Attributes of silence
Curated by: Felipe Scovino
The works brought together for this exhibit refer to the possible qualities or atmospheres emanated by silence, such as delicacy, emptiness, softness, invisibility, the non-spectacle, fading and the ethereal.
The concept of silence has been the theme of recent exhibits, but what induces us to reflect in these works is their multiple-representative capacity and how the atmospheres they convey behave and can connect with one another in a network of meanings and overlapping senses.
When we reflect on Leonilson’s work, Para quem comprou a verdade (For whoever bought the truth, 1991), we see a fragility exposed that belongs both to the materials used and the audacious, brave subject itself. This piece of embroidery reveals this subject’s fears, dramas, frustrations, loneliness, and most importantly his voice. This is the subject talking to the world, showing himself to others, here is his space for living and celebrating. These aspects can all be attributed to the works of the artists gathered here. The feeling of not belonging is addressed most dramatically in Jorge Macchi’s series Obituários (Obituaries, 1998). This is the death we face in the pages cut out of a newspaper. The artist cut out of the obituary section of a newspaper information about the deceased person, but kept only the crosses or stars defining their religion. We are shocked to face at the same time both a sculpture and the real nature of the material and how the artist transforms a paper sculpture into a body bereft of carnality. Empty and sad, desolate and lonely, Obituários reflects absence and lack, even though we know nothing about those persons and the stories of their lives.
Thiago Rocha Pitta’s work shows us how nature in its fluidity and constant ever-soft transformations become apparent through the delicate construction of a peculiar time that the artist offers us, a dislocated time that slowly stretches out. Also, here painting and video are being performed at the same time, for there is both a pictorial materiality and a gestuality in the way that the nature of things is presented. The camera moves close to nature, changing our perspective and scale of the world while turning the very materiality of the surface into gaps, openings, descents, small depressions and valleys that build and un-build at the same speed. The artist warns us about constant velocity and transformation, but there are moments when we fail to notice, and it is this measure of silence and softness that concerns him.
The dug-out or erased spaces that Anna Maria Maiolino marks by gestuality cause a sort of inversion of plane. Although both the previous generation of neo-concretists and her own generation investigated and invented leaving the plane and moving toward three-dimensional space, Mais buracos (More holes, 1975/2000) does not abandon this effort, but here the sense is different: the space is inside, cavity, not the outside, not air. Rather than a trace in space, it is a body, or rather the entrails of a body, now visible and irrefutable.
The exhibit presents discussions on de-materializing the object and the notion of “efficacy”, in other words, appropriating sense and reflection in the work of art as idea and no longer as objectuality. Furthermore, with the excess of information that seems nowadays to be a non-conditional, irreversible tonic, the exhibit explores the other side: starting out with a “nothing”, with “silences”, we can build a web of meanings and potencies never before imagined. As in the works presented by Brígida Baltar and Cao Guimarães. In her Coleta da neblina (Fog collecting, 2002), Baltar invests in the process of the artist as personage in a context where fiction and reality converge on one another to upset our firm, concrete notions about what is all around us. The artist acts like a collector of immateriality, that is to say, she conveys volume, weight and density to something that has always been identified as ethereal. The fact that the landscape in the work is covered in fog increases the sense of silence.
Cao Guimarães’s contributions arouse trivial daily events that are extremely expressive, works that the artist calls “micro-dramas of form”, in other words they contain some dramatic potential. A bubble floating aimlessly, or else a dry leaf surrounded by dew, and vice-versa, are images that hold in themselves an enormous dramaticity. In Nanofania (Nanophany, 2003) and Concerto para clorofila (Concerto for chlorophyll, 2004), indices of immateriality – such as bubble, light and shadow – take on textures, shapes, colors, a structure of skin and flesh. Our perspective is directed toward actions, places and beings that we hardly notice in day-to-day life. These are phenomena cadenced by their own time and dimension. The small dramas or happenings of life that we disdain remind us that they are precisely what constitutes life. In Úmido (Humid, 2015), we do not know what came first: the “halo” around the leaf or the soft landing of the leaf later rewarded by the dew: one more work by this artist whose delicate touch allies with a narrative that is closely linked to literature and the cinema. The idea of the accidental and the impossibility of confirming what we see with the exact certainty imposed by science or reality, that is what lends Cao Guimarães’s work a poetic imaginary power.
The scale of the world is inverted in Maria Laet’s Sopro (Blow, 2013): we return to what was given as supposedly imperceptible, minor or negligible. Here we are in the presence of movements, readings and symptoms of a world that happens without our noticing. Besides this, the passing of time operates in her works, carried out by means of extremely unique performatic actions that change into a slow, monotonous rhythm, using a circumstance while investigating her own condition. The act of blowing water-based paint on paper ends up proving that time and space join together as potencies that provoke a deeply poetic random state on the material. Impregnated there among all the webs are variable landscapes, nuances and fundamentally a body, not just any body, since there too is contained an immaterial register of the artist’s body. When I say body I don’t mean flesh, but actually skin. And this image grows even more preponderant when the image represented by the breath metaphorically resembles a fingerprint, the surface of skin. This image is in perfect consonance with Maiolino’s Vestígios na transparência (Vestiges in transparence, 2006), where this metaphoric image of the body, in general, and in particular the skin, is due to an overlapping of sheets of rice paper on which the artist makes a drawing. This drawing, in India ink on the top page, creates “traces” that are absorbed by the leaves underneath to create a variety of tones and shapes made at random, the utmost sign of life itself.
The photographs presented by Caio Reisewitz and Luiza Baldan stand between the silence and the (long) interval that separates waiting and forgetting. A territory filled with an indication that something has just happened there, or for a long time filled only by memories. In the case of Baldan, there is an image of anywhere, exactly because it is imprecise in time and space. Something exists in these two spaces (a house and a garage) that belongs so much to us, surely because they have to do with the idea of private space, but ambiguously this deprives us of the assurance of stability of security, for these are open spaces. Silence here is not directly attached to human absence (especially since there exists the possibility of “someone” having just passed by there), nor to a lack of gestures, but rather to the ambiguous nature of presence and solitude that Baldan and Reisewitz use in the images.
This same nature reappears in a sculpture in the exhibit, London Angles #1 (2014) by Pedro Cabrita Reis. The materials make symbolical use of an anthropomorphic characteristic of this metallic structure. Light is the pulsion of life, the register of a sad, lonely, weak body that needs shelter. It calls out for someone. A muffled cry begging the other to notice its appearance in the world. Faced by such silence, it wants to become seer and seen.
Intelligence, intuition and a commitment to rupture were fundamental to the making of the poetics of Amilcar de Castro, Franz Weissmann, Lygia Clark and Lygia Pape, important references for the work of Waltercio Caldas in conceiving body-related spaces, “or rather, looking at a body in movement according to the revolution of purely planar elements”. What Caldas does moves in another direction. Note that the observer does not take part in the action but rather reconstructs subjectively the planar condition of the sculptures and materializes in those geometric solids. The void surfaces , air as volume, the anthropomorphic relation, the mirror as a self-portrait and an element of transference between observer and sculptural material constitute Eureca (Eureka, 2001) as a space to be invented by the multiple possibilities of “body positions”: ours, as observers, and its, the sculpture’s.
Surfaces in movement according to the relation between full and empty spaces, figure and background, horizontal and vertical lines, all this is the motor that drives Lygia Pape’s work. Recalling the debate on painting, minimalism and graphic and pictorial illusion of the grid that filled the 1950s and 1960s, Pape goes further: her interest, besides expanding the formal and structural characteristics of drawing and painting – she singularly builds a kinetic space on the plane – is to commit to the body. To stimulate, speculate, invent an organism within geometric space. Her line is light, body, material. With her peculiar economy of methods, slowly she performs an action, a method for the appearance of a line that converts to desire, action and freedom of the plane. So, she wants to become body.
It is interesting to realize how much this debate on the graphic and illusory operation of the plane is continued in a more recent generation of artists, as is the case of Carolina Martinez. Working with a sort of shadow and light of wood, Martinez creates spaces of color and fields of light (as well as their absence) by combining a set of shapes and spaces that convert now into windows now into horizons, in this way creating strong ties with pictorial art. And all this is obedient to precise elements.
In the works presented by Isa Genzken and Otavio Schipper, where sound plays a special part, dialogue is held via its negative, in other words, by the action of obstructing sound and evoking its (supposed) silence. What exists, or rather, what is expanded through space, is the image of sound, that is to say, the very different suppositions we can entertain concerning which sound could be heard if whatever is preventing it (a piece of concrete, some welding) were loosened or reinterpreted. So the sound is noticed through its shape, but our expectation of the happening is denied by the silence. The impossibility of the sound converting into audition does not necessarily constitute a drama or a failure, but rather a phenomenon that enables us to create innumerable metaphors for what can be defined as sound. To paraphrase John Cage’s notion that silence does not exist and therefore cannot be reduced to an acoustic-musical question, these two works do not affirm a final, definitive meaning for silence; on the contrary, since they show their opening, complexity and multiplicity and point finally to the fact that silence and sound are in a constant process of mutation and interpenetration.
From the perspective of the time in which we live, in overlapping images where excess also reveals a flooding of useless data and trivialized image (at drift in a world where it does not know if it is an advertisement or a work of art), the works shown in this exhibit operate precisely against such automatization. Taking Mira Schendel’s monotypes as a powerful compass for the discussion, these works arouse another way of perceiving the world, creating an alphabet characterized not by the pragmatism now expected of it but rather from the focus of poetry, delicacy and to a substantial extent a relation of opposites (full and empty, inside and outside, black and white, straight and twisted) considered as the synthesis of the human condition. An alphabet that constantly needs to be deciphered, for it is never complete, and it is precisely this exercise of endless discovery that “deletes” it from its “original function” and converts these works into a quiet, slow and powerful discourse on how to see and feel the world. The lines of Schendel’s monotypes, constantly changing into plastic ideograms and images, are to be interpreted in the light of the very vicissitudes of life. There lies the drama, and the laughter, the silence, life, the end. All this contained in an austerity that surprises in its magic.
To close, this assembly of works should not be considered as a testament of an age, but rather as a commitment to life. These are not “dated” or “historic” works: they possess a life and time of their own, and their purpose is to form new ways of looking at the world.
 DUARTE, Paulo Sergio Duarte. Waltercio Caldas. São Paulo: Cosac Naify, 2001. p. 57.