Common Place deals with the language, structure, operation and codes of an art fair, establishing a critical relation with its ambience, architecture, density and rhythm. If, as one artist who kindly declined the invitation to participate in the project said, “The people come here with a dollar sign in each eye,” maybe it is ingenuous to believe that one more exhibition in this accelerated scene can offer alternatives to a voracity that springs from the nature of the market itself and its current instances.
At the beginning of this path, there was only an idea, not a defined form, language or concept. If you will excuse the cliché, the goal was to carry out a work “in process,” keeping the channel of exchange and dialogues open both between the curator and the artists, and between the general direction of the Lab (Adriano Pedrosa) and the architect (Pedro Vieira). We have had the rare opportunity in our area to debate about our proposals, receiving questionings that not only contributed to each exhibition, but which were essential as a seed for a “curatorial education”.
Here one experiences the encounter of an autonomous cultural project with a commercial art fair, without ignoring what each choice involves in symbolic and material terms. Some artists were asked to show previously produced works; others, to conceive a site-specific project. A common concern for them all was to circumvent the ghost of commodification, inherent to the context of a fair that is part of an increasingly corporate system. The responses given bring us notions of infiltration, parasitism, repetition and restaging as critical and ironic devices.
In the encounter of these situations of instability and risk, I believe that something unexpected can arise, rather than the reiteration of already tried settings. The artists have the opportunity to experiment, and the curatorship can investigate its questions about the project, especially the most central one: is it possible, in such a controlled and tamed territory, to create some sort of overflowing, of critical outflow – real or symbolic, objectionable or projective – in spite of these rigid limits? All of us – curators, artists and the public alike – are faced with a dilemma, at the point of making choices which, in the future, will be decisive for the directions taken by art in regard to its degree of autonomy and freedom. An element of disruption, ambiguity and doubt – even if it is a discrete one – can be introduced in the field, despite the limitations at this moment, at this place.
Thanks to: Amanda Dafoe (architecture), Fernanda Tanaka (lighting) and Marcelo Berg (design).
Fernando Oliva (São Paulo, SP. 1971), curator, critic, and professor at FAAP. PhD candidate in Art History and Criticism. Lives in São Paulo.
Mariana Lorenzi Azevedo
The Body is the Medium
In 1956, Flávio de Carvalho took a walk along the streets of São Paulo wearing his Traje Tropical [Tropical Outfit], consisting of a skirt and a shirt with puffy sleeves, in an action entitled Experiência no 3 [Experiment #3]. In that experiment, considered one of the first instances of performance art in Brazil, Carvalho criticized the taking of European clothing styles as a model in tropical countries and subverted the artistic tradition by using his own body as the support of the artwork.In the early 20th century, dadaists and futurists presented their manifestoes and recited poems in European cafés and cabarets, in happenings considered as the origin of performative actions in the history of art. But it was only during the 1960s and ’70s, together with the rise of counterculture conceptual art, that performance art arose as an artistic movement, in connection with the art happenings and body art. Just as Flávio de Carvalho and the dadaists had done, figures such as Allan Kaprow, Joseph Beuys, Marina Abramovic, Paulo Bruscky, Antonio Manuel, María Teresa Hincapié and the members of the Fluxus group used performance as an artistic expression to criticize the political and behavioral situation of the era in which they lived, and to question the spectator’s relation with the art object as well as the increasing commoditization of the field.By way of ephemeral actions, which generally required that the artist and the public be together at the same place and time, the limits of the physical and the artistic were tested. In this context, the body can be understood as a fluid system of meaning able to transform art in a challenging and liberating manner: if previously the body had only been a theme to be represented through painting, drawing or sculpture, it was now an artistic medium in its own right, such that the artist became the subject and object of his/her creation.Today performance art is widely debated and studied by specialists in the field and occupies an increasingly essential place in the institutions, in the history of art and even in the art market. If, on the one hand, it is getting more and more difficult for the performance to resist its own commoditization, on the other, it continues to demand that market enlarge its territory and mode of action, rethinking the mechanisms by which it operates. This is therefore the meaning of an exhibition that deals with performance art in the restricted space of an art fair.
Mariana Lorenzi Azevedo (São Paulo, SP. 1983), independent curator. Graduated in Communication, holds an M.A. in Arts Politics. Lives in São Paulo.
The Sky I Live In
Strange seizures beset us when we see the interior of our body. The opposite is also true. The Skin I Live In presents artists who explore the dimension of the body, inside and outside, not only as a physical space, but also as a changing mental, political and affective space. The inside is explored through X-rays, reproductions of organs or manifestations of a breath; the outside, through its reflections in photography, photocopies and mirrors.
The coexistence of the inside and outside embodies a contradiction, something unknown, yet familiar, locating the body as a site of opposites. This bifurcation is revealed by the complex and diverse meanings encapsulated in the works. Several have surreal undertones; they communicate the body eroticized through latent expressions of desire, in an exchange of fluids or magnets that pull towards one and other. The body is also understood as a site for alchemy, transformation or thwarted intimacy.
Biographical inflections are present in some works, positing the body as a conduit amongst generations, a succession of semblances, ties and ages. Others are expressions about the body in exile, foreign, abstracted. Several works expose the body as a site of protest, entrapped, pierced, transgressed, restrained; or present it as language, questioned, interrupted, silenced. At times, the works are extensions of the artist’s body, turning it simultaneously into subject and object. Some, meant to be touched, bare traces of the artist’s hands, now physically gone but tacitly present, speaking of absence and the fragility of being.
The use of mirrors as a conduit for self-reflection plays a significant role throughout the exhibition: it brings about the viewers’ likeness, involving them personally and physically, turning the body in question into that of the viewer. Recalling Jacques Lacan’s concept of the mirror stage (1936), when a child becomes conscious of his or her self-image, a stage whose function is that of establishing a relationship between the child and its reality, the presence of mirrors in certain works endow the show with existential presentness, working as reminders of being, here and now.
Our body is the place where we feel and the means by which we act. In their depictions of the body, these artists’ mind and sentiments are revealed. As viewers, our bodies themselves are played and positioned against the objects we see. The artworks, like mirrors, facilitate ways of seeing ourselves anew.
Monica Espinel (Bogotá, Colombia, 1979), independent curator. Holds a B.S. in Psychology and an M.A. in Art History. Lives and works in São Paulo.
The Statement in Question
The exhibition features works by artists from different historical, geographic and cultural contexts, who use the word as a key element. The curatorial proposal aimed to question the continuity and the coherence in the use of language – symbols as well as meanings – in the historical panorama of conceptual art practices, from 1970 onwards, as well as their more recent unfoldings in the current post-conceptual production.
Two investigative questions were initially posed: 1) What are the different roles played by words and linguistic symbols as constitutive elements of the artistic object?; 2) Is it possible to investigate the use of these same elements in distinct historical and geopolitical situations: the European and American world, on the one hand, and its peripheries, on the other?
At first, the conceptual art produced in North America and Europe treated the word in a more restricted and analytical way. There the word was configured as a pivotal factor in an interplay between reality, idea and representation. In such context, the word’s initial meaning is diluted and it begins to operate as a medium for the development of the artwork concept. That is, the word served to transmit a concept while also being the concept itself.
At the fringe of this setting – represented here by Latin America –, language was often used in different ways and roles by the political situation of the 1960s and ’70s, as well as by the philosophical and cultural references arising from a matrix of thought more closely associated with Continental Europe than an Anglo-Saxon view of knowledge.
In this line of thinking, we can use an interpretive key inspired by thinkers like Roland Barthes, who present us a more expanded and diffuse dimension of the word. The following fragment of Barthe’s book The Rustle of Language expresses the idea precisely: “We know now that a text consists not of a line of words, releasing a single ‘theological’ meaning (…), but of a multi-dimensional space in which are married and contested several writings, none of which is original; the text is a tissue of citations, resulting from the thousand sources of culture”.
The marginal context enabled an enlargement and a cross-influence of the uses of language, allowing the interplays of words to escape from their cycle of self-reference and establish other referential links, thus opening themselves to everyday experience and life itself.1
1 Something that neoconcretism had already brought about, correlatively to European constructivism.
Tomás Toledo (São Paulo, SP, 1986), independent curator and project coordinator at Escola São Paulo. Holds a degree in Philosophy. Lives in São Paulo.