Coletiva - Looks conceptual ou Como confundi um Carl André com uma pilha de tijolos

DE 18/01/2008 - 16/02/2008 A


Looks conceptual or how I mistook a Carl Andre for a pile ok bricks

Kiki Mazzucchelli

Interview with Lucienne Roberts from the Dutch design studio Experimental Jetset – 2005

“We don’t see graphic design as art, but we do see art as a form of design. Although it’s hard to define art, it’s not difficult to define its context: there exists a clear infrastructure of exhibition spaces, galleries, museums, art magazines, art history, theory, etc. Art can be seen as the production of objects, concepts and activities intended to function within this specific infrastructure. In our view, this production can certainly be seen as a specific form of design. ”

The incestuous relationship between art and design is not only a broad theme, but something that has been debated at least since early modernism; from the texts of British artist and designer William Morris to the various 20th century avant-garde movements such as Soviet Constructivism, De Stijl in Holland and Bauhaus in Germany. Design as an independent discipline results from industrialisation and is associated, originally, with ideas of mass production at the service of democratisation, infusing the unqualified labour of the factory worker with aesthetic value. Thus design has, traditionally, an extremely utopian character as it suggests that by bringing art into life, it would be possible to subvert or modify rigid class structures, promoting social equality.

Initially, this exhibition intended to look at how some contemporary artists appropriate the strategies and production methods of design in order to realise projects which employ its potential to transform reality, concretely interfering on public life. But what emerges from the works of the artists included in this show is a series of questions which reflect the relationships between art and design today with much more accuracy and complexity. For instance, amongst the issues that arose is a great interest for the role of design in private everyday life, which could perhaps be seen as a symptom of the increasing privatisation of the public sphere; and also for non-functionality, which somehow denotes a cynical attitude towards the utopian ideals of modern rationality. Therefore, it is an exhibition in which the original hypothesis has been re-thought based on the artworks themselves, identifying in the artistic production some themes which make evident different approximations and overlappings between art and design.

Permeated by the idea of commodity fetishism, the works of Marcelo Cidade, Superflex and Los Super Elegantes explore, in different ways, how value is given to products. In Transeconomia Real (Real Transeconomy), consisting of rings made out of banknotes, Cidade encapsulates product and value in a single object, just as rap musicians flash their wealth with jewellery. Superflex raise the issue of piracy in Supercopy/Logo by printing the title of the work on bootleg La Coste shirts. The play created by the duo Los Super Elegantes is a narrative about an interior decorator that reveals how absurd the criteria for attributing value can be. However, once these works are brought into the art circuit, where value is attributed according to the criteria of this specific market, the idea of fetishism becomes even more complex.

Both the video made in collaboration by Carla Zaccagnini and Nicolás Robbio and the works from Marcius Galan and Rodrigo Matheus put in check the notion of design as the product of pure rationality. The choreographed movements of Zaccagnini and Robbio, who make the same drawing in synchrony, suggest an idea of standardisation, but their almost mechanical precision is negated by the final result, in which what transpires is the difference produced by subjectivity. Design is the product of humanity and, in this sense, it could be said that it is the opposite of nature. In Mata (Woods) and Banco de Jardim (Garden Bench), Galan complicates this statement, as he manipulates pieces of furniture, depriving them of their original function and bringing them closer to nature. Matheus, in his works, often appropriates corporate aesthetics. Here, he shows Ultra Lamps, a set of fluorescent lights which not only don’t serve any purpose but also suggest a waste of energy.

It is interesting to note that the functionality of design is only preserved in two of the works in the exhibition. In Fogo Amigo (Versão portátil) [Friendly Fire (Portable Version)], Cidade created backpacks designed to carry mobile phone jammers, allowing the users to camouflage themselves in any public space and to interrupt the communication flux. The seats developed by Carla Zaccagnini in collaboration with architect Keila Costa are functional objects specifically designed for institutions which hold temporary exhibitions, pinpointing an alternative reading of these shows.

In some ways, the fictitious domestic environments of João Loureiro and Rômmulo Conceição touch similar issues. João Loureiro’s Sala (Room), with its fixed and interconnected furniture, makes us think about how social relations can be determined by interior design , that is, by the arrangement of the elements in an environment projected for a certain purpose. In Sala-Banheiro-Serviço (Room-Bathroom-Utility Room), Conceição creates an installation in which he juxtaposes domestic elements whose functions are associated to particular spaces in the home in a single piece. The accumulation of these indexes of specific areas results in a surreal environment where the rules of behaviour defined by the use of space are no longer applicable.

The question of representation appears in the works of Detanico + Lain, Maurício Ianês and Nicolás Robbio. Detanico + Lain give us all the necessary tools to decode their writing systems, at the same time as they make us more aware of the arbitrariness of language as it is also representation. In a way, representation simplifies its original object. In his work, Ianês questions our ability to represent things. His dark sequin flags do not represent any specific nation, but point towards the idea of a wealth conquered through histories of exploitation, war and suffering. Robbio makes drawings which are almost illustrations from instruction manuals, reducing the information in the line to the minimal amount necessary to be universally decoded, simultaneously introducing elements which obstruct and complicate a seemingly logical and easily readable sequence.

Language also appears in the works of Stefan Brüggemann and Edilaine Cunha. With a work that explores the legacy of conceptual art, particularly that of the American 1960s, Brüggemann employs a tautological language in his adhesive vinyl texts which function as independent artworks in the gallery space. In Número Um (Number One), Cunha subverts the language of advertising campaigns, disrupting the images of a lifestyle of success and well being typical of publicity.

Finally, discussing the new forms of design which emerged over the last decades with the popularisation of new technologies, the duos Goldin + Senneby and Leandro Lima and Gisela Motta give a physical body to objects that exist only digitally. In Objects of Virtual Desire, Goldin + Senneby reproduce objects created on the website
Second Life, which has an average daily turnover of USD 400,000. It is a new economy which is not only monetary but also an economy of desires and experiences. Lima and Motta have extracted the digital files from some of the most popular combat games worldwide in order to build physical, life size prototypes of firearms. By doing this, they bring back the weight and reality of these objects, and create an inventory of guns associated with specific conflicts and nations.