Many people pass through the Louvre building to live, visit, work, make purchases, or sell items. Within this routine, the museu do louvre pau-brazyl takes place. To consider the meanings of the works here implies, however, thinking of them as in a distinctive time and space from most exhibitions. It is a world in which temporalities and expectations, distinct from proper spaces conceived of for exhibiting art since the onset of modernity, are experienced. The routine of this building is residential, commercial, with shops from the Centro of São Paulo, and in this site of everyday life this particular museum will take place.
A part of the city’s center, it is a space that requires us to live in a particular way. It is not an environment conceived of for a contemplative life, it is a world that pushes us ever toward increased speed. Addressing this question, the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman curiously compared this way of life with skating on thin ice. Always in movement, we live as if our safety depended upon our speed. We try to live increasingly rapidly, for, “when running among fast runners, to slow down means to be left behind; when running on thin ice, slowing down also means the real threat of being drowned”. 1See. BAUMAN, Zygmunt. Modernidade Líquida. São Paulo: Zahar, 2001, pp. 329. This speed is a consequence of the flow of stimuli to which we are subjected.
Saturated with information that invades us via sounds, drawings, photographs, videos and illustrations, city life does not allow us to pay attention to the experiences around us, provoking confusion amongst so many images that appear and are replaced before we can even notice. In this profusion of stimuli, everything seems to simultaneously become manifest and fade.
Some of the works in this exhibition converse with this aspect of our surrounding reality, saturated in constantly reproduced images that end up losing their meaning and becoming simply vehicles for advertisement. The work that Pazé presents in this exhibition drives us to consider these issues. Titling his work A coleção [The Collection], Pazé presents reproduced images hung together as one large and singular illustration. But his images are not of consumer products pushed on us by publicity; they are reproductions of great paintings in the history of art, merchandise that does not circulate on the general consumer market. The first sensation is that the masterpieces lose their importance and their individuality in the large image that confuses them, impeding the viewer’s conscious, individual attention via the language of a hackneyed, scandalous advertisement.
To return to Liquid Modernity, Bauman affirms, “Speed, however, is not conducive to thinking, not to thinking far ahead, to long-term thinking at any rate. Thought calls for pause and rest, for ‘taking one’s time’, recapitulating the steps already taken, looking closely at the place reached and the wisdom (or imprudence, as the case may be) of reaching it.” 2Idem.
This thinking demands that pause and rest have no place amidst the excess of stimuli that life in São Paulo offers us. In this sense, an exercise in aesthetic enjoyment in the space of the galleries of the Louvre building seems to be harmed.
Therefore, the majority of showrooms are designed on the same principles. They were conceived of to eliminate interferences, taking art from the space and time of the everyday. And this tendency ends up resulting, throughout the course of modernity, in the ideal conceptualization of exhibition space as internal, within a white cube. In this place, as O’Doherty affirms, “The outside world must not come in, so windows are usually sealed off. Walls are painted white. The ceiling becomes the source of light. (…) The art is free, as the saying used to go, ‘to take on its own life.” 3See. O’DOHERTY. Inside the White Cube. Oakland: University of California Press, 2000, pp. 15. It’s an environment without distractions, which attempts to destroy all the stimuli outside of the work itself. As O’Doherty writes, “The work is isolated from everything that would detract from its own evaluation of itself.” 4Idem, pp. 14.
One might question whether this radical separation between the space in which works are exhibited and the world in which we live would not end in removing them from it. But a good deal of contemporary work proves that this is not necessarily the case. We see, in some pieces, the exploration of the distinctions between exhibition space and what is outside of it, even occupying the center of the problem, establishing paths between these two extremes and questioning the changes of meaning involved in its existence in each of the two sides of this opposition.
The museu do louvre pau-brazyl is one of the directions that this reflection of art on its place in the world can take. The works of art, conceived of from research traditions that hold modern exhibition space as its referent, suffer transformations when exhibited in a building modeled after the Louvre. To think about these works in this place is not to think of them as in art galleries, but neither is it to think of street art or large public art installations that are financed by the state or by companies, or the megaexhibitions of contemporary art. This exhibition takes place in what Bauman would call “the second category of public yet non-civil space.” 5See. Modernidade Líquida, op. cit., pp. 114. A category that is “meant to serve consumers or, rather, to transubstantiate the city resident into a consumer.” This is the context of the space in which the works of art are presented. They enter neither into the play of signification that takes place in the white cube, nor in their direct relationship with the urban landscape or as a marker of collective memory.
One way of illustrating this idea is suggested by the work of the artist Rochelle Costi. On several occasions, contexts and locations, she brings in the experience of the city, from the outside world, through her works and exhibitions. In her 2009 exhibition at the Centro Cultural São Paulo, Costi brought to light parts of that institution that are not visible to the public at large. The Objetos Encontrados [Found Objects] she presented are objects and images that come from workshops, warehouses and places of work from the cultural center. The routine of these places, the space of work and coexistence of employees of CCSP, contrasted with the routine of the exhibition space, frequented by other people, with other interests, who practice other activities. Normally outside of the exhibition room – the site of visibility – they are invisible to the public, but brought within the room they become the focus of what is being displayed. That which is normally hidden from the other side is exposed to be seen. This work is the exhibition inside-out, the non-exhibition that becomes the theme of itself.
In the case of the Louvre building, the building’s frequenters and the space itself are otherwise. There is not only this opposition between visitors and employees, between the open space of the exhibition and the closed space of work. Hence, the artwork presented in the louvre pau-brazyl is another inside-out take on what is displayed. The space investigated by the artist is a gallery of commercial stores within a residential building. In some way the opposition between these two worlds that cohabit the same place continues to be relevant. Just as in museums, art galleries and cultural centers, there is an opposition between the space of visitation and that of work. Here there also exist residential areas, garages, the more or less common spaces of work and residence. The artist takes all of these places into account. More factors come into play, other relations of work and coexistence are driven by the works in this exhibition, complicating and opening up new possibilities of interpretation that go beyond the traditional spaces of art exhibitions.
Opposite Costi’s work, leaving the exhibition space and heading toward the world of every day, the museu do louvre pau-brazyl likewise includes the participation of the Coletivo Filé de Peixe with their work/project Piratão. The group has existed since 2009, delving in one of its projects into the spectrum that ranges from the museum to street, selling pirated copies of video art from street carts, just as the majority of street vendors sell DVDs throughout the city. As the piece was realized in various locations, it is interesting to note the public’s general change of reaction depending on the location of the performance. The dichotomy of within/without is established in this project when we think about the meaning, value, and type of exhibition that the project entails in its videos. On one side we have videos that are within the museum or gallery, publicly visible during exhibitions; on the other, when they are removed from the exhibition space, within technical reserves and private collections in their limited copies and inflated prices, they become invisible.
After being appropriated by the collective’s project, these videos become ordinary products available in street commerce, merchandise that are not subject to the considerations attributed to a work of art. But launched into the exterior world and sold on streets like any other product of the same format, it’s only within the homes of consumers that these videos are exhibited. Their distribution in unlimited copies and at accessible prices makes private the exhibition that before had a public character, mediated by the cultural institution. Held in this way in a commercial gallery in the center of São Paulo, an intermediary space between the luxury of an art gallery and the public character of a museum, Piratão establishes a new relationship with street commerce. This intermediary space disputes place with informal trade, situating itself neither with the luxury of art galleries nor with the simplicity of the street vendors.
Thus, what we find at the louvre pau-brazyl are oppositions with more tenuous boundaries between within and without, public and private, visible and invisible. Here such dichotomies cannot function in the same way. The directions of meaning imposed upon works shown in this place and environment begin to become clear. As we see it, the realization of this exhibition does not intend to monumentalize or add marketing value to the space, much less so to transform the building into a museum or art gallery. It focuses on affirming the importance, in its direct contact with the world of which is deals, of works that dialogue with the images that approach us in everyday life. It is an exhibition that intersperses the flow of everyday images with other kinds, in one way originating and displaced from the usual context of an art exhibition. Thus, the relationships of meaning gain their own distinctive character from those of the exhibition room. Their relation with the rest of the world places them in a contrast that permits us to consider as much the world as the artworks themselves.
A great researcher and innovator on the role of art in modern and urban life, Flavio de Carvalho suggests a comparison that illustrates well the problems running through this life that we lead. In Os Ossos do Mundo [The Bones of the World], he affirms that “humans within a civilization have their feelings impregnated and drowned, they almost only emanate and receive from that which exists immediately around them; are isolated beings by the facts that surround, beings without a point of view; there is no judgment because there is no contrast, and they are, like a fish within the sea, nearly incapable of appreciating the happenings of a neighboring life”. 6See. CARVALHO, Flávio de. Os ossos do mundo. São Paulo: Antiqua, 2005.
In the louvre pau-brazyl language and the questions of art coexist especially with an environment of values and practices more automatic and commonplace than in the majority of exhibitions. Far from weakening the work, this offers an intense possibility for the perception of contrasts, of negations and approaches that enriches as we deepen our attention of both the works and the world itself. This is what brings us to the perception of this contrast that lacks in the fish that Carvalho speaks of: the contrast that frees the senses. It frees us from the prison of events around us, opening up other possibilities beyond those immediately at our disposal allowing us to form a point of view. It is in occupying the space of everyday life that the museu louvre pau-brazyl amplifies the temporalities and dimensions of the works herein, creating new ways of occupying the building and complicating the relationship between art and the public.
This text was published in the book the autobiography of monalisa (museu do louvre pau-brazyl, 2016) and revised in June, 2021.
- 1See. BAUMAN, Zygmunt. Modernidade Líquida. São Paulo: Zahar, 2001, pp. 329.
- 3See. O’DOHERTY. Inside the White Cube. Oakland: University of California Press, 2000, pp. 15.
- 4Idem, pp. 14.
- 5See. Modernidade Líquida, op. cit., pp. 114.
- 6See. CARVALHO, Flávio de. Os ossos do mundo. São Paulo: Antiqua, 2005.