Galeria Millan presents Epistemological Structures, an artwork selection of nine artists: Maya Weishof, Feliciano Centurión, Jaider Esbell, Regina Parra, Thiago Martins de Melo, Miguel Rio Branco, Henrique Oliveira, Emmanuel Nassar and Tunga. The project intends to illuminate beyond the existent artistic canon, arising out of the concept of epistemology and revealing other organizations in the conscious art making.
The concept of epistemology, as it investigates the origin and the limits of human knowledge, also analyses the connections between subject and object. This duality can have multiple configurations in the art field, considering the artwork’s production context and it’s itinerary. The set of factors that mediate the work, as it is institutionalized, makes it possible for art to play both roles, being sometimes the subject and other times, the object. This project exhibits this variation at each presented piece, and yet, all of them have a common purpose: an epistemological critique of art.
In this shared goal, Antonio Gramsci’s notion of hegemony is a fundamental tool, describing a long cultural-historical process that unfolds itself in the exercise of power. Gramsci’s critique to the hegemonic process focuses on the conditioning effect the dominant ideology has on the social organization. Deprived of critical consciousness, hegemony thinking leads to a difference between thinking and acting, as well as to a point of view that develops a narrowed and restricted art history.
Is up to critical thinking to deconstruct this uniformity, creating counter narratives. Epistemological Structures investigates this art history’s construction paradigms, answering directly to the pre-conceived notions embedded in it.
Tunga’s Phanógrafo, enunciates a primary question: is the artwork derived from the narrative, or is the narrative derived from the artwork? In this piece, history is the foundation of imagined time, presenting a testimony, a scene that corroborates history. Decanted liquids of some unknown process are held in suspended bottles inside padded boxes. This evidence shows us that, regardless of the facts, history can be told, revisited, and experienced again.
Concurrently, Thiago Martins de Melo’s techniques presents, in Brazilian art, another social and political narrative where artwork and history are both subject and object. Martins de Melo gathers different mythical and popular beliefs, as well as afro-Brazilian cultural histories, and constructs a history of the defeated. His tridimensional paintings become the stage for a survival of the past. At the same time, they claim art’s consciousness responsibility to narrate, and by doing so, they dispute narratives.
The possibility of another history is also present in Jaider Esbell work. His pieces have names that present possible narratives, such as: Veste de Parixara, Amamentação, Antes e depois do pesadelo, Casas de cura and Aqueles que andaram o mundo todo. He sets off from the concept of artivismo, a neologism that associates art and social sciences. Therefore, he merges painting, writing, drawing and performance to social discussions about mythical narratives and spirituality. In addition to Martins de Melo pieces, Esbell’s works create another epistemology in art history, performing different ways of experiencing life.
Regina Parra’s poetic, ranging from film and poetry, projects her own figure as the study’s object. She investigates the body limits in art representation, creating a new script for women’s identity in society and provoking a direct confrontation to the dominant speech. As she engages in themes such as oppression, disobedience and female resistance in an objective field, Parra displays a subjective and intimate reality in the foreground.
In a different way, some of the epistemological reflections of the artistic production are based on a direct dialogue between official history and its references. Of this procedure comes out counter-hegemony artworks, as they take a hold of language and its narratives to remodel it. Miguel Rio Branco’s piece Yellow shoes thinking of Max Ernst is a direct dialogue with a historical reference, not only because of its title, but also because of the image’s elements. The artist established a dialectical relationship with Ernst’s artwork: while they have similar colors and shapes, Rio Branco’s photograph restructures in a unique manner the initial elements presented in the German artist.
Maya Weishof’s Noite Estrelada is another similar attempt in this direction. With an identical title to Van Gogh’s canonized Starry Night, Weishof reshapes the established imagery as she adds vibrant and warm colors, as well as disproportionate figures, presenting a dreamlike universe that is almost the exact opposite of the first painting. In Weishof’s artworks, artistical painting exhibits a recreation of reverie, fantasy, and dream that can trespass the formal conventions of narrative.
Aligned to Weishof’s artwork is Henrique Oliveira’s EXLP17, EXLP16 and EXLP15, that provide a sensory experience to the observer. It promotes another epistemological structure that concentrates itself in matter. The combination of techniques and materials are intertwined in a new substance that chooses to come out of the wall. The artwork projects itself in space and questions the existent ideas about the mystery of the technique, material, medium, and classification that surrounds the piece. Finally, by defying consolidated categories, the artwork withdraws from the traditional space to create new artistic experiences.
The Paraguayan artist Feliciano Centurión creates a singular iconography that engages in popular and domestic themes, usually regarded as mundane and of little importance. Furthermore, Emmanuel Nassar’s formal solutions and artwork elements also approach the popular and ordinary. Based on these examples, it becomes clear why Gramsci bet on the construction of a counter-hegemony arising from popular culture.
Centurion’s De la série Mirada, and Nassar’s Arraial have a common central element that presents the artwork in a way as it could be looking at us, analyzing us. In this configuration, the work is the active subject, whereas we, the guests, are called to position ourselves as objects. These art contributions defy the hegemonic art theories that categorize and prioritize some practices in detriment of others, based on spectacular presentation criteria that conceals a variety of techniques. Their works, however, go further by dislocating the spectator from the fruition role, and contradict the common art rule that the artwork is an inert object.
The discursive procedure that makes art history possible is a great epistemological debate. In this regard, there is a task of confronting the debate as a counterflow measure, in order to construct an autonomous artistic thought, one that constitutes the main axis of this project.