Registros + (Ex)tensões y Pontos. Brasilian Pavilion at the 54th International Art Exhibition la Biennale di Venezia. Interview with Artur Barrio

Registros + (Ex)tensões y Pontos. Brasilian Pavilion at the 54th International Art Exhibition la Biennale di Venezia. Interview with Artur Barrio by Ilari Valbonesi.

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Artur Barrio weaves one of the most original bodies of work in the field of Brazilian experimental art. Though he deals with various different techniques and procedures, the conceptual core of his art lies in his Situações [Situations], which he creates for sundry environments, mixing bodies and materials to work ephemeral modifications upon a given time and place. Room 1 of the Brazilian Pavilion presents Record-photos, Record-films and Record-books of some of his most emblematic Situations, while Room 2 houses a work specially conceived for the 54th International Art Exhibition, in which the senses are invited and invoked in different ways. Whether executed in the streets or in institutional spaces, Artur Barrio’s projects challenge the sensorial coordinates with which we usually think the world so as to conjure other modes of understanding it. As such, they espouse a pedagogy of un-learning all that we think we already know, thus opening a clearing into which the new might emerge.

Born in Oporto, Portugal in 1945, Artur Alipio Barrio de Sousa Lopes arrived in Brazil in the mid-1950s. In 1967 he enrolled at the Escola Nacional de Belas-Artes in Rio de Janeiro and, in that same year, exhibited his drawings at Galeria Gemini. From 1969, Barrio received recognition and acclaim for his Situações [Situations], works involving everyday, low-cost organic materials conducted in the streets, on beaches and in the interior and grounds of museums and galleries. Using rolls of toilet paper, the situation/action P…H………(1969) was enacted in the gardens of the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro (MAM-RJ) and completed in the sea. In Situação…ORHHHHHHH…ou…5.000…T.E…em………N.Y… City……(1969) and Situação T/T,1 (1970), Barrio deposited his disturbing T.E. (trouxas ensanguentadas/Bloody Bundles) in the vicinity of an open stream in Belo Horizonte, confusing passersby and police and evoking the violent repression that marked the dictatorial period.
He also made what he calls Registros-filmes [Record-films] of various Situações, in which he documented the production of the work and the reaction it evoked. Highly revealing of his poetic, Barrio collected notes, reflections and other ideas in CadernosLivros, which have been exhibited in São Paulo and Paris.
He returned to Portugal in 1974, during the Carnation Revolution, moving to France the following year, where he worked with the Cairn Experimental Art Cooperative in Paris, exhibiting works at Espace Cairn and Espace Cardim. In 1978, he returned to Rio de Janeiro, where the book Barrio, published by Funarte as part of the Contemporary Brazilian Art Collection, would be launched in 1979.
The artist received a research scholarship from Beroepsvereniging van Beeldende Kunstenaars (BBK), which lasted from 1981 to 1984, during which time he lived and worked in Amsterdam. In 1985 he began to divide his time between Amsterdam, Aix en Provence and Rio de Janeiro – where he lives today. Barrio continued to exhibit at collective and individual shows in a number of different countries. In 2002 he was among the guest artists at the 11th Kassel Documenta, in Germany; in 2005-06 he presented the work Interminável [Interminable] in Japan and Belgium; in 2006 he showed Ensaio sobre a monotonia [Rehearsal of Monotony] in the United States; and in 2010 he featured in the collective exhibition Map Marathon at the Serpentine Gallery, England. O ignoto [The Unknown], from 1993, and da INUTILIDADE da UTILIDADE da POLíTICA da ARTE [on the USELESSNESS of the UTILITY of the POLITICS of ART], from 2010, were presented at the 23rd and 29th editions of the São Paulo Bienal, respectively.
In 2011, Barrio was chosen by the curators of the 29th São Paulo Bienal to represent Brazil at the 54th Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte. La Biennale di Venezia. Padiglione Brasile, Venice. In 1987, he received the Mario Pedrosa Award from the Brazilian Art Critics Association and, in May 2011, the Velázquez Plastic Arts Prize, conferred by the Spanish Ministry of Culture.