immense halfsphere whose interior conceals a favela (slum) enclosed by a ring of red clay, the most characteristic soil of Brazil’s central States.8 Also in this city are the macrophotographs of the nude multitudes by Spencer Tunick (1967), the living who seem dead, as if thrown into the disorder of a street, of a plaza, or formally lined up on a bridge or a highway, just as the corpses of those fallen in battle are lined up. Possible city, probable city, toy city, crematorium city. The most shocking of entries of this section is that of Brazilian photographer Arthur Omar (1948). Ten macrophotographs show us images of contemporary Afghanistan. The desolate panorama of the war, the worn-out faces of the elderly and some smiles of children. He composes “the city” by joining into one single imaginary space a desert and facades of neoclassical buildings riddled by projectiles. National Entries Some seventy countries responded to the call of the 25th São Paulo Biennial. With the condition that only one participant per nation be sent, the idea of aggiornamento, which used to accompany this section, has become impossible. A very clear example is that of the Venezuelan entry: one of the chromokinetic atmospheres of master Carlos Cruz -Díez (1923), a development of proposals formulated in the 1960s. Very few entries were really outstanding. I shall follow the alphabetical order given by the catalog for this section of the biennial. A. Argentina. A scale model of Italpark constructed by Dino Bruzzone (1965) and some large format photography. The photographic images with diluted light generate a vision that alternates between reality and dream. The installation Lluvia (Rain) by Colombian artist Luis Fernando Peláez (1945) undergoes a strange metamorphosis in the realm of this show: it loses its tragic character, becoming almost loveable. British artist Willie Doherty (1959) sets

two enormous screens, on which a citizen runs through a vehicular tunnel, in opposition to one another. We see him from the front and from behind in a race that is both anguishing (the runner’s face is quite expressive) and apparently futile. Modern-day Sisyphus? Greek artist Maria Papadimitriou (1957) presents the photographic record of a curious project, which is actually more sociological than artistic. In the area of Avliza, Menidi, a depressed zone some ten kilometers from Athens, the artist organizes a Temporary Autonomous Museum for All in the camp of the semi-nomadic gypsies. The aim is to recover a culture that is quite distinct from the urban one, safeguarding its own values and with the active participation of its members. Naturally, the images hardly show the group’s incredible accumulation of domestic belongings and provisional hovels. The text of the catalog is indispensable for giving meaning to these images. The most moving photo is that of a little boy who places an old TV antenna on his head. The space of Japanese artist Kimio Tsuchiya (1955), a sort of strongbox with a round bottom, preceded by a gallery of debris, makes us confront all the times of the world expressed through the hundreds of wall clocks that cover the whole interior. A large layer of dried and cracked mud, stamped with a design of repeated red roses, alludes to the drama of Palestine in the voice of Sliman Mansour (1947). The two photographers representing Peru, Philippe Gruenberg and Pablo Hare (1972), invent a city within a city. Photographs of old facades of Lima are projected, inverted, inside the abandoned areas. We see the photographic record of the projection originally made with the method of camera obscura. They are disturbing images that disarticulate the usual contents of an urban space, both exterior and interior: there is no room for man, only the ghosts remain. One of the most shocking entries is that of Russian artist Alexander Brodsky. Curiously, it does not appear in the catalog. This work is comprised of twenty rusty containers for burning trash that are lined up in a dark block with a peripheral crack, enlarged on


one side, that reveals a miniature city in ruins. Coming from it is the sinister noise of the crematorium horn. Also sinister, as well as moving, are the large scale photographs by Chien-Chi Chang (1961), the representative of Taiwan. The individuals portrayed, placed around the viewer, are mentally ill, chained in pairs. We naturally associate them with prisoners of war, although in this case it is a question of the internal war waged on their own minds. With Indian ink on rice paper, artist Hong Sek Chern (1967), who represents Singapore, creates an enormous drawing of imaginary architecture. She suggests the internal space of an unfinished or demolished structure, empty and enveloping, with no support surface. An infinite web of lines in perspective that pass through all of the imaginable qualities of tonality and an overwhelming demonstration of the dominance of the technique of paintbrushes. Uruguayan artist Marco Maggi (1957) set up an installation with 50,000 sheets of paper strictly arranged in blocks, in imitation of an urban network. Some minimal cuts and folds in some upper sheets alter the void, alluding to urban furniture. The artist himself says that this is an allegory of myopia as a strategy with which to resist globalization. The most moving and beautiful of the videos at the biennial represents Vietnam. Its creator is Jun NguyenHatsushiba (1968). This artist was born in Japan and has also lived in the United States. For the last several years, he has also investigated the concepts of the in between society, those human groups that lack roots or that are forced to break with their roots. The artist went from painting to installation, using materials like mosquito nets, bamboo curtains,

and fishing poles. Now he uses video in his work Memorial Project Nha Trang, Vietnam Towards the Complex—For the Courageous, the Curious and the Cowards (2001), an underwater film that records the long journey of some men who drag rickshaws with great difficulty. Some tautened mosquito nets several meters under the water comprise “the city”. The fishermen who act in the video go up for air and come back down in order to continue their pilgrimage. The slow rhythm imposed by the difficulty of the performance adds a dream-like quality to the entire discourse. Brazilian Artists The São Paulo show usually convokes a significant number of national artists in order to represent the country. In this edition, aside from the five artists who participate in the “cities” section for São Paulo, curator Farias called upon a contingent of twenty-two others in order to make up the national section, and three for the Special Project Rooms. The Brazilian group is centered on the ramp area and it occupies half of the third floor. Various texts in the catalogs state explicitly that an effort was made to gather “emerging” artists as well as artists who do not belong to the Rio-São Paulo axis. No one doubts the effort, but the result is deceptive, especially for the foreign public. The lack of maturity is evident in practically all the entries. Merely four or five deserve comment. They are José Bechara (1957), interested in the textures that he achieves with the processes of oxidation on canvases and by tautening ox skins; Eduardo Frota (1959), a sculptor from Fortaleza who presents enormous hollow cones arranged with rings of compressed wood; perhaps Carmela Gross (1946),

Nelson Leirner. Table With My Belongings. Acrylic table, 300 balls and 360 pingpong rackets.

a native of São Paulo who installed a gigantic luminous sign on the building’s external facade reading “HOTEL”. More of a boutade, a joke, than anything else, the intervention hardly adheres to the career of this artist; Marepe (1970), a Bahia native who has shown his work for some ten years, recovered a piece of real wall, the support for a painted notice: “Comercial São Luis. Tudo no mesmo lugar pelo menor preço”. In addition to the wall itself, a video reveals the recovery operation and its transfer to the biennial. Sergio Sister (1948), a native of São Paulo, exhibits a group of beautiful abstract canvases with rectangles, squares, and bands of subtle opaque and textured colors that look like exposed concrete. From time to time, the painting survives, rather impressively, in spite of everything. Reviewing the group as a whole, we yield to the temptation to ask: “Where are the great Brazilians?” Karin Lambrecht. Untitled. Installation with white dresses and sheep’s blood prints of sheep’s inside organs on paper and photography

José Bechara. Bois velhos e borbonetas de chumbo. Coat leather and plastic.




Special Project Rooms As mentioned above, these rooms, dedicated to six international artists and three Brazilian artists, substituted for the museographical project of the most recent biennials. Generic explanation: the biennial already fulfilled its educational mission based on relevant examples of art history. Now it must devote itself to contemporary art. The invited guests are contemporary, to be sure, but not one is first-rate, unless we consider Jeff Koons’s (1955) indescribable kitsch to be first-rate. The other foreigners are: Vanessa Beecroft (1969), who presents enormous photos of semi-nude female models (wearing black boots halfway up the thigh), a veritable army that looks like a neo-Nazi contingent; Andreas Gursky (1955), a German photographer who specializes in crowds; Thomas Ruff (1958), another German photographer, who submitted a series of manipulated photographs based on paradigmatic buildings by Mies van der Rohe; Portuguese artist Julião Sarmento (1948), who

works with black and white painting, based on partial shadows of human bodies frozen in sexual acts; and Irish artist Sean Scully (1945), a painter of sober geometric execution. These Special Project Rooms preserve a living memory of a Mondrian, a Malevich, a TorresGarcía, and a Figari. Will the artists of this biennial ever take their places? The question stands. The three Brazilians of this section are Carlos Fajardo (1941), the veteran Nelson Leirner (1923), and Karin Lambrecht (1957). Fajardo constructed a sort of glass labyrinth, concealed by a silverplated curtain around the perimeter that isolates it. In the center, six slabs of white marble lie on the floor forming a dazzling square. Since the plate glass construction almost entirely eliminates the outside noise, the viewer stops at the end, on top of a hard, irregular, and isolated surface. Leirner put an acrylic ping-pong table in his space. Accompanying it are some glass cases that enclose a long row of rackets and

Vanessa Beecroft. View of the performance in Vienna, Austria. Digital color print.

Julião Sarmento. Structure Plays a Secondary Role (Pornstar). Mixed media on canvas.

several rows of balls. Hanging above the table is a black rectangle, perforated with three horizontal rectangles. In the room, we hear the pitter-patter of an endless game. Let us recall that this artist was, for several decades, one of the best representatives of Brazilian pop. A large part of his work overwhelmingly refers to social and political criticism. His intervention in the Biennial seems, by comparison, less transcendent. Karin Lambrecht’s installation stemmed from the macabre reconstitution of the sacrifice of the lamb. Several white dresses, stained with blood, are hung from a beam that looks like a gallows. We see the mark of the animal’s guts, as if this were a monotype, and a series of crosses, like bas-reliefs on the floor. In the back, a large photograph: the hands (of the artist?) hold the heart of the sacrificed animal, as if making an offering. Is this a rather indirect allusion to the innocent victims of terrorism? To sum up, there were few memorable entries, too many photos and videos of little significance, and a theme that dissolves in the exhibition as a whole. Some clearly urban issues shine in their absence: graffiti, for example; the forced cohabitation of diverse strata that define the social fabric of a city; the spaces of rest and recreation; historical contents. This biennial was not memorable. We shall wait for the next one. NOTES 1. Alfons Hug, “El Atlas del Aleph,” in the exhibition catalog Cidades, p. 22. 2. Some countries are represented by more than one artist. 3. I do not consider this section in the present essay, since it deals with a theme that escapes my competence. 4. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media (1964). 5. The main catalog Cidades (Cities) includes the Special Project Rooms and the area of Net Art. 6. Julián Zugazagoitia, Cidades, p. 208. 7. There is another sentry box in the show, that of Swiss artist Fabrice Gygi. The two entries are markedly different from one another. The one from the Cuban group is resolved in an almost naive language, with tubes and transparent signs. The one from the Swiss group is an installation that relies on technology. 8. The interior of the installation, ten meters in diameter, may only be appreciated from the top floor. Translation: Vincent Maitin

MARÍA ELVIRA IRIARTE Historian and art critic. ArtNexus


ArtNexus Magazine 45, year 2002. pp 40-45


Artur Barrio Ignoto, 1996-2001. Detail of installation with stairs, cardboard and wood.*

Art in Transit His work seeps and sails into the cracks that produced the tension between the permanency of the features of the sensitivity of the past and the contemporary universe. In the transit between art and life, between the lapses of critical discourse itself, Barrio produces an essential work for the renovation of Brazilian art.

Fernando CoCChiarale

or the period of the international recognition of the new tendencies in North American and European art in the ‘60s (Pop Art and Nouveau Réa­ lisme, for example), the art produced in Brazil already had its own references that gave a unique meaning to its in­ sertion into the international artistic avant­garde. Meanwhile, the serious political situation of the country made it impossible for its artists to withdraw in the face of discretional actions of the dictatorship, which remained in power from 1964 to 1985. Under the impact of the first repres­ sive measures of the military govern­ ment, the so-called “New figuration” was launched in the “Opinion 65” shows, carried out in August in Rio de Janeiro, and “Proposals 65,” which opened in São Paulo in December. The political sense of these exhibitions was centered on the configuration of a cul­ tural front for the defense of the free­ dom to make proposals and express opinions. It was not based as much on the explicit denunciation of the national situation. This front was made up both of artists of the new figurative genera­ tion and of those who had come from the constructivism of the previous decade (Hélio Oiticica and Waldemar Cordeiro). In spite of its ethico­political tone, this formulation had long­lasting aesthetic consequences. Although it did not establish an artistic movement with clearly defined plastic­formal characteristics, it stated explicitly, for the artists of the period, the specific meaning of the contribution of that generation for the future of contem­ porary Brazilian art. Essential to the configuration of this meaning were the reflections contributed by artist Hélio Oiticica (1937­1980) and the critical thought of Mario Pedrosa (1900­1981). This historical base was the result of Hélio Oiticica’s1 mix of two extremely key moments in the country’s artistic production: Oswald de Andrade’s Antropofagia (Anthropophagy, 1928), and the neoconcrete experimental­ ism of 1959. This intercrossing made possible the progressive formation of a field of experimental action that


relied on the contribution of artists of diverse tendencies, and not only on constructivist tendencies. It is impor­ tant to point out that experimental­ ism—considered an “experimental exercise of freedom,” according to Pedrosa—assumed the character of a divider of waters in a Brazil dominat­ ed by the dictatorship. Therefore, it must not be confused with the experi­ mental processes that spontaneously emerged from artistic practices. That process allowed for the configuration of a tradition in permanent motion that, without constituting a formal or thematic list, has been functioning as a referent for the work of Brazilian artists of different generations. In that effervescent cultural context, the work of Artur Barrio flourished in the second half of the ‘60s. Launched in 1969 in Rio de Janeiro, his Manifiesto (Manifesto)2—against the categories of art; against the shows; against the prizes; against the judges; against art criticism—considered that the growing use in the Third World of expensive and conventional work materials met, first and foremost, the consumer demands of the elite. Based on the critique of the socio­ economic, ethico-political, and aes­ thetic reality, Barrio deduced, with a clarity that is rare in Brazilian art, the basic core of his unique poetics: to conspire against the tastes of the dominant classes in the field in which they exert their cultural and operative power (power based on the belief in the existence of a true and pure field of art). He carried out this conspiracy with the use of precarious and perish­ able materials collected from among the waste of the transit and the flow of daily life. Linked to dullness by routine, dai­ liness—an element from which art traditionally tried to separate itself on account of its intrinsic aspiration toward eternity—became, for artists like Barrio,3 a field to be continuously disturbed by creative participation. However, that choice only makes sense if the ephemeral element of those actions is assumed as a positive poetic element (and not as a limitation). Its efficacy resides precisely in its insertion into the

Situation T/T, Part I, 1970. Photographic register of action. *Courtesy Galería Luisa Strina

Situation T/T, Part I, 1970. Photographic register of action.*

unexpected. Not only in the space in which life takes place, but rather, above all, in the time4 that devours the very dailiness that the artist provisionally resensitized. In this reality in transit, the situations and experiences of Artur Barrio, materially fragile, can only be eternalized in the textual and photo­ graphic registers of his creative process. The radicality of the Situations and other Experiences created by Barrio has been revealed since the beginning of his artistic action. Right in the middle

of a military dictatorship, Barrio pro­ duced his Situación T/T1-1970 in the short span of a few days. Divided into three parts, all of which took place in the city of Belo Hori­zonte, capital of the state of Minas Gerais, the artist created Situación T/T1-1970 for the show “Do Corpo á Terra,” organized by art critic Fede­rico Moraes. The first part consisted of the prepa­ ration of the action (at the same time as it made up part of the action itself). Throughout the night of April 19,


1970, in the exhibition space Palácio das Artes, he prepared pastries made of canvas and tied with cords. They contained blood, meat, bones, mud, and foam rubber. He also used knives, bags, etc. The second part occurred during April 20th in the space of the Riberão do Arruda, which runs through the city’s Parque Municipal. Around fourteen pastries, tied with canvas and created the night before, were spread along the banks of the stream in the morning, during a period in which that area was like a sewer. In line with the textual recording of the Situation, which also included photographs taken anonymously from among the crowd, a large group of people began to gather from around 3 p.m. on. The mobilization of specula­ tive curiosity of nearly 5,000 people, the strangeness of the Situation, and the artist’s creative confusion wound up attracting the police and firemen. In this period in which Brazil’s mili­ tary dictatorship exerted its under­ ground violence, dedicated to torture and to the disappearance of individu­ als with no explanation whatsoever, the Situación T/T1-1970 externalized the concealed (and therefore limit­ less) violence, sending it back to the omission of civilians and the police. In spite of being a habitual agent of

repression, the police also joined the popular crowd in their stupefaction. They were thus transformed, for a short period of time, into spectators of a brutality with which they normally collaborated. Stirred up by the impact caused by the second part, in the third part Barrio re-created a Situation previously tested in Rio de Janeiro’s Bahía de Guanabara. Here, as well as in Ribeirão do Arruda, Artur Barrio unrolled seventy rolls of toilet paper, once again attracting repression. Nevertheless, the flesh that was originally chosen because it was a perishable material and strange for art, must not be taken as a symbol that emits violence. It can also represent the desire contained in the gesture of the person who chooses it with the delicacy of a lover, revealing its hidden beauty to us. Created in Paris in 1978-79, the Book of Flesh was “based on the cut/action of the slaughterhouse knife” in such a way that the flesh is seen during its short and perishable existence. Its fatal decomposition became a sort of antirecord. Separated from reason, just as the body is separated from the soul, this book could never have captured discourses (as common books do). It merely survived in the photographic and textual register.

Book of Flesh, 1978-1979. Meat and thread. Photo: Dominique Haneuse.*


Begun in 1987, Barrio’s so-called Experiences are still carried out today. They consist of unique interventions created on the walls and floors of spaces (coarse salt, malachite, etc.), phrases, brief written texts, graphic designs, excavations, holes, lamps, and any object used in the artist’s installations. Beyond his desires and paintings, what all the other works have in common is the appreciation for the moment. That is, for the time of situations that are special, conceptual, and ephemeral. Those witnesses of life (rolls of toilet paper, bread, bones, meat, rags, grease, fish, rocks, wood, threads, and words) become essential for the poetics of Artur Barrio. The journey between the quotidian, where they naturally originate, and the world of art, which does not recognize them given their perishable and, therefore, supposedly anti-artistic nature (for­ eign not only to the contemplative gaze but also, at times, to the sense of smell), transforms those witnesses into materials, and the materials into a semantic list. Opposed (on account of their short, useful life) to those materi­ als made in order to serve the demand of permanency of traditional artistic media, such as painting (brushes, can­ vases, and colors) or drawing (paper, graphite, charcoal, Indian ink), Barrio’s materials transcend their own physi­ cal properties and acquire a critical statute.5 Therefore, in Barrio’s production, as well as in that of others, there is a shifting of the center: his interventions no longer centered on the creation of formal objects (pictures, sculptures, engravings, etc.), on behalf of the exploitation of the sensitive and in­ stantaneous power of the intervention proper. For a significant part of contempo­ rary art, the perennial fact of creation went on to be that of the continuity of the action (the accumulative character of the experience) and the temporary, the free and precarious material con­ figuration (which is consummated in the decomposition or disassembly) of the situations that the artist creates and provokes.


From a historical point of view, the incidence of the aesthetic focus on the artistic attitude, and no longer only on its artisanal results, implied—at least since the readymade of Marcel Ducha­mp (1913)—a new possibility of conceiving and executing creation. Legitimized by a power of the author, slowly woven over the last 500 years, many contemporary artists, against the habitual concrete character of the work of art, concentrated their works on the investigation of art itself, of its social circuit, and of the power of subjectivity in invention. In pre-Renaissance art there was still no clear distinction between art and craftsmanship. In those circumstances, the labeling of the artist’s activity was merely reduced to the sphere of the artisanal (the act of making, manual ability, and the mastery of the essential techniques of the trade that he had chosen). The old division of arts between mechanical and liberal separated the practices considered strictly physical, for which the intellect was indispens­ able. That atavistic classification of the arts, grounded in the hierarchical division between body and soul, could not distinguish between artist and artifice, as was made possible after the Renaissance. Once painting and the other plastic arts were defined by Leonardo da Vinci as mental, they came to reclaim their place in the liberal arts. Situated at the confluence of several intellec­ tual knowledges (geometry, physics, anatomy, etc.), painting (art) acquired, from that point on, a new meaning and a new value. The notion of author was the principal aesthetic consequence of the invention of the concept of indi­ vidual and the unique creation was its best attribute. The notion of author, however, only reached maturity and became explicit and self-sufficient after Du­ champ. The ideas and works of that artist were produced in the margin of the triumph of pure form, so highly appreciated by hegemonic modernism. This almost solitary antecedent, the substitution of mak­ ing for invention and appropriation,

Defl.....Situation.....+s+.....Ruas.....April....., 1970. Photographic register of action.*, 1969. Photographic register of action.*

placed it in the origin of all contem­ porary art. In Brazil, Barrio is perhaps the artist who clung most tightly to the preroga­ tives of authorship. Since the beginning of his career in the late ‘60s, that was what most strongly emphasized the ethico-aesthetic attitude,6 to the detri­ ment of a strictly formal investigation, even though he had produced drawings and paintings of undeniable quality. Only a notion of authorship with a density similar to that of the subject of

knowledge, such as that conceived by philosophy since Descartes (although Barrio’s actions have a meaning and a sensitive purpose opposed to those of a theoretical-scientific rationality) could confer an aesthetic sense on the precarious and provisional results of the situations and experiences created by the artist. Considered in and of themselves, both the materials used by Barrio as well as his disposition and insertion into alternative circuits could hardly be


seen by the supporters of form and by common sense as bearers of aesthetic attributes. Meanwhile, art history and the philosophy of art, and with them the market and the circuit, are reluc­ tantly obliged to recognize the poetics of deconstruction of the form (and of the object), since, for everyone, the authorial function is decisive for the labeling of the artist. The invention of the individual in the Renaissance and the emergence of physics provoked the creation of a supra-individual instance where universal, philosophical, and scientific knowledge could travel beyond the realm of opinions. The Cartesian cogito (I think) of the seventeenth century introduced a new instance of the I, different from the in­ dividual and, virtually, common to all. This other I, designated by philosophy as a (cognitive) subject, later became (for Kant) an indispensable and funda­ mental function for knowledge. The construction of the subject also made possible, from the epistemologi­ cal point of view, the critique of English empiricism. This, like the rationalism of Descartes, attempted to assimilate scientific experimentation, inherent in the natural sciences, to logical thought. It is evident that the character of Barrio’s situations and experiments is strategically opposed to those pro­ duced by science. His installations and registers are diametrically opposed to the expectations of rigor and truth of the scientific—and even philosophi­ cal—sciences. In spite of the obvious difference between the media, the methods, and the goals of scientific experimentation and those of aesthetics, any experi­ ment, independent of its nature, takes place within a period of time. For this very reason, it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The temporal character common to all processes of experimentation invariably generates the need to record them. As a scientist, Barrio records the situations that he creates in “texts/ projects/essays/notes/digressions/ stories/ideas/fragments of ideas/ drawings/collage/etc.” in his Cuader­ noslibros (Notebooks) that “have free

creativity as their content” and “are a new support.”7 Here, the distance between art and science is not the same one that, in the past, opposed sensitivity to reason, body to soul, or the particular to the universal. Polarized thought, which is indis­ pensable for the epistemological, technological, and economic success of Western civilization, already be­ gan to be dismantled in the second half of the nineteenth century. That dismantling, initially theoretical and promoted by anthropology, history, sociology, psychoanalysis, and phi­ losophy, led to the emergence of the

much discussed crisis of the subject, which can be felt today at all levels of social and psychic life. Within that framework, not only are the crises of the individual and of the subject of knowledge contained, but so is the crisis of the very knowledge that is based on polarization. Fragmented to the core, the notions of individual, subject, and knowledge lie disjointed, in hopes of other models that serve the new reality. In a world in which the processes of globalization no longer reflect those conceptions of unity extracted from the depth (onto­ logical and epistemological) in which

Purpose, 2000. Installation with lamps, electricity cable and wood. 65 sq. ft. (20 m2). Photo: Marcos Boninson.*


The Viewer Does Not See (He Creates) the Work. Phrase written on wall.*

truth was presumed to dwell, in a reality in which consent to totalities based on the complex superficiality that characterizes postmodern life, but which were already announ­ced in the modern past (from Frankenstein, the psychoanalyst’s couch, the Fordist assembly, and the editing of Eisenstein and Griffith, to video editions through Word), perhaps the social task of con­ structing a new subject was possible for the artist. Authors like Merleau-Ponty (L’oeil et l’esprit, “Cézanne’s doubt” [Sense and Nonsense], etc.) clearly attributed that task to the artist.8 Like a premonition, Paul Valéry had already speculated on the question in 1929: “At first sight, wouldn’t it seem very difficult to think like artists about certain problems that until now we had thought about as investigators of truths, to transform into beautiful lies—into fictions in themselves—those productions of the most intimate sincerity?”9 Can there be a better field in which to situate Barrio’s production? His

work seeps and sails into the cracks that produced the tension between the permanency of the features of the sensitivity of the past and the contem­ porary universe. In the transit between art and life, between the lapses of criti­ cal discourse itself, Barrio produces an essential work for the renovation of Brazilian art. NOTES 1. Published in the “Esquema general de la nueva objetividad”, in the catalog for the show “Nueva Objetividad Brasileña” (Rio de Janeiro: Museo de Arte Moderno, 1967). 2. Published for the second time in the catalog for the show “Regist(R)os” (Porto: Fundación Serralves, 2000). 3. In Brazil, artists like Flavio de Carvalho, Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Clark, and Lygia Pape, for example, had already formulated, through works and ideas, the urgency for the integration between art and life. 4. In the case of Brazil, Abraham Palatnik (1951) and Mary Vieira produced kinetic works between the ‘40s and the ‘50s. The post-neoconcrete experiences of Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Clark, and Lygia Pape are inseparable from the temporal sphere. 5. In a political sense different from that attributed by Joseph Beuys, although also convergent, in the sense that, for contemporary art, the materials are not restricted to their plastic-formal, chromatic, or material potentialities.

6. In accordance with Carlos Basualdo’s quote: “From the third-world perspective, ethics is aesthetics, as Artur Barrio stated in the early ‘70s, and as Oiticica and the filmmaker Glauber Rocha would also do.” “Contra la elocuencia: notas sobre Barrio, 1969-1980,” in the catalog for the show “Regist(R)os,” (Porto: Fundación Serralves, 2000). 7. Barrio, Cuadernoslibros, cited by Ricardo Basbaum, “Dentro D’ água,” in the catalog for the show “Regist(R) os,” (Porto: Fundación Serralves, 2000). 8. Although in Merleau-Ponty it is restricted to the metaphysical role of the painter. 9. Paul Valéry, “Leonardo and the Phiilosophers,” Introduction to the Method of Leonardo da Vinci (London: J. Rodker, 1929). * Images courtesy of Galería Luisa Strina.

Translation: Vincent Martin

Fernando Cocchiarale Art critic, professor of aesthetics at the Pontificia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro, independent curator, and frequent contributor for several art magazines.


ArtNexus Magazine 45, year 2002. pp 76-77

Jac Leirner

Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil São Paulo


Adriano Pedrosa

ão Paulo-based Jac (short for Jacqueline, b. 1961) Leirner was one of the first Brazilian artists to enjoy wide international recognition, paving the path for other artists of her generation such as Ernesto Neto, Beatriz Milhazes, and Adriana Varejão. Following Leirner’s successful presentation at the 1989 São Paulo Biennial, she took part in important international exhibitions, such as the 1990 Venice Biennale’s “Aperto”, and the 1992 “Documenta”. The early nineties were an inaugural moment for Brazilian contemporary art abroad. The work of Leirner played a central role, putting forth an artistic proposition that is both rigorous and unique, in dialog with Brazilian art traditions and approachable by foreigners who were eager to understand the country’s art. This exhibition, curated by Rio de Janeiro-based Ligia Canongia, is the first survey of Leirner’s work, and provides us with an exceptional opportunity to re-access one of the most original bodies of work in recent Brazilian art. Gathered in three rooms are 29 works ranging from 1987 through 2001, coming mostly from Brazilian collections—an exception is Hip Hop (1998), a wall installation belonging to The Bohen Foundation, New York, which was reconstructed for the occasion. Included are objects and sculptures from Leirner’s oeuvre: Pulmão (Lung), with empty Marlboro packs; Os Cem (The One Hundreds), with devalued Brazilian currency; Nomes (Names), with empty plastic bags; Corpus Delicti, with stolen airplane ashtrays and other airline gadgets; Labels, with museum wall labels; Foi um prazer (Nice to Meet You), with business cards; To and From, with empty envelopes, and Adhesivos (Adhesives), with stickers.

Untitled (Corpus Delecti), 1993. Airline pillows and pillow cases. 102 1/3 x 16 x 3 in. (260 x 41 x 8 cm.). Galería Camargo Vilaça.


The survey allows us to understand Leirner’s highly complex strategies and unique developments, which have been extremely consistent through time without ever becoming formulaic. Leirner begins her practice by collecting and accumulating a certain artifact, often of little or no value, with a distinctive industrial, urban, or low quality, and bearing deeply charged, manipulated, and throw-away features. Leirner then produces intricate objects with a delicate and precise hand, well informed by the formal issues of painting and sculpture. Empty cigarette packs, bank notes, business cards, stickers, envelopes, and plastic bags have been extracted and removed from different circuits and economies. In becoming art, the original circuit gives way to another, very particular one: the art circuit. One could thus consider that Leirner’s works exist in a permanent state of performance in private or public contexts within this new system, their moves through galleries, museums, auctions, collections, exhibitions, donations, and acquisitions being somehow incorporated into their conceptual and ontological breed. Even the passing of time, and the rather precarious nature of some of the materials are conceptually articulated in such existence. Some plastic bags have begun to loose the bright new colors of their original shopping circuit, the stitched up pieces of silver paper lining of the inside of many Marlboro packs have aged with time. There were brilliant examples of Leirner’s works here, and it is a treat to encounter pieces which we’ve seen time and again in reproduction or years ago in exhibitions. Corpus Delicti, 1992, is one of Leirner’s most conceptual works: a floor piece consisting of piled up sheets of glass and bubble wrap where stolen airplane ashtrays are connected to boarding passes as



Adhesive 20 (Cavellini), 2001. Stickers, construction level, plexiglass. 15 3/4 x 50 3/4 x 1 1/2 in. (40 x 129.3 x 3.9 cm). Photo: Erma Estwick. Courtesy: Brent Sikkema.

a concrete evidence of the time and place of the crime perpetrated by the artist. Os Cem (Roda) (The One Hundred [Wheel]), 1987, perhaps the most eloquent of the bank note pieces, is a wheel made up of hundreds of devalued one hundred bills resting on the floor and held up together by a hidden stainless steel cord (information provided by the work’s caption), its visible signs of mass manipulation providing an uncanny tactile and sculptural quality. On the more pictorial side, some of the recent wall Adhesivos (Adhesive), 2000-2001, are pieces of glass upon which a large and varied number of stickers have been arranged taking into consideration their size, shape, color or origin—from cargo or mail stickers to museums or shopping ones—providing irresistible abstract geometric compositions which reference constructivism and Op Art on the high end, and our own teenage glass windows and closet doors on the low end. The construction level placed at the back of some of the mostly horizontal wall Adhesivos, and visible

through the glass, winks at the proper and rigid rules of balance, composition and form of constructivism as well as of mid-century Paulistano concretismo. In fact, Leirner could be contextualized within a certain Paulistano tradition of abstract painting and sculpture, which remains extremely strong to date, and which unlike the Rio de Janeiro tradition, veers away from more contaminated references to the body and everyday life. The artist’s upbringing amidst what is one of the finest Brazilian collections of geometric abstraction that belonged to her father Adolpho Leirner, certainly provided copious visual material for her to develop her fluent formal skills. Jac Leirner’s concern is with art itself, and this is very much translated in her dexterous use of and attention to sculptural and pictorial language. What distinguishes her from her Paulistano colleagues, however, is precisely how she brings these high concerns to the most ordinary, street loaded objects, dislocating and shifting circuits in a

To and From, 1991. Mixed media installation. 118 x 11 3/4 x 27 1/2 in. (300 x 30 x 70 cm.). Courtesy: Brent Sikkema.

deadpan serious, rigorous yet also playful way. I waited for this exhibition with much anticipation, and in fact since I first wrote on Leirner’s work some eight years ago, I’ve always wondered what a survey of her work could deliver. Some artists may be victimized by the presentation of large quantities of their work from different epochs exhibited under a single roof; others may simply confirm what is already known about them, for better for worse. Very few artists can manage to present a survey that surprises the most well-versed spectator, and Leirner is undoubtedly the latter. For those unable to see the real show, a look at the well-edited and designed 220-page-catalog will certainly be an enticing substitute. For all this, and considering that this is one of São Paulo most remarkable artists, it comes a surprise that the exhibition will not travel to her hometown. One hopes this is because a larger, more comprehensive exhibition will be prepared in the near future, which must then include some of the many important works by Leirner presently in foreign collection. After all, Ad Infinitum only left us wanting to see more.

Adriano Pedrosa Art critic, curator at Museo de Arte de Pampulha and Editorial Coordinator for ArtNexus in Brazil.


ArtNexus Magazine 46, year 2002. pp 30-33



São Paulo Biennial

The magazine, open to different opinions about significant events, is publishing another text on the São Paulo Biennial. The Biennial was fully covered for edition No. 45, by María Elvira Iriarte. ArtNexus


Rodrigo Moura AND Carla Zaccagnini

fter four long years and a series of crises, the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion once again housed the São Paulo Biennial. Today, in its 25 th edition, it constitutes one of the world’s oldest and most important contemporary art events. Once again, artists, curators, and critics gather in a city to confirm once more what they might already know, or perhaps they try to be surprised. Carmela Gross,

from the host city, registers the visitors’ somewhat innocuous stay in São Paulo with a neon sign on the façade of the Oscar Niemeyer building. The sign reads: HOTEL, a synthetic, ironic sign that perhaps is announcing what will become of these kinds of exhibits. Or maybe it’s an invitation to search for strategies that can change them debating grounds and experimentation platforms for the benefit of contemporary art, and not into the temporary storage spaces for an array of objects, both national and foreign.

Carmela Gross. Hotel, 2002. Installation with neon lights on the Oscar Niemeyer building. Variable dimensions. Courtesy: Gabinete de Arte Raquel Arnaud.

50 years after the creation of the São Paulo Biennial, this should have been (or still could be) the opportune moment to ask ourselves whether such an ambitious and expensive exhibit shouldn’t be more than a stand on which each artist tries to present a good work of art, or that it shouldn’t go unnoticed in the eyes of the critics. And whether an event of this size, which moves some many of the country’s resources, shouldn’t have the obligation to also be a field for research and experimentation, dedicated to reflection. Such issues, among many more, are posed by the critics. But the real challenge is that they should be presented to The São Paulo Biennial Foundation, the institution itself. The 25th Biennial’s big innovation is the nomination of a foreign general curator –Germany’s Alfons Hug, professional curator at the Goethe Institute. Since 1984, Hug has worked in Lagos, Medellín, Brasilia, Caracas, Moscow, and now Rio de Janeiro. The topic he selected for the 25th Biennial was the Metropolis. Even if it isn’t the most original of topics (many contemporary art exhibits have been organized around it), it is, without a doubt, relevant to the city hosting the event. São Paulo is one of the world’s first megacities, overwhelming, rich in contradictions and contrasts, and lacking representations and reflections on itself. After four years without a megaevent, it’s understandable that the megacity has built high expectations about a biennial that’s tackling the metropolis as subject matter. In this edition, the 30,000 square meters of pavilion house three exhibit clusters, the show’s thematic axes: Metropolitan Iconographies, Special Halls, and National Representations. As a continuation of the imitative developed in the 24th Biennial in 1998, there is a web art segment showing works using that medium. The Special Halls abolished the Historical Nucleus of the last edition, and they returned to the previous biennials’ model, where the so-called «museological», weather-controlled


LETTER pavilion houses small monographic shows of the great masters. Even if the 25th Biennial seems to have taken some steps backwards by presenting several disjointed exhibits (in the XXIV edition, the Historical Nucleus shows were thematically and conceptually joined around anthropophagy), its greatest and most welcomed change was the replacement of shows of great historical artists (from Van Gogh to Picasso) with the works of contemporary masters. Meanwhile, even if contemporary artists and Special Halls were retaken in detriment to a historical or thematic reference, Alfons Hug showed little conceptual innovation or articulation when selecting paintings by Jeff Koons and Sean Scully, photographs by Thomas Ruff and Andreas Gursky, performances and registers by Vanessa Beecroft. The space reserved for the Brazilian artists was occupied by Nelson Leirner, Carlos Fajardo, and Karin Lambrecht, chosen as a group due to the selection of national artists for each of the Biennial’s segments. A question must be asked within this context: What is it that makes these shows, works, and artists more «special» than the ones exhibited outside the weather-controlled pavilion? The notion of «special» is presented as anachronistic and conservative, quite distant from contemporary artistic and curatorial practices, finding its justification only in a reasoning dominated by marketing the wrong kind of marketing. On the other hand, what’s more noticeable while taking into account the curator’s overtly Third-World discourse, is the apology for marginal art and the absence of artists who are outside the European or American exile, with the obvious exception, of course, of the Brazilians. In previous biennials, the presence of Latin American artists in the Special Halls and the Historical Nucleus was becoming increasingly consistent. It’s worth remembering them, if only to understand the importance the art from the rest of the continent has meant for the Biennial: Jesús Soto, Diego Rivera, Torres-García, José Bedia, and Rufino Tamayo, in 1994; Wifredo Lam, Pedro Figari, and Gego,

Kara Walker. Slavery! Slavery!, 1997. Ink on canvas. Detail. 118 x 78 3/4 in. (300 x 200 cm). Courtesy: Brent Sikkema, NY.

in 1996; Armando Reverón, Roberto Matta, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Guillermo Kuitca, in 1998. In the end, the São Paulo Biennial, the continent’s most important art exhibit, always took seriously the responsibility of giving visibility to Latin American artists in the Special Halls, and many foreign critics and curators came to São Paulo looking precisely for that. Will the Biennial end up disregarding the fundamental role it has played historically? By choosing one artist from each country, the National Representations segment repeats the previous editions’ worn-out model –a space inside the provisional storage space that the building has become. According to its curator in the introductory text, the Biennial engaged in an intense dialog with delegations from other countries to ensure a better placement of the works presented within the proposed theme. The diversity that the different countries could have presented was replaced by a thematic unity that was almost imposed upon each representation: to think and illustrate the megacity from countries where it exists. National representations survive in São Paulo due to the hefty investments that richer countries placed on individual shows, something that the Paulist biennial cannot do, especially

in a period undergoing a marked financial crisis. What we frequently see are the jugglings of critics and curators trying to justify the selection of countries. A case that must be mentioned here is the United States’, who brought Kara Walker’s beautiful work, which retakes the imagery of black country folk during slavery. The only justification found to include such work that has the contemporary metropolis as subject matter, is the radical counterpoint, or the other. One of the greatest criticisms in regards to the National Representations segment is the suspicion of the unwanted and unacceptable connection between official diplomacy and its bureaucratic counterpart. In Venice, the countries try very hard to eliminate it, but in São Paulo it showed its hard face. Taiwan, a country accepted in this segment, held its own exhibit of Chien-chi Chang’s photographs. It was organized by the Taipei Museum of Fine Arts, who of course paid for all the costs involved. In the event’s opening week, the Biennial Foundation informed the curator Fang-wei Chang that Taiwan could not participate as a country since Brazil doesn’t recognize it as such. The institution had been pressured by the Chinese delegation, who threatened to withdraw if Taiwan was included. The final decision was


to leave the artist’s name along with the Taipe Museum, turning his presence into an isolated case. In a gesture of solidarity, the opening night six countries spelled out the name of the country on the exhibit’s doors. Austria contributed the lowercase «t»; Singapore, the «a»; Croatia, the «i»; Costa Rica, the «w» by splitting an «o» down the middle; Canada, the other «a»; and Panama, the «n». The following morning, the institution got rid of the gesture, claiming to be following the chancery’s policies. More than a bureaucratic upset, what happened here is a clear symptom of the damaging effect that official diplomacy can have on the arts. The termination perpetrated by the official bureaucracy is a total disrespect to the pavilion. It’s just one more proof that this 25th São Paulo Biennial is not interested in opening spaces for the debates that must go beyond the model nor is it willing to yield to them. Without wanting to, the institution elicited a collective

response from its own artists regarding the structure it proposes and the relationships it perpetuates: It closed its eyes to the political consequences of its own doings. The nucleus «Cities» is the main segment expressing the notion of Metropolitan Iconographies. It’s the brainchild of Alfons Hug, the curator, to unify around the segment the production of 11 megacities in the world, and an additional series of works made around a twelfth city –a utopic one. The chosen cities were New York, London, Berlin, Moscow, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Beijing, Tokyo, Sydney, Caracas, and São Paulo, evidencing the intention of looking for production from the extreme urban situations found in the Third World, more than giving privilege to the great art-producing centers. The central criticism that can be raised here is the fact that there’s little relationship between the twelve cities, and, above all, around the very concept of icon. The interest here is

Rubens Mano. Leakages, 2002. Mixed media installation. Variable dimensions. Courtesy: Casa Triángulo, Brazil.


not in the dynamic relationship that many artists today seek to search and develop amidst the weave of a city, but in its simple «iconography.» The city’s superficial appearance takes over its structure and operation. The pavilion’s self-sufficiency as an exhibit space is another tell-tale sign of the little social permeability found in the curatorship’s argument. The city must fit in the exhibit, not the other way around, and to think of the city in practical terms has been lost this way. There were, despite this, works that have complex strategies in dealing with the theme. Drunk, a video installation by Gillian Wearing, from England, is a good example of how to show the city through the effects experienced by its inhabitants. In any case, we could say that the theme here is more urban that metropolitan. The selection of the twelve cities obeys to Hug’s own knowledge regarding the production of art in each one of them, where in many instances he had worked before with some of them. Countries, cities, and artists appear and disappear in the labyrinthic architecture built for this show. Truly, a segmentation of space that does little to encourage the communication between the different works, opting instead for excessive cuts and a dizzying succession of white cubicles (and black ones too, as was the case of several videos that on the second floor formed a tedious corridor). For such an universal theme, one could benefit from the contamination strategies found from one reality to another. The museography behaves more like a water reservoir, radically compartmentalizing the different discourses. The profusion of small cubicles for the works in video was the most dramatic testimony attesting to this fact. There isn’t a geopolitical stance in relationship to the montage. Why these cities? Why put them together? Why name these curators? These are some of the most obvious questions the curatorship leaves unanswered. Built for the 4 th centenary of the foundation of São Paulo, the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion and the Ibirapuera Park where it’s located, are the wit-


nesses to a city that in the 1950s began to see itself as modern, as a focus for development and perhaps the desire to become a little of the «promise» that Hug proposes for the twelfth city. The Biennial is conceived from such conscience and desire to make a metropolis out of São Paulo. Almost 50 years after the building was inaugurated, the resulting exhibit proposes to talk about metropolitan iconographies while forgetting its own function as an icon for modernity, whatever that may imply. It hasn’t thought about its heritage nor its power or responsibility to the city where it belongs. To a lesser or larger degree, the problem seems to spread to all other aspects of the exhibit. To be a show dedicated to the (metro-) polis, it lacks political conscience and the conscience it should have as well regarding its own political role within the city. Supporting this fact is the building’s self-reference, for it is the only and omnipotent exhibit space for the city’s events. Happily, the exhibit sometimes reaches its objectives, mainly in terms of what some of the works and situations confirm as being the event’s own conceptual limitations. With his work Vazadores (Leakages), the Brazilian artist Rubens Mano was able to show this feeling in relationship to the institution. Being one of the artists invited to think about São Paulo, Mano cloned a module of one of the building’s façade corner braces, pointing at both the building’s interior and exterior. There he opened a different door from the official entrance, and placed it at the opposite side in the pavilion. The passage way, which allowed the free and clandestine access to the exhibit, a few days later attracted the media’s attention and forced the Biennial Foundation’s directors to regulate the number of hourly visitors. It’s important to think of this thoroughfare not only as a way of cheating the ticket box office, but also a way to egress the exhibit without having to use the exit determined by the institution. An emergency exit. Finally, after many misunderstandings with the institution on how the piece should

work, Mano himself had to use the emergency exit when Vazadores was disassembled a few weeks before the exhibit closed. Making a more historical reading of the conditions in which the exhibit culminates, we should ask ourselves, regarding the lack of successes, if the institution hadn’t really been resented when faced with all the organizational problems and the power struggle that ensued around its real importance. It’s worthwhile to remember that Alfons Hug accepted the invitation to lead the Biennial a little over a year before it opened. The year 2000 can be remembered as the year the institution went into crisis, and 2001 when it suffered the consequences of celebrating its 50th anniversary. Tackling also the theme of the metropolis, but within Brazil, Biennial 50 Years became a fiasco when it tried to gather artists, designers, and architects under the same roof. The Biennial Foundation’s more recent news, posted in July, said that Hug will also curate the event’s next edition. With a project titled No One’s Land, the curatorship continues the political project developed for the XXV Biennial. Returning the exhibit’s limitations, one can see that the group of segments making up the XXV São Paulo Biennial ends up building a grid of semi-metropolitan, seminational representations, and the hope is that curators should be able to squeeze out the contemporary art that’s produced and disseminated internationally today. The accumulation resulting from those representations in different fields and with different degrees could constitute a sort of statement, a declaration or a question regarding the pertinence of the country’s notions of representation and the use that diplomatic and state organisms give to the culture produced in their respective countries. Meanwhile, at no moment the exhibit provides solid proof of being fully conscious of the complexities surrounding these questions, aside from the mere juxtaposition of different levels of representation which, in themselves,

elevate the level. We can only hope that for future projects, the institution and the self-knowledge of the concepts developed return to the Biennial a complexity that’s up to par with its historical importance.

Translation: Jorge Frisancho Rodrigo Moura Assistant curator at the Museu de Arte da Pampulha, Belo Horizonte. He’s a regular contributor to the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo and other publications. Carla Zaccagnini Brazilian art critic and curator.


ArtNexus Magazine 46, year 2002. pp 150-152

Tempo Museum of Modern Art Queens, NY

Paradoxically, the first exhibit at the Queens Museum of Modern Art is temporary locale deals with time. “Tempo” has a particular significance for two reasons. First, it is the first exhibit curated by Paulo Herkenhoff, MoMA’s adjunct curator. Secondly, it’s an ambitious curatorial effort that pretends to encompass, through philosophical and trans-cultural elucidations, a vast subject matter in contemporary art. The notion of time is perhaps one of the most extensive and prevalent subjects in contemporary art, both as theme and medium (during recent decades), to such a degree that today we have what we call “Time Arts” or

“Temporal Arts.” Tempo helps us map different ways artists have reflected on time, sometimes incorporating dimension into their works. The exhibit is divided into five sections. The first one, titled “Time Collapsed,” gives us examples of artists whose work try to somehow counteract time as the official and regimented parameter. Some examples are Louise Bourgeois’, Cildo Meireles’ and Andrea Zittel’s clocks with their numbers in disarray, or a piece by Martin Creed consisting of 36 aligned metronomes set at different speeds. “Transgressive Bodies,” the second section, recovers, through the works of contemporary artists, the philosophical tenets of thinkers

Adriana Varejão. Tiles, 2000. Plaster on canvas painted in oil; site-specific installation. Variable dimensions. Courtesy: Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York/ Galería Fortes Vilaça, São Paulo.

Martin Creed. Work No. 189, thirty-nine metronomes beating time, one at every speed, 1998. 39 mechanical Malzel metronomes, each 9 x 4 1/2 x 4 1/2 in. (23 x 11,5 x 11,5 cm.). Private collection. Courtesy: Gavin Brown´s enterprise, Corp., New York.


Erwin Wurm. One Minute Sculpture, 1997. C-print. 17 11/16 x 11 13/16 in. (43 x 30 cm.). Courtesy of the artist and Art: Concept, Paris.

like Henri Bergson, who says that time lived cannot be measured with a clock’s arbitrary parameters. The biological clock as counterpoint to the conventional clock is presented with works by Janine Antoni, Pipilotti Rist, and Matthew Barney, all of whom include performance with the utilization of the body. Also present is Erwin Wurn’s “one-minute sculptures,” diverse postures or tableaux vivant where the ephemeral intersects the sculptoric. In “Liquid Time,” the third section, the subject matter concretizes through the metaphor of water. Water as representation of time has been source of inspiration for artists such as Félix Gónzalez Torres, Roni Horn, Adriana Varejão, and Kim Sooja, and they all have works in this section. The fourth part, “Trans-Histories,” is perhaps the one with the most ambitious, complex, and interesting premises of the entire project. It tries to trace the relationship between post-colonial discourse and perceptions of time. Here, the interpretation of time no longer is a philosophical idea, but a cultural memory or a society’s collective history. With artists such as Marc Latamie, Kara Walker, Fatimah Tuggar, and Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, this section could serve as epilogue of this year’s Documenta, where the criticism of history was of great importance. “Mobility/Immobilty,” the fifth section, could be an exhibit in its own right. It’s a return to the abstract



Janine Antoni. Wean, 1990. Plaster. 12 x 38 x 2 in. ( 30,5 x 96,5 x 5,1 cm.). Collection Craig Robins. Courtesy: Luhring Augustine, New York.

reflection on duration of the first section, but in this case it is done through fiction. Here we found Gabriel Orozco’s well-known Caballos corriendo infinitamente (Horses Running Endlessly), 1995, consisting of a chessboard with exaggerated squares and horses of different colors, presenting an unsolvable puzzle of a chess game that can never be finished. In his video Ink on Paper (1999), Ceal Foyer shows a hand with a permanent marker that

Marc Latamie. Casabagas, 2002. Installation with wood shack, sugarcane-juice machine, and video. Variable dimensions. Commissioned by The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

touches a sheet of paper. The circle of the marker’s ink grows imperceptibly throughout the video. And finally, Douglas Gordon’s Monument to X, 1998, shows the image of two persons kissing passionately for 14 hours (although the gallery’s video has been edited down to 14 minutes). Tempo incorporates an enormous variety of works, sub-topics, and counterproposals while being a relatively small space for an exhibit of

this thematic magnitude. With such a classification of the different themes, perhaps its main value is to highlight the enormous importance that time has had, still has, and will have in contemporary art. Its representations are limitless, the same as time.

Translation: Ricardo Armijo

Pablo Helguera


ArtNexus Magazine 47, year 2003. pp 100-102

Rivane Neuenschwander Museu de Arte da Pampulha Belo Horizonte

Sob Medida, 2002. Adhesive vinyl.*


Verónica Cordeiro

he organic minutiae that mark the fortuitous passage of everyday life—the course of ants, accumulated dust, dirt, the imprint of wasp wings, dried tomato seeds, flower petals, seeds, incense burns—gave way to a new poetic vocabulary in Rivane Neuenschwander’s first solo museum exhibition in Brazil. At first glance, following the organic minimalism that characterized her work throughout the ’90s, one might anticipate a less organic and more industrial and urban serial conceptualism. Eight out of the nine works (all from 2002) created especially for this exhibition contain

an element of serial configuration that is a departure from a recent conceptual concern with site-specific work. Apart from any reference to institutional critique, however, the new works are still imbued with the artist’s intimately analyzed repertoire of material repetition, and the innately ephemeral condition of natural existence. Composed mainly of installations, they manifest a new point in Rivane’s artistic trajectory. The intelligence with which this plastic transition materialized and was presented at the Museu de Arte da Pampulha, demonstrated the harmonious understanding of the Museum’s new program that is di-

rected toward the exhibition of work created specifically for this challenging, circular, glass-walled space, and was, to say the least, inspiring. The subjects Rivane explored in the new works included the poignant relationship between her life experience and the circumstances of her local upbringing (Love Lettering); the Museum’s topological context and structure (Chove Chuva [Rain Rains], Continente [Continent], Estudo para Lagoa [Study for a Lake], and Gambiarra [Stagelight/Trap]); the city’s landlocked geography (Imprópria Paisagem [Improper Landscape]); and urban memory, (BH). The artist welcomed collaboration not only in terms of the new curatorial program, by devising an entirely new body of site-specific work, but also with regards to the development of new projects in conjunction with other artists and the inclusion of the participant-turned-spectator in interactive works such as Sob Medida [Under Measure]. For example, she provides an ingenious architectural insight: underneath the distinctive Oscar Niemeyer ramps leading to the second floor of this jewel-box building, originally built in 1942 as a splendorous modernist Casino, a height measure, reminiscent of those drawn in children’s bedroom doorways was designed. By standing at head level against the underside of the ramp the visitor’s height could be read. Gambiarra is another work installed in intimate relationship with the architecture and plays with the visitor’s sense of perception. The title is a Portuguese word meaning both stagelights and “trap”. A light bulb hangs loosely in an oblique, somewhat-hidden corner, illuminating a commonly neglected architectural interface. It is a touch of playful irony perhaps alluding to both the glamorous past of the Casino and, paradoxically, to a subtle intimacy rescued by Rivane from the private to the public sphere. In BH, a series of photographs executed with Cao Guimarães, an artist also based in Belo Horizonte, the lo-


SPOTLIGHT cal spectator had the opportunity to recognize parts of his or her city in the images shot for the creation of an alphabet composed of found letters. These ranged from phone booths to street signs and dispersed litter, including scenes such as an old woman sitting inside a church holding a religious newspaper, which is folded and reveals only the letter “O” of its name; or a package of the Brazilian beer “Skol” crumpled inside a litter bag, concealing all letters with the exception of the last “L”. It is important to note here the social context of the Museum; although not so far from the mainstream art capitals of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, MAP in Belo Horizonte caters mainly to a public with a relatively limited exposure to contemporary art. Thus, for this local community, BH is certainly no less than a cluefinding homage to the modern city. A similar element of image-recognition coupled with a straight reference to the artist’s homeland can be found in Imprópria Paisagem, a series of appropriated seascapes painted by popular painters and friends, which Rivane interfered with by erasing the boats portrayed in the original pictures. These small paintings were displayed side by side on the floor near the entrance, each one facing its own “missing boat”, which was recreated by Rivane with origami-type paper boats. By isolating the object that connects man to the sea, Rivane draws attention to local longing for the distant sea, and perhaps also to the artificial nature of the surrounding “Pampulha” lake. In this respect, showing the paintings on the floor was an ingenious and almost humorous touch. If the region’s lake is artificial, and the walls of the Museum are essentially non-existent, thus these paintings are “hung” on the floor and the boats “float” on concrete. The four works directly related to water were displayed near the entrance of the Museum, and all of them allude to its geographic location and architectural context. Chove Chuva is composed of aluminum

buckets hung from the ceiling and filled with water, simulating the not uncommon precariousness of Brazilian rooftop construction and maintenance: water leakages, especially after storms. The buckets drip water until they empty and have to be filled again, thereby demanding continuous maintenance. An interesting dialogue was established between this work and the larger aluminum basins of Continente, placed inside the small lagoon in the Museum’s front garden. Their “activity” depended on the natural course of the weather as opposed to human interference. On the other hand, the sculptural structure Estudo para Lagoa, betrays a more formal awareness of internal and external topological spaces, as it echoes the shapes of both the Pam-

pulha lake and the grid of columns that supports the building. There was a unique balance in this exhibition between concerns of the private and public spheres; whereas in previous works, the private and the public were often barely distinguishable (accounting for much of the works’ strength), this time the encounter is blunter, and the public also becomes a container or support for the private. If such a notion was explicit in Days Work (1998), exhibited at the XXIV São Paulo Bienal, where modules of self-adhesive tape attracted the dirt and dust of the surrounding atmosphere, in these new works the metaphor is diluted to come closer to the object of its meaning. That is, the distance between form and meaning has been

Chove Chuva, 2002. Aluminum buckets, steel cables, stairway and water.*


Study for Lagoon, 2002. Glass bottles, marble floor, rubber, plastic and pigmented water.*

reduced so that a third identity is extracted from this relationship. Such is the case with Calendário Achado (Julho) (Found Calendar [July]) for example. Here, both the printed bits of paper and receipts picked up from the streets, as well as the 31 aluminum tables, corresponding to each day of the month, where these scraps were displayed, function as public containers of private moments. Rivane seems to awaken the senses to inner life through the serial organization of random material signs, placed in a context akin to the experiences lived (and felt) daily by any person. Love Lettering is perhaps the clearest example of this notion. Also a collaborative work produced with scientist and fellow citizen Sérgio Neuenschwander, this 7-minute digital film brings us into the more nostalgic realm of the artist’s un-

fixed lifestyle. Over the last few years, Rivane has between London, Texas, and Belo Horizonte, and this work reflects the fragmented consequence of a transitory life. She heightens this nostalgia but most importantly, re-contextualizes it within the history of the Casinoturned-Museum, by projecting the film inside the Museum’s dancehall. The translucent, illuminated glass floor sets the stage for a sensual cruise into the spectator’s heart. This journey is made sonorous through the beautifully choreographed fin flapping of red fish, oblivious to the words in whiter paper attached to their tails with special surgical (harmless) glue. The softened primary colors that predominate on the screen and the email-type words isolated at the end of each fish’s tail—love, miss you, saudade, to, from—dancing

in swerves of very slow-motion alongside both the music and silent pauses, were truly moving. *All images illustrating this text are a courtesy of Galería Fortes Vilaça, São Paulo andStephen Friedman Gallery, London.

Verónica cordeiro Artist and writer, lives in São Paulo.

ArtNexus Magazine 47, year 2003. pp 137-138



João Modé Espacio Agora

João Modé’s (Resende, Rio de Janeiro, 1961) first intervention on the building that houses the Agora exhibition space can be seen from any of the nearby corners. A dark-yellow canvas serves as support for a series of delicate line drawings in red, while at the same time playing the part of an improvised tent to cover the entrance to the gallery. Both the material and the way it is tied bring immediately to mind those stalls one finds in any Brazilian city’s street markets. We are protected, even before entering the gallery, by that rectangle of color and by the tree canopies; an orangish light surrounds us, indicating we are entering a differentiated space. If we look up to the tent, instead of forward towards the gallery, we’ll see that the painted, bifurcated lines are joined by the shadows that some nearby branches project on the canvas’ surface. Inside, next to the door (open wide, all the way against the wall), a rawwood catwalk rises some 40 cm above the cement floor on a multitude of stilts. If we climb on the catwalk and advance, listening to the sound of our own steps, it will take us towards the end of the room; part of the show will pass by, softly inaccessible, to our left. The floor underneath is slanted so that near the end it meets the catwalk; at this point we descend and find ourselves right in front of Modé’s third and last intervention on architecture. In an action that is either contrary or complementary to the one he operated on the building’s outside front, here the artist has stripped the fiberglass roof that covered the enclosed patio. The space is thus opened, and the segment of the floor under it is bathed by sunlight and rain and all the natural elements. Modé replaced the gray stones that covered the patio with a darkly colored fertilized soil, and on this ground he placed some lit lamps and papers with drawings that resemble those on the canvas we encountered initially. The artist watered the soil,

and plants started to grow: the patio was transformed into a garden. Several days after the show’s opening, Modé used some birdseed to draw on the ground, and later, after a heavy rain fell, the birdseed germinated and the new plants joined the garden. This is what later visitors found. Early visitors had seen an ice swan swimming in a small white tub on top of the wall that separated the gallery from the garden; the swan melted and became water for the soil. Starting at the unequal cement plane that levels the whole gallery area, we can backtrack and study more comfortably the works we had only passed by before. Threads and fragments of wool, white and colored, hang from the ceiling near the center of the room. Initially, the only clues for the combinations that the visitors built during the show were some braidings and knots, with interventions or adjustments strewn around by the artist. Again, the bifurcating lines repeat the logic of those drawings we saw from above in the garden or from below in the gallery’s front. Here the lines cross space vertically or in intricate diagonals. One final piece waits for us near the exit. A sequence of transparencies, the film unspooled and uncut, extends over a structure that, in turn, backlights it. Leaning on the shelf that supports this sequence of small images, a magnifying glass invites us to see them in more detail, one by one or in pairs. Photographs of clouds, landscapes, peacocks, tree roots bursting through the ground. Beautiful images, magazine clippings, quick glances that in isolation perhaps would not transcend the boundaries of their own simplicity. It is the sequence in which they are presented without fancy effects, as they were seen and recorded, what gives them the power to bring us in and remind us that we all have moments like that, and that we have them often. Upon arriving, color and light; on entering, the suspended catwalk, the direction, the imposed rhythm; towards the back, soil and water and all that results from their encounter; in the middle, lines and the unfinished drawing that incites the hands to search for new solutions; before exiting, the investigation of a narrative in images, and the new meaning we find for

João Modé. Estímulo puro, 2002. Nocturnal view of the garden.

them. At each of this moments, at each of these glances and steps, a new stimulus. Pure stimulus.

Translation: Ricardo Armijo Carla Zaccagnini


ArtNexus Magazine 48, year 2003. pp 70-74

From Latin American Art to Art from Latin America

Wilfredo Prieto. Apolitic, 2001. Black and white flags and flagpoles. Variable dimensions.


Gerardo Mosquera

ulture in Latin America has suffered from a neurosis of identity that is not completely cured, and of which this text forms a part, be it in opposition. I could attest to it when in 1996 I published an article entitled El arte latinoamericano deja de serlo (Latin American Art Ceases to be Latin American Art),1 which provoked strong reactions. Nevertheless, by the end of the 1970s Federico Morais had linked our identity obsession with colonialism, and proposed a “plural, diverse, and multifaceted” idea of the continent,2 a product of its multiplicity of origin. Yet the very notions of Latin America and Iberoamerica have always been very problematic. Do they include the Dutch and Anglo Caribbean? Chicanos? Do they embrace indigenous peoples who often do not even speak European languages? If we recognize the latter as Latin Americans, why do we not do so with indigenous peoples

north of the Rio Grande? Is what we call Latin America part of the West or the non-West? Does this contradict both, emphasizing the schematization of such notions? In any case, today the United States, with more than thirty million inhabitants of “Hispanic” origin, is without doubt one of the most actively Latin American countries. Given the migratory boom and the growth rate of the “Hispanic” population (migration without movement), in a not so distant future, the U.S. may come to have the third largest Spanishspeaking population, after Mexico and Spain. In some stores in Miami there are signs that say “English Spoken.” Nevertheless, just as the idea of Africa is considered by some African intellectuals to be a colonial invention, the idea of Latin America has not yet been discarded.3 The self-consciousness of belonging to a historical-cultural entity misnamed Latin America is maintained, but problematical. Mudimbe’s question, “What is Africa?”4

is increasingly valid if we transfer it to our region. What is Latin America? It is, among other things, an invention that we can reinvent. The generalized continuance of this recognition may appear strange, since we as Latin Americans have always asked ourselves who we really are. It is difficult to know given the multiplicity of components in our ethno-genesis, the complex processes of creolization and hybridization, and the presence of large groups of indigenous peoples who are excluded or only partially integrated into postcolonial nationalities. We have to add the impact of vast immigrations of Europeans and Asians throughout the twentieth century, and the strong emigrations within the continent and toward the United States and Europe, principally in the final part of that century and until today. Such an intricate plot is further complicated by a very early colonial history, somewhere between the medieval and renaissance eras, with, from the outset, a permanent and massive settlement of Iberians and Africans. At the same time, and as a result of the pressure to enhance or to build identities of resistance in the face of Europe and United States, we have been inclined to define a Latin American self by means of all-encompassing generalizations, which have coexisted with the fragmentation imposed by nationalisms. There are many answers to the question, perhaps not yet well outlined, of whether we are Western or not, African or not. Our labyrinths have confused or intoxicated us. We are now beginning to situate ourselves more within the fragment, juxtaposition, and collage, accepting our diversity at the same time as our contradictions. The danger is that of coining, against modernist totalizations, a postmodern cliché of Latin America as a realm of heterogeneity.5 On the other hand, pluralism can become a prison with-



One could outline a historical perspective that runs perhaps from “provincial European art” to “derivative art” to “Latin American art” to “art in Latin America” to “art from Latin America.” I do not refer to the character of this production in different historical moments, but to the prevalent epistemologies. The last of these terms emphasizes on the active participation of art in “international” circuits and languages. out walls. Borges told the story of the best labyrinth: the immensurable amplitude of the desert, from which it is difficult to escape. Pluralism in the abstract, or controlled by the selfdecentralized centers, may weave a labyrinth of indetermination that limits the possibilities of a socially and culturally active diversification. Borges can perhaps offer us another key: upon conclusion of the obligation of drawing each and every one of our diversities, perhaps only a portrait of each draftsman will appear. Another trap is the assumption that Latin American art is simply derivative of the Western centers, without considering its complicated relationship in the more and more problematic notion of West. Frequently the works are not even looked at: passports are requested beforehand, and baggage is checked under the suspicion of contraband from New York, London, or Berlin. Often the passports are not in order since they respond to processes of hybridization and appropriation, the result of a long and multifaceted postcolonial situation. Their pages appear full of the re-significations, reinventions, “contaminations”6 and “incorrections”7 that have been in evidence from the times of baroque art—yet more so in our own epoch, which is marked by so much cultural transformation and the hybridization in which complex re-adaptations of identities occur while borders mutate and become porous. The new fascination for alteration is specific to the “global” fad, and has permitted greater circulation and legitimization of art from the peripheries. But all too often only those works that explicitly manifest difference or satisfy expectations of exoticism are legitimated. As a result, some artists are inclined towards “otherizing” themselves, in a paradox of self-exoticism, which becomes increas-

ingly indirect and sophisticated. The paradox is still more apparent if we ask ourselves why the “Other” is always ourselves, never them. Self-exoticism reveals a hegemonic structure, but also the passivity of the artist, of being complacent at all costs, or at most indicates a scant initiative. Moreover, this has been perpetrated by local positions that confront foreign intrusion. I refer to nationalist mythologies where a traditionalist cult of the “roots” is expressed, supposedly protecting against foreign interferences, and the romantic idealization of conventions about history and the values of the nation. Frequently nationalistic folklorism is to a large extent used or manipulated by power to rhetoricize a so-called integrated, participative nation. In this way the real exclusion of popular strata, especially that of indigenous peoples, is disguised. This situation thus circumscribes art within ghettoized parameters of circulation, publication, and consumption that immediately limit its possibilities of diffusion and legitimacy and reduce it to predetermined fields. When I said that Latin American art was ceasing to be Latin American art, I was referring to two processes that I observe on the continent. One is located in the sphere of artistic production, and the other in that of circulation and reception. On the one hand, there is the internal process of overcoming the neurosis of identity among artists, critics, and curators. This brings with it a tranquility that permits greater internalization in artistic discourse. On the other hand, Latin American art is beginning to be valued as an art without surnames. Instead of demanding that it declare its identity, art from Latin America is now being recognized more and more as a participant in a general practice that does not by necessity show its context, and that on occasion

refers to art itself. This corresponds to the increase of new international circuits that are slowly overcoming the pseudo-internationalism of the mainstream. The consolidation of this “third” scene is part and parcel of the processes of globalization. In this way, artists from Latin America, like those of Africa or Southeast Asia, have begun, slowly and yet increasingly, to exhibit, publish, and exercise influence outside of ghettoized circuits. As a result of this, many prejudices are confronted Jorge Macchi. Intimacy, 2001. Installation. 74 3/4 x 11 3/4 x 3 in. (190 x 30 x 8 cm.). Courtesy: Galería Luisa Strina.


Priscilla Monge. Pensum, 1999-2000. Installation. Blackboard and white chalk. Variable dimensions. Work presented during ARCO Madrid, Spain, 2002. Courtesy: Jacob Karpio Gallery.

and everybody wins, not only those circles with less access to international networks. However, new problems have emerged, characteristic of a period of transition. If the danger of selfexoticism in response to the expectation of “primitivism” and difference exists, its opposites also exist: abstract cosmopolitanism that flattens out differences, and the mimetic “internationalism” that forces the appropriation of a type of international postmodern language, much like an “English of art” that functions like the lingua franca of the increasingly numerous biennales and international exhibitions.8 The fact that artists from all corners of the globe now exhibit internationally only signifies a quantitative internationalization. The question remains: to what extent are the artists contributing to transformation of the hegemonic and restrictive status quo in favor of true diversification, instead of being managed by it? The Brazilian modernists used the metaphor of antropofagia in order to legitimize their critical appropriation of European artistic tendencies, a procedure characteristic of postcolonial art. But we must qualify this process to break with connotations that make the battle that this relationship implicitly carries—of who swallows whom—transparent. The question in its entirety is more complex. Take the case of a good part

of Brazilian art. One could describe the principal tendency in its practice to be the development of a neo-concrete, post minimal inclination, directed towards a mainstream without a local base or an interest in popular culture. But, as the critic Paulo Emilio Sales Gómez caricatured it, the good fortune of Brazilians is that they copied badly,9 creating a particular way of speaking the “international language.” However polemic it may be, Sales Gómez’s schematization is rich in meanings. If Brazilian art, like the mistaken dove of Rafael Alberti, desired to go north but went south, in the end it is less about disorientation than de-orientation. Such a dynamic has allowed Brazilian artists a highly original participation within an “international” post-minimal, conceptual tendency. They have charged it with an expressivity that is almost existential, shattering a prevailing, tedious coldness, and have introduced sophistication into the material itself and at the same time a human proximity towards it. They have diversified, made more complex and yet subverted the practice of this “international language.” The personality of this antisamba aesthetic is not produced—as frequently occurs among Caribbeans and Andinos—through representations or important activation of vernacular culture, but rather through a specific manner of making contemporary art. It is an identity disinterested in “identity,”

an identity through action, not through representation. By virtue of the characteristics of an early colonization that Europeanized this vast area, the culture of Latin America, and especially that of the visual arts, has frequently played on the rebound. That is to say, artists have returned the balls that arrived from the North, appropriating hegemonic tendencies and thus turning them into their own individual creativities within the complexity of their context. Critical discourses have emphasized such strategies of re-signification, transformation, and syncretism in order to confront the constant accusation of being copycats and derivatives that, not without reason, we have suffered from (in fact, only the Japanese surpass us in the art of copying). Postmodernity, with its discrediting of originality and its validation of the copy has been of great help to us. But equally plausible would be the displacements of focus that would recognize how Latin American art has enriched the framework of the “international” from within. For example, José Clemente Orozco is always analyzed within the context of Mexican muralism. It would be much more productive to see him as one of the key figures of Expressionism, as he is without doubt. Although Wifredo Lam is considered to have introduced specific elements of African origin to Surrealism, only recently has he been recognized for having used modernism as a space for the expression of African-Caribbean content, thus affirming an anti-hegemonic position. It is problematic that dominant centers always get the kick-off. One cannot continually move in the same North-South direction according to the dominant power structure. No matter how valid a different and opposing trans-cultural strategy might be within the dominant structure, it implicates a perennial condition of response that reproduces this hegemony. This stands even if it contests this structure and still manages to take advantage of it much in the manner of the martial arts in which, without the use of their arms, contenders avail themselves of the strength of a more powerful opponent. It is equally neces-


sary to invert the direction of the current, not by reversing a binary scheme of transference but rather by contributing to pluralization in order to enrich and transform the existing situation. A horizontal, South-South volley would also be welcome, tending toward the development of a truly global network of interactions on all sides. Cultural exchanges within globalization still appear to be laid out from the centers in a radial schema, with insufficient connections. A structure of axial globalization with its zones of silence, designs economic, political, and cultural circuits that macroconform the entire planet. Globalization has speeded up and pluralized cultural circulation, but has done so following the structure of the economy, reproducing in a certain measure its structures of power. Hence the difficulty of achieving the modifications in the flows to which I have referred, since the currents usually move according to where the money is. Fortunately, the processes of internationalization that globalization has triggered appear to lead us gradually toward a more fluid cultural interaction. We are living through a slippery moment of transition, a post-utopian epoch that seeks changes within existing structures rather than changing the structures themselves. When I stated that the best thing that was happening to Latin American art was that it was ceasing to be Latin American art, I was also referring to the problematic totalization that the term carries. Some writers prefer to speak of “art in Latin America” instead of “Latin American art,” as a de-emphasizing convention that tries to underline, on the very level of language, its rejection of the suspicious construction of an integral, emblematic Latin America, and beyond this, of any globalizing generalization. To stop being “Latin American art” means to distance oneself from a simplified notion of art in Latin America and to highlight the extraordinary variety of symbolic production on the continent. Art in Latin America has been intermittently displacing the paradigms that had guided its practice and valuation. These paradigms were related to certain generalizations that are still recognized

as depictions of a slippery Latin American cultural identity, or of some regions in particular: magic realism, the marvelous (both related to the surrealist proclamation about Latin America made by André Breton in Mexico), mestizaje (miscegenation), the baroque, the constructive impulse, revolutionary discourse, etc. These categories, however justified, served the efforts of “resistance” against “imperialist” cultural penetration. They had a notable rise in the 1960s within a militant Latin Americanism that was characteristic of the historical period marked by the Cuban Revolution and guerrilla movements. However, those ideologies came to over-construct the categories with a totalizing effect, so that they became stereotypes for the outside gaze. To speak of magic realism or miscegenation as global etiquettes today sounds almost like an El Zorro movie. Latin America has participated in the global development of what we could schematize as a minimal and conceptual “international, postmodern language.” But to a considerable extent it has done so in its own manner, and by introducing differences. Many artists work as much “toward the inside” as “toward the outside” of the art, using post-conceptual resources in order to integrate the aesthetic, the social, the cultural, the historic, and the religious without sacrificing specific artistic research. We might say that in reality they are empowering artistic discourse by taking it into new territories and expanding its capacity for dense and refined meaning. These artists are

strengthening the analytic and linguistic tools of post conceptualism in order to struggle with the complexity of society and culture in Latin America, where multiplicity, hybridization, and contrasts have introduced contradictions as well as subtleties. This plan contradicts a certain “militant” tradition of Latin American art, in favor of another very different tradition of fluidity and complexity in the manner in which the culture of the continent has actively dealt with the social problem. The former operates with greater clarity on the plane of the signified than on that of its signifiers and is in keeping with contemporary practices in other peripheral areas. Moreover, it has to do with a projection that is more individual and derivative of the artist himself, than with any partisanship or militant sense that places art in a position subordinate to political and social discourses that tend to endow art with a merely illustrative function. This difference in terms of meaning is one of the changes enacted with respect to the totalizing paradigms to Doris Salcedo. Untitled, 2001. Wood, concrete, glass, fabric and steel. 80 x 67 x 50 in. (203,5 x 170 x 120 cm.). Courtesy: Alexander and Bonin, New York and White Cube, London.


Waltercio Caldas. Yellow ( ), 2002. Stainless steel, vynil and enamel. 24 x 36 1/2 x 6 in. (60 x 93 x 15 cm.). Courtesy: Christopher Grimes Gallery.

which I have referred; such paradigms procured a characteristically Latin American language right from the start. These new artists seem less interested in showing their passport. Cultural components act more within the context of discourse than visually, even in cases in which these were based upon the vernacular. This does not mean that there is no Latin American look in the work of numerous artists, or even that one cannot point to certain identifying traits of some countries or areas. What is crucial is the fact that these identities begin to manifest themselves more by their features as an artistic practice than by their use of identifying elements taken from folklore, religion, the physical environment, or history. This development implies the presence of the context and of culture understood in its broadest meaning, and internalized in the very manner of constructing works or discourses. But it also implies praxis of art itself, insofar as art establishes identifiable constants by delineating cultural typologies in the very process of making art, rather than merely accentuating cultural factors interjected into it. Thus, much Brazilian art is identifiable more by the manner in which it refers to ways of making art than just projecting contexts. To emphasize the practice of art as the creator of cultural difference confronts the orientation of modernist discourses in Latin America. These tended to accentuate a contrary direction, that is to say, the manner in which

Glenda Orta. Choosing Simultaneity, 2002. Televisions placed on building windows.

art corresponded to an already given national culture. Artists worked, to a certain extent, to legitimize themselves within the framework of a prevailing nationalism to which they contributed. Beyond this confrontation, context is a basic factor in the works of the artists who have established a new perspective that, more than representing contexts, constructs works from them. Physical and cultural identities and social environments are performed more than being merely represented. They are in fact identities and contexts concurrent in the “international” meta-language of the arts and in the discussion of contemporary global themes. In a departure from the previous discussion, one could outline a historical perspective that runs perhaps from “provincial European art” to “derivative art” to “Latin American art” to “art in Latin America” to “art from Latin America.” I do not refer to the character of this production in different historical moments, but to the prevalent epistemologies. The last of these terms emphasizes the active participation of art in “international” circuits and languages.10 It refers to an intervention that brings with it anti-homogenizing differences and its legitimization within the “international”11 arena. That is to say, it identifies the construction of the global from the position of difference, underlining the appearance of new cultural subjects in an international arena that until recently was under lock and chain. We

cannot say that this arena is now open, but that it does have more doors, and that these can be opened with different kinds of keys. Notes 1. Gerardo Mosquera, “El arte latinoamericano deja de serlo,” ARCO Latino, Madrid, 1996, pp 7-10. 2. Frederico Morais, Las Artes Plásticas en la América Latina: del Trance a lo Transitorio, Casa de las Américas, Havana, [1979] 1990, pp 4-5. 3. Olu Oguibe, “In the Heart of Darkness,” Third Text, no. 23, Summer 1993, pp 3-8. 4. V.Y.Mudimbe, The Invention of Africa, (Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis), 1988. 5. Mónica Amor, “Cartographies: Exploring the Limitations of a Curatorial Paradigm,” Beyond the Fantastic. Contemporary Art Criticism from Latin America, ed. Gerardo Mosquera, (Institute of International Visual Arts, London/MIT Press, Cambridge), 1995. 6. Jean Fisher, “Editorial: Some Thoughts on ‘Contaminations,’” Third Text, London, no. 32, Autumn 1995, pp 3-7. 7. Boris Bernstein, “Algunas consideraciones en relación con el problema ‘arte y etnos,’” Criterios, Havana, nos. 5-12, January 1983-December 1984, p 267. 8. Gerardo Mosquera, “¿Lenguaje internacional?” Lápiz, Madrid, no. 121, April 1996, pp 12-15. 9. Ana Maria de Moraes Belluzzo in conversation with the author. 10. Thus the subtitle of my anthology from 1995. 11. The insistence of quotation marks stresses the reductive meaning within which it is still appropriate to use this term. Translation: Michèle Faguet

Gerardo Mosquera Cuban art historian, curator and critic. He currently works as curator for the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York.


ArtNexus Magazine 48, year 2003. pp 76-79

Helio Oiticica and Neville D´Almeida. Block Experiments in Cosmococa, Trashiscapes, 1973. View of the installation Quasi Cinemas, 2002. New Museum of Contemporary Art.

Helio Oiticica

Quasi-Cinemas Environments Oiticica’s pieces in the exhibition at the New Museum seem to extend the ideas and aesthetic of his work of the sixties, merging these, however, with more private and autobiographical concerns. The more ambitious pieces, mostly from 1973, are big environments where the public is invited to play with balloons or to lie down in hammocks while listening to sound tracks and viewing slides projected on the walls.


Luis Camnitzer

he New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York presents a first viewing of Hélio Oiticica’s Quasi-Cinemas environments, including some “Cosmococa” pieces.1 Produced in the 1970s during his nearly ten year sojourn in New York, the pieces continue Oiticica’s exploration of body and space, and body in space. Added to the echoes of the sixties’ drug culture are new elements suggestive of the influence of U.S. filmmaker Jack Smith. In fact, the title of the works is a reference Oiticica once made to a slide-sound performance by Smith. Though the works here are dated, they are endearing because they elicit a sense of nostalgia, but mostly, their importance lies in the fact that they complete the history and image of Oiticica as a frontier-breaking artist. Oiticica (1937–1980) is a preeminent figure in Latin American art, not only because of his influence, both during

his life and after his premature death, but also for the strange way in which very different traditions converge in his work. He started from a rarified constructivist aesthetic, but even as he inserted himself seamlessly into Brazilian high culture, he nevertheless managed to breakdown barriers between “high” and “low” culture, between art and everyday life. Like Lygia Clark (1920-1988), an artist so close to him in interests and spirit that the work of each of them can sometimes only be understood in reference to the work of the other, Oiticica inherits the twin legacies of Brazilian constructivism and Concrete poetry. But also like Clark, he rebels against them. In 1959, poet and art critic Ferreira Gullar formed the group of the “Neo-Concretes” that aimed at a renewal of the Brazilian Concrete poetry movement. Both Oiticica and Clark joined and became part of the visual arts counterpart to the poetic production.2 Ferreira Gullar, a former contributor to the early issues of Noigandres magazine, the publication of the Brazilian concrete poets, became increasingly critical of the excessively mathematical and graphic foundation of his colleagues. “Rationalism robs the autonomy of art,” he wrote, and he proceeded to embrace the non-object as a subject, and to advocate a nationality of language. The “Neo-Concretes” thus started with a manifesto in which they attacked the rationalism of the Concrete movement and, in opposition to “Pavlovian mechanisms,” advocated the re-introduction of expression. Much later, in words that illuminate Oiticica’s thinking, Gullar described his poetic process as follows: I ended disintegrating the discourse and reducing words to obscure conglomerations of phonemes and screams in an attempt to find a less abstract, non-conceptual, non-manipulated language as close as possible to the sensorial experience of the world... After that came the concrete, neoconcrete and, finally, my commitment to political poetry when Brazil was agitated in the turmoil of struggle for social reform.3


EXHIBITION Though less politically explicit than Gullar’s work, Oiticica’s production has the same aesthetic goals. According to Gullar, the non-object, an ill-defined entity, was to be “pure appearance,” but also “transparent to perception, . . . waiting for a human gesture to be actualized.” 4 Following the path of Dada, painting was declared dead and the non-object was neither to have any verbal significance, nor be referenced to any possible use. “[It] is not a representation, but a concrete presence perceived on the world’s real space and not on the metaphorical background of abstract expression.” “Without a spectator the work exists only as potentiality, awaiting the human gesture that actualizes it.”5 But there was another important ingredient in Ferreira Gullar’s thought that was important for both Clark and Oiticica—a turn towards a body-ness: “We do not conceive the work of art either as a ‘machine’ or as an ‘object,’ rather as a quasi-corpus, that is, one whose qualities are drained in external relations.”6 Concrete and Neo-Concrete poetry movements had a strong impact on Brazilian visual artists, those who went into the direction of performance, as well as those integrated the use of language into their art. Neo-Concretism, much more interdisciplinary than the previous movements, generated performances and environments for which both Clark and Oiticica were crucial. Both had been inspired by Malevich and Mondrian when they first started out in the fifties, and both became the most prominent representative figures of the passage between media. While the break with constructivist formalism in the work of Oiticica and Clark becomes clear when their own bodies and life experiences come to the fore in the 1960s, it is easy to see today that even before their “Neo-Concrete” period Oiticica and Clark were not really orthodox constructivists. British art critic Guy Brett quotes a revealing statement by Oiticica prompted by Malevich’s painting, White on White (1918): “The drive towards absolute

plasticity and suprematism are drives (sic) towards life, and they lead us to take our BODY (to discover it) as [life’s] first probe.”7 Many of Oiticica’s constructivist works, while rigorous in their geometry, hang in positions that only make sense with reference to an interaction with the viewer and so cannot be taken as the product of pure research into rationality. Both Oiticica and Clark seem to have adopted ultra-rationalist imagery to mesh rationality with subterranean forces they consider much more fundamental. In that sense, their work reminds one of the way practitioners of Santería used Catholic saints: changing form by the attribution of meanings. The disguise offers a protection from contamination. In this constructivist period, the work of both artists seems to inhabit a space between hedonism and magic. The work is not presented for the viewer, but happens with the viewer.8 By the mid-sixties both Clark and Oiticica had allowed the body to completely displace geometry. Oiticica became the lead dancer of the Mangueira School of Samba (Carnival of 1964), an activity and experience that shaped his subsequent works, including the quasicinemas. Meanwhile, Clark shifted to an aesthetic form of psychodrama and therapy, and her objects (as far as that word still applied) became props for interaction. A collaborative piece, Dialogue of Hands (1966) sums up their respective evolutions. In it, two hands (one of each) are held together by an elastic Moebius strip (as an homage to Max Bill’s constructivist sculpture) and take on the appearance of a frozen dance.9 Paradoxically, even while honoring him, this piece also emphatically contradicted Max Bill’s principle of strict rationality. Rather it illustrated, and recycled, Brazilian poet Oswald de Andrade’s “antropophagic” arguments made in the 1920s about the digestion and reutilization of other cultures. In their hands, the Moebius strip ceased to serve as a math-

Helio Oiticica and Neville D´Almeida. Marilyn, 1973. Detail of the installation Quasi Cinemas, 2002. Courtesy: Project Helio Oiticica and Neville D´Almeida. New Museum of Contemporary Art.

Helio Oiticica and Neville D´Almeida. Marilyn, 1973. View of the installation Quasi Cinemas, 2002. Courtesy: Project Helio Oiticica and Neville D´Almeida. New Museum of Contemporary Art.

Helio Oiticica and Neville D´Almeida. Block Experiments in Cosmococa, Trashiscapes, 1973. Detail of the installation Quasi Cinemas, 2002. Projection of a series of slides, 40 mattresses, 40 pillows, nail files.



ematical symbol, becoming instead an emotive, even irrational space, suggesting a circulation without end, a linking without links. These are points Oiticica would pursue in subsequent installations. Oiticica’s involvement with the School of Samba, led him to design a specific form of costume—capes— that he named and made famous as Parangolés. They were to him what Merz was to Schwitters: a supple word with many possible connections, which he invested with very private meanings (one of which was “messy situation”). Combining these garments with his neo-concrete spatial productions led to Oiticica’s next step: the construction of tents and environments that involved the public in active participation in the production. This activity reached one of its peaks with Tropicália, an installation in the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro in 1967 that gave its name to the subsequent arts movement involving musical luminaries like Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, and Maria Bethania.10 The savage dictatorship Brazil endured after 1964 led to the questioning of the paradigms of the establishment. Many of the Tropicália musicians were jailed or were forced into exile, and under the new circumstances there was ambivalence about circulating art

through the traditional channels. In 1966, Oiticica summed this up writing: Anti-art, in which the artist understands his/her position not any longer as a creator of contemplation, but as an instigator of creation... There is such a freedom of means that the very act of not creating already counts as a creative manifestation. An ethical necessity of another kind comes into being here... since its means are realized through the word, written or spoken... This is the social manifestation, incorporating an ethical (as well as political) position [s], which come together as manifestations of individual behavior. [This position] is against everything that is oppressive, socially and individually—all the fixed and decadent forms of government, or reigning social structures... it is the retaking of confidence by the individual in his or her intuitions and most precious aspirations.11 Oiticica’s pieces in the exhibition at the New Museum seem to extend the ideas and aesthetic of his work of the sixties, merging these, however, with more private and autobiographical concerns. The more ambitious pieces, mostly from 1973, are big environments where the public is invited to play with balloons or to lie down in hammocks while listening to sound tracks and viewing slides projected on

Helio Oiticica. Photo: Ivan Cardoso. New Museum of Contemporary Art.

the walls. These environments mostly reflect attitudes made fashionable in the 1960s in the United States through hippy culture and the Esalen Institute. Emphasis is placed on the therapeutic significance of the touch/feel experience, on disco ambience, and on the use of “recreational” drugs. An attempt is made to induce an experience in the visitors comparable to a “high.” Varying with the piece, the slides offer images of gay friends (Neyrótika, 1973), or of his heroes Marilyn Monroe, Jimmy Hendrix, and The Rolling Stones (Block Experiments in Cosmococa, 1973). Unfortunately, even at the time these pieces were produced, they offered little in the way of aesthetic or political innovation. Thanks in part to Oiticica’s own work, the groundbreaking changes in installation format had already been made in the preceding decade, as had the breakthroughs associated with independent filmmaking—in Brazil with Glauber Rocha; in the United States with the Mekas brothers and those sponsored by them, including Andy Warhol. The mix of installation with slides therefore seems, by Oiticica standards, a bit timid in terms of art development. Their deeper meaning lies in the more personal and intimate exploration in which the visitor is invited to share. Oiticica’s environments were done with the help of filmmaker Neville D’Almeida, who is amp l y cr e di t e d a s a co l l a b or a t or . Beyond technical considerations, however, the pieces seem to owe their character and force mostly to Oiticica himself rather than reflecting teamwork. Oiticica’s presence is so strong, in fact, that even though the viewer is called on to participate, he or she cannot help but feel like an intruding voyeur. Historical distance accentuates that feeling. In the New Museum show, the strongest images are those that have coke-drawings, where he carefully outlines the features of his most admired characters with white powdered lines. But today, the drug scene, partly because of greater scientific knowledge but also due to changes in social at-


Helio Oiticica. Neyrotika, 1973. Slide series from the Quasi Cinemas installation at the Wexner Center for the Arts. Project Helio Oiticica, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

titudes, appears much less benign than it seemed several decades ago. One cannot help being reminded that Oiticica died prematurely and that no explanation for his heart failure was ever given. During the early 1960s, Oiticica had worked on small poetical environments he called Bólides (meteors or fire balls). The objects and situations were modest in their presence and inspired a feeling of intimacy and shared private knowledge. More than the production of artifacts, the pieces were acts of reversal. He was subverting the traditional concept of art, in which the art object is conceived as permanently housing an artistic essence. In the Bolides, the object was a provisional resting place or transient container; the “essence” (whatever that might be) was in the human interrelationship with the viewer, the object being left behind as an empty shell. The Bólides are best described as small poetry environments, as effective today as they were in the time they were made, because though unassuming they are rich in evocations. The Bólides start by looking like one-liners and then become large with complexity and reverberations. With the Quasi-Cinemas at the New Museum, this trajectory seems reversed. The Quasi-Cinemas installations are initially experienced as complex, but in the end, the work leaves the impression of being smaller than at first glimpse. Drawn to feel closer to

Helio Oiticica. Neyrotika, 1973. Slide series from the Quasi Cinemas installation at the Wexner Center for the Arts. Project Helio Oiticica, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

the artist—an interesting experience in itself, we are also distanced.

Notes 1. “Hélio Oiticica: Quasi-Cinemas,” The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, July 26–October 13, 2002, curated by Carlos Basualdo. 2. The neo-concrete manifesto was signed by Amilcar de Castro, Ligia Pape, Lygia Clark, Reinaldo Jardim, and Theon Spanudis. 3. “Ferreira Gullar por él mismo,” in El País Cultural, No. 295, 1995, Montevideo, p.5. 4. Ferreira Gullar, “La Teoría del No-Objeto,” cited in Clemente Padín, “Las vertientes del concretismo,” La Revista del Sur, No. 11, March 1986, Malmö, p. 22. 5. Ferreira Gullar, “La teoría del No-Objeto,” in O DOS, No. 1, 1982–1983, p.21. 6. Ferreira Gullar, “Manifesto Neoconcreto,” Jornal do Brasil, 22 March 1959, reprinted in Continente Sul Sur, No. 6, pp. 115–120. 7. Guy Brett “Lygia Clark and Helio Oiticica,” Latin American Artists of the Twentieth Century, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1992, p.101. The quote is not dated. Also, while at first sight Clark’s classic series of the “Bichos” (“Creatures” or “Animals”) seem to be just geometric plays and a consequence of Bauhaus and Ulm School of Design formalist guidelines, at closer reading, they impress as organic beings. Though reincarnated in metallic origami, the sculptures remain sensually alive. The use of the title becomes extremely important both as an explanation of intention and as a way of breathing life into the sculptures. 8. In that sense their work seems more connected with the tenets of the Uruguayan/Argentinean group Madi than with European constructivism. According to artist and historian Mario Sagradini, one of three Madi members, Arden Quin, had visited and been in contact with the Brazilian concrete poets. 9. The Moebius strip had been popularized in Brazil thanks to the work of Max Bill and thus became a fitting homage to what seemed to be their formalist past. Max Bill had won the Grand Prize in the first Biennial of São Paulo in 1951, immediately

becoming an influential figure in Brazil. With his fame, the ideas of the Hochschule für Gestaltung (School of Design) in Ulm, which he had founded and initially directed, also became influential. This, in turn, brought to Brazil the ideas of another member of the Ulm faculty, the philosopher Max Bense, who emphasized the rationalization of the analysis of forms. 10. In music, it was an attempt to find an alternative to Bossa Nova by going back to the “Antropofagia” ideas of the 1920s and opening up to samba, indigenous music, Jimmy Hendrix, and The Beatles. 11. Hélio Oiticica, “Position and Program,” Hélio Oiticica, July 1966, pp.100-103.

*Edited by Selby Hickey.

Luis Camnitzer Emeritus Professor at the SUNY College, Old Westbury.


ArtNexus Magazine 50, year 2003. pp 52-56

Valeska Soares Pure Theatre, 2003. Installation at Bosque de Chapultepec. Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Rufino Tamayo, México.

Sculptures That Feel Like the statue in Borges’s bestiary, the meanings of Valeska Soares’s sculptures multiply from their very constitution, being open to the viewer’s own interpretation. This is a kind of sculpture that at times seems not only to breathe, but to feel.


Rodrigo Moura

n her recent exhibition at Museo Tamayo, Valeska Soares (Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 1957; Soares currently lives and works in New York) returned to two of the most significant themes in her recent production: gardens and mirrors. Soares was invited to inaugurate the intersticios program of site-specific works in the forest that surrounds the museum, and attentive to the demands of space and situation, she chose an area that, as she put it, “wanted this piece.”(1). The artist used reflective acrylic sheets to build a “lake” nearly forty meters in diameter. Her site was a clearing in the woods from which a path ran to one of the museum’s glass doors —which in

turn reflected the architectural space of the building’s façade, and formed the entrance to the work. During the rainy season, a giant puddle forms in this clearing, and this became Soares’s guiding concept. The lake’s amoebalike shape was dictated by the outline defined by the trees themselves. It creates a new element in the landscape which to a large degree adds a touch of artificiality to the found situation, and as part of it creates this new and temporary piece. A more dramatic element based on different specificity—in this case, Mexican culture—is added to the “ambient” character of this project. A small glass arbor was built in one of the lake’s extremes, and inside this arbor a large cake was hidden;


the cake had the measurements and characteristics of a bed. The gigantic dessert was specially-ordered by the artist from one of Mexico City’s most traditional pastry shops, Pastelería Ideal; its entire preparation and baking was supervised by Soares, who also intends to publish a series of works using her record of the process. The use of such iconography refers to cultural celebrations and to Mexican women’s initiation rituals, such as the Quinceañera or the traditional wedding. The bed was hyper-realistically rendered, with sugar capitonées, pillows, and borders. Its presence within the glass bubble contributed a disturbing element to the piece introducing a bed on which no one can lie, and a bed-cake that no one can eat—and would only be seen through the glass. The work’s ephemeral profile denotes, in that fleeting consciousness, a hybrid form that borrows material and spiritual elements from both objects in order to fuse them into a third one, without a clearly defined material status. Perhaps its fate is to become food for the garden’s ants, in the manner of Untitled, “Preserve”, a 1991 sculpture by Soares, made with red roses wrapped in cotton that with time rotted away and were eaten by insects. We see it not only as a human construction invented for the purpose of containing nature and representing the landscape, but also as an autonomous microcosm, its relationships of scale altered to accommodate insects. This disarticulation brings us to the concept of antropofugismo(2). Titled Pure Theatre, in reference to a song by the popular Cuban singer La Lupe, Soares’s installation assumes its dramatic character as a psychological experience for the viewer. Its element of fiction, its dream-like, clearly fantastic quality, nevertheless possesses undeniably realistic connotations. The viewer, transported initially towards the dream-like structure evoked by the repertoire of images, engages in a real experience with the apparatus installed around the museum. The reflecting surface becomes a large field of narcissistic possibilities for

the viewer, who is able to walk barefoot on the piece and can find novel ways to interact with it. Its nature as museum object brings also to mind the historical use of those spaces in art. As the critic Cuahutémoc Medina has noted in his review of this show, “Is it impossible to teach the public that spaces are not doomed to serve as a platform for hypocritical civics lectures or for the pseudomodernist phallocentrism of the sculptors’ guild?”(3) II Mirrors, optical apparatuses that are also symbols of human vanity, enter Valeska Soares’s art as part of different strategies and they represent a variety of roles, always while working as allies (be it material or conceptual) in the creation of fictions that correspond to the work’s concept. These are fragmentary, nonlinear fictional narratives. As in the Mexican lake, the interplay of reality and fiction (between what the viewer sees and experiences and what supports these two actions, be it fiction, desire, or thought) is central to the functioning of any Soares piece. Last year, for her show at the Fortes Villaça gallery in São Paulo, Soares created an installation based on a story by Italo Calvino, “Cities and Desires 5,” from Invisible Cities. (4) Zobeide, the city described in the

story, is the materialization of a dream shared by many men: a woman runs through the city, they pursue her, she escapes. Incapable of catching up with her in the dream, the men build a city identical to the one in the dream, but with walls to enclose her. However, “none of them, either asleep or awake, saw the woman again.”(5) Soares’s 2002 installation Détour may be considered a translation of the same original short story into another language, as for example, the notion of inter-semiotic translation used in literary criticism. The artist turned the hall into a semi-circular mirror, so that the viewer’s image was repeated in the intersection of the different angles, and the viewer confronted the photographic image in a sequence of arches. The audio was created with five tapes that reproduce simultaneous versions of the same story by different storytellers, who were invited to tell the story of Zobeide from memory. The work articulated presence and absence, dream and reality, memory and fact, and created “a cycle of desire and forgetting.”(6) Finally, Soares finds in Calvino’s narrative an opposition between attraction and aversion, also marks of her own narratives: “Recent arrivals couldn’t understand what attracted people to Zobeide, an ugly city, a lie.”(7) Her own work Untitled (From Strangelove) was a 1996 installation created for the Lumeiar Sculpture

Untitled (from Picturing Paradise), 2001. Color photograph. Edition of 4. 30 x 40 in. (76,2 x 101,6 cm.).


Garden, which comprised sixteen birdbaths in glass and lead hung from the ceiling and filled with wine and poison. The use of mirrors and the appropriation of Calvino’s narrative universe were already a part of the project Soares created for InSite 2000, Picturing Paradise (2000). The artist adapted an original project to a site on the Mexican–U.S. border where a circular area extends the border into both territories. At each side of the border she erected large sheets of reflecting stainless steel. These “mirrors” widened our view of one side, creating the impression that both countries

overlap, and thus through illusion her work expanded the border. Moving closer to the mirror, the viewer found his or her own image and a quote from Calvino, which reinforced the impossible transposition of signals. Soares has said, “And of course, what you are actually seeing is the same side that you are on, reflected from another space that you cannot cross into.”(8) In that project, the reference is to Valdrada, another of Calvino’s invisible cities built on a lake that both reflects it and acts as its double. Soares uses this text to comment on the relationship between San Diego and Tijuana. “Sometimes the mirror increases the

Untitled (from Vanishing Point), 1998. Cast bees wax and aluminum. Variable dimensions.*

Tonight, 2002. Video installation with DVD projection. 7 minutes, 54 seconds in loop. Edition of 3. Museo de Arte de Pampulha, Belo Horizonte.

value of things. Sometimes, it cancels it. . . . The two Valdradas live the one for the other, looking permanently into each other’s eyes, but without love.”(9) In what almost constitutes a critical comment on the piece, the U.S. Border Patrol placed a disclaimer next to the Calvino quotation, stating that it did not reflect the views or opinions of the U.S. security force. Fiction and truth. III Tonight (2002), Soares’s first video installation, was commissioned by the Pampulha Museum of Art for a retrospective of the artist’s work, and similarly employed a strategy with mirrors. Working with the history of the museum building itself, originally designed in the 1940s by Oscar Niemeyer for the Pampulha Casino, Soares recorded and exhibited her video in the old boîte area, nowadays devoted to artists’ projects. The video was shot from the balcony, looking over the dance floor. There, a number of dancers, selected from Belo Horizonte’s traditional night clubs, danced alone to Burt Bacharach’s rendition of “Tonight.” Soares’s digital edition superimposed different groups, her camera always in the same position. This created fortuitous encounters between somewhat blurry images of the solitary dancers, whose ghost-like quality echoed the hall’s strong nostalgic atmosphere. A large projection surface was created in the balcony, so that the real space seemed to be doubled or reflected; the video, along with the music played in a loop. The dance troupe used in this work was formed by six men and two women, who alternated in the same role (in homage to Luis Buñuel’s 1977 film, Cet Obscur Objet du Désir). In this appropriation, a single woman is “shared” by several partners, awakening profound chimerical feelings and arousing sensations such as desire, projection, and inadequacy. (10) IV Like mirrors, gardens are a frequent presence in Valeska Soares’s work, and they provide the opportunity for a complex interplay of opposites based on the classic dichotomy of nature vs.


culture. According to Soares, “It seems there was always an interest in dealing with not necessarily gardens, but with ideal spaces that referred back to how we construct ideas of paradise ... Most spaces we experience as “natural” have been constructed as sculptures, but on a larger scale.”(11) Vanishing Point (1998), a large scupture that originated from a series of other works, is perhaps the most complex of Soares’s works in this sense. It comprises a group of stainless steel tanks made in the shape of elements from classic European gardens, and laid out like mazes. Each tank’s interior is filled with an aromatic substance (a solution of women’s perfume) and the smell permeates the entire exhibition. The initially pleasurable sensation, however, quickly turns into repugnance and nausea: pleasure and pain. The classic format of French or Italian gardens is transformed into a mere container for the aroma of the plants that could populate it: memory and forgetting. The solution in the tanks slowly evaporates, interacting with the space and impregnating it: presence and absence. After being on view for one day at the Pampulha Museum, the solution also became a cemetery for insects that were attracted by the scent and the reflection: seduction and intoxication. The physical space at Pampulha added new elements to the work and established an erotic relationship with Niemeyer’s sensual architecture. Soares’s stainless steel echoed the aluminum column located at the center of the maze, her acute angles contrasted with the building’s curves, and her surfaces reflected themselves as a large wall of mirrors. Untitled (From Vanishing Point), presented at Christopher Grimes Gallery in Santa Monica, California, in 1998, is another complex installation that works on the theme of the garden. Here, however, Soares also explores the idea of the lost paradise. After moving to New York City, the artist had replicas of the 123 pots and plates that used to be in her personal garden, made in wax, porcelain, and aluminum. The pieces were placed on the floor, in groups, and they alluded

Bibliography Mirror, 2002. Vinyl on mirror. Variable dimensions. Museo de Arte de Pampulha, Belo Horizonte.

to the loss of the garden in which the originals were located. The distinction between nature and culture as it applies to the vocabulary of art was also at work here. As Adriano Pedrosa points out, this work strongly refers to traditional sculpture by means of its technique and materials. (12) However, Soares’s installation is a direct commentary on the sculpture’s pedestal—the pots and sculptures— while the plants are absent. V Along with the notion of fiction, literature itself plays an important role in Valeska Soares’s work, as demonstrated by the artist’s two works based on bibliographies. As in her works inspired by Calvino, the visual text is not only self-referential, but also refers to other texts, in a process that cannot be explained as mere postmodern intertextuality, but is fiction in itself. Histories (1998), the first of these works, uses a list of eighty literary works in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Italian, all of which include the word “garden.” “Each title makes reference to a garden, but they are not necessarily books that deal with gardens per se.”(13)

The bibliography was compiled by Adriano Pedrosa and published, with a text by Soares, in the catalog Historias. (14) Initially a bibliography, the list becomes a text with poetic autonomy, a text that can be read on its own as a history of the use of gardens in literary titles; it is interesting to observe the different approaches to the idea of the garden that are discernible in each title. Soares’s work is formalized by a series of copper rings on which the titles were carved. In 1998 the artist installed these rings on trees, at eye level, as part of a Public Art Fund project in New York City. This intervention created a kind of open-air text that the public could read as they walked through the space. A similar bibliography on the word “mirror” was created by Soares and Pedrosa using the same procedure: Pedrosa identified titles in the same languages, and Soares applied them in colorless opaque vinyl squares, one title per square, on a large wall of mirrors at the Pampulha Art Museum. It was an interesting minimal composition supported by the existing structure. Literary forms are also evident in the way in which Soares organizes her artistic production into “fields”


Histories, 1998. Detail and general view. Low relief engraved copper rings. Variable dimensions. Metrotech Center, Brooklyn.

of works that are titled as derivations of previous works. The replicas of her garden objects derive from her stainless steel and perfume garden (From Vanishing Point), as if they were stories in one single, still-in-progress book (From Sinners, From Strangelove, From Fall, From Intimates, and so forth). In this vein, the image of the invitation to her show at the Tamayo Museum becomes an unfolding of “puro teatro”—the prophetic image, created before the show, of a child riding a bicycle over a large reflecting puddle, the whole framed by two trees that resemble a balcony’s curtains. In his story Two Metaphysical Animals, included in The Book of Imaginary Beings, Jorge Luis Borges describes the Statue that Feels. It is an imaginary animal introduced by Etienne Bonmot Condillac as a refutation of Decartes’s theory of innate ideas. This hypothetical statue is given only one sense initially, the sense of smell, and on the basis of this it will develop, in sequence, the faculties of understanding—attention, memory, comparison, judgment, reflection, and imagination—and from that point, the faculties of will—attraction and aversion.15 Like the statue in Borges’s bestiary, the meanings of Valeska Soares’s sculptures multiply from their very constitution, being open to the viewer’s

own interpretation. This is a kind of sculpture that at times seems not only to breathe, but to feel. Notes (1) Valeska Soares in a personal communication with the author, April 2003. (2) For the concept of antropofugusmo (man’s escape) and a geography of gardens based on it, see also, Julio Cortázar, “Geografías,” in Historias de Cronópios y de Famas, trans. Gloria Rodríguez (Río de Janeiro: Civilización Brasilera, 1972), pp. 78–79. In this story, the narrator transcribes a manuscript that includes a vast and intricate geography, which, “hypothesis or fantasy, would correspond topographically to a small garden on 628 Laprida Street, Buenos Aires.” It is an inventory of the landscape from the point of view of its insects, “demonstrating that ants are the true queens of creation.” (3) Cuauhtémoc Medina, “El Ojo Breve—Géneros de espejismo,” in Reforma, 5 March 2003. (4) Italo Calvino, “Las Ciudades y los Deseos 5” As Cidades Invisíveis, trans. Diego Mainardi (São Paulo: Compañía de las Letras, 1998), pp. 45–46. (5) Ibid., p. 45. (6) Soares, personal communication, April 2003. (7) Calvino, “Las Ciudades y los Deseos 5,” p. 46. (8) Valeska Soares, interview by Vik Muniz, Bomb Magazine 74, Winter 2001, p. 50. (9) Calvino, “Las Ciudades y los Ojos 1,” As Cidades Invisíveis, pp. 53–54. (10) For the Freudian concept of deep strangeness as applied to Soares’s work, see Adriano Pedrosa, Valeska Soares, exhibition folder, (Belo Horizonte: Pampulha Museum of Art). “If often her works assume beautiful and seductive forms, with intimations of the erotic, an attentive gaze will reveal disturbing elements in them.” (11) Soares, Muniz interview, p. 51. (12) Adriano Pedrosa, “Valeska Soares,” Poliester vol. 7, no. 24, Winter 1998–99, pp. 46–47. (13) Soares, Muniz interview, p. 51.

(14) Valeska Soares, Historias, exhibition catalogue, text by Adriano Pedrosa (São Paulo: Galería Fortes Vilaça, November 1996), pp. 40–41. With respect to the title of the show, Pedrosa says: “unlike the more limited English word ‘histories,’ the Portuguese word ‘histórias,’ much like the French ‘histoires’ and the Spanish ‘historias,’ may be used to identify both fictional and non-fictional texts, thus designating the historical, the anecdotal, and the literary at once.” (15) Jorge Luis Borges, “De los Animales Metafísicos,” El Libro de los Seres Imaginarios, trans . Carmen Vera Cirne Lima, (São Paulo: Editora Globo, 1989), pp. 11–12.

*This image is a courtesy of Christopher Grimes Gallery. All others are a courtesy of Galeria Fortes Vilaça.

Rodrigo Moura Assistant curator at the Pampulha Art Museum, Belo Horizonte.

ArtNexus Magazine 50, year 2003. pp 154-155


Renata Lucas Castelinho do Flamengo

The distinguishing characteristic of Renata Lucas’s (Riberão Preto, 1971) work has been the reconfiguration of space in galleries and institutions. For a little more than three years, her works in the art circuit have comprised an expressive group of precise interventions on architectural spaces. Her interests center on issues like the relationship between sculpture and architecture, geometry and construction, content and container, and the viewer’s perception of space and of the work of art. Lucas’s work revitalizes and gives new breath to the formalism of the Brazilian constructivist tradition. This artist has come closer and closer to the path followed by earlier generations of São Paulo artists, such as Iran do Espírito Santo and Jac Leirner who, over the past two decades, dealt with formal issues in a way that was more open to the everyday and to the world. In a recent project Mau Gênio (2002), at the Pampulha Museum of Art, Renata Lucas installed thirty-eight scaffolds in the mezzannine of the Oscar Niemeyer building. They were attached to each other with wooden sheets creating a temporary floor that emphasized the established link between building and landscape, and while reiterating the mezzannine’s suspended space, also generated an effect that was far from the nostalgic, precious atmosphere of the old Casino. Cruzamento (2003) was shown last March at the Castelinho do Flamengo, in Rio de Janeiro, and is Lucas’s first project created directly in an urban space. The installation consisted of covering the street crossing opposite the institution in wood. The work was on view for eighteen days with the approval of the authorities, and it was dismanteled at the request of the neighbors, who were upset by the noise of cars running over the wood. Sixty-eight wooden cleats (each, 2.2 m x 1.6 m x 15 mm) were screwed directly into the ground over the city pavement on the intersection of Praia do Flamengo and Dois de Dezembro streets, creating a mimetic relationship—and friction—with the original covering. Passing cars were sensitive to the small bumps, and the locals identified Lucas’s intervention with the renovation work that

Renata Lucas. Crossing, 2003. Chipboard. 15mm. 40 x 78 3/4 inches (16 x 20 m. ).

the Castelinho was undergoing simultaneously, which reinforced the tension that Lucas’s work always generates. Cruzamento intensifies the artist’s strategy of commenting on spaces by altering them. We need to note Lucas’s constructivist process and her adaptation of the work to the pre-existing space. The wooden cleats were trimmed along the gutter and following the contours of the site (they were rounded, according to the Castelinho’s belle époque spirit). The street’s small openings were cleared to allow water to drain and removable lids were installed on the sewers so that they could be opened if necessary. In the artist’s own words, “Cruzamento was created directly on the surface of the world, in the middle of the street, contained between gutters.” Faithful to its environment, in eighteen days the wood had turned gray and was stained with oil and tire tracks, which made it even more like the asphalt it covered. The artist also establishes a significant relationship between the materials (words and things) used in her work and those used in building. An important semantic game is at the center of this dialogue. Lucas invokes dual meanings for words in a reconciliatory gesture that directly assumes its own tension: work as physical labor and the work of art as the labor of the intellect; construction/constructivism, a formal school in art, and construction in the sense of erecting a new building in the world. In that sense, I notice an almost utopian character in Renata Lucas’s installations; and those installations always require the complicity of institutions for the deployment of their conceptual implications, as

well as a considerable display of physical labor for their formal completion. From a formal point of view, Cruzamento deals with horizontality. It presents an antimonumental plane in the middle of the city; it is ignorant of volume and directly attached to the world. From the perspective of the material, once again wood lends itself in a flexible, liquid way, almost devoid of any character of its own. However, Lucas’s most important contribution resides in her appropriation of those spaces for art and its borders. If the work was seen from the institution’s windows, bringing the street into the building, it also transported the institutionalized space of art and culture onto Rio’s dense urban texture. The work’s power is its placement at the center of the crossing, a site of encounter for diverging, opposing forces that cross each other without touching. It takes art into the center of a storm. Rodrigo Moura

ArtNexus Magazine 51, year 2003. pp 160-161



Jorge Macchi Galería Luisa Strina

When considering the visually congested world in which we live, sympathetic amnesia seems not only an immediate symptom but also a subconscious survival mechanism. On the other hand, “habit is a great deadener,” as Samuel Beckett’s Vladimir comments in Waiting for Godot . How do we protect ourselves from the excesses of our intricate material reality and at the same time remain consciously un-numbed by it? Scrutiny, selection, and creative re-contextualization are perhaps the best way to deal with both tendencies at once. By choosing a soon-to-beforgotten news item, the artist Jorge Macchi (Buenos Aires, 1963) extends the memory of the given event, but, by reconfiguring the informative logic and actual existence of his chosen material, he offers the viewer an alternative way of perceiving daily reality—one which, ironically, triggers greater interest in the original issue. In this exhibition, Macchi revealed the extent to which he was prepared to rescue transient memories—that is, those unforgotten by all but those directly involved in the event. The meticulous craftsmanship immediately perceived in his work is itself an act of resistance against both the immediacy and the abruptness of contemporary visual information and urban life in general. It is a lesson in quiet contemplation for all of us who are inextricably caught in its whirlwind. Monoblock , 2003, is a clear example: cut-out strips of pages of newspaper obituary notices were superimposed to reveal, through the rectangular incisions made by the artist, a funerary pattern composed of religious symbols (crosses, the star of David), and a formal structure that echoes graveyards and individual tombs. Measuring 93 x 73 cm, the entire composition resembles a block-like building whose windows provide unequivocal visibility to death. The work has a unique aesthetic appeal, which does not fail to draw attention to its origin: reported deaths, sad or impersonal obituaries, and the personal

content revealed in public spaces or inhabited structures. Libro de Citas (Book of Quotations), 2003, is another beautifully poetic work composed of newspaper material: two white pages joined by the image of opening and closing quotation marks cut-out from the newspaper. I instantly read the work as an illusion to the reported news—so much to say and so little to apprehend—or to the everlasting paradox of meaning: there is so much and so little to be said. The words between the quotation marks have been cut out and an empty rectangle remains. Macchi’s work is not only poetic, it also springs from a metaphysical tendency related to Jorge Luis Borges’s fiction and the Calvinesque fable. The construction of Guía de la Inmovilidad (Immobility Guide), 2003, is formally similar to that of Monoblock — layers of cut-out pages are superimposed to create new configurations. In these works the pages were taken from street maps. Every city block between intersecting streets has been cut-out to create a complex web whose density is produced by the layering of several pages. Macchi’s map finally achieves three-dimensionality, but it is very different from that of an architectural model. Rather, it is an insubstantial, or “empty” volume reminiscent of Borges’s labyrinths, Italo Calvino’s invisible cities, and the super string structures of theoretical physics. It is a mesh of directions, also akin to the impenetrable branching of a tree—endless possibilities, or chance encounter? In Intimidad (Intimacy), 2002, eight identical white balconies were attached to the gallery wall vertically and at regular intervals from each other. This sculptural installation with a minimalist Donald Juddlike aesthetic (albeit delicate and light), rose to the height of an average person (overall, 175 x 30 x 8 cm). On the ground floor of the gallery, it stood almost directly opposite a gigantic shoeprint pasted onto the wall. While the balconies form a precise geometric model, the individual markings of the shoeprint sprawl outwards. What is the relationship between the architectural contrivance and the ephemeral traces we leave in passing? In Intimidad the aluminum and wood structures that supposedly provide

Jorge Macchi. Monoblock, 2003. Paper (journal obituaries). 36 1/2 x 28 3/4 in. (93 x 73 cm).

a breath of fresh air for apartment residents while paradoxically emphasizing their lack of space, are fixed human supports several meters above ground level. The shoeprint marks of earth and glue drawn on the wall evoke the transitory side of life, precisely that which does not remain behind and cannot be supported—thus the title of the work, Fuegos de Artificio (Fireworks), 2002–3. A car accident viewed from six different overhead angles, will be interpreted disparately depending upon who saw what from where. In Accidente en Rotterdam (Car Accident in Rotterdam), 1998 (six photographs, each 56 cm square), a black car and a white car collide forming a right angle. Macchi, who works with video and photography as well as sculpture, drawing, painting, and installation, clearly understands the ambiguous quality of the lens. A well-defined shadow in the shape of a cross emphasizes the geometric configuration of the cars, but their physical relationship may also be a platform for further symbolic readings, where opposition (black and white colors, intercrossing angles) and inevitability are in question, as are the curious dimensions of the surrounding area in relation to the toy-like cars. Macchi’s works pose several questions, but the answers will not be found in a single answer. The answers are not conclusions or solutions, but reflections, possibilities, and triggers of the imagination where reality and fantasy are in constant contact.

Translation: Jorge Frisancho Verónica Cordeiro


ArtNexus Magazine 52, year 2004. pp 60-64

It can be said that Nelson Leirner’s work brings together a large number of artistic elements and keeps them in a state of continuous processing; it can be said as well that his trajectory is marked by the continued displacement of a modus operandi. But if one had to choose one conceptual triad, even if only to short-circuit its signs, it would be the one formed by appropriationkitsch-minimalism.


Lost Bullet (Saint Sebastian), 2002. Plaster and metal. Variable dimensions. *


Nelson Leirner Or, How to Maintain a Balance in the Work of Art

Adolfo Montejo Navas

mong the ironies of our times, the progressive expansion of the sphere of action of artistic poetics such as Nelson Leirner’s is an important event. For several decades, more specifically since the late 1950s, this São Paulo artist (born in 1932) remained loyal to a kind of expressive marginality, opposed on various fronts to the institutionalization of art (what Jean Baudrillard denounced, in his way, as the “comedy of art”). Only in the last decade has Leirner achieved popularity—the recognition was already there—that actually corresponds to the nature of his work, which incorporates eminently popular elements, even elements from the sphere of kitsch, as well as all sorts of everyday commercial or industrial items. Just as on many occasions the wheels of art are as close to the confidence game as they are to the museum (which has a perverse effect, favoring a populist cultural critique that defends old rigors as if they were a mark of artistic purity of blood), Nelson Leirner arrives at these times having found the difficult balance that by necessity a work of contemporary art must possess.


Even while Leirner’s oeuvre becomes more and more internationalized (the 1999 Venice Biennial almost marked a watershed, and signaled a critical update that continues to this day), few Brazilian bodies of work are better understood in Latin America than his. In part, this is because his poetics bring together linguistic and critical elements—an alliance sometimes forgotten in Brazilian art, in favor of more or less conceptual formalisms—and in part because it celebrates an intense and ever-active link between his two imaginaries, art and culture, albeit the field so defined is, thanks to the polarization or mystification produced between those two categories, the field of an assumed conflict. Inasmuch as we inhabit a multicultural era, the work of Nelson Leirner also can be seen from the point of view of syncretism. In that sense, the spirit of antropofa-

gia, Oswald de Andrade’s modernist proclamation, revived in the 1960s by the tropicalismo movement, is present here in a new form. Indeed, since the 1980s Leirner’s work has gained an iconographic largesse, an ever more plural imagery, a more syncretic horizon. There is a certain devouring joy, an abandonment of expressive prejudices that can be considered, undoubtedly, Macunaica. (1) Many of his most recent works reveal a certain dispossessed state of grace; having seen darkened paths in the distance, they present a rare balance of tone between humor and critique and, paradoxically or not, they steer away from drama as if from the devil. Also worth noting are the number of works in which the artist reflects on Brazilian identity, with strong symbolic mediation. The various pieces of Football or the different Great Parades are very explicit, as is one of his most recent series, Lost

Football, 2001. Plastic, ceramics, plaster, rubber, wood and paper. 43 1/3 x 133 3/4 x 94 1/2 in. (110 x 340 x 240 cm.).

Bullets, 2001–2002, where Leirner incorporates images of urban violence into an object-oriented language; the Saint Sebastian, Rio de Janeiro’s patron saint, of Adoration is one of his most intensely civic-minded recent works. A first crop of works invested in revealing the crisis of representation with even greater clarity (Self-Portrait, 1964 and You Are a Part, II, 1964) was followed by several kinds of experiences: public interventions of a markedly political, performance-like character (such as Leirner’s activities at REX Gallery and Sons in 1967), and art projects that inaugurated a singular pedagogical line (the artist was a teacher for decades and his exhibitions dissolved the concept of authorship), and provided directions to create our own pieces of public art, as in Multiples, 1971. In terms of a re-reading of cultural icons, both Brazilian and international, a high mark is the series on Lucio Fontana that also displays a


Untitled from the series Right You Are…If You Think You Are, 2003. Photograph. 47 1/3 x 87 1/2 in. (120 x 222 cm.).

political economy and a transmutation of values. Homage to Fontana, 1967, first prize winner at the Tokyo Biennial that year, substituted an industrial mark for the pictorial one, a zipper that demystified the relationship between art and industry (the artist, by the way, has a technical background). His later work on Brazil’s hegemonic constructivism in the series Countryside Constructivism, 1999, an ironic critique of pictorial models, especially those from concretism, comprises geometric compositions made on oxen hides. As a genre of expression references to the history of art are found in many works, in readings of, or interventions on Leonardo Da Vinci (Holy Suppers), Fontana, and Duchamp, for example. In fact, a true bestiary can be found in this poetics, as revealed by Leirner’s series Clonation, Sotheby’s, and all of his Great Parades. Some recent emblematic works deserve special mention, however, such as The Table and Its Belongings, (2002), originally presented at the last São Paulo Biennial. In its latest version, Leirner has added two life-size figures of Venus to this piece, which, besides

creating a state of visual and cultural perplexity, generate yet another moment of visual suspicion. In a kind of minimalist serialism where the notion of play is suspended, the purity of certain materials (the Plexiglas table and the acrylics) arranged serially (balls and racquets) is completely subverted here and serves to reveal the game not as opaque but as transparent, and to point out that it should not end too soon: the returning ball is, somehow, always with the viewer. On the other hand, the recent series of maps titled “Right You Are...If You Think You Are,” (2003) creates a resignification: a transfer of meanings and symbolic negotiation amid cartographies that bring the game of representation to the fore. These post-colonial maps are a true cloning of current contemporary representation, both cultural and political; presented with an imaginary taken from the public domain and Pop Art, almost innocent in appearance, they are similarly removed from all ideological declarations but not from the possibility of critique: colors and symbols are interchangeable between

the First and Third Worlds, and the maps are disorienting. Perhaps the most recent piece is Untitled (2003) (according to the artist it is ideal to move around biennials, suggesting a public art work that is not devoid of irony), the new Duchamp bicycle that receives yet another well-aired rereading and passes, an icon in movement, for a popular three-wheeled cart. In this case the asymmetry is not formal, since in fact Nelson Leirner’s four wheels roll their idiosyncrasy anywhere. And one does not doubt Duchamp would have enjoyed a little ride! It can be said that Nelson Leirner’s work brings together a large number of artistic elements and keeps them in a state of continuous processing; it can be said as well that his trajectory is marked by the continued displacement of a modus operandi. But if one had to choose one conceptual triad, even if only to short-circuit its signs, it would be the one formed by appropriation-kitschminimalism. Irony—a key element of postmodernity and an “old friend” of the artist’s—is always ready to unveil the paradox at the core of all visuality.


The Table and its Belongings, 2002. Plexiglas, 3000 balls, 360 ping-pong racquets and audio, two plaster sculptures. 177 x 315 x 196 3/4 in. (450 x 800 x 500 cm.).*

As far as appropriation—the conceptualization of images on the basis of previous images, which is already in itself a critique of representation, and not only of the artistic variety—the artist’s intervention has established its own strategies, such as the “check mate,” an encounter of mismatched elements or objects that is far from being neutral in its aesthetic clash. This is more so when the appropriation is allegorical, when it is not exactly obvious. Even the ellipses in some of Leirner’s works point in that direction. And we should not forget that the iconography of the appropriated works is often preserved in order to be subverted, both in form and content, as in his works on Duchamp, constructivism, and La Gioconda. The historical avant-garde was already engaged in the practice of altering the sign of kitsch, but the practice developed in the late twentieth century—perhaps in the spirit of the times, which was full of imitations, falsifications, and copies—was a subversion of “good taste,” of the canonical. The generous examples of La Gioconda (1999) show the way in which the path of appearances sometimes can take us to the spirit of the original work.

Untitled (Duchamp bike), 2003. Rubber, metal and printed vinyl. Variable dimensions.


La Gioconda, 1999. Installation. Variable dimensions.

Perhaps no single image has been so thoroughly “kitsch-ified” as Da Vinci’s painting. What works in this subversive use of kitsch is the application of its truth as falsehood, the immersion of the notion of aesthetic inadequacy with a style of its own to produce its deviation and to present alternative visual and aesthetic connections that explode the acritical position. The bottom line of Nelson Leirner’s oeuvre is the knowledge that to be modern is already to become kitsch, to become a cliché (Donald Kuspit) (2), to become hokey (in Ramón Gómez de la Serna’s accurate assessment). The symbolization in his works is not alien to this operation of escape. The energy of the new courses through Leirner’s work, moving away from the standard and in fugue from an already consumed (and consummated) aesthetization where the transparent tyranny of seduction is placed above all else. Indeed, the true power of kitsch is exercised not only upon art but upon life itself in its standardization (and I assume that Leirner’s works about money point towards this wound, which other artists embrace as if art and market were

already one and the same). If Nelson Leirner brings together high and low culture, kitsch and popular elements, it is in order to ironize the convention of images—an aesthetic neutralization— to bring forth a cipher and escape from illusionism. This ironic maneuver is inherent to his playful and reflexive poetics. Irony is always useful in the transformation of codes. Finally, minimalism appears principally as a formal ingredient, because it is the minimalist form that is always betrayed: neutrality and the lack of compositional balance are not maintained, but repetition as a strategy of liberation and a certain order or geometry (albeit contaminated by objects and elements of a different temperature) are. All of this produces a re-materialization in Nelson Leirner’s works, which, added to their conceptual spirit, contributes to the dialogue of meanings, to the construction of perplexities. Mario Perniola points out that Benjamin’s opposition of the regime of the aura to the regime of mechanical reproduction hides a third possibility for art and for aesthetic experience, a regime characterized by reification,

fetishism and, more generally, by that phenomenon Perniola has defined as the “sex appeal of the inorganic.” The work of Nelson Leirner can be seen as inscribed in this third way of “materiality and abstraction,” as the solid face of contemporary art. (3) If, as we know, simulacra have supplanted reality, here we face a simulacrum that still hopes to achieve reversible representations of the real, one that still aspires to attach itself to a relationship with life and its reflections (society, sports, art, for example). Leirner’s hybrid objectoriented oeuvre leads us to reflect on what we understand as art, outside of art. While originality as a myth of modernity is somehow deconstructed, common places are also sabotaged. This poetics is always attempting a difficult balance of forces; it spins and produces permanent displacements that serve to de-characterize, to step out of the systemic narrative through which a work of art is institutionalized and its nature is made prisoner. In that sense, the many titles in Leirner’s oeuvre that include an invitation to participate, such as You Are a Part II (1964), or You Have Hunger for What? (2001) work as strategies of complicity as well as reticence, as in the cases of Answer... If You Can (1965), A Hard Line... Does Not Endure (1978), or Right You Are ...If You Think You Are (2003), which drive us to participate as well as to question and doubt. *All images illustrating this article are courtesy of Galeria Brito Cimino, Brazil. Notes (1) Macunaica is the sense of being in the path of Macunaíma, Mário de Andrade’s emblematic 1928 novel celebrating “the hero without character” as a Brazilian identity, which inaugurates antropofagia in the realm of narrative. There is an interesting film version of this work, directed by Joaquim Pedro de Andrade in 1969, as well as many theatrical versions. (2) Donald Kuspit, Signs of Psique in Modern and postmodern Art (Madrid: Ediciones Akal, 2003), p. 323. (3) Mario Perniola, Art and its Shadow (Madrid: Ediciones Cátedra, 2002), p. 74. Translation: Jorge Frisancho Adolfo Montejo Navas Poet, translator, art critic and independent curator who lives in Rio de Janeiro.


ArtNexus Magazine 44, year 2002. pp 104-106

Ernesto Neto. The Eggs of Life, 2003. Whitewash, plaster and polyamide mesh. Variable dimensions.

28th Panorama MAM, São Paulo

“19 disarrangements” Lisbeth Rebollo Gonçalves


n October of 2003, the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art, opened its twenty-eighth “Panorama.” This edition was curated by Gerardo Mosquera and focused on the current work of a group of twenty-one artists. “Panorama,” has been held at the Museum since 1969. It was precisely with “Panorama” that the São Paulo MAM reopened its doors and inaugurated the second period in its history as Latin America’s oldest modern art museum. In 1963, the MAM and the São Paulo Biennial became separate entities; the Biennial was set up as an independent foundation and distanced itself from the museum’s large international event. At the same time, its holdings were transferred to the University of São Paulo, resulting in the creation of the MAC, the Museum of Contemporary Art. The “Panorama” exhibitions were originally intended not only to heighten the country’s artistic presence, but also to organize a new collection for the MAM through

acquisition prizes defined by the Art Council under the auspices of important private sector companies. This is the first time a foreign curator has been in charge of “Panorama.” Cuban critic Gerardo Mosquera has researched Brazilian art for many years. He is also the first curator to organize the exhibition around a concept that highlights an aesthetic attitude: the idea of disarranging structures. The notion of disarrangement presupposes a “disorder,” a frequent gesture in contemporary art according to Mosquera, and particularly in Brazil. For Mosquera, “some Brazilian artists create their works through the formal and conceptual resource of disarranging a structure. Such disarrangement can be exerted on the work’s own structure, its content, its projection, or all of the above. It is a deconstructive practice both in reference to the constructive aesthetics and in a Derridean sense: a contra-constructivism, a negation of the structure within the structure itself, a critique that is at the same time a self-critique. In this action, the

operation of de-structuring builds the very meaning of the works in its multiple implications’’. The curator adds, however, that he is not implying there is a “design” procedure, but a variety of aesthetic-discursive strategies. Mosquera explains that the concept for the exhibition developed as he traveled through Brazil while organizing “Panorama” for the MAM. As curator, he visited the cities of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba, Porto Alegre, Brasilia, Fortaleza, Salvador, Belém, Manaus, and Belo Horizonte. 1 For the exhibition, Mosquera mixed Brazilian artists who are well known nationally and internationally, such as Cildo Meireles, Vik Muniz, Adriana Varejão, and Ernesto Neto, among others, with artists who work outside those circuits, and even artists no longer alive, as in the case of José Leonilson (who died in 1993), an artist whose work, for the curator, is still vital in the current context. In addition to the artists already mentioned, the show includes Adriano and Fer-


EXHIBITION nando Guimarães (Brasilia); Alex Villar (Brazil/US); José Guedes (Ceará); José Patricia (Pernambuco); Levitan and Jailton Moreira (Río Grande do Sul); Marcone Moreira (Pará); Paulo Climachauska (São Paulo); Sara Ramos (Minas Gerais); and Humberto Costa Barros (Río de Janeiro). In order to break away from the exhibition’s traditional profile—a survey of Brazilian artistic production—Mosquera, who lives between Panama, Cuba, and New York City (where he is a curator at the New Museum), included a number of foreign artists in whose work he finds the same set of issues as in the Brazilian contingent: Jorge Macchi from Argentina, Kan Xuan from China, and Wim Delvoye from Belgium. Mosquera explains that he didn’t intend to offer an overview of what is happening in Brazil’s cultural scene in the visual arts field, but to focus on the way in which art produced in Brazil is inscribed in contemporaneity. With the idea of disarranging implicit in the title, “19 Desarreglos,”2 he also wanted to point out the disorder brought into play by the national definition of the show and the regionalist sense it implies. Architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha was responsible for the show’s installation design. The show occupies the entire Museum building and even spills into the street that separates it from the biennial building,

a kind of urban intervention in the form of a pedestrian zebra crossing, the work of José Guedes, who disarranges the conventional design by adding extra stripes to it. It will be useful to discuss several specific works presented at the show and illustrated here. Ernesto Neto’s intervention was in the space of the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art where Louise Bourgeois’ Araña is installed. This work is a large sculpture located in a room especially built for it and which allows it to be seen both from outside the museum and from inside. It is an important icon of the São Paulo MAM. Ernesto Neto establishes a dialogue with the sculpture by creating “cocoons” in white weaving and arranging them on the spider’s long legs, thus giving the piece a new meaning. In one of the museum’s hallways frequently used by contemporary artists for installations (Project Wall), Adriana Varejão built a “wall” of tiles with blue ink inscriptions. The drawings are of plants that are used as drugs, contemporary reality’s “damned” plants according to the artist. In this work, disarrangement is to be found in the critical content given to the social meanings that are implicit in the images, which are taken from colonial discourse. On the one hand, they allude to the Portuguese tile tradition and on the other to the botanical drawings made by travel-

Vik Muniz. Pictures of Earthworks (The Sarzedo Drawings) –Key, 2002. Gelatin silver print sepia-toned. 40 x 54 in. (101,6 x 127 cm.). Collection Horizontes, Belo Horizonte.

ing observers. In this way the piece also creates a “deconstructive” play on the idea of painting. Cildo Meireles presented Descala. This work comprises sixteen structures arranged as “ladders,” each three meters high. Built using vertical and horizontal lines of equal dimensions, all but one of these ladders are unusable. The artist works on the semantic relationship between an everyday object and its meaning. What is the meaning of the sole usable ladder? Is it a passageway, a possible exit? the notion of growth, of ascent? utopia? Meireles works with human spaces and times that can be ontologically appropriated in different ways. His ladders are “de-laddered.” Vik Muniz refers to the issue of equivocation as a polysemous strategy, exploring different levels of semantics in his work. He brings together drawing and photography in order to question the boundaries between reality and fiction. Muniz attempts to confound the viewer through the perception of two successive simulacra. These pieces, titled The Sarzedo Drawings, were conceived during a journey through northeastern Brazil, and they refer to the ritual drawings of ancient civilizations found etched on rocks. On the earth itself, in the Sarzedo region, Muniz inscribed large drawings of such everyday objects as a sock, a key, and a pipe, which he later photographed

Paulo Climachauska. Painting /Molotov Cocktail, 2003. Glass jar for brushes, turpentine, ink, oil, fabric. 9 x 4 x 3 in. (23 x 10 x 8 cm.). Collection of the artist. Also showcased at Museu Paulista and at the Pinacoteca do Estado.


José Damasceno. Mutiny III, 1998-2003. Chess pieces on wall. Variable dimensions. Collections Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro; Drausio Gragnani, São Paulo; M.J.M. Etlin, São Paulo.

Wim Delvoye. Anal Kiss A-15 (Adriano Hotel), 19992000. Print on paper. 20 3/4 x 17 1/3 in. (53 x 44 cm.). Private collection.

from a helicopter. In his studio, he created new drawings and photographed them, intermingling those photographs with the earlier ones and confusing the viewer as to the means used to create the images. For curator Gerardo Mosquera, artist José Damasceno inhabits “degree zero of the constructive will, giving order and giving disorder, thus surprising us with acts of magic and philosophy.” For his installation Mutiny, presented at the MAM show, Damasceno arranged chess pieces on a wall as characters clustered in groups. The groups suggest collections of people and refer to masses that come together in times of upheaval when the social order becomes disarranged. The pieces, like people, can free themselves. In Paulo Climachauska’s Molotov Cocktail/Painting, paint, canvases, and turpentine are re-signified in the proposition of a transformative art/ action. By referring to homemade explosives in the title of his piece, the artist highlights the idea of break or rupture. The objects of his art/action not only occupy different spaces in the museum, but are also to be found in other museums throughout the city of São Paulo, such as the State Museum (which holds an important collection of nineteenth-century art) and the Paulista Museum (a history-oriented museum), thus imprinting the notion of a break with the institutional, or the lack of a project for modernity. At the State Museum, his “Molotov cocktail” object is located in a space devoted to works that deal with the question of national identity; at the Paulista Museum it is next to a canvas that alludes to Brazil’s independence. “Panorama” 2003 brought to Brazil’s cultural scene a critical gaze that highlights contemporary art issues such as language along with a perspective for reading contemporary art produced in Latin America. In terms of art produced in Brazil, Gerardo Mosquera’s critical reading points out that “Brazilian art possesses a unique sensibilCildo Meireles. Stairway, 2002. Metal. 118 x 19 3/4 x 2 in. (300 x 50 x 5 cm.). Collection of the artist.


ity for materials, and its foundation lies in the object. This orientation dominates in general terms, though it coexists with other practices. It gives Brazilian art a distinctive feel, clearly identifiable in relation to dominant trends in other Latin American countries.” The curator’s work also proposes a revision of the concept behind “Panorama” itself, as an exhibition of the São Paulo Modern Art Museum. Notes 1. Panamanian critic Adrienne Samos assisted Mosquera in the organization of “Panorama.” 2. The exhibition included nineteen works by twentyone artists. Some of the pieces were created by a two-artist team. Translation: Jorge Frisancho

Lisbeth Rebollo Gonçalves Professor at the University of São Paulo and President of the Art Critics Association (AICA/ Brazil Section).


ArtNexus Magazine 53, year 2004. pp 144-145


Marepe Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo

The Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo is the city’s oldest museum, located in a building built between 1897 and 1900 for the São Paulo Liceu de Artes e Oficios. Projected by Ramos de Azevedo, the period’s most renowned engineer-architect, the building is one of several monumental constructions that dotted the region in the early Twentieth Century, today in the midst of a controversial process of recuperation after decades of neglect. Despite having been conceived in grand style, however, the project remained unfinished and its exterior walls show almost with embarrassment the structural brick design, contradicting the building’s grandiose neoclassical architecture. The project of adapting the Pinacoteca to current museographic needs, developed by Paulo Mendes da Rocha, preserves the building’s original features, starting with its unfinished appearance, adding elements and materials that are clearly add-ons, annexations, couplings. Some of the project’s keys are its thruways and metal guardrails, as well as the interior patios covered by glass structures and transformed into exhibition spaces. The Octagon is one of those patios, the building’s central plaza framed by eight double-height walls, brick on brick, which since January 2003 hosts a contemporary art exhibition program curated by Ivo Mesquita. It was in this space with marble floors and exposed brick walls where Marepe installed his Desemboladeira. The title joins two terms, on the one hand desempobladeira (a tool used by masons to finish walls in s uniform manner) and embolada (a kind of music from the Brazilian Northeast with improvised lyrics that are said rapidly over repeating notes.) This site-specific piece, created with the city’s 450 th anniversary celebrations in mind, makes reference to the singularity of architecture. Besides a few lamps hanging from visible wires, the space only exhibited 450 desempobladeiras, like those that would have been needed to finish the surfaces of the walls that remain bare. The way in which the objects were piled up, each one on two halves of the underbeams, repeated the logical

Marepe. Desemboladeira, 2003. Installation with 450 “fortachos” wooden boxes, lamps and sound. Variable dimensions.

drawing that keeps the bricks together. These resulted in triangular piles, like mountains whose height was determined by the size of the base, since there were as many rows as the initial number of desempobladeiras, each row with one less element until only one was left. Fifty had been covered with mirror paper in different colors, and the remaining 400, numbered, showed the various possible combinations of the three or four kinds of wood used: dark handle, light base; violet base, yellowish handle; and so forth. One out of every ten visitors, always the tenth, was given a piece of paper upon entering the museum, with the explanation that it could be exchanged by a multiple of Marepe, a present for the city’s 450th anniversary. Thus the pieces were distributed during the show’s first weekend, and those who were lucky, or those who were able to do a quick count at the door, left the Pinacoteca with their desempobladeira. In choosing this workman’s tool as the material for her work, Marepe is not only dealing with the site’s physical specificity. The reference to construction work is also a tribute to the workers who built São Paulo, like all cities. A large number of migrants from the Northeast come to São Paulo and find jobs in manual labor, including construction. Marepe lives and works in Santo Antonio de Jesus, Bahía, and perhaps that explains, in part, that for the São Paulo anniversary he thought to pay homage to those builders, so often forgotten behind the

finished works and the names of those who sign the plans. The embolada is another reference to Northeasterner culture. It is a musical and poetic style characteristic of that region of the country. And the embolada was present not only in the title: the song by Pedro Osmar, “Signagem” (1997,) heard in the Octagon if one paid attention, was inspired in embolada and other Northeast traditions. It is interesting to see the Bahía artist articulating the history of São Paulo, and specifically the history of this building, which can be seen as a truncated project of symbolization by the Paulista bourgeoisie in the beginning of the last century, now associated to the questionable process of recuperation of the city center, a process sin which cultural institutions play a decisive role.

Translation: Jorge Frisancho

Carla Zaccagnini


ArtNexus Magazine 54, year 2004. pp 78-82

Beatriz Milhazes In White, 1995. Acrylic on canvas. 77 4/5 x 120 in. (198 x 305 cm.). Collection the Bohen Foundation,

In the Sway of the Bossas: “Waves” Music, dancing, and popular celebrations, especially Carnival allegories, have always been present in Beatriz Milhazes’s work. But it is since the 1990s that these expressions exercise a decisive influence and motivate a turn in the artist’s compositions.


José Augusto Ribeiro

t is not in vain that art critics associate the work of Beatriz Milhazes to a trunk or a chest,1 a box for saving memorabilia, or an elaborate glossary in progress,2 in order to catalog the themes and motifs that continue to emerge in her painting. Both kinds of analysis attempt to account for the rainbow of colors, figures, forms, and tradition—from various territories and historical provenances—that project themselves into the pictorial space in search of a “convulsive” beauty, one that will be “erotically veiled, explosively fixed, circumstantially magical, or it won’t be beauty.”3

Among the references that appear, disappear, and reappear in the Rio de Janeiro artist’s canvases we find the baroque, art deco, geometric abstraction and Op Art; arabesques, garlands and mandalas; embroidery patterns of tablecloths and wallpapers from Minas Gerais; Miriam Haskell’s jewelry and Emilio Pucci’s textiles; the exuberance of nature in the tropics, the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, and Burle Marx’s landscapes; the Carnival, the Bossa Nova, psychedelia and tropicalia; Matisse, Tarsila do Amaral, Guignard, and Bridget Riley. Her paintings are accumulations of these periods of time and of “style” in fine layers of ink, in successive

“backgrounds” and fields of color that erase all distinction between high and low culture; national and international culture; Old Master art, modern art, and contemporary art. This principle coincides, partially, with Italian critic Achille Bonito Oliva’s theory of the transavantgarde. Milhazes appeared on the Brazilian art scene in the midst of what was known as “the return of painting” in the 1980s, shortly after Bonito Oliva coined that term in reference to a kind of painting unrelated to the evolutionary idea of “linguistic Darwinism,” arranged in an “inconstant attitude or reversibility of all languages of the past.”4


In common with the transavantgarde, the Brazilian artist dispenses with “single-meaning genealogy.” Unlike the transavantgarde, she avoids the strategies of parody or pastiche in the incorporation of “ancestors.” Abolishing the anchors that bind the plastic and applied arts, Milhazes chooses to make each one of her images and patterns autonomous—although later juxtaposed—instead of using the eclecticism that defines the notion of “art as catastrophe.”5 If Bonito Oliva’s transavantgarde is, in the end, the “first postmodern painting,”6 with the sense of improvement that the prefix implies, Milhazes creates a hyper-modern kind of painting that returns to issues present in Modernism, with contemporary phrases and vocabularies. The time and the skins of painting The isolation of figures and ornaments in the work of this artist assumes the flat character of the canvas and, as the operation progresses, unveils the markings and stages of the working process. Since the 1990s, Milhazes has used an “epidermic” technique based on monotype and collage to compose her works. The artist paints her motifs (targets, flowers, circles, fruits, peace symbols, etc.) on translucent plastic sheets that work as films for the reproduction of the images in her paintings. The molds are stretched on the canvas until the point when the image is reproduced, and then they are quickly retired; this makes it possible for them to be reused but also creates the risk of having incomplete images or, simply, damaged matrices. These films have a life of more than ten years and consequently, the images are repeated in different pieces, pressing into each application a time from a prior use. This slow and laborious process is reflected in the title of a 1990 painting, Estive feliz de saber que você está bem (I was glad to know you are well). The formula combines past perfect and present perfect verb tenses in order to express that there was an interval and that something happened between the moments of “gladness” and of “well-being.” A passage that

I was Glad to Know You Are Well, 1990. Acrylic on canvas. 66 4/5 x 70 3/4 in. (170 x 180 cm.). Rio de Janeiro, 31-04-1910, 1993-1994. Acrylic on canvas. 70 3/4 x 70 3/4 in. (180 x 180 cm.).


can be analogous to the wear and tear of the matrix between one transfer and another—sometimes within the same painting—for the creation of spatial depth and, later, of the decorative surface. Estive feliz is structured around the triangular composition of major roses and their surrounding field, formed by blue circles. The buds and leaves of minor roses disperse throughout the painting, and behind them we differentiate horizontal bands or stripes in a lighter shade of blue, as well as scattered arabesques that are covered by vertical ink drippings. A shapeless white field in the center-top portion— from which pink ink drips—allows us to glimpse previous layers of color, now covered. These accumulations include defects or indeterminations that confer a certain age to the piece. The same occurs in Río de Janeiro, 31.04.1910 (1993–1994). In this acrylic on canvas, which has areas for resting and breathing that do not exit in Estive feliz, the surface painting seems to have been made on top

of the symmetric decorations of a colonial piece of furniture, taking advantage of and retouching some ornaments, which resemble jewelry designs that could be from the same period but are now represented in much livelier colors. Could it be then that the date and location in the title refer to a previous painting, or to an episode that would help explain the compositions?. Questions like this one, where the viewer attempts to establish relationships between a painting’s title and its content, are ignominious to objectivity. Words, expressions, and phrases selected as titles for the paintings suggest, almost always, poetic meanings unattached to the object (or are they another collage, another “skin” for the work?). Such choices inspire stories or narratives, and allude to scenes or events to which Milhazes’ paintings perhaps could be articulated as a stage. These titles can be proper names of people or places, book or song titles, or names of objects; they can refer to traditional art genres and to

Voyage to the Center of the Earth, 1993. Acrylic on canvas. 66 5/4 x 70 3/4 in. (170 x 180 cm.).

famous works, without establishing a parallelism between the image and their reference. One exception is Paz e Amor (1995–1996), which presents at its center the peace symbol so dear to the hippie generation, surrounded by daisy petals, bead necklaces, rosebuds, targets, weather vanes, etc. Latin blood A contrary example is The man you met here at my loft who I traveled some with in Egypt (1993), in which figures (roses, ruffles, fruits, birds, necklaces) may be related to both the impressions about “the man you met” and to an encounter in “my loft,” as well as an allegory of “travel in Egypt.” The title is a complete image, one that possesses a life of its own outside the piece but which adheres to the painting like glue, a sign that would work in any other context but whose meanings begin to belong to the universe of that specific work. Despite its English-language title, this work belongs to what we can call Beatriz Milhazes’s “hispanic period,” when she used iconography taken from Iberian references, both European and from the Americas. While the title is misleading, the year of its execution confirms it: 1993 marks the moment when the artist started exhibiting in galleries and museums of Latin America as well as Brazil. “My notebooks of that time are filled with Catholic iconography and drawings of religious architecture details. . . very heavy,” says the artist in an interview with Jonathan Watkins, published in the catalog of the show “Mares do Sul.” In general, her works of 1993– 1997 are indeed heavily charged, dark, and even figurative, if we take into account the profusion of jewels, ornaments, lace and lace edgings, roses, and ruffles in some of these works. The main image in the surface of Macho e fêmea (Male and Female, 1995), for instance, is built on the basis of a daisy drawn in a childlike style, from which strings of lace flow and tied together by bead necklaces. Orbiting around this


Peace and Love. Paix et Amour. Paz y Amore, 1995-1996. Acrylic on canvas. 30 x 77 4/5 in. (76 x 198 cm.).

figure are small circles connected to one another—and to the nuclear image—through more necklaces and more lace. The canvas is formed against a dark-blue background that covers three vertical rows of circles at the sides and the center of the painting. In In Albis (In White, 1995–1996), Milhazes’s jewelry designs are modified and take over the painting’s upper left corner. A piece of lace against a light two-colored background occupies the central portion, with a vertical series of ruffles covering part of the figure. To the right, two more pieces of lace are joined together with a necklace, thus forming a group of elements that refer to female clothing (gloves, rings, and necklaces), perhaps that of a Catholic lady from Portugal, Spain, or Mexico. These features are more clearly in evidence in Viagem ao centro da terra (Voyage to the Center of the Earth, 1993), whose concentric repetition of green and blue ruffles—with flowers on their edges—refer to the several linings of a flamenco dancer’s skirt. To complete this imaginary performance, the rose the dancer might carry in her mouth, for the public’s delight, is in the stripes on her skirt: Olé! Carnival, Bossa Nova, and other bossas—“waves” Music, dancing, and popular celebrations, especially Carnival allegories, have always been present

in Beatriz Milhazes’s work. But it is since the 1990s that these expressions exercise a decisive influence and motivate a turn in the artist’s compositions. Despite continuing to include figurative elements such as stars, suns, or hearts, her painting becomes more abstract and starts to include stripes, rays, and lines that give the vision a synchronized rhythm. Circular movements similar to those of a system of gears, characteristic of The man you met here and also of Menino Pescando (Boy Fishing, 1997), free themselves from a closed system in order to unwind like a spool, or to become the explosions of light seen in a fireworks display, governed by centrifugal forces. Perhaps the piece that best synthesizes this period is Tempo de Verão (Summer Time, 1999). This painting’s “vibrations” expand from the circular shapes of three targets at the center of the canvas, and radiate: towards the upper left sector in a profusion of stars like those used in comic books to represent a strong clash; towards the right side, with the swaying movements of a wave; towards the lower left, in the incidence of warm-color rays; and towards the lower right, through mostly cold tentacles with spiral tips. Amidst such formal and chromatic agitation flowers, a couple of birds, fruits, and a heart are scattered; these are figurative elements that become color and form, less than

the representation of a tree, a rose, or some pigeons. The tropical splendor of Tempo de Verão contrasts with the bossa-novalike melancholy of O cravo e a rosa (The Carnation and the Rose, 2000). In this work more concentrated nuclei of images, some of them about to disintegrate, are formed. Almost the whole background is covered by blue vertical stripes. A pattern of lace is attached behind the stripes, on the painting’s right side, and another lace edging, to the left, occupies a “sfumato” ink area, as if about to be covered. Almost at the center of the piece, a flower with rows of petals in everlarger sizes and ever-darker shades of blue, produces an optical effect that magnetizes the viewer’s gaze. To the side, superimposed, the white lace and red ruffle lose the integrity of their forms, exhausted after years of using the same films. What is left, then, in the canvas’s lower part, is a small bunch of flowers and fruits that, thanks to their impeccable color and definition, are revealed as parts of a collage, a decal, or sticker. Parallel to the organization of these formal nuclei, it is interesting to note in later works the way in which the formation of chromatic chords—to use a musical term, in reference to the grouping of colors in the pictorial space—relates to the advancing geometrization in Milhazes’s painting.


the insistent repetition of logos and seductive images and colors. And, “remember that there is nothing more metaphysic in the world, other than chocolate,” as Fernando Pessoa would put it.7 The Portuguese poet’s verses continue: “Eat chocolate, little girl; . . . eat, dirty little girl, eat! I wish I could eat chocolate as fast as you! / But I think, and after taking away the silver paper, which is made of tin, /I throw everything to the floor, as my life has been thrown.” A psychoanalytic reading of this fragment is that full satisfaction demands innocence, “absence of guilt.” Dirty little girl, Beatriz Milhazes’s painting believes in beauty and, despite Christianity, eats at will, to the point of convulsion.

Tides, 2002-2003. Acrylic on canvas. 118 x 105 in. (300 x 267 cm.).

Geometry and color, harmony and rhythm In Maresias (Tides, 2002–2003), for instance, circular forms almost take over the painting in its entirety, dividing the sides of the piece’s lower half with squares and rectangles insinuated in different shades of red. All the figures among these circles, targets, balls, and daisies, are formed in an expansive manner, in frank dilation. The fluidity of the subsequence of the curves and turns and arches produces labyrinthine movements that are sinuous to the point of troubling observation. However, if one pays attention it is easy to identify the area where, for instance, blue shades are concentrated; the surface where warm colors are concentrated; the side occupied by fluorescent inks; or another one where whites, ashen tones, and blacks predominate; and so forth. And, again, like a musi-

cal composition, chromatic chords establish the painting’s harmonic structure and the circular shapes mark its rhythm. In recent works shown in May and June of this year at her individual exhibition in the São Paulo gallery, Fortes Vilaça, the artist signals new goals in her work. She takes on collage (on paper) as a technique, polygons as structuring spatial elements (both in painting and collage), and incorporates (only in collage) an iconography of motifs that are industrially printed on paper. Gamadinho and the works in the series Leblon (2004) are organized around the geometry of chocolate packaging, on which colored-paper flowers are pasted. In a perverse way, they join the persuasive character of candy wrappings to the childish contours of the trimmed flowers. Desire builds in this series through

Notes 1. Paulo Herkenhoff, “Beatriz Milhazes, el tesoro brasileño.” Beatriz Milhazes, Birmingham, Ikon Gallery, 2001. 2. Adriano Pedrosa, “Brillo,” Beatriz Milhazes. São Paulo, Camargo Vilaça Gallery, 1996 and “Brillo Expandido,” Mares do Sul, Mares del Sur, Rio de Janeiro, Banco do Brasil Cultural Center, 2003. 3. André Breton, L’Amour fou, Paris, Gallimard, 1937. 4. Achille Bonito Oliva, “The Italian Trans-avantgarde”, Flash Art, October/November, 1979. 5. Ibid. 6. Renato De Fusco, Storia dell’arte contemporanea, Roma, Laterza & Figli Spa, 1983. 7. Fernando Pessoa, “Tabacaria”, Obra poética de Fernando Pessoa: poesias de Álvaro de Campos, Lisboa, Europa-América, 1986. * All images illustrating this article are courtesy of Galeria Fortes Vilaça, São Paulo. Translation: Jorge Frisancho.

José Augusto Ribeiro Journalist and art critic.


ArtNexus Magazine 54, year 2004. pp 165

SOLO SHOW Thiago Rocha Pitta E W Carioca YORK ANGentil Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The observation of nature —understood as a fundamental and historic operation in art— could be considered the main characteristic of Thiago Rocha Pitta’s “still formative” work, if it weren’t for the fact that this work enters an even more direct relationship with the natural space and natural phenomena. Besides what to observe, Thiago (Tiradentes, Minas Gerais, 1980) seeks to articulate functioning principles of nature to sculptoric and/or pictorial principles in his films, photographs, sculptures, installations, paintings on canvas and on paper. With that purpose he often works directly with nature, having his actions happen in conjunction with those that would normally occur at the specific site (having been already altered by the new artifice of art). Such practices link his investigations to the tradition of post-war contemporary art, from Robert Smithson and Giuseppe Penone to Olafur Eliasson. His first individual show, held at A Gentil Carioca (the gallery opened about a year ago in downtown Rio de Janeiro, devoted to emerging production and managed by artists Ernesto Neto, Laura Lima, and Márcio Botner,) became a true challenge: to bring this investigation into the most conventional architectural space. Water, in its matteric, morphic, or symbolic aspects, is the show’s triggering and unifying element, recurring in every work. And when it relates directly to the spaces architecture, as in the case of “Nuvem Transparente” —Transparent Cloud (all works are from 2004,) Thiago seems to count more freely on the viewer’s comprehension, thus giving his own imaginary greater freedom, doing away with more traditional principles of representation, which are present in his paintings, watercolors, and photographs. The sculpture is executed through rectangular plastic planes that are filled with water, suspended, and installed in a skylight inside the gallery. With such natural light it is possible to appreciate the alteration of intensities and drawings created by the sun and by the real clouds, up there in the sky.

Thiago Rocha Pitta. Fountain, 2003. Photograph. 35 1/2 x 47 1/4 in. (90 x 120 cm.).

Interestingly, perhaps this is the strongest work in the show, thanks to its reference to the interplay of a progressive scale with successive stops in the sculpture itself, in the gallery, in the sky over the city, and finally in the universe itself. This is not the usual tendency to seek a “new physical perception” of the gallery space in order to let light filter through, but to connect a piece of this space to a more comprehensive context, which in a simple and discrete (as well as symbolic and allusive) way invades the white cube through the sculpture. This kind of operation had already been deployed in Fonte (2003,) a site-specific piece created for his show at the Pampulha Museum of Art: a kind of fountain inverted into a reflective concave arch, installed en plein air, which takes water from a neighboring lagoon and creates a circular movement in its interior only to return it to its point of origin. This sculpture not only evokes the life cycle, but it also welcomes, reflects, filters, repeats, and amplifies nature in the invention of art. Fonte reappears in the current show in a photograph of the same title showing the sculpture in Pampulha. Leaving aside the image’s plastic qualities, it is above all a documentary record of the sculptoric potential of water in the work and not of a photographic incursion on the action itself. The other photograph in this show, Chuva Fósil, is able to bring the viewer to a more subtle point of observation. It represents a rock in Rio

de Janeiro, a small hillside, punished by the action of time, of rain, of nature. The tracings seen on the rock, painting amplified in the field of nature and captured by the artist’s eye, comes to us interrupted by the act of photographing it, but it will continue through the centuries. Belonging to a different series of works, rains appears in order to create atmospheric, vertiginous paintings: a triptych in which we are submerged in an environment charged with pictorial realism, where every drop of painted matter (ink) is equal to a drop of the same represented matter (rain) —the result is more abstract and processoriented than naturalistic. Just as in the act of perception, there is a conflict between what exists and what is perceived. Unity appears as a pictorial attribute in the triptych (celebrating a tribute to romantic painters, especially William Turner): Sublimaçao, Condensaçao e Precipitaçao. A tempest over the seas: the action of gravity, which gives form in painting to nature’s water; the rock painted by the movements of water and time. The natural space framed inside artistic thought. Formal debates occur between sculpture, painting and photography. The interplay of nature and art began a long time ago. Thiago installs new ways of thinking about it. Translation: Jorge Frisancho

Rodrigo Moura


ArtNexus Magazine 55, year 2005. pp 78-84

26th São Paulo Biennial M Free Territory

Cai Guo Quiang. Uneasy Bird, 2004. Sculpture in vime and sharp objects. 118 x 236 1/5 x 354 1/4 in. (300 x 600 x 900 cm.).*

Pablo Vargas Lugo. Anti-skidding Vision, 2002. 431 4/ x 394 x 4722 5/ in. (110 x 1000 x 1200 cm.). Collection Jumex, Ecatepec, Mexico. *

María Elvira Iriarte

r. Alfons Hug, who was also the curator of the previous polemic biennial, seems to have declined this opportunity to set strict parameters to keep the exhibit within bounds. Under the banner of liberalism an enormous installation of contemporary art is generated without following any legible curatorial line. One hundred thirty-five artists from 62 countries participated. Is this Biennial a breeding ground for artists, most of whom lack a solid background? The first flaw of the exhibition was the near total absence of really important artists. Although the curator assures us that the special halls were kept, its current occupants did not measure up to their predecessors: with all due respect, Artur Barrio, Thomas Struth, Eugenio Dittborn, and Cai Guo Giang do not yet resound as do Mondrian, Torres Garcia, or Frank Stella, for example, or like Jesus Rafael Soto, Anselm Kiefer, or Arcangelo Ianelli, to mention some of the artists exhibited in the special halls of recent biennials. And this is not only the endorsement of history. The point is to present at the biennial works that do not flounder when removed from their natural context or their private cultural framework. Most of the curator’s catalogue text is self-justification, not in a personal capacity, but in an institutional capacity. As if the São Paulo Biennial requires justifications nowadays! There are several references to Venice and Kassel, and allusions to many others, quoted as a general and abstract number. The importance of our São Paulo exhibition in relation to the American continent was duly highlighted. But, of course, we already knew that. The curator’s is not the only text that appears as a general introduction to the exhibition. There are also texts by Hans Belting, on the relationship between art and technology, and Nelson Aguilar, who discussed the crisis of traditional supports. The criteria for placement of works followed, vaguely, the similarity of language, or rather, of the supports. On the first floor, large-format installations and/



Yin Xiuzhen. Shopping, 2003-2004. Installation. Variable dimensions. Courtesy: Alexander Ochs Galleries, Berlin-Beijing.

or sculptures with some photography, and a couple of videos were scattered here and there. On the second floor, were painting and some photography, plus an additional area reserved for video in more or less private halls called “Planetarium.” On the third floor, using only half the space that was previously partially reserved for special samples, there was a tad of everything. The curator holds that “to emphasize the thematic unity of the sample as a whole, the guest artists and those sent by the different countries were mixed in those 25,000 square meters . . . . Despite the complexity of the diverse voices a collective concert is created.”1 However, it could also be interpreted as a terrible cacophony. The orchestra never tuned its instruments and the assembly, although certainly well done, did not fully achieve its purpose. Photography became the most frequent means of expression of this biennial, to such an extent that the curator believed it to be the thread that gave cohesion to the three floors of the exhibit. “Free Territory” admitted a wide variety of themes. We can rescue some of the conceptual lines worked by several artists: the urban context; displacement and globalization; consumerism; ecological issues; and domestic and external conflicts in different areas of the world.

Pablo Cardoso. Far, Close, Far, 2004. Acrylic on MDF. Detail. 319 pieces. 4 x 6 inches each. (10 x 15 cm.). Photo: Juan Pablo Merchán.

Artur Barrio. Inappropriate for Human Consumption, 2002. Installation with iron, wood, rubber, stone, rope, strings, coffee, lamp, fabric, graphite.*

This 26th Biennial speaks in a low key, and there are various reasons for many specialized critics and the general public to perceive this. The first is a lax conceptual framework, reflected in the title that refers to a geopolitical concept more than to any aesthetic criteria. The line between freedom and license is very thin and this biennial is perhaps too far from aesthetic rigor and verges on permissiveness. These concepts are not impervious or exclusive. Many of the works were based on some of them (and others totally escaped the above considerations). The bottom line revealed contemporary reality in its most recurrent aspects. The mass media seemed to act in the background, sound systems included. The Biennial had one thousand and one noises and sounds (or music) that were integral elements of the works exhibited. The urban theme was widely present. To start with, two large-format installations flanked the entry to the building. On the right, we found the work of the Mexican Pablo Vargas Lugo, a guest artist. On the left, was an installation by Yin Xiuzhen, a Chinese guest artist. The Mexican dealt with the urban image made up exclusively of pyramids organized in a dense fabric on the floor; it was his Vision Antiderrapante (Anti-

skidding Vision). The Chinese showed the tremendous cultural impact caused by the progressive urbanization of her country. Vargas Lugo’s more than one thousand pyramids, in an orthogonal array, clearly alluded to the city of the dead. The biggest dimensions were one meter, while the smallest was one centimeter. The regularity of the display seemed random thanks to small threads of miniature vegetation, free lines that sinuously ran through the installation. Urban utopia was contradicted by nature and the wish for perpetuity by its own impossibility. In Shopping 2004 the Chinese artist proposed a reflection on the impact of manifest urban forms through trade. A dozen old sewing machines alternated with the representation of miniature cities, a kind of naive volumetric scale-model: little houses, airports, cities, and stadiums. With


discarded clothing, the artist sewed, or made her cities sew; they could be taken for toys in a kindergarten. One element that appeared in the catalogue was missing from the exhibit—a giant shopping cart. The metaphor was not self-evident, although it was poetic. City elements, external volumes, or domestic spaces, were also plentiful. The favorite medium was photography, and in several cases, serial photography, or compilations, from living rooms in the Malay Peninsula—photographed house by house by the Australian Simryn Gill—to new mass-produced houses of the anonymous suburb of a Japanese city, photographed by Noya Hatakeyama; the summer houses that the communist régime allowed in Czechoslovakia, exhibited by Veronica Zapletalová; or the rather insipid Dark Caravan by the Belgians Christine Falten and Véronique Massinger, a record of

urban facts taken by means of a dark chamber set up in a van that traveled to certain towns in the country. The materials handled with incredible skill and subtlety by the Cuban Carlos Garaicoa, are not the city proper, but rather its constituent elements. His installation consisted of three videos discreetly located and a series of numerous very small scale architectural models. The videos are testimony of the construction of three small works also exhibited: three models made out of razor blades, sliced bread, and matchboxes, respectively. These, as well as the tiny buildings, were replicated with an imaginary drawing created with tightened threads on a spread of small nails on the three walls of the exhibit’s space. The set alludes to the utopian city, to an illusion, to “the establishment of a possible and ideal community.”2

Juan Fernando Herrán. Placements, 2003. Concrete sculpture. 157 1/2 x 27 1/2 in. (400 x 70 cm.).

Julie Mehretu. Looking Back to a Bright New Future, 2003. Ink and acrylic on canvas. 95 x 119 in. (241,3 x 302,2 cm.). Collection Dennis and Debra Scholl, Miami Beach, Florida. Courtesy: The Project, New York and Los Angeles.


Another installation alluding to the city and its construction was that by Maxim Malhado. Using rough boards and round trunks, the Brazilian raised intricate and dysfunctional scaffolding, a metaphor for the incongruity of the urban environment. The rigorous structures drawn directly on the wall in charcoal by the Argentinean Paulo Siquier were a refined echo of the same problem. The concept of travel or displacement was readable in several works, beginning with the sailboat that Artur Barrio, Luso-Brazilian, installed in the central area of the first floor to one side of the ramp. This was accompanied, a certain distance away, by an old sofa and an old cabinet with notebooks and travel mementos. The catalogue describes the production as “conceptual with body and odor.”3 The iconographic strategy was so explicit that, to a certain extent, it weakened the poetry of the installation. But this was not the only boat in the exhibition. The British artist Simon Starling brought another sailboat, turned it upside down, keel up, and supported it on its mast alone, holding it to the floor with steel cables. The wood is Brazilian moho, and the boat was made in a Scottish shipyard. These ships sailed once, but not so the delirious structure by Milton Marques (Brazil) which barely floated, as evidenced in the accompanying video and justified the exhibition of the artifact. Pablo Cardoso, representing Ecuador, lead the travel theme to a literal representation. Starting from a random photographic record of his own air trip between Cuenca and São Paulo, he painted 319 acrylics, 10 x 15 cm. Without color, with meticulous technique, Cardoso reconstructed the anodyne photographs, at times out of focus, to give us a casual view of a moving environment. Jaime Ávila, from Colombia, worked under similar assumptions. He was represented at the Biennial with several large format photographs, some manipulated; a text explaining the origin of the installation’s title—Fourth World; and three cubic constructions of paper printed with aerial photographs of the shanty towns of two Latin American capital cities. Each cube consists of a


thousand small cubes. The real support of the work was a trip that Ávila made to several capitals of the continent: in all, there are two cities, the formal and the informal, the center and the periphery. The artist is interested in the latter and records it obsessively, deconstructing its syntax until it becomes almost abstract. Esterio Segura, from Cuba, also alluded to displacement, or more precisely, to one of the most usual means of displacement nowadays: the airplane. In black and white on a raw canvas he proposed hybrid beings with precise diction, airplane-whale, airplanehippopotamus, airplane-automobile, which speak of the “silent protagonists of the new world political economy: the immigrants that carry the borders of their nations in their backpacks and restructure their identities at each airport terminal.”4 The series is titled: Todos quisieron volar (They all wanted to fly). There was another airplane-bird in the great internal void connecting the three floors of the building. It was an enormous construction in wicker, drifting alongside the already mentioned installation by Barrio. It had wheels and plastic tapes animated by fans that simulated the plane’s movement and also made continuous noise. The surface literally bristled with thousands of sharp objects, the kind that cannot be taken into the passenger cabin for security reasons: scissors, pocket knives, knives, pincers, and needles. The comment was rather funny; the author is Chinese artist Cai Guo Qiang.5 Another vehicle at the Biennial by the Austrian Leo Schatzl was the fuchsia VW Beetle suspended with elastic cords from a metallic structure like a giant mecano, or toy that could be made to rotate from its suspension point. A contemporary team made up of eight Austrian, Brazilian, and American artists replicated Thomas Ender’s Austrian expedition, an eighteenth century scientific mission that compiled images and information on colonial Brazil. The result of the current expedition is much less convincing than the original watercolors and its purpose of reinstating the foreign scientific mission as a tool of knowledge doesn’t seem a valid basis for the assembly at the biennial, anodyne and trivial. Another trip,

Leo Shatzl. Gimme Gummi, 2003. Installation with Volkswagen beetle hung from colorful ropes. 236 1/5 x 236 1/5 x 236 1/5 in. (600 x 600 x 600 cm.).*

or displacement was that of Brazilian Paulo Bruscky’s workshop. Bruscky is an artist related to the “holistic” movements of Fluxus. Three or four environments mimetically reconstructed the artist’s real shop in Recife. Curatorial self-confidence, no doubt. “E d´aí?” the Brazilians would say. Two other installations could be linked to the theme of displacement. One was the curved ramp by Thiago Bortolozzo, a road that began already in the air, lifted with cheap construction wood. The ramp crossed the glazed wall of the building and was lost in the foliage of the neighboring trees. A metaphor of the future, perhaps? The other less optimistic installation was a sort of a high runway built with wooden orthopedic crutches, titled El Puente (The Bridge), by José Morales, a New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent. The construction covered the distance between the lateral walls of the assigned space without connecting them. Passage was not possible. The doors sketched in both walls were only deceptively connected by shades. The trip did not end well. The legible contents alluded to both the displacement of immigrants and to the enormous bar-

Patrick Hamilton. Morgue, 2004. Color photograph. 59 x 47 1/5 in. (150 x 120 cm.).

riers encountered by the disabled. With frugal means and conceptual weight, this was one of the most forceful installations of the Biennial. Three exhibitors made ironic comments on globalization. One of them was Son Dong, a Chinese artist. His work was an enormous planisphere made of sweets and candies on a blue plastic floor. Supposedly, the public could participate by eating the goodies, but there was no chance for that. Another planisphere, this one computerized and reduced to dots and lines in black on white was the proposal of Brazilians Angela Detanico and Rafael Lain. A schematic map of the world was composed and recomposed with a feigned computer click. For curator Lisettte Lagnado, these artists acted as hackers of representation systems. The third artist dealing with the topic did so in a mocking and amusing way. The Mexican Miguel Calderón represented his country with the replica of a soccer game between Brazil and Mexico. Mexico won by an incredible 17 goals to 0. The match could be watched from two displays in the area of the mezzanine’s coffee shop. The montage was made


José Morales. Bridge, 2001. Wood crutches, metal cubes, water and charcoal on paper. Variable dimensions.*

with takes from actual games, as if it were the live broadcasting of the match, with real players, referees, public, technicians, and commentators, and the shouts of “goaaal” roaring throughout the first floor of the Biennial. There were other forms dealing with the topic: the airmail painting by Dittborn, involving painting, photography, and collage, on an enormous canvas folded into fragments, so as to fit into envelopes. The traveling Pope was alluded to by the reconstruction of his silhouette, made by troops of the Brazilian army on a beach of Rio and photographed from above by the Polish artist Piotr Uklanky; or the computer images by the Croatian Zlakto Kopljar recording part of his Series K. The artist was photographed and filmed kneeling reverently at different sites in New York. The interactive installation by the Greek artist Harris Kondosphyris also touched on the topic of globalization in aspects related to communication or the lack of it in the current world. In a dark space, a construction alluding to Chinese shadow plays confronted a great panel of reflec-

tive stainless steel worked in relief and incised with hundred of characters on an anonymous street. The pagoda was transformed to a phantasmagoria that gave forth soft scents and whispered an incomprehensible language. The spectator was reflected on the steel panel, virtually inserted into the problem of lack of communication. The ecological concern was another focal point. We found it in the extraordinary photographs by the Canadian Edward Burtynsky who recorded stages of the construction of China’s huge hydroelectric project of the Three Gorges. The whole project was “a metaphor of our existence in the modern era,”6 and an accusation of the perverse relationship between the wish to live with more comforts and the pillaging of nature. Less philosophical, although beautiful as an installation, was the proposal by Brazilian Chelpa Ferro, already presented in the Havana Biennial. A sizeable amount of dry branches of a shrub known in Brazil as fava were arranged as flags on a wall. The branches vibrated with the action of fans we could not see but were

Harris Kondosphyris. Athens-Beijing /Migrant´s Ark, 2004. Water-resistant plywood coated with plasticized cement, red light, black light. 295 1/5 x 118 x 133 3/4 in. (750 x 300 x 340 cm.). Photo: Giorgos Vitsaropoulos.


Esterio Segura. They All Wanted to Fly, 2003. Mixed media on linen. 137 3/4 x 70 3/4 in. (350 x 180 cm.).*

able to hear, and that added to the noise made by the seeds of the dry sheaths. The public participated by activating the fans from many electric switches on the floor in front of the installation. The noise generated was suggestive of nature. Artists concerned with the conflicts of power and war were not lacking. I will mention only three: Juan Fernando Herrán, Colombian: Patrick Hamilton, from Chile, and Fernando Sánchez Castillo, sent by Spain. Three big pieces in cast concrete were Herrán’s presentation. They were at the same time abstract geometric works and metaphors of the strongholds of the colonial period. Hard, overwhelming, almost threatening, they clearly alluded to the conflict the country is undergoing. Hamilton uses photography as a highly sophisticated tool to present images combining saturated colors, artifacts such as plow disks or knives duplicated in spectacular form whose brilliant blades lodge fragments of other, also photographic, scenes. Those chosen for this series referred to the conflict in Afghanistan or in Iraq, and to the Guantanamo base. The Spanish artist

Detail of Harris Kondosphyris´ installation.*


declared that “art may speak metaphorically to make us change our stand vis-a-vis the structures of history.”7 His excellent video showed the vicissitudes of a great brass bust, dislodged from its original context and subjected to the most varied treatments by numerous groups of characters: it was dragged through paths and roads, alternatively stoned or decorated, buried and rescued from the sea. There were subtle references to Buñuel and Almodóvar in a beautifully built discourse. Among national representations, there were at least thirteen videos. Nearly another thirteen were exhibited by the non-Brazilian artists. Apart from those already mentioned we must highlight Les balayeurs du désert, by the ChineseEnglish artist (residing in Luxembourg), Su-Mei Tse. In a long sequence, the street sweepers of Paris, distributed across an immense desert-like surface, try to heap mounds of sand. It brings to mind the Spanish saying: “Like plowing in the sea.” It is also necessary to be critical of the exhibitionist and eschatological film showing the Bulgarian Rassim being circumcised in an operating room. The artist has every right to wish to come closer to the multicultural reality of his country, even through a self-imposed ritual mutilation. But he is confusing the private with the public sphere. The presence of this video was an abrupt assault despite the several antecedents it has in the field of Body Art. A score of participants were represented with painting, most of them were invited by the Biennial. The works of Brazilian Beatriz Milhazes in acrylic on canvas were supported by ornaments, in the strictest sense in the term. Arabesques, circles, iterative geometric patterns, and schematic flowers unfolded into a wise color mix. Voices from Siberia, the set of works by the Japanese, Shin Miyazaki, takes us exactly to the antipodes. Several of his two-dimensional works had strong texture, and a three-dimensional piece was made of burnt logs. The former were encaustic paintings made in near black pigments on thick jute. These solemn paintings reminded us of meditation, naked beauty in the search for the absolute. Another contrast was the explosive energy of the drawings and

Eugenio Dittborn. Histories of the Face, 2004. Aeropostal paintings. Variable dimensions. *

Paulo Climachauska. Palace, 2004. Drawing with permanent ink. 1102 x 197 in. (2800 x 500 cm.).

Thiago Bortolozzo. Vital Brazil, 2004. Wooden structure. Variable dimensions.

canvases by the Ethiopian-American Julie Mehretu. Her meticulously controlled spots, sprinklings, color, and graphics transmitted a fierce image of violence and disintegration. “The stadium, the coliseum, the amphitheater are perfect metaphoric spaces, clearly designed to lodge a great mass of people in a highly

democratic, civilized and functional way. It is also in those same spaces that we perceive the underground currents of the most complete chaos, of the violence and disorder.”8 The artist works with drawings reminiscent of architectural blueprints, elements of advertising, or comics that are later covered by layers of


Juan Calzadilla. Body Maze, 1998. India ink on paper. 19 x 16 in. (48,2 x 40,5 cm.). Collection Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas Sofía Imber. Photo: Morella Muñoz-Tebar.

Rosana Palazyan. O Realejo, 2003-2004. Installation. Based on the testimonies of homeles people of São Paulo.*

Zwelethu Mthethwa. Untitled, 2003. C-print. Unique print. 76 2/5 x 59 in. (194,3 x 149,8 cm.). Courtesy: Jonathan Greenberg, Greenwich, CT.

semi-opaque latex. In the end, they become delicate silhouettes that are barely seen within a mass of strokes overlaid in a very beautiful graphic and chromatic palimpsest. Two other works in the category of two-dimensional works were the wall painted by the São Paolo artist Paulo Climachauska, and elements of the series Body Maze, by the Venezuelan Juan Calzadilla. Supported by a team of several young artists, the first one drew on one of the closed walls of the second floor, the image of the skyline of the Oscar Niemeyer building and the Biennial Pavilion. The similarity was quite impressive and the false strokes were in fact thousands of figures carefully aligned to assemble the spectacular image that duplicated the space. Calzadilla was declared an integral artist. His theoretical and critical contribution is one of the most important in Venezuelan letters as are his drawings, understood as a calligraphic writing. Hundreds of small naked human bodies filled the support planes and generated a compact weft, as of printed page open to be read with more than one interpretation. Professor Nelson Aguilar, curator of the Brazilian representative, Ivens Machado, considered the artist’s installation as “an oracle that should be consulted by the surrounding works.”9 The installation was made up by hundreds

of logs, 12-centimeters in diameter and more than a meter long, heaped in a sinuous configuration with several holes or cavities. Some were sharpened, others broken. The parallel sought with the building was not apparent, nor was the dialogue with nearby works: an enormous silver globe by Bruno Peinado and the already mentioned suspended VW and the planisphere of sweets. Portugal presented an installation/ performance that was stuffed in the central space of the ramp. Sculptor Rui Chafes and the dancer and choreographer Vera Mantero collaborated. Two very high metallic seats, similar to the contraptions of ski slopes, welcomed the dancer’s naked body for a one-hour performance. Her skin was entirely decorated with drawings that evoked the ritual ornamentation of hands and feet of brides in certain Arab countries. The action was recorded on a video shown near the seating. The organ grinder also acted as a performer—with a parrot that gave out colorful little papers with atrocious phrases—“installed” in the Biennial by the Brazilian Rosana Palazyan, as an artistic strategy to “... grant visibility to what is submerged in opacity.”10 Perhaps the abovementioned words serve to qualify the set of photographs sent by seven photographers of several African countries who were special guests. Most

were portraits, and the most beautiful, those that portray images of the South African harvest, were those captured by Zwelethu Mthethwa’s lens. In summary, we will have to continue waiting for another São Paulo Biennial in the hope that, as a whole, it will bemore thrilling. Notes 1. Alfons Hug, The Biennial as a Free Territory,” exhibition catalogue of the 26th Sao Paulo Biennial, September 26–December 19, 2004, p. 23. 2. Jose Roca, guest artist catalogue of the 26th Sao Paulo Biennial, September 26–December 19, 2004, p. 118. 3. Luiz Camillo Osorio, “Barrio: proceso y experiencia,” guest artist catalogue, p. 266. 4. Abelardo Mena, guest artist catalogue, p. 120. 5. The artist proposed a work that exploded and was not accepted by the Biennial for security reasons. It is the work in the outline of the catalogue. 6. The artist, quoted by curator Marcus Schubert, guest artist catalogue, p. 76. 7. Fernando Sanchez Castillo, national representative catalogue of the 26th Sao Paulo Biennial, p. 130. 8. Julie Mehretu, quoted in the text of the guest artist catalogue, p. 156. 9. Nelson Aguilar, catalogue of National Representations, p. 96. 10. Paulo Herkenhoff, guest artist catalogue, p. 182. * Photos by León Birbragher. Translation: Jorge Frisancho María Elvira Iriarte Ph D. in Art History and MFA. She teaches art history at the School of Fine Arts, Finis Terrae University, Santiago de Chile.

ArtNexus Magazine 55, year 2005. pp 163-164



Edgard de Souza Pinacoteca del estado de São Paulo

Tension: For weeks the word and sentiment linger in one’s body and mind after visiting the Edgard de Souza exhibition on view until November 14, 2004, at the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, one of São Paulo’s most striking exhibition spaces. “A Voluta e outros trabalhos” was curated by artist and independent curator Adriano Pedrosa and is de Souza’s second panoramic exhibit in Brazil, the first held in 2002 at the Museu de Arte da Pampulha (MAP) in Belo Horizonte, also under the keen eye of Pedrosa. The Pinacoteca version shows approximately 30 works produced between 1989 and 2004, from sculptures, objects, and floor and wall pieces, to several photographs distributed in the majestic octagonal space at the heart of the building and its annex. The visitor enters the monumental site and heads over the central metallic bridge, at the end of which, out of the corner of one’s eye to the right, a pearly-cream-colored anamorphic object on the bare brick wall announces the entrance into de Souza’s domain. The strategically placed wall-piece is the first in a series of similar works that impart a Batallian sense of bodily excesses in what I consider an inquisitive dialogue with surrealist notions of basesse and the informe. The series of Gotas, or drops, and untitled wall-pieces produced over the years are particularly interesting in their discrete yet powerful presence as a unit, connecting all works in the exhibit formally and metaphorically. The wood and lacquer drops give in to their sensual and sinuous form and their installation at varying heights on the walls suggests the body-like nature of the anthropomorphised exhibition space, leaking fluids from fissures in the gently tensing structure. Voluta (1989) sets the tone of the show. The sensual dark wood curves and spirals convey art deco; however there is no denying their bodily nature in this context. Organic and sexual, Voluta, a magnified pubic hair, sets the precedent for the oozing drips, both formally and conceptually; it is placed on the opposite side of the room to Coelhinhos (1997), a couple of rabbit-hair pillows in a vitrine, which evoke Meret Oppenheim’s 1936 Object (Fur Breakfast), and draw the spectator

deeply into the psychoanalytic fetishized feast that the show stimulates. De Souza’s investigation and evocation of the senses, memory, and notions of identity is compelling since at a glance we are confronted with the familiarity that his works evoke, be it an accurately sculpted body as in his bronzes, a giant wooden and gold-leafed orange (Laranja, 1990), or a duck head with a pierced bill (Pato c/ Piercing, 2001). But as soon as the eye is given enough time to see and assimilate, the feeling conveyed is one of estrangement, conjuring the uncanny. Traditionally, sculpture functioned as form of recognizing and claiming the divine, and immortalizing the subject in the world of the living, which suggests the subject’s death and/or its physical unavailability to the viewer. De Souza’s bronzes are almost classically Greek in nature; although headless, they miss the disciplined clarity of an Apollonian man and an identity. These classically beautiful bodies (modelled on the artist’s own) conjure meaningful disarray and create tension; the male body is the “other,” and erratic in a domain where bodily fluids ooze and traditional body politics is estranged and convulsive. There is no trace of specific identity and the male figures, at times individual and at others morphed into their double, always seem to be about to split at the seams and

spill into their surroundings; the surface is tensed to its limits. “A Voluta e outros trabalhos” is a disciplined and tightly bound show, yet laced with ambiguity, the uncanny and throbbing raw sexuality painfully waiting to be physically projected into its surroundings. Visually coherent, the distribution of works in the two designated areas allows both a formal and conceptual dialogue between each other and their environment. De Souza, like many current Brazilian names in the art circuit, is a Fine Arts graduate of Fundação Armando Álvares Penteado (FAAP). He participated in the 1991 and 1997 Panorama at MAM-SP, was in the 24th Bienal de São Paulo in 1998, and has exhibited widely abroad where he had solo exhibitions in Madrid, New York, and Amsterdam, to name a few.

Edgar de Souza. Voluta, 1989. Wood. 63 in. high (160 cm.).

Camila Belchior


ArtNexus Magazine 56, year 2005, pp 157

Reviews Rio de janeiro / BRAzIL

José Damasceno Fundación Eva Klabin

As the opening of the São Paulo Biennial approached, marking the (most important) ephemeral movements in the Brazilian circuit, the emergence of curator Marcio Doctors’ project Respiraçao, inaugurated in September with an exhibition of works by José Damasceno, is commemorated. The project takes place at the Eva Klabin Foundation, in Rio de Janeiro, a city Brazil’s most interesting artists call home but which nonetheless lacks any systematic institutional projects in contemporary art. The program consists of the development of site-specific works for the Foundation, a museum housing the Eva Klabin Collection, arranged by Klabin (1903-1991) in her own home. The collection comprises an impressive selection of furniture items and works of art; pieces ranging from antiquity to Impressionism are arranged in thematic galleries, in a kind of stage created by Klabin especially for them. José Damasceno concept for his show’s six works connects with the idea of a latent state of the image in the House. Cinematograma (all the works are dated 2004,) as the show is titled, is a mechanism for the discovery of the possibilities of space and its pre-existing elements, activating its aesthetic, symbolic, and image-related charges. Damasceno’s concerns are centered around the passage from the mental to the physical, creating systems of representation in which he operates through the interplay of dimension and scale, unit and whole, interior and exterior, order and chaos, idea and object. His drawings, sculptures and installations are essentially turned towards the violence that exists at the passage between the artist’s imagination and the concretion of the work, widening this same passage for its reception by the viewer —always invited to reconstruct and mentally decipher the vision experience. Damasceno’s quest, not all that close to the neo-Concrete legacy, is linked to the 1970s work of Cildo Meireles, Waltercio Caldas, and Umberto Costa Barros. By conceptualizing the space at the Foundation as stills from a movie, Damasceno created subtle interventions that

alter our perception of space and force viewers to reorganize their frame of reference as they move around the house. In that sense, the most emblematic piece is Interface Planar , an acrylic plate closing off the museum’s Renaissance Gallery (its Tintoretto and its Mabuse are left inside) and transforming it into a display case. On the acrylic, in a doted line resembling a sewing pattern tensed by two rocks, one inside and the other outside, the artist drew the hall’s lower level. Inside the space he placed small labels that, dividing it by dotted lines, suggest different decoupages. Our befuddlement comes from the contraposition of the representation created by the artist’s lens and the space’s strong pre-existing image. From the same family of works, Interface Quente blocks one of the entrances to the dining room, using yet another acrylic sheet with nuts and bolts tied to it in such a way that they alternate on each side. Almost like a pointillist design in the vacuum, the image fuses with and superimposes itself on the elements of the house, dividing the space and presenting itself for viewing from both sides. In the first floor, too, two pieces occupy their exhibition niches, making reference to the chaos contained in the passage between visual and mental experiences and approaching the cult objects housed and exhibited in the museum. In Condensador Pictórico, inside the British Gallery, the artist fills one of these display cases with color burlap, creating a kind of larval-state pictorial matter that fits its context surprisingly well and puts us in mind of abstract expressionism’s vibrant paintings, in contraposition to Sir Thomas Lawrence’s Portrait of Lady Williams, hung next to it. With ever more caustic humor, Psicoplasma is a strange bust in multicolor modeling clay. Placed on one of the selves, it refers to a children’s game, while the head of Apollo, a Third-to-First Century BCE Greco-Roman marble rests in the next display case. Organograma Manuscrito belongs to a series of drawings in which Damasceno creates, represents, and organizes space (paper or walls) with capillary, alveolar, and diagrammatic ramifications directed by and/or comprised of the words “yesterday,” “today,” and “tomorrow.” The organizational chart is born as a vine, with three slices at the foot of the stairs, done in small hand-written self-

José Damasceno. Interface Quente, 2004. Acrylic. 90 1/2 x 67 in. (230 x 170 cm.). Photo: Vicente de Mello.

adhesive labels that ascend in circles to the second floor, where it once again divides into two new branches some of which end behind a San Jerónimo Penitente from the Spanish Baroque. Undoubtedly, the most architectural piece in the exhibition, Audiçao, located in the Foundation’s small concert auditorium, has a different spirit. It uses pre-existing objects and achieves a strong dramatic accent thanks to them. A rope was tied to the leg of a grand piano, in the spectator box, and then hooked to the ceiling to support three chairs in the orchestra floor. Right there we have matter’s power of suggestion. If all art is Man’s power of transformation over matter, here it is as if objects were animated and illustrated our most otiose imagination. Like the essence of a film. Translation: Benedicta Badia Rodrigo Moura


ArtNexus Magazine 58, year 2005. pp 143-144


Cao Guimarães Galería La Caja Negra

The voyeur —a figure that more than indispensable is obligatory in the society of the spectacle— remains an object of interest and of analysis for many artists who, in most cases, place themselves in the voyeur’s position in order to better untangle the impulses that govern it. That is, at least, the impression left by this new exhibition of works by Brazilian artist Cao Guimarães, consisting on two video projections and a long dozen photographs that are as many corners in the polyhedral figure of one that attaches a sexual function to his gaze. Perverse, but sexual; sexual because it is perverse. The photographs exhibited by Guimarães are those of a flaneur, a curious pedestrian strolling through the city in search of extravagant views and surprises of the kind that do not appear often in heterodox tourist guides of in the documentaries and chronicles that explore the most sordid and marginal aspects of life in the big city. This does not mean that those images are lacking in broken and even terminal character who place all their strength and of course their imagination and wit into the effort of surviving in extreme situations and precarious conditions. At the edge of the abyss. But none of the images captured by Guimarães in his many adventures in the cities of his native country allows for pathos, much less for any kind of ungovernable fascination. On the contrary, these are light, seraphic images not weighed down by the gravitas of passion and compulsion, which by that very reason attract without trapping and enchant without subjugating. Images fitting for a curious individual, appropriate for a tourist who walks around and limits himself to snooping about here and there. The terse surface of this kind of wandering interest is brusquely broken in Guimarães’ two videos, especially in the first and most forceful one. Its title in Da Janela do Meu Quarto and, as this title suggest, it consists of a recapitulation of images recorded by the artist from a window either of his study of a hotel room. What is surprising, though, is not that, but what appears in those images that had very little or nothing to do with the vanities of touristy images. What we see is an empty lot under the rain, covered by mud

and puddles, transformed into a stage where a shoeless girl and an adolescent three or four years her senior —judging by his size and the intention of his gestures— engage in a fierce fight. Well: I say fight, but I could conceivable call what they do a thinly disguised erotic game, a courtship that, like the courtship of many animal species, is made both of attraction and rejection, both of seduction and imposition. The protagonists of this video are evidently very poor, as are most likely their parents, relatives, neighbors, friends, who share the bedazzlement and the horror of living in a favela. But what Guimarães has wanted to reveal in his video is not that social dimension. Not at all. He saw the scene and the characters and turned his camera on so that we could later on not only reconstruct what happened in front of it, but also to feel the fascination experienced by the artist confronted with the interminable duel of these anonymous children. Anonymous and impossible to find now. The fascination of a voyeur. The perverse fascination of a voyeur. The second video, Nanofagia, was entirely devoid of that libidinal charge. It consisted of a refined composition of formal alternations, constructed on the basis of weightless images of flies on the verge of flying or of soap bubbles on the verge of popping. Cao Guimarães studied philosophy and then journalism in Brazil, before obtaining a Masters degree in Fine Arts by the university

of Westminster in London. He has worked in a variety of audiovisual formats and has had important experiences in the fields of literature, art criticism, and photography. His video Da Janela do Meu Quarto was included in the Filmmaker’s Week at the Cannes Film Festival this year. Translation: Jorge Frisancho Carlos Jiménez

Cao Guimarães. Gambiarra 2, 2002-2004. Photography. 23 1/2 x 17 3/4 in. (60 x 45 cm.). Edition of 3.


ArtNexus Magazine 57, year 2005. pp 155-156

Beyond Geometry Miami Art Museum Miami, Florida Beyond Geometry was originally presented at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and more recently at the Miami Art Museum (MAM). Curated by Lynn Zelevansky, “Beyond Geometry” examines and demonstrates the way in which the geometric concepts of the avant-garde of the 1940s and 1970s laid the foundations for the artistic scene of our period. It was interesting to see the confirmation that works by these artists clearly formulated the avalanche of installations and photographs of recent decades. Lygia Pape’s 1968 performance Divider is especially eloquent: the heads of a multitude of adolescents emerge from a white canvas as they walk around a public space. Even more astonishing is her Ballet neoconcreto of 1958, where the dancers move around the stage inside imposing cylinders and rectangles. Undoubtedly, this piece would be astounding even if made today. It is equally surprising to see the selection of photographs by the conceptual artists that broadened the functions of that medium in the 1970s. A notable aspect of the organization of “Beyond Geometry” was the inclusion of an array of artists of different Piero Manzoni. Achrome, 1959. Kaolin on canvas. 119,5 x 99 cm. (47 x 39 pulgadas).

nationalities. Pioneering artists from Latin American converge with those from Russia, Poland, and other countries that are not often brought together in this kind of curatorial overview. A question that remained open was; what is the true intention behind the show’s title? It would seem to point towards a very interesting fact, yet at the same time toward a cul-de-sac. One could ask, somewhat naively: is what goes beyond geometry still geometric? What comes before geometry? Does the universe have a geometric order? Could chaos also be a geometric expression? Many things occur beyond geometry. Artists work with both reality and subjectivity; even if results are complex, vague or imprecise, this quest never ceases to be an intermittent impulse. “Beyond Geometry” reveals the differences between these artists in their attempt to find solutions to similar problems. Tony Smith’s or Robert Morris’s cubes are not he same as those of Cildo Meireles, whose argument is political. The same is true of Antonio Dias; his geometric flag, El país inventado, alluded to the dictatorship governing Brazil in the 1970s. Infinite Line, a 1960 piece by Piero Manzoni, is fundamental to un-

Giulio Paolini. Untitled (Plakat Carton), 1962. Cardboard, wood, polyethylene. 114/5 x 11 4/5 in. (30 x 30 cm.). Courtesy: Galleria Christian Stein.

derstanding this show or any conceptual art expression. The show’s catalogue is also the result of a long investigation. The chronology and notes offer extremely valuable information. The presence of Blinky Palermo’s work was truly justified. This German artist, almost unknown to the general public, was, like Oiticica, one of those who discovered the motif for a new language in this geometry-non geometry, as well as the motif for a new defeat. All these artists employed a different way of being rational; they sought solutions through logic. Essentially, they are all constructivists, but with a different attitude, like that of Martin Barre, who used spray paints in 1965 to create a square with a single gesture. Helio Oiticica appears in the show as a new protagonist, responsible for a new creative dimension. In reality, “Beyond Geometry” is a wide-ranging historical show that establishes well-defined criteria and turns around the value of minimalist and conceptual art. Over time, these artists drove the change in structure and disciplines of museum studies that did not exist during their time. Almost nowhere Cildo Meireles. The Southern Cross, 19691970. Wood. 3 1/8 x 3 1/8 x 31/8 in. (10 x 10 x 10 cm.). Photo: Wilton Montenegro.


Antonio Dias. The Inverted Country, 1976. Satin, bronze pole with patina. Pole Lygia Pape. Divider (performance), 1968/2004. (Recreated for the exhibition by the School length: 196 7/8 in. (500 cm.). of Dance, California Institute of the Arts). Video documentation of performance; a large cloth with holes for heads covers dancers moving beneath it. Original cloth: 65½ x 65½ ft. (20 x 20 m). Copyrights © Projeto Lygia Pape

in the world was there a specialization in contemporary art. Today, contemporary art is a new academy that demands high levels of specialization. Nevertheless, it is not customary to encounter a range of Latin American, Russian, and Czech artists as conceptual art pioneers, alongside minimalist and conceptual artists from North America, Germany, France, and Italy, even though the fact that conceptual art and its varia-

tions was also an invention of Latin American artists was convincingly proved in “Inverted Utopias” at the Houston Museum of Art through the vision of Mari Carmen Ramírez and Héctor Olea. The roster of Latin American artists in this show includes: Ronaldo Azevedo, Waltercio Caldas, Sergio Camargo, Luis Camnitzer, Alusio Carvao, Lygia Clark, Raimundo Colares, Carlos Cruz-Díez, Agusto de Campo, Antonio Dias, Ma-

nuel Espinosa, Gego, Mathias Goeritz, Eugen Gomringer, Gyula Kosice, David Lamelas, Julio Le Parc, Mauricio Nogeira Lima, Raúl Lozza, Tomas Maldonado, Antonio Manuel da Silva Oliviera, Cildo Meireles, Juan Mele, Helio Oiticica, Lygia Pape, Rhod Rothfuss, Mira Schendel, Iván Serpa, Jesús Rafael Soto, and Mary Vieia. Translation: Jorge Frisancho

Eugenio Espinoza


ArtNexus Magazine 60, year 2006. pp 68-72

inSITE 05 Art Practices in the Public Domain, San Diego-Tijuana Touch of Evil, Tijuana Saenz


Rubén Bonet

nSITE 05, known as the most complex curatorial challenge in the Americas, was held in the Tijuana/San Diego border region with public presentations over four weekends from August to November. The goal of this edition was to abandon the site-specific temporary sculptures or symbolic urban monuments that have been its distinguishing characteristic since its beginning, in order to approach artistic practice beyond what is understood as public art. If, in the words of its artistic director, the Cuban curator Osvaldo

Sánchez, inSITE sees that border region as a social fabric whose survival depends on the flow of people, products, and information, then the art event blends mimetically with its surroundings and becomes an experiment in which art—beyond the aesthetic experience, the objectified or mercantile character, and spectacle—is transformed into a series of actions that impact certain social collectives, with processes that develop over two years and where relationships are key to the construction of new realities. Situationist theories of a unitary urbanism, for a new art and psycho-

geography, permeated this edition of inSITE, with a multi-headed curatorial structure that materialized in four sections. “Conversations,” directed by Sally Yard, offered open dialogues, publications, workshops, and conferences. “Farsites: Urban Crisis and Domestic Symptoms in Recent Contemporary Art,” was an exhibition curated by Adriano Pedrosa, who coordinated five adjunct curators in São Paulo, Caracas, Mexico City, Buenos Aires and New York, and which traced a discourse about the crisis of the idea of urban modernity. “Scenarios” centered on temporary events (i.e. experimental audiovisu-

Simparch group. Dirty Water Initiative, 2005. Documentation of the process.

The art event blends mimetically with its surroundings and becomes an experiment in which art—beyond the aesthetic experience, the objectified or mercantile character, and spectacle—is transformed into a series of actions that impact certain social collectives, with processes that develop over two years and where relationships are key to the construction of new realities.


EXHIBITION als), experiences that are mobile (a traveling Archivo Transfronterizo) or lack a physical support (web sites). “Interventions,” curated by Osvaldo Sánchez and the historical nucleus of inSITE since its first edition in 1992, was the most radical section in terms of its intellectual underpinnings, with twenty-two projects oriented toward the conception of situations that produced meaning in the social contract. The interventions—the fruit of several residencies, contacts with the community, and workshops with local curators and artists as part of the “procedural”—were carried out using methods ranging from massmedia subversion, utopian group therapies, and reinventions of the urban space and extending to political practice understood as an exercise in negotiating common space, a move away from the spectacular/ mediated framework toward insertion into the social fabric with varying levels of invisibility. One of the works that best illustrates this concept of invisibility was Rubens Mano’s object/process. Without much explanation, Mano distributed pins with the word “Visible” inscribed to pedestrians crossing the border. In the work called Dirty Water Initiative, the Simparch collective placed thirteen mini-water purifiers in the pedestrian crossing between the US and Mexico which, when the event is over, will be brought to marginal neighborhoods where water is a problem. Max Bradford, who also took part in “Farsites,” provided vests, ID badges, carts, and a small office to the baggage handlers in the region, who are to this date unorganized and lack any union protection. The same object/process quality was shared by Maurycy Gomilicki’s Aerial Bridge that linked airplanemodel hobbyists from both sides of the border with the creation of new model planes. Paul Ramírez Jonás’s work, Mi casa, su casa, tested the public’s trust by having them blindly exchange copies of the keys they carried. A project that seemed half-complete was Brinco. Judi Werthein designed a

Thomas Glassford & Gustavo Parral. The Corner/ Tijuana Beaches, 2005. Photo: Luis Aguilar. Felipe Barbosa and Rosana Ricalde. Hospitality, 2005. Documentation. Photo: Luis Aguilar.

Aernout Mik. Osmosis / Excess, 2005. Video. Documentation of the process.


sports shoe with a money compartment and a place for maps, accessories for those who cross the border illegally. On one side they were given free to migrants and on the other were sold in a San Diego store, where the illegal immigrants, if they crossed successfully, could bring their shoes for resale. Keeping a record of processes is essential. In the work La tienda de ropa by the Tijuana collective Bulbo, a socially heterogeneous group of seven people created consensus-based clothing items over a period of one year; the record is part of the work, as they produce live webcasts of their workshop. Bulbo also produced the video On translation: Miedo/Fear, a project by Antoni Muntadas, which consisted of interviews—some with celebrities, some with common people—about fear, the border, and the “other,” broadcast by a local TV station.

Itzel Martínez presented two documentary videos. Que suene la calle, a project started in 2002, is based on the testimonies of four formerly drug-addicted adolescents from Tijuana’s poor neighborhoods. Ciudad recuperación captures the group dynamics between several patients from a rehabilitation center, who, with active participation in the handling of the camera, create a design for social utopia based on their desires and projections. Another work of process and documentation is Osmosis and Excess, a video by Aernout Mik, which shows images from the vast yonkes (automotive junkyards) in the canyons around Tijuana and was projected in a San Diego parking lot. The only project that could be considered commissioned was one by Thomas Glassford and José Parral. Alongside the border fence that

Javier Téllez. One Flew Over the Void /Lost Bullet, 2005. Documentation of the action. Photo: Luis Aguilar.

stretches into Tijuana’s beaches, they designed a highly symbolic, very unkempt area with bathrooms and a small garden for the beach-goers. Hospitality, created by Barbosa and Ricalde, on the heavily used Tijuana River pedestrian bridge, consisted of a carpet painted in different colors and inscribed with different names. Like all experiments, inSITE is riddled with contradictions. Despite the invisibility of most of the projects and the desire to escape the white cube, objectification, and spectacle, inSITE’s representation to the media was One Flew Over the Void (Bala perdida), an intervention by Javier Téllez in collaboration with the patients from a mental-health center: their idea of crossing the border by air was executed as a circus act by Dave Smith, the world-famous cannonball man. Joao Louro’s The Jewell

José Dávila. Untitled, 2005. Installation with cardboard boxes forming a fake column. Variable dimensions.


/ In God We Trust consisted of finding a luxury car in a Tijuana junkyard, covering it in gold leaf, showing it in a Ferrari-Maserati dealership, and finally auctioning it. The sole visible and visitable trace of inSITE 05 was the “Farsites” exhibition, which gathered the work of fifty-two artists from twenty-three countries and was held at the two most important art institutions on each side of the border, the Centro Cultural Tijuana and the San Diego Art Museum. The region’s first exhibition with such a clearly bi-national character, it was also a novelty for inSITE, which has usually stayed away from museum institutions as exhibition venues. This show’s subtitle is Urban crises and domestic symptoms in recent contemporary art. The central topic of Adriano Pedrosa’s curatorial discourse in this “white cube” exhibition focuses is the crisis of modernity’s urbanistic models, as exemplified in five cities from the Americas. Santiago Navarro, commissioned curator for Buenos Aires, speaks of how the crisis generates new relational models in the affected communities, and illustrates his point with works by Taller Popular de Serigrafía, protest pamphlets, and a video of an assembly of the Palermo Viejo neighborhood association, one of many that emerged from the Argentine economy’s debacle. Julieta González, for São Paulo, develops a discourse titled Art and architecture facing the urban informal, which she illustrates with Ambulantes, by Francis Alÿs, a series of photographs abut mobile structures of informal commerce and services, or with Dávila’s sculpture Fake column, columns made out of cardboard boxes that mesh with the exhibition gallery’s architecture. Ana María Mallet speaks of how in Latin America modernity was declared a failure before it reached its utopia, and offers as an example the city of Brasilia, a symbol of ultramodernity and progress erected in the 1960s that was never able to populate its streets, normally deserted, which she illustrates with urban photo-

Francis Alÿs. Farsites: Ambulante I, 1992-2000. Documentation of the action.


Mark Bradford. Farsites: Backward C, 2005. Mixed media.

graphs by Cao Guimaraes, Zamora’s urban intervention at the Carrillo Gil, and one piece from Damián Ortega’s series Construcciones consisting of sever chairs and one table in a difficult vertical balance. Carla Zacagnini’s discourse, Restless Cities, centers on the moments and places where things that seem inapprehensible, slippery and fleeting come to be crystallized, from roadside stalls, outdoor tables with utensils, to freeway junctions as valuable spaces for advertising communications, as shown in Sean Snyder’s photographs.

On his part, Betti-Sue Hertz centers her contribution on the architectural fragment, extractions from and cuts of the urban, quoting the work of architect Gordon Matta Clark, an idea that also encompasses the work of Pedro Cabrita Reis and Rivane Neueshwander/Cao Guimaraes, for example. This exhibition is atypical because it doesn’t attempt to show the most recent work of the invited artists, but is in many cases structured on the basis of older works that fall within the curatorial profiles, which here have great weight.


Teresa Margolles. Untitled, 2005. Photography triptych.

“otherness” with We Are All BaaderMeinhoff; a projection of historical slides about the Magonista Revolt by Sam Durant; and an installation by Rigo 23. In “Touch of Evil,” a reading of the whole is achieved through different subjective interpretations that appear unconnected but which form a precise critical vision of the border condition, its historical precedents, and its possibilities of representation. Translation: Jorge Frisancho

Daniel Jospeh Martínez. We Are All Baader-Meinhoff, 2005. Intervention.

As documentation of a moment of crisis, we are shown registers of the three historical blackouts suffered by New York City, and even an austere life-size bathroom, Marjetica Potrc’s Escusado Seco, which could have been transported from a poor neighborhood in any Latin American city to one of the galleries in the elegant San Diego Museum of Art, in the architectural complex of Balboa Park. inSITE 05 cannot be considered a traditional contemporary art event. Open in time, with precise curatorial and ideological intentions, it is perhaps planting the seed that will change the notion and the practices of public art. These premises not only build a new space within artistic practice but also function as a forceful critique of an art that is unable to activate social discourse.

Counteracting inSITE’s overwhelming curatorial display, the group show “Touch of Evil” opened at the alternative space Estación Tijuana, which also serves as Marcos Ramírez “Erre”’s study. At the far northwest corner of Latin America, in the Federal neighborhood, six artists each presented one piece on the theme of Tijuana as a reality to be explored. The show comprised photography by Teresa Margolles, a triptych of autopsy scars that together form a line; video projection by Carla Herrera-Prats, who interviewed Mexican students abroad on scholarships, and Andrea Bowers, whose work presented readings of letters received by a U.S. feminist organization that provides information about abortion-friendly places, with Tijuana being one of them; textual intervention by Daniel Joseph Martínez, who reflected on

Rubén Bonet Director of the Adopt a Writer Foundation.


ArtNexus Magazine 61, year 2006. pp 60-63

Regina Silveira

In Absentia: M.D., 1983. Adhesive vynil on wood. 394 x 788 in. (10 x 20 m.).*

Where Shadows Vanish (Midday; moment of the shortest shadow; end of the longest error; INCIPIT ZARATHUSTRA.) Friedrich Nietzsche, The Twilight of the Idols. Terra dos gigantes Super-Homem, Super-Mosca. Luiz Melodia, Magrelinha.


Fernando Castro

he idea that painting began by tracing an outline around a man’s shadow probably originates in Pliny the Elder’s (23–79 A.D.) voluminous work, Historia Naturalis. 1 Although what we now know about the pre-historical Lascaux paintings does not seem to endorse Pliny’s idea, the notion that an object’s shadow is the main ingredient in its representation restores a value denied to it since Plato’s indictment of all semblances in his famous Allegory of the Cave. In the twentieth century, avant-garde artists like Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, and, more recently, Christian Boltanski, produced seminal works that brought substance back to shadows. Yet Regina Silveira’s sustained twenty-five year exploration

of the aesthetics of shadows has been more systematic and encompassing than that of any other artist. Perhaps the first evidence of skiagraphia in Silveira’s work is a series of photographic works she called Enigmas (1981) in which the shadows of a saw, a hammer, and a fork—without the objects that projected them—descend upon a valise, a typewriter and a telephone, respectively. What made these works more than playful is the way the shadows settled on the surface of these utilitarian objects; i.e., as if they had the material properties of fabric. From these works, important features became apparent that were decisive for Silveira’s later works: the angle of projection of light/shadow onto an irregular surface, the geometric logic of shadows, and the point of view of the

beholder. A few years later in Projectio II (1984), Silveira painted the shadow of a ladder onto the surface of three walls at right angles with each other so that it looked correct only from the exact point from which it was projected. The elastic properties of shadows led Silveira’s work toward anamorphic art. Known since the Renaissance, this type of art consists of pictures that appear distorted except when viewed in a certain way, such as through a cylindrical mirror or from a specific angle to the surface of the image. These pictures entail the explicit admission of a viewer and a point of view. Silveira—perhaps the most eloquent commentator of her work—states, “I wanted perspective to act like a sort of philosophical look at the world of appearances, delving


into our recognition of the things in our surroundings.” Silveira’s series In Absentia: Masterpieces alludes to the legend of the origin of painting cited by Pliny. A potter’s daughter outlined the shadow of her lover’s profile on the wall so she could remember him during his absence. At least two installations of this series allude to Silveira’s artistic mentors: Duchamp and Man Ray. In Absentia; M. Duchamp (1988) quotes the widowed wheel in Duchamp’s readymade Bicycle Wheel (1913), his photographic work Shadows of Readymades (1918), and the very last painting he made, Tu m’ (1918). Meanwhile, In Absentia; Man Ray (1998) honors the work of the artist whose “rayographs” (Man Ray’s term for photograms) reversed the tonal values of shadows, showing them as light areas whereas lighted areas appear dark. However, the Man Ray work to which In absentia alludes is not a photograph but rather a readymade, Le Cadeau (1921), the prickly iron whose insubordinate domesticity makes an unlikely gift. Silveira’s homage to these two artists is evidence of her penchant for the Dadaist principle of “destructive projection of all formal art” but with a twist. In Sombras, from the series Dilatáveis (1981/1993), Silveira depicts two men in dark suits and one in a military uniform, casting shadows seven times bigger than themselves. In Silveira’s works, political commentary is not expressed as righteous indignation but rather as subtle and intelligent humor. In a work titled Encuentro (1991), five men and two women project not the shadows of their own bodies but enormous shadows of tools: a screw, a hand saw, a hand gun, a circular saw blade, corkscrew, a sling-shot, and scissors. It is a motley assortment that deviates from explicit political commentary and is closer to Dadaist, anti-establishment, modernist incongruities. The idea of a small object projecting an enormous shadow appeared once again in Silveira’s 1994 installation The Saint’s Paradox at the Museo del Barrio to make a political comment about the far-reaching implications of the European conquest of the Ameri-

Project II, 1984. Painting on panels. 118 x 355 in. (3 x 9 m.). Museu de Arte Contemporanea /USP, São Paulo, Brazil. Photo: Romulo Fialdini.

The Saint’s Paradox, 1994. Adhesive vynil, wood and wooden sculpture. 509 square feet (155 m2). From the exhibition “Brazil: Body and Soul”, 2004. The Solomon Guggenheim Museum, New York. Collection Museu de Arte Contemporanea da Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil. Photo: Mauro Restiffe.

cas. In this work, a small wooden statuette of Saint James the Apostle on horseback projected a huge shadow of the equestrian monument of General Luis Alves de Lima e Silva, Duque de Caxias, erected in Sao Paulo by the sculptor Víctor Brecheret. Saint James is also known as Santiago Matamoros, literally “killer of Moors” and by extension of all infidels, including all Native Americans who refused to convert to Christianity. The Duque

de Caxias was commander-in-chief of the Brazilian army in the War of the Triple Alliance (1864–1870) that joined Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay against Paraguay. The political subtext makes evident the metaphor of shadows as a sinister legacy. In other words, objects in Silveira’s works do not necessarily project their own shadow; they may also project the shadow that most reveals their character or the shadow they deserve.


Chimera, 2005. General view of the exhibition “Lumen”, Palacio de Cristal, Parque de El Retiro, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain. Super Hero – Night and Day, 1997. Adhesive vinyl. 128 feet. (39 m). Exhibition “Diversity in Contemporary Brazilian Sculpture”, 1997. Collection Instituto Itaú Cultural, São Paulo, SP, Brasil.

For the twenty-fourth edition of the Sao Paulo Biennial, Silveira produced Tropel (1998), an enormous 600-squaremeter vinyl mural on the facade of the event’s headquarters. It was a burst of animal tracks—of birds, lizards, horses, bears, tigers, monkeys, etc.—as if an actual stampede had just been recorded on the wall. The work reflected the biennial organizers’ adoption of the anthropophagous theme derived from Oswald de Andrade’s Anthropophagous Manifesto (1928). Proposition V of the manifesto reads: “I am only interested in what is not mine. Man’s law. Law of the anthropophagous.” The destruction of the rainforest in Brazil is causing an unprecedented extinction of animal species. In Silveira’s Gone Wild (1996), at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art and Intro (Re: Fresh Window R.S.) —a re-interpretation of Duchamp’s darkened window from 1920—animal tracks also replaced shadows as the primary motif. The coyote tracks from Gone Wild had a political dimension as La Jolla is located in a region where so-called “coyotes” traffic in illegal immigrants. The title, however, points towards Joseph Beuys’s legendary performance I Like America and America Likes Me (1974) in which the German artist wrapped himself in felt and shared a room with a coyote for five days. Sharing a small room with a large carnivore is curiously analogous to traveling across the immense desert at the mercy of that other “coyote”—an anthropophagous being in a more direct sense. For the work Super Herói (Night and Day) (1997) Silveira created a cartoonlike superhero of ambivalent credentials. Super X’s shadow, a 39-meter-tall vinyl form glued on the façade of a branch of the Itaú Bank in Sao Paulo made the hero superhuman while the actual absent figure was quite small. About this hybrid, generic, and improbable hero, she has stated: “His meaning was intentionally ambiguous. Supposedly, the hero saves us in the urban jungle, but at the same time, flying over the corporate skyscrapers, he watches us and is an accomplice of the corporations that control us.” At night,


Silveira projected the outline of Super Herói with his fluttering cape with a laser onto several office buildings of downtown Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, and San Juan. Silveira’s most recent book, Lumen, focuses on the installations she placed at Madrid’s Palacio de Cristal in 2005. She explains, “I have given the title Lumen to the entire project, in order to underscore that light is the axis of my poetic reflection and the clue to all the operations of language implied in my dialogue with the architecture of the Palacio de Cristal.” The word “lumen” stands for a standard unit of luminous flux. Transluz is a work of blue vinyl that spells the word “luz” adhered to the translucent ceiling of the Palacio, and sunlight projects it onto the interior walls and floor. According to Silveira, Memoria Azul is the visual narrative of an imaginary destruction of the glass and iron frames of the palace’s ceiling. The photographs of these fragments are pasted on the vault and on the floor underneath in order to generate in the viewer, who is positioned in between, the responsibility of “reconstructing” the imaginary creative/destructive event. A chimera is a monstrous female creature from Greek mythology, a hybrid with the head of a lion, the body of a goat, and the tail of a serpent. Silveira sought to merge under this name the two main ingredients of her poetics: light, represented as a light bulb, and shadow, represented by a dark cone. The idea goes back to a 1995 lithograph titled A Lampada, in which a light bulb casts its own shadow. In the installation Quimera (2003), the idea evolved into a light source surrounded by a cone of shadow. The paradoxical aspect of the image lies in the fact that shadows are not made by light sources but cast by objects. In the 2003 version of Quimera, shadows behaved like light. In the 2005 version for the Palacio de Cristal, where the architecture and materials trap and reflect light, the monumental black vinyl installation returns to the A Lampada design and thus the paradox vanishes. However, the anamorphic design makes the viewer aware that there is an archi-

Gone Wild, 1997. Latex on wood. 460 square feet (140 m2). Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, USA.

Tropel, 1998. Adhesive vinyl. 1973 square feet (600 m2). 14th São Paulo International Biennial, 1998. Brazil. Photo: João Musa.

tecturally ideal point for viewing it. The Quimera at the Palacio de Cristal is more like the Super Herói or The Saint’s Paradox because a heroic little bulb casts an enormous shadow. One cannot help but wonder whether the political subtext in the Madrid version quotes the bare bulb in Picasso’s Guernica, perhaps the most memorable image of Spain’s darkest hour. Perhaps, as Silveira’s oeuvre has matured, it too has turned into a hybrid creature of darkness and light.

NOTE 1. Pliny the Elder writes about a hypothetical origin of painting: “…but all agree that it began (picturae initiis) with tracing an outline around a man’s shadow (umbra hominis lineis circumducta)…” (Natural History, XXXV, 15). *Images illustrating this article are a courtesy of Galeria Brito Cimino. Translation: Jorge Frisancho Fernando Castro R. Philosopher and artist.


ArtNexus Magazine 61. year 2006. pp 146

Reviews são paulo / BRAzIL

Marcelo Cidade Galeria Vermelho

The first work we encounter, upon entering the gallery, is a small smelted-bronze object hanging from a nail, somewhat above sight line. Amor e ódio a Lygia Clark bases its shape and dimensions on a gauntlet, as if the instrument were attached to its image on a mirror, real object and spectral image made of the same matter. Duplicated, the gauntlet loses its original function and substitutes the threat of aggression by the possible union of two hands in a kind of greeting. The placement of this work and its noble material inhibit the touch, while the bronze preserves the oxidized traces of fingerprints. This ambiguity between participation and contemplation, announced here and reaffirmed in the work’s title, is also seen, punctually, in other moments of the show. But what grows with every step and builds meaning throughout the show is the coexistence of a street culture with references to the history of contemporary art. At the center of the main space, a fountain like those one sees always surrounded by tourists in Italian cities, or like those miniatures recommended by feng-shui, offers visitors a constant flow of the local firewater. The fountain, historically a recreation of nature inside the space of the city, has been built here using urban detritus, gathered from the area around the gallery in two days of foraging. Sliding over fiberglass tiles and falling on a canvas tub covered with black plastic, the river of cachaça once again invites participation, while the garbage through which it passes inhibits it. To both sides of the fountain, to digital cameras pasted to the wall with a somewhat exaggerated amount of silver tape show an archive of images in which we can clearly see the gaze that Marcelo Cidade (the last name means “city”) extends upon this and other cities, the details that inform his thinking and his work. On the wall opposite to the fountain, a grey sweatshirt functions as the center towards which a number of upwardmoving arrows converge, and from which more arrows project, through the neck and arms: an allusion to the artist’s process, who uses his urban explorations to gather the information processed in his ideas and actions.

In the upper floor, a series of photographs registers some of those actions, gestures that underline with a layer of silver coloring situations encountered around the city. An abandoned automobile and a concrete garbage dumpster are entirely covered in silver tape. An awning on an unexpected location and the remains of a cut tree are painted with spray in the same color, an illuminated gray, as a light increase in the brightness of the cement surface that characterizes urban centers. Re:definição de projeto arquitetônico is a series of 150 x 250 cm watercolors that show piles of construction blocks in a slightly larger than life size. The configurations they assume are casual, as happens in one of the works, where the regular piles of blocks or bricks are progressively sculpted by workers according to the needs of the permanent architecture. What the watercolors make evident is the similarity between those ephemeral sculptures, with their geometric modules and their colors, and modern and contemporary architecture. We see clearly the piled-up blocks, but we cannot avoid seeing them, at the same time, as small apartment blocks, built by negation, by the absence of elements that are taken away for the construction of the real buildings. Fogo-fato also points to shapes produced in the city as a result of necessary or arbitrary actions. This series of photographs sets side by side and without distinction registers of traces left on walls by bonfires, and of paintings in black spray with which Cidade simulates those traces. Once again, the work of art we see in the gallery builds a bridge to the outside, taking us to the street. As in

the photographs described above, the artist doesn’t limit himself to register something he sees, but also intervenes directly on the urban space. This time, the approximation of the registers of his action to the found traces of real bonfires reinforces, in the gallery environment, something that before was only suggested. On the other hand, many of the walls where the artist is able to execute his interventions, and those where real bonfires are lit to warm the night, are crumbling and covered in graffiti. In this way, the photographs bring to the exhibition space, almost against the grain, something that is at the base of this work and of the artist’s production in general: the urban culture produced and encountered in the streets. Translation: Jorge Frisancho Carla Zaccagnini

Marcelo Cidade. Arquitectonic Project Definition 2, 2006. Watercolor on paper. 59 x 98 2/5 in. (150 x 250 cm.).


ArtNexus Magazine 62, year 2006. pp147-148

Reviews MiAMi / FL

Ana Maria Maiolino and victor Grippo Miami Art Central –MAC–

In the late 1960s, Latin American artists interested in conceptual art were a minority. More than thirty years later, however, their immense contributions and the persistence of their ideas are plain to see. It could be said that conceptual artists from other regions such as the U.S. and Europe were interested in questioning art, its traditional status, and its official institutions, while in Latin America, conceptual art was an ideal solution for political, social, and cultural contestation. The balance in Latin America seemed to work around this formula: the more dictatorship, the more conceptual art. In this equation, the Latin American countries with the strongest dictatorships were Argentina and Brazil. Miami Art Central (MAC) is the first museum in the United States to present significant exhibitions of work by Victor Grippo (1936–2002, Argentina) and Ana María Maiolino (born 1942, Italy). Although Grippo and Maiolino do not represent that spillage of the political or the social into conceptual art in the same direct manner as others of their generation, they are deeply connected to it. Grippo’s work is subversively social and cultural; Maiolino’s explores the limits of a subjective language. One can say that Grippo is as special as Fontana, although he has at times been excluded from such important shows as “Inverted Utopias” at the Houston Museum of Fine Art in 2004. This large exhibition at MAC, however, offers a chance to know his work in depth. By 1971, Victor Grippo had already conceived his magnum opus, Analogía I, which demonstrated the energy contained in forty potatoes, each in a separate compartment, as captured by electrodes and a voltmeter. It was “a disconcerting work in the elements used and its conceptual problematic,” according to Nelly Perazzo, who has studied Grippo’s work for several decades. Perhaps what could be seen as disconcerting, represented through the scientific and the organic, is Grippo’s highlighting of the unity that exists between

the divine and the natural, as though in a declaration of mystical union. Analogía IV , from 1972, is the MAC show’s centerpiece, an expression of wise perfection. In its simplicity, this work confronts and integrates many concepts: the natural and the industrial, the sublime and the sordid. The final result is a surprising connection of beauty with what could be understood as the terror of existence. Another of Grippo’s most interesting sculptures is, undoubtedly, Vida, Muerte y Resurrección (1980). Inside shapes built with lead sheets, black-bean seeds emerge, germinating. But the exhibition’s museography didn’t allow for showing the work in progress, as it was originally conceived. The exhibition of Ana María Maiolino’s work also allows an in-depth look at her practice. Maiolino’s entry into the Brazilian scene with paintings and graphic works as a member of the New Figuration movement marks her initial artistic period. In the early 1970s, Maiolino took a bold leap, conceptualizing her work and also giving shape to the geographic continent she inhabited. Space and matter give way to a series ( Buracos Negros , 1972–1974) of ripped volumes or planes, which Maiolino cuts, breaks, and moves from the center of the plane to leave only the large hole and uses the empty space as volume, as if wanting to demonstrate what Helio Oiticica called “the organic visual.” Referring to this series of works, Paulo Herkenhoff said, “It transforms surfaces within a spatial vertigo.” Maiolino’s preference for matter in dialog with empty space is consolidated with the series A sombra do outro from 1993–1999. Large jumbled volumes in white clay simultaneously expand through the floors and the walls of the gallery, “like

a poetic act that acts on the world,” as Lucio Fontana once said. In order to understand the work of Brazilian artists from the Neo-Concretists to later generations, one needs to be familiar with Fontana’s oeuvre. These ideas, based on his Spatial Concept, are what also give vitality and an enigmatic quality to Maiolino’s work. Also shown among the videos is her great installation Entrevidas of 1981, where the public walks over a paved area covered by hundreds of eggs. With control, the viewers walk around the eggs with the same care needed to walk a tightrope or a minefield. Translation: Jorge Frisancho Eugenio Espinoza

Anna Maria Maiolino. São (Son) from the Escultura Instalação (Sculpture Installation) series, 1993-1999. Plaster. Diameter: 16 3/4 in. (43 cm.).

víctor Grippo. Analogía I, 1970-1971. Third version. Board object. 18 3/5 x 61 2/5 x 4 1/5 in. (47,4 x 156 x 10,8 cm.).


ArtNexus Magazine 63, year 2007. pp 92-98

27 São Paulo Biennial th

“How To Live Together”

A walk through the Ciccilio Matarazzo Pavilion O

María Elvira Iriarte

nce again the Biennial opens its doors to a massive public that gathers in the Ibirapuera Park pavilion. The entrance is free. Some of the activities encompassed in this edition began months ago: the critical seminars, the educational project, and the residencies of a dozen of foreign artists who stayed for several weeks or months in different Brazilian locations, immersing themselves in their particulars and creating specific works for the exhibition. The title of the Biennial, “How to Live Together,” was taken from Roland Barthes’s introduction to one of his seminars at the Collège de France, in the 1970s. The seminar

sought to explore the reality of specific peoples—for instance, Tibetan monks—for whom cohabitation does not restrict individual freedom. It proposed a reflection about “collective life in shared spaces, about the juxtaposition of differing rhythms in a same physical space.”1 Barthes is an immediate reference to the sociological field. Interpreting that idea, the curators structured the theoretical framework initially suggested by Lisette Lagnado, the general curator. What is the function of art in society? What is the task of the artist? What is the task of the public? What are the exhibition spaces and how do they work? What is the dynamic that rules the relationship between the individual (the artist) and society? How is it possible

Thomas Hirschhorn. Restaure Agora, 2006. Mixed media installation and video.*

to “live together”? If the title of the show suggests answers, the exhibition emphasizes the non-answers, or at least the negative answers. The governing concepts would have made for a memorable biennial. Yet this isn’t the case, due to the dearth of more significant works. Inscribed along the lines of Barthes’s thought are the theories and practices of the other two mentors of the Biennial: the Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica (1937–1980) and the Belgian artist Marcel Broodthaers (1924–1976), the latter the subject of a tribute in one of the seminars and a small presentation on the third floor. Issues like art and life, conviviality and tolerance—or their opposites, discrimination and marginality—are important interpretive keys as one tours the show. No works by Oiticica are on exhibit within the Biennial, but several important galleries in the city do show them, allowing for a brief approach to the oeuvre of this important Rio artist. This time around, national delegations were abandoned, in an attempt to erase the tension between “official” artists and those invited directly by the Biennial. Once again—as in the previous edition—traditional, “big name” museographic exhibitions were avoided. Thus, the 118 participating artists were all invited directly by the curatorial team, comprising the general curator and co-curators Adriano Pedrosa, Cristina Freire, José Ignacio Roca and Rosa Martínez. Also, Jochen Volz was invited to coordinate the tribute to Broodthaers. This was a difficult task, since the essentially conceptual artist made very few works that can be exhibited. This was the first time that a general curator for the Biennial established a


BIENNIAL team invested with equal authority to determine the contents of the exhibition. Undoubtedly, what is shown at the Ibirapuera Park pavilion has greater conceptual coherence that what was seen in previous editions. But it is also radically exclusive. The photography and video formats, which used to be called genres, dominate. In coordination with the city’s Cinematheque, film works have a half-month of scheduled viewings. In descending order of frequency, installation art follows. There is some drawing and little painting and sculpture. Naturally, performances are scheduled throughout the duration of the show. Each artist is represented by several works, which allows for a better appreciation of their trajectories, although some works are dispersed among several locations. A few of the participants are outside Niemeyer’s building: within Ibirapuera Park and in different locations of São Paulo, such as Metro stations or strategic points on various important downtown avenues. The Biennial takes up a huge time and space, and it is very difficult for those who do not reside in the city to apprehend it in its totality. Special applause should be given to the design of the display at the Biennial pavilion, which was directed by the architect Marta Bogéa and her collaborators. They were able to generate an unhurried pathway, to correctly alternate light and shade, and to accommodate very dissimilar proposals. One misfire is that the space assigned on the third floor to two of María Teresa Hincapié’s videos is too bright and makes them almost invisible. Three publications are to serve as the historical record. A guide to the participating artists substitutes the usual biographies with interviews newly conducted or taken from previously published sources. The interviews focus, naturally, on the works presented, but this guide does not offer a complete list of the works. A second publication, scheduled for November, compiles texts by the curators and other contributors,

Jane Alexander. Security, 2006. Installation with sculpture (bird), confinement, barb-wire, soil, wheat, security locks, 1000 machetes, 1000 scythes and 1000 gloves used by workers.*

The title of the Biennial, “How to Live Together,” was taken from Roland Barthes’s introduction to one of his seminars at the Collège de France, in the 1970s. Interpreting that idea, the curators structured the theoretical framework initially suggested by Lisette Lagnado, the general curator. What is the function of art in society? What is the task of the artist? What is the task of the public? What are the exhibition spaces and how do they work? What is the dynamic that rules the relationship between the individual (the artist) and society? How is it possible to “live together”? If the title of the show suggests answers, the exhibition emphasizes the nonanswers, or at least the negative answers. Gordon Matta Clark. Garbage Wall, 1970. Concrete-block with compact waste materials. *


Yael Bartana. Andromeda´s Tree, 2006. Videoinstallations. Courtesy: Sommer Contemporary Art.

including a notebook of images and artist’s projects specifically developed for this book. In December, the annals of the six seminars organized throughout 2006 will also be published: “Marcel, 30,” “Architecture,” “Reconstruction,” “Collective Life,” “Barter,” and “Acre.” The educational project, led by Denise Grinspun, created five nuclei of debate about contemporary art with the collaboration of the Unified Education Centers in the city’s peripheral areas, along with a dossier of educational material designed for primary school teachers, which was distributed for free. Also, the very large guide corps received strict training during the months prior to the opening. The Biennial wants to widen the range of visitors, usually concentrated among the affluent, and to spark the interest of the less fortunate. What the benefit would be is still undecided. A general tour of the pavilion’s three floors offers a constant shift from photographs to videos, from videos to installations, and from installations to drawings. The arrangement does not follow traditional criteria such as nationalities, genres, or similarities in language. As usual, larger works occupy the space of the first floor. Upon entering, visitors find a moving installation by the South African

Narda Alvarado. Olive Green, 2003. Video-performance. 4 min, 30 s. Photo: Juan Pablo Urioste, Patricio Cooker.

artist Jane Alexander (born 1959). It is a rectangle of live grass, surrounded by a double wire-mesh wall; between the two walls, the floor is covered by work gloves and sharp tools such as machetes, sickles, and hoes. Four uniformed men guard the installation. Inside, on the grass, there is a strange being—half man, half gray bird, solitary and mute. The interviewer Steven Matijcio highlights the “undeniable visual quality that fuses horror and seduction.”2 The work is a powerful image of apartheid and of all the ghettos the human race insists on establishing. An installation by the Paris-based Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn (born 1957) also deals with horror and seduction and is found on the same floor. With an almost unbearable crudeness, Hirschhorn approaches an issue that is inherent to life itself: violence, i.e. the element that makes “living together” difficult.3 A large space formed by tall walls made of pieces of cardboard joined by adhesive tape contains many tables and shelves, filled with books by philosophers and thinkers from Hegel and Kant to Deleuze and Habermas, tied with the same tape that ties a vast number of work tools: hammers, saws, picks, nails, and bolts, as well as video monitors and graffiti; one of the latter reads “Los insensatos.” The overcrowded space almost induces claustrophobia. In each

bundle of sealed and thus negated books and tools, there are revolting photographs of corpses, or segments of them, visibly crushed, bloodied, barbarously mutilated. The sealed and useless books, the unused tools, and the photographs trigger a reaction of fascination and horror. Conceptually and visually, this is the most violent work in the Biennial and the one that most radically denounces human beings’ inability to live together. In comparison, the city of sugar— inspired by the state of Pernambuco— presented by Mechac Gaba (born 1961, Benin) seems like child play; the Germany-based artist asserts that in order to coexist, what is required is harmony, sweetness, and love. Alongside it, the Brazilian artist Marepe’s chains of umbrellas suspended from the ceiling and pyramids of cloth rollers lend an entertaining and harmless note in this section. Ivan Cardoso, a Rio de Janeiro filmmaker, pays direct tribute to his friend Oiticica, both in his short films and in a light table entirely covered with filmstrips. “Whenever I want to see Hélio alive, I see my films . . . In my films he hasn’t died.”4 In the section opposite the entrance and in the middle of the upper level, one finds a number of interesting works. Washing, a beautiful series of seven large photographs literally washed to the point that the images


Randa Shaath. Under the Same Sky, Rooftops of Cairo, 2002-2003. Photograph. Variable dimensions.

become almost abstract, is presented by Wang Youchen (born 1964, Beijing) along with a real darkroom where the public can develop their own negatives according to old techniques. In his work, the Argentinean artist Tomás Sarraceno (born 1973) imagines plastic cockpits as flying, ubiquitous homes. Donald McRonald, a video by the Mexican artist Minerva Cuevas (born 1975), records an action in which an actor dressed as a clown instructs the patrons of a fast-food restaurant about the costs of consuming hamburgers and fries: high cholesterol, weight gain, etc., while asking them for money. On a side wall, Adel Abdessemed (born 1971), a Paris-based Algerian artist, exhibits nine large barbed wire circles. Here is another trick of interpretation; this almost minimalist, elegant work contains dramatic concepts about exclusion, forbidden territories, and confinement. Les racines du mal, a metal structure resembling a large insect by the French architect Didier Faustino (born 1968), generates its own space inside the hall, in front of the plastic cockpits; the author defines it as a reunion atoll and declares that “today art has become the laboratory of the world.”5 The space Eloísa cartonera, put together by a collective of Argentinean artists, reproduces a small, artisanal book workshop inside and outside the Biennial. With discarded materials salvaged by the

Miki Kratsman. From the series Panoramas: Gilo, 2000. Photograph. 34 2/5 x 23 3/5 in. (90 x 60 cm.). Courtesy: Chelouche Gallery.

cartoneros (urban scavengers), the team manufactures books with works by Latin American authors. Each book is unique, and some are for sale at very low prices. The members of the group, formed in 2003, see their work as a form of exchange between the artistic function and everyday life. On the second floor, the works of fifty-one artists are exhibited. Fifteen are video installations. Poético is the record of an action by the Amsterdambased Israeli artist Yael Bartana (born 1970); the action takes place in the Andromeda atoll, in front of the port of Jaffa. A solitary man paddles towards the atoll, crowned by the Israeli flag; the man substitutes the flag with an olive tree, which sways in the wind. Tonto, a video by the Philadelphiabased Puerto Rican artist Pepón Osorio (born 1955), shows a man running with his back to the viewer, never reaching his destination. The screen is behind a makeshift barrier of horizontal wood beams that viewers must peek through to see the image. This is too much like another video, shown two editions ago, by the British artist Willie Doherty, where a man seen frontally and from behind ran without stopping through a London traffic tunnel. A much more entertaining work is Verde Oliva, an action executed and recorded by Narda Alvarado (born 1975, La Paz). In this four minute-and-thirty-second video, a line of policemen emerges from an

urban billboard, blocking traffic on a wide avenue. Each one carries a green olive on a plate. At the sound of a whistle, they proceed to eat the olive, while the enraged drivers protest with their car horns. Afterwards, the policemen turn around and march back, single file, into their barracks. The representation of the photographic genre is more generous and varied, including testimonials, portraits, and simple technology like pinhole camera images using the principles of the camera obscura. Using a simple perforated tin can, the Brazilian artist Paula Trope (born 1962) created a series of images of the fantasies and experiences of a group of adolescents from the Pereirão favela in Rio. With fragments of roof tiles and bricks, pieces of wood, and discarded boxes, the youngsters have created a miniature favela, the “Morrinho,” which today covers an area of around 300 square meters and has its own population, tensions, and conflicts. Trope gives the spotlight to the authors of the game, who are enthusiastic protagonists of a serious work that pays attention to them. Randa Saath’s (born 1963) very beautiful series, Under the Same Sky, shows the varied and sometimes surprising uses of flat rooftops in Cairo. The Israel-based Argentinean photoreporter Miki Cartman (born 1959) brings images of the wall separating


Sanghee Song. The First Lady, 2004. C-print. 35 2/5 x 47 1/5 in. (90 x 120 cm.).

Alberto Baraya. Project of the Rubber Tree, 2006. Latex monotype from a living tree.*

several Palestinian territories from Israeli ones; on some segments, one or several anonymous artists have painted the view that the wall obstructs. If photographs of walls have such an impact, one can only wonder what the impact is in real life. The Bolivian artist Marテュa Galindo (born 1964), a feminist linked to the group Mujeres Creando, also uses photographs in her installation窶馬ot ones taken by herself but those from

the archives left by Cordero, a wellknown social photographer of the early twentieth century. These are photographs of female prisoners, insurgent groups, and social events that, combined with various manuscript texts, denounce the tremendous social injustice of the period in the Andean nation and the oppression of women and indigenous peoples. The work of the Brazilian artist Claudia Andujar (born 1932, Switzerland) also serves

as a historical register. In 1981 and 1983, Andujar accompanied a volunteer medical team as it vaccinated groups of Yanomami indians, who were highly vulnerable to illnesses brought to the rainforest with Western penetration. Numbers identify her portrait subjects, as in police records; the photographer explains that individuals needed to be identified this way, since the people of this ethnic group have no individual names.6 The

Claudia Andujar. From the series Marked. Erico Community, Long March Project. The Great Survey of Papercuttings in Yanchuan County, 2004. Individual case study and papercut Roraima, 1980-83. Photograph. 19 3/5 x 23 3/5 in. sample (author Liu Jiequing). 10 3/5 x 14 in. (27 x 36 cm.). (50 x 60 cm.). Courtesy: Galeria Vermelho.


María Teresa Hincapié. A Thing is a Thing, 2005. Performance video-still. Courtesy: Galería Alcuadrado.

series is titled Marcados and naturally provokes a reflection about the fate of native Amazonian groups, who are increasingly more cornered by Western encroachment. The installation presented by the Bogotá artist Alberto Baraya (born 1968), who participated in the program of resident artists in the state of Acre, brings a breath of fresh air to the Biennial, despite the irony of his commentary. For several years, the artist has worked as a “botanist,” accumulating samples of plastic vegetal material to build a herbarium like those of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century naturalists, properly recorded, organized, and sealed. Behind this entertaining mimesis hides a denunciation of the problems that globalization brings with it, “reaching into the world’s most remote locations and making evident a breaking of cultural borders.”7 What is here is not the large rubber tree but a latex mold of its bark, extended like an empty skin on a large podium. The Catalan artist Antoni Miranda (born 1942) also acts as a collector and gatherer. His work-in-process Sabores y Lenguas seeks to exalt food as culture and analyzes similarities and differences between the culinary traditions of several Latin American cities. The information gathered forms an archive for the Barcelona-based Food Culture Museum. The exhibition uses the im-

age of the human tongue as a symbol. Groups of thirty to forty manipulated plates on the floor—“decorations,” according to the artist—show how working class groups experience food in the cities visited by the project: Miami, Caracas, Lima, Bogotá, Havana, and São Paulo. 8 Also, the walls of the assigned space, at the back of the second floor, are entirely covered with photographs of popular São Paulo food vendors, from the street cart to the corner boteco. The installation is great fun; one of the plates, from the Havana block, displays the caption painted on a fish skeleton, “And what will we give them if they ask for fish?” Two on-the-fly researchers, Raimond Chaves (born 1963, Bogotá) and Gilda Mantilla (born 1967, Los Angeles), who live in Lima, made a portion of their trip to the Biennial by river, from Colombia and Peru to Brazil, and recorded their findings and experiences in drawing. More attractive than the falsely naïve drawings is Chaves’s collection of sleeves for old Latin music LPs, manipulated and commented on by the artist. Several popular music stars are present with their grandiloquent phrases or their double entendres, a reading implicit in all of the continent’s Latin speeches. The participation of the renowned Thai artist Rikrit Tiravanija (born 1968, Buenos Aires) seems rather anodyne.

Paula Trope. From the series No Sympathy: Leandro de Paiva Adriano (Lé), at 17, 2004. 70 4/5 x 57 2/5 x 2 in. (180 x 146 x 5 cm.). Courtesy: Galeria Vermelho.

His work is a small tin house with palm trees inside, created following the model of a tropical home by Jean Prouvé. The artist explains: “A tropical ailment, the Tropical House is an architectural exorcism of the exotic representation of otherness . . .”9 “E d’aí?” as Brazilians would say. The contribution presented by the French artist Dominique GonzálezFoerstes (born 1965) is interesting. She generates a “play space,” multiplying the pavilion’s round pillars and breaking with the false columns of the rationalist order in the interior space. Also intriguing and interesting is the Venezuelan artist Juan Araujo’s (born 1971) painting that reproduces photographs or jackets of books about architecture in a highly original inversion of artistic techniques and processes. Only thirty-three artists are on the half of the third floor assigned to the exhibition. Jarbas Lopes (born 1964, Nove Iguaçu) shows photographs and bicycles manipulated with straw, making a sort of sleeve that makes them fun and unusable. Tader Pogaar (born 1960) from Slovakia takes the viewer to his city’s informal markets in his photographs; such places are utterly familiar in Latin America. The one-hour video presented by the Italian artist Monica Bonvicini (born 1965), Hammering (an old debate), shows a woman’s arm


Maria Galindo. Woman Thief and Rioters. Detail of archive photo from the Cordero Collection, Bolivia, 1900-1920.

hitting with a large hammer a wall that never crumbles down. The Berlinbased Japanese artist Shimabuku (born 1969) also exhibits videos. In one of them, the repentistas (popular Brazilian troubadours) Pereira & Sonhador invent music and lyrics for the story the artist creates with a live octopus.10 From Korea, Sanghee Song (born 1970) presented a moving installation denouncing the oppression of women in traditional Eastern cultures. The entertaining parody of stretching exercises presented by the Czech artist Antal Lakner (born 1966) in his video installation Inners–Elevator Stretching reveals the artist’s interest in mobile public spaces—elevators, escalators, metro or train coaches—and asks how they can be used to greater advantage: by using them for exercising, for instance. The space around the large ramp ends with a wall entirely covered in paper cut-out—the art of extracting shapes and figures from a sheet of paper—sent by the Long March Project, which started in 1999 in Beijing. “Today, China is once again undergoing a Long March, towards development . . .” In the Yanchuan municipality, members of the project, artists, and cultural functionaries interacted with the population, recovering the traditional art of paper cutting. Hundreds of results from this labor are exhibited, all in red paper, each author including his or her picture and a text in Chinese.

Juan Araújo. Glass House Book, 2006. Oil on paper and MDF. 6 2/5 x 9 2/5 in. (16,5 x 24 cm.). Photo: Carlos Germán Rojas.

There is also a catalog and a video showing several cutters in action. The Cuban-American artist Ana Mendieta (born 1948, Havana—–died 1985, New York) is represented with six videos and several photographic selections. Her well-known actions, performances, and interventions highlight the use of her own body, almost always nude, as a material in search of a radical integration with earth, fire, and water. Seen now, twenty-one years after her death, the images have lost some of their shock value but nevertheless gain in poetic content. Her interview was taken from Performance Artists Talking in the Eighties, California University Press, 2000. A little further down, there are several photographs and videos by Gordon Matta Clark (New York, 1943–1978): some of his “perforated” buildings, the underground of the Paris Opera, a large garbage collector with old doors and windows, a sort of risible cockpit. In the end, the relevance of this architect and de-constructor remains unclear. The Yin and Yang pavilion by Dan Graham (born 1942), a sinuous construction of mirrored glass, acrylic, lead, linoleum, pebbles, and water, is much more eloquent. The first conclusion is that this is not an outstanding Biennial. The heavy conceptual load makes it a stiff exhibition, one difficult to penetrate even for relatively well-informed people. Many of the exhibited works lack the

visual quality necessary to put across their message, which makes them boring, heavy, or simply meaningless. Also, many works are by young artists who are just starting to develop their interests and their careers. These are not mature works but steps on a path in progress; they barely give an inkling of where the artistic expression is going. This raises a profound question: What is the use of a biennial like São Paulo’s? Will the curators answer when their texts appear in November? NOTES 1. Solange Viana, press advisor for the Biennial. 2. Steven Matijcio, Guía, p.102. 3. Children and adolescents cannot enter this space. 4. Ivan Cardoso, interview with A. Leite and C. Starling, Guía, p. 96. 5. Didier Faustino, Guía, p. 62. 6. These are black and white photographs, blown up to a 60 x 50 cm format. 7. Alberto Baraya, Guía, p.24. 8. The Catalan artist lives between Barcelona and Miami. 9. Rirkrit Tiravanija, Guía, p. 210. 10. There is wordplay involved: povo, in Portuguese, means both “octopus” and “people” or “population.” *Photos: León Birbragher. Translation: Jorge Frisancho.

María Elvira Iriarte Ph D. in Art History and MFA. She teaches art history at the School of Fine Arts, Finis Terrae University, Santiago de Chile.


ArtNexus Magazine 67, year 2007. pp 98-104

The 6 Mercosur Biennial th

A look at contemporary art from Latin America Lisbeth Rebollo Gonçalves


he 6th Mercosur Biennial was inaugurated on September 1st in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The show, under the general curatorship of Gabriel PérezBarreiro, remained open through November 18th, and after that date it began a tour through other Brazilian cities. Some of its segments are also slated to be shown in the capitals of the remaining Mercosur countries: Montevideo, Buenos Aires, and Asunción. The 2007 edition had government support, as well as the support of several institutions and 22 companies, which made possible to raise 12 million Reals to fund the event.

A pedagogical project, addressed to the teaching network, made it possible to recruit 7,500 teachers in 37 cities throughout the state of Rio Grande do Sul, the Brazilian state where the Biennial is held, and also expanded into the southern part of neighboring Santa Catarina. This also contributed the training of monitors for the 6th Biennial by means of special courses, and also created the project Diálogos, which promoted encounters between artists and curators participating in the 2007 edition with local artists, with the purpose of facilitating the exchange of experiences and an assessment of the event and its projections. The 6th Biennial’s

pedagogical project was curated by Luis Camnitzer. The 6 th Biennial brought together 67 artists from 23 countries, with 350 works exhibited in six shows: three monographic exhibitions and three collectives titled, respectively, Zona Franca, Conversaciones, and Tres Fronteras. The spaces reserved for the exhibitions were the Cais do Porto 1 (Zona Franca, Conversaciones, and Tres Fronteras,) the Museo de Arte do Rio Grande do Sul (Francisco Matto and Öyvind Fahlström,) and the Santander Cultural, site chosen for a monographic exhibition of works by Argentinean artist Jorge Macchi. The 2007 event’s curatorial project broke up with the organizational model adopted in previous years, yet tisoning the strategy of building national representations. A new dynamic was established in the 6th Biennial: the presentation of specific projects for various segments of the exhibition, developed by co-curators from different countries, under the general coordination of curator Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro. With this proposal, the general curator sought to apprehend “the show’s internationality, with the valuation of a cultural geography that extrapolates the limitations of geo-political

Cildo Meireles. Marulho, 1991-2001. Wood, books and audio. 136 3/5 x 531 2/5 x 905 1/2 in. (347 x 1350 x 2300 cm.). Collection MAM RJ.

The 2007 event’s curatorial project broke with the organizational model adopted in previous years, yet tisoning the strategy of building national representations. A new dynamic was established in the 6th Biennial: the presentation of specific projects for the various segments of the exhibition, developed by co-curators from different countries, under the general coordination of curator Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro.


biennial borders.” The 6th Biennial’s curatorial project was inspired bt the metapor “The river’s third shore”, an image taken from Brazilian author Guimarães Rosa’s short story of the same title. For the curator, the third shore symbolizes the possibility of “a shift in perspective,” which implies an opportunity to create a third way to perceive reality, breaking with the dualities that define and constrain it, such as nationalism and globalization, right and left, good and evil, figuration and abstraction, among others. The third shore is also, for the curator, a “metaphor for the region’s geography, with riverine borders,” and alludes “to the antagonism between a closed-up regionalism and an indistinct globalization. Also, according to Pérez-Barreiro, the third shore metaphor makes reference to the methodological principle adopted in the curatorship: “the dialog between two subjects whose experiences are different, which generates a third reality.” The curator highlights, on the other hand, that by having not a defined topic but a metaphor, this eddition of the Biennial “is a look from Mercosur to the world, a gaze that starts in the local and projects into the global. This Biennial is held from Mercosur, but it does not close on itself.” A team of curators –no longer national curators— articulates this vision “from Mercosur to the world and from the world to Mercosur.” They all have a direct relationship with Mercosur countries and some international activity or experience. “They represent different voices,” Pérez-Barreiro argues, “and this Biennial accepts and promotes diversity and freedom of expression.” As part of the 6th Biennial, the Zona Franca section posited itself as “a zone of no constraints for the curator,” both from the geographic and from the cultural standpoint. The basic idea was to present works of art that are deemed significant among recent productions. Zona Franca is organized with the profile of a collective exhibition where the guiding paradigm is the criterion of excellence, in the view of each participating curator. No other axis but this one organizes the section —the artist

and the work on display are an important landmark in current production. The participating curators in Zona Franca were Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro, Inés Katzenstein, Luis Enrique Pérez Oramas, and Moacir dos Anjos. 2 Among the works they selected, I want to highlight here the contributions of Nelson Leirner, Cildo Meirelles (both

Brazilian, proposed by Moacir dos Anjos), Harrell Fletcher (American, proposed by Pérez-Barreiro), Francis Alÿs (Belgium) in collaboration with Cuauhtemoc Medina and Rafael Ortega (both from Mexico, proposed by Moacir dos Anjos.) In his installation A Lot(e), Nelson Leirner works with a symbolic rep-

Harrell Fletcher. The American War, 2005. Framed digital prints and ephemera. Variable dimensions. Courtesy White Columns, New York, USA.

Nelson Leirner. A Lot(e), 2006. Paper, wood, rubber, fabric, plastic, metal, plaster and wool on formica bases. 92 1/2 x 157 2/5 x 354 1/4 in. (235 x 400 x 900 cm.). Courtesy Galeria Brito Cimino.


Jesús Rafael Soto. Nylon Cube, 2007. Painted nylon. 108 4/5 x 47 2/5 x 47 2/5 in. (276,5 x 120,5 x 120,5 cm.). Collection Patricia Phelps de Cisneros. Photo: Carlos Germán Rojas.

Waltercio Caldas. The Nearest Air, 1991. Wool threads. Variable dimensions.

ertoire present in the popular imagination; he uses objects that populate mass culture —plaster saints, plastic toys allusive to comic books, popular pottery of the kind we see in markets and handicrafts fairs, little airplanes and cars, toy military tanks, and, on an American flag, the figure of Superman, larger than the others, in a combat pose. The installation fragments such multitude of objects into sectorized groups, arranging them in clearly marked surfaces, a compartmentalization into “blocos” (lots.) 3 Some of the supports in which they are displayed are painted white, other blue. With a degree of irony, the artist presents the viewer of his work with a critical gaze directed now to aesthetics, now to social reality. In this way he resignifies the meaning of these objects. The title of the work proposes, in turn, a critical prospection in its ambiguity: read in English, it conveys the idea of a large amount of something (a lot) referring to the many elements it comprises; read in Portuguese (lote) the meaning is that of a group or sector. Cildo Meireles’ Marulho continues along the line of the reflection developed by the artist around the

notions of globalization/artistic and cultural production. This installation discusses the existence of hybrid physical and political spaces. It constructs an installation with a structure similar to a pier: walking on it, we see books covering the floor, with photographs of the ocean as their covers. To convey the idea of water, there is a soundtrack allusive to the liquid element’s movement, formed by the repeated superposition of the word “water” articulated in different languages and by different people. As if that which belongs to each culture were dissolved into a sound that does not belong to any. Seas and oceans are like spaces for symbolic exchange, were the notions of territory and identity are nullified. With his installation The American War, Harrell Fletcher brings to the fore a dense reflection about the Vietnam War. The work originated when the artist and three colleagues traveled to Vietnam in June of 2005 and visited Ho Chi Minh City. There he toured the war museums memorializing “the American war, as it is known locally. The artist documented the museum using a digital camera and conceived the idea

for his installation as a way of projecting, for each visitor coming in, a vision of the war from the perspective of the Other, of those who suffered though that tragic and violent event in their country. The work we see at the Biennial was presented in several US cities. According to curator Pérez-Barreiro, Fletcher seems to also be proposing the idea that the contemporary art circuit can promote significant debate on important issues, and this might be the most radical aspect of his project. Francis Alÿs, in collaboration with Cuauhtémoc Medina and Rafael Ortega, approaches another issue of great social tension in his work. Cuando la fe mueve montañas was conceived in 2002, for the Lima Biennial in Peru, at a time when that country was living through a tense social and political crisis. It is a video presenting the action of 500 volunteers who, over an area with a 500-meter diameter, near Lima, shovel sand from one point to the next. The result is a minimal alteration of the dunes, a transfer of centimeters of sand after prolonged and intense effort. The curatorial idea for the Conversaciones section was to bring together


a group of artists and establish contextual relationships between their works. A different artist was invited to present his work and select works by two colleagues in each one of the section’s nodes, establishing formal, historical, ideological, and affective readings. Curators Alejandro Cesarco and Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro, responsible for this section, developed a fourth proposal, responding to the context created for the artists. Inherent to this curatorial proposal is the presupposition that “the production and reading of art happen on the basis of art itself,” taking its own field and history as a starting point. I want to highlight here three nodes in this section. The first generated by Osvaldo Salerno, who chose, to dialog with his Twin Towers (200405,) León Ferrari’s Butterfly and Airplanes (2002) and Beatriz González’s Wallpaper of Tragedy (1983); to these works, the curators added Alejandro Paz’s Body Guard (2002.) The group of works not only forces viewers to think about the aesthetic articulations of language, but proposes an ethical issue present in contemporary social reality: violence, disrespect for life. Salerno’s The Twin Towers stages, with great clarity, the attack on New York’s Twin Towers. This work is a bricolage put together using discarded artifacts, such as the radiator of a 1951 Ford Mercury, the memory drive of a 1987 computer, a small wooden airplane, and a metal sheet. It was set by artisan Pablo Luces Contreras, and in appropriating it the artist opens for discussion the issue of creation. León Ferrari’s Butterflies and Airplanes is a tree (the tree of life?) with butterflies and airplanes hanging as fruits. In Beatriz González’s images, violence is evident in the dead bodies, printed in typography on newsprint sheets. The artist selected by curator Alejandro Paz, intervenes with a 14’3” video and a series of photographs centered around the issue of security. A bodyguard follows a common individual around the urban space. The second node I want to highlight has as its anchor Waltercio Caldas’ The Closest Air (1991) To interact

Jorge Macchi. Pentagram, 1993. Pillow, cables, springs, nails. 31 2/5 x 47 1/5 x 3 in. (80 x 120 x 8 cm.). Collection Charles Cosac, São Paulo, Brazil. Photo: Rodrigo Rojas.

with his own work, Caldas selected Milton Dacosta’s Untitled (1957) and Steve Reich’s Six marines (1956) while the curators chose Jesús Rafael Soto’s Nylon Cube (1990) Important to note in this node are the formal dimensions of rhythm, vibration, and musicality of the line; there is a perfect dynamic to the relationships between the works. In The Closest Air, Waltercio Caldas arranges threads from side to side in the space, literally as a drawing in space, an intervention using minimal resources. In dialog with Caldas’ work are three canvases from Dacosta’s Concrete period and music by minimalist composer Steve Reich. In Soto, selected by the curators, optical vibration offers an interesting counterpoint to the other works. An exciting aesthetic essay is thus constructed. The third node I want to focus on is anchored in Laura Belém’s Ainda Outono.4 She chose works by Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla (Another View–Guajataca–, 2005) and Sara Ramo (Between the Rain and the Snowman, 2005. The curators proposed I just wanted to be able to cry (2000,) by the Atlas Group. In this module, the gaze is directed towards the environment. Laura Belém’s work, Ainda Outono, interro-

gates the attention we pay to nature. To tropical plants that do not shed leaves, the artist adds paper leaves in reddish autumn colors, like the ones in trees from regions where the season is well defined. The artist says: “Ainda Outono” seeks out the relationship between nature, men, and cultures. With a simple gesture, the insertion of reddish paper leaves into natural plants, I have created a tropical “autumn” that serves as a metaphor to reflect about the concepts quoted before. How does Man look at nature, and what is the influence of culture on the construction of that gaze? How does Man modify nature through those interferences (sometimes conscious, sometimes not so much)? How does Man create (or recreate) his environment? How far is it possible to manipulate reality? 5 The Tres Fronteras exhibition is another segment of the 6 th Mercosur Biennial. It was the result of a residence program in Mercosur’s triple border —among Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. This is a river region and a zone of economic activity, as well as cultural, political and linguistic exchange. It refers to the metaphor of a river ’s third shore. Ticio Escobar, the co-curator along-


side Pérez Barreiro, proposes an interrogation of the geographical and cultural borders between the three countries. The artists in residence in this section started with the premise of cultural diversity in the creation of their works. Aníbal López, who uses the number in his national ID card,

A1-53167 as his signature, follows the route of contraband from the triple border to Porto Alegre. He recreates the map and parodies the attitudes of the smugglers, documented in videos and photographs. He throws empty boxes into the river and reconstructs in a performance the trajectory of con-

Oswaldo Salerno. The Twin Towers, 2004-2005. Object produced by Pablo Luces Contreras with metallic fragments, components of “Mercury” 1951 model refrigeration unit; wood, aluminum and motherboard of an IBM computer model 1978/88. 13 x 13 1/4 x 9 4/5 in. (33 x 34 x 25 cm.). Photo: Marcial Barni.

A-1 53167(Aníbal López). Sculpture Smuggled from Paraguay to Brazil, 2007. Empty boxes, plastic bags, video and six photographs.

traband along the river and on land, through mountain’s path. Daniel Bozhkov studied the production and consumption of handicrafts. He decided to learn to carve small animal sculptures like those created by the Guaraní Indians. The Indians carve their sculptures as a means of atoning for the death of the animals they hunt. The artist situates himself in the position of someone who gains forgiveness for the use given to the objects bought from the Indians —not with the original cultural intent, but as consumer of manufactured objects. Jaime Gil organizes and codifies letters taken from graffiti and developed into a collective logo for mototaxis, the triple border’s most popular mode of transportation. He calls the resulting typography Triple fuente (because it uses signs from three sides of the border.) Also, the artist makes a photographic record of the adaptation and use made by the moto-taxi drivers of the material distributed, building a large panel with the typography he created and photographs of the moto-taxis. Minerva Cuevas participates in the Tres Fronteras segment with a video about ecological issues in the triple border, paying tribute to the figure of scientist and writer Moisés Bertoni (the Wise Man) an emblematic figure who lived in the region and left an important legacy of research in the area’s meteorology, agronomy, biology, and cartography. Among the monographic shows at the 6th Mercosur Biennial it is important to highlight the one devoted to the work of Argentinean artist Jorge Macchi. This exhibition was held in the Santander Cultural building and presented a profile of his career and interests over close to twenty years. Seventy works were exhibited, among DVDs, installations, photographs, drawings, prints, gouaches, cut-ups, and mixed-techniques. Macchi’s work is conceptual, projecting reflections about the poetic potential of everyday life. For example, one highlight is 32 Water Pieces (1994) in which the artist cuts out of several maps the sections representing rivers and attaches them


to the wall. Guide of Immobility (2003) takes some neighborhoods out of a map of the city of Buenos Aires, creating an interesting grid with the superimposed empty spaces. There is in Macchi’s artistic investigation, another impulse towards directing a critical gaze to urban violence. In A Puddle of Blood (2001) for example, phrases cut out from a newspaper narrate an episode of violent death, and in the installation Interrupted Song (2005) the light spots created by a mirrored disco ball become perforations on the wall, the ceiling and the floor, suggesting markings caused by bullets or by grenades. Music is also a source of inspiration and motivates another branch of Macchi’s aesthetic investigation, dealing with the work’s constitutive structure. We can cite works like Marginal Song (2004) digital impression on a musical score; Incidental Music (1997) three large musical score pages adhered to the wall, their lines formed by randomly selected repeated phrases from British tabloids. The phrases speak of violence and of accidents. In contrast with what we read, we hear, through headphones hanging from the ceiling, a calming, meditative composition. The 6th Mercosur Biennial also included two shows with a historical character. One devoted to Öyvind Fahlström (1928-1976) and another one to Uruguayan artist Francisco Matto (1911-1995) both at the Rio Grande do Sul Art Museum. Fahlström was born in São Paulo, Brazil, in 1928; he left the country at the age of 11 and never returned to his native land. Yet, as pointed out in the exhibition, the artist maintained an indirect contact with his country of origin, on two levels: one, thanks to his sustained exchange with artists, poets, and intellectuals connected to the Concrete Poetry movement; and two, according to the curators, thanks to his feelings of political solidarity with the Third World. The exhibition, titled Öyvind Fahlström: Maps, makes evident that maps, “although apparently neutral in their scientific description of place, are also tools for control and domination,” as Pérez-

Beatriz González. Baseboard of the Tragedy, 1983. Typographic print on newsprint. 39 1/4 x 220 2/5 x 1 in. (100 x 560 x 2,5 cm.). Photo: Leon Birbragher. Minerva Cuevas. Bitter-Sweet, 2007. Video, 15 minutes. Schinke family and friends visiting Moises Bertoni in Puerto Bertoni.

Laura Belem. Still Autumn, 2007. Natural plants, leaves of red paper, fan, ficticious news inserted into real newspaper. Variable dimensions. Photo: Marilia Scharlack and Laura Belem.


Francisco Matto. Two Venuses, 1976. Oil on wood. 44 4/5 x 26 1/4 x 6 3/5 in. (114 x 67 x 17 cm.). Courtesy Cecilia de Torres, Ltd. Photo: Arturo Sánchez.

Barreiro puts it in his critical text.6 The aerial perspective adopted in the representation, for example, creates a vision of power and vigilance. It is that apparently neutral role that the artist deconstructs. Fahlström adopts the language of Pop Art, using comics in a critical way, as was common in Latin America but not in the US and Europe. It is interesting to note that in the 1960s Öyvind Fahlström lived in New York. Francisco Matto’s exhibition is retrospective in nature. It gathers 94 works between paintings on canvas and on wood, and wood sculptures. The Uruguayan artist was a disciple of Joaquín Torres García. From his time in the Torres García Workshop he inherited not only the concept of Constructive Universalism promoted by the master, but also the technique for the ellaboration of works of art. Like his teacher, he underscored the importance of the pre-Columbian roots of Modern

Educational Station. Photo: Leon Birbragher.

art, observing with great interest the production from that period in ceramics and textiles. His palette approaches Torres García’s, as do his works on wood. Their proximity is great in terms of compositional concepts. Taking this into account, it would have been interesting for the exhibition to provide information on Torres García, creating a module about his essential presence in the River Plate region, not only for his theoretical and artistic legacy but also for his effort in the diffusion of modern art in the region and the artistic motivation he was able to infuse in others through his teaching. The 6th Mercosur Biennial distinguished itself for its careful curatorship and museography, evident in the different sections. It was an important event for the public, an entirely positive achievement for the organizing Foundation.

NOTES 1. The piers at the port. 2. Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro is a Spanish art historian, general curator of the 6th Biennial, and works as Latin American art curator at the Blnton Museum of the University of Texas in Austin, Inés Katzestein is from Argentina, an art historian and curator at the Museo de Arte Latino-Americano in Buenos Aires. Lis Enrique Pérez Oramas is a Venezuelan art historian and a curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where he lives. Moacir dos Anjos is an independent Brazilian curator and researcher; he lives in Brazil. 3. Here there is a reference to the groups of Carnival dancers in the Samba Schools, the blocos wearing the same costume. 4. The word Ainda can be translated as either still and also. 5. Artist declaration, September 4th, 2007. 6. Catalog, 6th Mercosur Biennial, p. 28.

Lisbeth Rebollo Gonçalves Professor at the University of São Paulo and Vice-President of AICA.


ArtNexus Magazine 67, year 2007. pp 136-142

Cildo Meireles. In Parenthesis, 2007. Site-specific installation. 196 4/5 x 90 1/2 in. (500 x 230 cm.).


A local bet for taming the international biennial model M

Carlos Uribe

edellín, Colombia’s second most populous city, was a Latin American pioneer in the field of international art biennials with its Coltejer Art Biennial. The second such event to appear in the region after São Paulo, it had an intermittent history and held four editions between 1968 and 1981. The Biennial brought Medellín in sync with international art developments, especially with art produced in Latin America, and had a needed salutary effect on the education of the conservative local public in bringing a more current and cosmopolitan view, which was reflected in a generation of local artists interested in the new urban realities. These artists were able to consolidate a

position for themselves both at the local and international levels. As has happened in other instances, the support of the sponsoring industrial groups dried up and the city, which entered a period of institutional paralysis in the 1980s due to the emergence of drug trafficking, did not embrace the Biennial as a project of its own, which would have given it continuity and supported the promotion of Medellín’s best artists. Only one event, the International Art Festival funded by the city government in 1997, contributed to assert Medellín’s intermittent presence on the international art scene. By 2006, taking advantage of the city’s excellent social and political climate, as well as an economy and an infrastructure comparable to those of any Latin American capi-

tal, the Museo de Antioquia—the country’s second most important museum, with an notable collection of international and regional art—gathered a group of Colombian and Brazilian curators to design an event that would once again carve for Medellín a place in the international art circuit. It would also foster important reflections about the contradictory urban realities facing its citizens at the local and global levels, in terms of their ways of cohabiting and their acceptance of the Other. An interdisciplinary team composed of José Roca, Óscar Muñoz, María Inés Rodríguez, Ana Paula Cohen, Jaime Cerón, and Alberto Sierra dismissed all hierarchies and assumed the roles of co-curators on equal footing. This group was


EBXIHE INBNI TI AI OL N in charge of giving meaning to a curatorial exercise that developed, through their contributions, over several months and resulted in an expansive event that ran from February to July 2007 in various institutions and many public and private spaces in all socio-economic sectors of the metropolitan area. This space for experimentation, which they named “Encuentro Internacional Medellín 2007: Prácticas Artísticas Contemporáneas, Espacios de Hospitalidad” and was known by all as MDEO7, was configured as an articulation of different notions of space, intended to foster the circulation of people, artistic projects, discourses, and diverse cultural concepts. Besides the large exhibition spaces with works by eighty-five international artists, it included activation zones that grouped exhibitions with historical resonance, four theory seminars with local and international guests, fifty round-table discussions with invited artists and curators, seventeen art-education workshops centered around a variety of practices, five guest publications, three video-art cycles, a film festival titled Sin Fronteras, and close to thirty audio experiences. The artistic residences were one of the innovations introduced at this event, and they established more solid ties between the artists and the city and its inhabitants. Twenty-five national and international artists-in-residence were invited to MDE07 to develop specific projects, as well as five designers and six curators to support these practices. Twelve independent spaces—four spaces of local artists who served as hosts, four from Latin American cities (Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Lima, and Caracas) and four from Bogotá and Cali— made up a component especially curated by the artist and promoter Ós c a r M u ñ o z , t i t l e d “ E s p a c i o s Anfitriones.” This program, which Cristina Lucas. Pantone, 2007. Video performance with conversation by historians, 30’.

Tomás Sarraceno. Aereo-Solar Project, 2007. Aerostatic balloon on San Antonio Park. Federico Herrero. Intervention in the subway columns, 2007. Variable dimensions.


provided several local spaces with the necessary means to invite their peers from other cities and offer them a temporary “satellite site” to carry out the same programming they usually present in their cities of origin, was particularly successful. The presence of El Capacete, El Basilisco, La Culpable, Oficina # 1, El Bodegón, El Vicio, Helena Producciones, and Casa Tomada, alongside Casa Tres Patios, Taller 7, La Jikara and Bellas Artes, multiplied the impact of MDE07 in the city through relational channels. Thus Medellín hosted multiple artistic experiences and practices about the contemporary, and many citizens usually removed from cultural activity were involved in art. The notion of hospitality belabored both by contemporary philosophers—especially Derrida, who triggered the initial question in his book Hospitality (1997)—and by many postmodern thinkers, was the concept behind the general meaning of the Espacios de Hospitalidad that the curatorial team assigned to the Medellín event as a way of questioning the hosts, guests, or visitors who crossed paths in the city during the event’s six-month period. Hospitality was conceived as a political strategy,

posited as a relational structure to activate and reformulate the communication channels between the city and artistic practices; these had been fractured and disconnected due to events since the 1980s that made Medellín a forbidden city for foreigners and its own denizens. As pointed out by José Roca in a text prior to the event, this kind of ostracism had spread to the country’s art as a whole, to the point that significant Colombian artists—such as Doris Salcedo, Óscar Muñoz, José Alejandro Restrepo, Miguel Ángel Rojas, María Fernanda Cardoso, or Juan Manuel Echavarría, to cite but a few—have never shown their work in a solo show in an important Medellín museum or institution. Medellín, Roca says, “which prides itself in being a hospitable city, apparently wasn’t so hospitable to the country’s most celebrated ambassadors. This is why, among other things, the tension between hospitality and hostility became the leitmotif of the Encuentro Internacional Medellín 2007: Prácticas Artísticas Contemporáneas. In general, we can say that MDE07 attempted to tame the biennial model, to turn the great artistic event into a domestic, familial, everyday situation.” 1

Jaime Ávila. Black Embassy, 2007. Site-specific intervention. Variable dimensions.

Tatzu Nishi. Please Whisper Something in My Ear, 2007. Site-specific intervention in the towers of the Church of the Sacred Heart. Inner space with reproduction of the typical furniture of a Colombian home with the ornamental cross of the church.`

Without a doubt, the art world’s current concern to redefine the international biennial model prodded the curatorial team in Medellín to conceive an event structure that was adequate to the local scene and aware of its needs and expectations, while at the same time being an experiential gamble capable of making pertinent contributions to the international debate. Indeed, the phenomenon known as “biennialism” has produced many events that resemble large art fairs in their structure and image. In turn, the experience and artistic offerings at the large art fairs are similar to those in a typical biennial, a globalized model that pursues the attentiongrabbing benefits of the spectacular in detriment of a deeper, more formative process. Each time a new international event arises, the question also emerges of whether it is truly possible to reconfigure the model. At least in part, the Encuentro in Medellín attempted to do so. Following are some of the event’s most representative and controversial works and projects. The curatorial themes— hospitality/hostility; xenophilia/xenophobia; parasitism and symbiosis; inhabiting the museum; and urban residents—that emerged from the


general concept of hospitality and that framed the works and projects were posited as holistic readings, without classifications or thematic breaks in the exhibition spaces. The main exhibition module was composed of the exhibitions by international artists present by direct invitation. Among them were Cildo Meireles and Antoni Muntadas— represented by his impressive On Translation: Fear/Miedo project—who, alongside Colombia’s Antonio Caro, Adolfo Bernal, and María Angélica Medina, functioned as anchor artists for each of the themes mentioned. Significant space was devoted to these artists, who displayed several stages of their oeuvres and some new works. The works that encompassed a panorama of media by the more than eighty artists were staged non-simultaneously according to three different timelines. With an initial opening on February 10 th and two exhibition periods beginning on April 13th and May 26th, the works were distributed among ten sites and various public spaces throughout the Aburrá valley. The city of Medellín is the center of the valley’s metropolitan area, with the most important museums and permanentexhibit cultural galleries. The Casa del Encuentro was the nucleus of the participating spaces, which included the Museo de Antioquia, the Museo de Arte Moderno, the University of Antioquia Museo Universitario, the Centro Colombo Americano, the Suramericana de Seguros Sala de Arte, the EAFIT University Centro de Artes, the French Alliance, the Palacio de la Cultura, and other host spaces and associated institutions. In the Casa del Encuentro, the opening show presented an old annex to the Museo de Antioquia main building. There were works by the Brazilian artists Ángela Dethanico & Rafael Lain (such as Ruido Blanco, seen at the recent Venice Biennale), as well as Javier Peñafiel from Spain, and Jaime Iregui, Bernardo Ortiz, Víctor Muñoz, and Gabriel Sierra from Colombia. Si-

Ángela Dethanico and Rafael Labin. Pilha, 2007. Background, Gabriel Silva. Closet, 2007. Variable dimensions.

Vasco Araújo. O’ Jardim (The Garden), 2007. 30 minute video detail 30´.

erra was also in charge of designing the furniture and exhibition design to give meaning to the adaptation of this new space, which he accomplished successfully. For the first exhibition in April, the city’s museums became the main stage, removing part of their permanent collections and making their temporary galleries available for site-specific projects presented by the biennial artists. The Museo de Antioquia was populated with proposals that dialogued with its nineteenth- and twentieth-century art and history collection, like the local artist Libia Posada’s intelligent and ironic Evidencias clínicas. Posada subtly placed within the existing gallery design portraits of women who had been victimized

with different kinds of violence, a forceful presentation of the situation of women in society; this estrangement was achieved from rigorous field research and refined photographic work. Jaime Ayala appropriated the museum’s main façade to deploy his sinister-looking black flags in an ironic allusion to the U.S. flag, accompanied by a large banner with the image of a two-headed nuclear device: one head was the Capitol building in Washington D.C. and the other was the dome of its equivalent building in Havana. In the first floor galleries, one found Juan Manuel Echavarría’s moving video Bocas de ceniza, which raises awareness about absurd situations of hostility and cruelty that arise in Colombia as a consequence


Antoni Muntadas. On translation Fear/Miedo, 2006. An aspect of the video projection at Museo de Arte Moderno, 45’.

of its armed conflict. This was well articulated in relation to the two survey shows on the work of Cildo Meireles and Adolfo Bernal. Between these was an installation with the Mexican artist’s Erick Beltrán’s conceptual map titled ¿Qué es el discurso? A historically resonant exhibition about the origins and processes of conceptual art in Colombia was presented on the second floor, curated by the renowned artist Álvaro Barrios. This was echoed in a show by Bernardo Ortiz titled “Following Piece,” with adapted works by artists from his personal pantheon such as Daniel Buren, On Kawara, Piero Manzoni, Sigmar Polke, Hans Haacke, among others. Following the show’s trajectory, one also found works by Cuba’s David Palacios, as well as Miguel Ángel Rojas and Nicolás Consuegra from Colombia. Presiding over the space at the Museo de Arte Moderno was the projection of videos by Antoni M u n t a da s, t o whom t h e ent ire fourth-floor gallery was devoted. The young Bogotá artist Mateo López’s workshop was installed on the intermediate level, minutely reproducing López’s workspace with objects in pencil and perfectly put together in a poetic interplay with the interstices of simulacra. On the first floor, there was a remembrance of the First IberianAmerican Colloquium on Non-

Objectual and Urban Art of 1981, held at this same museum, which had great ideological importance for the city in the debate over Situationism, ephemeral proposals, and conceptual art and its variants in Latin America. This colloquium, besides being a landmark in Latin American art debates of the 1970s and 1980s, with the presence of important artists and theoreticians such as Ana Mendieta, Carl Andre, Cildo Meireles, Pedro Therán, Felipe Ehrenberg, and Juan Acha, was taken by the co-curators as one of their symbolic referents and catalysts for contemporary art in Colombia. Many of the dynamics and processes developed by the artists of that generation and later ones, including the current one, are owed to this colloquium. Other artists displayed their works in galleries around the city. Carla Zacagnini from Argentina, Federico Guzmán from Spain, and Alberto Baraya, Milena Bonilla, and Liliana Angulo from Colombia were featured at the Museo Universitario, a traditional space for these events as it was the site for the first Biennials in the 1960s. Meanwhile, the Centro de Artes of the EAFIT University, on the city’s south side, presented two video works by Cristina Lucas and Vasco Araujo that were truly moving and intelligently reflected the

theme of xenophilia/xenophobia. Lucas, who is from Spain, directed the performance event she recently presented at the Istanbul Biennial, titled Pantone; her work become one of the most remarked upon among the public, who encountered a culminating babble of overlapping historians’ voices that increased in volume while they described the territorial and political transformations from the earliest civilizations to the current time. Vasco Araujo’s video O’ Jardim was projected in an adjacent gallery; it was an immensely poetic work personified by the dialogue between the bronze statues in the Lisbon Art Museum’s garden, based on texts by Homer that reveal, between the lines, the historical remnants of colonialism. At the Centro Colombo Americano, the Slovene artist Marjetica Potrc showed a gallery installation titled The Great City of Medellín, which quasi-scientifically interpreted the processes undergone by the city in the recent past to publicize ecologically philosophical ideas about the future potential of the place and its inhabitants. A second exhibition itinerary was programmed for late May, with new shows and the activation of different galleries and public spaces in the city. This segment also featured the important presence of the Cologne-based Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi, who installed two intervention projects in different part of the city; these projects were warmly received by the public and became “pilgrimage sites.” Por favor, susúrrame algo al oído was a site-specific project that appropriated one of the towers of the Sacred Heart church in the downtown sector of Barrio Triste; a scaffolding over thirty-metershigh invited viewers to ascend and inhabit an interior space that reproduced the scale and furnishings of a typical Colombian home, with the church’s ornamental cross as a “decoration” for the dinner table. Candelabro was a monumental lamp built of street lamps placed upside


down and suspended in the middle of two broad avenues. Nishi’s works were unforgettable for those who experienced them. Two other significant works in this urban circuit were the interventions Entre.Paréntesis, especially designed for Medellín by Cildo Meireles, and Todos somos indeseables (We are all undesirable), by Fernando Sánchez Castillo (from Spain), a neon sign installed in the upper part of a prestigious coffeehouse in the city’s red-light district, which caused all manner of comments and debates and had to be uninstalled and reinstalled several times. Argentina’s Tomás Sarraceno developed an interesting workshop process with young artists and aerostatic specialists, with whom he built a giant balloon with recycled plastic bags from various countries where he has developed the same process, like the United Arab Emirates, Italy, and Germany. These, with the bags gathered locally, flew playfully over Medellín’s San Antonio Park. Another public-space experience that will be warmly remembered was the Irish artist Dennis McNulty’s audio event Concierto al atardecer (Concert for the late one) in one of the new library parks, which effected a contemplative mood, making it possible for people to encounter themselves and especially the city.

One must highlight the projects conceived specifically for this event by artists like Ana Claudia Múnera and Gloria Posadas, the amiable and generous space of the Casa del Encuentro by Canada’s Instant Coffee Collective, the guest publications Point d’ironie, Pulgar, Asterisco, Valdez, and Robot, the presence of essential and controversial artists like Rodrigo Bueno and Santiago Cirugeda, and, lastly, an unforgettable intervention by the Mexican artist Héctor Zamora. Known for his parasitic structures on the architecture of museums, Zamora transformed a decayed area of the city’s downtown that neighbors the Museo de Antioquia and is populated by beggars, prostitutes, and thieves. In the Proyecto Bar las Divas: Sustracción-adición, Zamora “stole” from the museum the office for the coordination of the event in order to open a temporary bar managed by an social-services foundation serving that area’s population. The tension created by Zamora and the estrangement both of the visiting public in Casa del Encuentro and the area’s inhabitants, created an art-based zone of necessary distension and interrogation. As Nicolás Bourriaud points out in his aesthetic of the relational, every work of art produces a model of society, which it transfers to the realm of the real or could be translated into it.2 So, when faced with aesthetic production,

Libia Posada. Clinical Evidence: Portraits, 2007. Intervention from photographic studies with women in the Permanent Collection of Museo de Antioquia. Variable dimensions.

the question arises: does this work empower me for dialogue? Could I exist, and how, in the space this work defines? In terms of curatorial content and design, the exhibitions represented different stages in the production of each of the invited artists. Generous displays allowed viewers to enjoy the works and enabled an appreciation of new contemporary languages in their multi-media or post-media pluralism. 3 The exhibits approached the expanded concept of hospitality through such diverse media as painting, drawing, graphic arts, photography, sculpture, installation, video, performances, interventions with site-specific projects, and community-participation works. The professional, high-quality staging proposed by the curatorial team with the support of the other work teams at the Encuentro and the other host institutions were equal in caliber to similar events at the international level. Everything was ready, without hiccups or errors on the programmed days. The event’s dynamics and the massive presence of the public—over 220,000 visitors—to the different sites and exhibition spaces confirmed the interest in the art scene among large portions of the population. Once content and form were digested, the remaining feeling was that the goal of transforming the local scene and conditioning a plat-

Instant Coffee Collective. The Nook-Wish You Were Here, 2007. Relational space at Casa del Encuentro. Variable dimensions.


form for debate and a permanent connection to the world was successfully achieved in Medellín. Casa del Encuentro is without a doubt the most tangible contribution of MDE07 to the city. This space was a meeting point and a platform for contemporary artistic languages based on a welcoming, amiable, and domestic site for the art world and for the general public. Casa del Encuentro will remain as an autonomous entity with a program of curators-in-residence, and it will become an instrument in the revitalization of the local scene and the maintenance of what has

been achieved in the six months of activity of the Encuentro. José Roca’s text summarizes the intention of making up for wasted time not only in Medellín but also in international art events in Colombia: “In 1981, the conceptual artist Adolfo Bernal launched through the radio waves a Morse-code call on the occasion of the First Non-Objectual Art Colloquium: MDE S.O.S, using the international code for the city and a cry for help. The answer arrives a quarter of a century later, only that help comes from within. From the evidence, Medellín has found itself, and we with it.”

NOTES 1. José Roca, from concept texts prior to the event. 2. Nicolás Bourriaud, Estética Relacional, 2004. 3. The concept of the post-media, or post-media art, refers to a contemporary situation in which artists feel sufficient freedom to move within the vast array of technical media at their disposal. In today’s art, the figure of the artist, like that of the individual in general, is mobile and nomadic.

Translation: Jorge Frisancho

Carlos Uribe Artist and historian. He worked on the MDE07 team as its General Coordinator and is an independent curator.


ArtNexus Magazine 67, year 2007. pp 187-189

GROUP SHOWS The 1970s in Brazil: Brazilian contemporary art revisited (or visited thoroughly for the first time) Instituto Tomie Ohtake São Paulo, Brazil

From early September to the end of October, the art audience in São Paulo was privileged to see a significant ensemble of works produced by Brazilian artists during the 1970s. Curated by Gloria Ferreira, a professor of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, the exhibition “Anos 70: Arte Como Questão” (1970s: Art as an Issue) provided a unique opportunity to confront one of the most experimental periods of Brazilian art and made one rethink one’s place and contribution to a redefinition of art in an international context. Departing from Hélio Oiticica’s definition of art as “an experimental exercise of freedom,” the exhibition gathered around 100 artists and their works, from a period that began with the launch of the Nova Objetividade (New Objectivity) in 1967 and ended in 1981, the year of the XVI Bienal de São Paulo. The show was also part of a series of exhibitions that have been organized in recent years by the Instituto Tomie Ohtake and approach Brazilian art history from the 1950s to the present. In addition to the selected works, Ferreira also dedicated a section of the exhibition to the documentation of artists’ activities during that period and presented a series of contemporary publications and magazines, all to serve as a platform to artistic debate. The show occupied three upper-floor galleries inside the institute’s building and used the open mezzanine to present a selection of works as well as display stations. Here, the visitor could listen to long plays recorded by artists (such as Sal sem carne by Cildo Meireles) and also leaf through photocopies of some of the magazines, like Malasartes. This section helped the visitor to sense the atmosphere of the time and provided context for the selected works. However, the presentation of the documentary elements and the display of certain artworks tended toward the traditional, and one felt that some of the pieces had been “museum-ized.” Such was the case in the display of Lygia Clark’s therapeutic objects, placed on a reconstructed bed built to the same measurements of the original one that she had in her practice office, accord-

ing to the object label. In the third room of the exhibition, a little boy was tempted by Lygia Pape’s Roda dos prazeres (literally “The Circle of Pleasures”), with its series of commercial white bowls containing different colored liquids that one should have been able to take out of the bowls with an eyedropper and spread on adjacent saucers. The boy was very eager to take the initiative, but his mother forbade him to do so. Though the label stated that this was an “interactive work,” the museological aspect of the exhibition played its role in the constraint of the works and the audience participation with them. In any case, the curatorial effort faced a challenge to present such works and remain as faithful to them as possible. If the result was a “museum-ized” display of the most radical experimental art of the 1970s, one may suppose the aim was to be as neutral as possible. It certainly raised the question that museums and institutions dealing with contemporary art collections have faced regarding the display of such experimental works inside a museum space. For instance, should one treat the everyday objects com-

posing an installation that is built following an artist’s instructions in the same way that one treats a fifteenth-century painting? If one relates to these works as the artist originally intended, would one have to necessarily depreciate such installations, even if this meant jeopardizing the conservation of the objects that constitute them? These questions have yet to be answered and they reveal our attitude toward art, through which we end by defining art—an issue that was much debated and questioned by the artists during the 1970s and that makes a “museum-ized” attitude toward their art even more contradictory. But the greatest merits of the exhibition were to display works belonging to private collections and are thus very rarely seen and also to state that Brazilian art in those years went beyond the well-known names Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark and Cildo Meireles. In the past decade, these names have been the beacon of Brazilian contemporary art, and though one shouldn’t doubt their huge influence, one finally realizes that their work was not isolated and that art was produced outside of São Paulo and

Lygia Pape. The Circle of Pleasures, 1968-2000. Interactive work with white bowls and coloured liquids.. Copyrights © Projeto Lygia Pape.


Leticia Parente. Trade Mark, 1974. Video. Andre Parente Collection.

Rio de Janeiro. The exhibition revealed the presence of many artists spread all over the country, connected by a net of exchange that involved not only Brazilian artists but also international ones. It was also enlightening to see the exploration of new media in the production of their artworks, such as reproducible media (photocopy machine, photography, mimeograph, etc.) and video and film. Another important aspect was that, though the political agenda was very strong in works of this period (the country was experiencing the darkest years of military dictatorship), this issue was essentially related to a deeper investigation of the nature of art and its role in life. The greatest pleasure of the show was the opportunity to come across some lesserClovis Dariano. Landscape Over Landscape, 1977 Photomontage.

Carmela Gross. Stamp, 1978. Print on paper.

known artists and some practically unknown ones. In the first room was the video Marca registrada by Leticia Parente (1930–1991), in which the camera framed the artist from the waist down as she sat on a chair, held her left foot with her hands, and sewed the words “Made in Brazil” on its surface with a needle and string. Parente began her artistic career later in life; she worked for many years as a chemistry teacher, and as a university professor she become one of the first woman scientists to have a seat in the Brazilian Science Academy. In the same room, there were two series of prints that tackled painting and its traditional role in the art canon. In Técnica do pincel (Paintbrush Technique), by Julio Plaza (1938–2003) and Regina Silveira

(born 1939), the artists made paint-stroke interventions on reproductions of some of the most emblematic works of the 1960s, such as one of Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe portraits, in order to question the procedure of painting. In a similar vein, the work Carimbo (Stamp) by Carmela Gross (born 1946) featured six different gestures of brush strokes stamped on the surface of various sheets of paper. The use of photography in those years was also notable. In Paisagens sobre paisagem (Landscape over Landscape) by Clovis Dariano (born 1950), the viewer encountered five landscape photomontages. The artist juxtaposed one photograph over the other, as in a collage, but at the same time he peeled the upper one away; this

Julio Plaza and Regina Silveira. Paintbrush Technique, 1974. Silkscreen and ink on paper. Intervention on emblematic works of the 1960´s. MAC-USP.


process was photographed, and the final work was the photographic documentation of the process. One might compare this work with that of Sergio Porto, titled Reflexions, in which the artist placed mirrors in different positions by the seashore and photographed the landscape and its reflections on the mirror. Both works dealt with the illusion of realist/documentary photography and also the photographic crop while approaching the issue of the two-dimensionality of painting. The last room also presented a rarely seen work by Hélio Oiticica: Helena inventa

Ângela Maria (Helena invents Ângela Maria). Here, a series of photographs on Eucatex were installed along with a loudspeaker, from which a love song by the Brazilian singer Ângela Maria was heard. There was also a reproduction of Oiticica’s notes on the work and his letter to his beloved friend Helena; in the photographs, she laid in bed, performing as a mistress. Again, one could read this work as a comment on the nature of painting. In short, “Anos 70: Arte Como Questão” was a summary of how Brazilian artists during the 1970s dealt with the issue of “art

as idea as idea,” to use an expression of Joseph Kosuth. It also revealed how much is still to be done by Brazilian researchers in order to understand this period, as many works and artists on display had never been studied. Some of the artists were only shown in the 1970s and never seen again. It is a pity there was no exhibition catalog published as a first attempt to record their deeds.

Translation: Jorge Frisancho

Ana Magalhães


ArtNexus Magazine 68, year 2008. pp 139-140

Reviews nueva york / ny

Jarbas Lopes Daniel Reich Gallery

There’s nothing particularly sophisticated about the objects that Jarbas Lopes produces, perhaps because they are not so much art as manifestations of will—belief and actions in a world different and somehow, vaguely, better than whatever is here and now. Lopes is a contradiction: he is a walking advertisement for every person to be an artist, and at the same time he is so egocentric that his fictional and fluid environments are named after him, such as “Jarbalopolis.” But recall that Renato Poggioli listed infantilism as a major characteristic of the sophisticated avant-garde. For example, Lopes’s art project for the Carnivale in Rio consisted of gathering friends (or believers) to carve and glue Styrofoam pieces into something sufficiently architecturallooking to evoke some of the modernist white structures in Rio. Across the forms, Lopes made an equally vague ecological protest, writing the large red letters CO2 and HFC, Jarbas Lopes. Untitled, 2007. Reference: free-fight (South-American wrestling). Bicycle airway drawing series. Set of 15 drawings in pen on paper. Approx. 13,7 x 10.7 in.

symbols for two greenhouse gases. After coating their mostly nude bodies with mud (it was Carnivale after all), the group carried their ark of an earthly covenant through the streets, tore it to pieces in front of the grandstands, and washed off the mud. Was the world a better place after this? Not likely in any measure. However, many of Lopes’ objectives were accomplished: art was a common and participatory action, vaguely utopian but certainly idealist and celebratory, and who knows how many at Carnivale were affirmed or informed in their ecological beliefs. Besides, if that’s art, then sign me up, because it is clearly fun. Life within spectacle demands spectacle: theater derived from drunken rituals celebrating seasons, crops, and stories. Lopes’s objects are more thoughtful but perhaps too much so. The objects are crude because they are crafted less from a belief in the look of materials and more from thought and a belief in the function and symbolic meaning of materials, in much the same way that religious icons appear and function. Art in this sense becomes the site of meaning, a place marked by the attributes ascribed to the object, while at the same time all aspects of the materials carry some meaning. For instance, Lopes made a piece onsite at the Daniel Reich Gallery, an untitled sculpture of a human-like form opened like a cocoon that confronted the viewer at the entrance; the clay left on the floor remained on one’s feet, marking the Biblical transience of the visitor across the gallery. The clay residue was not accidental but a nonchalant yet well-conceived messiness that subtly became a ritual of everydayness. Some pieces in the show were more symbolic than others, but their functions were to witness, convey, and convince. This makes the artist a bit of a shaman or ritualist, a guide for one who cares to make the leap of faith. At the same time, there is an equal and contradictory belief in the artist as both special and not special, which is thus a belief in the greater potential of every person. Joseph Beuys, who influenced two generations of artists, comes to mind. Beuys believed in the ways that artists and materials transmit information, especially spirituality and the psychic energies of history; hence art was an economy and politics that linked individuals to broadly defined forces. In Lopes’s work, one of Beuys’s favorite metaphors, the transmitter, is given form

and appears as an independent sculptural object (Antenna) and as a drawn form. When integrated into the drawings, it remains a pulsing beacon signal and is also more clearly inserted into Lopes’s ongoing concern over the double-edged sword of technology (along with computer screens and bits and pieces of industrial debris). In opposition to technology, Lopes’ Short Environment is made from rough-hewn vegetable fibers. This object covers and isolates the wearer in a cocoon but also allows one to see and transmit through the open weave. The artist intended the viewer to disrobe before putting the object on (good luck there—one has to be as thin as Lopes for it to fit) and to look ridiculous; everyone laughs and laughter is liberating. While Lopes questions our relation to technology, he clearly believes that the technological development with the greatest saving grace is the bicycle. The bike he rode while in New York to install the show was on display (price available on request), and his suite of fifteen drawings made from ballpoint pens on construction paper was titled the Bicycle Airway Drawing Series (Série de Desenhos Cicloviaérea). In Rio and New York, Lopes conceived of using the freedom, community, and ecological benefits of cycling as a metaphor for a community or place, his “Jarbalopolis,” in the same way that New Yorkers conceive of the soon-to-be-renovated High Line, an abandoned above-ground railroad track that snakes through the art district of Chelsea. One drawing in particular shows bicycles and a general structure for this bikeway in the sky. Yet while part of Lopes is indeed located above it all, he remains grounded in many ways, whether having his children help in his drawings or through community gatherings and actions at Galeria A Gentil Carioca in Rio. Being in both worlds simultaneously seems terribly adult for a child, don’t you think? Richard Leslie

ArtNexus Magazine 70, year 2008. pp 130-131


Reviews BOGOTÁ / Colombia

Nicolás Robbio Galería Nueveochenta

The presentation of recent works by Argentine artist Nicolás Robbio at Galería Nueveochenta in Bogotá opens the scene, through an excellent personal exhibition, to a necessary dialog between young artists from Latin America and other latitudes who share an interest in representational forms in which the real is understood as an uncertain universe, and, as such, one rich in abstract content. In this way, new visions that reveal the exhaustion of many critical lines marked by the strength of the documentary begin to connect in Colombia, and, in consequence, our attention is directed towards the authors of other interpretative processes where the concrete and verifiable elements of the visible world are subjected to profound interrogation. The importance of such propositions resides in the fact that they foster the maturation of the types of questions that need to arise before new perceptual forms are developed, and with them broader notions of reality capable of including orders that up to this point remain out of focus, unacknowledged, excluded by the majority of current systems. In the proposal presented by Nicolás Robbio, as in those of some young Colombian artists —among which we can note Mateo López and Nicolás París—, the most delicate expression of drawing constitutes an essential expressive tool in the generation of an unstable idea of the apparent and in pushing the viewer towards the forgotten problems of vision and perspective. In that sense, these elements also result in a reconsideration of the poetics of the image, which has been displaced and even discredited by the popularization of photography and video, as well as by the insistent affirmation of a media-centered conception of reality. For this very reason, it is of note that in the work of these artists we see the reemergence of classical or pre-photographic issues of perception, which in the complexity of the current moment possess the amplified potency and the magic of the thinker who knows how to deconstruct a world that organizes, flattens, and condenses any form of representation, such as photography. In that sense, the preeminence given in the work of

these artists to the expression of the spirit of the visible, this is to say, of the essence that anchors the formation of an image or an idea, is also significant. In the specific instance of Nicolás Robbio’s work, where very often the image is an intangible matter, the expression of the essential can be recognized in every one of his expressive concerns, at the philosophical and material levels. The images with which this artist confronts his viewers are fundamentally structured on the basis of the encounter of light and shadow, of the represented (the drawing) and the real (the object, but also light and shadow.) Generally, Nicolás Robbio’s visual creations are a combination of that which is recognizable to all with that which is fleeting and abstract and only becomes perceptible in the eyes of an artist, who then emphasizes it. The clearest example of this procedure are Robbio’s “accidental geometries,” geometric configurations detected by the artist in any dynamic of public life, like the haphazard paths traced by pedestrians in any given street. In the video recording of any random view of people walking on an everyday street, the artist makes mobile connections from one pedestrian to another, and based on these connections we see the emergence of triangulations and other basic structures that design something like an astronomical map, one that appears spontaneously and then vanishes in the same streets where it arose. This, moment after moment, amidst the activity of many anonymous subjects and the continued shift in the circumstances in which they move. This logic also contributes to interpret the imperceptible details with which the artist intervenes the exhibition spaces where he works, understood now as profoundly meaningful minimal connectors. The same occurs with the drawings and objectual propositions that Robbio organizes in the table-boxes he builds. Those images cannot be deciphered without the activation of lights that are strategically arranged by the artist to traverse them. The true universe created by the artist, on the basis of the traces and volumes generated by the shadows, appears only when the light is turned on. Without light’s power, the stage is merely disposed to be activated, its meaning awaiting the interlocutor that will grant it meaning. Thus, with an admirable economy of elements,

Nicolás Robbio. Untitled, 2008. Drawing and carving on glass, paper objects, bricks, and table. 33 1/2 x 26 1/5 x 67 in. (85 x 67 x 170 cm.).

the artist gives diaphanous voice to the mutually transforming conversation between the immanent world and the corporeal or material one. With these minimal mechanisms, the artist takes the viewer through the circuits in which the secrets of the world of forms move. These, despite the simplicity of the structures used by Robbio, are in no way lost in the simplistic pathways of the explicit. On the contrary, they retain their expressiveness in a slight, suspended feeling.

Translation: José Osorio María Iovino


ArtNexus Magazine 71, year 2001. pp 78-83

Ivo Mesquita Open space. The second floor reveals the structure and offers the visitor a physical experience of the building by architect Oscar Niemeyer.*

São Paulo Biennial “Despite the whole of modernity, I believe that the Baroque is not form. I am more with Severo Sarduy in believing that it is a way of thinking.” Ivo Mesquita INTERVIEW BY JulIa BuENaVENTuRa


he 8th São Paulo Biennial was announced as the biennial of emptiness, yet it presented 36 artists and 14 performances, as well as concerts, a video lounge, conferences, and interviews. Its promotion as a biennial of emptiness, added to the economic crisis, resulted in the absence at the opening of many international collectors, curators and intellectuals who were there in previous years. Editor’s note The proposal for the twenty-eighth São Paulo Biennial is an art exhibition without works of art: a contradiction in terms that has, in my view, a clearly baroque bent, inasmuch as the Baroque period arose precisely on contradictions in meaning. Such contradictions,

however, were not built by chance; on the contrary, they were grounded on the fact that we, the inhabitants of the New World, had no place in history and had no place in the Bible—that we were not, in sum, part of the very past we had just bloodily, fierily adopted. Now, three centuries later, the issue is different: it is no longer about the past but the future. At this point, we have no place in the future of the nineteenth century’s national projects, a memory that seems to survive only in our passports and visas. We have no place either in the future of Progress, which threatens to destroy us with its promise of a systematic exploitation of nature for man’s benefit. Now, as in the Baroque, we continue on our feet even as we realize we no longer fit in them. And, again as in the Baroque, all we can do is play with contradiction and the opportunities it affords for the creation of alternative pathways.

To propose an art exhibition without works of art is to erect a baroque contradiction. Yet, in its very baroque character, this contradiction is not a general or abstract one but rather absolutely specific, since such a vacuum would make no sense outside the space in which it is proposed: the pavilion designed by Oscar Niemeyer for the São Paulo Biennial in 1957. With this space, Ivo Mesquita’s idea brings into our present a building that was created at a time when the future was still possible. I went to the Pinacotheca in early August to interview Mesquita. Julia Buenaventura: The biennials were born as mechanisms to display the latest developments from different countries—their future, progressive proposals—since countries, as national projects, went hand in hand with the notion of progress. Given this, how does one do an empty biennial? How is it related to the forsaking of progress and, in consequence, of national projects? Ivo Mesquita: Well, there are two issues there. First, the issue of what is national, what is a nationality, one that can be seen in a biennial exhibition. We tried to erase this in a process that actually began a long time ago: not organizing the Biennial in terms of national delegations even if the selection of works by country was still retained. At this point, the selection by country has also officially ended, which has transformed the very organization of the event. It never occurred to us to think in terms of national representations because in this day and age, nationality doesn’t seem to reside within geographic or geopolitical borders but, on the contrary, on certain nuances of identity such as language. For instance, Brazil belongs alongside Portugal, Mozambique, and Angola in a Lusophone community, in the same way that there very clearly is a Hispanic-American community or in the same way that there is an IberoAmerican community, which we all form together: Portugal, Spain, and Latin America. So, I think that it is


interview more in that sense that you see and perceive communities. In fact, at the very moment the European Community was established, it exploited the fragmentation of Eastern Europe, especially Yugoslavia, into small identities, while Basques, Catalans, Scots, and Galicians clamored for their identity. JB: They join together, and at the same time peculiarities appear. IM: Exactly, so I think that identity resides precisely in the territory of language and not in that of nationalities. Also, something else needs to be clarified: emptiness is not a topic; it is an experience. It is to have an entire floor of the pavilion empty, something that is possible because the Biennial is strongly identified with that pavilion. It has been held there since 1957, so the idea is to create the possibility for people to see the building in an empty state—something they have never seen. Yet, is this to propose a non-experience? Or is it an experience of opposition to the baroque? No, never—what happens is rather the opposite, a baroque experience. JB: Also, it is on the second floor, and it is as if it were absolutely tensed between the history of the Biennial and what is happening on the first floor, below, which is the social space: the public, the city. IM: Yes, sure, it is under pressure. But at the same time, this second floor works as a buffer to protect the impact. JB: Like a spring? IM: No, like a pillow. That floor is a space for a break, a caesura, between substance and space: energy generated between the social space and the space organized by reason. JB: By reason... how? IM: Because the third floor is a library, an archive. JB: I see that third floor as a reorganization of the past, which is what we need to do now, at the dawn of the twenty-first century. IM: It is that, also. But to do that, you need a library and an archive. So let’s say that those are instruments, the tools of reason, in a sense. It is not a product of pure energy.

O Grivo. Square, 2008. Detail of the sound installation with loudspeakers and conventional and invented instruments.*

Carsten Höller. Valerio Sisters, 2008. Stainless steel, polycarbonate, galvanized steel. Length: 552 in. (1402 cm.). Diameter: 31 2/5 in. (80 cm.). Gagosian Gallery and Esther Schiffer.*


Armin Linke and Peter Hanappe in collaboration with graphic designer Alex Rich, London. Phenotypes-Limited Forms, 2007. Interactive installation lambda prints with rifts, wood, aluminum, computers, touch screen, thermic paper printer. Courtesy: ITYS, Institute for Contemporary Art and Thought, Athens ZKM/Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe.*

JB: In fact, the library will have to be arranged alphabetically, or by date. IM: That’s right, there is an order; it is a town square below, where there is a certain disorder. JB: How does it work, the tension between the library upstairs and the first floor? IM: It is just that: downstairs is a space for the production of new air. JB: And how does this take place in a building designed by Oscar Niemeyer? IM: By transforming the building not physically but in the use of the space, which has always been an exhibition space; we are proposing to use it as a town square, a meeting point. We are proposing to leave it empty. We are proposing an architecture for the third floor that doesn’t follow the structure dictated by the building’s columns, because the long pavilion is all marked by columns that are highly ordered, which breaks up the exhibition space. There are no walls; we are not building any walls. So the proposal comes as an actualization of the building. JB: I see the proposal this way: Marx said that revolutions were the locomotives of history, and Benjamin answered that perhaps it wasn’t so— that maybe, on the contrary, a revolution was the moment when humanity,

traveling on that train, reached for the emergency brakes. I see your proposal as an opportunity to stop in the middle of this absurd race, to stop and think things over, to reorganize things. IM: Yes, but it is not to reorganize, it is not a matter of reorganizing; the idea is to stop—yes, to pause, to suspend, to create a hiatus in a process that is already over fifty-years long, in the sense of thinking of what we have done so far—but it is, let’s say, looking back into the past, because we feel the need in the present to change something that is moving forward. It is not a question, then, of reorganizing but of bringing forth that memory so that it can activate the present, because that memory is alive; it is not dead. The past isn’t something dead. So, the idea of one of these platforms is to produce a dialogue between the São Paulo Biennial and the Brazilian art world. We begin with things that are very personal, and the idea is to create an oral history, a history or memories that are activating the present. JB: How is that done? IM: Every Thursday, we invite two people who come and answer questions sent to them beforehand—their recollections of the São Paulo Biennial and what they expect of the Biennial

Alighiero Boetti. Phenotypes. La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy.

in the future—to make a kind of cartography of symptoms and constants perceived in the Brazilian art world in relation to the Biennial. JB: Now, going back to the issue of the baroque, how is that experience of emptiness that you propose an experience that is baroque but not irrational? IM: Why am I interested in the baroque? The baroque comes from our traditions; the origin of our visual culture and of our literary culture is in the Baroque period. That was the first time we had a language, the first time we found the possibility of representing and thinking about ourselves. What is interesting is that, despite the whole of modernity, I believe that the baroque is not form. I am more with Severo Sarduy in believing that it is a way of thinking, of strategies for thinking that allow us, for instance, to never entirely reveal ourselves. To always leave escape options open—folds to turn around and go back. This is how the rhetoric of our conversations and


our literature is built; it is not form, as the gringos would have it, who label it, for instance, as decorative. No, this is a way of thinking. Are we difficult because of that? Yes, we are difficult, and one has to have a taste to appreciate it. JB: And you have to have patience to read it. IM: For everything, and that is our matrix. So when I proposed to leave an empty space, I was going against the grain of our tradition of always filling the eye. I had to leave behind those biases and propose a new experience. But I do believe that the reasoning that drives the proposal is baroque. JB: And how do you see the issue of Latin America, from cartographies and from your work in the 1990s to now? IM: Well, I continue to work with cartography as a strategy. However, the idea of the Latin American in the 90s, which I defended in a text, has changed a bit indeed. At the time, I didn’t think it was pertinent to accept the notion of the Latin American that was being imposed on us by the North, on the basis of the literary and visual arts boom. This is not to say that we are not baroque, that we are not surrealists; yes, we are indeed, but we are also much more, and we can be other things. It seemed to me that it was the moment to reject that possibility, of a final, totalizing category of the Latin American, which is how Anglo-Saxon minds operate. JB: Making us homogeneous? IM: Yes, because they want to homogenize, to create drawers to put people in. Because that way they dominate the world: they think they know and understand. No. Although being from Latin America has given me great professional opportunities (it has given me jobs and things like that), I have rejected that for a long time. Now, today, I think somewhat differently. I believe the debate has become more sophisticated and differences are perceived. We are Latin American; we come from the same matrix: Judeo-Christian, the Baroque, Iberian colonization, sailors, traders. Although there are fundamental differences between Portugal and Spain,

Valeska Soares. Catalogue, 2008. Paper letters. Variable dimensions. Galeria Fortes Vilaça and Eleven Revington Gallery.*

Dora Longo Bahía. Lecture Plan, 2008. Installation on the whole third floor of the Biennial Pavilion. Galeria Luisa Strina. Gabriel Silva. Wooden exhibition structure development. Background: Javier Peñafiel. Living Between the Lines (The Difficult Answers), 2006. High definition video.*


Marina Abramovic. Art Must Be Beautiful, 1975. Performance, register of the project included in the video-installation. Video Portrait Gallery. Photo-courtesy: Sean Kelly Gallery.

Iran do Espirito Santo. Untitled, 1999. Stainless steel. 3 x 1 2/5 x 2/3 in. (8 x 3,6 x 1,8 cm.). Galeria Fortes Vilaça.*

we do have a common matrix. But they also now perceive that we are not all the same: we have the same matrix but that doesn’t make us identical. We share things but we also like to share our differences, our peculiarities. I think that today this is perceived. When I was teaching at Bard College, I began to realize that it was possible to read and group certain works based on their sharing of a sensibility, in the use of the different languages in literature and in painting, not only by identity. Yes, we are a third way; we are a between. But that doesn’t say it all. It doesn’t solve the issue of how nationality is articulated in Xul Solar, in Pedro Nel Gómez, in Di Cavalcanti, in Tarsila, or in the Mexicans. JB: Things that are shared, but not devoid of uniqueness. IM: Yes, but my point is that only we are entitled to say this, because this is our work. Also, you can’t coordinate everything, because it is moving. So it might be that, one hundred years into the future, we will no longer have the same landscape; we might have something else. I think it is possible to say that we share a sensibility, that we have points and projects and utopias, that we share very similar identities and politics. For example, we are all republics founded in the nineteenth century, based on the same French Revolution principles, with the tradition of Catholicism, with Latin languages; we have the tradition of the Enlightenment, of the “Century of Light,” and the beginnings of the encyclopedia. These are all bases for how our pedagogy is organized, the common themes, and there are other things that we surely shared before the arrival of the colonizers. JB: Finally, the roles of the curator and the historian: the curator proposes and the historian organizes. Is this Biennial a historical proposal or a curatorial one? Is it a visual proposal? Or is it a mix? IM: The curators in this Biennial have a strong hand in the selection of artists, the use of spaces, the kind of works included, how everything is arranged, the publications, the web site, everything. But there is also something of the historian, bringing the Biennial’s archive as a base, as a reference, like a veneer for the development of a reflec-


tion about possible future changes in this organization, in this model, given the context of some two hundred biennials. So, you need an archive: that is a historian’s strategy. JB: And how do you view the fact that there are around two hundred biennials in the world? IM: Well, I think it is a fashion, something that will pass at a point not too far into the future. We shall see which ones survive. It is a whole topic of its own. We also talked about the voracity of the biennial, the voracity that pervades the cultural world, where everything has to be a lot: a lot of representation is produced, reproduced, multiplied. Yes, we need to think where we are going, to see which biennials will be the most effective, whether the strategy is still useful, and how long will it be useful. I think that the survivors will be those biennials that have a more critical view of artistic production and are not simply organizing reams and reams of work. It seems to me that they need to impress a more reflective work to differentiate themselves from fairs, which are also interesting and good, and which are also different from museums. JB: You point out the fact of superproduction and super-reproduction of all kinds of things and objects—something that goes, paradoxically, hand-inhand with an insecurity regarding the future. I see this as profoundly connected with this Biennial’s proposal. IM: Yes, we need to think about what we can expect in the future, at least on the part of the Biennial: what services it can offer, what role it can play in the context of the city, the country, the continent, and the world.

Photos: León Birbragher. Translation: Jorge Frisancho.

Julia Buenaventura Latin American Art History Professor. She graduated in Literature and obtained a Master’s Degree in the History and Theory of Art and Architecture from Universidad Nacional de Colombia.

Nicolás Robbio. From the Sequence, Join the Dots Above, 2008. Drawing.

Allan McCollum. Drawings, 1988-1993. Graphite pencil on board. Variable dimensions. Each one unique.

ArtNexus Magazine 72, year 2009. pp 132-133



Sandra Gamarra Galería Leme

Ever since Peruvian artist Sandra Gamarra, created her imaginary museum – LiMAC (Lima Contemporary Art Museum and included in its collection her painted reproductions of mediums that reproduced art such as illustrated pages from art books and postcards, her discourse and research veered towards setting up an equation for understanding the experience of art and the means through which it could be had. In Milagros, her second solo exhibition in São Paulo, presented at Galeria Leme late last year (12.11.08 – 20.12.08,) 13 large format canvases, a sound installation and an installation of hanging areoles, Gamarra shows she is changing her focus from the reproduced artwork itself, to the point of interaction between spectator and artwork; “as we know, there is no work of art if there is no spectator” she says in interview. This slight but significant change in perspective lives in the series known as The New Payers and New Pilgrims, to which the works in Milagros belong. Gamarra still reproduces artworks in her canvases and still renders the location in which they reside important, but now, the canvases show spectators caught in a moment of transformative and/or interactive exchange with a work of art. It is no longer important to identify the artwork that is appropriated into her paintings as it may have been before, but what matters is the fact that they are understood and identified as works of art through their environment and the interaction of audience and work depicted. This equation is more expansive in its questioning of what the experience of art actually is and what experiencing art through reproduction is, in turn. Gamarra positions it in relation to religion. “I’ve always felt the act of copying close to the way in which Christian images had to be copied to fill the new churches of a new continent,” says Gamarra. This comparison in itself breaks no moulds. Understanding the art world, the content that it exists around and the manner in which people inhabit it, is similar to the structure and conditions of organized religion. They are both centered on faith. What is an art fair or a biennale today in essence, but a high point on the art calendar during which people faithfully come from far

Sandra Gamarra. San Sebastián, 2008. Oil on canvas. 76 3/2 x 76 3/2 in. (195 x 195 cm.).

and wide, in pilgrimage, to a location where they can be in contact with the vehicle in which their faith is invested. Pilgrims expect that they will leave having had some sort of (transcendental) experience. Faith is what allowed this, and to Sandra Gamarra, faith is still what governs the dynamics in the art world.The objects that exist in organized structures such as these “are mediators of reality and eternity; the comprehensible and the incomprehensible,” in Gamarra’s own words. If these structures are understood as microcosmic, can it not be that they too represent a more macro faith that we all have - in our existence and lives? All paintings are based on photographs taken by Gamarra of spectators interacting with art. In one, a lonely spectator stands before a Julie Merehtu (Sola, 2008), in a triptych (Clara, 2008) she interacts with a crack on the ground – an art work by Doris Salcedo - in the Turbine Hall, in a quasi-ecstatic state triggered by it. An Anish Kapoor inspires mirrored veneration in Angel (2008) and San Sebastian (2008) shows the power of the experience at the Gemaldgalerie, in Berlin. The Apostles, inspired by exhibition goers from around the globe, strip the depicted spectator of the object of its faith and denounce to the exhibition spectator the manifestation and effect of this faith, the same faith that took him to Galeria Leme, on a quest of a potential epiphany. This micro-macro effect inspires thoughts on the mirroring of life and social dynamics through isolated and rendered empathetic examples.

“I am interested in the patterns that repeat themselves in religions as testimonies of human relations,” says Gamarra. Working within systems recognizable to the cultures they reach out to and are received by, Sandra Gamarra comments on what the relationship of the viewer and the art work in Milagros might say about different cultures: “It might say that cultures have the capacity to become more and more homogenized. As such, it might be that today’s spectators are spectators of their own cultures without being part of them anymore.” With Nimbos (2008), Gamarra leaves the canvas and explores what happens when “religious objects” are removed from their context and inserted into the artistic realm. The tens of areoles hanging up high in the centre of the almost eight meters atrium of the gallery, set the tone: mystic and respectful, detached yet turgid with invested meaning. But the punch comes in whispers, through Psalms (2008), an easily missed sound installation that required the spectator get up close to the wall to listen to the quiet confession exposed in the mausoleum: to question or investigate our existence as numbed spectators of our cultures and of our circles with imbued redemptive guilt, is what propels our continued quest and pilgrimages – in search of something that might jolt us from the herd. Camila Belchior


ArtNexus Magazine 72, year 2009. pp 54-59


Rosângela Rennó

Elizabeth Matheson

n trying to understand a culture, we often look to the images it produces to learn how its people live and think. But what about the images that are lost, never to be seen, doomed to invisibility and discarded? Without a concerted effort to preserve them, images dissolve and disappear unless one takes imaginative leaps, fuelled by a visionary impulse, a desire for what is seemingly impossible and for its achievement. Finding ways to resurrect and create images—how, say, to float images on smoke or to present hundreds of archival photographs—is what interests Rosângela Rennó. This Brazilian artist who originally trained as an architect now prefers to deal with “issues of humanity, by different manifestations, cultural, communication, religious, social facts and effects.” Rennó began her career in Brazil in the mid-1980s, when traditional media forms such as painting were considered essential and conceptual art practices were dismissed as mere experiments. Resonating with that time, the role of the photograph as a conceptual muse marked the beginning of Rennó’s artistic development; from this perspective, she created a productive space between the legacy of artistic collaborations with people and communities (in response to the repression of military rule) and the contemporary authorial and documentary photography that dominated the art scene in postdictatorship Brazil. Against such a background, the conceptual uses of photography became a way of thinking, a way to construct photographic arguments, and a way to develop the artist’s visual language. Rennó’s early work represented a quixotic effort at capturing silences or obscure illustrations of Shy Man from the Red series, 1996-2003. Laminated lightjet on Fuji Crystal Archive paper. Digital photos made from photographic originals purchased in flea markets or donated by family and friends. 70 4/5 x 39 1/3 in. (180 x 100 cm.).


in-between structures, spaces, and peoples. Investigative in approach, the work drew upon an endless archive of found images from family albums, discarded studio portraits, aged negatives, and movie stills that seemed to the artist to be “empty signs waiting to be filled with different characters and stories.” Rennó’s interest in what was usually ignored and cast aside offered singular moments and viewpoints that felt eminently familiar, sending the viewer on an associative journey, which Rennó referred to as their “own mental archive.” One poignant example is Erro de Concordcia (Congruous Error, 1988), which casts an upward glance at the bridegroom and best man and prompts one to consider the traditions and dictates of society and the passive adherence to gender roles. A persistent visionary, Rennó went on to produce work that has become emblematic in its fierce emphasis on life, not disparity, and that characterizes individuals and communities faced with anonymity as a result of the rapid neo-liberal reforms in post-dictatorship Brazil. Uninterested in simply collecting imagery and pointing out inequities in order to generate compassion, Rennó preferred to activate the meaning, breadth, and consequences of one of society’s most potent reservoirs: the visual repositories, the archive. The reinvention of the archive in contemporary Brazilian photography was significant. During the dictatorship, documentary photography often intersected with systems of state oppression and rhetoric marked by nationalism, crime, civil unrest, and ethnic conflict. One example of this is Rennó’s work Imemorial (Immemorial, 1994): after several intense weeks of investigation alongside a team of eight archivists in the Public Archive of the Federal District in Brasilia, Rennó drew on this trove to craft an alternative history of the city and its aspirations. From 1956 to 1960, Oscar Niemeyer and Lúcio Costa devised an ambitious program of modernist architectural

Library (Group 3), 2002. Full series composed of 37 display Windows containing photo albums and digital color photographs, mounted on Plexiglass, map and steel file. Variable dimensions. Photo: Eduardo Eckenfels. Museu da Arte da Pampulha, Belo Horizonte, 2002.

and urban design to build a city of the future. Underscored by the Herculean effort involved in mobilizing an enormous workforce to construct the new capital city, Brasilia’s nostalgia and sense of aesthetic privilege is still prevalent in recent debates about Brazilian history. Despite this historical resonance, Rennó envisioned a new archaeological stratum in Brasilia to resurrect this point in time. Within the archive’s filing cabinets, among an infinite number of images doomed to invisibility, the artist found traces of the troubled history of Brazil’s capital city in the incomplete files of workers who died during its construction. As a memorial, the enlarged identification photographs of the deceased were installed on the wall and across the gallery floor. “In a general way,” says Rennó, “archives reflect how it is often convenient for both citizens and the state to privilege oblivion over memory.”

Much of her work begins with an idea, an obsession, which becomes transmuted into a perceptual and philosophical speculation without losing its roots in social reality. Rennó never loses sight of the people at the heart of these intractable realities. As she puts it, these buried images are ultimately more interesting to work with because they have the potential to say more about the “loser stories than the winner ones.”


In 1996, on the other side of Brazil, Rennó responded to another archive, of negatives from the Penitenciário Paulista in São Paulo, with the same sense of fearless inquisitiveness. Following tense negotiations, Rennó was given permission to use some of the no longer relevant prisoner identification photographs from the 1920s to the 1960s. After looking at twenty thousand glass and nitrate negatives, Rennó produced Scar Series, 1996–97. The artist made a selection of strikingly straightforward photographs of prison tattoos and enhanced them, drawing one’s attention to the rawness of the original images. From this vast,

essentially solitary undertaking— a complex analogue to her earlier work in Brasilia—Rennó produced another series of large photographs based on images from Penitenciário Paulista, entitled Série Vulgo (Alias Series, 1998–99), in which the artist marked photographs of the backs of prisoner’s heads with a faint red. For Rennó, this gesture offered “more possibilities than just the violence/ brutality” and “reminds us of the life, of the violence, and of the violence against life of such a place.” Rennó’s continuous refusal to use the archival photograph in its original state compels the viewer to see the past in the present and to

Volcan, from the series Alias, 1998-1999. Digital photos made from reproductions of photographic negatives from the Penitenciary Museum of São Paulo. Cibrachrome print. 65 x 45 1/5 in. (165 x 115 cm.).

re-stage history in the mind’s eye. An evocative example of this approach is Série Vermelha (Militares) (Red Series, 2001–03), which was exhibited at the Venice Biennial. This work comprises sixteen images from a collection of family albums found in different countries, in flea markets, second-hand shops, and the streets. Hovering above eye level, these enlarged and transformed images feature individual men and boys wearing military uniforms that evoke heroic narratives and a romantic sensibility. But these militaristic images are saturated with a dark red, which suppresses specific details and visual information. What remains of each image suggests state and military violence while at the same time being wholly anonymous, as if the subject is about to fade into history, to abandon its brief moment of subjectivity, to cease corporeal representation, and to revert to a conceptual erasure that is nothing less than death: the obscure and the unnameable. Using the gallery to explore forgotten lives, nameless places, and irrecoverable moments, as a form of critical engagement with the world outside its white walls, Rennó chooses not to replicate archival systems but rather to use them as starting points: to choreograph text and image through rigorous imagination, idiosyncratic correspondences, and an intuitive taxonomy of apparitions. An example of this highly developed sensibility is Rennó’s ongoing project Arquivo Universal (Universal Archive, 1992), which features newspaper excerpts in which the journalists refer to particular photographs. Stored in the artist’s computer, this series has been manifested in a myriad of formats such as groups of texts etched on walls or assembled with photographs. Another installation, Bibliotheca (Library, 2002), comprises one hundred photography albums from several sources, sheltered in museum vitrines and unified by color codes; an associated map traces the locations where the albums were


Untitled (tatoo 6A and B) from the series Scar, 1997. Series of photos made from reproductions of photographic negatives from the Penitenciary Museum of São Paulo and texts from the Universal Archive project superimposed on photographs of skin by the artist. Laminated RC prints and digital Iris prints. 43 ¾ x 61 in. (111 x 155 cm.).

collected by the artist. The visitor can view written comments by the artist but looking through these personal archives is not permitted; the books are sealed like the state archives—formerly inaccessible to the Brazilian public—dedicated to controlling information and anything else deemed inappropriate for public knowledge and consumption. It is often assumed that visual images can portray a life more vividly than language, yet Rennó’s use of realist conventions, detailed descriptions, chronological segments of narrative, verbal references, and temporal markers in her accompanying texts—all of which has a revelatory effect on the viewer—lends an endearingly human aspect to the work. As Paulo Herkenhoff puts it, Rennó makes works that are “the instincts of life.” Which is perhaps why her installations are ultimately

so moving: because they focus on the limitations of individual points of view, these accounts actually escape the confines of the single author complex that burdens history. Rennó’s sharp, uncompromising attitude to art and history is made clear in her brilliant silent video Vera Cruz (2000), a fictitious encounter between Portuguese explorers, led by Pero Vaz de Caminha, and the indigenous peoples of Brazil. Rather than relying on voices and figures, the artist presents a blank film scratched by wear and decay in which the only identifiable feature is a subtitled narrative. Featuring a dialogue between priests, scribes, and soldiers who have accompanied Vaz de Caminha, the subtitles uncover the initial encounter with the “Other”—the original inhabitants of Brazil—who otherwise remains silent and invisible to the viewer.

This work reflects the exclusionary practices that continue to neglect the indigenous peoples of Brazil. But more poignantly, similar to Rennó’s other works, Vera Cruz shifts the responsibility for resolving this issue out of the filmic frame and into the consciousness of the audience. By doing so, her work subtly informs audiences about the polemical armature of post-dictatorship Brazil, Portuguese settlement culture, and the repercussions of colonialism on the Brazilian psyche, one based in social and topographic reality. This becomes clearer in Rennó’s epic work Espelho Diario (Daily Mirror, 2002), presented on two video screens that form a ninety-degree angle. Over an exhaustive period of time, both on her own and in collaboration with the writer Alicia Duarte Penna, Rennó examined and organized stories of women named


Rosângela in the pages of Brazilian tabloid newspapers. Rejecting their sensationalist imagery and distanced editorial coverage, Alicia Duarte Penna wove the newspaper stories into a narrative of a shifting cast of characters—kidnapping victims, white-collar workers, housewives—imbued with personal tragedy and at the mercy of societal events. As a rite of secular remembrance, Rennó re-enacted 133 stories in the video. No one else could create such a rhythmically complex and wilfully impenetrable construction; Espelho Diario is so dense as to be un-consumable. Yet Rennó managed to synthesize her subjects regardless of race or class, drawing attention to the ways they’ve been misrepresented, sanctioning the real experience of the silenced voices, incidents, or ideologies frequently absent from newspaper accounts. Rennó was even more radical in her next video installation. Continu-

ing to pursue her artistic model, she merged the realms of engineering, cinema, and the spiritual in order to examine the realms of memory and oblivion. In 2004, Rennó worked with two talented engineers to create Experiência de Cinema (Experiencing Cinema), a freestanding apparatus that repeatedly produces a cloud of vegetable oil on which archival images successively appear for a mere eight seconds and then disappear. These brief phantasms comprise four groups of thirty-one photographs that reference archetypal classifications such as crime, war, family, or love found in such seminal photographic exhibitions as “The Family of Man” (which opened at The Museum of Modern Art in January 1955). The deliberate foregrounding of these image pairings deflects attention away from the individual genres and onto the associative process between them and the spectral transaction of the work.

This remarkable installation evokes a sense of anticipation and wonder reminiscent of the transformative effect of magic lanterns on nineteenthcentury audiences. Yet, beyond this reference is the realization that this work evidences Rennó’s fearless nature, drawing deep into the past to create thought-provoking and visionary work for the future. Rennó’s exploration of how society simultaneously keeps and discards images inevitably led to the investigation of control, copyright, and the power and desire of collecting along with the obsolesce of analog technologies and the ubiquitous presence of innumerable digital images. For A Última Foto (The Last Photo, 2006), Rennó asked fortytwo artists to take a photograph of one of Brazil’s most iconic images, the statue of Christ the Redeemer. Revisiting her life-long engagement with photography, and utterly in command of her visual vocabulary

Daily Mirror, 2001-2005. Videoinstallation with 2 screens and audio. Original text by Alicia Duarte Penna. Screenplay by Alicia Duarte Penna and Rosângela Rennó. Direction and performance by Rosângela Rennó. Introit´s voice in Portuguese: Cid Moreira. Video editing: Fernanda Bastos. Sound mix: O Grivo. 2 hours. Format: DVCam, Betacam/NTSC and DVD/ NTSC. 2001 (Portuguese version); 2003 (English version); 2005 (French version); Edition of 5. Photo: Eduardo Ortega.


and unconcerned with the copyright of the colossal statue, Rennó provided the artists with cameras that she had collected over a number of years. Recounting a devotion to analog, which has been condemned as a dying medium, Rennó and the collaborating artists chose one photograph from each camera and then sealed the cameras, pairing each with the chosen image. Ironically, in the midst of this collaborative project, it was reported that “a national tragedy” had occurred: the theft of rare photographs from the Fundação Biblioteca Nacional (National Library Foundation), including works by the Brazilian photographer Marc Ferrez, the Germans August Stahl and Guillermo Liebenau, and the English Benjamin Mulock that had eternalized images of nineteenthcentury Brazil. In light of this theft, in 2008 Rennó produced her newest artist book, 2005-510117385-5, that contains reproductions of the backs of the 101 recovered historical photographs, arranged by the date that each recovered photograph was reintegrated into the library’s collection. As Rennó writes in her artist statement: “The perpetrators worked with subtlety, choosing their authors and themes, emptying albums, and substituting photographs, so that the crime would only be discovered some time afterwards. Three years later, with the criminal investigation still open, only 101 of these photographs have been found, all of them mutilated because the criminals employed several methods to erase the Library’s property registration marks. The criminal investigation for file number 2005510117385-5 is ongoing and those who masterminded the theft remain unpunished.” According to Rennó, she will continue to add new reproductions to the book as long as the investigation remains open and whenever photographs are returned. Like many of her works, this repetitive act of archiving will in time attain the quality of a ritual. Rennó’s work is complex. Although the focus of her creation

Rochelle Costi. Mercury II, from the project The Last Photo, 2006. Framed color photograph and photographic camera Mercury II. Diptych. Photo: 35 ½ x 28 x 3 in. (92,9 x 71 x 7,9 cm.). Camera: 5 3/5 x 8 4/5 x 3 in. (14,3 x 22,5 x 7,9 cm.). Photograph: Ding Musa.

seems in every sense far from the staid environment of a conventional gallery space, she exhibits internationally in commercial galleries, biennials, and public institutions. At its best, her art is a form of consciousness-raising and potentiality, and the gallery becomes a site for dialogue and contemplation. Blurring artistic genres, Rennó is simultaneously an activist, archivist, and artist. Much of her work begins with an idea, an obsession, which becomes transmuted into a perceptual and philosophical speculation without losing its roots in social reality. Rennó never loses sight of the people at the heart of these intractable realities. As she puts it, these buried images are ultimately more interesting to work with because they have the potential to say more about the “loser stories than the winner ones.”

NOTE 1.Reported by Maia Menezes, O Globo (Rio de Janeiro), July 20, 2005. Unless otherwise noted, Rosângela Rennó’s words are taken from two sources: a conversation and the correspondence between the author and the artist from December 2008 to January 2009; and a lecture by the artist as part of the series “Global Photography Now: Latin America” in London at the Tate Modern in November 2006.

Elizabeth Matheson Lecturer, writer and independent curator based in Canada.


ArtNexus Magazine 73, year 2009. pp 70-74

San Juan Poly/Graphic Triennial Guardian of Collective Memory Vexillology: Eight Flags for San Juan. Wilfredo Prieto, Juan Capistran, Carolina Caicedo y Federico Herrero, Hew Locke, Julio César Morales, Alexandre da Cunha, Adriana Lara. Waterproof, double nylon. Courtesy of the artists.


Adriana Herrera

n 2005, the first San Juan Poly/ Graphic Triennial revived the legacy of this city which, despite its geographic isolation, was decades ago a veritable epicenter for a view of the continent’s strong graphic tradition. Under the theme of Trans/Migrations: Printmaking as Contemporary art, the proposal, organized on the basis of vectors like technological displacements, geographic transits, and conceptual trajectories, fulfilled its intent with an expansive view dispersed throughout different locations, which in good measure allowed us to revisit the historical contributions of Puerto Rico’s powerful graphic arts, focalized on cultural resistance through print media, and also revealed its potential use as a source for the production of meaning in the work of Latin artists in the Americas and Europe. With the second Triennial, headed by Adriano Pedrosa, co-curated by Julieta González and Jens Hoffmann, and concentrated on the galleries of the old Spanish Navy armory, La Puntilla, the

force of this epicenter acquires a new dimension and is reaffirmed from a more focused perspective, decidedly turned abroad—without excluding, of course, key Boricua artists—that approached the modes of artistic production of the present by means of two strategies. First, a “constellation of solo exhibitions and artist’s projects” was selected, which, given its character, restricts the number of inclusions following criteria that can be considered exclusionary but give greater and better visibility to the nature of their creative proposals. The collective exhibitions included works related to four axes both in terms of working means and conceptual projection: marginal money, literary forms, diaries, the archive (comprised of personal records and public histories), the flags especially designed for the Triennial by Federico Herrero, Alexandre da Cunha, Carolina Caycedo, Hew Locke, Julio César Morales, Juan Capistrán, Wilfredo Prieto, y Adriana Lara. The Triennial evoked the kind of rare emotion one experiences when the coherence of a curatorial vision gives us access to perspectives that open up

channels into contemporary artistic production. Not a reflection of trends, of course—because they are many, dissimilar, irreducible—but ways of revealing the implications of certain closely related artistic practices, which precisely emerge from the spaces of intersection between the works. For example, new ways of using the graphic arts to amplify collective memory; the relationship between artistic and literary procedures and alternative forms of political contestation, such as the unveiling of fictions that, through the printing press, become confused with reality; or the kind of meta-artistic practices that parody the mercantilization of the work of art or money itself as an art object, and the transgression of the modes of circulation of the work of art. In the constellation of solo exhibitions, Miler Lagos’ show has the quality of a meta-artistic work that contradicts the properties of the material it apparently uses (so as to relaunch the old philosophical debate between appearance and reality, or to destroy our perceptual habits), and also connects with the history of art and society in


TRIENNIAL each context. In this case, his fictitious wooden tree trunks were built with piled up copies of prints by Rafael Tufiño, one of the greatest practitioners in the tradition of social art that emerged from the Taller de Artes Gráficas of the Education Division to the Puerto Rican community. Each misleading trunk accumulates—with a gesture that is playful but not alien to the relationship between the work itself and its context—the infinite reproduction of history-laden images like that of sugarcane cutters. Both the potential of the graphic arts in the politico-social arena in a much more playful or subtle way than in previous decades, but without losing sight of the historical tradition and of artistic procedures, and the exploration of fiction in art, are contemporary keys present in other solo exhibitions. In a small room/passage, illuminated by an intentionally weak light, Alessandro Balteo Yazbeck exhibited works from the series Enredos modernos, with 19 institutional emblems created by various artists and designers—such as Carlos Cruz-Díez, Víctor Hugo Irazábal, Gerd Leufert, or Waleska Belisario— between 1960 and 2003, compiled by Aixa Díaz and Álvaro Sotillo. The long graphic tradition that produced hybrid emblems of pre-Hispanic iconography and modern designs was negated with the homogenization of all logos into a single emblem created by former Culture minister Farruco Sesto, who in 2006 imposed a drawing he had made, inspired on the iconography of the Panare ethnic group, as the sole and omnipresent image for all institutions. The totalitarian undertone of that gesture, equivalent to that of Chinese emperor Shih Huang-Ti, who attempted to erase all traces of culture previous to his dynasty, is exposed with this installation. A refined conceptual protest that recovers valuable images condemned by power. The exhibition of the Taller Popular de Serigrafía is perhaps the show that is more connected to the graphic tradition in terms of political struggle, in this case in Argentina. As Magdalena Jitrik puts it, “Political graphic arts happen in explosions, accompanying insurrec-

The Triennial evoked the kind of rare emotion one experiences when the coherence of a curatorial vision gives us access to perspectives that open up channels into contemporary artistic production. Not a reflection of trends, of course—because they are many, dissimilar, irreducible— but ways of revealing the implications of certain closely related artistic practices, which precisely emerge from the spaces of intersection between the works. Carlos Amorales. Pirate Sounds, 2009. Mural Installation / sound library. Courtesy of the artist and the Kurimanzutto Gallery, Mexico.

Miller Lagos. Naturalezas Gráficas (Graphic Natures), 2009. Installation with 11 carved pieces on stackable inked newsprint paper. Variable dimensions.


tional moments.” The works function as the trace of historical moments. For example, the members of this workshop accompanied the foundation of a political movement led by subway workers seeking a six-hour workday in 2006. When the group was deactivated in order to found the Movimiento Intersindical Clasista, the Taller created a flag. The graphic arts, beyond the story of those groups, synthesizes in this case the intense concentration of human masses around objectives. It functions as traces that are not altered by a historical defeat. Residues of a memory that is, in the end, collective. The triennial explored the ways in which those residues of memory expand into other graphic media. A complete wall is taken by Sonidos Piratas (después del mapa de Oyvind Fahlstrom), a collection of CDs from the Nuevos Ricos label, one of Carlos Amorales’ collective inventions that ended up working in real life. This key creator of artistic fictions that are transferred into reality—as he did with the masked wrestler Amorales, whose disguise became an object of desire for professional wrestlers—uses fantasy in order to explore social and mental networks in contemporary cities. The CDs were intervened with his drawings, which in turn hark back to the archive of liquid images he has been appropriating via the Internet. This time they were war

images. He has also “raided” the cracks in the walls of abandoned houses or empty lots in Mexico City, as graphic signs that can suggest images or horror stories in a contaminated city plagued by signs. Mario Ybarra Jr. documents graffiti, the initials that soldiers carved on the doors or bricks of an old bunker in Wilmington, during the Civil War. His installation transforms the gallery into a reproduction of that now-abandoned memory site, where, like in a palimpsest, new anonymous graffiti has been layered on the traces of the old one. In her installation Tool for Infinite Monkeys, Julieta Aranda explores “the limits of the word beyond the text” with a room that stages the idea that in a limitless time, monkeys hitting a keyboard will create coherent texts by chance. As in Time will tell: An unreadable script takes shape, and then destroys itself, she confronts writing with time as a framework that renders the production of meaning relative. She tests its limits—its end or loss—for human collectives. Erik Beltrán’s solo installation uses the mass media’s printed to isolate the process of collective perception of events, in order for his viewers to break with the inadvertent identification of those events with their mediated reconstruction and, at the very least, to wonder about the relationship between “history,

Adrian Villar Rojas. Intimate Diary 3D, 2007-2009. Installation with intervened books. Private Collection, Miami and the artist. On the floor: Giovanni Vargas y Juan Mejía. Forest of Piety, 2007-2008. Pictorial installation, acrylic on MDF.

evidence, narration and conclusions.” In this way, in his artistic practice the graphic arts are an instrument for the disarticulation of the same long-settled perceptions of reality that it tends to foster when deployed top manipulate opinion and imagination at the behest of media power or of media interests. The diagram is reasserted in his work as an artistic language for the political subversion promoted by a distancing from our passive assimilation of the image of the world transmitted by print media. Christopher Cozier’s installation with cardboard boxes and the word “fear” singly printed on them refers also to the alliance between mass media and power, or the mass manipulation of our consciousness. Good part of José Martinat’s work also refers to this topic in connection with that new form of collective memory that is the Internet. As in other exhibitions of previous series where he used an algorithm to generate news with words taken from local sites, with the idea of showing the distortions of information that amass images of the world, at the Triennial he presented an installation with the sculpture of a palm tree that expels texts incessantly and not only refers to the oversaturation of an age filled with information that the speed of life can make us equate with forms of truth, but to a transfer of the Surrealist concept of the exquisite corpse to the cybernetic era. What there is of chance and absurdity in the procedure works as a liberating window or a buffer zone against pre-set configurations of reality. Many works in the Journals collective-exhibition section connected with this perspective of questioning the identification of fact with news or reality with information. Chemi Rosado created abstract works through the juxtaposition of wide black tracings with the vigor of action painting on entire newspaper sheets, leaving intact words like “knowledge” to oscillate over the cancelled images. Jorge Macchi presented geometric networks that could have brought Gego to mind if they weren’t newspapers where only the margins were untouched, and Johanna Calle once again dissolved the readability of the text in formal works that seemed


greatly minimalistic and aseptic yet made with corrosive contents. Back on the solo exhibits, Mauricio Lupini derives modes of representation into other paradoxes. He has deconstructed, for instance, the appropriation of species classified in museums, like the extension of a mediated way of observing nature that we accept without questioning its artificiality, while real creatures become extinct. At the Triennial he presented six alternating videos that effect a parallel deconstruction of modernity, but on the basis of the music that identifies different nations, like the music produced in the 1960s and 70s by Venezuela’s Onda Nueva, “whose songs were contemporary to the country’s intense period of modernization.” His intervention on the songs’ lyrics doesn’t alter the melody, but implies a curious “remix” as it extracts onomatopoeic words that, in contrast to the period, refer to the notion of a pre-language in violent contrast with the modernity expressed by the songs. In Full Spectrum Dominance (2008), Runo Lagomarsino alludes to slogans used by the anti-Iraq War movement in the US and quotes deployed by their opponents. His drawings, made through the prolonged exposure of letter-sized paper to the sun and hand-cropped letters, irradiate formal subtlety, but are loaded with the violence of a burn: they refer to the way in which the socio-political environment produces readings of the world and discursive metaphors on the basis of which we read history. Gabriel Sierra’s site specific installation, a perfect fusion of architectural design and sculpture projected as a reading room with wooden panels that were in a way a labyrinth, and wooden benches to sit on, which bring into play the viewer’s own body, generated a wave of interactions with its unexpected pathways and its character as a container for other works: it led us to twenty artist’s books dispersed around the room, solo projects by artists like Pablo Helguera (La suite panamericana, among others), Abraham Cruz Villegas (one of the best writers among contemporary artists), Alexander Apóstol, Carolina Caycedo, Cao Guimarães, Chemi Rosado, Jesús

Detail: El perro y la rana, (The Dog and the Frog), sole emblem assigned to 35 cultural institutions by Farruco Sesto, ex-minister of culture. Appropriated from the Panare ethnic group.

Alessandro Balteo. 2006, from the series Enredos Modernos (Modern Complications). 2006-2008. Self-adhesive vinyl and various documents. Courtesy of the artist and Henrique Faria Fine Art, New York/Faría Fabregás Gallery, Caracas.

Gabriel Sierra. Untitled, 2009. Reading room, wood construction.


Marcelo Cidade. Transeconomia Real (“Real Transeconomy”), 2007. Folded bank note. 1 x 1 x 2 in. (2.5 x 2.5 x. 5 cm) e/a. Chemi Rosado. Covering to see, 2009. Charcoal on newsprint. Courtesy of the artist, San Juan.

“Bubú” Negrón, Mario García Torres, Mateo López, Nicolás Robbio, or Tony Cruz, especially published for the Triennial and fulfilling in a way the notion of the book as object explored in the collective gallery Literary Forms. Also situated in this section was the Monte de Piedad by Juan Mejía and Giovanni Vargas, with wooden books on a “canvas” of blankets (a domestic element) installed not on the wall, but on the floor, so that the rarefied “library” becomes a geometric composition, not only abstract but capable of breaking the verticality of the normal position. Also there was Intimate Diary 3D, a library of pictorially intervened books by Adrián Villar Rojas, who denaturalizes them, transforming them into hybrid artistic forms rather than into paintings; among other works by artists like Hisae Ikenaga, José Dávila, Marco Rountree, Valeska Soares, and William Córdova. At any rate, Sierra’s work, developed in close collaboration with the curators, synthesized the spirit of the Triennial as it contained a central axis of vision on explorations referred to memory and collective imagination, as well as for its fusion of design and art in a project that was anti-architectural from the perspective of habitual aesthetics, but which arouses a new kind of attention, another mobility for the body, and expands both the viewer’s physical relationship with

the work of art and the possibilities for enjoyment and appropriation. Because that reading room not only allowed us to leaf through the books as chance determined how each viewer found them, but it also worked as a shelf for other freely moving graphic artworks. Six editions of Número cero magazine and copies of banners by artists like Carlos González or Alex Quinto and Ena Andrade were offered to the public for free, in a procedure that is inevitably connected to the way in which Félix González Torres revolutionized the relationship between viewer and work with his photocopied, piled up, free images. In fact, photocopies, as an operation that transforms the relationship between viewer and work, that triggers the concept of reproduction or infinite replacement and thus challenges its mercantilization, has become a means for participatory, free-access playfulness, as in the proposal presented by Gaston Pérsico and Cecilia Salkowitz. Their incitement to photocopy art images (several donated as gifts to anonymous viewers by artist friends) takes importance away from the notion of authorship and substitutes an emotional universe for the concept of a monetary value for the work of art. The growing reflection about the iconic value of money and the way in which it has penetrated the work of art is crucial in the Dinero marginal collective

show, where we found works that are already historic, such as Zero Dollar, the first edition of which was launched by Cildo Meireles more than 30 years ago, altering the charge of the found iconic object—a one dollar bill—with a sense of humor that voids its monetary value while demystifying its historical weight, and politicizes it by replacing the face of George Washington with that of Uncle Sam. Also in this section was Gabriel Sierra’s apple (of temptation) with an attached dollar, and works by Nicolás Robbio, Mateo López, Jac Leirner, and Máximo González, among others. In a formally impeccable installation charged with socio-political impact, Miguel Ángel Rojas’ synthesized in two elements—money and coca—the debacle of his country, Colombia. Marcelo Cidade’s rings made of bills exposed the fetishistic value of money, which begins to erode art itself. Perhaps one of the greatest enthusiasms afforded by this Triennial was to verify the new ways in which participating artists counteract a somnolescent perception of the world and shake their own collective memory and their perception of the moment. Translation: Jorge Frisancho. Adriana Herrera Téllez Ph.D candidate, art writter and independent curator.


ArtNexus Magazine 75, year 2009. pp 74-78

Constructed Horizon, 2009. Permanent pen on wall. Variable dimensions. Cultural Space of the Brazilian Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Photo: Ralf Hettler. Courtesy: Casa Triángulo.


Paulo Reis

he Earth is blue.” This phenomenological observation by cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first man to see the planet’s color from a different angle, inaugurated a new perception of space, inverting the directionality of human vision: no longer from inside out, but from outside in. This postCopernicus inversion was a topic for the Sciences and the Arts in the 1960s. On board the Vostok 1, Gagarin also uttered a second sentence, which was lost to the dust of time but goes like this: “I was in the heavens and didn’t see God there.” Exactly forty eight years ago (April 12th 1961,) the world moved from a first to a second dimension, setting Man up as the universe’s greatest achievement, or, if we want to use a different noun, as God. Gagarin’s journey has a special scientific meaning, but also great historical and cultural importance. Later, another Russian—artist Ilia Kabakov—was to create an installa-

tion in reference to this great event in Soviet and universal history. The man who flew into space from his apartment, created in the 1980s, used for its support a room filled with Soviet-era posters in the official aesthetic promoted by the communist dictatorship, its room destroyed by a man who flew into space. For Kabakov, the man was able to make this jump using a self-made catapult because he knew how to use, among other sources, the energy accumulated on those posters representing, for instance, a moment of collective ecstasy and the triumph of Utopia in an era that dreamt of universal humanism through the lens of an ideology. This ideology tumbled down at the end of the 1980s (on November 9, 1989, to be precise, with the fall of the Berlin wall), opening up a space for a new social, economic, and even aesthetic dimension. All facts are history, and in one way or another they became paradigms for transformations promoted by human volition. There is another, equally magical place, the Scrovegni Chapel, where

Giotto (1266-1337) masterfully (re) configured the communion between celestial and terrestrial space and places Man at the center of this event. The narrative is presented in a deep, metaphysical blue, filled with immensity, silence, and the incommensurable. Giotto had already worked on a variety of churches —Assisi, Sienna, Rome; in Padua he started painting the Chapel in 1302 and finished it in 1306. In his Decameron, filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini recalls this period, with himself in the role of Giotto. Giotto’s masterwork are the frescoes that cover the chapel’s walls in their entirety, narrating the biblical story of the Virgin Mary and Christ. At the back there is a Judgment scene, framed by the heavenly dome. The intense realism of Giotto’s figures, surrounded by that phenomenological blue, opens up not only a new perspective for Mankind, but also for European art. Yves Klein’s cosmogonies and anthropometries belong to the same


Sandra Cinto field. In his Chelsea Hotel manifesto (1961), Klein writes: “Neither missiles nor rockets nor sputniks will render man the ‘conquistador ’ of space. Those means derive only from the phantom of today's scientists who still live in the romantic and sentimental spirit of the XIX century. Man will only be able to take possession of space through the terrifying forces, the ones imprinted with peace and sensibility. He will be able to conquer space—truly his greatest desire—only after having realized the impregnation of space by his own sensibility. His sensibility can even read into the memory of nature, be it of the past, of the present, and of the future! It is our true extra-dimensional capacity for action!” Fascinated by the immensity of space, by the precedents of art—from Giotto to Delacroix—by fire, and by science, Klein created the last metaphysical version of the body inscribed in an unconditional space, especially in works like Escavatrice

Sandra Cinto is the kind of artist whose governing premise is the promotion of space, be it intimate or universal, as the site for the expression of her aesthetic and humanistic yearnings, whose greatest desire is to turn art into a place for aesthetic and psychological experiences, evoking everything from childhood memories to mature life. de l´espace (1958), Reliefs planétaires (1961), and Globe terrestre bleu (1962), as a transposition of infinitude into an artistic form. We can lean on the Giotto-KleinKabakov triad to travel through some spaces by Sandra Cinto. It is like an Ariadne’s thread that helps us move in the physico-temporal, historical, and mental space evoked by many of Cinto’s installations. The space of history, and of art history, is the preferred vantage to observe this artist’s posture and her profound respect for artistic precedent. “Space is extremely important for an understanding of my work. Drawing happens in space,

which generates it. Usually, where I feel most secure is in installations where I combine architecture, drawing, painting and gesture, and those are the ones that work out best. Space is essential to the concept, as it amplifies my work. I make many models of my works in order to learn how they operate. When I work in real space, I follow the prior instructions for the project, combining them with the personal experience of living it.” 1 To see one of the artist’s installations as it is born is to be confronted with the pure evocation of the painstaking practice of drawing on giant surfaces. Like Giotto, Cinto spends hours


concentrated on her silent drawings that evoke distant worlds, bridges and mountains, physical and mnemonic spaces, a place for dreaming and solitude, not of experiences and experiments that must be conquered. In this combinatory play of mental and manual activity, Cinto invokes her heroes in order to traverse a sea of influences: from Giotto to Klein, from Géricault to Kabakov, from Magritte to Leonilson, from Guignard to Louise Bourgeois, there is room in her boat for those artists who are most significant to her and to the history of mankind. Her invocations are epiphanies in that they are not always recognizable and in some cases are intentional. In this way we

see at times a formal approach, at times just the allusion to an idea or atmosphere. Let’s take as an example the installation (Untitled) presented by the artist to the São Paulo Biennial in 1997. There, Cinto drew on the building walls and on a photograph of her arm, thus appropriating architecture and the illusory game of flesh—the flesh of her arm on one of the arms of the building projected by Oscar Niemeyer. In this fusion of the space of the artist’s own body and the body that receives her, it is impossible not to be reminded of Klein’s anthropometric actions, and also Piero Manzoni’s “body signatures.” In many of her installations, Sandra Cinto creates spaces—workrooms,

Under the Sun and the Stars, 2004. Interior view at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in New York. Artist collection. Photo: Oren Slor. Courtesy: Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.

rooms for sleeping, rooms for dreaming—that are clearly inspired by Kabakov’s work. Under the sun and the stars (2004), presented at the Museu de Pampulha, in Belo Horizonte, once again appropriates Modernist utopian space (Oscar Niemeyer) in order to build an atemporal space filled with images of light (photographs and drawings), fragments of bodies (hands, arms), that recall the presence of the artist and her tenuous desire to freeze time (childhood? A visit to a work of art in an Italian church?, etc.) This work is, it turns out, her response to Kabakov’s The Man Who Flew Into Space From His Apartment, yet, contrary to the lone character who jumps from his home in Kabakov’s work, it is the artist herself who flies here, within the viewer’s mental space, since, as we enter this room, we are subjected to the image and pictorial impregnation offered by the artist. In Construction (2006), Cinto transformed the Casa Triángulo into her personal chapel and filled the space with myriad stars and celestial bodies hand-drawn and painted on little pieces of paper. The result was astonishingly similar to the visual and sensorial impregnation of Giotto’s chapel. This installation/occupation took us to a space of the deepest and most silent mystery, something religious and transcendent. Born out of the artist’s in loco experience during her visit to Padua, this installation made us traverse space in the direction of the site often quoted as one of the most enigmatic created by the Italian master of the Quattrocento, who so fascinated artists like Yves Klein, Bill Viola, and Cinto. In the series The Difficult Journey (After Géricault) (2008), presented at Tanya Bonakdar in New York, and at the MACUF Museum in La Coruña, Spain (2007), the artist takes Géricault’s romantic icon and lovingly deconstructs it. Appropriating the sinuous lines of the bodies in motion created by the painter, Cinto produces a space that evokes the effectiveness of sinuosity in that painting. Sandra Cinto’s difficult pathway is


Construction, 2006. Installation. Permanent pen on dyed paper. Variable dimensions. Artist collection. Photo: Ding Musa. Courtesy: Casa Triángulo.

built with the fervor of observing the sinuosity of the bodies and the raft, originated in the motion of maritime space. Previously, at the Carlos Carvalho Gallery, in Lisbon, the artist had presented her installation The Difficult Journey (2006), where she drew a thick sea on the walls and placed at the center of the gallery a table, a valise, and thousands of paper boats, in remembrance of the thousands of souls lost at sea, and also her own Italian ancestors who migrated across the globe carrying with them just a few personal belongings. It is always a difficult journey, but the journey is also knowledge, a leaving behind of oneself, of one’s values, of people and places. Thus, the installation Seven Seas, presented at Progetti Gallery in Rio de Janeiro, belongs to the series of the difficult journeys. In this work, Cinto takes over the space’s large wall as a sea in motion, perhaps in order to remind us that the terrain, here the gallery stand, was also a sea. This space is now a “raft” holding sacred art.

It is never otiose to remember the connection between Brazilian art and the French Academy, when, in the Nineteenth Century, the Academy’s teachings and the thinking that motivated Géricault and other French Romantics were brought to Rio de Janeiro —we would have to explore here the domain of Jungian synchrony, but that is beyond the purview of this article. Sandra Cinto’s visual glossary works as a communicating thread that reveals what happens in her creative genesis, by mixing her travels in the history of art with personal journeys, storied that end up being collective. In her installations, the idea of the journey is always intertwined in the space of representation as well as the theme, as we are submerged in the immensity of the heavens and the sea, of ships and of personal travel items—valises, bag holders, tables, beds, portraits, notebooks, sheets of paper, pencil—the solitary memorabilia of Man-the-artist who travels around the vast world.

Cinto’s drawings stand out especially for occupying supports that are combined in unpredictable ways, sometimes associated with photographs, pictures of her childhood or of her present, in turn connected with other objects such as wooden sculptures simulating books, tables, armoires, and beds. We understand that all these supports, or elements, are a point for the encounter and diffusion of an infinitude of narratives, narratives that are never closed, and they are generally configured as solutions for specific spaces. In the early days, Cinto’s work seemed to claim a stake for a complacent painting of the world. But the painting’s great tameness, paradoxically their humility, imposed itself with inescapable force. Little by little, the tone shifted from blues and grays, and the impromptu redness of the clouds could very well allude to the waves of a turbulent sea, a sign of our fear of the incommensurable in nature. Sandra Cinto’s generous gaze guides our own eyes towards an


Under the Sun and Stars-North Hemisphere, 2007. Permanent pen on wall, painted wood and paper at Carlos Carvalho Arte Contemporanea. Variable dimensions. Photo: Laura Castro Caldas. Courtesy: Casa Triángulo and Carlos Carvalho Arte Contemporanea. The Difficult Journey According to Gericault, 2007. Permanent pen on wall and paper at Museo de Arte Contemporanea Union Fenosa, MACUF, Coruña, Spain. Photo: David Barro. Courtesy: Casa Triángulo.

The Difficult Journey III, 2008. Permanent pen on print and wall. Variable dimensions. Photo: Thiago Torrez. Courtesy: Galeria Progetti, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

intense sky as metaphor of human achievement, showing us a future. The artist’s skies, which before would fit in boxes, coffers, armoires, are now enlarged on gallery and museum walls, warehouses, castles, occupying architectural space in an attempt to return painting to its origins: the sublime condition of light and color. This coherent vocabulary of the sublime is populated by filigrees, dreamlike, ethereal shapes evoked through the painstaking and patient effort of taking over space on the basis of the artist’s stoic process, day after day of covering the skin of space. For Cinto, the work of art emerges from an existential necessity, and it is a spiritual necessity. This is why the gallery’s or museum’s (sacred) space is her favored site. Sandra Cinto is the kind of artist whose governing premise is the promotion of space, be it intimate or universal, as the site for the expression of her aesthetic and humanistic yearnings, whose greatest desire is to turn art into a place for aesthetic and psychological experiences, evoking everything from childhood memories to mature life. Art, as she understands it, is the place of wisdom, of education, of gentleness, of sharing: these are art’s ontological features. 2 Parodying Gagarin’s observation, we could say that “the Earth is blue like the work of Giotto, Klein, and Cinto,” and that “we were in the heavens, and we didn’t see God there,” but we can find Him in supreme art, because art is the communion of science and magic, in the words of Gaston Bachelard. NOTES 1. Artist’s statement. 2. Reis, Paulo. “Construcción contra la disipación del mundo o la epifanía en la obra de Sandra Cinto.” In Sandra Cinto: Construcción. Santiago de Compostela: Dardo Ds, 2006. Translation: José Osorio.

Paulo Reis Curator and professor of Aesthetics and Contemporary Art History. He currently directs Carpe Diem — Arte e Pesquisa, a space for artistic interventions in Lisbon, and is codirector and Editor of Dardo magazine.


ArtNexus Magazine75, year 2009. pp 127-128

Reviews New york / ny

Damián Ortega Barbara Gladstone Gallery

There are at least three major problems in viewing Damian Ortega’s works, several (but not all) of which most artists would love to have. First, he has already created several works so visually explosive, such as the exploded Volkswagen (“Cosmic Thing”) or the large circle of weapons hanging in the air (“Controller of the Universe”), that you tend to measure all his work against them, forgetting that far more of his work is very quiet and all of it theoretical. The second problem is common to socially committed artists: to achieve some balance between theory and practice or form, especially in an exhibit with a title like this one, “Capital-Less”. The third follows from his success and reinforces the first: Ortega has already established his general ideas, practice and materials. When we walk in, we nod, as if to a neighbor, and ask “what’s new” but not expecting too much. This show is quiet, even poetic. There are five large built forms, or, as Ortega titles them, “buildings”—each about seven feet tall— made from dull red colored bricks cemented together with concrete and then pressure sanded into eroded and irregular forms that evoke, for this writer, deserted pueblos or mesas chiseled by wind and water over time rather than a post-apocalyptic industrial accident. Their net feeling seems “nature-al”. The success is their gentle formalist evocation of ruins and a sense of time now long ago, perhaps of civilizations lost. But what Ortega wants is what Walter Benjamin called an historical now-time (“jeitzeit”) where history looks simultaneously back and forward. To help make the connection to current and future time, each brick is constructed and visibly marked by a series of horizontal, irregularly eroded registers, many created by metallic inserts that form small rectangular channels through each piece, meant to recall, according to the press release, “both the regular geometry of modernist urban planning” and “osseous tissue like bone.” In short, Ortega wants it both ways: the organic within the industrial and social or vice-versa. The reference is important but the problem is that the visual—and to a large extent the conceptual and social—”key” to his metaphoric thinking is in another room, eas-

ily missed and not mentioned in the press release. You have to ask, search for it, or leave the exhibition without knowing, all of which raises the cult of the knowledgeable or professional viewer/artist to ridiculous extreme at the expense of the art work; i.e. it effectively separates practice, theory and meaning. It’s not until we see the video titled “Treme-treme” that we get it! The three-minute looped video is a rising shot of Ortega’s own large composite photograph (to avoid the skewed perspective of a normal upward camera pan) of a building that one blogger called “edifício degradao,” located near São Paulo’s Mercado Municipal downtown. Officially titled “Edificio São Vito”, the fifty-year old, immense, multistoried, International Style, honeycomb-cell and concrete monster is locally known as “treme-treme”, likely because it shakes. (There are other less polite sources suggested for its nickname.) For the last twenty years the city government has listed it for demolition and replacement and while considered officially abandoned it is home to thousands of “squatters” and some claim it to be the tallest ”favela” in all of South America. Now made specific, the many horizontal registers of ragged, graffitied, and broken windows of this standardized modernist housing structure that was to be our international social solution for housing people in the first half of the 20th century, moves the full measure of Ortega’s intention and social meaning into place. The video not only provides a specific understanding but makes the hitherto uncompleted statement that the ruins are of the modernist dream for responsible government and architectural solutions that we faced then

and face in now and future time. Whether you see his strategy as a successful transposition of reality into artistic language or an unrealized relationship that needs to be made more apparent I leave to each viewer. Ortega’s strength is—or can be—this combination, and it is a central problem with all such art: to be on message but not literal, leaving room for the power of the imagination in both artist and viewer. And Ortega has often used videos in this way before, as “cognitive maps” to clue you in. But it seems to me the very historical materialism of a critical socialist (dare I say Marxist) position asks for strategies that make the social connection stronger. For those who know his work and ideas before we go, we get it. But the power of the visual evocation is in reaching out more to those who don’t know, those who also (especially?) need to get it. I remain a great fan of Ortega’s work and ideas precisely because he constantly and restlessly searches for new ways to make these connections within the frame of our imaginations. Richard Leslie


Leda Catunda Estación Pinacoteca - Galería Fortes Vilaça

It has been 2 years since a series of retrospectives by Brazilian artists, whose artistic activities initiated during the 1980s, began to be presented as part of the exhibition program at the Station Pinacoteca – a part of the Pinacoteca do Estado Museum and Gallery in São Paulo. The goal of this series is to present

Damián Ortega. Capital less, 2009. Photo: David Regen.


panoramic visions of current productions, both to survey individual trajectories from their origins until today – the majority of these never before exhibited – and to gauge the problems that have frustrated the development of contemporary art in Brazil for at least the last thirty years. This program has already showcased monographic exhibitions by Paulo Pasta, Iran do Espírito Santo, Beatriz Milhazes, Paulo Monteiro, and Daniel Senise, among others. During August and October, the institution presented Leda Catunda 1983–2008. It included around 70 works by Catunda and included paintings, collages, reliefs, and watercolors. During that same period, another exhibition presented three works by the artist created in 2009, at the Fortes Vilaça Gallery. The sum of both exhibitions revealed a process of artistic formation and consolidation of a singular poetic that Catunda has been able to achieve through trial and error in an artistic quest focused on surpassing the limitations of painting. Paradoxically, she succeeds in doing this by simultaneously establishing affective and analytical relationships with the medium, as if she wished to investigate the real contemporary possibilities of an activity so frequently qualified as obsolete, as she pushes the medium against a real world of common images and objects that are available and vulgar. Leda Catunda’s education aids in part to explain her ambiguous commitment to painting. As a student of the Fine Arts at the Armando Álvarez Penteado Foundation in São Paulo, Leda attended several courses taught by historians and artists – Walter Zanini, Nelson Leirner, Regina Silveira, Julio Plaza – who, in their own works, demonstrated (or continue to demonstrate) an interest in addressing, always from a critical standpoint, the nature of the art institution, from the role it has played throughout history to its insertion into the market. This took place during a time, in the early Eighties, when the international art world had called for a “return to painting,” as exemplified in canvases by the Neo-expressionists in the U.S., the “New Savages” in Germany, and the Italian Transavantgarde, who were given the responsibility of “bringing back the enjoyment and pleasure of painting.” Brazil had its own movement, assembled behind a similar motto and called the “Eighties Generation.” It was made up of young painters ready to “renovate” aspects of the painting medium – although a decade earlier, during the Seventies, there were other artists such as Iberê Camargo and Eduardo Sued who were working more assiduously than ever before in the history of Brazil toward that same goal.

Within this context, but hardly sharing the hedonism or “drama” of the energetic European and U.S. painters, from early in her career, Leda Catunda had a more distant relationship with painting, as she actually relegated the medium to a second plane, nearly as “background,” whether utilizing pigments to cover figures partially industrially reproduced on the blankets, towels, and textiles she used as support, or to take advantage of the patterns and textures found in these surfaces by creating archetypical forms such as jackets, purses, and animals, which she rendered with a brush. Her earlier works presented at the Pinacoteca exhibition include Vedação em quadrinho (Smudge on Comic Strip) of 1983, and A vitrine (The Showcase), Onça pintada I and Onça pintada II (Painted Jaguar I and II) of 1984. These latter three works initiate the curatorship by Ivo Mesquita, who, with the spatial arrangement of the exhibition, sought to underscore in Catunda’s work a sort of nostalgia for the “traditional pictorial genres:” the first exhibition room is dedicated to pieces associated with portraiture; a second module contains small reliefs and large collages, and finally, a third exhibition space gathers the remaining works with representations and suggestions of landscapes. Indeed, Leda Catunda’s production rejoices in figurative allusions that are even humorously reiterated in the title of the works. Likewise, it is no coincidence that the recent pieces exhibited at her solo show at the Fortes Vilaça Gallery make strong references to nature: Paisagem com onça (“Landscape with Jaguar); Duas árvores (Two Trees), and Rio comprido (Long River). Incidentally, it is possible that preconceived “themes” and “motifs” may constitute one of the conditions of the artist’s

work, less to illustrate ideas and commentaries on painting than simply to implement it. Her endeavor avoids easy approaches and any inkling of purity in the solutions. The approach adopted by Catunda during her evolution in the 1990s included the utilization of embroidery, collage, and other types of patches among the heterogeneous parts of the painting. Management is unpolished, messy: sometimes soaked and overwhelmed by soft fabrics, and at others, is bare, diluted, and quickly rendered with plastics and patterned textiles. Despite the artifice that comprises an intrinsic part of these, the forms inspire something organic, remind us of drops, cells, tongues, innards, and stomachs. The structures stand out, soft and smooth, with volumes projected toward the threedimensional field, searching for a tactile gaze; they intertwine with each another amid full and empty surfaces, as they reveal the gracefulness of their connections an their somehow unstable but nonetheless compiling unity. In the face of so many suggestions of comfort – reinforced by the awareness of everyday materials on the surfaces, or by of the figurative tendencies of some pieces – Catunda appears to juxtapose an exhortation for tireless, dislocated, and dissonant cognitive actions that are equivalent to the organization of her works. To these sensations of well-being would correspond a certain degree of agitation, a uniform vitality, which in the end correspond to a painting that does not fit in the plane, one that is open to the shared space in life, to become, not a window, but a conscience immersed in its overcharged surroundings.

Leda Catunda. Siamese, 1998. Acrylic on canvas.65 x 70 ¾ x 65 ¾ x 70 ¾ in. (165 x 180 cm y 167 x 180 cm.). Photo: Vicente de Mello.

Translation: José Osorio José Augusto Ribeiro


ArtNexus Magazine 76, year 2010. pp 123-124

Group Shows Tupi or not tupi, 31st Panorama da Arte Brasileira 2009 Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo São Paulo, Brazil

As Adriano Pedrosa notes in his presentation of the 31st Panorama da arte Brasileira, the principle of nationality can be one of the most simplistic curatorial criteria in the gathering of a group of artists, and at times it expresses a limiting and dangerous nationalistic symptom. To question this principle and to introduce a more radical variant than the one proposed by Gerardo Mosquera, in 2001, was one of Pedrosa’s successes. In deciding that the show was to be about Brazilian culture, rather than Brazilian artists, Pedrosa widened the spectrum of debate and analysis that an event of this kind can, or should, spark. He also ran the risk of making more permeable the borders of an exhibition that was created to represent the local arts and has been characterized by them. Opening the space to discourses generated by Brazilian culture as a whole made it possible not only to expand the idea of a territory, but also—and perhaps more pertinently—to generate a space to confront the cultural constructs at the base of the idea of national representation and the fragility of its symbols. This biennial, whose origins date back to 1969, when it was founded by Diná Lopes Coelho, has traditionally been a space to recognize and make visible, in a varying format conceived by each edition’s

guest curator, the work of relevant national artists; in this way, it responds to what was a pressing need at the time of its inception and remained so for several decades: to strengthen Brazil’s artistic “panorama” in a less-favorable context. The anticipated polemic that grew around the curatorial decision to reformulate the foundational parameters also made it possible to confront points of view and necessary debates to question established models, reinforcing and giving even more meaning to the exhibition’s title: Mamõyguara opá mamõ pupé. A translation into Tupi (an extinct language spoken by the Tupi peoples living in the area today occupied by São Paulo and São Vicente and along the Tieté river, encountered by the Portuguese on their arrival in the Sixteenth Century) of the title of a work by the artists collective Claire Fontaine: Foreign everywhere. Translated into a local tongue no longer in everyday use, it evinced not only the cultural conflict generated by colonization and its obvious consequences in the displacement of one language by another, but also, as some critical comments on the project unfortunately revealed, the fact that the art scene can be closed-off and exclusionary, dominated by territorialism and fear of the Other rather than by a debate of ideas.

Mateo López. Drawings for MuBE, 2009. Detail. Mixed media. Variable dimensions.

Cerith Wyn Evans. Everything Here Seems to be Under Construction and Left in Ruins, 2009. Wooden structure, fireworks and c-print photograph. 59 x 177 x 2 in. (150 x 450 x 5 cm.).

A key part of the Panorama 09 project was its incorporation of an artistin-residence program, which offered a true platform for debate and exchange among local and invited artists. Some of the works presented emerged from this experience, as was the case of Dibujos para MuBE (2009), Mateo López’s hypothetical project for a sculpture exhibition at the Museu Brasileiro de Escultura (designed by Paulo Mendes

Nicolás Guagnini with Valdirlei Dias Nunes, Nicolás Robbio, Pablo Siquier and Carla Zaccagnini. Curatorial Machine, 2009. Mixed media. 275 ½ x 275 ½ x 110 1/5 in. (700 x 700 x 280 cm.).


Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla. Ruin, 2006. Stainless steel and black ink. 166 ½ x 454 x 32 3/5 in. (423 x 1153 x 83 cm.).

da Rocha in 1988), subtly interrogating the institution’s programming. For his part, Alessandro Balteo initiated a project of research and negotiation on the basis of the history of a work donated in the 1970s by artist Eugenio Espinoza to the São Paulo MAM, and rejected by it. Other artists-in-residence were Runo Lagomarsino, Caire Fontaine, and José Dávila. Nicolás Guagnini proposed an interesting reflection on the role of the curator, the artists, and the working relationship that is established between the two. This work allowed the estab-

lishment of a series of associations and possible readings within a specific context. Guagnini’s Curatorial machine, 2009, (based on Helio Oiticica’s 1961 Estudo para núcleo ) was a wooden structure that turned and combined the work of the four guest artists, Carla Zaccagnini, Nicolás Robbio, Pablo Siquier, and Valdrilei Dias Nunes, making it possible for the public to generate thus their own version of the work. Cerith Wyn Evans reconstructed a 2004 work, Aqui tudo parece que ainda é construção e já é ruina (based on For a da ordem, by Caetano Veloso), which

revisited a phrase in turn reappropriated by Veloso from a text by Claude Lévi-Strauss. Lévi-Strauss’ comment was a direct reference to Brazil, and Wyn Evans wrote it using fireworks on opening day. Another project directly related to the context, and specifically to the economy, is Superflex, part of an investigation of Guarana Power that was censored at the São Paulo Biennial. Allora y Calzadilla, Luisa Lambri, and Juan Araújo also referred to architecture and to Neo-Concrete Art. Most of all, Pedrosa’s proposal was able to spark a necessary debate about the foundation of the Panorama, a debate that helps us rethink our own relationship with the world (art or not), How do we perceive our culture, and how is it perceived when we exhibit it to the gaze of others? On what does the survival of what we are depend? In that sense, it is important to remember Derrida’s notion that hospitality represents the model of the social connection and as such is a basic form of an ethical attitude. The Other does not endanger us; perhaps he only reveals who we are.

Translation: Jorge Frisancho

María Inés Rodríguez


ArtNexus Magazine 77, year 2010. pp 121-122


Marilá Dardot Centro Brasilero Británico

Marilá Dardot (Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 1973) has been referencing important works and authors from the international literary world since the beginning of the 1990s. The book’s physical and textual materiality is transformed into an artistbook, object-book, video-book, and an installation-book. By presenting the book as an object – or by making small alterations and subversions in its text – Dardot adds an amplified poetic and sensorial experience to the act of reading and to an experience supported by ideas. The search for a vessel for the written language is conveyed in the way in which Dardot resorts to materials as diverse as light, public signage, architectural structures, plants, glass, mirrors, and weavings. The famous work of English literature, Alice in Wonderland (1885) by Lewis Carroll (1832-1898), was used by Dardot as the basis for her most recent exhibition entitled Alicies (2010), which is also the title of the exhibited installation. It proposes a play on words and perception by replicating the changes in size undergone by Carroll’s main character throughout the novel. This is achieved by enlarging or reducing the pages in the book. Totaling 13 pieces that measure 26 × 35.4 inches, some of Carroll’s book pages were photographed and subsequently mounted on neutral paper, Medium-density fiberboard (MDF), and mirrored acrylic. The reflection achieved by the acrylic enables the viewer to be included in the universe of the book, as it also represents a reference to Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871), both of which are sequels to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Throughout the narrative, Alice changes size twice. The installation begins with the life-sized first page of the book, followed by the first alteration in size that corresponds to the story, when Alice drinks a magic liquid and becomes 10 inches high, which allows her to enter through the small opening that separated her from a mysterious garden. Conversely, the following page presents characters that have

been enlarged. Like Alice, the viewer is transported into a universe where, temporarily, the environment has been magnified. Then, Alice grows to nearly 9 feet in height, thus becoming much larger than her surroundings. Therefore, the ensuing page is miniscule and reveals – through the mirror – the presence of a colossal spectator. Such semiotic and hypertext interaction is repeated through the entire work that replicates the Carroll chapters and allows visitors to experience the changes in size that take place during the unfolding of Alice’s adventure. The changes in size experienced by the character stand for the transformational condition that permeated Carroll’s novel. Such modifications are accompanied by a series of doubts with respect to the very existence of the character, her identity, and her perception of the world. “I wonder if I’ve been changed during the night? Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? (…) Who in the world am I?” Alice asks herself. These are central questions regarding our perception of language and objects, and are also questions on identity and change that appear and permeate Dardot’s work. The invitation to delve into this universe is subtle. The exhibition rooms in the Centro Brasilero Británico were not designed to communicate empathy, as they offer an impersonal architecture and are not ideal venues for pausing and

reflecting. In the search for meaning in the seemingly opaque story – sometimes actually indecipherable due to its lacking the foundational elements found in the original text – the spectators are forced to move around the space and create – so they can understand – the formulations that are absent in the work. In Alices, the spectators’ experiences overlap that of the reader, because by moving across the space they experience a sensation that is equivalent to reading the story. Once again, we are before a work that does not resort to clarity of meaning. Like other works by Dardot, Alices employs a visual language that could appear hermetic to those not willing to examine it carefully, despite the sober and precise beauty of its presentation. The exuberant universe of Carroll’s Alice is limited here to white, black, and grey tones. The multiple mutations of meaning that exist between the rational and magical universes are simplified in the duality of enlarging and reducing the main character. Of all the dilemmas, just the question “Who am I” – complex and unanswered – reverberates across the play-on-dimensions proposed in this installation. In the story by Carroll, as well as in Dardot’s piece, Alice is always either too large or too small, she never does quite fit the mold, just as we find ourselves with language, confronted by the world. Translation: José Osorio

Júlia Rebouças

Marilá Dardot. Alices, 2010. Photography, neutral paper, MDF and mirrored plexiglass. 13 pieces, 26 x 35 ½ in (66 x 90 cm.) each one. Photo: Héctor Zamora.


ArtNexus Magazine 79, year 2010. pp 86-94

The 29th São Paulo Biennial Há sempre un copo de mar para um homen navegar (“There is always a cup of sea to sail in”) Canto I, Poem II. Invençao de Orfeu, Jorge de Lima Rosângela Rennó. Menos-valia (auction), 2010. Objects, table, labels. Variable dimensions. Comissioned by Fundación Bienal de São Paulo. Auctioneer: Aloísio Cravo. Photo: León Birbragher.

Alfredo Jaar. The Eyes of Gutete Emerita, 1995. One million slides into a heap on a light table. 36 x 209 x 143 in. (91,5 x 533 x 363 cm.). Daros Latinamerica Collection.


María Elvira Iriarte

eft behind the resounding fiasco of the previous edition, the Biennial of Emptiness (2008), and the series of crises that since the year 2000 afflicted the institution, it would seem that the veteran São Paulo Biennial is in full recovery. In the words of the city’s Culture Secretary, Carlos Augusto Calil, at the press conference held on September 21st, four days prior to the event’s official opening, “the Biennial has resurrected.” The exhibition at the Ibirapuera Pavilion is open to the public September 12th through December 12th, 2010. The effort has not been minor. Under the presidency of Heitor Martins and with the decisive support of the federal, state, and municipal governments as well as the private sector, the São Paulo Biennial Foundation has been able, in little more than a year and a half, to restructure its Board, cover the debt generated by the previous edition, and set on stage a selection of works by 159 artists. It also produced a vast array of parallel activities. The most outstanding of these is the educational program directed to train 40,000 teachers from across the country as multipliers and communicators for the event. The most novel, the inclusion of six “convivial patios” conceived to foster encounter and critical debate between the Biennial’s various actors: curators and artists, cultural promoters, critics, and general public. The Capacete project acts as a host organism; it is a “platform for debating the curatorial proposal, proposing a living dialog with all participants,” according to the catalog. This catalog, an indispensable tool and record of the exhibition, is a single, carefully edited volume that includes, besides the introductory text and the list of sponsors, officials, and collaborators, a presentation of every participating artist with a brief text and excellent illustrations. The 29th Biennial has two curators: Agnaldo Farias and Moacir dos Anjos,1 both Brazilian. Five foreign co-curators 2 assisted them in the effort to structure the exhibition around the general guideline chosen for it: Art and Politics.


BIENNIAL The selection of such a label as the “umbrella concept” (as referred to by several São Paulo newspapers) is nothing new in itself. Yet, it is possible to argue that it is present as an analytical tool and avenue of approach towards artistic expression. It is just a generic platform to orient the pathway of the Biennial, and it is clear that the works on exhibit are not necessarily related to the issue. According to the curators, “…the amalgam of those two dimensions (art and politics) reasserts the exclusive place held by art in the symbolic organization of life, and its capacity to illuminate and reshape the forms that structure the world.”3 It bears noting that literature, in its most varied forms, also has a significant weight in this exhibition, from the title, taken from a poem by Jorge de Lima, 4 to the names given to the meeting points, rest areas, and zones for the exchange of ideas, or the inclusion in the catalog of excerpts from such varied literary works as Alice in Wonderland or texts by Chico Buarque. Brazilian and foreign artists were chosen directly by the curators, eliminating (as had happened already in previous editions) the national delegations. The emphasis is placed, first of all, on Brazil itself, with the curators express will to make clear “where was (this biennial) created at a time of world-wide geopolitical restructuring.”5 Latin America, Africa, and Asia come next. Western Europe and North America, while present, have a slighter voice than in the past. This Biennial’s exhibition project was commissioned to architect Mata Bogéa. In the orthogonal spaces, strongly characterized by their structural pillars, a large ramp, and a staircase, she installed a grid of diagonals that determine a series of modules configured into an “archipelago” to host the artworks. The general plan proposes labyrinth-like pathways with an urban note that break with Niemeyer’s well-ordered structure, suggesting a continuing dialog between the larger container—the building—and the containers specified for each work on exhibit. With their rectilinear geometric shapes and their irregular floor plans, these spaces,

Steve McQueen. Static, 2009. Detail of film frames from the Statue of Liberty in New York. Film installation, 35mm HD transfer. Loop. Courtesy of the artist; Thomas Dane Gallery, London, and Goodman Gallery, New York.

Anna María Maiolino. Rice and Beans, 1979-2007. Installation with formica table, 20 black chairs, dishes, glasses, silverware, soil, rice and bean seeds, shelves, and video on TV. 212 ½ x 47 1/5 in. (540 x 120 cm.).

Carlos Garaicoa. Pentagon, from the series The Crown Jewels, 2009. Silver miniature. ½ x 3 ½ x 3 ½ in. (1,5 x 9 x 9 cm.). Courtesy of the artist; Galeria Luisa Strina, São Paulo; Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, Beijing, Le Moulin.


Andrew Esiebo. God is Alive, 2006. Photograph print on cotton fiber paper. 10 photographs. 39 1/3 x 59 in. (100 x 150 cm.).

Antonio Manuel. Repression Once Again, Here´s the Balance, 1968. Objects, wood, fabric, rope, silkscreen. Each one: 48 x 31 2/5 in. (122 x 80 cm.). Collection João Sattamin; Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói.

Helio Oiticica. Nests, 1970-2010. Installation with wood, jute, mattresses, light bulbs. 144 x 252 x 215 ¾ in. (366 x 640 x 548 cm.). Photo: León Birbragher.

Chen Chieh-Jen. Factory, 2003. Film. Super 16 mm, DVD transfer, color, silent. 31´09”.

painted outside in various shades of gray, hold everything from a video, a group of sculptures, or an installation, giving each of them an appropriate framework and an individualized space. There aren’t any categories of hierarchies, although for obvious reasons the most significant displays are located in the ground floor. Here and there on the external walls of the “islands,” two-dimensional works are shown, mainly photographs. The display arrangement is one of the successes of this Biennial. It can be traversed in many different ways; the curators suggest six circuits organized around the titles of the “terreiros.” These circuits do not agglutinate the works into given zones. Much on the contrary, the Biennial is organized as a giant grid where concepts, languages, and times intermix. The Terreiros In Brazil, the word terreiro designates a meeting point. Open or closed, urban or rural, a street, passageway, plaza,

atrium or esplanade, patio, or alley, it is eminently a public space. Here people gather, all across the country, to “dance, sing, play, fight, cry, joke, and discuss their fate…but especially to practice the various rituals of the country’s hybrid religiosity.”6 Often they are the cradle and headquarters of a Samba school and function as fields for capoeira. In the exhibition, six conceptual and physical structures created by invited artists and architects serve as meeting points and spaces for discussion and rest for the public. They also function as the stage for the projection of films and for holding concerts and performances, literary readings, poetry recitals, forums and roundtable discussions about the art on display. Each one of these terreiros has a specific character, expressed poetically in their names. Dispersed around the building’s three levels, they are the largest referent for a series of works, also dispersed, that configure the six suggested itineraries.7 The effectiveness of this apparatus, which follows from

the desire to stimulate connectivity between the public and the exhibition and to break the merely contemplative scheme when it comes to artistic expression, will only be accurately measured after the Biennial closes and can be properly assessed. The skin of the invisible, designed by Slovak architect Tobias Putrih (Kranj, 1972), is devoted to images, with a continuous projection of videos; it is a modular structure in wood and cardboard whose external design is inspired on the Palacio de la Alvorada columns projected by Oscar Niemeyer as part of his emblematic buildings for Brasilia. Said, Unsaid, Forbidden,8 created by architect Roberto Loeb (São Paulo, 1941) and graffiti artist Kboco (Goiania, 1978), is a place for the spoken and sung word. It is located outside the building in front of the façade it presents to the park, and its name evokes a character from one of Guimarães Rosa’s works. I Am the Street, a tribute to Rio de Janeiro’s journalist and chronicler João do Rio, was proposed by UNStudio,


an architecture firm from Holland; it is a triangular structure with several levels and a central space that invites discussion with its small-auditorium feel. The Other, The Same, created by Carlos Teixera (Belo Horizonte, 1966) is articulated by several independent pieces made of cardboard, and it quotes Jorge Luis Borges; it is devoted to performances “founded on the desire of self-representation an the representation of a desired, enigmatic otherness.”9 Remembrance and Oblivion focuses on the work of Ernesto Neto (Rio de Janeiro, 1964): an environment for resting done with mattresses, benches, and foam chairs expressed in the artist’s formal code under the figure of a large tree. Far Away, Right Here, conceptualized by Marilá Dardot (Belo Horizonte, 1973) and Fabio Morais (São Paulo, 1975), is a kind of labyrinth with small rooms in its perimeter and narrow passageways that converge on a large central area. Papered with the covers of famous books, the space is a tribute to reading as a creative act. It is important that the titles of the terreiros come from literary quotes and allusions, or are wordplay. In fact, it would seem that visual languages duplicate, paraphrase, or quote literary expression, be it high-cultural or popular. With a large number of excep-

tions and wide conceptual lassitude, the works included in the exhibition seek to engage the angles of approach suggested in the terreiros. The Exhibition Circuits as Suggested by the Curators and the Catalog Some thirty works in the exhibition are linked to the fourth terreiro mentioned above, The Skin of the Invisible. By far, this group is dominated by photography.10 The stand out in the group is Los Ojos de Gutete Emerita (1996-2000), by Alfredo Jaar (Santiago de Chile 1956), one from among twenty installations in the project dealing with the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda. The Chilean artist stages, piled up on a light table, one million transparencies—the approximate number of victims—with the image of the eyes of a woman who saw the killing of her husband and children, along with a number of magnifying glasses that allow us to examine them. We reach the darkened room through a narrow and equally dark corridor, in one of whose side walls there is a small linear, lighted text informing us of the subject matter. Jaar achieves in this way a narrative of that which cannot be narrated, using means that on first inspection appear neutral. He does not describe the horror, but uses contextual ellipsis and formal paraphrase to force us to reflect about it, shocking us at the

Jacobo Borges. Image of Caracas, 2010. Performance, documentation. Color video, 3 channels, sound; black and white photographic print on paper. Approximately 128 photographs. Collection of the artist. Copyrights: Jacobo Borges & Imagen de Caracas Team. Photo: León Birbragher.

emotional and ethical level through the vehicle of art. It is one of the important works of art in this Biennial. Linked to the same terreiro are the works of Steve McQueen, Rosângela Rennó, Sophie Ristelhueber, Andrew Esiebo, and Matheus Rocha Pitta. McQueen (London, 1969) sets his film camera on a helicopter flying around the Statue of Liberty, focusing on details that common visitors don’t usually see. “Exposing images of a vastly familiar symbol in such an unexpected way, the artist suggest a stripping-out of the stable meanings present in our universal iconographic repertoire.”11 An impressive collection of objects related to photography, including tools of the trade and printed images, carefully installed, will be auctioned at the end of the Biennial: it is one of the works presented by Rosângela Rennó (Belo Horizonte, 1962), an artist concerned with the life of photographic images and their curious journeys, compiling and classifying them according to different codes of reading; the installation is titled Minus-value (auction). Photographer Sophie Ristelhueber (Paris, 1949), author of WB (2005), captured in the West Bank the barriers erected by the Israeli Defense Forces to block transit in certain roadways and impede the circulation of Palestinian vehicles;



Ernesto Neto. Remembrance and Oblivion /Who Pays the Surrender – Everything is agreed!, 2010. Fabric, wood, foam, spices, and rug. Approximately 120 m2. Commissioned by Fundación Bienal de São Paulo. Gil Vicente. Self-Portrait III, Killing Elizabeth II, from the series Enemies, 2005. Charcoal drawing on paper. 59 x 78 ¾ in. (150 x 200 cm.).

UNStudio. I Am the Street/ Youturn, 2010. Space for debates inspired in the centripetal force. Wooden structure, plywood, plaster, paint. Approximately 120 square meters. Photo: León Birbragher.

mounds of dirt and rocks where grass has sprouted over time. Are these largeformat photographs the paraphrase of a geography as intractable as the conflict that originates them? Nigerian artist Andrew Esiebo (Lagos, 1978) documents in his series God is Alive (2006) the nighttime preaching that takes place at various points in the Lagos-Ibadan road: psalms, prayers, and trances mingle with a lively commerce between preachers and public; the photographer acts as a reporter but also as a critic of alienation Matheus Rocha Pitta (Tiradentes, Brazil, 1980) acts as an archeologist in search of the beauty suggested by abandoned objects, objects in disuse, marginal to society’s mainstream circuits. A pile of tires, an accumulation of rusted cans, paint buckets, discarded tools: such are the subjects of his most recent photographs, included in a series titled Provisional Heritage (2010). A profound sense of nostalgia emanates from them, and they are certainly conceived as artistic photography. Connected to this same group is a vast selection of works by Rio-based Portuguese artist Antonio Manuel (1947), who in the 1960s worked on altering the matrix of a newspaper to reconfigure its meaning. In Repression Again — Here is What is Left, several newspaper pages, manipulated and dyed in red against the black ink of the original printing, must be “discovered” by the viewer, who must activate a mechanism to raise the black fabric that covers them. The seven contributions so briefly mentioned above reveal the great flexibility of the parameters used for the placement of the art and the expressive field to which the terreiros allude. If we take into account the totality of the works associated with The Skin of the Invisible, the conclusion would be the same. It is fair to wonder whether it is worth establishing such categories of instrumental analysis for an exhibition like the 19th Biennial. Dito, não dito, Interdito. I mentioned before the difficulties of translation presented by this wordplay originated in João Guimaraes Rosa’s novel Manuelzão e Miguelim. So, I will stick to the translation provided by the Biennial’s press office: Said, Unsaid, Forbidden.


One sculpture, videos, photographs, films and photograms, photographic records of “art actions,” performances, and the record of several pixaçoes 12, a few drawings, prints, and a series of paintings are connected to this terreiro of the word. Interestingly, two works included in this group became the subject of a polemic among the public and in the news. One was a series of drawings by Gil Vicente (Recife, 1958). It is comprised of ten large-format charcoals in which the artist presents his self-portrait threatening several dignitaries: the Pope, Queen Elizabeth, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and current president Ignácio Lula, Ariel Sharon, and Kofi Anan, among others. If it weren’t for a request by the president of the São Paulo Lawyers’ Guild, who thought the drawings were an “invitation to violence” and asked they be barred from the show, Vicente’s correct work would have remained mostly unnoticed, despite its privileged location in the resting area at the end of the ramp, on the third floor. The Biennial ignored the request. The other polemic—and

here the work was taken down a few days after the opening—was caused by Roberto Jacoby (Buenos Aires, 1944), who invited a number of Argentinean artists to “collectively create a series of t-shirts, emblems, posters, and souvenirs, as well as roundtables and public debates for a hypothetical political campaign…”13 that ended up being the campaign of the P.T.’s candidate to the Brazilian presidency, Dilma Rouseff. In terms of historical works, we must highlight Imagen de Caracas, an art action carried out by Jacobo Borges (Caracas, 1931) in the 1960s, presented via photographs, and the graphic documents of the Grupo de Artistas de Vanguardia, which organized the show Tucumán arde in Rosario and Buenos Aires in 1968.14 The Graphic Objects (1964-65) by SwissBrazilian artist Mira Schendel (Zurich, 1919 – São Paulo, 1988) are beautiful monotypes on rice paper, exhibited as objects suspended between acrylic sheets, their mage derived from a series of manuscript words. The recent series Night Matter by Rodrigo Andrade (São Paulo, 1962) displays good command of painterly technique, between realism

Nuno Ramos. White Flag, 2010. Installation with sand, granite, glass, vulture, safety net, loudspeakers, and sound. Variable dimensions. Courtesy: Galeria Fortes Vilaça, São Paulo. Photo: León Birbragher.

and surrealism; these are night scenes, darkened and empty streets populated only by forcefully chromatic points of light that introduce an phantasmagoric ambiance to the scene. La torre del ruido, by Berlin-based Yoel Días Vázquez (Havana, 1973), is a cylindrical construction, three meters tall, made of TV monitors that display videos of many Cuban rappers as they speak or sing in domestic spaces. The stationary camera frames them as possible interlocutors of discourses that are inevitably critical yet intelligible for the viewer of the tower, that could very well have been titled “of Babel”. I am the street, the terreiro and the group of works associated with it in tribute to journalist and chronicler João de Rio,15 suggest the use of public space as a principle for artistic action. Yet at least ten of the works included in this selection do not proceed in that way: for example, the films presented by Pedro Costa (Lisbon, 1959); the documentation of La familia obrera, a performance by Oscar Bony (Posadas, Argentina, 1941); Factory, a film by Chen Chieh-Jen (Taiwan, 1960); the selection of works

Otobong Nkanga. Dolphin Estate, 2008. Photograph, lambda print. 35 2/5 x 47 1/5 in. (90 x 120 cm.). Courtesy: Lumen Travo Gallery, Amsterdam.


by the Rex group16, a collective of artists based in São Paulo who between 1964 and 1967 sought alternative spaces to exhibit contemporary art, published five issues of a journal-manifesto, and held artistic salons and conferences. On the other hand, other works seem more appropriate for the concept behind this terreiro: Divisor (1968), by Lygia Pape (Nova Friburgo, 1927 - Rio, 2004); the action Black of Death (2007-08), by the Japanese group Chim Pom, documented in video and to be repeated in São Paulo; photographs by Otobong Nikanga (Nigeria, 1974); or the video record of actions by Ronald Duarte (Barra Mansa, 1962) in Rio de Janeiro. The Japanese group, formed in 2005, brought to the Biennial the video of an action at the limit of the politically correct, provocative and surprising. Several of its members stroll around Tokyo neighborhoods in cars or motorcycle, carrying the mummified corpse of a crow and broadcasting through loudspeakers noises recorded during the bird’s agony. Attracted by the sound, crows from the surrounding areas follow and fly over the performers, in an attempt to rescue the dead bird. The group is supposed to reproduce this intervention in São Paulo. Nigeria’s Otobong Nikanga (Kano, 1974. Lives and works in Paris) records through photography what has happened in a street of Dolphin Estate, Nigeria. In 1990, the government hastily built

a series of housing blocks, five-story buildings without sanitation systems or electrical connections. Despite these facts, the buildings were occupied. The neighbors were forced to solve the lack of electricity and water through a jumble of external scaffolds erected to support water tanks, wiring, and TV antennas. The result is a hybrid between formal development and the forceful occupation of empty land, captured by the lens of an artist who in this way denounces the ineptitude and bad faith of the government in his country and the rickety ingenuity with which third world peoples attempt to satisfy their needs. Ronald Duarte (Barra Mansa, 1963) participates with three films of art actions carried out in Rio in the early 2000s: washing of the streets with red-colored water from a tanker truck, a line of fire on a trolley’s rails, ad the generation of a giant cloud from twenty fire extinguishers activated by a similar number of artists standing in a circle under the structure of the old Ministry of Education. This terreiro also memorializes Flavio de Carvalho (Agua Mansa, 1889 – São Paulo, 1973), an engineer graduated in England who returned to his native country and “confronted archaism and entrenched common sense in search of a modern Brazilian way of life, independent of European models” 17 with such strange actions as moving against the tide of a Corpus

Lygia Pape. Lingua apunhalada (Stabbed tongue), 1968. Photograph, acetate on blacklight. 124 x 163 x 14 cm. Courtesy: Projeto Lygia Pape, Rio de Janeiro. Copyrights © Projeto Lygia Pape

Christi procession as an experiment in mass psychology (the multitude of the faithful, enraged, came close to lynching him). The terreiro associated with performance art, The Other, The Same, gathers a little over twenty works of art around an extremely diffuse conceptual axis. Present in this circuit are works related to anthropology, linguistics, eroticism, drug use, the history of art, and photography as portraiture. Any attempt at establishing a conceptual line would be forced. What do photographs by Ángel Rojas (Bogotá, 1946), alluding to homosexual encounters in the old Faenza theater in Colombia’s capital, have to do with Wendelien van Oldenborgh’s (Rotterdam, 1962) photographic investigations about a jeans factory in Alphaville, one of São Paulo’s most exclusive areas? Or the reconstruction of Nidos, by Hélio Oiticica (Rio, 1937-1980), a kind of lodging built with perishable materials, with Tarantism (2007), by Joachim Koester (Copenhagen, 1962), a silent film in loop featuring a number of actors dancing frantically?18 Several interventions in this circuit possess an explicit sexual character: The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, by Nan Goldin (Washington, 1953), which is “organized as an album of the artist’s affective memory”19 of her involvement in night life, the punk movement, the consumption of hallucinogenics, and free sex; or the documentary made by Miguel Rio Branco (Gran Canaria, 1946; works in Rio) in the Pelourinho, Salvador de Bahía’s red-light district. The characters depicted by Zanele Muholi (Umlazi, South Africa, 1972), watching us with serenity from her large-format, black-and-white images, are rather calming, and so are several works by Amelia Toledo (São Paulo, 1926): Glu-Glu (1968), a series of glass domes partially filled with soap water, to shake and produce multicolor bubbles, or Color Fields (1969), an installation comprised or large jute fabrics suspended at some height, “capable of lifting a body from the ground.”20 The next group of works to be visited here are connected to the terreiro titled Remembrance and Oblivion. The


interventions in this circuit, by 27 artists, are connected to concepts of time, memory, physical and psychological transformations, our fruitless attempt to perpetuate a present that is already past. In front of the entrance gates to the Biennial, in the lower level of the ground floor, visitors are greeted by twelve monumental sculptures by Ai Weiwei (Beijing, 1957). These are twelve animal heads in bronze, raised over poles; the group reminds commemorative sculptures found at the Imperial Summer Palace and alludes to the twelve signs in the Chinese zodiac. A very long title21 precedes the pile of monitors that Douglas Gordon (Glasgow, 1966) installs to display his works in video or film, all at the same time, as if in a catalogue raisonné of his career. Nancy Spero (Cleveland, 1926) covers the baseboards of her exhibition space with a long frieze titled Cry from the Heart (2005), which paraphrases the cry of Egyptian women in a Ramesid entombment; mixing painting and printmaking, the artists alludes not only to her own grief22 but to the