junho 23, 2010
A Brazilian Makes Playful but Serious Art por Larry Rohter, NYTimes.com
Matéria de Larry Rohter originalmente publicada no NYTimes.com em 21 de junho de 2010
At the New Museum last Friday the artist Rivane Neuenschwander was on her knees, slicing up the carpeting in a third-floor gallery as she searched energetically for microphones hidden in the floorboards and walls. A security and surveillance team had secreted the bugs there at her request, but without her knowing their locations; now the devices were recording her hunt in the otherwise silent room, in preparation for a fast-approaching show.
Ms. Neuenschwander’s exhibition, a “midcareer survey” — she’s 42 — that opens on Wednesday and continues through Sept. 19, is called “A Day Like Any Other,” but this was definitely out of the ordinary. “I don’t know how this is going to work,” she said. “I may have to tear the walls down.”
The painstaking search was part of a new work, “The Conversation,” inspired by the 1974 Francis Ford Coppola film of the same name, in which a wiretap expert believes that he himself is being observed.
“Remember that wonderful last scene, where Gene Hackman destroys his apartment looking for a microphone, a bug?” she said. “That kind of paranoia interests me, and thus this work is a mixture of chance and control. It is not preconfigured but is instead rather like a game, and it ends only when I have found all the microphones, which will then be replaced with speakers to play back the sounds of my destruction of this space.”
Games figure heavily in much of Ms. Neuenschwander’s art, especially games meant to make the spectator a participant in a work. She is a Brazilian, and very much part of a tradition of blurring the distinction between creator and viewer established by modern Brazilian artists like Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica.
“I do think she is completely different from her predecessors, but they are also there and essential to understanding her work,” said Richard Flood, chief curator at the New Museum, in the Bowery. “The notion of social agency is incredibly important, and maybe that’s what she and they share the most: the belief in art as something participatory.”
Ms. Neuenschwander also draws from her country’s rich folk traditions. One of her best-known works — “I Wish Your Wish,” first presented in 2003 — is derived from a tradition popular among pilgrims to the Church of Nosso Senhor do Bonfim in Bahia, who bind ribbons to their wrists or the church’s front gate in the belief that when the ribbons fall off or disintegrate, their wishes will be granted.
In Ms. Neuenschwander’s conceptual-art variation, which will be displayed at the rear of the New Museum’s lobby, colorful silk ribbons have each been stamped with one of 60 wishes left by previous viewers of the piece. The show’s visitors can take a ribbon from one of 10,296 small holes in the wall in exchange for scribbling a new wish on a slip of paper and inserting it into the hole. “When I was starting off, I was very interested in the ephemeral, in quotidian materials that disappear or are subject to entropy, which is how my art got stuck with labels like ‘ethereal materialism,’ ” she explained.
Ms. Neuenschwander’s artistic vocabulary “always contains the presence of the other,” said Ricardo Sardenberg, a Rio de Janeiro-based curator, critic and art-book publisher who has known the artist for a dozen years. “She started off drawing on things that are typically ours,” he added, “food and objects from the street and from fairs. But once she began traveling outside Brazil, she grabbed hold of elements from the daily life of wherever she happened to be and transformed them aesthetically, too.”
Another piece, called “Involuntary Sculptures (Speech Acts),” originally from 2001 (but like many of her works, constantly updated), takes its title and inspiration from Brassaï’s 1933 photographs of graffiti and other ephemera. Ms. Neuenschwander has combed bars and taverns looking for the three-dimensional doodles that customers idly construct from straws, paper, plastic and clips while they drink and converse, which she then turns into “works of art” by mounting them on pedestals.
Behind the playful exterior of her work, Ms. Neuenschwander says, there often lurks something “more somber and serious,” even dark. Brazilians may have the reputation of being happy-go-lucky, but that is not an attitude or a temperament she generally shares.