[19 de agosto de 2016]
“Reply all” comes from a daily experience – being part of the Manchester School of Art for the last three months as a PhD student. More focused in the All Saints Library and in the process of finishing my own thesis, I still got very curious to understand how the university structured the graduation and master degree art courses. The curiosity and inevitable comparison with the relation between art and education in Brazil led me to the seed of this exhibition: why not work together with artists that are students from the MSA?
Me and Nuria (assistant curator of this project) spread an open call in different media and received portfolios from different artists. Besides that, the degree show that happened in June helped to open my mind and have contact with students that were finishing their courses. After meeting more than thirty students and engaging in conversations about art, life and the future, it was pretty clear that the diversity of their works and the otherness that were the common ground of our dialogue (me as a “foreigner” and them as the “local ones”) couldn’t lead to an exhibition where we would simply select artworks and organize in a specific space.
I decided then to try something more experimental – what if the students (or now former students) from the university engaged in a virtual conversation (an artistic blind date) with artists from different places in Brazil and tried to create something together to show in an exhibition? My initial feeling of being an outsider of this academic and artistic community would be shared not only by the artists from here but also by my Brazilian fellows. Duos were suggested having in mind the languages and subjects of each artist and the whole month of July was a month to learn how to construct something together with many moments of recognition and difference using the internet and all the possible social media for texts, real time conversations and images.
Little by little the obstacles appeared – the internet connection lots of times was terrible and, as you can imagine, the different media of each duo suggested different ways of collaborating. Besides that, only in the middle of the process I noticed that the biggest part of the invited students (the ones seen in the degree show) were in a very important rite of passage: the end of the university and the time to take some important decisions in life. It was very interesting (and at the same time nostalgic) to have conversations about how it felt to leave our parents’ house, to starting living with our partners and/or to deal with summer jobs.
Suddenly I noticed that we were all in the same ship: if the MSA students were full of doubts about the future and the political situation of the UK, I was in the same situation regarding my life after the PHD and the invited Brazilian artists (generally older) also seemed unquiet about their lives and the political future of Brazil. As one of the artists told me when we meet, we were all in the same journey without knowing where we would arrive – and that’s life.
This exhibition comes from this exchange of affections – people don’t know each other in person (and perhaps will never know) but for sure they already feel something for the other. The initial strangeness was able to construct a respectful process of how to learn together about very different topics – from GIF art to the national History of the Wales, from afro-Brazilian religions to the Venus of Milo, from the symbolic use of cardboard, clay and salt to discussions about photobooks, telescopes and video cameras. The temporary results of these dialogues are here in the Grosvenor Gallery; all untitled (like the best things in life) they remember us that more than answering to demands of the art system, perhaps our first interest in this area came from our need to say something and be listened by someone.
As the title of this project says, in the last six weeks we tried our best to “reply all” – virtually, personally and mostly by images. We always knew that the act of replying and the totality of the word “all” were fictions – just like every exhibition is a temporary fiction and this ship, that one that I said that we were all in, is about to be dismantled in tiny boats, each one in a different direction. Some boats will keep rowing side by side while other boats will disappear in the landscape. That’s what happens during and after the university and that’s what life is about: arrivals and departures.
Having in mind that I am the one to depart (back to Brazil), I can only hope that these collaborations will leave a good memory for all of the participants – and that the act of replying will be seen as a powerful tool to create together even when we have an ocean of distance.
(texto curatorial feito para a exposição "Reply all", realizada na Grosvenor Gallery, em Manchester, entre 4 e 19 de agosto. Curadora assistente: Nuria López de la Oliva)
[os detalhes das obras foram fotografados por Carlos Baselga]