The following text is authored by the French curator Elena Lespes Muñoz, written for the exhibition leçons de la pierre, by Icarus Lyra. The exhibition is on display at the Salle Principale Gallery, in Paris until February 1, 2020. This is the artist's first solo exhibition in France. The Portuguese translation is by Marta Lance.


*By Elena Lespes Munoz 

Patiently and a little haphazardly, but with concentrated curiosity, he takes out of the box the contents he is laying out on the floor. The devout image of a bluish Virgin, a piece of hardened cloth that looks like sewn cardboard, a handwritten letter whose first lines were read without trying to understand them, and small yellowed photographs with round, grayish corners. Spread out in this way, mounted like a frame in the friction of the sand, the whole works by outcrops. Not that these objects come from the same metal box to say something common – time, the sewing of history – but this act of organizing and assembling that Ícaro engenders has something of editing. Documentary or fiction, it doesn't matter.

Sitting next to him, I watch him handle the objects in my great-grandmother's attic. Without shyness, but with the modesty of a foreigner in intimate territory, he lifts lids, pulls papers from a pile of documents, blows dust, stops at miniature children's objects held by a rough rope - passes quickly to others, asks questions, listens. We cannot say that he is looking for something, but that tenuous attention he gives to objects, stories that they may or may not tell, to his eventual slips into other stories, he would later find again when walking in the streets of London, exchanging ideas about the exhibition we were preparing for the Salle Principale Gallery.

For a few years now, Ícaro Lira, a Brazilian artist whose first solo exhibition in France focuses on the issue of displacement, control and social isolation. A history of fissures and displacements, the history of migration is more than a story of origin – where you come from – it is a story of circulation and demarcation – where you live, where we remain, what it took to stay there. A demarcation in relation to the native land, of course, but also to that suffered, implicitly or explicitly, in the land of reception. What is living somewhere? Do we belong where we live? What defines our belonging to a certain place? To what, but also to whom are we foreigners? From the territories of northeastern Brazil where he comes from and where he never stops returning, to the streets of São Paulo, London, Paris, Naples or a small Andalusian village, the artist lives in transit. No more a traveler than an exile or migrant, Ícaro Lira does not celebrate nomadism, but is interested in the transfigurations – political, economic, social, but also intimate – that circulations engender. From his travels, which are mainly encounters, he brings objects back: wooden slats, stones, paintings, rubbish, administrative documents, press articles, but also audio interviews and personal notes. So many traits with unique stories that, juxtaposed and together, form a fragile mesh of meaning open to interpretation.

Thus, through the disparate accumulation of details, perhaps initially innocuous, something comes out of his work. Something like a narrative is formed, or something that takes the place of the volunteer's draft. In order to silence the space, advance in the stories, allow approximations to emerge, as a conscientious archivist, Ícaro Lira dedicates himself, however, to the task that seems to be entrusted to him. With the rules of classification, separation and attribution, he prefers the modest and discrete accumulation of heterogeneous objects and the lines of flight opened up by ephemeral associations. Say but prefer not. Trying to tell the story of intimate or collective trajectories through fragile and low-noise groups, to show lines of meaning that are irreducible to the great narratives. And with the monotonous voice, he prefers the intimate archive, fissile and non-homogeneous form par excellence. Thus, the displacement of an object will always be possible and, with it, a writing that is incessantly unable to complete itself. Maybe that's what Icarus is trying to do here, a fictional basket[1]: a story that would be told from shards and papers stuffed blindly into the pocket of jeans.

The objects and documents collected and assembled by Lira constitute a plastic assemblage alongside a poetic diction. It resembles an interior prose in which the gaze and the thought come to merge with the repeated gestures of displacement, juxtaposition, separation, recovery and association. Objects function equally as signifiers as signs. In addition to the documentary value that a photograph taken from the magazine Paris Match or that a thousand cruzeiros note may have, it seems to me that there are two ways of relating to the real. The first based on an index logic, the document, as a vestige, referring to a specific regime of knowledge and representation, is a vehicle for accessing the past. To these histories prolonged in time and to the silences that, in order to become of such thin membranes, owe their existence to the palimpsest of voices and memories. But, even so, it would be immediately indebted in its function of proof for the manipulations and displacements that the artist put it through. The other, more precarious, would reveal a thought: a thought as that which resists precisely the intelligible. In this sense, with details such as a dried pomegranate or a piece of slate, Icarus works more with connotations than with certainties, managing, in his own insignificance, to achieve something of the real. It would be wrong to conceive of these documents and objects as the only means of accessing the facts, seeking in their details a line of meaning that would give them all the importance and justify their presence in the device implanted here. Instead, they lead us to think about how to access the facts they can tell. Two editions of the Brazilian national press – The Folha de Sao Paulo – one from April 8, 2018, the other from October 29, 2018, are arranged side by side, on the floor, on the paper that served to protect and transport them. One announces the arrest of Lula, the other the appointment of Bolsonaro as president of Brazil. Icarus carried these two numbers with him in his suitcase for a year, not knowing what to do with them. Nor to do with what they enunciate. Lightness, not sure – stuck / weight (prisoner / weight). Its materiality resists discourse.

Ícaro's montages elude any form of integration in a surplus discourse, they are averse to linearity and demonstration. Preferring the possibility of intimate investment to the synthesis of a totalizing discourse. The indexing paradigm is therefore blocked. Deposited here and there, objects such as a piece of obsidian rock, figurines by Chiquilin or a book, accompany the works – themselves made of other objects -, emphasizing their material and irreducible dimension. The work thus becomes the exhibition space of a personal collection, where you can read excerpts from stories that constantly revolve around the traces that Ícaro collects. In this set, the objects never work in the raw, but engaged in an assembly and display logic. So it is less the restitution of a story that unfolds before our eyes than an intimate relationship with it.

Through this approach that does not intend to close itself off, but to offer itself, as a listening, to the plurality of stories and voices, to their vulnerability, Ícaro Lira gives an account of a deep empathy for the lived experiences. The exhibition in the Salle Principale gallery appears as a node. A temporary node of voices, encounters and stories, of territories crossed, inhabited and carried in each one, of different temporalities constantly renewed by renewed collages. In this sense, it does not act in the way of the institution, but more in the act of breaking and opening. The enunciation is plural and specular. It makes itself heard suddenly, in the sequences and articulations of the montage, in the echo of the encounters that saw it being born and which it causes to arouse.


Stone Lessons, exhibition title, is taken from the poem Education by Stone, by João Cabral de Melo Neto, published in 1965.

[1] “(…) we have all heard of clubs, spears and swords, of all those instruments with which we attack, pierce and hit, of these long and hard things. However, we don't hear anything about the thing we put other things in, the container and the things it contains.
This is a new story. ” Ursula Le Guin, in “Basket Fiction Theory” (original title: The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, 1986).


*Elena Lespes Munoz lives and works in Paris. Art historian (University of Paris I and University of São Paulo). She coordinated contemporary art projects at the Kadist Foundation. She has worked at the Artesur association (dedicated to contemporary art in Latin America) and at the Aline Vidal Gallery, as well as curating exhibitions (Le bruit des choses qui tombent, FRAC-PACA, 2017; Video SUR, Palais de Tokyo, 2018). Currently, she is the communication and mediation manager at CAC Brétigny.


Leçons de la pierre, by Ícaro Lira
until February 1
Galeria Salle principale: 28, rue de Thionville 75019 Paris, France
More info: +33 9 72 30 98 70 | gallery@salleprincipale.com
Wednesday to Friday | 14:00 to 19:00 Saturday | 11am to 19pm and by appointment www.salleprincipale.com

Leave a comment

Please write a comment
Please write your name