Chão, parede e gente

by Fred Coelho

The exhibition is opened and still. Step by step, you enter the hall and walk with the certitude that everything is in place. Your confident glance no longer looks for the ground when walking inside a gallery. You only have to face the works. And here they are. Solidly waiting. Still, firm, straight.

At the beginning, as if you were in an abandoned house, there is the fear of touching something that may break or the worry of inadvertently moving a piece of furniture. But from the moment when you touch one of the edges, the resting house will never stop again. For it is impossible to resist the temptation of triggering the graceful and lazy swing of these objects. To try a lightweight and to grant movement to that which is inanimate. Raw steel is recovered by sensuality and its unexpected beauty is transformed into a swing, a welcoming and relaxed coming and going. In this way, like you, the visitors will touch everything, until each sculpture cease its movement and return to the inert darkness of the closed hall. 

– Raul Mourão has always been scared. Armoured in abstractions, he wandered through the streets and saw fences where others found salvation. He fenced cars, stones and trees, he chased dogs, smashed heads, silenced surdos, boxed myths, hung artists, expanded hate, cultivated partners. And then, through a crack, when we reconnect illusions and celebrate life for nothing, Raul found lightness. A manner of chasing away maladies and expand affections was presented to him where he least expected it: in the geometric swing of stainless steel. In the coldness of straight angles, the artist opened a new avenue for his eyes. Even still, panic remained. To be scared is not an option, but a condition. Raul and his studio locate the whole world from a street in the neighbourhood of Lapa. Sometimes he stays at the foot of the staircase, where the gringos and the whores and the kids and the tiles and the families and the couples and the abandoned cross the artist’s frenetic days. Ignoring official orders and closed residential condos with gym academies, Lapa’s streets are still hallucinating. Raul knows that. The kinetic sculptures of this exhibition are a proof that even in the midst of this urban hallucination, even in the rust that corrodes forms, even if squeezed between floor, wall and people, there is still beauty. 

Nowadays everyone knows how to behave in a gallery, even when art demands abnormal behaviours. To observe, to touch, to participate. Without the mysteries, questionings and transgressions of the past, today there is even a certain comfort in being part of the work. In Raul’s exhibition, nevertheless, it’s not enough to touch the sculptures to be a participant. It’s not enough to set the pieces in motion to meet some kind of concept proposed by the artist. Here, the point is not to participate in order to be part of the show. The proposal is not about the compensatory-individual relation between spectator and work, in which to participate is to satisfy his drive to interfere in somebody else’s work. Raul offers us neither an animal nor a cape. Neither a path nor a labyrinth. Here, the great work at play is THE WHOLE SPACE OF THE HALL in permanent transformation after each movement.

Expanding the view of the exhibition as a collection of these sculptures in movement, the individual touch in any of the sculptures activates a physical mechanism and enters in direct dialogue with the other movements around the hall. The movements made by different people, at different moments, rearrange the whole time the exhibition’s geography. In this way, a singular movement automatically becomes collective. We will never have the same design in the hall, for we never will have the same movement, made by the same hand, at the same speed. For each one, his own exhibition. For it’s the spectator, in an evidence of his desire, who will chose that must be touched first.

– Each one attracts me more? At which point I will start my adventure with them?

There is no rule, recipe or code of behaviour before these works. There is only this sensual invitation with no voice or text requesting to activate them. A liberty implicit in the balance between the bases and their improbable pendulums. For it is also not only about kinetic art. The history of art doesn’t need to be invoked for us to mention this drive to touch. It’s because inside this hall is installed an organic relation between that which the spectator wishes to activate and that which the pieces draw after being triggered. Here you have responsibility over the exhibition’s dynamics. Each one, with his strength or fear, contributes for the movement and the rupture of the placidity of these attracting figures. The balance in a single axle, the improbable organicity of the solid object, everything is embraced by the coming and going of the swing. The exhibition is formed from this wonder: to make the pieces dance. 

– Raul said that, during a rehearsal of Intrépida Trupe, the acrobat danced with his fences. Raul saw the iron fence turn and smiled. He saw the acrobat climbing on the iron fence and feared. He saw the acrobat swinging the iron fence and his mind was blown. These swinging sculptures were not born from raw rational impulse, nor were they engendered after many days of solitary calculations over weights and measures. They were born from a swing. For this reason their geometry follows the sinuosity of the body and the streets. Their layers of angles, the juxtaposition of stakes, the edge of unexpected weight, all this blows the reason of the steel and involves us in a hypnotic dance. The origin of the swings is this transposition of a foreign movement. It’s the appropriation of this gesture, expanded by the artist’s plastic glance.

There is also a solemn silence around that which moves. Echoing in low frequency in the hollowness of this silence, there is a certain feeling of risk. There is around the Swings a diffuse form of fear, a frisson that doesn’t allow you to be removed from that which frightens you, an impulse to play with that which may not work (will it fall? Will it hurt me?), to put one’s hand inside the fire, to be mesmerized by that which fascinates. There is, finally, a feeling of love. For once the rejection that heavy, cold and dark steel pieces invoke on us is over, we start to see personal shapes, outlines of bodies in a warm beauty. We are seduced by the artist into proving each title of the pieces, observing the timing of the works in movement and establishing a commitment with the contemplation of that which we admire. Each time you touch this works, be ready to erase the drawing of the space that you found and to be the co-author of this cartography of kinetic desires. In this unexpected feast of forms, empty your mind in the placid rhythm of time while Raul’s sculptures dance for you. Or, better saying, dance with you. 

Fred Coelho
Fred Coelho

Researcher, essayist and professor of literature at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio).