General view of the atelier Mata Adentro in the district of Lapa, São Paulo, Brazil. Photo by Rodrigo Bueno 2012
FR: You live and work in a beautiful house called, Ateliê Mata Adentro. Can you tell me something about this ongoing project where working and living seem to have a symbiotic relationship?
RB: A few years ago, I started to collect all kinds of garbage, especially wood which is widely available for free and can be reused so much. It's actually collected from the jungle which was naturally here, but now totally destroyed. (…) With these materials, I realized an exhibition in my home and invited people to see my work. The name of this show was “Mata Adentro” (“Mata” is the Portuguese word for Forest). What is Mata Adentro, this unconscious forest that we have inside, this vastness of diversity we don't touch much? The exhibition was thus an invitation to touch all these different senses, and it became a portal for all the sensations. [Speaking of celebrating the different senses:] we had such a good time celebrating it, especially when we can include food, music, all the disciplines. (...)
We have to take a closer look at all these cracks in the city concrete, where the green of the small ferns pop out, especially here in this humid climate. This is hope of some inner life and provoking us all the time. It's letting us know that apart from our presence here in the last few thousand years, we had millions of years of global strength and resource. The natives still carry those secrets. (…) I think the artist's goal is to sensitize the people or create machines that would make people relax and open their mind, to their own way of living and identity. But still, it would be just like a tool or an appetizer to the question that lies ahead, because you make your own path „Mata Adentro“.
FR: Where did that interest come from to work with nature and natural materials?
RB: To make a living, I had the opportunity to paint homes with decorative painting. I remembered the depictions of artists that came to Brazil during the empire and painted our forests, the nature and our habits. I started to enlarge it on the walls, and I realized how you can change a room from the inside out and give other dimensions to it. It was fascinating, but I decided to take it one step further from the inside out. My spiritual path had touched the same ground. Like, the buddha is not out there, it's inside you. (…) So what's inside, and where is it? Inside is outside, too. With my Ateliê I bring the nature inside, and at the same time you have the feeling you're outside. So, it's kind of a chamber or a way of experiencing it for a few moments. Once you touch this experience, you can propagate and repeat it elsewhere.
Cultivated found furniture series, Rodrigo Bueno.
Photo by Rodrigo Bueno 2012
Photo by Rodrigo Bueno 2012
Mata Adentro installation at the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo, at the group show Ecológica, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 2010.
Photo by Rodrigo Bueno 2010
Photo by Rodrigo Bueno 2010
FR: With your work you stretch the limits of traditional qualifications given to the artistic medium. How would you define your own artistic practice and what's your philosophy?
RB: The constant movement of culture would be the philosophy of “Ateliê Mata Adentro”. We need to adapt to this constant movement. It's not like we have to behave in a certain way or have to follow certain patterns, but we have to dance to a certain rhythm. Everybody has a personal repertoire, and at the same time we share a lot unconsciously. (...)
I was always experimenting with different techniques to use these to express a deeper philosophy for what I was doing. And, giving meaning to what I was doing was the hardest or the most tough I can say. (…) After a certain period, I started to pay more attention to the process, and realized I've always been an artist. I think you have to focus a little more specifically on the process and give name to that. I would like to quote Leo Tolstoy, saying, “If you want to be universal, sing your village.”
FR: You chose to live in São Paulo, a concrete jungle, as I like to say. Which roll does the city, its urban structure and the valorization of nature play in your work?
RB: What capitalism has made of the concrete jungle is to create these temples called shopping malls. You don't look at the other. You look into a mirror for your wishes or desires to come true. The antagonism of it would be to touch the land under the concrete in my house. (…) When I moved into this house, I cracked the concrete floor and planted some plants, like these banana trees. They empower the space so much, because they are in constant movement. “We invite memory, share and have company.“ These are words that we hear most people have been longing for. (...)
FR: How do you think about ecology and sustainability in your work and also in regard to the city?
RB: I think ecology should be seen, worked out or researched as something closer to you then the Amazon. We humans need nature. How do we share it and its resources? Still we need some other sources of energy, and I think we need a reprogramming of values. (…) Sustainability is about sustaining nature and men being part of nature. I'm really interested in “ecosofia”, a new term that defines a philosophy of ecology. If you think about anthropology which deals with the characteristic of the human experience, and anthroposophy which goes back to Rudolph Steiner, ecosofia could be the other side of this thought triangle. Like you meet the creator and the man inside nature. (…)
FR: In 2008 you were invited to realize an ambitious project for the 28th São Paulo Biennial, nicknamed “Bienal do vazio” (The biennial of the void). Could you delineate your plans and ideas for this project and state why your work didn't take place in the end?
RB: It was an amazing tempting invitation to make celebrations with the groups that heroically live in the Ibirapuera park; the garden workers, the skaters, the rappers, the street dancers, the athletes. I wanted to invite them all for this 2000 m2 educational program in the biennial that never existed. We planned to have an open workshop where you could work with the garbage of the park, recycle things, plant, collect and eat.(...) Ibirapuera Park is the main park of São Paulo. A modernist project, which is too small for the city and thus hosts many different activities. Unfortunately, the biennial is like a spaceship that has landed there with no relationship to the park, its activities or to the city. (…) With my project for this biennial, I wanted to honor the natives, the blacks, the basis of my country and own identity and the name of the park. Ibiripuera means “place of rotten woods”. This name is so meaningful to me since I basically use wood in a place of rotten woods. (...)
In the end, my project became too political and too autonomous because I started dealing with political forces inside the park where the main biennial building stands. (…) Two days before the biennial opened, I decided to drop out since the core of my whole movement, which is honoring all these diversities, was not acknowledged.
Drawing workshop at the Equilibrium Point show at the Tomie Ohtake Institute installation, group show off the 29th São Paulo Art Biennale, curator Agnaldo Farias and Jacopo Crivelli. Photo by Rodrigo Bueno 2010
FR: As part of a parallel program to the 29th São Paulo Biennial in 2010, you presented your interactive installation „Ponto de Equilibrio“ at Instituto Tomie Othake. Which roll does the audience and audience participation play in your work?
RB: Due to the previous biennial in 2008, I got invited to create an installation between exhibition rooms in this museum.(...). I wanted to create an environment in this hall. Somewhere cosy where people can sit, take a look, eat, sing, and listen to music. Where they could feel at ease and realize that we have time. All the objects and materials I used were secondhand or garbage, totally disposed. Some sort of material that the city doesn't want to see, like the poor, the misery. I created branches where people could sit, hammocks and even made a shade with nets so it became a little more comfortable. (…) The result was like a labyrinth. The curator called it: An unfolding experience out of Helio Oiticica's work “Penetráveis”. These labyrinths like structures were made to embrace the audience. Once you enter them, you could experience other ways to relate to the space around you. It was some sort of laboratory of senses, a mechanism to be free and open to other possibilities of inner perception.
Earth Day! Plants offerings from our neighbours at the Openning of the Garden of Encounters project - "Jardín del Encuentro" , part of the MDE2007, Medellín, Colombia. Photo by Marta Salazar, 2007
It was great to record my last interview with the artist Rodrigo Bueno on a sunny winter day, one week before I will go back to Germany. Many interesting conversations and studio visits have taken place with gratitude to the artists who provided an insight in their works, thoughts and interests. It has been enriching to experience the vibrant São Paulo art scene, and I really enjoyed writing about it! Thank you for your readership, and have fun reading the next posts for this blog.