Renata Lucas


View of “Renata Lucas: [ ],” 2014. Photo: Edouard Fraipont.

The work of Rio de Janeiro–based artist Renata Lucas takes a form from its environment—be it a sidewalk, gallery facade, or museum flooring—and changes a common aspect of its recognizable structure. Lucas speaks here about her two latest interventions, collectively titled “[ ],” at Galeria Luisa Strina, which are on view from March 22 to April 26, 2014.

IT IS ALWAYS TRICKY for an artist to describe the meaning of an artwork. In this case, we aren’t using a discursive mode at all, but other ways of talking about the subject, place, and space of a work as well as the environment that puts these aspects together. Reactions to a work are subjective and unpredictable, particularly when it requires the presence and movement of its visitors. The aim of “[ ]” is to establish a correspondence between space and the viewer: It is only when space is stripped bare that we all are stripped bare.

This project is based on taking apart the basic elements of the traditional gallery space, including its doors, panels, and walls. For it, we removed the walls that separated Galeria Luisa Strina’s main building in the Jardins district from its glass facade. We also removed the panels used to divide the exhibition space into smaller rooms, pushing them to the rear; in one case, a panel transposes a rear glass wall and provides an exit to the gallery’s parking lot. But even more dramatically, we installed three moving devices: a revolving door for the entrance, another revolving door for a sideline entrance, and one revolving panel inside the gallery. These three devices move three LPs built into the floor that turn only when the visitor enters and exits the space. It is a completely mechanical system, where the performance happens based on a set of cogs and belts that are activated according to the movement of the doors, creating specific rhythm variations depending on the speed at which the doors are moved. Each LP is caught in a loop that confines its needle to a very small segment of the record, selecting words or phrases—like “I was opening the door,” “But I let the light come in,” and “wall”—from a popular song from the 1970s that would otherwise be easily recognizable.

The second part of the project will take place in the district of Barra Funda, where I made the intervening work Quick Mathematics for the Bienal de São Paulo in 2006. Today many of the city’s most important galleries are proud to open branches in this and other industrial areas, using them to exhibit large-scale projects or simply store the gallery’s collections. Unlike the rest of the overly constructed city of São Paulo, Barra Funda still contains vast old spaces. Together they express the myriad of directions the city’s recent history has taken, bearing clear signs of having undergone industrialization and having lived through a subsequent decline. The area is now the target of real estate speculation, as it is one of the few remaining underdeveloped central zones for new construction in the city.

“[ ]” will build two corners of a phantom galpão, or warehouse, for Luisa Strina in Barra Funda. Much of the warehouse’s structure will remain unconstructed, almost invisible, by acting as a sort of parasite on the current warehouses in the neighborhood. Using only their existing facades or a small part of their interiors, two fragments of a third warehouse will be created, placed at a diagonal on both sides of the same street.

I’ve never thought of my oeuvre as being a part of an evolution, each work neatly leading to the other. In fact, perhaps I have been on the same loop for years. In Third Time from 2011, for instance, there was also an invisible presence: Light from my home in Rio de Janeiro was transmitted to the exhibition space in Milan. But here, I’m looking for the involuntary participant—the true star of the piece. He’s that one who crosses the street, opens the door, and hums a tune that has been trapped inside his head since the radio played it who knows where.

Translated from Portuguese by Wendy Gosselin.

— As told to Frank Expósito