THE FOLD STAGE, RHIZOMES, AND SAVAGERY
EMAIL INTERVIEW CONDUCTED IN MARCH 2015 BETWEEN LUISA DUARTE AND MARIA LYNCH FOR THE EXHIBITION, THE FOLD STAGE, RHIZOMES, AND SAVAGERY, AT GALERIA ANITA SCHWARTZ, RIO DE JANEIRO.
LD: The title of this exhibition – The Fold Stage, Rhizomes, and Savagery – is very eloquent. The stage is present as a limit between reality and fiction; rhizome evokes a kind of resistance to hierarchical schema in knowledge building. Trying to go step by step, savagery is present in the unsuspecting encounter between an almost kitsch aesthetic, an appeal to a childlike universe, and the register of femininity and eroticism. Tell us a bit about how the title translates or adds meaning to what we can see in the exhibition.
ML: References to Deleuze, like the rhizome and the fold, are ideas that revolve around the type of contagion that interests me. My work traverses all this; one thing evoking another from multiplicity, singularity, and synesthesia. In all the titles of my exhibitions, since my solo show for which you wrote a text (Retalhos [Patchwork], Galeria Cândido Mendes, 2006), I make reference to Deleuze, because I think he’s the philosopher that resonates best with my way of thinking, influenced by the idea of the thought from outside. The emotional register is central. Carnival, celebration, excess, abundance, pleasure; it all contaminates my work. Joy is the primary force. I create a logic of awe through a celebration of inebriating colors. A fiction takes hold that lets me break away from the conditions of preset ideas. It’s about leading the imaginary, the stage, the scene, illusion, the fold in time, which is this gap in space-time that film and theater establish. Here, what I want to allude to is the idea of duration from the work of philosopher Henri Bergson.
LD: The experience of immersion proposed for this exhibition is accompanied by the paintings, which in theory demand a broader time for their contemplation. How do you see the concurrence of the time for action provoked by the installation, which demands some kind of interaction with the viewer, and the slower and more attentive demand of the paintings? The use of popcorn covering the floor of the exhibition space indicates not just a relationship between your works and issues of childhood, but also an allusion to the world of film, doesn’t it? Is the idea that viewers will absorb your work as if they were going around a fictional space?
ML: I intentionally put the popcorn and the paintings into contact with each other. It develops into a ridiculous register that appeals to me. It’s an odd combination, and it calls into question the posture of whoever is experiencing the work. I imagine people lying on the popcorn rather than eating it, laughing, looking at the paintings like frozen scenes, and perhaps even seeing themselves in them. This breadth of painting is something I’m interested in. It’s about triggering thoughts through the senses. I think we think with our body. I believe that for thinking to work you have to have encounters and you have to be a bit shaken up. It’s about thinking as potency.
LD: BarbieMe consists of five life-size dolls – the same height as you – with a Barbie body but “your” face. They are figures that again bring childhood to mind, but also femininity, movement, dance. Tell us about this work, which you devised at the last minute for this exhibition.
ML: Yes, they are “real” Barbies, so to speak. I personify myself. I, the artist, turn myself into the work. It contains a number of references and criticisms: me, a plastic artist, the doll. Barbie epitomizes the idealized women, a question I’ve been addressing for some time now in reference to these phantoms, this conspiracy for an ideal, but at the same time there is the artist, who harnesses her own potential and puts herself in the place of Barbie, inverting the roles. It’s art as a medium for pointing out what ways art itself is going. It’s a criticism and a statement at the same time.
LD: Maria, your work has gone through different phases over the last ten years. From gestural paintings, which straddled abstraction and figuration, you moved on to a pictorial output in which the figures became much clearer and the colors even more strident. More recently, your work has started to occupy more space, with sculptures and installations of an immersive nature. Tell us a bit about how this series of transitions has come about and what thread joins the paintings and the things you express in other languages.
ML: This ramification of the need to create a kind of imaginary shelter, a universe of my own, to affirm my doubts and the entities that give me a degree of pleasure. My work has gradually taken on this “unfolding” and multiple route. First of all I found I could create this field in painting, then this space penetrated the physical sphere. I got more interested in the range of the senses, how the body is affected, which prompts ideas. In this exhibition I’m exploring both: installational painting and immersive elements that create this territory of experience.
LD: In your early paintings the palette of colors used to be more sober, with muted hues. In your more recent work you’re clearly choosing brighter, more vibrant colors that strike the eye forcefully. How do you see this chromatic transition in your canvases? Don’t you think there’s a hyper-extroverted dimension that could even cause a sense of strangeness or aversion on the part of the viewer? Exactly what effects are you looking for when you go to such a chromatic extreme?
ML: This ambiguity and aversion are two of the main reactions I’m after. Colors contain the power of contrast and strangeness; they often don’t go well together, but they don’t lose their vibrancy. To a large extent it comes from the way I was influenced by my use of fabric to make the sculptures.
LD: Memory, returning to childhood, the playful dimension, the perversion of rationalism on a broad stage that flirts with surrealism are all elements that pervade your work as a whole, and this exhibition in particular. Tell us about your obsession with subjects like childhood and memory.
ML: To answer your question I have to refer back to Deleuze, whose work has marked my life and my career. I really identify with the idea of nomadology, a kind of “transvaluation.” Ever since I was little, I’ve always doubted the edifices of rationality and law, culture, the state, and this has meant my emotional response has become my guide. This guiding thread has a strong connection with the liberty of childhood, a time that precedes the time when we become disciplined beings. I think that’s in my work. There’s no identity, but there is becoming. I always try to keep hold of this kind of ambiguity and steer clear of neat answers.
LD: Someone once wrote that your work could be associated with the colors of Matisse, the fauve register of Gauguin, and, to mention a name closer to home, the hybrid figures of Janaina Tschape. What are the most important influences in your creative process?
ML: All the names you mention have a freedom that interests me, either in their colors, in fantasy, or in their playful approach. Each artist creating their melting pot of subjects and associations. I normally identify with works that actually have more to do with a radical fiction and that combine a diversity of topics, like those of Pierre Huyghe, Matthew Barney, Alejandro Jodorowsky (filmmaker), Brian Eno and Coco Rosie (musicians).
LD: Today, contemporary art is going through a period in which it is strongly associated with the broader social and political context. How do you see your work in this context, in that what you do steers so very clear of any references to “reality?” We know that art can be political without necessarily alluding to a political “topic.” But anyway, I think it’s something worth reflecting on.
ML: The way I understand politics – and what actually interests me – is that politics can make you think about how to govern yourself. The culture we’re living in today is a bankrupt project. Rather than producing warriors, it’s produced tamed, obedient beings, which I’m not the least bit interested in. Politics is something quite different to my mind. It’s about accumulating strength. It’s the creation of a new, errant, nomadic way of life, or however you want to call it. Here I’m creating my own audiovisual aphorisms and nurturing my pleasures, thinking about how not to be caught up by a guilty conscience (neurosis), which is produced out there. For Nietzsche, destruction is a precondition for creation.
Luisa Duarte is an independent curator and art critic