Hunting Ground – by Mario Gioia
“Would you agree with Smithson that you, Dennis, and Mike are involved in a dialectic between the outdoors and the gallery?
Oppenheim – I think that the outdoor/indoor relationship in my work is more subtle. I don’t really carry a gallery disturbance concept around with me; I leave that behind in the gallery. Occasionally I consider the gallery site as though it were some kind of hunting ground.” (1)
Território de Caça [Hunting Ground], a collective exhibition featuring 11 artists that brings the Zip’Up project 2011 season to an end, sprawls across Zipper Galeria drawing on the words of Dennis Oppenheim in a discussion with Michael Heizer and Robert Smithson (1938-1973), in an interview for Avalanche magazine, in 1970. From the key trio that established the concept of land art in the contemporary age, this 2011 show brings much more of their ideas, writings and concepts than a somewhat literal transposition of works that intervene on nature.
The legacy of land art, earth art and environmental art is, therefore, related to addressing expanded scales, the dissolution of borders and limits, the clash with the unknown, the formulation of types of registration, the creation of varied mappings and the understanding of essential thoughts and experiences, among other paths.
“Because I think art is concerned with limits and I’m interested in making art. You can call this tradition, if you like” (2), Smithson says in regards to the supposed dichotomy between outdoor works and pieces exhibited in a white cube. “Personally, I don’t want to carry on with the analogy between gallery and flood plains. I think the only important limitations on art are the ones imposed or accepted by the artist himself” (3), adds Heizer.
The exhibition also endeavors to acknowledge the importance of Brazilian works such as Cildo Meireles’ 1969 effort Arte Física: Clareira (Caixas de Brasília) [Physical Art: Clearing (Boxes from Brasilia)], a set of photographs, map and two boxes. “In these works, that involve procedures of performance and land art, the artist questions man’s relation with the idea of territory, proposing new geographic boundaries between the States, or delimiting provisional areas in different regions of the country” (4), highlights Heloisa Espada in the essay Cidade-Bandeira. Also referred to are Fronteiras (Frontiers), Sonia Salzstein’s project that entailed interventions by artists such as Nuno Ramos and Angelo Venosa in various locations around Brazil, which began in 1998; Nelson Felix’s series and works, such as O Grande Budha (The Great Buddha) (1985-2000); Hélio Oiticica’s (1937-1980) experiments such as Contra-Bólide (Counter Bolide) (1979), and others.
A pinkish wispy presence of light flickers behind a tree trunk against a snowy backdrop. The photograph from São Paulo artist Estela Sokol’s series Secret Forest was produced during her art residence in Austria. Here we can witness the development of spatial thoughts outlined earlier by Sokol, such as in Crépusculo (Twilight), when a piece of wood painted black also lets a purple “light” shine through, or in Polarlicht, also produced during her stay in Europe, in which an orange, organic line is embedded into a white Alpine field.
The reinterpretation of the landscape and the exploratory character of the contemporary artist, in constant transit, are two axes that connect Sokol’s work to that of Mariana Tassinari, whose art displays the minimalist and serial influence of a Donald Judd, for instance. The repetition of regular colour structures and their insertion in foreign lands are part of Tassinari’s numerous series. Computer-assisted chromatic alterations to photographs of the Jordanian sky indicate new procedures now adopted by the traveler-artist. However, Campo em Branco (Field in Blank or Field in White) makes use of the minimal “movement” of marker balls found on high voltage power lines. Such displacement can only be perceived by means of continuous recording of the horizon through the artist’s camera, while the artist herself, in intense movement, is immersed in an nonstop flow of image construction.
The Minas Gerais artist João Castilho, meanwhile, scatters small-scale, trace actions with mounds of stones in various places. “Under the dead light of the Passaic afternoon the desert became a map of infinite disintegration and forgetfulness”, signals Smithson, in an excerpt reproduced by the artist in the small publication included in the Peso Morto (Dead Weight) series. “For me, matters of land art are more closely related to matters of the vision, time and entropy than ephemeral or permanent landscape interventions”, says Castilho.
Tacuarembó. This unusual word that indicates the name of the town which could be pointed to as the geographical centre of the Pampas, initially covering the Rio Grande do Sul lowlands, is prepared in the form of lettering, semi-buried in the typical land of the region. A structure created just like the famous “Hollywood” indicates a somewhat wild, untamed counterweight, an impression highlighted by Paisagem com Ondas (Landscape with Waves), an audio piece by Camargo that acts as an amalgamation of regional sounds and quite violent echoes of a continuous wind.
Felippe Moraes, in the video Dos Templos (Of the Temples), uses a more surreptitious strategy in capturing the surroundings. Resting a mirror on the grass, the device records the slow waves of a blue sky dotted with white clouds of varied shapes and sizes. One of the most trivial perceptions is given another meaning through the slowing down of time (and the video can also be interpreted as an audiovisual tribute to Hydra’s Head, the installation placed in the Niagara River by Nancy Holt, in 1974).
“NASA intends to begin a new phase of Mars missions this week.” (5) The introduction to a report from 20 November 2011 in a daily newspaper seems to bear a timeless characteristic, exposing the human craving to venture and discover something that is, a priori, inaccessible and far-off. A Lua (The Moon), a print created by Fernanda Barreto that draws on a 1966 publication, that is, Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins’ Apollo 11 pre-mission, that landed on the moon in 1969 – excels in revealing an insight combining naivety, fantasy and alienation in the face of the diverse and unknown. A Lua is closer to Steve McQueen’s Once Upon a Time, than to the National Geographic.
The other Barreto piece on show, Confluência (Confluence), is an intervention in adhesive vinyl on one of the glass doors of the gallery. The curved circling, extracted from Google Earth images, creates a water course made up of multiple territories. In a way, this is not so far removed from the (unperformed) experiment of Sculpture to Be Seen from Mars, by Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988), a 1947 project that intended to create a human face on a sand surface.
Hubble, a photographic series by Manoel Veiga, also relies on an appropriation procedure, this time of the powerful telescope which gives the work its title. “The series is related specifically to my painting that deals with physical phenomena (diffusion, gravity, etc.) that are also present on the large, cosmological scale, thus the certain visual similarity. Also note that the way I construct space in Hubble is very similar to that of painting, it came from painting, and created a new fictitious landscape/space using the cosmos itself as raw material”, he explains.
Felipe Cama’s work draws heavily on the friction between contemporary mediations. In After Turner ‘Chichester Canal’ (Street View), the São Paulo-based artist makes use of available tools – Google Street View, that enables extensive incursions around the globe just by clicking through the web – to carry out exploratory actions, even without physically visiting the destinations. The Chichester Canal, immortalized in a canvas by Turner (1775-1851), is located following Cama’s intense virtual navigation. The magnified image registering the present moment of the landscape previously portrayed by the British painter, together with the map placed immediately below, becomes an ostentatious chart of the circulation and isolation of our times.
Two three-dimensional works feature in Território de Caça. Das Erosões: Máquina I (Erosions: Machine I) is a machine created by Raquel Versieux that imitates the erosive movements of nature and, through a skillful construction with two chairs and containers that hold earth collected from roadsides, brings tension to the controlled exhibition hall and by frequently leaking water, reframes the meaning of the art site.
And Maura Brasil continues the works with Mar Aberto: Ensaio de um Processo (Open Sea: Essay on a Process), presented in the group exhibition Ateliê Fidalga no Paço das Artes, and Arrebentação (Wave Breaking), where she discusses the status of photographic representation though inspired interventions in nature. The site-specific installed in the exhibition room that housed the six previous contributions of the Zip’Up project underwent several stages of development. A photographic print of a small, shallow stretch of a beach is placed in the sea itself, at the mercy of the sun, waves and sand. The artist records this gesture of detachment and incorporates the installation in the gallery. Now the image of the action is placed on an easel, and is again corroded by the seawater, but this time through a device that drips the salty water rhythmically, without any frenzy, on to the photograph. The disintegration of the matter generates a somewhat pictorial, cloudy green residue, in a poetic and far-from-stable result.
Finally, Shirley Paes Leme has a project that lights up the most recent works presented in Território de Caça. Formas Lúdicas no Espaço (Playful Forms in Space) (1979-1982), presented only in Uberlândia (MG), where it was produced, and in the USA, was a permanent, open-air installation on a public space covering 12,000 m2, composed of 30 large structures, using wood and sisal rope. Toys that resemble the “Penetrables”, nets, tunnels and varied equipment gathered since the artist’s childhood memories, who lived in the rural region between Minas Gerais and Goiás, and the outdoor games the children played there. A place that could have been remarked on by Mário Pedrosa (1900-1981), an “experimental exercise of freedom” (talking about Antonio Manuel’s work). The exhibition presents the original documentation of Formas Lúdicas no Espaço, such as ground plans, photographs and sketches, shedding light on a little-known project by a Brazilian artist always focused on interaction between the spectator and the work, nature and artifice, tangibility and thought.
A graduate from the ECA-USP (São Paulo University School of Arts and Communication), in 2011 he curated the exhibition Presenças (Zipper Galeria), inaugurating the Zip’Up project, aimed at new artists (which has also included the exhibitions Já Vou, by Alessandra Duarte, Aéreos, by Fabio Flaks, Perto Longe, by Aline van Langendonck, Paragem, by Laura Gorski, Hotel Tropical, by João Castilho and the collective exhibition Território de Caça, with the same curatorship). In 2010, he presented Incompletudes (Galeria Virgilio), Mediações (Galeria Motor) and Espacialidades (Galeria Central), as well as providing critical reviews for Ateliê Fidalga no Paço das Artes. In 2009, he curated Obra Menor (Ateliê 397) and Lugar Sim e Não (Galeria Eduardo Fernandes). He also worked as a reporter and editor of arts and architecture in the Ilustrada supplement of the Folha de São Paulo newspaper from 2005 to 2009, and is currently writing for several publications, including the magazines Bravo and Trópico and the UOL online portal, as well as the Spanish magazine Dardo. He is the co-author of Roberto Mícoli (Bei Editora) and belongs to the Paço das Artes team of critics.
1. FERREIRA, Glória e COTRIM, Cecilia (org.). Escritos de Artistas – Anos 60/70. Rio de Janeiro, Jorge Zahar, 2006, p. 276
2. FERREIRA, idem, p. 279
3. FERREIRA, ibidem, p. 279
4. ESPADA, Heloisa (org.). As Construções de Brasília. São Paulo, Instituto Moreira Salles/Sesi-SP, 2010, p. 19
5. GONÇALVES, Alexandre. Nasa vai enviar jipe-robô para Marte. O Estado de S. Paulo, caderno Vida, 20.nov.2011, p. A31
Text for the exhibition Hunting Ground, Galeria Zipper, São Paulo, December 2011.