Adriano Costa, "I WATCH TV YOU WATCH TV WE WATCH TV", 2021, silkscreen on underwear elastics, variable dimensions

The philosophy of the absurd in Adriano Costa’s new solo show

(Brussels, Belgium)

Starting on March 19, Mendes Wood DM presents its first solo show in Brussels by the Brazilian artist Adriano Costa. Comprised of drawing, sculpture and mixed media installations, the exhibition Philosophy of the World proposes to initiate visitors into the strange and wonderful universe of sign and signification that Costa inhabits – simultaneously outrageous, irreverent and funny, but also deeply moving, poetical and political.

The conceptual springboard for this exhibition is a cult 60s record by The Shaggs titled Philosophy of the World. Self-taught outsiders, the band was made up of three sisters who were reluctantly forced to play music by their father. By conventional standards, their record might be the worst record ever pressed on vinyl. With the sisters barely able to sing or play their instruments, the resulting group of songs is an out-of-time and out-of-tune cacophony. Mysteriously or perhaps miraculously, however, the sound is underpinned by lyrics whose raw, jittery simplicity and apparent childishness reveal strange and unexpected depths of feeling that slowly began to garner appreciation. Rockstar Frank Zappa had their music played on the radio, while legendary music critic and writer Lester Bangs called them “better than the Beatles”.

In many ways Adriano Costa’s work, which also conflates the ridiculous with the sublime, resonates with this bizarre story. He arranges together and transmutes jarring fragments of his own life, his own material and spiritual surroundings, everyday objects, into unexpectedly complex ideas and aesthetic combinations that follow a non-linear logic that is as unique to his own understanding of the world as The Shaggs’ approach to music-making was.

Despite the apparent chaos, the separate works and the show as a whole follow a coherent philosophy of the absurd, as the artist explains:

“Philosophy is traditionally rational but the works in the show are actually more dada than anything else. They are made from the most mundane and average things translated into sculpture. It’s contaminating high art with the mundane. It’s my own philosophy of the world. The rooms are filled with things that are useless. […] I always ping-pong between references, more than ever in this show”.

Concerning one of the works, I WATCH TV YOU WATCH TV WE WATCH TV (2021) is a Minimalist-like installation of a single length of elastic band, the kind generally used in men’s underwear. Printed along its entirety is a series of seemingly disconnected words: COWBOY, PET LOVER, RAPPER, TESTICLE PHOTOGRAPHER, DELIGHTFUL ALCOHOLIC. Costa comments:

“I was watching an 80s TV show in which one of the characters is asked what kind of ‘fancy activity’ they would like to do. I asked that same question to all my friends who work in the sex industry. Their answers are all on the tape. My favorite one is testicle photographer – it’s a very nice activity”.

To read more about the exhibition, click here.

“Philosophy of the world”, Adriano Costa’s solo show
From March 19 until April 16, 2o22

Mendes Wood DM – Brussels
13 Rue des Sablons / Zavelstraat 1000, Brussels, Belgium
Tue – Sat, 11am – 7pm
+32 2 502 09 64

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