The intrinsic relationship that Beto Shwafaty’s artistic practice establishes with the urban space is grounded in its understanding as a complex array of interconnected concepts and narratives. In his approach the artist encompasses transversally a group of sedimented relations, analysing them as a substrate that, although intangible, is responsible for the shaping of the social body and of the physical space that corresponds to it, which conversely, gives shape to the society that forms it. The interest in this process of continuous mutual reconfiguration has informed the artist’s work, which explores not only how this mechanism functions, but also who are the agents that keep it moving and with which forces, as well as their respective consequences. His interest in the processes of social, political and economic structuring and its impact on the creation of a public sphere, gains greater impetus when his critical eye focuses on his home country, Brazil.
The artist’s work and research carries reflections on the idea of modernism and colonialism, understanding them as two sides of the same coin and questioning whether the modernization project in Brazil meant an effective break with its colonial past, or if it was just the continuation of a colonizing process whose repressed logic has not yet been reviewed.
This conjecture has led him to analyse various aspects of the historical and aesthetical production of power, such as the on-going modernization process in Brazil since the developmentalism of the ’50s and ’70s, until today. Or reflecting on how the discourses and developmentalist ideologies were associated with certain artistic and architectural expressions during the cycles of economic expansion, being instrumentalized and instrumentalizing one another.
With a transdisciplinary approach he explores the relationships between spaces, contexts, objects, images and their intermediations by several agents. Thus the artist places his work within an expanded notion of site-specific and ready-made. In order to apprehend all the complexity imbued within these contexts-spaces, Shwafaty develops projects based on field researches in which he carefully selects, collects and analyses historical documents, images, objects – among other elements. His investigations are not developed linearly in terms of scientific objectives, educational purposes or didactic pretensions. The intention is, at first, to evaluate and identify the processes and devices that define the hegemonic codes and historical norms. To then produce new moments of visibility, guided by hybrid registers and documents resulting from the reconfiguration of the elements of these researches. In this way, he creates a counter-memory built by information that is skilfully placed on the threshold between fact and fiction and which presents alternative interpretations or dissidents aspects to the “official” history.
This discursive longing that pervades Shwafaty’s work (consider the artist’s vast written and theoretical production) makes him conceive his pieces in order to render them an inherent capacity of a (self-)critical mediation. This, does not seek to facilitate the public’s experience in making the work more decipherable, instead, it aims to provide more density to the relationship between the work, the individual and their contexts. The importance that the artist attaches to mediation comes from his knowledge that it is not enough to demand a commitment of (and with) the work of art, since it is placed within regulatory institutional structures. Therefore, the creation of his works are also based on a deliberation of the mechanisms that surround and affect the production, dissemination and reception of art itself.
This willingness to make his work circulate in a critical manner makes Shwafaty adopt methods that are very similar to the curatorial thought, often exploring the production of knowledge from the elements that compose the very lexicon of the exhibition. This results in a greater emphasis on display strategies and their importance in the contextualization of the work and in the organization of “spectator’s” experience. Generating installations that resemble exhibitions or even fragments of institutions in a constant process of change and expansion. Through these means, the artist transforms his “oeuvre-exhibition” in a territory where the hierarchical boundaries between artistic, curatorial practices and institutional strategies become permeable. By turning them into dialogic, relational and plural interfaces, Shwafaty attempts to establish processes that encourage the viewer’s awareness of the complexity of the historical, political and social dynamics that surround and shape the spaces and times he/she inhabits.
Bruno de Almeida | 2016.03.12
Photos: Edouard Fraipont. Courtesy Galeria Luisa Strina and the artista.