About how to tame unpredictability

Experimentation and invention sound each time more as being widely visible qualities in the field of visual arts production. Currently, the integration of works of art that approach such categories became something easy for some critics and curators. Almost commonplaces in the sense of speaking very highly of a contemporary exhibition, invention or experimentation, they seem to have lost their quality of being rare (even if not by will), as fruits of an intense research that somehow would qualify and point to an innovation in the work of this artist. On the other side, each time I hear that painting died, I ask about the corpse. None of those accusers knows where the grave stays, but all of them agree to claim that they are not surprised anymore by the two-dimensionality. Maybe, an indication for the appearance (and yet excess) of exhibitions, salons and biennials that look more as an amusement park.There is something predictable in the realm of art.

Thiago Rocha Pitta’s recent work for the horse stall of the Parque Lage proves that an idea of predictability also comes upon unexpected deviations. Projeto para uma pintura com temporal #4  is a painting that sets itself as an expansion of the own idea it has of itself. Converting itself into an environmental installation “with atmospheric data of the place”, as the artist highlights, the work alters permanently the image that it has of itself; it comes from an idea of topographic salience that, produced with a small iron file on a huge-size fabric, slowly gets eroded by the excessive humidity of the place. Here, experimentation sets itself as minimality (not to be confounded with Minimal Art).

Therefore, with sparse gestures and methods, the artist activates a power that, just as life, is a victim of time. We do not foresee changes, if not by the extended and intimate contact with this body-work of art. Being in front of it, learning its temporariness, is to consider it as a living being. The fact of making the instauration of this sensible world gravitate requires that we are open to our condition of inhabitants of the world. Paraphrasing Merleau-Ponty, being in the world means to live in the world, something that, originally speaking, means “being condemned to the meaning, living the world as it has already been made, before any thematization, before we receive any thought on it”.

Pitta alerts us that the world is not what we think, it is what I live and the fact of living is the experience that allows me to have a primordial knowledge of the real. There is a suspension of a quality of time in order for the world to be created and seen in such fabric. In this experience of time-duration, the chronologic stills in abeyance. Changings in the fabric – marks, textures and spots – weave a passage of a clairvoyant and visible body, a general mean to inhabit a world. In the field of Brazilian visual arts, this visible temporality in marks finds resonances, in the works of Amilcar de Castro, in the monotypes by Carlos Vergara and the oxidized “painting” on tarpaulin by José Bechara.

Meanwhile, Pitta sets up his place in the difference: despite the fact that there is not a continuous and remarkable opposition between the canvas and the painter, this work is always thought as painting. The superposition of volumes, the color, the texture and the gesture of the stroke are present, but now they are being interpreted through superposed layers of oxidation, variable shades of iron “corroding the fabric “ and in a structure that each time more wants to leave the canvas (what is indomitable) to become skin.

Pitta builds a kind of discourse that escapes from the traps of pure reflection, putting together various action strategies enabling the passages and connections between the fields of production and perception. In Projeto para uma pintura com temporal #4, the object does not simply exist at the moment the artist produces it. It turns to exist from that moment and it is always different. That is, it still is an object even once made. This represents a deviation in the creation states of history of painting: the temporality then

registers changes (physical and phenomenological) in an object that sets an intimate and indelible compromise with the difference. As configuration of stimulus endowed with substantial indetermination, this painting inhabits the instance of a body, and therefore is reversible, ambiguous and in constant manifestation. Not satisfied with its condition of being an object, this painting by Pitta desires the unpredictable. A search of “accepting the chaos”ii is recurrent in his paintings. There is no control from the artist in order to determine the space that such pictorial operation will occupy, neither the form nor the size that will exist. Pitta reminds us that art inhabits the territory of the unknown, and the “function” of the artist would be to go towards the most fertile unknown and to improve each time more the quality of this state. The unpredictable connects itself with a condition of time in which artistic creation is synonymous of the verbs (of action) operate and transform, “under the sole restriction of an experimental control where interfere only phenomena highly ‘worked’, and that our devices produce instead of registering them”.iii

Pitta creates a space that is no longer a place of representation and turned to be environment of action. Therefore, this desire of corrpution mixes itself a lot with the will to stay indifferent to the movements of the world. In this longing, the artist introduces a series of new ideas. It is not anymore an idea adding to the amount of ideas in the world; but an idea doubting of all the other ideas. We are facing a production that has a kind of elasticity impelling the meaning of the production of new forms, there is an addiction to proliferation: the narrative of his works does not get exhausted, but unfolds itself. In his artisanal process of building space, the iron articulates and reveals to us successive layers of time. Between subtleness and softness (because of the iron oxidation), we are facing an altering territory, but mainly a body demonstrating its fragility and maturity as it “becomes older” and, in a phenomenological relationship, through these wrinkles and deformities, turns time visible.

The permanent construction of these islands of oxidation under the fabric reveals to us the fields of emptiness through which this work travels. The emptiness imposes itself as something active; definitely, despite what we may think, it is not something inexistent, but a dynamic and active element. The way how emptiness is inserted in the system of reversibility and discontinuity of this work allows the unity composing it to overpass the rigid opposition and the one-way development, and offers at once the possibility of a totalizer approach with these “islands” which are composing the work.

Passing through this investigation field, Pitta’s work always manifests itself as a painting of landscapes, independently of the support on which he works or the meaning of the invention he builds. A landscape that changes at the same time that this painting wonders if it should go ahead as painting or extend its research to other fields of poetical production. This is one of the reaching points between Projeto para uma pintura com temporal #4 and Herança  (2007). Immersed in the silence and loneliness, both operate temporality as monotony and transformation.

They cautiously dedicate themselves to time. In Herança, because of the distance and the fact that the boat goes out of the scene in relation to field of vision of the camera, the observer is divided over doubt, indifference and close look. What is the meaning of the ironic comment on the earth in sight, what does it offer and, as a mirage, furtively empty before our eyes? A portion of earth and two trees thrust in a boat in the middle of the ocean that stop inhabiting the dreamlike reality to become real. Between monotony and vagueness, Herança reveals a silence that also passes through the human absence or through the displacement of function. As the camera is operating as a voyeur of the boat, who sees the video is dislocated to such function as “participant” of the work. This strangeness turns to be the focus of the observer, each one turning to be witness of the other regarding that suspended state of reality. The observer is kidnaped by this image, and, in the object of investigation, exists a will of becoming intimate of this unpredictability, although always exists a state of borderline or distance between both, as if the possible encounter could provoke something more scaring than the situation in itself.

We are transported to a place full of nothing, where we surround and survey that object which seems to be at least intriguing, but, paradoxically we never come close to it. Quickly, the perception of the world reduces to this opposition. There is a cancellation of the own quantity of images inhabiting the world; nothing more imports or means something if not that situation of drifting, where you (the observer) turn to be party and witness of the appearance of what always was invisible because belonged to the world of dreams.

The unceasing issue in Pitta’s work would be the place of silence in a world of excesses, in which the “praise of noise”iv is assumed as practice and all the inner history is annihilated as its simple announcement presumes an unbearable emptiness. These works also are manifestations of such inwardness, the possible visualization of something close to insignificance. The doubt of the observer in Herança deals with the structure of the provocations that Pitta’s work reveals to us by highlighting the gesture and presence of a subject. In times of information overload, Pitta decelerates time through a subtle economy and an intimist scale. In this movement without tricks, we learn to doubt of our own space-time perceptions and we are invited to lend our body to the world.

i MERLEAU-PONTY, Maurice. Fenomenología de la percepción. Barcelona: Península, 1975. p. 16.
ii See the interview published in this book.
iii MERLEAU-PONTY, Maurice. O olho e o espírito. In: Textos selecionados. Husserl e Merleau-Ponty.São Paulo: Abril Cultural, 1975. (Os Pensadores, vol. 41). p. 275.
iv Expression taken from the text “Esses desenhos são líquidos” by Paulo Sergio Duarte. In: DUARTE, Luisa (Org.). Paulo Sergio Duarte: a trilha da trama e outros textos sobre arte. Rio de Janeiro: Funarte, 2004. p. 50.