Santos Dumont has this saying (…): “What one man imagines others can produce.” - Paulo Bruscky
Galeria Nara Roesler | São Paulo is pleased to present four performances and their subsequent documentation by Paulo Bruscky (b. Recife, Brazil, 1949). A multimedia artist, poet and pioneer of “communication art,” Bruscky became active in the Brazilian artistic landscape in the 1960s and 1970’s, the most turbulent decades of the military regime that crippled Brazilian freedom of speech. More than 50 years later, the artist continues to question the status quo and provoke people to think about what is art and what is it for.
Galeria Nara Roesler will unveil during the exhibition the new series Festa [Festivities], which entails a performance entitled Carnaval, 2017, the diptych Traques [Snappers] I and II (2011) and the work on canvas Bom Dia [Good Morning] (2017). In addition, the exhibition will present the performances Poema Amassado [Crumpled Poem] (2016), and Sentimentos: um poema feito com o coração [Feelings: a poem from the heart] (1976/ 2017). Meanwhile, the artist will also carry out a workshop of Xeroperformance (1977/1980/1982/2017) when guests will be invited to collaborate with Xerox machines. All four performances will be filmed and exhibited throughout the length of the exhibition.
An active proponent of the international mail art movement and a member of Fluxus, the artist performs unorthodox experiments with systems of communication such as artist books, classified ads, telegrams, telefaxes, faxes, the internet, and the Xerox machine. The artist’s early experiments with the Xerox manipulated light to create distortions and superimpositions, effects that only a Xerox machine could create. The subjectivity created by the process eventually led the artist to list the copy maker as a co-author in his catalogues. From these early investigations emerged Xeroperformance (1977/1980/1982/ 2017) in which the artist’s physicality became a component in his artwork as he began to record his bodily gestures on the glass plate of a copier. During the workshop, guests will have the opportunity to come together with the artist and engage with the copy maker to record their own expressions. Bruscky states: “I study equipment to see how I can subvert it, pluck it from what it’s meant to do—I mean, make it our ally, right?”
The artist’s interest in art and technology was further instigated by his life-long career in the health sector. After working in hospital administration, the artist became director of Human Resources for Pernambuco’s Ministry of Health. Bruscky’s familiarity with health professionals and medical equipment, allowed him to make the realm of x-rays, encephalograms, and echocardiograms his creative domain. In fact, the performance Sentimentos: um poema feito com o coração [Feelings: a poem from the heart] (1976/ 2017) revisits, forty years after its inception, the artist’s first performance with an EKG, carried out when he was an employee at a public hospital, Hospital Agamenon Magalhães, in 1976. During the performance, the artist records his heartbeats using the EKG machine and presented the results as an expression of his emotions. The work is rooted not only in the artist’s desire to investigate means of communication, but also in a determination to challenge the status quo. The artist says, “in [the] exchange of information between artist and scientist one learns from the other. I think this exchange of information is essential. Each in his field without being absorbed. It’s easier to subvert the scientist than the other way around. We’re scientists too.” By subverting a scientific document to point to the subjectivity of individual experience, the artist made an implicit yet incisive criticism to the totalitarian state’s objective scientific methods of cataloguing dissidents such as dental records.
The subjectivity of individual experience is integral in the artist’s poetics, which not only reflects the influence of Fluxus’ spontaneity and experiential attitude towards art, but also that of the Brazilian neo-concrete movement. Inspired by Ferreira Gullar and Helio Oiticica’s Poema Enterrado [Buried Poem], 1959, Bruscky developed Poema Amassado [Crumpled Poem] (2016) performed for the first time at the Museu de Arte Moderna Aloísio Magalhães (MAMAM) in 2016. The performance’s starting point is an installation consisting of crumpled magazines and newspapers, inviting the audience to contribute the pile and enter its space. The setup enables the audience to experience the art object, much like Gullar and Oiticica’s poem, which was conceived as a set of cubes that were buried in Oiticica’s backyard. Upon manipulation, the set of cubes would reveal the word “rejuveneça” (“rejuvenate”). Bruscky co-opts this neo-constructivist approach to poetry by creating a similar barrier between audience and message, while retaining an element of play. In fact, Bruscky points out that “subverting only make sense if the work is not understood to be an authoritative order, if it allows recreation,” in both senses of the word.
In Festa [Festivities] (2017) Bruscky retains elements of play, while embracing the ludic energy inherent in Brazilian festivities. In Traques [Snappers] I and II (2011) the artist reminisces about his childhood and Festas de São João, an annual celebration in the north of Brazil where the artist comes from. Meanwhile, Bom Dia [Good Morning] (2017) presents the remains of fireworks, used across Brazil to commemorate New Year festivities. Finally, during the exhibition the artist will produce Carnaval (2017) in a performance using confetti as a signifier for the date. In an article called Pernambuformancefolia, Bruscky expands on the significance of carnival, which can also be considered when contemplating Brazilian folk celebrations at large. Bruscky writes, “As old as the history of humanity, carnavalization allows performance to take on a practical and continuous form … On a stage called Pernambuco, each reveler is also a performer as they invent gestures, break concepts, create aesthetics, take on characters…”
The exhibition happens concurrently with the artist’s participation in the 57th Venice Biennial’s exhibition “Viva Arte Viva”, curated by Christine Macel. Simultaneously, Galeria Nara Roesler | New York presents an exhibition of the Bruscky’s seminal performances and classified advertisements until June 24th.
The Xeroperformance workshop will happen on June 10th, prior to the exhibition opening. During the opening, the artist will reactivate Poema Amassado [Crumpled Poem] (2016) and also, Bruscky will perform Carnival (2017) as well as reenact Sentimentos: um poema feito com o coração [Feelings: a poem from the heart] (1976/ 2017).