19.11.2022 – 26.02.2023
From Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 6pm
Free entrance on Wednesdays
Mirante da Boa Viagem, s/nº
Un lento venir viniendo will exhibit, for the first time in Brazil, a selection of the almost 550 works of Argentine contemporary art that the Colección Oxenford has been gathering as part of an ambitious acquisition program that, for ten years, benefited from the advisory of the curator Inés Katzenstein.
As with serialized novels, each of the three expositions that compose Un lento venir viniendo was conceived as a chapter within a plot underway. The project, whose title corresponds to a verse by the Argentine writer Macedonio Fernández, brings together a selection of pieces created by more than 80 artists. Each exhibition articulates ‘a direct emotion’, as postulated by the Argentine writer, and proposes, in turn, a specific mode of presentation. Far from disillusioning us with the impossibility of producing a metaphor that fully and definitively expresses the art of a context, Un lento venir viniendo discovers, in the production of partial images, a guide with which it is possible to explore significant areas of Argentine contemporary art.
Each of the three chapters that make up Un lento venir viniendo pays special attention to an emblematic cultural episode for the artistic life of the contexts in which the exhibitions will take place: Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Porto Alegre. Situations, aesthetic productions, and events were selected not to establish an analytic hypothesis, but to unfold an approximation, an elusive act, and, in turn, a bonding exercise.
Under this premise, the first chapter reviews the free painting course directed by Ivan Serpa at the MAM in Rio de Janeiro, and the formation of Grupo Frente towards the mid-1950s. An approach that allows us to identify some of the forms of knowledge transmission propelled between artists and, from it, reflect on the relations between institutions, economy, friendship, and collaboration.
Going through the notion of influence, this first chapter discovers a series of proximities and ruptures that such action has meant for Argentine contemporary art. We note that the transmission of experiences and positions between artists has not formed a linear system, organized from precursor acts, but rather a complex, differentiated, and outdated structure. In this sense, it is possible to identify painting as an outstanding area, or as a great field of action that has allowed us to establish different directions for the pictorial language itself, and, in turn, has permitted the modeling of different areas of intervention and exchange during the last four decades. For this reason, it is possible to advance a question around the centrality of this medium: how to produce art?. And discover how the answer to such question has guided the development of other aesthetic languages. Painting, then, appears as a field of relationships against which the ways of being, doing, and thinking art are organized. This first chapter allows us to comment on such dynamics from the contamination between conceptual art and painting (Alejandra Seeber or Eduardo Costa); from current affairs and the development of subjective and community attributes that have allowed action on a global stage (Guillermo Kuitca, David Lamelas or Julio Le Parc); from the academic distance from pictorial language (Marcelo Pombo, Juan Tessi, Alfredo Londaibere, Deborah Pruden or Valentina Liernur) or from the relation between materiality and physical action (Mariana Ferrari, Karina Peisajovich, Marina de Caro or Silvia Gurfein).
The influence can also be seen as the one that coerces the different structures for transmission of artistic experiences, which in the Argentine context have occupied a central stage for several decades. It is in these spaces, conceived as zones of exchange, learning, and exhibition, where the various ways of making art have been promoted. It is through the crossings between artists in spaces and initiatives – such as the Di Tella Institute, the gallery of the Centro Cultural Ricardo Rojas, the Kuitca scholarships, the Argentine collective Duplus, the groups known as artists’ clinics, the gallery Belleza y Felicidad or the Artists’ Program of the Torcuato Di Tella University – that many of the practices that run through this exhibition have been amplified.
Language and literature, just like other narrative disciplines, appear as other forms of influence that inhabit this first chapter, defining their coordinates of meaning in different ways. Letters and words, used as graphic materialities, but also as chains of signifiers, which compose, decompose, and recompose variable geometries, and explicitly reference literary works (Pablo Accinelli). Likewise, there are works that explore the book and its rhetorical organization (Fabio Kacero); objects that, once exhibited inside the room, ratify the alliance that contemporary art has sealed with all the procedures of conceptual estrangement; and works that expand their weft of meanings towards adjacent narrative genres (Sebastián Gordín, Marcelo Alzetta, Joaquín Aras, Liliana Porter or Federico Manuel Peralta Ramos).
Unlearning can be understood as a constructive modality, and, in this sense, it is also a factor that influences the production of a series of artists. There is a path, a discipline, a technique, and therefore, a certain result. Some of the works gathered here express their disciplinary distance with absolute clarity and show ways of doing that are far from established patterns (Fernanda Laguna, Cecilia Szalkowicz, Jorge Gumier Maier, Jane Brodie, Florencia Bohtlingk, Deborah Pruden, Alberto Goldenstein, Eduardo Navarro or Diego Bianchi). This dandyism, assimilated as the engine of production, allows, in turn, to make one’s own identity a coherent, definitive, and systematic project.
The reminiscences and the eminently urban elements make the city, rather than a theme, a constant that also exerts its influence. It is possible to discover fragments of the city in the poor functionality and precarity of architectural solutions (Diego Bianchi); in the sculptural paths that urban detritus produces (Jane Brodie); at the crossroads between architecture, corporality, leisure, and topography (Bruno Dubner) or in the resignification of domestic objects (Daniel Joglar) and urban communication devices (Claudia del Río). That which is urban emerges, thus, in its most functional and less luminous facet, and it is exposed without attributes, suspending all poetic action.
In the expansion of social bonds and exchanges that art promotes, we could discover the most unspecific form of influence and, at the same time, the most effective one. The affective relationships, the bonds, and their multiple forms act as a matrix. Thus, this high level of social exchange operates as a protective membrane against the solitude of artistic creation and, at the same time, allows art to act as a refuge. It is through the effervescence enabled by social exchanges that Argentine contemporary art challenges the known world.
Processes of education always entail change, individual and collective. How such change comes about depends on the values, methods and visions through which education operates, but continuity and construction may be as common as acts of questioning and reconfiguration. Perhaps these are two approaches, as well as traditions, that are part of every process of change through education; or maybe this assertion is the result of an insistence on a dialectical understanding of how the world, or some things in it, work.
Pedagogy conducted through and towards art can also be understood along those two paths. Artists learn their trade, often from other artists. Art may be used to teach – those who are not artists, and something other than art. And it may be used to teach at the school, but also in the museum, on the street, or literally in any place. Throughout all these modes and spaces, when it comes to teaching art, teaching with art, or teaching about art, the emphasis may be on constructing a common ground, sharing references, tools, ideas and methods that allow us to be part of a community and guarantee its persistence. Or we may choose to interpellate the received structures and ideas, to question the things we are supposed to be and do in order to maintain the situation we are part of.
As if it were a fable, or a narrative of origins, these two paths may be exemplified by two creatures, both key to originary populations of the Americas: the snake and the opossum.
The snake-canoe, or cobra-canoa is, for the Desana, Tukano, Baniwa and other peoples of the Rio Negro, responsible for the origin of humanity. In her journey from the Baía de Guanabara, along the North Eastern coast of Brazil and later the Amazon River and the Rio Negro, those she carried became people, and founded the cities and villages that still populate the banks and shores. This narrative of beginning is repeated once and again in the accounts of the pajés and the elders, and only recently in written form. The continued existence of these peoples relies on the repetition of a narrative that is told over and over, shared by those who are part of the community and live in the same territory – which, more than a place, is a relation, a way of living. In order to maintain that way of living, the snake-canoe must return in the voices of those who lead the community, so that others may learn it and eventually share it. The persistence of the community relies on the re-enactment, the repeated telling and listening, the maintenance of the ancestral tools that help us inhabit a world that continues to change.
The opossum, with its many names (zarigüeya, gambá, mucura, sarigué, saruê, timbus, zorro, tlacuache, raposa, huanchaca, comadreja, rabipelado, canchaluco…) is present in nearly every biome of the Americas, but it’s in the Mesoamerican and Andean regions where she appears in cosmological narratives. A living fossil, with an anatomic structure that hasn’t changed for over 65 million years, the opossum is a creature of the night and also a marsupial – and, therefore, like the snake-canoe, her body functions as a recipient, a vessel. But her exceptional character resides elsewhere, in the way she reacts to danger. When her life is at risk, her vital signs immediately decrease, her muscles paralyse, her lips retract, and her body releases a smell of decomposition, which often allows her to escape the condition of prey. In order to avoid death, as a reflex, she pretends to be dead. And when she awakens, after a few minutes or some hours, she continues to be part of the world of the living, having had an experience of the dead and their world that she is not (yet) entitled to. Her defence strategy, her way of avoiding the end of what she is, takes the opossum to a world that is not for her, only to come back later and disrupt the separations dictated by the cosmological order. And she doesn’t return empty-handed. She returns with the knowledges and experiences that she had the opportunity to access: in Mesoamerican narratives, like a Prometheus, she brings fire to humans, while in today’s Ecuador she’s considered a creature of gossip, who doesn’t even need to open her mouth in order to activate its potential to destabilise. The mere possibility of her speech, her own presence, her existence, are disruptive in themselves.
If the snake constructs community through repetition of the ancestral, the opossum disrupts the order through her disregard for structures and legitimacies. Both their presences are symbolic, and their impulses are beyond divergent; depending on the way they are enacted, they may be contradictory. Perhaps because the opossum is ophiophagous: she is immune to the snake’s poison and may, ultimately, feast on her.
As ways of understanding the process of pedagogy, it is tempting to embrace the opossum as the cultural mediator who, operating within the institution of art and education, reconfigures spaces, accesses, knowledges and possibilities. A foreign, or at least a subaltern figure, whose own body, function and behaviour imply the possibility of a reconfiguration that, ultimately, could undo the institution from its core. By redrawing lines of authority and legitimacy, she relativises the importance of the institutional space that she occupies, and exposes its privilege; she brings fragility, rather than consolidation.
And, as a snake-eater, her actions weaken communal processes. Artistic or cultural mediation – understood as a course of reconfiguration – acts against the maintenance of tradition that is fundamental to the persistence of indigenous peoples and their cultures, among other communities. The recurrent telling of the story of the snake-canoe doesn’t increase the cultural capital of the community; it provides its grounds. The opossum digs holes underneath them.
The opossum’s urge to fake death, strategic but involuntary, resembles a conception of artists as those who question every situation in which they find themselves trapped. It is as if they were forced to do so in order to guarantee the survival of their own self – as artists, as people. As if rejecting, undoing and questioning were the only ways of actually creating a space for themselves, free from determination. Art, then, as a tool for liberation. If that’s the case, it’s not about the setting (the art school, the school, the museum, or the exhibition) that defines the state of freedom, but a movement: the moment of emancipation, of self-determination, is brought about by an act of differentiation, of releasing oneself from received dynamics and demands, and moving towards others; carrying those dynamics elsewhere, into the world, as something that has been learnt even if precisely to unlearn it.
It’s about the moment after, not necessarily as a consequence of or in spite of. Away from the scene, into a place where things are no longer visible or accessible to all. Here may reside a possible strategy to avoid a direct confrontation between the paths of the snake and the opossum, and therefore the risk of one being annihilated by the other. Both the snake and the opossum are furtive creatures, only visible when they make themselves seen, which may also mean being at risk. Like them, education processes in and through art may also happen elsewhere, away from the institution; fluxes happen outside the visibility granted by the institutional platform, and those moments needn’t be incorporated within it. In their discretion, the snake and the opossum show us that any conflict or contradiction between them doesn’t need to be resolved in public view, and that the search for synthesis and resolution is, perhaps, a red herring. That a defence of intransitive behaviour, of actions that don’t aim for a result or respond to a specific function, is fundamental for a pedagogy that wants to explore its full potential. And so, the snake and the opossum may cohabit, not necessarily confronting each other, but looking in multiple directions each and every time.
This text is the result of experiences working with education in institutional settings, as a teacher in an art school; as the head of an education programme in a cultural centre; as the artistic director of an institution dedicated to art and culture; and of many other instances in which art and education come together. The interest and engagements continue, and these thoughts are, therefore, a work in progress.
Claudia del Río
Federico Manuel Peralta Ramos
Maier Juan Tessi
Julio Le Parc
Marina de Caro
LEI DE INCENTIVO À CULTURA
João Paulo Siqueira Lopes
Marina Dias Teixeira
Renato Mauricio Fumero
Marisa S. Mello
Adriano Carneiro de Mendonça
Antonio Pedro Coutinho
João Victor Assad
Delmiro Mendez E Hijo
Boca do Trombone
B Larte Soluções técnicas
Elizeu Paiva de Melo
A4 & Holofote
Victor De Wolf
CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
Secretaria Especial da Cultura
Ministério do Turismo