18th edition | april 26 – june 29 2014
“We see only the deserted ground, but this deserted ground seems pregnant with what lies underneath it. You may ask me, “How do we know what’s underneath it? That is precisely what the voice is telling us.” (Gilles Deleuze)
There is an increasingly dominant discourse today that hovers over us all which says we go through the world without noticing it because we are exposed to so many stimuli. The world passes us by unnoticed. We see without looking. We hear without listening. We speak without reflecting. We go through the world as if we were numbed; refractory automatons. The real world is seen as if through smeared glass or a smudged lens.
The importance of artists in these days of ours, alongside philosophers or wise men pregnant with life force, is to make the earth shake, the waters rise up, to wipe the glass and polish the lenses of the world and put us in direct contact with the vitality of life. Artists are increasingly necessary today because they are the ones that crack open the land and all the seed of what is alive and aware to sprout. With art, the world gains sense and feeling. That’s why so many young people today want to become artists. They yearn to get in touch with the vitality of life; they realise that behind the smeared glass there is a world where the metaphysical mystery is immanent and clear; but the very market today, recognising this spiritual movement, manipulates the illusion of the young by turning art into a product of the greatest added value, working against and confounding (somewhat contrariwise) the possibility of a less blurred, clearer life.
But what do museums and the intervention by Rosângela Rennó created especially for the Breathing Project have to do with all this?
Museums are repositories of art objects which translate the material and spiritual history of humankind. At the Eva Klabin Foundation, for instance, what we have is a collection that translates its founder’s perspective, which brings together in her house not just a collection of art objects, but also the spirit of a time and a way of life which was all hers. What Eva Klabin presents us with and invites us to see is the attention she paid to each of these objects when she bought them, at that moment of choice. What she is indicating is that care and attention are constituent parts of her collection and indeed of any other. This final moment of “capturing” an art object, taking it off the market by buying it and imprisoning it in the magic circle to which Walter Benjamin refers in his text “Unpacking my Library: a talk about book collecting”, represents the end of a trajectory, since the moment it is bought the object is frozen in an existence outside the time of commercial exchanges. In the specific case of the Eva Klabin Foundation, this movement is intensified in that the art works exhibited here obey a sense of togetherness conceived by their former owner and preserved through the continued maintenance of her home, the space where she lived with her collection.
Although the collection is eclectic, the sense of harmony in the way the items were arranged by the collector can almost induce a visual “numbness” because of the sheer opulence that strikes the visitor and also, perhaps mainly, because of the habit we have acquired in the contemporary world of not paying attention. We are dazzled by the harmony of the set of objects to the point of being blind to each object’s individual qualities. And it is precisely the idea of the singularity inherent to each object that Rosângela Rennó takes as the core material of her intervention.
Rennó has created a device which uses a combination of sound and light to make us see what lies beneath the collection, humorously enabling the objects to give voice to their “memories” of their history as objects and their inclusion in the collection as a whole. She describes her project for the Breathing Project in the following terms:
“In fact, what matters most is to get the objects to speak and tell us something about themselves. In many cases they comment on their new position in the collection; in others they comment on their existence as objects and their role in the magic circle created by Eva Klabin.”
The artist is fully aware of the importance of history and what history carries with it. The magic circle she creates has more to do with the “present” that history can bring about than with the “past” that the path of memory can unravel. Through the objects in the Eva Klabin collection, Rosângela Rennó discovers a way of addressing history not as a manifestation that is detached from the past into the present, but as if these objects bore in their current manifestation the multiple layers of their past as members of a collection. Which is why they speak. They speak of what is beneath what we see. And the voice is the link that draws us to them. Their pasts are revealed as they are manifested to our senses. As if in a flash, they lay bare the concomitance of past and present in present time, casting off the shackles of visuality, which silences them in the story told by the history of art. They want to be the ones to recount the history of their condition. It is as if she granted them the power to dig under the surface of the Eva Klabin collection and bring forth, through their stories, the density of present time that their existences impose by their very presence. The past, stripped of its latency, becomes manifestly real.
Rosângela Rennó’s intervention surprises us by revealing “why the story is so interesting with all of these things behind it or working with it.”* Through it, she directs powerful criticism against the current trends in the art world, much as she did with her biting criticism of the art market in Menos-valia [auction] at the 29th São Paulo Bienal. Here, what she is questioning and criticising is a different aspect of the market: its encouragement of novelty in art for novelty’s sake, as if art could be detached from the history of art.
Far from proposing a post-modern, nihilistic end of history, repeating the past for a lack of perspective, what she actually suggests in quite a unique way is that history cannot be separated from the present; that the history of art is so interesting because of all of these things behind it and working with it; and it can also be humorous. With her talking art objects she calls for them to take their place in history and suggests that we should cast our eyes to the past to discover their power of presence and their capacity to trigger the huge array of potentialities buried in the midst of the perverse, headlong pursuit of novelty for novelty’s sake in contemporary society.
In this, the 18th edition of the Breathing Project, we are drawn closer to the history of the Eva Klabin Foundation collection through works that Rosângela Rennó selected from amongst the least conspicuous or most “timid”, to use her words, “and also because of some historical circumstances and some facts related to their very existence or acquisition process. Each choice had its own reasons, many of a subjective nature.” And so the artist invites us to leave haste to one side and give ourselves the chance to pay more attention so we can get in touch with the expanded time in which the history of art is present not as a past detached from time, but as a block of time that constitutes and is constituted of pure actuality. This is the magic circle of the Eva Klabin house museum. This is the magic circle of the Breathing Project. This is the magic circle of Rosângela Rennó.