“Enormousballs” questions collective and individual livings

Until July 18th, Mendes Wood DM Brussels presents Enormousballs, with Adriano CostaSonia GomesPaulo NazarethLucas Arruda, Luiz Roque, Paloma Bosquê and Daniel Steegmann MangranéClick here to see the online version
“The art world and the world at large are reckoning with the recent tumultuous and historic events of the past few weeks. Marginalized people and communities around the world are fighting back hard against systemic racism, societal oppression and police brutality. As many of us are questioning ourselves both collectively and individually, about our attitudes and about the society that we live in, we cannot but admire the deep courage and conviction that it takes to have your voice heard”.Taking as a starting point the idea of courage, both artistic and political, the show takes its name from a work by Adriano Costa titled EnormousBalls (2016), a tongue-in-cheek sculpture that asks us quite literally to reconsider the power of language, in this case the sexist implication that courage is somehow linked with masculinity. Costa’s work, which is often provocatively titled, is well-known for its humorous but profound questioning of societal norms, race, gender roles and sexuality, often flirting around the tensions and stigma in the gay community.  Artists such as Costa, along with others who feature in this exhibition, are asking difficult questions and putting their beliefs on the line.

Sonia Gomes’ poetic sculptures and installations of variously interwoven fabrics, which are now shown at leading Biennials and museums worldwide, speak of a lifetime spent living in the shadow of racism and sexism, as a self-taught black artist from Brazil. In the same vein, but using a completely different vernacular, Paulo Nazareth is also an artist whose work is driven by his own experience of racism in Brazil and the effects of colonization and oppression on people of color around the world.

Solange Pessoa and Paloma Bosquê, though belonging to different generations and having very different practices to one another, have both made radical choices and in a sense “politicized” their use of materials, opting to go against the idea of what is traditionally thought of as “fine art”. Existing for years on the margins of the art system, at a time when few understood her, Pessoa’s boldest works have incorporated anything from blood and entrails to bone and earth, rocks, natural pigment and chicken feathers, in a poetic and visceral attempt to reconnect the human species to the planet as a whole and to the ground to which we will all eventually return. Bosquê meanwhile creates poetic and radical arrangements with the most unlikely components, including brass, felt, bronze, coal, gum rosin, bee’s wax, beef casing, craft paper, coffee sieves and wool.

At a time in which social actions and protests are coming to the fore, many artists, including Lucas Arruda, are making works that position introspection as an equally important part of the equation. Arruda’s work takes refuge in meditative, almost spiritual interior landscapes as a source of inspiration and artistic freedom.

Introspection and environmentalism find themselves at the center of Adriano Costa’s site-specific installation of his work New Contemporaries – tea time (2015) – a wall full of white t-shirts, each one with the word “Ayahuasca” printed differently on it. The work is both a commentary on the white Western world’s commodification of profoundly important indigenous spiritual rituals, and also a heartbreaking lament against the destruction of the same indigenous regions in South America at the hands of governments and corporations.

Daniel Steegmann Mangrané’s work is based around a challenging dialogue between mathematics and nature, and the pervasive overtone of much of this work is environmental. As a passionate and concerned environmentalist, his work at times confronts us with the beauty of the natural world, and at times holds a mirror up to society, forcing us to think about the damage our species is doing to the planet.

Luiz Roque’s video Zero (2019) is a surreal narrative in which a private jet flies over what looks like a post-apocalyptic desert landscape and over an eerily quiet Dubai skyline. There is nobody in sight, not even a pilot on the plane, only a dog that wakes up alone on the plush leather passengers’ seat. As pulsating music reaches a crescendo, we wonder if the plane will ever land, or whether that is all that remains of the world, a single private jet, a vestige of former wealth and power, with nobody on the ground left to look up at it.

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