The World before the Shot – 2018

by Luisa Duarte
Version by Chris Burden

The first time I saw the sculptures by Raul Mourão where his famous Balanços (See-Saws) are balanced on different empty glass bottles, it was as if I were encountering something strangely familiar. The bottles played the role of an intruder in an unknown territory. The geometric sculptures built entirely from steel offered an unexpected sign of everyday life, with its own temperature and a fragility that was unprecedented at the time. This gesture, in my view, opened up a new perspective of meanings regarding a well-known aspect of the artist’s process: which is to say, a state of strangeness created within a familiar situation.

We know that in the Balanços, made purely from steel, the power is generated by the unlikely combination of weight and lightness, where the rigidity of the material is infected by the playful vibration of the movement. As has been observed, this meeting of opposites has as one of its causes the fact that these sculptures emerged from Raul’s drawings. In other words, in the genesis of these works, which are so secure and proud, one notes an experimental, unpredictable, risk-taking quality. It is from this unsuspected kinship between opposites that the strength of much of these works derives.

This poetic foundation, in a state of constant friction, encounters a matchless moment in the video Bang Bang (2017). Over the course of six minutes, six different sculptures forged from this combination of elements – the steel geometry and the glass bottle – have their most vulnerable part targeted by a direct shot. We don’t know where the attack comes from. One, two, three, four, five, six works have their bases shattered. In other words, what matters here is not the annihilation of a specific work but rather that we are made to think about the meaning of the successive repetitions of the same type of impact.

On incorporating the fire-arm into the piece, the theme of violence is restored to the artist’s work. We may recall that, for many years, Raul produced numerous works which made direct reference to the railings that populate urban centers, thus alluding to a visuality that embodies the fear of violence in Brazil’s big cities. In the words of Paulo Herkenhoff, these steel sculptures, produced from 2001, are about the “geometry of fear in a precise historical context.”

Raul has conceived and produced Bang Bang in the light of the events of 2017, when Brazilian contemporary art has become the target of a fascist rage that is plaguing Brazil, forcing us to witness countless cases of the censorship of freedom of expression.1 The video can thus be read as a response to a moment where art has become a target of violent forces. But it should be noted that Bang Bang in no way illustrates this situation, which would render it merely propagandist.

Firstly, he creates a poetic event characterized by concision. The bottle, the geometric steel form, the kinetic register incorporated there which places everything in tenuous balance: the artist creates a scene that is simultaneously playful and stern, emotional and sober, fragile and tough; a kind of hourglass that contains a time that could shatter at any moment. A meeting of opposites: the empty bottles full of memories that contain countless narrative possibilities and the metallic geometric forms closed in on themselves.

The attacks launched against each bottle, shown in slow motion, initiate a time without truce, the shattering of an (im)possible balance. Finally, the attacks directed against the field of art were not informed by any degree of critical consideration, but were primarily characterized by a desire for a complete silencing – the annihilation itself – of the discourse of the other, of he or she who is different. In other words, the direct shot of Bang Bang, whose author is anonymous, precisely replicates this relationship deprived of any attempt at reflection or dialogue.

If we pause the video at 24 seconds, a fraction before the first shot, only the soundtrack indicates that something serious and irreparable is about to occur; since Raul’s sculpture is nothing more than the proof of the possibility of power derived from a meeting of opposites. This visual declaration of a possible balance between different things – the universal geometric forms and the botch-job of the empty bottles – and the beauty derived therefrom is proof that, in the field of art, we possess the chance to daily embark on what, in the so-called real world, sometimes appears impossible to us.

While, there outside, everything seems irreconcilable, a war between deaf parties, the artist constructs an allegory about these somber times through what he does best: a translation of the experience of life guided by critical distance that does not allow this translation to be reduced to a mere illustrative gesture. In other words, his Bang Bang does indeed concern the violence inflicted on art, but it is also, simultaneously, a testament to the durability of art: proof of its capacity to address us, in the midst of a ‘bang bang’ with no end in sight; the declaration of a possible equilibrium where the power of life occurs precisely in the meeting of the different. If reality plunges us into a paralyzing nihilism, art can still preserve our capacity to imagine another possible world, closer to that evoked by the work of Raul Mourão before each shot.

1 In 2017, several art exhibitions were the target of censorship in Brazil. For more on this subject, see the dossier “Brazilian art under attack”. Jacaranda, n. 6.

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What do you see? – 2015

by Fernanda Lopes for the exhibition Su Casa
New York, October, 2015

In 1964, Frank Stella said of his paintings: “What you see is what you see.” The phrase exemplifies what is considered one of the principles of the minimalist movement. In Su Casa, Raul Mourão seems to revisit this statement, although not taking it as an affirmation but as a question: Is What you see what you see?

Over more than two decades of production, the work of Mourão has always been marked by a strong interest in the urban space, the public debate, the life that happens on the street, by chance, in any corner, at any time. In Su Casa that logic seems reversed, or reconfigured, taking into account other dimension of the space and, consequently, of perception. The exhibition bears some domestic scale, human. The space of the street shop transformed into an exhibition space is much closer to the living room of an ordinary house than the white cube of the art galleries and museums.

The show’s title also refers to the more intimate space of an artist: thestudio. The studio as an empty space, as a place of experience. Both Animal (2015) and Fenestra (2015) leave the process of its realization on display. Here the process is the artwork. The kinetic sculpture that occupies the center of the gallery is made of parts, modules. It is a piece that parts of a simple unitthat multiplied, combined and recombined by the artist reveals its complexity in different possible final structures.

Also in the paintings live seemingly conflicting principles. It was looking at a drawing, graphic, made in his studio – comprising repeated rectangles and lines formed by the spaces between them – that the artist recognized the image of a window on it. And from there he began to pay more attention to the windows of the world. This inverts the operation of almost all of Mourão’s production: It does not usually occur from the inside (the studio) to the outside (the world), but as something of the world, which is taken into the studio – as with theGrids series, which started with the artist’s perception of the security grills that began to occupy Rio de Janeiro in the 1980s. One of the symbols of the public safety policy failure in the city began to be used by the artist as work material. Here, in the windows of Raul Mourão, the minimalist grid composed of vertical and horizontal straight lines intersecting at orthogonal angles, which is the starting point of the work, loses its impartiality and accuracy to be built by hand. The same applies to the rectangles, the basic unit of these paintings: these geometric shapes, identical, repeated indefinitely, start to gain individuality due to worn ink, alignment errors, and other “accidents” that occur in the middle of the process. These changes produce a visual disturbance, a tension between what should be abstract and what implies a figure.

Su Casa is an exhibition about the doubt, about the endless possibilities of seeing (the world, the work); about the exercise of putting yourself or something in doubt, about opening up, at least in thoughts, to other possibilities. It is as if we walked by it wondering: “What if?”, “Are you sure?”. And that is the truly political nature of art: getting us out of our comfort zone, of our passivity and everyday certainty, and open up the possibility of seeing the world in a different way.


Fernanda Lopes is an art critic and curator, doctoral student in Art History and Critique at EBA|UFRJ. Author of the books Área Experimental – área experimental lugar espaço dimensão (Minc/Funarte’s grant for Estímulo à Produção Crítica, 2012) and A Experiência Rex: Éramos o time do Rei (Awarded with the Prêmio de Artes Plásticas Marcantonio Vilaça – FUNARTE, 2009). Lives and works in New York.

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To see the visible – 2015

by Eucanaã Ferraz for the FENESTRA exhibition
March 2015
Version by Lis Horta Moriconi

In this exhibition, Raul Mourão once more devotes himself to the difficult marriage of construction and chance. Careful not to override each other, the entwined tensions engender through taut interplay solutions that reject judgements of decision or classification.

Thus, with such destabilizing interconnections, Mourão’s works convey familiarity with the principles of printmaking without however being defined by reproducibility. Mourão borrows procedures from monotyping, but his images do not emerge from the usual process of painting on the surface of what is often a sheet of glass, subsequently pressed against paper. It would be too little to say they share an affinity with stamps. Nor are they completely alien from the procedures of painting. Mourão’s work is not about choosing this or that surface, this or that material, or even this or that pigment. It is not the definition of a technique that is paramount: all efforts are directed toward the experimentation of technical possibilities, from which solutions will burst out to engender new problems to be resolved later.

A critical review overly concerned with classifications would also find it challenging to define the conjunction of straight lines and the fluid abstraction of space between them. Even as we are faced with Mourão’s frugal economy, how to speak of minimalism when his methods are not hidden away in his works, but rather embrace unpredictability, prizing imperfection? Or how to define his work as informal, when we are offered rigorous construction of planes and geometric arrangements?

Abstraction in the works of Raul Mourão has always been based on indistinct and problematic dynamics at play. Mourão after all, takes his geometry from day-to-day objects, such as building facades, soccer fields, railings and signs from public worksites. If, during his career, Mourão aspired towards progressively freer formal arrangements, at the same time he never hid from view the memory of his research processes rooted in the everyday experience of city life. This has led to a form of recognizable abstraction, one that is contaminated by bodily, symbolic, emotional experiences, individual and collective reminiscences. In other words, we are looking at impure geometry.

Earlier works from Chão Parede Gente (Lurixs 2010) had taken that direction. And this new exhibition brings greater depth to those issues. Looking at the window-sculptures we see that Mourão continues investigations that, while unceasing, are not linear. Mourão’s steel sculptures at first suggested an urban chronicle or sociological commentary in as far as they displayed the aesthetic situation that was born of a crisis in public security: the overpowering and indiscriminate use of bars and railings for protection. His sculptures came out of a process of de-functionalization, their lines and volumes dimmed due to utility. Over the past few years however, Mourão has moved towards more classic abstraction, closer to the works of Amilcar de Castro, Franz Weissmann or even Calder. In the sculptures on show at LURIXS, bars have exited the focus of interest, abstraction has also retreated, offering us instead, something prosaic and recognizable, something that they had prevented us from seeing: the windows themselves. What we have before us is invention, and an invented architecture that is fragmentary and mobile, it dances thanks to kinetic matter that brings back to us spectators, to our eyes, and touch, states of weight, volume, movement, balance, time and value.

What draws our attention here is less the functionality or usefulness of things than their situation or ontological nature. Mourão’s gaze is turned above all to the apparent intelligibility of shapes, as if they spoke directly to us. His ensemble of works – sculptures, drawings, painting, prints, videos, installations, performances- always scoured subjectivities in action, in permanent coincidence with the real space in which they move. Since however cities do not separate themselves from their inhabitants and vice-versa, there is no real interest to be found in landscapes or time and space contingencies treated as mere background: shapes pulled out from cities are important in as far as they allow us a vision of the memory of social practices. For that reason, instead of pure forms we have an impure geometry, it is not abstraction strictly speaking nor is this a case of mere figurative art.

Looking at Mourão’s “stamps” we experience the illusion that there is something to be seen in the in-between spaces, the intervals, created by the window frames as if there were something to look through to, an outside. Is there something to see outside? Is there an inside and an outside? Our eyes tend to see something, want to see something. Mourão knows that and teases us. Almost inevitably we are reminded of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. In the film, windows exist because of what can be seen through them: a world where the old bourgeois privacy dissolved as middle class clustered promiscuously together in apartment buildings. It is a gaze that delves, indiscretely, into narratives, facts, into the intimacy of others. By refusing that content, Raul Mourão creates windows, and doors, that are facts in themselves. Or even, concentrates on surfaces, creating a universe that lacks another side, it is bottomless, and there is no inside-out. I recall the Portuguese poet Sophia de Melo Breyner Andresen, who mentions the “vehemence of the visible”. Raul Mourão’s every gesture seems to look for this type of total presence.

We are a world apart from the effects of the trompe l ́oeil. With no desire to imitate reality, but quite the opposite, Raul Mourão’s works are an effort to make the eye see. Even when Mourão recreates the LURIXS Gallery façade windows inside the main exhibition area – his aim is not to make visitors feel they are inside a (false) reality. Instead of feigned reality, visitors experience a displacement, an estrangement and are made to ponder, sharpening their perception. All is what it seems: form, texture, color, weight, volume, movement, density, rhythm, memory. Each construction has the “vehemence of the visible”. Instead of sleight of hand, we are faced with a lucid play, with the playful proposition of an art that will return us the pleasure of seeing things, and our own selves, in new situations. Thus by rejecting illusion, tricks, and falsity, Raul Mourão reaffirms the ethical and political dimension of his work even here, in this new exhibition whose works are at a considerable distance from those that carried a more explicit political statement.

Duchamp’s 1920 Fresh Widow steel multiples created a curious historic line, since they at once recovered the ready-mades (a key strategy in Mourão’s work) and the historicity of objects -in this case the window- in the history of architecture and the discursive fields that adopted it as a privileged sign. In much the same way, Mourão’s various versions of window frames remind us of the cubist grid or concrete art. In this sense it is possible to detect a clear critical and metalinguistic aspect that prevails over the entire exhibition – the drawings, paintings, sculptures, photographs (as far as it is possible to use such definitions) –whose subjective expression reveals aspects of philosophical commentary, both on Raul Mourão’s singular poetics – there are many echoes here of his obsessions – as well as of (his own) history of art, always understood as, to use an expression by Giulio Carlo Argan, “storia dell’arte come della città”.

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The mesh, the grid: the double – 2014

by Francisco Bosco for the MOTO exhibition
February 2014

The engine that drives Raul Mourão’s oeuvre – beginning at a certain stage of formulation in which the obstinate character of questions denotes the consolidation of a gaze, a gesture, a singularity – is, in my understanding, a tension which could be described, within a chain of oppositions, as the one which exists between world and form, concrete and abstract, signified and signifier, heteronomy and autonomy. This tension generally starts out irreducible, non-synthesizable, under the guise of a double which establishes a presence/absence mechanism, and which the artist then unfolds into myriad possibilities, and tends to move towards the prevalence of the formal. At other times, as is the case with his widely known series on the former Brazilian president Lula (Luladepelúcia, Luladegeladeira, Luis Inácio Guevara da Silva), this tension resolves into works that synthesize signified and signifier, sense and sensible, social commentary executed as form and material. But generally, I repeat, there prevails a sort of tension, one that neither separates nor fuses its elements. In this show, MOTO (MOTION), this tension-engine is repositioned onto a set that sheds light on the general direction of his trajectory, consolidating it, enhancing it, and endowing it with new inflections. Let us review the “chapters” in the exhibit, so as to make these abstract observations more concrete.

One might say MOTO begins where everything begins to Raul Mourão: the street, experiences lived, the immediate. The first chapter is dedicated (also in the sense of a tribute, in memoriam) to the Chilean artist Selarón, found burned on the steps of the tiled Lapa staircase he designed himself. The set is titled Suicidaram Selarón (They’ve suicided Selarón). The ironic title is the Brazilian equivalent to Artaud’s original (Van Gogh, the man suicided by society): not so much the moral oppression as the cynical interplay between order and disorder (of which Lapa was the historical birthplace during the republican era of our history), involving the police, drug dealers, the press, government officials, in whose dirty game the artist was “suicided.” In media res, MOTO opens up by introducing a photograph depicting Selarón’s body being “mourned,” (photo: Bruno César/AFP) in a police cover-up (of which the covered body is a metaphor), under the inquiring eyes of a citizen, to whose left is a man in business attire (characterizing the porosity of the city’s social strata); farther to the left is a desolate man. The public work of art also mourns its author’s corpse, a metonymy for the murdering of art by political institutions.

Like a narrative, the chapter on Selarón is followed by chapter #setaderua (#streetsign), which resumes a series explored by Raul Mourão a few years back. While Suicidaram Selarón is consecrated to pure immediacy, to its shapeless violence (even though its double background is the work of art and its world of form), #setaderua introduces in a more explicit way the tension between immediacy and the medium, concrete and abstract, sense and the sensitive. Throughout the whole series, what we see is photographic compositions and paintings that concoct variations on that tension, as though the artist’s gaze never ceased to be amazed by the emergency and the perseverance of the formal in the face of its functionality. Thus being, the street signs are at once sense (function) and sensitive (form). They perform their tasks of detouring, circumscribing, orienting – and yet at the same time they transcend said utility, affirming themselves as form, graphism, composition, and cast their gaze upon the moments of greatest formal autonomy in the history of modern art.

This ambivalence between function and form is outlined more explicitly under the mechanism of the double, to which I have referred, in the chapter #agradeeoar (#thegridandtheair). Resuming his series on grids, the artist creates a two-way street, whose first three photographs exhibit grids within their social habitat, the world of objects, where their form disappears in their utility. In the sculptures, in turn, the process is reversed, and this time utility vanishes, suppressed by the environment, causing form to rise to the forefront. As in the Gestalt’s Rubin Vase, there is a play of presence and absence, of foreground and background: function is haunted by its double, which is form, and vice versa. There is an other in the image, indissociable but phantasmal, like the melody of a silent song that plays in our mind as we read a song’s lyrics; or, inversely, a lyric we read, deep down in our ears, as we hear the melody of a known tune whistled.

The next chapter develops and builds on this displacement of emphasis from the signified to the signifier, an operation which the critic Luisa Duarte has dubbed the “drying out”: a translation of experience driven by an “asepsis, a desiccation, a distancing of the subject from the living of experience.” The grid series – “geometry of fear,” as the critic Paulo Herkenhoff put it (and thus form and affection, stability and movement) – reconnects with its evolution in larger-scale structures that are openly autonomous, like those exhibited in Tração animal (Animal traction), at Rio’s MAM, 2012, which performed a “de-functionalizing of the functional,” as noted by critic and curator Luiz Camillo Osório. Like an orchestral arrangement, these structures combined themselves with the street signs, duly “dried out,” and additionally comprise the element of lights and shade to give rise to the apex of this passage from the mesh to the grid, from real movement to abstract movement, a fundamental philosophical category. Not by chance, the artist calls this set of works Obra (Oeuvre). It also opens with street images (the photograph titled Little Richard, a tribute to the artists Richard Serra and Fernanda Gomes), which denotes the same tension between functional objects and their pure form, and then dries out experience through form. Thus, Obra is the chapter that brings the elements together and sheds light on the predominant direction to this trajectory; it is the process and its outcome; it is the construction material and the constructivism; it is, in the artist’s own words, “what connects different lived experiences, and turns them into artworks.”

Live presents one single recording, bearing down, as the title indicates, upon the fire of what has been lived, looking to capture it in the cold medium of photograph. Finally, Brog (Brog is the name of Raul Mourão’s blog) receives two images by other artists (Gustavo Prado and Joshua Callaghan), implying that the engine of the existential is also the others, and that an art piece cannot be created without the gazes of companions. After all, as one poet said – he himself inhabited by the tension between the primal character of rock and roll and the sophistication of concretism: “there is no sun in solitude.”

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Interview with Raul Mourão for the book MOV – 2010

Raul Mourão Studio
conversation via skype with Maria do Carmo Pontes (Londres) and Frederico Coelho (Rio de Janeiro)
October 2010

Maria do Carmo: Rosalind Krauss wrote a lovely text about the grid, in which she talks about the presence in the painting of the 20th century of the grid as an emblem of modernity. She refers only to painting, but I think that the concept is valid for other things as well.

Raul Mourão: I’m not familiar with this text. Does she mean the orthogonal mesh that is behind some paintings?

MC: Yes. A grid can mask and reveal at the same time. To my mind, the sculptures in the Swing series are clearly derived from the Railings series. I see the Swings as Railings that are constantly in movement.

So, the inside and the outside are forever changing, each moment, and with each person, which gives a speed and agility to the movement. It is a new moment, a new volume, a new inside and outside. How do you see the creation of volume in this piece?

And another question also related to this. There is something that is said a lot about Swings, all the texts I have read talk about the sculptures in movement. But what interests me a great deal is the way the sculpture is when it is at rest, not moving at all. I remember what Eduardo Coutinho said, in a book of interviews, about his procedure for interviewing people for documentaries, that he is very interested in their words, but also in the silence between the words, the empty time in which nothing happens. So, perhaps relating this creation of volume inside and outside with the moment in which nothing happens. The moment when it is at rest…

RM: This series of sculptures has these two modes. They are both static and in movement. These are two modes of a single piece and both are equally valuable, equally important for me. I like the scene which Frederico describes when he writes about the LURIXS exhibition, when the viewer arrives at the exhibition and finds the sculptures all at rest, as set of static sculptures.

Then, when the viewer begins to participate, he or she comes to see the same pieces in a completely different mode. A mode created by the viewer that will never again be repeated, something he or she has created at that moment in time. The sculptures in movement take on various shapes and sizes, as you say. I think that this piece has this quality of situating the viewer as an observer, in a privileged, differentiated position.

It takes more time to view the pieces in movement and, in this time, by giving the piece a more generous share of time, the viewer interprets the various moments contained in the movement. You can freeze the movement in your head and see the design of the piece at its highest or its lowest point. These various points in time and the duration of time that the viewer spends looking at it end up generating a different kind of gaze, a privileged place of observation and I think that this is the point where a truly new experience is created, which is different from ones relation with the static object. I think that the viewer is dislocated by this, taken of this privileged observation point, as Scovino put it in his text for Porto Alegre. And to go back to where the piece came from which was from the sculptures in the Railings series, I should tell the story of how I met a group of acrobats, actors and dancers here in Rio, called the Intrepid Troupe, which works with movement.

Valéria Martins, one of the directors of the Troupe, invited me to take part in a show in the second half of 2009 in which the members of the company were to Interact with the work of four artists: Marta Jordan, Guga Ferraz, Pedro Bernardes and myself. Valeria wanted to use the pieces from the Railings series and I as reluctant at first. But she insisted and they came to my studio to do some improvisation with the pieces and get to know the work, which they hadn’t seen before. I was reluctant because I had never thought of the pieces coming into contact with someone s body. Railings is a commentary on the public security crisis and an observation regarding the way the cityscape has been transformed.

Frederico Coelho: Another thing I find interesting is that railings are intended to keep people away.

MC: That’s funny too, isn’t it? I thought a lot about railings. Why railings and not a fence? I think that railings have precisely the characteristic of guarding but being open to conversation. They clearly create two spaces, inside and outside, but, the wind can communicate between one and the other; there is a certain fluidity that fences don’t have. It is one of the ways of keeping people at a distance, keeping people out and it s interesting that railings have this very prominent visual aspect.

RM: When I began the Railings series in 1988, I started taking photographs. They were photos that documented a visual aberration that was beginning to spring up everywhere in the Rio de Janeiro cityscape.

A building I used to visit was suddenly surrounded by railings. Another where a friend of mine lived, likewise. And another near my house; even the buildings where my parents lived, and so on. This transformation began to interest me visually and I began to produce these photographic notes. At that time, I thought that, despite their strong visual presence, despite the fact that railings were transforming the landscape of the city, many people weren’t noticing what was happening because it served the urgent and necessary function of providing security and protection, which overshadowed the visual impression. Ten years later, the photos gave rise to the Railings series. In real life, railings are placed around a building to keep people away and I had never thought that my work could interact with the human body as Valeria from the Intrepid group was suggesting, because they are heavy pieces, some with sharp cutting edges, sharp points. I produced Railings to be looked at, although on some occasions, people could go through the railings, as was the case with the Buraco do Vieira installation at the Vale Museum, in Vila Velha. So, they always had this visual dimension and were not meant to be handled. When the Intrepid group came to me with the idea of interacting with these pieces, I resisted the idea, because I knew how heavy they were; I had already hurt myself working with them, because they weren’t inviting people to touch.

However, the Intrepid groups sees an object not meant to be handled as a challenge. They are used to climbing up into unusual places; the risk is a part of their job. Any object that does not attract or invite use is a challenge for them.

Then, when I first met them when they came here to my studio, I realized that there were various interesting uses these objects could be put to and I ended up accepting their invitation. And it was during one of the rehearsals for the show that I first got the idea of the two sets of railings moving and then I reworked them in the studio, giving rise to the series of kinetic sculptures that people are calling Swings.

MC: But I think that there is an aggressive quality to Swings too. They are very violent. In order to move the sculptures, especially the larger ones, you need to apply great force. Danger, Hot, which was the title of the exhibition at the Nara Roesler Gallery in São Paulo, aptly expresses this idea of danger.

RM: The sculptures in the São Paulo exhibition were dangerous. That’s why I gave them the title Danger, Hot.

They are heavy pieces, some of them weighing up to 30 kilos. If you’re not careful when you walk around the exhibition, we can end up being hit by one of the mov ing pieces and hurt yourself. Although they invite you touch them, when you break the equilibrium and set them in motion, the pieces are also dangerous.

FC: In the text I draw a connection with the idea of love, which can sometimes be heavy, dangerous, but, even so, we always ended up getting involved in it, even though we know that it could hurt us at some stage. But to continue on the subject of the swing and the railings, I remember that your ear lier work, even though it had a very broad graphic appeal for someone from Rio, clearly identified a certain situation in the city. It could refer, for instance, to the security crisis or a Rio bar. There was this local rationale in your work. And with the swing, this came to an end. You created an object that, if it were exhibited in New York, or Korea, or Germany, would be the same. It has something universal or non-territorial about it, to use the current critical jargon. Is this change something that you are going to begin to introduce into the rest of your work or do you think that it was specific to this series and does not need to be applied to future work?

RM: The railings pieces were certainly very local. I even think that, if you show them in other places, they completely lose their power, because they lose the interpretation of being a commentary on violence, on the security crisis, the fear and paranoia that is very much a part of liv ing in Rio and other cities in Brazil, which I think are disappearing now. I remember a conversation with an artist in Los Angeles who asked: “Is it about prison? About being behind bars? And I replied, “No. This is a prison that we live in, that the population put up for themselves . And the worse thing about it is that I think people don’t even notice. To the extent that, after I started working on these pieces, especially after the Entonces exhibition at the Paço Imperial, various people from Rio came up to me to remark that they were seeing railings going up all over the city, railing that probably had already been in existence. That exhibition woke many people up to seeing what was going on, as if I was alert ing them, giving them a new channel of vision, when they saw the show and then started to see the city in a different light. Just the other day, Omar Salomão sent me a photo of some railings, which is something that I always take photos of, which is a set railings for an air conditioner without the air conditioner inside, leaving the caged space with nothing in it. Other people have sent me such photos too. I remember another that João Modé sent me. The piece establishes a genuine dialogue with the city, to the extent that when you are no longer in the exhibition, but walking around the city, you remember my work and see things in a different way. I think this is really cool and I love to see it happening. I think that, deep down, the main purpose of the work of art is to educate the eye, to stir its sensibilities, to transform the way people look at art, at the world, at their own lives. I think this re ally happened in the case of the Railings series. The Swings series, the set of kinetic sculptures, are objects in themselves. They do not comment on the world but are their own world, with their own internal discourse. They lack any idea of an outside world. I came at a certain point to believe that there was no idea at all behind it, that it was a pure play of form, a geometrical dance. I said in jest that it was anti-conceptual art. And I do in fact believe that is true.

MC: Without a concept, as Hélio Oiticica said.

RM: Exactly. Pure experimentation.

FC: What you say is great. It reminds me a little of Oiticica s Meteorites, since the Meteorite is a fusion of color and object, the materialization of color by means of its relation with each specific object. This is what you are saying about Swings, the way you play with the object, following its internal logic.

RM: Absolutely. They are autonomous. A good part of my work has always been conceptual, or had an underly ing narrative, be it a commentary on every day life, on a football game, on the art system, on politics. My position was to pilfer some event in the real world and take this as my starting point, visual observation of an event, in a bar, in road signs, in people. There is obviously another side to my work which comes from fantasy, pure fiction, an original invention, coming from nowhere, from an empty space. Many of my drawings are like this, such as the tables series that I showed at LURIXS. This kinetic series arose from this organization of forms, from the grace and the power of movement, speed, equilibrium weight, from the cube placed above that moves in such a way as to reveal other sides of the same cube, with the support of that which lies below. So, there is a view from above the piece, a way of observing the composition, a search for beauty in that composition or in the movements, which is something new, and this entails adopting different practices in the studio, a more handicraft-like approach, more trial and error, in which things come about as you go along. This is different from my previous work, which are much more about planning, design and execution.

FC: Do you think then that this is a less rational period in your work? Do you have less control now?

RM: Yes. It is less rational. It has a different routine, which requires a nov el kind of experimentation, but is also highly stimulating. It s as though the pieces had a life of their own. It s a much more intense kind of experimentation. The work began to dictate the rhythm too and it was very fast. It s a true dialogue. I make one of them and, as soon as I’ve finished, it s already given me the idea for another. And this other one gives me the idea for two more. It s like they are procreating and talking to me at a dizzy ing pace. It s a giddying experience but also a very rich one and a lot of fun to do. And I think this is reflected in the way people view it. People seem to be happy in its presence, which is rare in the art world, both during and at the end of the exhibition. Nuno Ramos saw three pieces in Tomie Ohtake, at the Equilibrium Point exhibition and we had a brief conversation. He liked the work. We talked for about five minutes and he spoke of the joy he could see in this work, remark ing that generally there is not much joy to be found in works of art. I spoke in terms of humor, while he spoke in terms of joy.

MC: You use humor a lot. It s a strategy you keep coming back to.

RM: Yes. There is humor in other work of mine. But I think the joy is something new.

FC: You talk about your work—I don’t know if you’ve touched on this, as if it were a kind of literature. You described the previous series as chronicles of the everyday, news reports from the street and so forth. And you have described this Swings series as a novel. The characters are driving the author, since, as you have said, “they are leading the way . I think this narrative jour ney in your work is important.

RM: I always saw my work as falling into two main groups, alternating between a documentary and a more fictional approach. If I was a film-maker, I would make both documentaries and fiction. If I was a writer, I would write journalism and fiction. My work moves back and forth between these two fields.

MC: And the Swings also incorporate both? I think there is a figurative series and an abstract one.

RM: No. It doesn’t incorporate both. Some pieces are more figurative, some more abstract, but both are in the field of fiction. They do not represent observation of the world. They are not commentaries. They fall into the category of fiction, pure fantasy.

MC: And the house? How did that idea come about?

RM: Some pieces suggest figures; they are more figurative. This was also something that happened by accident, as I was going along. Initially, Swings was more abstract, taking the form of two rectangles rocking back and forth on a prism. And at one point that suggested the shape of a human body to me and I did not reject the idea. When I showed it at the Nara, there was a bit of both. By the time of LURIXS, I was emphasizing the figurative side a bit more. LURIXS is about the same size as a family house. It was built for that. The Gallery occupies and old house in Botafogo where a family once lived. So, the door to the LURIXS is the door to someone s home, not the door to a gallery. It is four meters high and three meters wide. It is the original door of a family home and it has a nor mal kind of staircase and hallway that you would expect to find in such a home. In the LURIXS main gallery, I arranged the pieces in such a way as to suggest a family set ting. If you look carefully you can see this. One piece has the same scale as a table and two chairs, another looks like a human figure, and there is yet another piece on the wall that could be a painting. I did this to reinforce the figurative direction the series was taking, even though it had not initially been intended to be figurative. But, nowadays, these things are rolled together, I work on both of them at the same time in my studio. They are no longer fields that I have kept separate, that I have thoroughly investigated and arrived at many conclusions. I would also like to say that this line of work is still very much in its initial stages, even though I have been producing it for over a year, which was enough time to exhaust my interest in other series. In this case, I can state that I am still starting out, because various possible directions are open. I have already tried some of these out and some are being documented, so as ensure that these streams of inspiration don’t run dry. I made lots of notes. For one possible direction, I produced drawings in a lit tle notebook. Another I put on the computer in 3D. And for another I made small models, with this series of words, Floor, Wall.

MC: There is one thing that I find very beautiful in Swings. There is a tendency in contemporary art to invite participation, all that kind of thing, emancipation of the eye. A tendency for you to occupy a position between that of spectator and actor, in a somewhat ephemeral state. Swings has this, but it also has something very powerful, that I think your art in general does, which is a certain simultaneity. Because the swings are always moving, you are at the same time inside and outside. And this inside and outside, as we have said, are changing all the time. Another thing that you can see in the titles of the pieces is a desire to be all-encompassing. There s a piece entitled House/tree/street, as well as Armless and Headless or Railings and Stone. And there’s also 5 paintings. And this fits in with a nice idea that Herkenhoff brought up in his text, that you produce afflicted objects.

RM: I think this business of participation has become a bit pathetic in the art world nowadays. People produce work intended to be participatory but they already have a clear idea in mind of how people are going to participate. They lead the way and try to imagine in advance what will go on in the viewer’s head.

MC: I think that in your work participation is a consequence.

RM: In my case, I think it is more genuine, it is not gratuitous, nor is it something where I have said Oh! One day I’ll do a participatory piece . It is something necessary for the very existence of the work. It is a legitimate participation that is genuinely intense. When someone, at the exhibition in São Paulo, takes hold of a piece, feels the weight of it, he or she interacts physically and becomes a co-author of the work, because it was at rest and now has another meaning, another character. In São Paulo, to go back again to what Frederico said, you could see what people were feeling when they arrived and saw the static group, which was already full of life, since those stat ic pieces have their own beauty, their own qualities as a work of art, communicating with the audience without moving. Then, they set the pieces in motion. Suppose that a person is viewing the exhibition alone and he or she sees something that was one way in a completely different manner, one move ment on top of another. The pieces work in isolation, but the view of the whole is almost another piece in itself, as if it were a single piece, within which six parts are in motion. This feeling is so strong that, for a moment, talking with Daniel Roesler, we considered the possibility of selling the group as a single unit in order to “keep the family together”.

MC: There’s this very strong idea of a group in the piece.

RM: There is. Of preserving that grouping because of the way it is installed. Because of the way you could see one piece behind another, movement along distinct planes. In the video on the Nara Roesler site, Fernanda Figueiredo and Eduardo Mattos portray this a lot using a piece in the foreground and another behind it and another behind that. The same person who saw it at rest and touched it is now the author of it, and the way he or she is seeing it, the way it is moving, is unique. No-one else will make it move in exactly the same way. You move one first and then another and then a third and the movement of the first one slows down, depending on how you touch it. If you touch it softly, it is very slow. If you press it as hard as you can, it starts off fast and then loses speed. So, each visitor makes his or her own exhibition. This is exactly what Frederico talked about in the text. And it is a unique movement. The viewer really is a co-author of the work. People Interact with it in a way I haven’t seen happen in other interactive works out there. There is something concrete and genuine in this interaction which also think is…

MC: Of another order. Of simultaneity. It is not an agent of emancipation in the sense of taking on a role and taking part in the piece or turning on a light. There is something very personal and very simultaneous about it.

RM: There is. But you were saying something about the afflicted object. Was that what you meant?

MC: Paulo Herkenhoff, in a text he wrote in ARTE BRA, makes a connection between your work and that of Arthur Bispo do Rosário and another artist, because you all create afflicted objects.

FC: I loved this definition, because your objects, even when they are stationary, have a certain vibration to them. For example, Dumb-Mute is a highly static object, but the impossibility of removing it from that musical instrument causes it to be an afflict ed object. The same can be said of Cartoon, which is a piece that becomes afflicted because of that block of wood on the head of the doll, because you know that that s a joke, but the block presents a very strong impression. I understand the idea of the afflicted object in this way. There is some kind of vibrancy to the work.

RM: Maria, you mentioned this idea of another place. I imagine the viewer seeing the piece and its title, but this refers to other events, perhaps even transports the viewer to another place. The object is contaminated by another field of references and thought that also open up in the mind of the viewer. So there is also a relation with the object and with the subject matter that surrounds it. This is true both of Railings, as we were saying, but also Phytographs, or even of pieces from the CuddlyLula series, because this piece had its own value, but was also commenting on a political event, about a series of events surrounding it. It expands the experience a bit. It is a visual experience and so forth, but it also invades your mind with other information from the surroundings. Was this more or less what you meant?

MC: Yes. Insisting on having every thing at the same time. A sort of “I want it all” or “I want them all” mentality, because that is the key to your affliction, in a personal sense too. Not wanting to be restricted to writing, updating your blog, being an artists, meeting people. I think there s something joyful about this business of wanting to embrace the whole world. For me, something that is very powerful in Swings is the idea of an embrace, which applies to CuddlyLula as well. The individual is devoured by a phagocyte, the thing is all-enveloping.

RM: I think that this energy that you see in me finds its way into my work too. Although, in some cases, there is a cleanness, a rationality, and industrial precision, holes drilled in aluminum plates, an electric saw, the drawings of Lula, which I did with an extension cord, putting a pencil on the point of an electric saw using a 3D file. Or the geometrical paintings, which are industrial, or the pieces where I use formica. All of these are sort of cleaned up and they have an industrial finish that is somewhat different from the more chaotic and euphoric side of my personality. But, even so, I can see a mixture of life and work in them, which is the category that the critics came up with. My life is not the subject of my work but a mere material, a field, a landscape from which I take a cutting, or a branch, or a seed here and there to transform into something else.

MC: It is a consequence. It can’t be separated.

RM: Yes. I even got Scovino worked up. He asked me about life and art for his book, and I said: “But, come on, can you think of an artist who doesn’t mix life and work? I can’t. They all do…

FC: Maybe this idea of life and work has a lot to do with the romantic ideal, in which the artist has to give his all to the creative process to the detriment of his ordinary life, because there was a belief in an almost sacred process of inspiration, in which the artist had to reach a different state in or der to be creative. Nowadays the two are not separated so drastically. But I would like to go into this question that Maria brought up: your Studio is an open place and I am sure that this finds its way a lot into your work. Few artists, to my knowledge, in Rio de Janeiro, have this kind of relationship to the city, to the culture of the city, as you do. I believe, as I have said before, that you are one of the artists who knows the most about contemporary art. I am talking here about information. I don’t mean to say that you are necessarily a critic, but you are a guy who is extremely knowledgeable about contemporary art and your interest in it goes beyond your work. Likewise, as Maria, once again, pointed out, you have this frenetic side to you that is constantly blogging and social networking. You’ve made a video and you have always worked with various media. So I have two questions. What impact has this had on your work? And, do you think that this kind of attitude to the world is inevitable in a contemporary artist?

RM: I don’t think it s inevitable, no. I don’t believe in rules. You can find works of genius created in complete isolation, with little regard for what is going on in the world. So, I don’t think there is a rule. But, in my case, from the very beginning, this contamination by things that are happening in the city, in the art world have been the fuel, the raw material for my work. I don’t live in isolation, I do not inhabit a protected aesthetic, philosophical world, in which the work of art is produced, sheltered from external influences and the like. My work is the product of this clash, I’m more of an agitator, an inquisitive person who reads, comments on things, is constantly passing on ideas among various groups of people, day and night, wherever I am, in a meet ing, in the public sphere – since I’ve already been invited to work for the State Culture Department and to help draw up the master plan for the School of Visual Arts –, or at a party, passing ideas onto people that are struck by them and pass them on to others. So I do think that this is an important factor and it reminds me of that email you sent me saying that perhaps the most important thing about a work of art is its ability to be a spark, to tirelessly stoking the fire in all walks of life. However, despite the fact that I have stirred things up a bit here and there, creating the Item and O Carioca magazines, at AGORA, which had a gallery in this very building, at the Love s House or Other Thing exhibitions, in our speeches to the General Assembly, despite having a body, having made my mark, having influenced people, I think that my work, despite what various people, such as yourselves, say about it being important, is very restrict ed, not a very big deal, hasn’t had much impact. And this is what led me to withdraw, in the period after AGORA, when I shut my self away in my studio. For a long period, in which I toned down my role as an agitator, as someone engaged in collective processes that are processes of transformation, dissemination of ideas and information, I withdrew into myself because of this modest impact. And I only opened up the Studio again very recently for informal meetings, such as the ones you attended here with Nelson Meireles, Felipe Scovino, Carlos Vergara and others, which are, in fact, a way of also using the studio as the setting for more ordinary, informal conversation. Then came the parties at which Artur Miró, Lucas Santana and Nepal played, Nina Becker’s Red and Blue, and the launch of Sergio Cohn and Francisco Bosco s book, Cultural Digital.

FC: Yours surely do these things because there s a demand for you in the art world and in Rio cultural circles. This dynamism also deprives you of some of the time you could be in your studio, producing work, because you can’t always do both at the same time. You are constantly oscillating between one and the other.

RM: I do oscillate like that. Sometimes I have to cut out these activities to do some work on my art. But it is such a big part of me that, when I see some collective project with a more public profi le, I can’t help myself from getting involved—in social and political work, stirring up the art world a bit, provoking people into questioning things.

MC: But what’s funny about this is that your art isn’t political. And that s a good thing. Your art is a field for other concerns; it doesn’t criticize institution, it doesn’t have anything political about it in this sense. The politics you involve yourself in is effective, and not through the State apparatus. Not that politics in art can’t be effective…

RM: In my artistic work, there were two occasions, two pieces, when I overtly touched on politics and verged on engaged art. These were Railings and CuddlyLula, which is a commentary on a scandal and, at the same time, a commentary on political marketing, the big lie, the great farce that is the electoral process. None of this is the presentation of government programs, it’s all “the voters want to hear this, we found it out in the research we did last week.

FC: Sorry to interrupt you, but your Lula is open to various interpretations. Many people see it as a homage.

RM: Everything is open to interpretation. CuddlyLula was inspired by the ‘big monthly payment scandal and the way Lula was marketed as “Love and Peace Lula by Duda Mendonça, who was also involved in this scandal.

MC: Different from Vik Muniz s Lula, which came at a time when there were lots of images in the magazines. Isn’t this what s at stake?

RM: No. Vik s piece is just a por trait of the president as an eminent Brazilian.

MC: Like Joãosinho Trinta.

RM: Like any of the others he produces. My Lula is not. My Lula was a critical commentary, which, like Railings, has these political overtones.

MC: But I think that it fits in more with what Francis Alÿs says about engaged art. He says that, sometimes, you do something poetic that becomes political. And, sometimes, you do something political, that ends up becoming poetic.

RM: That’s interesting. As I don’t have much time for most so-called participatory art, neither do I have much time for most engaged art, so-called political art. Paulo Reis did an interview with me and, in one of my responses, I talk about how music is an art form that can more effectively communicate a political content. I cite the The Clash and Chico Buarque, and I mention a specific song by Mundo Livre S.A. called “Militant in Counter-information . The problem with works of art that aspire to be political is that they have zero effectiveness. Often, these pieces are seen by very small numbers of people. The capacity for a work of political art to have a big impact on the world is very small compared to music. Other fields more for political activity are literature and journalism. When the visual arts try to be engaged, the results are of ten pathetic. They are works of art that are going to have zero effect.

FC: As you say, the visual arts are not necessarily a mass art form. But, when an artist does produce engaged art, at least he or she is taking a position and placing it before society. Whether it is going to be eff ective or not in the eyes of the public, that s the big challenge.

RM: What I think is this. At the very least, it’s taking a position. Having an influence on a small group is a political act and has some value. But, in some cases, you see that the artist has a program and intends to achieve this or that.

MC: Yes. The problem with political art is that, when art sets out from the very start to be political, it is very boring; it is just politics, there s no art in it. I see an enormous amount of stuff. I’ve never seen a good piece on the invasion of Iraq, for ex ample. Everything is seen through the eyes of the BBC.

RM: But there can be no doubt about the power of those newspaper pieces by Antonio Manuel and other work from the generation of Antonio Dias, and Carlos Vergara, when it was practically obligatory, because it was a time of…

FC: Brazil developed an engaged kind of art that was effective against, let s say for malist art, but that dealt with the question of form. It s a debate that stretches back in Brazilian history to at least the mid 20th century. The thing is that when you actually study the 1960s, which was the height of political engagement in the nascent mass culture in Brazil, different from the theater, the cinema, or popular music, the visual arts, with some exceptions, did not play a big part in this great debate.

MC: You can go to Pinacoteca de São Paulo and see work by these guys. If you weren’t there, if you don’t know the history, you haven’t heard about through other channels… They are wonderful artists, Claudio Tozzi, Gilberto Salvador, Marcelo Nietzsche, a whole generation of politically engaged artists from the time of the dictatorship. It’s a curious feeling.

RM: Talking about the ineffectiveness of political art, CuddlyLula is itself a concrete example of this. It was a piece that I produced to criticize political market ing and the scandal, and many people think that it is a piece showing support for Lula. Lula himself has a CuddlyLula. He sent me a telegram thanking me for it.

FC: The doll, like marketing, be it Lula s or yours, is a big hit. In this sense, it was a success.

MC: And, in my view, CuddlyLula almost has something Roots of Brazil about it, generating a kind of intimacy with the president, who hugs you, who s there for you.

RM: Yes. But it was produced in a specific context. It also has a lot of humor in it and, to tell the truth, has become a joke. To the extent that large numbers of people refer to it without having been to the exhibition. It was a complex exhibition, with almost thirty drawing, with contributions from other guest artists, there were the titles of the pieces and an installation with a hundred dolls, but this was emptied of meaning, because the title, CuddlyLula and the image became well-known out side the art world. It is a work of art that broke out of the art world. It found its way into Diogo Mainardi’s column, it was on the back page of Quem magazine, it was commented on in politics columns, in the business pages, in the social pages. Years later, I still received emails from people saying that they were returning the doll because it was defective and the like. It spread like a joke. I think it is a rare case of a work of art becoming a joke. It was funny, it was a real-world cartoon. If I was a cartoonist, instead staging an exhibition with lots of dolls, producing the doll and then staging the exhibition, I would have drawn a cartoon of a child holding a CuddlyLula. This would have appeared in the next day s newspaper and I’d have moved on to the next cartoon.

MC: Raul, I have a question that, in fact, is pure curiosity, about your book. Until around 1993, all your work was untitled. Only later you began to give your pieces titles. The title, for any artist, and you are no exception, provides a reading of the work, albeit in a dialectical fashion. How do you come up with your titles?

RM: I think that, at the very beginning, I didn’t use titles because I lacked the maturity and experience of life. I was tak ing my first steps, constructing shapes, re searching materials, trying to find my voice. I always wrote, very modest little stories, minimalist short-stories, things I’d jot down in a bar, but I didn’t believe these were powerful enough to gain an audience. AT one point, I realized that I could use words in the art work that I was beginning to show. So, I think the title comes from a desire to use words, to incorporate words into a visual work of art and sometimes it suggests a reading of the work. It is an essential element of the piece, full of poet ry or reinforcing the poetry. The title is one of the basic ingredients and it has become indispensable.

FC: Your career stretches back some twenty years. Given that, two questions come to mind. When we first met, you said that your generation keenly felt the lack of productive criticism, to have a critic to enter into dialogue with. Do you think that s still the case? And the other question concerns whether, after a twenty year long career, can look at the art world in Brazil and see any significant changes.

RM: I have seen countless changes since I started studying art in 1988 at Parque Lage. Enormous changes. For example, the Rio Salon prize in 1991 was around 1,000 Brazilian reais; nowadays it s 100,000. One hundred times the size. There were almost no scholarship programs or residencies for artists. There were far fewer galleries, far fewer collectors, institutions, university courses, post-graduate courses. The change has been impressive. At that time, we could never have imagined it. Today there is a wider audience, more interest, more publications. In 1988, there were almost no art books. I remember Waltercio’s Apparatuses and Funarte’s ABC series; books on artists were basically restricted to these. Nowadays, you have Cosac Naify, Automatica s ARTE BRA collection, the Cobogó Publishing House and many others. There are more things than we could ever have imagined. SP Arte itself, for instance. The other day, I asked Carlos Vergara if he could have imagined an art fair of this scale and he said no, and it s a successful fair. There s also Celso Fioravante’s Arts Map: two cities in Brazil have an ex tensive guide, with a large number of institutions, galleries, and so forth. Nowadays there are Brazilian collections all over the world, with various Brazilian artists in a longterm relationship with important international galleries. It s been a huge change. Now the other thing that you asked about, about criticism, I didn’t really mean art criticism in that sense. Neither can I speak for my whole generation, but, in my case at least, over the years, a thinking person to enter into dialogue with, be it an art critic, a philosopher, a journalist, a poet, whatever, someone to talk with regularly, someone to suggest alternative reading matter: do you know the work of so and so?”, “let s study the work of so and so together?”, “have you heard of this composer?” Someone who comes from another field of knowledge, with a different training, a different background. I was always under the illusion that I would one day bump into this person. Other artists had this kind of relationship, at times a very intense ones, others less. But I never did, despite enjoying a lot of dialogue with my peers, my fellow artists, Basbaum, Coimbra, with whom I did so much at Item and at AGORA, Bechara, who I shared a studio with, Marcos Chaves, Tatiana Grinberg, André Costa, Fernanda Gomes, Cabelo, Barrão, Lucia Koch and Vergara. And more recently, you and Scovino have come along, visiting the studio more often and playing this role of a thinker to enter into dialogue with, telling me about Deleuze s critical reason, and Michel Serres, who I wasn’t familiar with. What is really valuable is the routine, the frequency, to come back and see the changes, “this wasn’t here before , “this is new . To let your guard down, to come here to the studio, kick off your shoes, sit on the floor, smoke cigarettes and drink beer and let the conversation flow. I think it important that these meetings have some sort of method, some sort of discipline, that they be fortnightly, or weekly and continue for two, five, ten years. This gives you a strength that you can use.

FC: It seems that the visual arts in Brazil today are represented by a generation of artists in their 40s and 50s who have a lot to say with their work and their ideas.

RM: I think I am curious and try to find things out. I’m not a scholar, I don’t read texts, I didn’t read Luisa Duarte s thesis, or what came out in some magazine or other, I don’t read many texts in catalogues, but I go to exhibitions, I visit studios, I talk to people. I’m very interested in following the work of everyone, without prejudice. In a few days after my arrival in São Paulo I have made a point of seeing Tunga at the Millan, Caio at the Luciana Brito, Vicente Melo at the Eduardo Fernandes. I saw the collective exhibition that was on at the Baró, Zerbini at the Galpão da Fortes Vilaça, Rodrigo Moura s collective exhibition, Colares, Neto, I went to the Vermelho to see Komatsu, and the Biennale of course. I follow the work of Komatsu, Nicolas Robbio, and Marcelo Cidade. I also follow the work shown at Raquel Arnaud’s gallery, the Luisa Strina, the Triângulo, all of them. I’m always visiting galleries and, when I can, studios too. It s a curiosity that I don’t see in colleagues of my generation. Sometimes, I ask, “Do you know the work of Nicolas, of Rodrigo Mateus”?

MC: They are important artists of the generation in their thirties.

RM: But I have colleagues here in Rio who don’t know them. So, in this sense, there s an interest, a curiosity. To get to talk to people, and a willingness to pass the information on, even put it on my blog. Nicolas has been on my blog, Komatsu too.

MC: There s also something important in what you are saying about wisdom, without prejudice regarding high and low culture. Your interest is not restricted to these studios and these artists, to Luis s thesis or Tatuí. There s a much bigger, broader dimensions to it.

RM: I am interested in culture and the arts in general, from DJs to writers, from tambourine-men to philosophers.

MC: You can see that from your blog. It’s very wide ranging.

FC: That’s what we’re saying. Not that this is a sign of genius, but it marks you out that people know that you are a visual artist, that your work has depths, like the Railings series. And, at the same time, you have this contact with the people you meet, who say that, if it weren’t for your blog, they would know a lot less about what s going culturally at the moment.

MC: And people really read it.

FC: They do. Inside and out. I am using this metaphor because it s interesting. The guy who is really involved in the art world, with work like Railings, and is outside of this exclusive group, talking about other cultures, feeding people information. You are a filter, because you are always curious to get information. There are people who have no curiosity whatsoever, but you do.

MC: I was saying to Damasceno yesterday that I think that this is the only possible position to take in the art world: being inside and outside. There s a really great book called High price, by Isabelle Graw. If you don’t have it, I can mail you a copy. She talks about precisely this, that the only possible way to go is to be an anthropologist, with one foot inside and one foot out. And you always have this open-minded, ethnographic view of the world. Open to the outside world so that you can carrying on producing your work.

RM: I’d like to go back to the Swings and to the early stage when they still had a relation with Railings. There s a piece called Passage, which is an installation that I presented at Caixa Cultural here in Rio de Janeiro, at the Projetos (in)Provados exhibition, and in São Paulo, at SESC Pompeia, at José Sanchis Sinisterra’s show, directed by Malu Gali, that predated Hugging Machine, an exhibition that included Eduardo Coimbra, Chelpa Ferro, Caetano Gotardo and Nino Cais. Passage has its name because I was doing both things in my studio. At the time I received the invitation from the curator, Sonia Salcedo, I had just finished the stones for the railings, and was starting work on Swings. So, in the Passage installation, I decided to mix the two, Railings and Swings. It was a large 3×4 meter cage, with two entrances, one at each end, and inside there were three swings, built with half-inch rods, which is the same type of rod as the railings and the same design that I had for building the railings. It was thus a free object that was coming into being, mixed with another piece that first saw the light of day back in 1988. And I made a point of producing this installation, presenting it, and mark ing the passage, showing a piece that contained both things. I already knew what was coming, I was already making swings with one-inch bars and I could already see that every reference to Railings was going to disappear, but I made a point of presenting that Railings-Swing to mark the transition.

MC: Raul, I have one last question that takes us back to Rosalind Krauss. In her text, that I’ll send to you as soon as we ve finished here, she says that, in the West, no painting can ignore the symbolic power of the cross. You can’t, because it opens up a Pandora s box. Do you ignore it?

RM: There s one sculpture in the Swings series, which was in the General Archive exhibition at the Hélio Oiticica Arts Center, and one that was at Nara, both of which have a clear cross shape. You may not notice it at first, but, once you have seen it, you find it difficult not to.

FC: I’ll ask my last question then. You have just said that you are still producing the Railings series. At the same time, this transition to the Swings is another way of dealing with this issue. Will these two worlds continue to be a part of your work?

RM: Yes.

FC: Your art doesn’t have to have a single theme, does it? You can work on everything at the same time?

RM: I have always worked on var ious series at the same time. Obviously, at some times, one series becomes more important in my work in the studio, as is now the case with Swings, but it doesn’t stop me working on the others. It s always been like that. The birth of a new family, of a new series, the beginning of a new journey does not necessarily entail the death of those that came before, does it? There s also a new series, that I also think will be an extensive one, that I’m calling Shadows, about which I’ve already talked to Maria. For the time being, I only have notes for this one. But something happened to me recently in a restaurant that was one of those chance occurrences that appeared to be more of a sign, a message from beyond driving you to produce something. I was sitting in a restaurant, facing the street, and a maintenance truck stopped out side and it had one of those revolving lights on top. The truck parked and the light fell on a signpost. And the shadow of this signpost was projected onto a wall on the other side of the street, throughout my meal. It was a film being projected onto my back ground. While I was eating, another truck past, also with a light on top, and projected a tree. The shadow of the signpost and the shadow of the tree were together for an instant. And, when I asked for the check, the truck turned off its light and drove off. It was there for exactly the same time it took me to have my meal. After that, I started to notice a sequence of other shadows. I am noting them down, photographing them and I have talked to David Pacheco about going out and filming them. This series is still in its initial stages, but I can already see that it will be ex tensive, and long-lasting. It also seems that it will be large-scale, like the Swings series. Railings, until then, was my largest series: the photos began in 1988; the sculptures, screen-prints and blown-up photos appeared in 1998, 1999, ten years later, and I’m still working on the series today. And I always have the feeling that they are never going to come to an end. In spite of the various other pieces that I have produced in this period, and the pieces that were reborn in an unexpected way. The football series, for example, that I thought was finished, came back with a vengeance in the miniature, Penalty. That untitled penalty of 1993 became a little penalty in 2009, and then came The Field All Broken Up, Double Penalty Area and others. And this is happening again with this series of red and white ar rows from road-works signs. They were once paintings and now they are screen-prints in acrylic paint on 30×30 cm polypropylene. They are free-standing pieces, but they work as a group. The title is Road Arrow to Barros, Bulcão, Colares and Volpi.


KRAUSS, Rosalind E. Grid in The originality of the avant-garde and other modernist myths. Cambridge, MIT Press, 1986. p. 9.

ALŸS, Francis. Sometimes Doing Something Poetic Can Become Political and Sometimes Doing Something Political Can Become Poetic. New York, David Zwirner, 2007.

GRAW, Isabelle. High Price – Art Between The Market And Celebrity Culture. New York, Sternberg Press, 2010.

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Open for balance – 2010

by Frederico Coelho for the Movimento Repouso exhibition

Since 2010 Raul Mourão has been working with kinetic sculptures. His research on materials and movements brought a new aesthetic route to his work. In a trajectory marked by the eclecticism of means and action fronts, Raul plunged in this universe and concentrated for a period of time in his swings. His last exhibitions explored the multiple possibilities in this relationship between the steel’s raw material and its lightness through subtle pendulum movements. If before his work could sometimes imprison the eye between bars, from the swings it started to invite the spectator to dance.

His new swings, made especially for this exhibition, show us how the themes and shapes of these sculptures keep expanding in a kind of infinite combinatorics analysis. The engineering of the balance becomes more and more diffuse and ludic. The shapes are free to break an appearance of countenance for a salutary dispersion of ideas. This occurs because, despite the rigidity of the steel, they emerge from drawings made by Raul. In the origin of these rational and metallic sculptures, there’s the free and dreamlike line of the drawer’s hand. In a way, we may see in these current swings, internal dialogues with his previous works, like the first sculptures in the exhibition “Humanos” (1993) or the works of “cadernos de anotações”(2003). In all of them, we see the hand of the drawer creating geometrical and, at the same time, organic shapes, in order to later adjust them to the demand of non-malleable materials, such as metal.

In MOVIMENTO REPOUSO, therefore, Raul keeps expanding the possibilities of his research, however with a new element at stake: the transience. Nowadays, Raul lives in Manhattan, United States. The daily life in his atelier in the district of Lapa, Rio de Janeiro, is replaced by the frenetic rhythm of the American “Babylon”. An always attentive and street oriented artist, Raul soon made the corners of Manhattan his; with his mobile, captured through photos the blind spots, the shifting of the eyes, the approximation of the universal shapes, turning objects and scenes of the urban daily life into small universal microcosms. They are micro-narratives of the flaws, lights, colors, objects. His photos, besides his current swings, show us that Raul is again investing in multimedia for work exhibition, looking once more for a kind of bigger amplitude.

The artist that lives between countries, cities, languages, starts to jeopardize a comfortable space of action and needs to adapt himself to the hybrid component that is installed in his works and in his world vision. A kind of shattering of the certainties impels Raul to reinvent references and not to separate his daily life in the streets (photos) from his reflexive work about language (swings). At the moment, the duplicity (of cities, of means) and the out of place perspective of the photographic images are evidence of a moment in which research and reflection, action and contemplation, are adjusted in the exhibition space and dialogue in multiple ways with the public and with each other.

In conversations before his move to Manhattan, Raul Mourão mentioned a name for a work project during his initial stay in the city. The name: Landing Project. A project made by those who are landing on a new reality. Maybe due to an unnoticeable relationship, the choice of the verb land as the title of this exhibition refers directly to the project outlined still in Brazil. Land/rest ideas, bodies, works, lives. I believe, however, that here, his MOVIMENTO REPOUSO is much more than this. In these days of forced renewal of the country’s political and social reality, evoking a Movement that requires rest is an invitation that can’t be refused. Not of emptying, but of renovation. Resting the eyes on the work, resting the hands on the swings, resting the days on Art, to, who knows, renovate the energy. Finally, every little movement – be it of the steel, of men – will always be a revolution.

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In praise of instability (Prelude to a likely collision) – 2010

by Jacopo Crivelli Visconti

“Art is what makes life more interesting than art…”
Robert Filliou

Strolling around Raul Mourão s works feels a bit like wandering the streets: one can hear the voice of the city, feel its presence, touch its metal railings, its houses, its suffocated nature; admire its soccer, its carnivals and its artists; get to know its dogs, trees, politicians, and all its colors. The artist’s studio (very much like that of any artist, but especially Raul Mourão s) is where this city stops, and the encounters that take place there suggest that, perhaps, it is also a studio for the city. Deliberately random encounters, like that of the sewing machine and the umbrella on the dissection table, alongside an eyeball doing sit-ups.1 Raul Mourão’s surrealism is almost indiscernible, masked by the impeccable finish of the works and the ironic seriousness with which his Balanços [Swings], for example, once triggered, are set in an apparently perpetual motion. But, there is clearly a latent surrealism in the story of the dog that becomes a reality TV star, or in the cockroach-like movements of the seven artists hanging on the wall: a cinematic surrealism, in the manner of The Exterminating Angel,2 a submerged and perhaps arbitrary, but nonetheless plausible, reference to the metal railings that are present everywhere but go unseen, to the imperceptible imprisonment that was only made explicit in the installation at the Museu Vale do Rio Doce, in which an almost invisible door suddenly closed, locking in the visitor, exactly like the imaginary, inexplicable and insurmountable threshold which, in Buñuel’s film, keeps the aristocrats prisoner of the mansion.

Most of Raul Mourão s work arises from the clash between forms and ideas, from the friction between apparently incompatible materials and concepts. Even pieces that are for mally almost minimalist spring from this work of accumulation. Small sculptures, added to a large one, form a set or another sculpture,3 the artist said a few years ago, virtually describing, or presaging, Passagem [Passage], produced in 2010, in which small swing-like sculptures are added to a large framework of metal railings, which envelops them, suggesting new interpretations for each of the elements. The silhouettes of the swings are echoed by gaps and protrusions in the framework, thereby highlighting the relationship between the works, while other openings, which allow entry to visitors, practically annul the distinction between people and things. Other pieces, like Surdo-Mudo [Deaf-Mute], or even the character in Cartoon, crushed by an enormous block of wood, belong to the same universe, in which things almost never quite meet or merge; but merely approach one another, or else collide. And the works that arise from this clash are practically a kind of visual poetry, in which the title is an integral part of the work… as is the chosen material, size or technique.4 From that very same clash, ideas may be born, like that of Cego Só Bengala [Blind Man Reduced to a Cane], in which it would seem that the blind man is like the knife and the walking stick like the blade in the poem by João Cabral de Melo Neto,5 but whose raison d’être is not just (or, at least, not directly) the poetic universe, but rather an unpredictable collision in the city: these characters are chosen because they bump into us all the time.6 And this “us” refers to us all: visitors, onlookers, citizens, artists – I understand that every artist is a citizen,7 says Raul Mourão, or perhaps every citizen is an artist, as Beuys would say.

The precision of the shapes that make up Mourão’s works seems to indicate a concretist pedigree, which is particularly evident in the series of works that explore and expose the geometry of the soccer pitch, but also appears, for example, in the paintings which replicate road signs and traffic lights, or in Sem braços e sem cabeça [Armless and Headless], whose characters could be two of Willys de Castro’s pluriobjetos, which, fed up with being immobile, have decided to climb down from the wall and set off to see the world. Where this ancestry is most evident, however, is, in fact, in the Grades [Railings] series, and in the Balanços [Swings], which constitute an almost natural development: the inevitable animation of objects so full of life, so close to life. Each time someone pushes one of them into action, the Swings re-enact the transition from concretism to neo-concretism, the appearance of movement and of interaction, the corruption of the straight line, to paraphrase Cabral de Melo once again.8 At first sight, it may seem that this corruption and the apparent impossibility of bringing the movement to a halt lie in stark contradiction to the neatness of the finish, the inflexible lines and dead straight angles of Raul Mourão s work. But the truth is that there is no such contradiction: everything overlaps; hence, it is also impossible to talk about one1 without mentioning all the others and, even so, remain fully aware that this view is merely partial. One would need also to discuss what the artist is doing rather than the art that results from his work.9

And, since he can’t have it any other way, like the very city of which he builds up, one piece at a time, the most ungraspable (and hence most faithful) portrait, Raul Mourão never stands still: he writes scripts, keeps up his blog, organizes meetings and exchanges, publishes magazines, opens and closes exhibition venues, studios and galleries, composes deceptively unpretentious poems and produces texts about artists. Sometimes he even pens surprising words of praise, genuine declarations of love for art that follows the path of the impermanent, the ephemeral, the near invisible:10 all features apparently foreign or even opposed to his own work, but which, deep down, do no more than reveal, once again, the desire to see everything, to understand everything, to live every thing. In light of this, one can imagine that the very untiring motion of the Swings points, among other things, to Raul Mourão s preference for the potential, suggesting an open, deliberately ambiguous attitude, in constant disequilibrium. The Swings would appear to be a warm-up for something bigger,11 although there is no reason to think, equally, that they might not be a warm-up for something smaller: the prelude to a full-blown opening or maybe even a final melting back into the world.

1 This expression appears in the artist’s text published in the leaflet for the exhibition Cego Só Bengala, at the Centro Universitário Maria Antonia – USP, São Paulo, 2003.

2 Luís Buñuel, 1962.

3 MOURÃO, Raul. Untitled. Text published in the Rio Artes e Literatura, # 2, Rio de Janeiro, 1992.

4 Interview with Felipe Scovino, in SCOVINO Felipe (Ed.). Arquivo contemporâneo. Rio de Janeiro: Editora 7Letras, 2009. p. 286.

5 João Cabral de Melo Neto, in “Uma faca só lâmina (ou: Serventia das ideias fixas)” [A knife with no handle (or: the service of fixed ideas)], 1955.

6 Interview with Felipe Scovino. Op. cit., p. 286.

7 Idem, p. 280.

8 João Cabral de Melo Neto, in Coisas de cabeceira, Sevilha (a poem featured in A educação pela pedra, 1962/1965), speaks of the incorruptibility of the straight line.

9 Roy Ascott apud LIPPARD, Lucy. Six years: the dematerialization of the art object from 1966 to 1972. New York: Praeger, 1973. p. 3.

10 See, for example, the texts on Fernanda Gomes (“Visita à camarada F. , 2001) and João Modé (“Novo de novo , 2002), in MOURÃO, Raul. ARTE BRA. Rio de Janeiro: Casa da Palavra, 2007.

11 See Felipe Scovino’s text, “Do ferro ao afeto , published at the time of the Balanço Geral exhibition, at the Atelier Subterrânea, Porto Alegre, 2010.

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From iron to emotion – 2010

by Felipe Scovino
Porto Alegre, 2010

It was in September last year, during the Intrépida Trupe s rehearsals for Projeto:Coleções, that I first saw Raul Mourão s Balanços [Swings] series. Mourão was trying out the first experiments in his series (although he himself describes them as studies or a sequence of experiences, as if each sculpture were a project or a model for something “better” or bigger, I understood that it was precisely the challenging, inconstant and molecular properties of the sculpture, as transition, that would enable the artist to produce these highly-charged, exploratory, landmark works) using the dancers of the company as a laboratory. Seeing one of them stacking some sculptures, spacing them out, squeezing themselves into the hollowed out parts of Mourão s pieces, their rubber like bodies, fitting into and moving easily around that structure, which for me represented something rigid and for mal, I was sure (as I guess Mourão was) that something consisting of silence (despite the idea of aggression conveyed by the iron) was being turned into flesh, language, and emotion.

I was impressed to see not just a novel kinetic artistic experience, but action in its rawest, most fundamental state transfiguring something which we had always identified as being leaden. This was an action, therefore, which broke the inertia of the matrix-like form and projected the sculpture into the space. Through the action of gesture on matter, these sculptures re main the same, although they are absolutely different from one another. At root, all are contained in each. In its shift from contemplation to action, Balanços promotes a kind of suspension of the subject; set off when the kinetic mechanism is triggered by the audience. Through the coordinated rhythm of its movement, the audience is, as it were, encapsulated in a fraction of time (which does not cor respond to chronological time, but presents itself as space-time in suspension): as if, in that exact state of space and time, the piece were announcing that art is not reduced to the object that results from it, but is this practice as a whole. Having something in common with minimalism but, at the same time, throwing down a challenge to the art of sculpture, Mourão is not concerned to place Balanços in any particular field. The piece is committed to dialogue, is playful, and, at the same time, provides a constant overlay of emotion.

If, in minimalism, the object tends to be closed in on itself, forestalling any dialogue with the general public, unless they threaten or obstruct it, Balanços projects itself as a field of pathways that involves everything that surrounds it. They are skin-sculptures, imbued with the same idea that the neoconcretists liked to call art blessed with geometry. By working with iron, Mourão exposes this sculpture-body to time. The decomposition of the material endows the work with an almost imperceptibly changing course over time. In its gradual decomposition, the iron reminds us of the precarious state of our own existence. Is it the rust, the ageing skin, the wrinkles that provide these swings once again with a permanent link to the outside world? Mourão imbues something that would appear to be static with mobility. Balanços creates ambiguity: another possible form of existence and understanding of its poetic power emanates from the isolated and static artwork. The repose of its perfectly poised heavy structures and the diverse and subtle ways in which it treats the passage of time, even when there is no action, are just some of the reasons why this series has a lot to tell us about the place of sculpture in Brazil. It suggests shifts and combinations, bringing together provisional units that lie in the realm of relativity.

Returning to the meeting of dancers and art in Mourão s work, it was remarkable to witness that, in contrast to neoconcretist sculptures, in which the absence of mass or void is filled by air, in Mourão s sculptures the void is essential for the dialogue between the body and the artwork. In so far as it presents itself as an almost anthropomorphic structure, the pendulous movement of this series invites us to think that its habitat comes to include also this gift of life that human contact brings when it sets the pendulums in motion. In the tussle between sculpture and human being, the breaks and empty spaces in Balanços allow the dancers to interact with it and take it over in various ways, endowing it with a certain sensuality (that contrasts with the somber quality of the iron) and accept the breaks as a structural feature rather than a prop. A precise, unwavering cut, with a rich capacity to generate a plethora of phenomenological meanings and possibilities. A cold, clean cut that is nevertheless still possessed of a certain sensuality, “or at least a more effective and affective willingness to enter into dialogue with the world.”1

In this exhibition we are confronted with a power that we normally only feel in the artist s studio: the coming together of a number artworks that connect and interact with one another, rather than each occupy ing its own separate space. But here this occurs in a wider sphere that includes a symphony of forms, vibrations and rhythms. The best news is that this is only the start: Balanços is ever-changing precisely because it is repetitive.

1 CHIARELLI, Tadeu. Amilcar de Castro: diálogos efetivos e afetivos com o mundo. In: ______. Amilcar de Castro: corte e dobra. São Paulo: Cosac Naify, 2003. p. 20.
Although Chiarelli is writing here about the work of Amílcar de Castro, I feel it applies equally well to the work of Mourão and demonstrates the extent to which the interests of the two artists overlap.

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Floor, wall and people – 2010

by Frederico Coelho


The exhibition is opened and still. Step by step, you enter the hall and walk with the certitude that everything is in place. Your confident glance no longer looks for the ground when walking inside a gallery. You only have to face the works. And here they are. Solidly waiting. Still, firm, impavid, straight.

At the beginning, as if you were in an abandoned house, there is the fear of touching something that may break or the worry of inadvertently moving a piece of furniture. But from the moment when you touch one of the edges, the resting house will never stop again. For it is impossible to resist the temptation of triggering the graceful and lazy swing of these objects. To try a light weight and to grant movement to that which is inanimate. Raw steel is recovered by sensuality and its unexpected beauty is transformed into a swing, a welcoming and relaxed coming and going. In this way, like you, the visitors will touch everything, until each sculpture cease its movement and return to the inert darkness of the closed hall.

– Raul Mourão has always been scared. Armored in abstractions, he wandered through the streets and saw fences where others found salvation. He fenced cars, stones and trees, he chased dogs, smashed heads, silenced surdos, boxed myths, hung artists, expanded hate, cultivated partners. And then, through a crack, when we reconnect illusions and celebrate life for nothing, Raul found lightness. A manner of chasing away maladies and expand affections was presented to him where he least expected it: in the geometric swing of stainless steel. In the coldness of straight angles, the artist opened a new avenue for his eyes. Even still, panic remained. To be scared is not an option, but a condition. Raul and his studio locate the whole world from a street in the neighborhood of Lapa. Sometimes he stays at the foot of the staircase, where the gringos and the whores and the kids and the tiles and the families and the couples and the abandoned cross the artist’s frenetic days. Ignoring official orders and closed residential condos with gym academies, Lapa’s streets are still hallucinating. Raul knows that. The kinetic sculptures of this exhibition are a proof that even in the midst of this urban hallucination, even in the rust that corrodes forms, even if squeezed between floor, wall and people, there is still beauty.


Nowadays everyone knows how to behave in a gallery, even when art demands abnormal behaviors. To observe, to touch, to participate. Without the mysteries, questionings and transgressions of the past, today there is even a certain comfort in being part of the work. In Raul’s exhibition, nevertheless, it’s not enough to touch the sculptures to be a participant. It’s not enough to set the pieces in motion to meet some kind of concept proposed by the artist. Here, the point is not to participate in order to be part of the show. The proposal is not about the compensatory-individual relation between spectator and work, in which to participate is to satisfy his drive to interfere in somebody else’s work. Raul offers us neither an animal nor a cape. Neither a path nor a labyrinth. Here, the great work at play is THE WHOLE SPACE OF THE HALL in permanent transformation after each movement.

Expanding the view of the exhibition as a collection of these sculptures in movement, the individual touch in any of the sculptures activates a physical mechanism and enters in direct dialogue with the other movements around the hall. The movements made by different people, at different moments, rearrange the whole time the exhibition’s geography. In this way, a singular movement automatically becomes collective. We will never have the same design in the hall, for we never will have the same movement, made by the same hand, at the same speed. For each one, his own exhibition. For it’s the spectator, in an evidence of his desire, who will chose that must be touched first.

– Which one attracts me more? At which point I will start my adventure with them?

There is no rule, recipe or code of behavior before these works. There is only this sensual invitation with no voice or text requesting to activate them. A liberty implicit in the balance between the bases and their improbable pendulums. For it is also not only about kinetic art. The history of art doesn’t need to be invoked for us to mention this drive to touch. It’s because inside this hall is installed an organic relation between that which the spectator wishes to activate and that which the pieces draw after being triggered. Here you have responsibility over the exhibition’s dynamics. Each one, with his strength or fear, contributes for the movement and the rupture of the placidity of these attracting figures. The balance in a single axle, the improbable organicity of the solid object, everything is embraced by the coming and going of the swing. The exhibition is formed from this wonder: to make the pieces dance.

– Raul said that, during a rehearsal of Intrépida Trupe, the acrobat danced with his fences. Raul saw the iron fence turn and smiled. He saw the acrobat climbing on the iron fence and feared. He saw the acrobat swinging the iron fence and his mind was blown. These swinging sculptures were not born from raw rational impulse, nor were they engendered after many days of solitary calculations over weights and measures. They were born from a swing. For this reason their geometry follows the sinuosity of the body and the streets. Their layers of angles, the juxtaposition of stakes, the edge of unexpected weight, all this blows the reason of the steel and involves us in a hypnotic dance. The origin of the swings is this transposition of a foreign movement. It’s the appropriation of this gesture, expanded by the artist’s plastic glance.


There is also a solemn silence around that which moves. Echoing in low frequency in the hollowness of this silence, there is a certain feeling of risk. There is around the Swings a diffuse form of fear, a frisson that doesn’t allow you to be removed from that which frightens you, an impulse to play with that which may not work (will it fall? Will it hurt me?), to put one’s hand inside the fire, to be mesmerized by that which fascinates. There is, finally, a feeling of love. For once the rejection that heavy, cold and dark steel pieces invoke on us is over, we start to see personal shapes, outlines of bodies in a warm beauty. We are seduced by the artist into proving each title of the pieces, observing the timing of the works in movement and establishing a commitment with the contemplation of that which we admire. Each time you touch this works, be ready to erase the drawing of the space that you found and to be the co-author of this cartography of kinetic desires. In this unexpected feast of forms, empty your mind in the placid rhythm of time while Raul’s sculptures dance for you. Or, better saying, dance with you.

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The gentle art of tricking – 2007

by Paulo Herkenhoff
published on the book ArteBra

A heterogeneous group of Raul Mourão’s works involves our glance with irony. Mourão operates with the subtraction of rules and with gentle ways of transgressing them. The artist destabilizes. Everything is an object for irony, from power to fear. Every work seems to aim to act as a device for the practice of such perversity. In his repertoire, there is a confrontation with juridical order, the law of Physics, structures of behavior, norms and mores, the aesthetical canon, the rules of the games, the fence, the network or the Cubist grid. For transgressing, the artist deals with physical softness, elasticity, the geometry of fear, solid drawings, the culture of survival in Rio de Janeiro’s streets and the politics of form.

Drawings in longa manus

Despite his control of drawing, Mourão made some works that are texts done by a painter of popular posters. Using a legal term for the crime in which one employs the physical actions of a third party, the artist uses a longa manus for his drawing. The material drive, a Bachelardian way of organizing the world, is transferred to a third party who is anonymous to and alienated of the work division in artistic production:

“Tenho dois filhos e ninguém sabe.

Ninguém conhece.

(…) Poesia come tudo.

Aguardando sol para lavagem”

Alguns são uma escritura da suspeita. Já não é do artista que se suspeita (uma hipotética falta de virtuosismo resolvida com o convite a um outro para operar a artesania), mas da agenda de significados: os filhos mantidos em segredo, a devoração pela poética, a lavagem. Há um teor de desregulamentação infiltrado no desenho.

90 minutes of sculpture

Raul Mourão produced sculptures and objects for a predetermined temporal space: the 90 minutes of the regular time of a football game. In 1863, the Football Association established the rules that define the space of the field, the free kick and the penalty kick, the off side and the prohibition of touching the ball with the hands as well as the exceptions. The game’s rules and discipline are subverted in the sensitive investigation. It is in this 90minute field that Mourão establishes a poetics of space in which the elements that order football undergo a permanent deregulamentation.

Cartões [Cards] (2000) are two flat surfaces (rectangular solid acrylic sheets) inside a box. The monochromatic surfaces form a Concretist play. Their ludic quality of this work nears them to other objects with moveable parts made by Abraham Palatnik, Osmar Dillon or Paulo Roberto Leal in Brazilian Constructive tradition. Red and yellow, with the solar quality of Hélio Oiticica’s chromatic tones, are the protocol colors for advertence and expulsion in a football game. In the box, the planar movements of color stubbornly are not adjustable to the color “cards”, keeping some geometric indiscipline, instability and a certain lack of control. The spectator is faced with the hypothesis of sanction, symbols of censure and castration, of the control of rules.

In this interplay between dimensions, Mourão’s drawing may be a solid body. Like the kind of linear drawing produced by Franz Weissmann in the beginning of the 1950’s, which granted a sculptural corporeity to the virtual image of solid objects, Mourão constituted a geometry of football solids. A grande área (The big area) (2001) shapes a drawing of the football field within a stainless steel tube. Another large sculpture has the same dimensions of a penalty kick situation, between the penalty mark and the extremes of the two goal poles. There are two oblique lines in relation to the goal area line 18 yards of distance. The foot – the kick – will make the final drawing. The ball describes the drawing. The single and continuous structure that unmasks the unity between the adversaries. We are talking of a device that measures tension: around the ball, the goal-keeper and the player who will kick the penalty there are the antagonist One, face to face. Mourão exhibits the unavoidable opposition between Two that are merged and divided in the attraction of the opposites. The eye-ball is now blind. It goes without looking. To look is not to see, but to perceive beyond the five senses and to calculate with precision.

Defense and attack are related with absurd exaggeration. “Half-goal” in Esporte (Sport) (1994) is a hypothesis. A hundred and thirty four (134) is the number for strangeness. It refers to “almost”. “Half-goal is the expression used to convey the situation in which a player gives a pass to a companion that is almost a goal”, says Mourão. This is the height (134 cm) of a sculpture corresponding to half the total height of the goal poles (268 cm). In Mourão’s work, the width remains the same: 768 cm. Mourão’s drawing of the football field is not built through perturbing relations between architecture and anamorphosis, like the ones introduced by Cildo Meireles in Brazilian art, but through strangeness and humor.

In the space of the lawn, a solid is unable to roll. An iron ball is on the field: Bolas 1 e 2 (Balls 1 and 2) (1999). It weights dozens of pounds (much more than the 14 or 15 ounces established by FIFA). It is there to confuse our glance before which is not apprehensible by our retina: weight. Here, the historical reference is Cildo Meireles’ Eurekablindhotland, with its balls of identical materials and shapes but diversified weights. Nevertheless, the crucial difference is the dynamics. While in Meireles’ installation sounds function as reading index of speed, in Mourão’s sculpture the sphere is pure immobility. Which means, in this case, that football is not about a rolling ball. This invisible different transforms ball into eye, with its double phallacy: the spectator’s optical illusion and the unpredictable trajectories of the not rolling ball. An eye in the state of magic is required, since art is kept between the Logos (the Cartesian reasoning, including the sport’s techniques and the rules of the FIFA) and Sobrenatural de Almeida, which is the name of the Imponderable given by Nelson Rodrigues. Let’s say that at some point the work pursues the ‘dry leaf’ geometry, that is, an exact imprecision of an accurate and tricky excessiveness.

Active [I]mmobility

To grow a garden inside a car and to transport it through the city: Carro/Árvore/Rua 1 e 2 [Car/Tree/Street 1 and 2] (1999). It is the mobility of that which is immovable. We would have here, then, a metaphor on the very metaphor as a semantic displacement (the Medieval usurpata translatio). Mourão displaces the verbal code to a condition of an inconstant locus. With its unfixed space/time relation, the ambulant garden could be a chapter of Jorge Luis Borges’ A history of eternity.

In the work Surdo-mudo [Deaf-mute] (1999), a large stone smothers a surdo, a Brazilian percussion instrument. The surdo is a key musical instrument in the percussion group of Rio de Janeiro’s school of sambas, introduced by the musician Bidê in the school of samba Estácio de Sá in the end of the 1920’s and beginning of the 1930’s. It is the instrument that gives rhythm, determines the progress of the school of samba, conducts the carnival. In Surdo-mudo [Deaf-mute], Mourão performs a double antithetical operation of meaning alteration, keeping the signifier “surdo” (“deaf”). The noun (the musical instrument) becomes and adjective (“deaf”, unable to hear its own impossible music). It is proper of Mourão’s art to take the glance towards a settlement on the dysfunctionality of known objects. If the surdo defines the carnival tempo, in Mourão’s work there is a frozen process of time/tempo itself, and its imprisonment in muteness.

In the video Cão/Leão [Dog/Lion] (2002), a video camera uninterruptedly followed a stray dog during twelve hours, from 6am to 6pm, from dawn to sunset, without end. The film is almost a parody of a reality show. In a world where civil rights are more than ever threatened by State control and surveillance, the reality shows are the inverted proposal of the mass communication companies: to celebrate the alienating desire of being permanently watched in search of the fifteen minutes of Warholian fame in exchange of the judge and the censor’s aim – the consuming public. It is the desire of a fascist state of being produced by the channels of communication in the perfect game of the voyeur/exhibitionist. The electronic eye of Cão/Leão [Dog/Lion], in an omniscient filming, is the superego of this human dog, like the dog in Albert Camus’ The plague and Baleia (Whale), the she-dog of Graciliano Ramos’ Dry lives, were indexes for the subject’s misery and greatness. Man, says Louise Bourgeois about her symbolic vocabulary, is “like an inventory of the animals” of a place. The friction between the dog and the camera, produced by Cão/Leão [Dog/Lion], opens the eye of consciousness. “Today we feel it is no longer necessary a war in order to kill the reality of the world”, says Paul Virilio in The information bomb. The dog of the Lapa neighborhood knows it. Raul Mourão says it only needs the struggle between a dog and a video camera.


The unsettling political agenda of Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula] (2005) and its numerical or modal variations place this production by Raul Mourão in the limits of tri-dimensional caricatureg. If it were a caricature, Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula] would join the family of the reduction and the sharp humor’s geometry of J. Carlos, Nássara and Cássio Loredano in Brazilian culture.

The function of humor, a psycho-economic phenomenon, is to distend tensions. The unconscious in manifestations of laughter was studied by Freud in Jokes and their relation to the unconscious (1905) and in Humor (1927). Mourão objects break social conventions and inquire into the logic of the senses. Glance and touch are at the service of the sexual or aggressive impulses involved in the humor about the puffy – the materiality of the stuffed toy is an essential part of the work’s character. In Laughter: an essay on the meaning of the comic (1900), Henri Bergson notes that “matters resists and becomes obstinate”, exactly in the chapter where he analyzes the “the comic of forms”. By displacing his irony in Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula] to the very instance of the object’s material (and less to the instance of form), Mourão established his focus on the materiality of the plush with acid irony. He settled a direct paradox in order to install an intimate strangeness. His haptic invitation to puffiness, in a pulsion exercise of touch and laughter, is the key to the work’s erotic dispositive.

The artist merged two characters of the struggle for political transformation in Latin America: Lula and Guevara. Lula resignifies “El Che” in a historical aggiornamento. There is another “almost”, now physiognomic, that displaces toward a fusion by ambivalence. Still being one and already being the other. In parallel to the merging of two images/personalities in the individual portrait Luiz Inácio Guevara da Silva (2006) by Raul Mourão, Douglas Gordon created the diptych Louise Duchamp and Marcel Bourgeois, a pair of portraits that alternates the faces of the two transgressive artists in their most well-known photos. For Mourão, nevertheless, Lula is not worthy of Guevara’s work. His gesture was to merge two communication phenomena, converted into T-shirts illustrations. Lula is inscribed in the new war operation of the telemarketing campaigns of presidential elections, with the commodification of the ideary (the conversion of the elector into a product), while Che Guevara, since the 1960’s, is the single pop symbol of international circulation produced in Latin America.

Elastic history of art

Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula] corresponds to that discipline in Physics that studies the properties of elastic materials. Mourão projects meanings on them, displacing them from the political commentary to more properly visual, plastic and perceptive phenomena. The soft plush object is elastic because it is deformed by outer pressure, but once the pressure is gone it returns to the original shape. It is a law of Physics (Hooke’s law) with which Mourão constitutes the poetical regime of the object. It is like a complacent man. It is like a complacent hymen. An outer pressure may indifferently be a child’s caress or a punch on the stomach. The doll always returns to its original shape. And here the work demands a phenomelogy of the senses, since it is both visual and tactile.

It is in art history that Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula] simulates belonging to the order of malleability of Lygia Clark’s works O dentro é o fora [The inside is the outside] (1963) and Obra mole [Soft work] (1964). If Clark’s rubberish Obra mole [Soft work] is related to the movements of Baroque shapes, but above all with the notion of the “soul’s enfoldment” in the geometry of the interiority of being – Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula] deliberately unknown reference is Gilles Deleuze’s The fold: Leibniz and the baroque – here the body is squeezed and its fold is on the outside. One can see it clearly in the transparency of the box for Lulacaixa2 [Lulabox2] (2006). The title denotes the double and the countable deregulamentation. Armored inside its box – there – is impossible to touch the untouchable. After the haptic experience, one learns that the object Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula] is nothing but stuffing. It is not the monad that each Baroque individual is in his/her singularity. The luggage-boxes of Lulacaixa1 [Lulabox1] (2005), Lulacaixa2 [Lulabox2] and Lulacaixa10 [Lulabox10] (2005) make it very clear. There is only room for the doll. In two of Antonio Dias’ works Um pouco de prata para você [A little bit of silver for you] (1965) and Cabeças [Heads] (1968), a set of proliferated cube-safes, the relations between capitalism and schizophrenia are stripped for everyone to see.

In the apprehension of the perceptive apparatus, Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula] allows the recognition of a form known in daily life, as it happens in the cases of the stuffed volumes of Claes Oldenbourg, Jorge de la Vega and Antonio Dias. Oldenbourg’s Soft pay-telephone (1963), Soft toilet (1966) and Grand soft drum set (1967) are pop simulacra of a non-existing sound. Each one works as an antithesis of itself: percussion is a non-played sound. Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula] stifles. Technically it is an acoustical equipment with the property of stifling sounds, including voices and rumors. This is the acoustical property of the stuffed elastic volume. In the field of percussion, Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula] is as mute as Mourão’s Surdo-mudo [Deaf-mute]. Both are signifiers equipped with the ability to annul any kind of noise. The capacity of deformation is a physical quality of the object Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula]. It belongs to its plastic character. In Latin American art, Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula] would be near to La indecision [Indecision], a canvas by Jorge de la Vega (1963, collection MAM-RJ). Stuffing in the Argentinean’s bestiary produces a poignant viscerality, peculiar to the aesthetics of the 1960’s group Otra Figuración. The elasticity of Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula] must be juxtaposed to the anamorphous distortions of La indecision [Indecision]. The ambivalent sense of this Esquizobestia [Schizobeast] formulates a critical view of the subject. In Jorge de la Vega’s work, according to Mercedes Casanegra, anamorphosis are molded according to an inner attitude of vitality: fright, deflation, tension, reception of shocks, surprise.

In Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula], the stuffed elasticity does not create tensions and dissolves all shock energy. It borders impotency. An anticipated vengeance of the artist against the Corinthians rooter and bearer of bad luck for the Brazilian national football team, Mourão’s character Luladejardim [Lulaforgarden] (2006) wears the white and light blue colors of the Argentinean national team. The amateur players lacks the desire invested on the partial objects – tongue and phallus – of Dans mon jardin [On my garden] (1967), Dias’ body without organs.

The erotic violence of Antonio Dias’ work from the 1960’s is found in the viscera and phallic volumes, some displayed as organized leftovers of a cannibal banquet. Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula] seems to be in conditions to dispense the father’s law, transferring it to its double: Luladegeladeira [Lulaforthefridge] (2006) (definitely, Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula]’s double is not the same in a serial industrial production). Through an ontogenetic distortion, the beak of this lustrous penguin grew crocked as Pinocchio’s nose. Luladegeladeira [Lulaforthefridge] does not lie. It is what it looks – like the known market rule: “what you see is what you get”. Its hard matter insists on restoring elasticity. The true is that now it points to a restless fact. The symbolic inadequateness of the kitsch object is patent, but sex falls within the art system, like Dias’ onanist index Solitário [Solitary] (1967). Explicit sex is not appropriate for the moral fridge of the middle-class, even though Luladegeladeira [Lulaforthefridge] struggles for inconspicuously restoring the phallic order asleep in Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula].

It was published in Playboy magazine

Since perhaps Juscelino presidents were not so genuinely interested by a work of art as Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula]. “I liked the doll a lot because it is like the real Lula: it adapts to anything”, said the former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso in a political-phenomenological analysis of Mourão’s work, in an interview for the magazine Playboy during a period
of electoral campaign.

Theory of representation

In the political and constitutional theory of representation, Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula] represents the “cuddlyvoter”?


Why did the model want to have the Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula]? Why didn’t he choose the Luladegeladeira [Lulaforthefridge]? Along with Lacan, could we be, in the specific case of Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula], in the mirror stage as formative of the function of the I (Je) as revealed in psychoanalytic experience?

Equation: if it were a mirror, Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula] would be loyal to one only. What this one would be? Its model or the voter?


The elasticity of Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula] results in a similitude closer to Bob Bag than to Luladegeladeira [Lulaforthefridge], since it always return to its original position. There is a double reason for this: both volumes are dynamized by Physical laws and both look like toys.

Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula] seems to have escaped from Jean Baudrillard’s system of objects. The destiny of many plush toys, a displaced target for affectivity, is to become fetish. In Fetishism (1927), Freud explains fetish as a substitute for the maternal phallus. Its function is to maintain the child’s believe in the existence of a mother’s penis.

Walter Benjamin, not ignoring the conditions of both artisanal and industrial production, points out, along with other Freudian text (Beyond the principle of pleasure) that toys, on one hand, tend to certain realizations of libido and, on the other hand, tend to absorb adult projections, including ideological ones. In this sense, “children are hard and are distant from the world”, ponders Benjamin in The cultural history of toys (1928). In the cognitive and psychic field, a toy fulfills some tasks that Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula] could, though, volunteer to perform. Nevertheless, Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula] is not a toy. Being an “imitation”, acting on the field of political representation, it belongs to the field of “games”, not of toys, in an interpretation still based on Benjamin.


Raul Mourão’s Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula] and Piotr Uklanski’s Portrait of Lula (2005, collection MNBA, Rio de Janeiro) indicate how a work of art may welcome a conjectural signification. In 2005, the same day that Brazilian newspapers highlighted the first news about the scandal of Post Office bribes involving congressmen, the Polish artist Piotr Uklanski had a meeting with the president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in order to take his picture. When the scandal of the monthly bribe payment (known as “mensalão”) is at its peak, Uklanski’s finished portrait depicted an evanescent Lula in the air, but his image reflected on the glass covering of his working table was precise. It was a diving, almost like a playing card in an unfaithful mirroring. The link between the two specular images was the juxtaposed strong hands, which didn’t hide the loss of a finger due to a work accident. It is an ethical sign. Luladepelúcia [CuddlyLula] can only arrive at perplexity.


Raul Mourão thinks a kind of theory of strangeness from mass culture. He is not so interested in this Freudian unheimlich in an individual level as he is in a proposition of ample social impact. Hence, his work on football (“the most practiced sport in the world”), on the image of a specific president of the Republic or on property.

In a new graphic syntax, Mourão started to produce computer drawings with technical software, grating to a series of serigraphies a finishing-up similar to the graphic representation of architectural projects. There is no nonsense in these works; they are exercises of architectural perversion. Neither they are distortions of Ernest Neufert’s Architects’ data, which regulates a great deal of Western professional architecture. The rules are not broken, but expectations are tricked. Maracanã enterrado (Buried Maracanã) still is a football field, but without the noise of the rooters, without the etymological meaning of the word “maracanã”, in the sense of the hectic noise produced by a gathering of parrots. Raul creates a delirious architecture. In a project of monument made of stone blocks inside the sea for Waly Salomão, his head is an island: EsculturaparaWaly [SculptureforWaly] (2003). The poet is an island. It may be the very delirium of language.

In the extreme of architectural perversions, Mata-mata [Kill-kill] (2003), whose homicide title is taken from the slang used by billiard players, proposes a leisure area for a building. Mata-mata [Kill-kill] can be related to the issues of art and melancholy found in the drawings of the Austrian artist Werner Reiterer. With his Viennese psychoanalytical humor, a Reiterer drawing proposes two jumping-boards for the terrace of the former Kunsthallewien pavilion: “If you’re sad, jump; if you’re happy, fly”. For the first hypothesis, there is a net so one could have fun; for the second, the certainty of suicide. It is a work of institutional criticism. Mourão’s irony is to propose therapeutic advantages in the fashion of advertising releases of residential real state developers. The equipment of his building intends to cure depression in a radical way. There is a jumping-board in the sixth-floor hallway and a slide on the building’s terrace that sends the resident in free-fall straight to the patio. It is his subtle criticism to real state capital.

Entropy of the document

“I took over a thousand photos. They are part of a research. They were not originally black and white. One day I digitalized the images in low-resolution, printed them also in low-resolution, make a Xerox copy in a simple machine and then brought it to handle in the Photoshop” – this is the technological process of the group of images of the photo series drama.doc (2003). The documental archive of the grid scenes was not produced for a mere consignation of existence, the step just before its immediate disappearance into forgetfulness. We don’t find here Derrida’s “mal d’archives”16. The artist created a process of image transmigration between reproduction techniques in order to produce an ambivalent point of identity of the place and the objects. They were insistently activated in the process of transmigration. In the limit, the final image is almost a fence and almost the Cubist grid. The legibility of the photos borders the anatomy of architectural phantasms. The resolution and the definition of the image were violated. With the result of the semiological operation (each image technique offers its visual “grain”), Mourão’s final photos requalify the entropic results of technological perversion as a critic quality of the image.

Geometry of fear.

From certain angles, Raul Mourão’s studio looks like a locksmith workshop. There are dozens of iron structures of different shapes. Each one is singular. Mourão’s structures, nevertheless, avoid the Minimalist precision of Sol LeWitt’s geometry of perception. For Mourão, a dose of unpredictableness is crucial in order to keep the depth of the social fabric from where these geometrical paradigms come.

“Often no longer there is an air-conditioner device. There is only emptiness”, says Raul Mourão about the situation of rails in the houses. The lack, states the artist, is emptiness and not warmth. There are melancholic phantasms that insist on molding an absence. Melancholy is not having the household device, the propriety of the object. The bastard emptiness – another perversity by Mourão – distances itself from the psychological frame of Lygia Clark’s “inner emptiness” or “fulfilled emptiness” and from Mira Schendel’s metaphysics of the emptiness of the world (“vuoto del mondo”).

Raul Mourão deals with a geometry of fear in a precise historical context. Fear is the symptom of Brazilian social violence, of social exclusion and poverty, as a psychical reaction against theft, burglary and armed robbery. The sculptures are monuments of our present time. In this sense, Mourão’s sculpture accuses History. Decades of absence of a social project for the incorporation of large masses to the work market and consumerism generated social tension, partially resolved by a diffuse social violence, especially crimes against property. These structures by Raul Mourão are co-related to Ivens Machado’s walls and objects with broken glass by Machado and Bispo do Rosário. In the exhibition Obstáculos/Medidas [Obstacles/Measures] in the Área Experimental (Experimental Field)17 in 1975, Ivens Machado displayed an installation composed by the rebuilding, in crescent height, of the city’s walls. A vertical column of photographs presented – against each one’s height – the original walls. For Bispo do Rosário, the desire of owning a house is fixed on a long wooden object covered by cement and pieces of broken glass, with the legend: “434 – how should I build a wall in the back of my house”. To cover walls with pointy pieces of broken glass is a popular construction technique that prevents intrusion. A defense of property is inscribed in the division between public and private in the works of the three artists. Mourão, Machado and Bispo do Rosário produce afflictive objects.

Raul Mourão’s work dislodges the Cubist grid to the middle-class experience of power and vernacular architectural logic, including its mechanisms for the protection of capital, symbols of status, working tools and household devices against robbery and vandalism. To begin with, it is necessary to acknowledge that the work follows a logic of peripherycal capital relations. Mourão refers to these sculptures as “happenings of the fences”. “They are linear security structures. From these I went to other objects that are spread throughout the city, like street-vendors tents. (…) I reproduce some of these structures and transform others”, he concludes. Raul Mourão produced a collection of sculptures of fear (and caution). Another sculpture proposed by Mourão is a tent of a street-vendor, an emblem of informal economy, an indicative of another marginal activity in peripherycal capitalism.

There is a kind of symmetrical fear, which implies an opposition of alterities. Departing from it, Mourão constructs his grid. Ivens Machado’s Obstáculos/Medidas [Obstacles/Measures] dealt with this confusion between dominance and prison. Always straight to the point, Bispo do Rosário didn’t allow the entrance of anyone in his psychiatric hospital cell. He segregated the world outside his room. In 1993, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle developed the project Video neighbors’ network with the juvenile gangs that divide the city of Chicago in territories, in order to use video for building a neighborhood collective identity18. The iron-fenced structures in which the videos were exhibited worked as the transparent metaphor for the very territories of each group. The work exposed the territory both as dominance and prison of the gang. Extraterritoriality was annulled. Mourão’s sculptures are constituted as fear apparatus, triggers of paranoia. Some of his works are defined by the logics of the object’s form, such as the car-fence and the air-conditioner-fence.

If the object is confined by form, the final result builds a grid of fear. In their brutal harshness, the fences, in the instance of art, shape another volume. From the work with the absence of the protected objects, it ends up creating a sculpture of air and the impalpable. In the studio, the sculptures are mingled. They integrate one another, as if they followed the plan of the installation Entonces19. More than this, they search each other as desiring machines20. They form alleatory groupings. In the limit of formal saturation, these sculptures revert their regulamentory and mechanicist purpose and become partial objects. In the psychic level, that which is symbolically condensed in a body without organs is no longer emptiness, but lack (manque). The sculptures are piled, articulated, interpenetrated, juxtaposed. The spectator faces absence fluxes. And should place his/her regard on them.

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Small fractions – 2003

by Paulo Venancio Filho

What we find in this exhibition by Raul Mourão is a sensor constantly on the move through a highly saturated social environment. After capturing a given object or situation and inspecting at length materials, dimensions, forms, locations, etc., the sensor immediately proceeds to a synthetic global grasp of the target and puts it into a sort of plastic restructuring program. The logic applied is elastic, flexible, and ironic, and comprises a set of instructions on current urban visuality. The time is the immediate present. A conspicuous intimacy with the city fixes a fraction an instant, equating it with the contemporary structure of the image. Legibility is a social given; this is the world of pop (or post-pop). The work does not, however, propose to reproduce such a world but to translate it into a concise pattern of presentation. Raul measures the object’s rhythm of transmitting information and equates its randomness ironically. His essentially democratic method can be applied to anything – signs, signals, railing, soccer or architecture – and though it may be saturated with a particular version of local wit, it is “scientifically” committed to the final result. What is indispensable is a clear technical definition of the work which accepts improvisation but nothing improvised slapdash.

Raul sets mobility up as an open, collective program: everybody circulates through city spaces that are both sensory and mental, the city space being the set of all available fractions which, when articulated, make up everyday lived experience. The intimately recreational and deeply committed relationship established between artist and city is a constantly renewed total game. So each work reveals itself as a possible way through which the spontaneous leisure and intelligence of everyday life can be recreated – an entertainment which articulates criticism and humor in opposition to the insipid alienation of routine. The constructive visual economy precisely locates the humor subjugated by chaos and delivers it, at no cost, to the detachment of collective everyday life.

This active observer constantly fractions the local/global city so that the work must necessarily be multiple and the plastic vocabulary a program equally applicable to drawing, sculpture, video, objects, photographs and installations – to fractions large and small alike.

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