Day Twenty-one – São Paulo

Making plans is an activity that most of the people do, more or less and differnet ways depending on their culture, work and personality. Today we talked a lot about planning and commitment.

I’m not so good at making plans. I have a tendency to see plans as limitations for spontaneous movement and development. Plans create to-do-lists that turn our actions into tasks. But maybe I’m wrong and maybe my idea of absolute freedom is naïve.

Maybe making a plan in order to be able to decide not to follow them, can also give a feeling of freedom and power.

The notion of time is again relevant. Projecting into the future is connected to the present mood as well as to reflection on the past. The experiences from the past can become bricks in the construction of the future plans, but the mortar to bind the bricks is connected to the present disposition. So being in the now and having the right energy is vital for planning the future. This energy might be connected or stimulated by “looking forward to something”. To anticipate with eagerness something in the future can be the energy generator that brings us forward.

Maybe the plans should not be used to make the future more predictable but rather to make the future closer to the present.

For a year ago we came to Sao Paulo for the first time. Through our friend Décio we meet with nice people from Galleri Emma Thomas. We wanted to come back and do a project together, so we made plans. Now one year later we are again in Sao Paulo realizing the projected idea. Maybe there is some magic in the logic of planning.

Today we had a final dinner with the team before the Carnaval.

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Day Twenty – São Paulo

Today was a day of less conceptual thinking and more visual analysis. The photographer sent us pictures of Thierry’s artworks in the exhibition, and we were looking at them close up. Zooming in, zooming out, comparing colors and checking the shadow-light balance.

I found it very inspiring to look at the form of each artwork and to focus on its visual qualities. Most of the time Thierry’s artworks carry an important message or information. That would often be the first thing we as viewers register. Sometimes even the only think.

But today we had a chance dwell over the small details in the artworks that normally get overlooked and neglected.

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The zooming in on the artwork made on a traffic sign reveals different details showing the texture, different layers, traces with information about the object as well as graphic details such as Strikethrough in the text.

 

The artwork done on the stone and with white cotton fabric also shows some beautiful textures.

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The contrast between soft fabric and the hard stone is really coming to light. And we can also see how absorbed red marker has been absorbed in the white fabric. It makes me thing about blood and bandage, which responds well to the connotation of the stone being a pavé historically used in revolutions.

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The wooden board with a remarkable red color becomes almost an abstract painting when we isolate the details.

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The combination of materials and colors can also bee seen in the carton artworks with different kinds of paper.

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The cleanness in the presentation of the artwork changes the focus of the viewer. Just like frames.

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Day Nineteen – São Paulo

Since we came to Sao Paulo for more than two weeks ago, Thierry, has been registering and observing the situation around the world from Sao Paulo and expressing about it daily. Today we have invited artists from Sao Paulo to exhibit together with Thierry. The artists were invited to produce and exhibit artworks the same day and to reflect about the now-emergencies.

Following artists participated: Jac Leirner, Carla Chaim, Artur Lescher, Daniel Lie, Bel Falleiros, Flavia Mielnik, Amaury Santos, Laura Gorski, Ícaro Lira, Renata Cruz, Bruno Galan, Alessandra Duarte, Peter de Brito, André Gomes, Lucas Simões, Raquel Kogan and Lea van Steen.

The artists represent different generations and different artistic styles. There is a good “biodiversity” in the group.

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We were very curious to see what the artists would bring and how they would balance between what they normally do and the new challenge of producing fast looking at emergencies.

I could see two tendencies and two main groups of artists.

One group was pointing a finger on specific issues such as mosquito Zika virus and the fumigation, the police violence and killing, new Danish law allowing seizing assets from refugees, freedom of speech and media manipulation, homophobia, etc. These artworks were connected to the spirit of emergency art because there were communicating about actual problems that need to be expressed about today.

The other group was more reflecting on the process of doing artwork in a day or on the way we receive daily information. Some used a diary-format registering the movements and activates of the day and others collected things from the street the same day. There were also some reflections on how to grab the moment in a passing time and shorten the process from inspiration to expression. Some artists also reflected about the coexistence of different kind of “times”: the time connected to the daily news, the timeframe of one day seen from the space, the time as the natural time process of life and death, etc. This group was less connected to the emergency art and more to the ultracontemporary art in general. (EMERGENCY ART is one of the categories in the ULTRACONTEMPORARY ART)

Even though the contributions were very different, the groups used some similar technics like newspaper cutouts, readymade-like objects and text with statements. It is interesting to observe the formative solutions in this exhibition because they tell us something about the process and speed of production. How did artists find their shortcuts in the process and what is the aesthetic of the shortcut.

The community is another important aspect of this exhibition. After the installation, each artist involved had a chance to explain his or her artwork to the other artists as well as the audience and the press. The strengthening of the community happens when there is a shared space and time. Today Galeri Emma Thomas opened its doors for such a moment to happen. Artists from the gallery network across the age, style and career levels shared the space and time of production today. It was a dynamic and beautiful gathering that we wish to see as a beginning of a bigger movement in art.

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Day Eighteen – Cambury

The street where we live in Cambury is very special. It is the only street in the neighborhood called Areião (the name means big sand).

IMG_8359The combination of the services provided on the street was very interesting. It was a symbolic illustration of the society in the village. There were small shops with different products, a shop selling sanitary and cleaning products, a bakery, a gym, a couple of simple outdoor bars with a billiard table or a TV-screen a tattoo shop and three churches. Three churches. It is remarkably many for one street.

All three churches were small and looked like private famlily hoses with a banner that indicates that it is a church. During the day, all the churches were well visited by well-dressed villagers. They will be singing together all watching a screen with karaoke-like subtitles. In each curche there waould be a leading singer whose voice was put on loudspeakers. Because the churches are so close to each other, the singing voices were competing.

Religion seemed to be a shared social activity in Areião. Suddenly I found myself thinking about the role of religion in the society. Is it only a social and educative tool or is it connected to spirituality?

Religion is based on incorporate public rituals and organized doctrines controlled by an institution while spirituality is more individual and connected to freedom. Because of its comity based activates, the religion is also able to define them and us and create borders. Looking at the people from Areião, I was asking my self, why do they need borders and who is the other. I asked our host what kind of work the villagers were engaged with. He told me that they used to be fishermen but that most of them now work in hotels closer to the beach. The invasion of touristic investments in the local area might be exactly the reason for local people to stick together in local communities and mark the territory. Regular gatherings around religious events are confirming the strength of the community. There is only one kilometer distance between Areião street where local people live and the tourist street Estrada do Camburi where they work, but the difference is big. There is a clear border. And I think this border is connected with fear. Fear of being removed or taken over by the other. The rich people with speculative minds will easily be able to buy more and more of the area in Cambury from the local people. It is necessary for the local people to feel strong together and religion is probably a way to maintain the community strong. It might be a way of protection.

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Day Seventeen – Cambury

Today we spent the whole day on the beach walking from the morning until the sun went down.  We were without a watch only following the time by looking at the sun. It made me think a lot about time and timepass.

For the last two weeks in Sao Paulo, we were working with every day changing exhibitions focusing on art that is produced and exhibited the same day – in the now. In that process, we are constantly dealing with the notion of time and questioning the contemporaneity in art. We call this type of art ultracontemporary; ultra is referring to the artworks’ closeness to the now and the artists’ ability to be produced and exhibited in time. The term ultracontemporary also carries a critique of the contemporary. Contemporary art (in its name con- ‘together with’ + tempus, tempor- ‘time’) claims to be in time, and close to the time we are living in, but often it is not the case. In the exhibition situation, we give artists a timeframe and deadlines for showing up, meeting, delivering, etc. We do this in order to make it possible for them to both catch and express about important issues regarding the everyday changing the world we live in. A clock is an important tool in this process.

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To emphasize the daily deadline for artists is a way of making a cut in time or a rhythm. A rhythm that fits to the beat of the things happening in our society. But when walking on the beach for a whole day, only following the sun, the feeling of timepass is different, even though there still is a clear beginning and the end of the day.

Different times

Being on the beach is without a doubt a different time experience than the mechanic time of a clock. Are there different kinds of time? Different speeds?

In a book I was reading last year “TIME –Documents of Contemporary Art” Giorgio Agamben wrote in his text “What is Contemporary” about different times: “Those who have tried to think about contemporariness have been able to do so only by splitting it into several times, by introducing into time an essential dishomogeneity”

 

Untimely

Being on the beach feels like being in the untimely place, but still with a strong feeling of being in the moment and being present. It is almost meditative. I remember that some of Roland Barthes’ as well as Friedrich Nietzsche’s thinking were connection contemporary and untimely/unhistoric.

 

Time of the now (ho nyn kairos)

What does it rally mean to be in the now and catch the moment? Maybe by following the now or coinciding too well within it, the artist loses the ability to see, to make the interesting syntheses about the now. Maybe the true contemporaneity needs an element of disconnection. Maybe the anachronism (from the Greek ἀνά ana, “against” and χρόνος khronos, “time”) is what can make it possible for artists to grasp the time and express in the now. Maybe an artist that wants to be timely or con-temporary has to be slightly out of jointness with the present. To adhere to the now and at the same time to keep a distance might be the key method for grasping it.

 

Maybe the real moment of magic transformation in the now can only happen if we let the different times/nownesses coexist. Like messianic time, time of the now (ho nyn kairos) including different times in one; Not being completely part of the past nor the future, just a contraction of time in the now – as the only real time. Nowness. Being able to embrace the timepass on the beach and the timepass in the emergency art exhibition changing every day can lead to a curtain kind of transformation of energy as well as new points of view and visions.

 

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Day Sixteen – Cambury

Today we are in Cambury. We decided to leave Sao Paulo for some days during the weekend and the holiday. It is important to make breaks and find time and place for rest in an otherwise very intense process rich with critical observation and expression.

Cambury is a small village close to Boiçucanga. It has one of the many beaches in the municipality of São Sebastião. The nature is beautiful here. There are the sea and the mountains covered with thick green vegetation.

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We stay in a simple house with several other people. The owner of the house borrowed us two old bikes, and we went to the beach.

Arriving at the beach was amazing. The horizon opened up, and the fresh blue color of the sea hit us together with the salty smell and the immersive sound of the waves. The sun was heating up the beach after a rainy night. It felt like the energy spot concentrating beauty, vitality and force.

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And then we started walking down the beach. We discovered that the beach was divided into two parts by a river. It is actually two beaches; Camburi and Camburizinho. To get from one beach to the other, we had to cross the river walking. The river level reached me around the chest. While crossing the river, I came to think about the people who have been crossing the same river before me. I tried to picture this river before the colonization. I imagined that the river must have been a natural border between two villages or groups of people. I also imagined that the river was used for fishing.

We crossed the river couple of times today and after researching a bit about the area, I discovered that both my intuition about the separation between the tribe as well the fishing were right.

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Before the Portuguese arrived to the region was inhabited by two tribes: the Tupinambás to the north and the Tupiniquins to the south. The tribes were separated by Serra de Boiçucanga, and they lived in peace even though they disliked each other. When the French colonialists came confronting with the Portuguese, who were already in the region, the separation and conflicts between the two tribes grew. Tupiniquins united with the Portuguese and the Tupinambás, with the French. The battle between the greedy colonialists became the battle between the descendants of this area.

When looked for the significance of the name of the river (Rio Cambury) I discovered that my intuition about the fishing was relevant. The name actually means the river of Robalo (sea bass), a fish that goes up the river from salt water to the sweet.  

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Going back from the beach I saw the official seal of Município de São Sebastião. The illustrations on the seal only represent the conquistador-power and strength. I could not see one symbolic element representing the native people who lived in the area before the Portuguese came. Their existence is erased.

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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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