Ethis project aims looking at the XNUMXst century world map from a different angle than the one traditionally dictated by the supremacy of Eurocentric or Americanist culture, traditional holders of global economic power. BienalSur intends to create a meeting of voices that contain a history of decolonization for others who want to listen, fundamentally bringing contemporary art as a pivot, with project proposals that reflect on our culture and a new geopolitics.
On the occasion, in Buenos Aires, the importance of the process in the work today, made possible by new technologies on the work and the function of contemporary art, was discussed. The conversations were attended by Brazilian artist Waltércio Caldas, Brazilian curator Marcelo Dantas, Japanese artist Makoto Azuma and German artist Mariele Neudecker, who works with chemistry, the environment and sculpture. Collectors who are opening their collections in Africa also participated.
The meetings are held over two years in several cities and are sequential. On each occasion, BienalSur presents one or two central exhibitions in parallel. On the date of this meeting, a retrospective was chosen in honor of Argentine artist Graciela Sacco, who died suddenly, and a retrospective of the trajectory of Brazilian Anna Bella Geiger.
Below are excerpts from the text. Anna Bella Geiger in dialogue with Diana Wechsler, July 2017. Originally published in the exhibition catalog book Anna Bella Geiger, Physical and Human Geography, curated by Estrella de Diego. The exhibition took place on the occasion of a partnership between the Centro de Arte Contemporâneo, from Sevilla, La Casa Encendida, from Madrid, and the MUNTREF Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, from Buenos Aires, an institution that forms an essential part of the BienalSur Platform.
In first person…
Drawing has a quality of permanent
openness, renewal, and revelation. It is the “direct way” to my thoughts,
an X-ray of my work
Anna Bella Geiger, 1997
The paths of life are narrated several times. Artists from varied and extensive paths, such as Anna Bella Geiger, have forged, at the same time, their career and the narrative that organizes it in time.
Each story embodies different hues. However, what unites them is the voice of the person who reveals them, in this case, Anna Bella, who emphasizes the fundamental facts, moments of rupture, obsessions and continuities. These identities that compose it and from where they operate.
Diana Wechsler: Anna Bella, you started your career very young. What led you to choose the visual arts path? What was relevant in your training? I mean, do you remember some especially striking fact, any choice that can be read from a distance as an indication of your development. For example, let's say that the drawing is a leitmotif of your work. Does this have to do with your training or as a relationship that can be established between drawing and thinking? Or maybe in both terms...
Anna Bella Geiger: I've been drawing with pencils since I was two. Then I painted the walls of my room. I remember very well drawing it and thinking how I could finish the drawing. I think that when I drew a gesture or a specific line, somehow I already had a perception of the drawing and thought. I didn't know it yet, but I had already found my way.
In 1945, when I was studying at the French Lyceum here in Rio de Janeiro – I was twelve years old and the second world war was not over yet -, to place an ad on the school's panel: “students, sign up for the poster competition 'How to imagine the city of Paris liberated'”. It touched me a lot, because I already knew what was happening in the war, what was happening to my family in Europe. I thought about what I was going to draw with the three colors of the French flag. Based on a photograph I had seen, I drew the floor and structure of the Eiffel Tower with black pencil and added two young men holding hands, a woman and a man, dressed in dark blue uniforms with blue bows and a red tie. And I wrote “LIBERTE”.
A month later, my parents received a letter in the mail informing them that I had won the award; the French ambassador gave it to me.
In 1949, I began to study with Fayga Ostrower – a German artist of Polish origin, refugee – in her small studio in Santa Teresa. Although I was very young, with her I learned to understand art in its political and social sense. At first it was very difficult…
DW: With regard to visual resources, covering your work, your career has achieved many different techniques: from drawing to painting through video, collage, etc. What does these means represent for each of you? Could you identify the choice of collage or the video or any other technique, with the specific intent of each particular work?
ABG: between 1949 and early 1953 – still in Fayga’s workshop, who, during this period, turned to lyrical abstraction – I learned to develop the aesthetic sense of art and to understand my own process and my commitment to the specific sense of modernism. This is something I achieved by experimenting with different styles, ranging from German figurative expressionism to the Bauhaus school, but for me the most important thing was the theoretical and practical study of Cubism. All this in time and space allowed me to create my own path that would lead me to abstraction, a current in which I worked for fifteen years.
In 1953 I participated in the First Brazilian Exhibition of Abstract in Petrópolis, a historical exhibition held at the Hotel Quitandinha.
During this period I participated in many other national and international exhibitions and biennials. In 1962 I was given the International Engraving Prize of La Havana, at Casa de las Américas. I kept working rigorously on abstraction until 1966.
I have always approached the use of materials in the same way, traditional or not: as a means, not as ends in themselves. Like the media that help us move ideas back and forth. I do it experimentally, almost as if I don't know the techniques. My goal is always to achieve the possibility of realizing the idea, whether through drawing, painting, engraving, collage, encaustic, photography, three-dimensional objects or video.
In 1969 I managed to shape the need to use moving images in my work in my first two Super-8 films. In 1972, I presented my exhibition at MAM-RJ circumambulation, which included an audiovisual work (a combination of sound and slides) and a Super-8 film that was shown at MAC-USP in 1973. At that moment, video did not seem like a good option because it forced me to return to images in low resolution and black and white. Also, getting around was difficult; a Sony Porta Pack camera that weighed nearly forty kilos. The only advantage was the direct recording of sound and image together and in real time. Even if they were insufficient, these possibilities made me think about questions of a different conceptual nature. In addition, there was looping – an endless repetition that was still a new feature.
DW: To what extent does your work express your place in the world? Woman, artist, mother, Jewish, Brazilian, etc, identities that inhabit you?
ABG: Yes, all these identities inhabit me. Sometimes they take turns, but it's never a single identity. First, I would like to make an observation: to live under a 21-year dictatorship, Brazilian artists had the commitment to speak out. That's why we don't raise other flags at that moment, for example that of feminism. I think this space is not to think, or to express an opinion on these views. From 1968 onwards, what prevailed was the recovery of fundamental freedoms; the right to vote and the dignity of the citizen; by boycotting the rules that governed our actions in biennials, exhibitions and contests, where any political or pornographic work was prohibited; for the right to come and go, which was essential for the exchange of information between artists.
I think my work in the late 1960s and 1970s brought together several issues, such as the need for political action, which in my poetics was combined in a constant questioning about the meaning, nature and proper function of the object, that is, art. . In addition, I worried about my role as an artist at a time like this.
For me, this is never a critical discussion of the traditional environment against transgression. Sometimes the political nature of my work is expressed with metaphors and other polysemic meanings. There, the Brazilian character is emphasized, and, in turn, leads to an intense search for identity that is expressed in works such as native Brazil / alien Brazilígena, a photographic series with 18 postcards that I made in 1976 and 1977, to send to my friends.
These images include my two daughters, daughters of an indigenous Suiá from the Upper Xingu, another Indian who worked in my house and the lady who washed my clothes with her daughter. then i did Our daily bread.
In the 70s, I returned to painting. I painted women. My women always represented the so-called “forming races of Brazil”, one white, one black, one mulatto and one indigenous. They looked scared. Sometimes absent, with an ambiguous look that set them apart from the rest.