By Tania Rivera*
Qwhen Paulo Herkenhoff, then director of MAR, invited me to curate the exhibition that would be called places of madness, I was concerned about the risk of this title reinforcing the idea of “madness” as a disease, as a deficit condition restricted to certain people. To relaunch the issue with art, in a political gesture of suspending exclusionary classifications and recognizing the field of “madness” as a complex social construction, I proposed to replace the term with of theíriver.
The curatorship led me, in this way, to resume some fundamental theoretical articulations in my trajectory. It was the question of psychosis that led me from a doctorate in psychoanalysis to the study of art, many years ago, in search of the characterization of deviant modes of construction of the subject and reality. The notion of of theíriver was very important in this articulation, through Freud's proposal to understand it not as an erroneous thought or a symptom to be eliminated, but as an active reconstruction of reality by someone who would have lost it due to an experience of severe disruption. Delirious would be, in this sense, a very important psychic work, which corresponds to an attempt at healing – and should be considered, in my opinion, as a power to create unique paths in culture.
Such work of delirium therefore finds the field of art, which also proposes different operations of construction and transformation of reality, inviting us to share new configurations of society, as the most recent artistic production sharply explains. The intersection between “madness” and art must today, therefore, be taken in a political key, moving away from the historical paths of encounter between them in the XNUMXth century by idealizing the former as a pure “expression” of a subject separated from culture (in the idea of of “art brute” or “outsider”) and in valuing the latter as “therapeutic” in itself.
But how to convey such complex conceptual elaborations in an exhibition? How to transform such ideas into a proposal of experience in a given space, with certain works of art? That was the biggest challenge Del's placesíriver put me. He was the guide, the sensitive point, the problem that led each of the curatorial actions and led me to some elaborations that I will briefly comment on here.
The work of Arthur Bispo do Rosário is, without a doubt, the one that most directly shows the power of delirium as a reconstruction of reality through art, and therefore, it should have a privileged place in the show. But how to cut out his infinite work? How could its force of deviation and drift be highlighted, the moving presence of the subject to remake the world that is incarnated in it? The answer presented itself to me in an intuitive way, which only later unfolded conceptually: in front of some works, in the collection of the Bispo do Rosário Museum, I decided to have their boats as one of the central axes of the exhibition, around which works from other assorted artists would spread.
The choice was a bit delusional, perhaps. In the selection of the other works by different artists, many boats were presented, surprisingly for me, and I welcomed them. Initially, as I said, there was no clear theoretical justification for the choice of boats and during the preparation of the first version of the exhibition, when a member of the Rio Art Museum (MAR) team asked me the reason for so many boats, I answered jokingly that “at SEA… we need boats to keep from sinking”. So I took words for things, as psychotic delusion (and art and poetry too) often does. It was only later, in the assembly of the exhibition, that the connection between boats and the “ship of the mad” became clear, in which some cities abandoned their madmen in the Middle Ages (as Foucault tells us), as well as with the idea of drift (by Deleuze and Guattari) in the ephemeral and infinite paths that the boat draws in the water, or even the figure of the raft as a fragile but powerful construction for those who are out of language, in Fernand Deligny.
The very concept of delirium was thus enriched with these objects, receiving new predicates, other articulations throughout the concrete curatorial work, the encounter with works, artists and the exhibition space. Instead of consisting in the application of a certain concept, the practice led me to other theoretical elaborations, in a kind of navigation without a predefined route, in which the starting point is transformed at each new stop.
The way the works were arranged in space was the problem in which the back and forth between practice and thought developed most strongly. The challenge was clear and perhaps doomed to failure: how to constitute a delusional “scene”? How to make an exhibition that was not a discourse on delirium, but invited the public to experience it actively and in a unique way?
The first idea that came to my mind was that the different objects and sculptures should mix and contaminate, refusing the difference between famous and little-known artists, between works inserted in the conventional circuit and works from psychiatric institutions. The acceptance of the diversity that the exhibition tries to defend would thus materialize. Furthermore, the contact between different works could eventually incite new perspectives on them – and thus exposing Bispo alongside Cildo Meireles could reinforce the conceptual strength of the first, for example.
Radicalizing this proposal, I decided to refuse the supports that usually isolate each work and expose it as outside the world around it: the wall or scenographic panel on which a painting is fixed, the pedestal on which a sculpture is positioned. I decided to arrange the works hanging in the air by thin steel cables, floating in the surrounding architecture, or to position them, generally in groups, on fragile bases – tables with legs as thin as possible and of varying heights, arranged in a branched and complex, in such a way that there is no predefined preferential path and each one must err between them, tracing their own path.
It was only after having made this decision that I realized that it put into action a very interesting hypothesis about delusion: the idea that it refuses the neutral surface of representation on which each object is inscribed, isolated from the others, in its relationship with a certain word. . Once such a basis of representation is rejected, whose model would be the blank sheet of paper on which something is inscribed, the world presents itself as a palimpsest, as a contamination of objects and multiple writings to be combined according to the look – the reading – of each one of us. It surprised me, then, to pay attention to the fact that the history of art is also marked by different strategies for the construction of such a surface and, at least since the beginning of the XNUMXth century, of its destroyhereo, in an attempt to take art out of representation and make it rediscover life (pulsing) and the world (always problematic).
Gradually, I became aware of another facet, still involved in the expographic project: it was the attempt to put the works in instability, or even in movement, in the way that happened in Bispo do Rosário’s studio cells while he he was alive: the different pieces were repositioned and sometimes modified by him in a complex game that Frederico Morais described as “muddle”. Its internal dynamics make the very delimitation of each element as a “work” arbitrary, radically questioning the traditional conditions of exhibition. Seeking to activate this dimension – which I came to consider as one of the fundamental characteristics of delirium –, my attempt was to virtually put the works in motion, in the succession of points of
view of each spectator
to walk among them.
the invitation of Sesc Pompeii to welcome a new version of Del's placesíriver allowed this exhibition proposal to expand and become more radical thanks to its unique architecture, diametrically opposed to the structure of the “white cube”. In this wide and open living space in which no surface is neutral, in its brick walls, its meandering lake (as if waiting for boats to come and inhabit it) and its continuity with the area where children play, Del's placesíriver seems to move in several directions, in the unfolding of multiple scenes – from near or far, in its panoramic views and in its corners –, redesigning itself in each spectator’s path, at the exact moment in which his gaze transforms some works and , beyond them – who knows? – maybe it will change something in the world.
*Tania Rivera psychoanalyst, researcher and curator