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Texts & Commentary

Achieving the Impossible

Wagner Barja

​Quite timely was the quotation made in reference to Lúcio Fontana and Nelson Leirner in Cauê Alves' text that addresses Geraldo Zamproni's work. An individual who is mindful of the issues of his time and observes the ruptures brought about by his predecessors must be perceived as a language constructor. Therefore, such an artist must walk in the footsteps and follow the trail of those who preceded him, only then to tread his own path. Among many others, Fontana and Leirner left visible marks to follow. With a simple slash on the surface, in a revolutionary gesture of synthesis, Lucio Fontana inaugurated a broader field of possibilities for a new aesthetics focused on investigating the other side of flat painting with concrete characteristics. This is a two-dimensional style of painting in pursuit of the remote Renaissance depth of field contemporarily transposed to the unsteady terrain of environmental art ensconced in a space beyond the artwork, which provides the art object with an undeniable capability of being present in the world. Nelson Leirner concepts, recognizing the intensity and importance of the innovation introduced by that slash on the canvas, contributed to reaffirm these particular irony and humor in a Pop development of Fontana. Making clear reference to the original slash, Leirner added to Fontana's aesthetic creation an opportune zipper, which interactively opens up to allow the eye to transcend the frontiers of the pictorial surface. The aforementioned iteration is also convenient for Geraldo Zamproni's work, which revisits this paradigm shift that is so prized by subsequent generations of artists in the recent history of painting. Through the direct incorporation of the external world into the art object, Zamproni's proposal centers on zipping canonical surfaces, which open and close by means of the interactive manipulation of the work and its externalities, elements that are not included of the art object itself, but of its inaccurate surroundings. Interventions that dissect the essence of the earth with the scalpel of sight and with the practical and instantaneous nature of ideas and contemporary materials. Propositions that quite significantly and symbolically encompass this world's surface and underground environments. In spite of addressing architecture and landscapes, Zamproni's interventions do not revolve around the representative universe. The artist searches for the unknown, the core of the elements he uses to transcend simple appearances, to transform the original functions of those elements into singular counterpoints that produce strangeness precisely in the details that are not perceivable to the eye, in the landscape and in the architecture. Therefore, the unimaginable becomes an elementary concept in his creative endeavors. The subjective component is broadly manifested to highlight and make feasible, with the language of present-day art, the concept of unlikelihood. This notion is of utmost importance because it involves the surroundings, the element that is not revealed in the scope of more traditional art, which is obviously upheld by non-prospective and representative and linear works. That being the case, the “B” side of an artistic proposition extends itself ad infinitum and gives way to other spatial possibilities, such as in Fontana and Leirner, who put forward a multidimensional spaciality that differentiates itself owing to the fact that it transcends the customary reality. These approaches do not attempt to unveil the enigmas of the universe, but to expose them to the new and the impenetrable with the intent of connecting the created object to its surroundings, to the exterior elements that encircle it. Thus, philosophy is to come into play in order to perceive what one cannot visualize. A borderline language that connects the issues that find themselves on the boundaries, on the dividing lines, and then pours into the complex interior of the contemporary art work. There is a tense relationship between strength and weakness that causes an intentional unbalance in Zamproni's current proposition for the FUNARTE Marquee Project. The diaphanous and Dyonisian inflatable material that curiously seems to support the entire structure of the construction, rather contrastingly, creates a metaphor with the Apollinean weight of the concrete marquee that connects the Funarte Cultural Center, located in the architectural complex created by Oscar Niemeyer, in Brasilia. The artist made the fortunate choice of placing his “inflatable elements” in a building designed by one of the greatest architects of the 20th Century. It is also interesting to highlight that the audacious poetic visions that single out Oscar Niemeyer's architecture are, when compared to Zamproni's propositions, coincidentally based on a very similar concept: make what seems impossible, possible. It is worthy of notice that Niemeyer's bold conceptions, the huge free-spanning reinforced concrete structures made feasible as a result of structural calculations, become striking contrasts, a juxtaposition of extreme lightness and overwhelming weight. In parallel, both the artist and the architect establish the utopian aesthetics of the unlikely. As for the “inflatable elements”, large red cushions proposal that are part of the surreal proposal of having light air-filled items apparently supporting a massive concrete slab over 320 linear feet long over several columns, there is a clear intent of making it appear as if such an endeavor is physically impossible, incompatible with reality. It is an ironic and contradictory intervention given the weight of the construction. A design with such antagonistic elements generates discomfort because of the unusual sense of humor that unbalances the placid urban landscape. At first, the obtained from the repetition of the images establish a certain rhythm, in spite of the intense nonsense feeling caused by the sight of incompatible materials, and creates an element of surprise derived from the use of lighter elements to support the heavy ones . Consequently, the artist fulfills the complex role of overcoming the massive and monumental modernist-city scale by directly intervening in and interacting with the work designed by an acclaimed icon of international architecture. Therefore, such an undertaking provisionally transforms the daily existence of this city into something extracted from the unlikely universe of art. (Wagner Barja is a visual artist – Title of Notorious Knowledge in Visual Arts, Theory and History of Art, and Art Education – Director of the National Museum of the Cultural Center of the Republic in Brasilia.)

"There is a tense relationship between strength and fragility that causes an intentional imbalance in Zamproni's current proposition"

Wagner Barja

The Volatile Structure

Cauê Alves

The architectural fragments in Geraldo Zamproni's work are not isolated or loose parts of a singular and specific building. They are such essential elements that they could integrate any building, and their degree of abstraction is close to universality. ​By using four columns, the artist may suggest a rectangular construction, but it is just a space in which we can not live, as it is only a suggestion.  The rough concrete appearance implies the idea that the work is unfinished, still in the building process, as if there was still something to be done. As Zamproni's logic is based on modules, he makes allusion to the possibility of continuing the work. The artist's buildings look as though another module could be joined or taken out, as a column could vary in size according to the needs of the environment. The variation is much more immediate than that of the architectural projects with prefabricated materials.  Each of Zamproni's modules is connected to another by a zip, making them be easily loosened or attached. The zip is a revolutionary invention in clothing and daily life. It has replaced the old fasteners and has made things such as doing and undoing handbags, suitcases or coats faster and easier. As well as allowing the possibility of the rapid construction or deconstruction of structures, using zips to connect architectural elements also means, not without a hint of irony, connecting architecture to the realm of fashion. What is essential to a building becomes completely temporary. ​In 1967, Nelson Leirner made the series Homage to Fontana, which consisted of becoming canvas pieces that could be fastened or unfastened using zips. The title is a fine irony in relation to the Italian-Argentinean painter's aggressive and romantic gesture. Leirner allowed Fontana's gesture to be remade anonymously, repeatedly and without any heroism. Zamproni, who actually graduated in Architecture, opens up this possibility in the three-dimensional field, even though his work raises other questions. ​Even the garden, which presupposes a period for the roots to take and the leaves to grow, becomes elusive and portable. The artist treats the landscape in such a practical way that it checkmates the plants' naturalness. Doing and undoing a zip is the same as doing and undoing a garden. Besides reconnecting the scale of architecture to the scale of the human body, Geraldo Zamproni's work suggests that everything that is essential to a building or a landscape is also volatile.

Subverting Architecture

Marília Panitz

Architecture is, first and foremost, construction, but construction conceived with the primordial purpose of putting in order and organizing the space for a certain end, and aiming at a certain intention. And this process (…) should not be confused with plastic art, (…) and it is up to the individual sentiment of the architect, then, in what he has of an artist, to choose in the chain of values contained between two extreme values, the plastic shape suitable for each detail concerning the ultimate unity of the work conceived. The plastic intention that such a choice presupposes is precisely what distinguishes architecture from simple construction.  Lucio Costa  [10] Is prison then the generic name designating all architectural production? (…) Is it possible to conceive of an architecture that would not inspire, as in Bataille, social good behavior, or would not produce as in Foucault's (…), madness or criminality in individuals? Dennis Hollier  [11] A museum is comparable to the lung of a great city: every Sunday the throng flows into the museum, like blood, and leaves it fresh and purified.(…) At the exit door of the Louvre, it is interesting to admire the torrent of visitors, visibly animated with a desire to be in all things at one with the celestial apparitions with which their eyes are still ravished. (…) The museum is a colossal mirror in which man contemplates himself (…) Georges Bataille  [12] The best art of capturing, dreaming, the afternoon in the meshes of night is to make plans. Walter Benjamin  [13] Perhaps, the great issue that could be raised architecture within the universe of culture and, especially, of esthetics is the fact that it concerns a borderline area between functionality and submission to non-functional fruition, with a radicalism that is unlikely in any other borderline fields such as design, photography, journalistic writing, to mention a few. This is probably one of the richest areas for the discussion advanced by this expanded field of artistic production. ​Geraldo Zamproni produces his works within this area. Beyond the idea of placing the work inside the constructed space, or in relation to it, the artist fustigates the architectural structure with its enormous shapes (minute, at times [14] ), shapes which, at once, highlight and deconstruct the rigorousness of the shapes. They propose paradoxes to the eye. ​His work comes close to the line of production of artists who, since the 20th century, begin to think about interventions in the urban space, especially buildings, as a comment/indication of what the city dweller comes to naturalize, to see the things that have always been there and that this is so because this is the way it should be – landmarks of urban landscape. It comes close to certain works by Gordon Matta Clark, it leads us into thinking about Art|city Projects. And, undoubtedly, it takes us back to that Benjamin who requested the visitor's eye to activate pieces of urban equipment invisible to its certain inhabitants [15] . ​Brasilia, 2011: Recipient of the Edital Funarte award, Geraldo installs his huge red pillows, his Estruturas Voláteis (Volatile Structures) [16]  under the Funarte Cultural Space's marquee, in the Monumental Axis. The landscape is transformed (and it should be noted that that particular urban landscape, with its monumentality, “swallows” almost everything that is placed there to converse with Oscar Niemeyer's buildings). There is an appropriateness of dimension rare in other intervention proposals for this space. Conversely, the red shapes own the space under the marquise, the passageway (both in the ordinary as well as in the Benjaminean sense). One of them is installed at the gallery's entrance. We must go around it, touch it, to stand up to its dimension. We are much smaller in size (just as we are miniscule vis-à-vis the landscape of the Monumental Axis). Another one is installed inside the National Museum (also signed by Niemeyer). Almost squeezed under the ramp that leads to the mezzanine; it defects, spreads out, imposes its color on the white. We begin to realize that it has a lot to say to the space created by the 'architectpoetofshapes'. It is an accomplice to and a critic of the generous and oftentimes arid spaces or the buildings-sculptures. ​Curitiba, 2012: Oscar Niemeyer Museum. Huge spaces propped-up by trapezoid columns, recurrent presence in their creator's works, surrounded by a reflecting pool that reflects the most unprecedented shape in the building: the eye. It is in this reflecting pool that Geraldo installs his pillars-mirrors… Pillars that do not hold up anything, have no foundations, have no weight; just float in the water… His Playful Structures. Estrangement and comfort, slipping of the gauze under the big constructed eye. ​This leads to reflection on the relationship of Zamproni's interventions in areas around buildings of an architectural style that does not subscribe (not without problems) to the postulations of the Athens Charter [17]  concerning its implementation. The idea of allowing a city to “breathe” by providing open spaces around its buildings has generated many a discussion in these almost one hundred years since the documented was written. One of the issues (which a Brasiliaer, like me, knows very well) has do with how this occupation is accomplished by its recipients: city inhabitants and visitors. ​This seems to be an interesting angle from which to address this artist's work. The non-sense in the huge but light shapes he installs [18]  ─ always in conversation with architecture and urban planning (inseparable, according to the Charter) – pose problems to the space of destination, while, at the same time, offering themselves playfully as activators, as attractions, as enigmas to be deciphered or… games that humanize the concrete. ​Pillars that move around in the water according to the movement of the wind. What will they prop? When we think that Geraldo Zamproni's interventions are placed in museums and cultural spaces, we could suppose that they are intended to support a certain impalpable structure – turned into a metaphor by Georges Bataille, under the entry “Museum” in his Critical Dictionary, into lungs that oxygenate, cleanse the blood (flowing in the human body and, by extension, in the body of the city). After all, quoting him “The museum is a colossal mirror in which man gazes at himself…” Thus, we can gaze upon the floating columns in the hope of being able to decipher, who knows, what oxygenates our daily lives.

[1]  COSTA, Lúcio Considerations on contemporary art (1940). In: Lúcio Costa, Record of an experience. São Paulo: Empresa das Artes, 1995. p. 601.

[2]  In “La prize de La Concorde“, 1974, apud, DISERENS, Corinne “The architectural film by Matta Clark, Revista Trópico,  http:/ /,3.shl .

[3]  “Critical Dictionary”, entry Museu, In, BATAILLE, LEIRIS, GRIAULE, EINSTEIN, DESNOS, “Encyclopedia Acephalica”, Atlas Arkhive Three/Documents of the avant garde, London : Atlas Press, 1997, p. 64.

[4]  BENJAMIN, Walter, Passages, Belo Horizonte: Imprensa Nacional/UFMG, 2006, p 935.

[5]  See his work by the award-winning artist at the Salão de Abril de Fortaleza, in 2008, where hands sprout from the wall, almost indiscernible at first glance, in their whiteness.

[6]  See “One-Way Street”, Volume II of his chosen works. (Ed Brasiliense, now in its 6th edition, 2004). See his “Book of Passages” (Imprensa Nacional/UFMG, 2006).

[7]  “Geraldo tells me that” Volatile Structure becomes a slogan that appears to name the work of the Funarte Prize in Brasília, but this work had already been shown at the Bienal of the Millennium in Grenada-Spain. I think about what the image of these huge shapes should look like in relation to the urban landscape of Granada in its shades of sand and ocher.

[8]  The great urban manifesto that changes western thinking for the area, written in IV  International Congress of Modern Architecture  ( in Athens, 1933), of which Lucio Costa is one of the authors and signatory. Brasília (as well as Niemeyer's work) is the daughter of this letter.

[9]  There is another work that helps to clarify these relationships: his series Sustainability associates concrete blocks and natural grass through the action of a zipper (where the reference to Nelson Leirner is identified) was implanted in the of the Paço das Artes in São Paulo in 2010 and awarded at the SPA das Artes, in Recife, in 2011.

[10]  COSTA, Lúcio Considerations on contemporary art (1940). In: Lúcio Costa, Record of an experience. São Paulo: Empresa das Artes, 1995. p. 601.

[11]  In “La prize de La Concorde“, 1974, apud, DISERENS, Corinne “The architectural film by Matta Clark, Revista Trópico,  http:/ /,3.shl .

[12]  “Critical Dictionary”, entry Museum, In, BATAILLE, LEIRIS, GRIAULE, EINSTEIN, DESNOS, “Encyclopedia Acephalica”, Atlas Arkhive Three/Documents of the Avant Garde, London : Atlas Press, 1997, p. 64.

[13]  BENJAMIN, Walter, Passages, Belo Horizonte: Imprensa Nacional/UFMG, 2006, p 935.

[14]  See his prize-winning work exhibited at Salão de Abril de Fortaleza, in 2008, where hands stem from the wall, almost indiscernible at first glance, owing to their whiteness.

[15]  See Rua de Mão Única (One-way Street) Volume II of his selected works (Ed Brasiliense, already in its 6th edition, 2004). See his Book of Passages (Imprensa Nacional/UFMG, 2006).

[16]  “Geraldo tells me that” Volatile Structure becomes a slogan that appears as a name for the Funarte Award-recipient work, in Brasilia; work that had already been shown at the Millennium Biennial, in Granada, Spain. I wonder what the sight of these huge shapes must have been like against Granada's urban landscape with its sand and ocher hues.

[17]  The great urban planning manifesto that changed Western thought in that regard, produced during the 4th Modern Architecture International Conference (Athens, 1933), of which Lucio Costa is one of the authors and signatories. Brasilia (like Niemeyer's works) was born from this Charter.

[18]  Another work helps to clarify these relationships: his series Sustainability (Sustainability) that joins concrete blocks to the lawn by means of a zipper (Nelson Leirner can be identified as a reference) was placed in the external area of Paço das Artes, in São Paulo, in 2010, and received the SPA das Artes prize, in Recife, in 2011.

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