Rivane Neuenschwander
Brazil, 1967
In her work, Brazilian artist Rivane Neuenschwander makes use of a broad range of formulations, resources and media—from mundane objects that she reuses and modifies to organic or ephemeral materials, powder, even insects—complicating the task of classifying or defining her language in a concise manner. The artist was born in Belo Horizonte in 1967, and critics have emphasised her affinity with the legacy of the Brazilian Conceptualists of the sixties and seventies, who helped imbue an eminently analytical discourse with sensuality, a poetic “heartbeat” that integrates the experience of the body and nature. Through drawing, installation, performance, photography, sculpture or video, Neuenschwander directs her gaze at the mundane, at things and occurrences that make up our daily lives, transforming them into reflections on the human condition, happiness, suffering, desire, the longings that drive us. The manner in which she involves the spectator and interacts with them is a particularly noteworthy aspect of her practice, questioning their position, making them an ally and agent in much of her work. For example, in Eu desejo o seu desejo (2003-2013), she has people write “requests” or wishes on colourful ribbons, which then become amulets, reflecting a tradition deeply rooted in the culture of Salvador de Bahía. Both the context and spectator are essential to her work, but so are time, language and nature, which constitute fundamental elements of her art and of the way in which she perceives the world. For example, in her piece Palavras Cruzadas (2001), she used a word game to explore the conventions of language. She moulded the letters in fruit and invites the spectator to participate as though playing a peculiar game of Scrabble. In one of her best-known videos (made in collaboration with Cao Guimarães), she filmed ants that instead of carrying seeds and provisions back to their “nest” are dragging pieces of colourful confetti—previously soaked in sugar—as if participating in an event both unusual and festive. In reality, the piece offers a commentary on the processes of production and consumption. In other projects, she has addressed topics like surveillance and the violation of privacy through new technologies. Regardless of whether her work is complex in its conception or expressed directly, Neuenschwander uses her art to explore mechanisms that alter the logic of things. She risks a different way of approaching reality, one that transcends it, introducing uncertainty and instability into the messages, fracturing meaning and allowing a subversive attitude to seep through the cracks, because she shatters—albeit subtly—the most deeply rooted mechanisms of our thinking and our perception. She underscores the idea of art being a way of communicating that which could otherwise never “be said”. The artist studied at the Federal University of Minas Gerais and at the Royal College of Art in London and achieved international recognition early on in her career. She has participated in the biennials of Istanbul, São Paulo and Venice in addition to exhibiting at Portikus in Frankfurt, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the New Museum in New York.
Alicia Murría