A conversation with Guilherme Teixeira
10 Jun 2020, 8 am
Guilherme Teixeira is one of the young independent curators who mark the artistic scene in São Paulo. With passage through galleries and institutions such as Centro Cultural São Paulo, his characteristic curatorial style draws attention in that he investigates the close construction possibilities with artists and unravels the traditional exhibition space. It is not uncommon for the unfolding of his research to take the form of a party – as is the case of the collective Escuro [Dark], of which he is the creator together with Leticia Santos and Mayara Wui, and that explores Afro-diasporic electronic music – or a flash exhibition with critical texts printed on refrigerator magnets or bricks. We talked a little with Teixeira about his curatorial thoughts and the urgencies we face at the moment.
What made you become interested in curating? Can you tell us a little about your journey?
Guilherme Teixeira: Certainly what fueled my desire to work as a curator is the power it has in creating spaces dedicated to discussion and rupture. I grew up in the Freguesia do Ó neighborhood, North Zone of São Paulo, and my contact with museums and cultural institutions in general growing up had always been very scarce, as it still is for many young people who are on the outskirts of the city or in the most remote neighborhoods from the center. It was only from 2012, when I entered a Linguistics undergraduate program, that the possible relationships that art could propose were presented to me; aligning this to a certain theoretical voracity that I have, the critical place of thinking about art was the only possible one to inhabit, the only one where I could see my body existing in, the only possibility that crossed my body and impelled me to writing, something very crucial to me.
From then on, I decided to change the course of my studies and join the Visual Arts course at UNESP, in 2016. In the first semester I got an internship with the Art Curatorship at Centro Cultural São Paulo (CCSP), where I worked for two years, and since then my practice has turned to thinking about where curatorship lives and other possibilities that it proposes outside of the stereotypes we are accustomed to, as well as reflecting on the issues that it, as a practice, enunciates.
Something that draws attention in your practice as a curator is the rupture with what we institutionally, or traditionally, know as curatorship in Brazil. There is a search for curatorial and expographic solutions that go beyond traditional exhibition thinking. Can you elaborate a little on that? If you can, tell us a little about your different projects.
GT: An example that occurs to me when thinking of the potency of different curatorial constructions is the exhibition “Começo do século” [Beginning of the Century], a curatorial proposal by Germano Dushá in which I collaborated as a curatorial assistant. An unusual “happening”, from the format itself to the way we wrote the text with four hands. It occurred at dawn on a Tuesday in November 2019 at Galeria Jaqueline Martins in São Paulo, from midnight to three in the morning, and consisted of a chain of actions, performances and works that built a one act show on the possibilities of the moment in which we live.
In a later discussion with the curator of a large institution in São Paulo, he told me how he had seen several problems in our proposal, and that the way we talked about the body there was nothing new, that in fact it was repetitive. This left me thinking a lot about how institutions and a whole generation think about the place of bodies in an exhibition, especially when we talk about black, peripheral and transgendered bodies. What is the measure that traditional spaces have developed, and still apply, to define the validity of a body existing in its artistic action? What is this canon that dictates what the potency of this body is? Can a body only exist in a gallery space if it serves the historical purpose that institution has? Can’t it enunciate itself?
One of the things that has always bothered me about curation is this demand to be an exhaustive reproduction of an inaccessible academic exercise. When we talk about traditional institutions or spaces of exhibition, several pre-notions about the need for an academic bias are always taken as a starting point, which often is not perceived as a mechanism for suffocating and curbing the poetic possibilities that the curatorial act can provide.
I believe that curation should be an open space of proposition. It is more imperative than ever for black and peripheral youth to assume this position: much of the place of rethinking practices today arises from the need to take control of the discourses on what surrounds us and what shapes us, and understand how it can operate spaces of radical disruption.
Even in this respect, ephemerality draws a lot of attention in your exhibitions. Where does the impetus for holding one-day exhibitions, such as “Parabéns” [Congratulations] and “O grande susto” [The Great Scare], come from?
GT: The need for ephemerality arises from an adaptation exercise in relation to the precarious conditions of access to the construction, dissemination and articulation of exhibitions by young artists today. But I also understand it as a response to a greater saturation that permeates the ideas of art events – mainly in cities like São Paulo -, operating as a condensed moment of breath, concentrating the public and also making it possible to bring together works and artists that would not usually be side by side in longer exhibitions or in institutions, and opening space for certain infinite permutations of concept and affection by allowing conceptual relations to be established in the absence of an institutional agenda that orchestrates points of flexion between poetics and the discourse of artists, often with alternative intents …
Another thing that excites me when working in this format is the fact that it allows the artist to propose works – like many of the proposals in the “Parabéns” exhibition -, which would be unfeasible if the exhibition period was longer than one day. For example, the work “Metragem” by Pedro Ermel, where the artist created a grid on the floor of the exhibition space using a meter long bread (such as those sold in Brazilian bakeries) as a ruler. Creating the possibility of works of art that can take up space, create themselves in that space and then disappear in it too, without being categorized as an action, is for me a very important reflection… to think about the lifespan of works in relation to the lifespan of an exhibition, and how that operates.
Your projects follow an extremely integrated logic: we can see how the concept of the exhibition goes from the selection of artists to the design, which is implemented in the exhibition space and in alternative reproductions of the curatorial text. I am thinking, for example, of the curatorial text of “O grande susto” on a brick, where, in addition to evoking the material gesture of the impact of the brick, you also embrace the eventual crumbling of the text, which over time becomes unreadable. In other words, the text becomes physically part of the exhibition, not just conceptually, but almost as a work in itself. Can you talk a little about this integrated logic?
GT: I believe that the exhibition does not exist in a space, but with a space, and that the works consequently do not exist in a curatorship, but with a curatorship. The ways in which this relationship happens is multiple, but it passes through two essential points: first, the text, and second, how the curatorial proposal takes place in the exhibition space. In both points, the design becomes a fundamental piece for the realization of what is stated there.
I have been thinking about this relationship with my friend and work partner Will Cega for a while now, reflecting on these points of contact, and for us the physicality of the text is essential. The exhibition “O grande susto” discussed the specific place that exists between sculptural discourse and architecture, and the idea of using a brick as a support for the curatorial text came from the possibility of the discourse being able to underlie that space between construction and ruin. The materiality of the brick also becomes essential when we think about what the visitors take from an exhibition nowadays: we are more than used to the compression of critical speech and research, a very common movement that reduces these two very important instances to something that will be forgotten in the bottom of your bag after visiting a gallery. That is how the ‘becoming physical’ and the weight of the brick operate: in giving form to the discomfort that accompanies the visitor after going to an exhibition.
How do you see the fact of having an almost uninterrupted production, which is always circumventing institutional barriers? It seems to me that, when the art world imposes barriers to prevent the advance of new projects, you are able to rethink these barriers and inject even more strength to your work.
GT: This whole “freedom” thing is actually a beautiful double-edged sword: at the same time that it operates in the complicity between curator and artists, it reiterates a precarious regime that is very widespread when dealing with young proponents. Many of my exhibitions did not have any funding, or if they had it was because we pooled our resources. I know this is nothing new, but it is disappointing to see that even today the space for new propositions and their circulation is so restricted. “Making it work no matter what” is always welcome, but it cannot be the basis of the ways we build, propose and enable production today.
For this reason, understanding independent initiatives and fostering them must be prioritized by those who hold the economic and cultural capital, and the need to “circumvent institutional barriers” must be pointed out as a precarious movement that is only getting worse, and even romanticizes actions outside the institutional lines of “interest”. This prevents the metaphorical double-edged sword from being instrumentalized (similar to a Vietnamese knife), thus not being able to inflict the severe cuts that creation can make in the fabric of a system.
You recently founded, with designer Will Cega, a newspaper called “O Turvo“, focused on critical artistic thinking. Can you tell us a little about this project?
GT: “O Turvo” is a project that Will Cega and I have been working on for about a year, but it is only within the recent adversities that it became public. Our initial intention was to build a space that somehow tried to counter the erosion of political and poetic imagination today, to build a place where criticism could align itself with poetic issues and propose long-winded discussions without having to stick blindly to an academic speech.
It is a bimonthly newspaper, and presents themes inherent to the construction of current discourses. The design, headed by the studio AÇO.ORG (composed by Alexandre Ruda and Willian Cega) is also an essential part of the proposal. We wanted, from the beginning, that the physical format of the publication resonate with the theme it addresses, bringing the discussion regarding function of form in the ways we deal with objects today. For the first edition, “Confinamento e colapso” [Confinement and Collapse], we invited several artists, critics, writers and thinkers to speak on how issues related to the current COVID-19 pandemic were affecting them. The newspaper is in tabloid format and presents, in its layout, a movement of closing in on the essays, poems and images presented, seeking to echo the sentiment that guided the edition.
With an open call for contribution, the second edition, “Regimes de conexão” [Connection Regimes] focuses on discussing ways in which we connected yesterday and today. The edition brings in its physical version a comment on the evolutionary future of our thumbs, reproducing the “infinite scroll” like a fax sheet, building a vertical reading that is parallel to the version that exists on our website. This second edition is in the process of being finalized, and should be launched by the end of June.
We are also thinking of ways in which to expand the newspaper as a platform, and have therefore launched the À Residência [To the Residency] space, in which an artist or writer will develop a project on one of the publication’s pages that will span three consecutive editions of the newspaper. The first resident is artist and writer Ana Matheus Abbade.
For the third edition we will address the theme “Quando corpos erodem” [When Bodies Erode], bringing discussions about policies that are forced onto our bodies and our desires, in addition to reflections on the necropolitical regime in which we find ourselves increasingly drowned.
Lastly, can you talk a little about where you get your inspiration and your references, and how you feel they impact your practice?
GT: I believe that there is an urgent need for spaces that propose a sensitive possibility on how we mediate existence. Now, more than ever, it is necessary to think about actions that disagree with what has been causing this world to convulse for decades, to think critically about the resignification of the images that are presented to us and the consequent spasms that all this produces.
I see several instances of this in contemporary art, and I would like to highlight them as inspirations that prove how we are not alone in conjecturing the possibilities of tomorrow. Initiatives such as the curatorship of Paulete Lindacelva “Outros fins que não a morte” [Other Purposes than Death] (2020), the publications and blog of GLAC publishing house, MJOURNAL by Igi Ayedun, the national articulation of the women of the Trovoa collective, the dialogues presented by other curators such as Carollina Lauriano, Diane Lima, Hélio Menezes and Leandro Muniz, direct actions on the street like those of No Martins this past Sunday, the search for artists like Juliana dos Santos, Castiel Vitorino Brasileiro, Raylander Martís, Aggrippina Manhattan, the socio-cultural actions of Casa Chama and the diffusion of transvestigation art through the festival Marsha! and MEXA, among many other actions. The list is long and I think it would extend this conversation to double its size if I were to name everyone, but I bring these few examples to talk about how, even in the midst of the clashes and violence that plague our bodies daily, we are able to structure points of divergence that point to other possible yesterdays, todays and tomorrows.