Day Fifteen – São Paulo

Today we had a presentation and an artist talk at the gallery.

I started by explaining the actual show in the gallery and then I moved to some older artworks. I wanted to create a perspective and a connection between what we see in the gallery now and what Thierry has been working on previously.  For example in order to show that the usage of newspapers and visual artistic scanning of the media already started for more than 15 years ago, I showed the series called CASQUES BLEUX. It is a series produced in an on-going manner in the period from 1991 to 2001. The artworks are based on a daily artistic registration of the newspaper’s way of treating conflicts through photography.  Each time the artist sees a picture of a person in uniform in the newspaper, he would extract it by removing the related text and painting a blue helmet. UN blue helmet is an artistic metaphoric for innocence and good intention. The series COLONEL PEINTRE DE LA JUSTICE / LES CASQUES BLEUX questions the propaganda and the lack of alertness and critical awareness that the color blue is connected to the UN creates among the media consumers. Each artwork is done the same day the newspaper is published. The date written on the artwork and the name of the newspaper are thus part of its aesthetic expression as well as the concept. The series is a result of 10 years long registration and has a value of an art collection, which because of it size, can bring to light interesting analytic aspects about the aesthetic of the media as well as dissimilarity in the interpretation of conflicts from different geographical, cultural and political contexts. For example, there would be a tendency of exposing the wounded people and blood in connection to some conflicts but not with others.

I also tried to explain how tents, yoga mats and banners made on white cotton fabrics are not just ready made like material but well-anchored elements in Thierry’s artistic praxis. Artworks made on yoga mats and banners are from the same family as the artworks exhibited in Maldives Pavilion at 55th Venice Biennale.

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The part about previous artworks ended with the manifesto for moving exhibition that Thierry published in 1989. It was important to introduce this manifesto because it includes the bones of the art formats Thierry still uses today.

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Day Fourteen – São Paulo

The strategy for inviting other artists to take part in the exhibition has been defined. It is inspired by an art format called EMERGENCY ROOM developed by Thierry Geoffroy.

We are doing the last studio visits and meeting to explain the concept of the exhibition as well as the requirements for taking part. The combination of artists invited to take part is very interesting. They represent different generations, gender and race. They are also on different levels in their carriers. Even though the gallery chose the artists, we don’t have a feeling of curating a group show, but rather a moment for artists to share a common exhibition space; to share a platform and possibility to put on display what is important to express about at the moment. The artworks will be dealing with emergency issues of today, and they will be exhibited the same day as they are created. In the moment of mounting the show, the artists have to debate the space collectively and decide the placement of the artworks.

Opening the exhibition space in this way changes the regular way of doing an exhibition. The role of a curator is changed, and the control of the show is not possible because we don’t know what the invited artists would bring. There is a great deal of unpredictability in an exhibition format that, at first, might look very stiff because of rules and requirements for the “freshness” of the artworks.

I’m look forward to this intervention with artists such as Ícaro Lira, Jac Leirner, Daniel Lie, Bruno Galan, Peter Brito. Alessandra Duarte, Bel Falleiros, Flavia Mielnik, Laura Gorski, Renata Cruz, Andre Gomes, (and we are still waiting for some confirmations)

A South African artist, Haroon Gunn-Salie, already took part in the exhibition with a video from Rio Doce that he edited the same day he returned to São Paulo from his primary research trip to the area effected by toxic mud.

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Day Thirteen – São Paulo

Even though the artworks are made as instant comments and immediate reflections, we treat them as gallery objects as soon as they come to the second floor. On the second floor, the public can see a selection of works and have an impression of what Thierry has been registering and expressing about the last 11 days.

Today I was hanging new works and re-organizing the space with Daniel. We framed some of the works, we looked at the space, and we measured. After I walked around acting to be the audience to imagine how the constellation will look in their eyes.

Looking is almost like scanning without tools. It is like instinctively navigating in the space. The ideas we have about the size and distance might be wrong but in our eyes and in that moment they seem right.

Measuring, on the other hand, requires some tools. When we measure, we have a feeling we switch off the eyes. We trust blindly the numbers and calculate with reasoning what is in front of us.

So looking and measuring would be two different ways for observing and judging the space. The results from these two types of perception might be different. But somehow I think that a perfect hanging of an exhibition should be a combination or a balance between the two.

Perfection should, in that case, include an element of natural flow on one hand and precision based on measuring on the other. This feeling of perfection makes the viewer feel safe because there is predefined “frame” for the artworks. The exhibition is hanging just as it should.
In the case of Thierry’s exhibition, the artworks appear less raw and less demanding when they are organized in a curated show or put in frames. It is more comfortable or pleasant to look at them.
I’m not sure if Thierry is interested in creating this comfort zone around his artworks based on communicating opinions and making people release the many dysfunctions in surrounding world. But at the same I’m convinced that the morecomfortable way of seeing the exhibition allows the view to focus on other types of qualities of the artwork like details that are difficult to register in a too noisy exhibition setting.

In the gallery, we still keep the first floor for Thierry’s daily changing exhibition where he hangs the artworks following his artistic logic, and we organize the second floor for putting the artworks on gallery-like display. So we could say that the exhibition on the first floor is closer to the artistic process and way of thinking and the second floor is more pleasing the audience.

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Day Twelve – São Paulo

To change the exhibition every day is a full-time job.

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There is a certain routine, and there is a defined working place. The gallery has transformed into a small factory with a group of people, each with their own character.

Juliana and Flaviana are gallerists and mostly sitting in the office or receiving the guests of the gallery in the exhibition area on the second floor. Just like Thierry and I, Juliana and Flaviana are working as a duo and with a great deal of complicity. When I come to the gallery, I go upstairs to working in an office-like setting with the gallerists while Thierry stays mostly on the first floor installing the artworks of the day.

Then there is Daniel, who is responsible for practical things in the house but does so many other things too. We see him showing people around in the gallery, arranging meetings with magazines who want to interview Thierry, even helping Thierry with some translations of text for the artworks.

Daniel has an assistant when he has to paint the walls or mount artworks. It is a small but strong woman called Rosa. When she is not having handy-women tasks with Daniel, she also works as a cleaning lady.

In front of the gallery, there is a guard. Jorge. He is sitting most of the time with his phone or walking in front of the main door. Ones he had to drive Thierry to a place in a car, so that day he left his job as a guard to be a driver. Thierry said he drove extremely fast.

That is our working space where we spend 6, 7 or 8 hours a day.

With our every-day-changing concept, everybody in the gallery is working in a different way than they are used to. Daniel has to do new mountings every day. Flaviana and I have to improvise and find a creative solution for space. Rosa has to clean more often. Juliana is contacting the press and the collectors daily with new updates from the exhibition. The tempo is different. This exhibition is thus not only challenging the speed of artistic production but also the way a gallery functions.

I find it interesting to observe this setting for the exhibition because it has an influence on the way the artworks are produced. Just like a frame on a picture, the organization, the team and the place of the production is shaping the lens through which the exhibition is seen.

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Day Eleven – São Paulo

We are doing talks with the artists in Sao Paulo. Hearing about their art productions and what they think about the world today.

We tried to explain not only how Thierry is working in this actual exhibition but also how other artists can take part in what we call an ultracontemporary or emergency art exhibition.

For this kind of exhibition, it is important that the artists are burning.

But what does that mean?

It means that they have to be feeling a need to express about dysfunctions in the society.

Often this need is not only related to their artistic but also personal profile. Artists can as citizens be concerned about unhealthy situations or developments in the society. They can feel a responsibility and a necessity to do something about it through their art. “Doing something” as an artist can mean putting light on or pointing a finger at subjects that might be strategically hidden or difficult to see for others. Like an eyeopener. It can be by putting different observations next to each other to create new points of view. Like a montage. It can be by isolating a fragment and making it clearer, so it almost seems like a slogan that can inspire others to take action. Like growing community. It can be different ways of creating awareness. In short it is about bringing artists out of the art bubble and give them the opportunity to connect more directly with the reality of today.

The artists are asked to produce artworks in 24 hours and present it the same day. The artworks have to deal with issues related to the same day. So the artists would register an important topic and choose what their works should be about, and then they would find the most suitable aesthetic solutions for expressing about it and possible to realize within the given timeframe.

The artworks produced can be talked about on different levels. We can analyze them based on their themes and concept to clarify the burning messages they carry, but we can also look at them from a formative point of view exploring how an artist finds visual solutions under a time pressure and what is the aesthetic of such artistic shortcuts. The first discussion about the message of an artwork has to be taken immediately after the artwork is produced and exhibited. If the artist is asked to grab a topic while it is still hot, it is important that the public also hears about it the same day. The second discussion about the aesthetics can wait and can even be discussed months and years after. It is an observation more connected to the art history. These two speeds and different levels of impact are equally important. The artist has to make an artwork today about today, but the same artwork also has to have a potential to become part of the art history tomorrow.

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Day Ten – São Paulo

A collector came to the gallery today and I showed him around the exhibition. The tour was a fine balancing between listening to his immediate reactions and telling him what I knew about the artworks and about the artist’s way of working. To find the most relevant information to share with him, I tried to look, listen and guess what kind of collector he was. It was a combination of being a saleswoman wanting to sell artwork and a psychologist attempting to understand the mindset of the potential buyer. The meeting was wrapped in a social setting and for a moment, it looked like a beginning of a new friendship relationship with invitations to visit each other’s homes, etc.

The tour was a fine balancing between listening to his immediate reactions and telling him what I knew about the artworks and about the artist’s way of working. To find the most relevant information to share with him, I tried to look, listen and guess what kind of collector he was. It was a combination of being a saleswoman wanting to sell artwork and a psychologist attempting to understand the mindset of the potential buyer. The meeting was wrapped in a social setting and for a moment, it looked like a beginning of a new friendship relationship with invitations to visit each other’s homes, etc.

It was an interesting experience because the selling of artworks is all about defining an artistic value of an object and communicating the importance of the artworks. In the same time, there has to be a moment of attraction from the buyer’s side. It is a moment where a buyer, not only recognizes parts of the message the artist wanted to communicate but also wishes to own it.
The most challenging thing for me was to find a balance between how much information about the artworks I should give the collector and how much time I should give the collector to observe the artwork on his own. It is probably the balance between visual and conceptual seduction I was looking for, which also brings us to the classic form – content relationship.

I came to think about how much an artwork “can talk for itself” or does it always need an interpretation like a curatorial explanation, a title or a text.
In many of Thierry´s artworks, there is a text included in the artwork. The same text would often also be the title of the artwork. Thierry uses texts in different ways: It can either be a game with words (in different languages), a statement like sentences representing artists own voice or a question showing the artist’s doubts. Sometimes the texts are handwritten and other times it is cut out from a newspaper or printed out from the Internet.

In the case of Thierry’s artworks, a viewer has to look and read the artwork. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that the viewers read first and sometimes even forget to look. I guess for Thierry the text in his artworks has to do with his wish to be precise. In his artworks, there is a message, statement or information that needs to be communicated.
But still the aesthetic aspect of the works should not be overlooked. The choice of colors, materials, size and even the design of the lines used for writing and drawing.
One of the new artworks today was for example without words. It had a more open and abstract expression, but still with figurative elements. I found it interesting.

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Day Nine – São Paulo

Today the gallery is closed.
Like last Sunday (day two) we went for a walk; This Sunday instead of a promenade down Paulista Avenue and Parque Trianon, we went for a promenade in Parque da Independência.
It was a busy. Not so many tourists as far as I could see.

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The park was divided into three parts: One part was dominated by a big monument to Brazilian independence. Behind the monument, there was a French-style garden. The last part of the park is a more forest-like green aria with a lot of trees.

In the middle of the park, there is a big but closed Paulista Museum.
There are two lines or diagonals in the park. One is the wide main road going from the monument uphill to the French style garden (very used for people on roller-skates, skateboards and bicycles), and the other diagonal is the river called Ipiranga, which in Tupí language means “i” (y)= water and “piranga” =red. Suddenly I remembered that someone told me that the Tupí people from the costs of Brazil were so many when Portuguese conquistadores came in 1500. They were actually as many as the whole population of Portugal at that time. Today the name of the river is probably the only Tupí reference in this park and monument space where the river is primarily seen as an important historic spot where Dom Pedro I in 1822 declared Brazil independent from the pluricontinental monarchy United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves.

The more forest-like part of the garden was different, dark and in interesting contrast to the French style open garden. There were some roads leading people in down different paths. The along the paths there were small stations with machines for recreation. People stopped to do exercises on simple metal machines and bars. When I looked closer, I could see that the sponsor for this initiative is Santander Bank. Last Sunday we went to Paulista Avenue, and the there the coordination of the recreation activates was also sponsored by a bank; another bank called Bradesco. It started to look like a pattern. Instead of using the public taxation money from the municipality, private sponsors are financing the healthy living and weekend recreation of the citizens. Private sponsors are always calculating well their profit, and we can be sure that the sponsorship is a good investment for them. Promotion and visibility bring profit. We can also ask ourselves what the City of Sao Paulo is using the public money for instead, if not on public space and activities for the citizens. In Sao Paulo, it looks like the banks are sponsoring the culture and my Sunday promenades were infiltrated by a promotion for banks.

After the park tour and after the sun was gone, we went to visit a shopping mall Shopping Pátio Paulista. A place with many shops, corridors, and escalators connecting the different floors. Many people were shopping, but also hanging out and walking around just like in the park earlier same day. Strangely enough, the walk in the mall and the walk in the park seemed similar.

I came to think about Creators of the shopping worlds a documentary by Harun Farocki about complex process behind the creation of shopping malls including the economy, design, art, sociology and other aspects of a perfectly planned manipulation. In his film Farocki follows a group of experts from different fields who together are trying to find out what draws customer attention and how a spontaneous purchase can be encouraged.
I started comparing the park and other public recreation places street that we have seen in Sao Paulo with this mall. My thought went to questioning the ethics and the transparency.
Maybe the companies’ direct commercial agenda of selling in the malls could even be more acceptable than the underlying and often hidden commercial agenda in the marketing of sponsors we find in public spaces such as parks and the streets.
Not knowing that we are being influenced indirectly might even be worse than the direct consumerism manipulation calling for us to buy.

When a city lets its citizens think that a park is a place with no commercial or political manipulation, they might be misleading people more than a shopping mall, where visitors, at least, know that they are part of a consumerism machine focusing on money.

My comparison might be a bit banal, but still I spent some time reflecting on what these metropolitan-style promenades were about.
In the evening, I looked up a word promenade in the dictionary and found out that the Latin word prōmināre that it derives from means “to drive (beasts) forward” or “to drive (cattle) along”.
Maybe to have a promenade in a city is to be led in a heard, no matter where we walk. The surroundings are so intoxicated with commercial interests, and it might be difficult to find a free space. An oasis without influences and a place to disconnect might be an illusion in an urban environment.

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