What happens when four artists (and longtime friends) decide to create art together? Adriano Motta, Cadu (PIPA Prize 2013 Winner), Eduardo Berliner and Paulo Vivacqua took on the challenge in “Horse Project”, on view at Jacaranda, at Villa Aymoré, until January 31st. The experience inspired this month’s critical text by PIPA Institute curator Luiz Camillo Osorio, who used it as a starting point to discuss the myth of the lone genius. After all, he writes, the “Horse Project” is “also a lesson in politics – living with the difference, with the nuisance, with the other, is fundamental to the creative process.”
Four-in-one: Art with Authorship?
Luiz Camillo Osorio
“Horse Project: Quadrivium, eight paws.” The title sounds weird. Lots of questions sprout from it. How do we join ‘horse’ and ‘project’ together? Is there anything connecting a notion of Latin pedagogy and eight animalistic paws? How does one cross the animal and the spiritual? We then learn that it is an exhibition with four artists, yet not exactly a group show, featuring selected works by each one of them. Well, to be faithful to the show, there are individual works of all four of them in the external gallery. Still, I want to make a point here: no matter how good they are, and no matter how interesting they are, this is not why I wrote this piece. What is striking in “Horse Project” is the meeting of works done together, of artists interfering and acting in partnership, and composing a great improvisation/experience/installation done by eight hands. Or paws, for that matter, if we want to highlight the physical, organic, and procedural drive that shows up in their joint works.
The plural used here – used in ‘works’ – is an issue to be dealt with. On the one hand, yes, we do see there, inside the Jacaranda art space, in Villa Aymoré, Glória, a series of works that can be appreciated separately and awake interest in varying degrees. On the other hand, it is through the overall picture, the contamination of a work by the others, of our eyes by our ears, of our bodies’ movement by the settings, by the apparent germinating mess, that we realize we are in front of only one work of art, in the singular form, which unfolds as many. This interrelation of one and many leads us to reflect on the way the whole thing developed – an artist interfering and acting upon a mark left by the other – and it is from this chain of inaugural gestures, with no determined causal sequencing, that works and the work-exhibition emerged. The presence of sound is a crucial element for understanding this. Many of the “paintings” have a specific sound attached to them. They even have, in electrical wires, an important graphic dimension. However, the orchestration of each sound-work with the sound that runs through the environment around it is fundamental. The exhibition’s atmosphere owes a lot to the sounds that pulsate in and around it.
The idea behind the exhibition was simple: showing the result of a few years of exchange among four artists friends, two of whom shared a studio: Adriano Motta, Cadu, Eduardo Berliner, Paulo Vivacqua. Different from each other in their individual poetics, they have the complicity of friendly coexistence and the proposed challenge of producing together something unexpected. A drawing by each acted as a trigger to the co-creation process. Each one of them took a piece of paper and began to draw separately. They then jumped into each other’s drawings, and interference became the main event. It’s not easy to get your hands on something that’s already been started by another artist without messing it up. Even more difficult is to keep alive the drive the of improvisation without losing a formal realization and giving up the experience of the whole, which brings the eye and body of those who enter the room into a shared expressiveness. As Cadu wrote in a small text about the exhibition, “the result shown in Jacarandá is a hybrid of a cabinet of curiosities and a private garden in which objects, sounds, sculptures, drawings, paintings, and videos blur the boundaries of languages, semantic fields and reflect the gravity of individual and collective orbits in collision course.”
Since the creation of Jacaranda, a mix of a club, a workshop, a bar and a laboratory, designed and managed by artists, the question about its specific place is in the air. How could this meeting space be transformed into an exhibition environment and differentiate itself from other cultural spaces? How to turn this search for a place of coexistence and friendly exchange into an exhibition place at the same time, and how could those exhibitions have a privileged situation there to happen? I was fortunate enough to be the curator of the Museum of Modern Art of Rio de Janeiro (MAM-Rio) at the time the exhibitions of [Luiz] Zerbini, Cabelo, and Raul [Mourão] took place. The three opened at the same time, on the same floor. Somehow, it was a unique experience, which not only brought together individual works, paintings, sculptures, objects, etc., but also explored non-specific environments such as Cabelo’s “cafofo,” a place where things never stop happening, bringing together pictures, films, sounds, objects, and drawings. Likewise, Zerbini’s great table, placed right in the center of the monumental space, conjoined the visual and plastic repertoire of the artist’s studio and pictorial imagery. Its reticulate design itself, forming a geometric grid where various things from his cabinet of curiosities were inserted, helped perceive the artist’s poetics, his painting’s mode of construction, where the excess and the order come together.
I have mentioned this example of artists also linked to Jacaranda because the main point to be observed in that exhibition was the atmosphere of apparently unfinished works; although many were standard works, in which the making of the form was a continuous experience and always on the verge of overflow. The same, as mentioned above, is seen here in the “Horse Project”; it is this type of experience-experimentation, here more extreme, which seems to give Jacaranda its vitality, in which artists invest in singular projects that would hardly have an institutional place, at least with the same degree of freedom and improvisation – as well as quality – seen here. One thing that draws attention is the work invested in this exhibition.
There are obvious historical references to this kind of creative collaboration. The surrealistic cadavre exquis will undoubtedly come to mind as an example. The artists made a sort of “cordless phone” in which initial sketches proposed by an artist developed into a drawing after going through a few different hands. The idea was to decondition the intentional gesture, something that Miró so poetically expressed as the need to paint with his left hand, the one not domesticated by virtuosity. In fact, this creative game also sought to undo the idea of individual expression, as if there was something to be squeezed from inside of a genius like the juice of an orange. Attempting to link creation to non-knowledge, at least going beyond the knowledge determined by conscience or technique. Making creation build upon the surface of significant matter, facing the resistance of inexpression and the unforeseen
Another example, in this case by historical proximity, a kind of dialogue inside out, would be an exhibition held in parallel to the Venice Biennale this year. I mean “The Boat is leaking. The Captain Lied”, a multimedia partnership also based on a long coexistence among filmmaker Alexander Kluge, artist Thomas Demand, choreographer Anna Viebrock and curator Udo Kittelmann. In this case, the scenic, fable-like atmosphere was more suggestive, although it had not the same plastic intensity and matter of the “Horse Project.” What matters in both cases is the creative interaction among artists and the willingness to produce something that dislocates the idea of authorship. Records of each artist can be seen in the details, but the overall result goes beyond: it is something else, much more than the sum of the parts.
Over a conversation held in Jacaranda during the exhibition, Eduardo Berliner often underlined that the major challenge of this experience was to accept an intervention that displeased him. That is, not having a rubber or reversible repentance and appropriating the “nuisance” of what at first would seem a problem. Such challenge, so evident in a collective work such as this, is essential to make one rethink creation outside the legacy of the tabula rasa, the blank sheet, the original author. There are always layers of previous sense that are implied as materiality inherent in the works. Creation is always appropriation and reinvention. The expression happens outside the subject, at the crossroads of historical context, cultural/institutional references, personal affections and an unspeakable longing for form. As Paulo Vivacqua said, and I repeat here to talk about the expressiveness that takes place outside the subject, it is provided by a gesture that is both grammar and chance.
Finally, I could not help but speak of the main video that welcomes us to the exhibition. The audiovisual production has the idea of co-creation in its origins. The montage, however, is its soul. Add the parts, images, sounds, and texts and give them rhythm. The process serves as a passage of the individual to the collective in this exhibition. Each one of the artists seems to be somehow present in the images produced, in the poetic punctuation of the small text fragments, in the sounds, in the narrative flow. But everything only finds its place thanks to the magnificent montage Adriano Motta did.
From the film’s montage to the exhibition’s mounting, there is a movement in which many are one, and one unfolds into many. The “Horse Project” experience is, above all, also a lesson in politics – living with the difference, with the nuisance, with the other, is fundamental to the creative process, and to a world that is composed of creation.
About the Author
Luiz Camillo Osorio is the Curator of PIPA Institute, PIPA’s founder and Board Member. He is a Professor and current Director of the Philosophy Department at PUC-Rio. Camillo was the Curator of MAM-Rio between 2009 and 2015. To read more exclusive texts written by Camillo, click here.