“I’m concerned with building a consistent artistic research. My interests are related to representation of the things in the world”.
Honest and ambitious, this young Brazilian artist has so much to say, above all about Space and Time.
We are glad to introduce you to the understanding of the misunderstanding of the contemporary cities, according to Marina Camargo.
Tell me how your career started. When did you discover to be an artist?
I started painting and drawing when I was 14 years old. At that time, I didn’t know if I wanted to be an artist. Actually, being an artist seemed impossible for me during these first years. When I decided to study Visual Arts at the University was probably the first and decisive step toward an artist career. Then, little by little I realized that working with art was not only a decision, but also a necessity to me.
If you’d have to present yourself, how would you describe your art, your path, in few words?
I would say that I work with different media, that my interests are related to representation of the things in the world. It can be the way we see a written word, the way we understand a landscape, or read a map, it’s all related to the way to represent the world we know.
My path is done with lot of work, persistence, and confidence that I can always improve my work.
I’m concerned with building a consistent artistic research.
It’s so relevant the relationship between your art and the cities: how does this relationship work? It’s because you passed for many?
Traveling led me to think about the cities. During the time I lived in Barcelona, I started trying to understand the cities through maps, and also trying to visualize the time passing through the sky maps. Somehow, trying to understand a city through a map is an abstraction in itself: I was already dealing with representation of the space and with representation of time.
Once I read that Italo Calvino mention the origin of maps as closely related to the act of travel – map as a kind of narrative report of the traveling experience.
One of your latest projects, Lugares/representações (Places/Representations), is about places, urban landscapes, mapping: what did you discover about contemporary cities?
When I’m willing to work with a city, or about a city, it’s always related to places that I’ve already lived, or visited. It’s somehow a way to approach and understand the city/the place in question.
Talking about these places, its representations, mapping, is also to talk about ‘strategies’: strategies concerned something that is very complex and impossible to hold at once, the cities.
And the more I study about the cities, the more I realize that this complexity is inherent in every city. So couldn’t say what is new about the contemporary city compared to ancient Rome, for example.
Maps, of cities, but also of sky: drawn, enlightened, projected, you often deal with spatial organization.
True. For example Parallel Universes is made with a city map (in a box with light) and with a sky map (the stars are drawn with holes in a black surface). Both maps are arranged parallel to each other, in a way that the city map illuminates the stars of the sky map. In this work, I was thinking about the relationship between these two spatial references – earth and sky – and how it could be related in a graphic sense. For me, it’s very important that the city map makes visible the sky map, even if you barely can see the city map (because the sky map is so closely displayed).
It’s like two worlds put together in a way to determine a relationship between both of them.
The first of your works that I’ve seen was Falling letters, and it definitely struck me, the letters so stuck on the fingertips, leaving their surface. And like this one, there are other works, too, where your interest in letters and texts is expressed: where does it come from?
I’ve already had an interest for letters and its graphic nature. Mira Schendel used to be a reference for me.
Beside, there was an incident that was striking: I was presenting a research at University with a text printed in a transparent paper, when suddenly the letters began to loosen of the paper. Then the falling letters began to stick on my fingers, and little by little I lost the text.
This situation, occurred by chance, was very impressive for me: these letters, that are as thick as a thin layer of printed text, became palpable.
I’ve been saving this material for many years as a documentation of my work process, until I realized that it was so important to my work, and to my thoughts about drawing, that it also became an art work.
The project Typography/urbanization: NYC is pretty complex: there is the webpage, where the font is freely available for download, and the creation of the typography born consequentially the research on the city, I suppose. This project is a sort of fusion of what we told above, it’s a perfect mix of two of your main themes, maps and texts, with the born of a brand new language. Tell me about it, it’s really innovative.
Yes, this work is exactly a fusion of two interests of mine: the letters and the city maps. And it’s also closely related to another work, Map I (Paris) and Map II (Porto Alegre). In these works, the city map is drawn with letters (instead of the blocks). The city map is still there, but there is no information left concerning street names, neighborhoods, etc. It’s still recognizable as city map.
In Typography/Urbanization: NYC, the situation is somehow inverse: when you type a text on your computer, instead of letters, you type a city map – a fictional map, even though based on the map of Manhattan. It remains a text, it’s also a map, but at the end it’s neither a useful map nor a readable text.
Another concept seems, to me, very important in your work, that is to say the interactivity: works like Open horizon or Typography/urbanization: NYC have a webpage where everyone can visit, understand and interact with your work. It’s actually very interesting, why do you do that?
I see these works related better to participation than interactivity. In Open Horizon project a website is the “place” where the work happens: people are invited to send their own picture of a horizon, which is displayed along with many other photos already sent to the project; when you visit the website, is possible to see all the images creating only one horizon line. It’s very special to receive the pictures from all over the world. Somehow, this project became also a kind of collective report from traveling and sharing a way to see the world.
Typography/Urbanization: NYC is an artwork that everyone can download and use it, which is something that pleases me a lot in this work.
Your art’s got a multimedia approach, a process that you defined “very close to drawing”: what does it mean?
I believe my work process comes from drawing, even if it’s not visible like that. It’s a process of choices, thoughts, ideas, decisions, which are closely related to drawing. Actually, I understand drawing as an expanded concept that embraces previous moment of the artwork. It’s not about technical choices, but where the works come from, how they become reality.
All these your multimedia artworks, how do they take shape? Is there a sort of planning?
When I’m working on a new project, I’m always concerned about finding the best medium, material, shape, for an idea, a concept (or vice-versa). Sometimes an idea drives the working process, sometimes a material can initiate a new process of working.
So it’s about finding a perfect medium for each work. In this sense, using multimedia resources is many times the only way to make an artwork becomes reality.
I think this big range of possibilities is very exciting for an artist.
You made more than one project in collaboration with other artists, do you find challenging a comparison with other colleagues?
To work in collaboration with other artists is very stimulating. It’s a moment to share your ideas with another artist, to open even more the possibilities of thinking the artwork.
I believe that a good collaboration results in an artwork that no one of the single artists involved could have done alone; but together, they can create something beyond their own universes.
Recently I’ve worked with a musician, Leonardo Boff. We made together an artwork that was exhibited in the 8. Mercosul Biennale. I proposed him to create a music based on the sound of the wind, and also gave him a drawing wondering how the sound could be. Then, Boff simulated the sound of the wind, mixing it with notes taken from regional musician (from south Brazil), deconstructing these sounds in an experimental music. During the whole process, the dialogue between us was part of the work. It’s enjoyable and challenging, just great.
You’re making a professional experience in Germany, right: how’s going on?
I lived more than 1 year in Germany, in occasion of a scholarship from DAAD (which provides the exchange for visual artists and musicians). It was an overwhelming experience, the kind of that becomes remarkable in your lives.
To get to know more about German culture, their way of thinking and living, was a transforming experience in my life and in my work.
Also the relationship with nature was something special: I learned once again to valorize staying close to nature, close to the mountains, rivers, etc – which is something really strong in Germany, an heritage from the Romanticism.
I could say that the experience of living in Germany changed my perception of my own country, my own way of living, and it’s already starting to appear also in my artwork, like in the recent work Oblivion.
I live in Madrid, and like Brazil, Spain belongs to the Latin American sphere of contemporary art: how does it look like to you?
I think Brazilian art is living a very special moment, specially because right now the world is interested on get to know more about Brazil.
Which is curious, is that Brazilian art is not so closely connected with Latin American art scene. Somehow, Brazil lives in its coast looking toward outside South America.
And also I see ARCO art fair and DARDO Magazine as two highlights of Spain-Brazil connection regarding to visual arts.
On what are you working right now?
I’m working on the “Alpen project”, which is a series of works related to the representation of the Alps’ mountains and landscapes. Within this project there are different approaches to the issue of this landscape representation.
Your reference artists?
Iran do Espírito Santo, Rivane Neuenschwander (both Brazilian artists), Hiroshi Sugimoto, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Robert Smithson, Baldessari (the list is huge! I’ll stop here).
Right now I’ve been reading biographies and interviews with artists, so I could say that my favorite writer is the artist himself, talking about his working process.
I recently read Just Kids, by Patti Smith and Interview with Almodóvar, both great books.
THE LAUNDRY ROOM
Of what are you prouder of yourself?
I’m proud of my persistence.
What were you in your previous life?
What would you have been, if not an artist?
If you’d have to pack your life to move away, just with your most beloved stuffs, which of your works would you carry with you?
I guess I would carry my computer and a sketchbook, than I could keep working and producing new artworks.
What’s on your desk?
Wow, it’s a mess! There are some references books from the Alps, a book with writings from Robert Smithson, my laptop, my camera, and a to-do list!
Have you got to say something, that you’ve always wanted to say in an interview, but nobody ever asked you?
“How does the creative process work?” I don’t know the answer, but I love to think about it.
Three adjectives to describe yourself.
Enthusiastic, funny, introspective, hardworking.
A city to describe yourself.
A movie to laugh.
The Great Dictator, Chaplin.
A movie to cry.
The Ice Storm, Ang Lee.
Sonic Youth concert at Music Hall of Williamsburg (NYC, 2009).
The happiest day in your life.
It’s difficult to pick only one day. Maybe the first time I went to Venice, and saw those building into the sea…
The mistake you would be proud to repeat.
Miss a flight because I was taking pictures at the airport.
A secret wish.
Oh, it must remain a secret! I can tell you when it becomes reality.
To follow Marina Camargo, http://www.marinacamargo.com
Interviewed on November 29th 2011, original version in English.