Q&A with the group
Photographs by Victor Takayama, Victor Nomoto and Hick Duarte
Tuesday, May 5 - 2015
There's a pinch of regionalism and rebellion in every sip of cachaça (a sugarcane-based liquor) served up in Grupo EmpreZa’s Serões Performáticos. It's not just the drink that has a Brazilian flavor, but every action performed by the group possesses it. Their repertoire of materials and actions becomes universal by being particular. It was Tolstoy who once said 'If you want to be universal, start by painting your own village.’ The act of serving something established a labor relation, gave new meaning to an action that could only be understood as hedonistic. Another term that gains special meaning with Grupo EmpreZa? The choice of the word Grupo highlights their intention to remain a group. Being an art collective for them equates to deconstructing hierarchies.
Serão Performático is a term conceived by the collective using the word "serão" which translates into "night overtime,” typical for those who have corporate clerical jobs; and it's also a reference to the term "sarau,” from the Latin word seranus, which means a gathering for recreational purposes, such as listening to music or reading poetry. Sequentially and simultaneously, various actions are performed.
The following discussion about their work Vesuvius with Grupo EmpreZa is a written dialogue, over a text agreed upon by each member of the art collective. Rather than a traditional Q&A, they chose to answer questions with questions and include in their response an institutional text.These questions had already been proposed by them for use in the exhibition catalogue:
Grupo EmpreZa has a journey of actions both in the alternative scene, away from the mainstream, and in institutionalized spaces. How do you and your work deal with these two instances of work in general?
Grupo EmpreZa (GE) was born in the early 2000’s, an important time in the Brazilian art scene. At that time many other groups dedicated to performance emerged across the country, sharing a sense of networked or rhizome-like collaboration. Such groups articulated with each other, creating their own spaces and experiences, independently from the official art circuit. We met and introduced ourselves on the street, at friends' houses, in alternative locations that had their very own energy and were very welcoming to our most experimental proposals. It was a position, a policy that proposed acting parallel to the system as a way to express our dissatisfaction with the rigidity of the exchange of power in art institutions, and with the predominant square attitude. This is undoubtedly our main reference. It was during this recent political polarization that GE forged its practices, such as its radical internal horizontality (an absolute anti-hierarchy), as well as our awareness that we need to tease the institutions, get them out of their comfort zone and undermine the rigidity of their protocols, structures and concepts; tease them so that they upgrade themselves and become as contemporary as the art that is made today. We were never anti-institutional, that's not what it's about. We want to go through the institutions as they go through us. But whenever this isn't possible, we gain, above all, awareness and experience that there's indeed life and art outside the institutions.
How does the work of Marina Abramovic and this collective experience transformed or interfered in the way you think about your own work?
None of us ever studied or took a course to learn how to perform. GE is, in this sense, our school. We're all learning here, each one being, at the same time, master and apprentice to others and to ourselves. We learn by experiencing.
We seek to understand performance broadly and suggest it in various ways. Often, the performances in our serões performáticos, for example, can refer to a "classic" imagination, with a strong influence of body art from the 1960’s and 70’s, especially in the works of artists like Chris Burden, Marina Abramovic and Vito Acconci. But also like the mix of art and life proposed by Kaprow, Beuys and also by Neoists. We see the GE itself as its main work, we consider our practices, concepts, and especially our coexistence as both vital and poetic constructs. For example, the Vesuvius project, as a long durational performance, as presented in this exhibition, is pretty much a public display of a process that comes from art but also from life: we meet every day, all day, in a constant laboratory for the creation of performances. The public sees us together, discussing, proposing and creating scores of actions as well as physically experiencing the ideas that arise - and they may even participate actively in some of these situations. Approximately every ten days we perform to present the actions that have been generated or reworked in that period. We know, however, that the Vesuvius project may seem, at first glance, confusing. The public sees us in the room often in mundane activities like chatting casually, resting or having breakfast, and they're not sure that it's a performance, let alone that it's a long durational performance. It's not known whether this is art or life, or both. We find this confusion quite positive.
How do you relate to the Marina Abramovic Method?
Working with Marina Abramovic has been an honor and very enriching to us, as we have always considered her an important reference for our work. Our mere coexistence with Marina already makes us feel how serious the responsibility that we have towards what we do is. It's interesting to notice, however, how much of her influence there is in what we produce and, at the same time, how we think differently about certain key issues. For example, we don't believe in clean bodies. In this sense, we're more in tune with Artaud and Bataille. We enjoy the excesses, some disorder, indiscipline and addiction (but not the irresponsibility). We're more hedonistic and entropic than stoic. It bothers us to think of art as another territory which seeks to ‘discipline’ the body (using a Foucaultian image). Our bodies are common, ordinary, although diverse. We make no preparation to make them better able to perform. We face performance with unruly and sedentary bodies and take them to their limit. In this sense, when we participated in the Cleaning the House workshop, accepting all restrictions such as not eating, not talking etc., we viewed it less as a cleansing and more as a challenge. That is, we were more interested in experiencing the limiting situations proposed to our bodies rather than thinking that there would some kind of purification.
In art, it's good when certainties are challenged. For example, the concepts of "performance" and "long durational performance" shouldn't be enclosed by very clear lines. We like concepts that have blurred boundaries, and we like to act within such blots. There, when concepts lose their certainty, we add a sort of crisis; we put these concepts in critical perspective and play with the uncertainty that it generates. Creating problems from concepts is the artist's political task.
Terra Comunal - MAI is free and open to the public until May 10, 2015 @SESC Pompeia, São Paulo - Brazil.