Anton Steenboch and Gabriela Gusmão curated by Marta Mestre at Largos das Artes, Luis de Camões St, 2, Rio de Janeiro.
5th December, 2013 – 25th January, 2014
Just as someone who goes for a walk can bring home an object they find in the street, I set out to read a book in a park and came home with a word I’d found among its pages. The word Zurriburi comes from the story Quevedo, by Jorge Luis Borges, from his book Inquisiciones Otras Inquisiciones.
I use this term to refer to someone who is open to unexpected situations, who has submitted to the reveries and the possibilities of extraordinary discoveries. He is disposed to experience synchronous or “chance” moments. In this same word, I also recognise the idea of someone who walks without a fixed destination, rambling, and in that state starts to daydream. A drifter is not necessarily a person who is idle, but a person who lives life in an idle fashion.
The idea around the Zurriburi resonates with other artists’ concepts and projects. The image of the flaneur brought to us by Charles Baudelaire, the revolutionary nature of everyday life proposed by the Situationists, the Delirium Ambulatorium proposed by Helio Oiticica as a “walk to and fro with no linearity”, the performance Erictônio where the Brazilian artist Cabelo creeps along the sidewalks with his legs wrapped in black plastic, are some of the references that contributed to my more positive concept of the drifter.
In fact, as a Zurriburi myself, I am prone to daydreaming, on my own or in a crowd. For the daydreamer, total silence can reveal melodies in the air. And it was in fact a melody that gave life to my work for the Zurriburi exhibition.
In the beginning, I had only the conviction that the song “Silence of a Drifter” should be the starting point for my work. It was a particular process of composition in which the melody first arrived as a solfège, and I kept the name of the notes as the lyrics themselves. For many years this had been the sound that had brought me back to a feeling of peace and silence. Indeed I associated it with my own extemporaneous silence. The backstory to this creative process is important to help explain (though no explanation is needed) my formal choices for this show. Once I had decided to develop a sound piece, I invited the musician Alexandre Brasil to collaborate with me.
As we worked together to create the sound piece, at the same time I conceived the work “Partitura para o Silêncio de um Sujeito à Toa” (“Score for the Silence of a Drifter”), which would be brought to life using a recently-developed technique which I call “monoclorofilotipy.”
Monoclorofilotipies are works of art produced from the pressing of flowers, whose pigment leaves the memory of each leaf on the paper. No ink is used, only plants, paper and a press.
I experimented with, developed and named this technique during a residency in Venice in 2012, when I produced an artist’s book on artisan paper in a small format (19cm x 26 cm). In 2013, I produced the first large format monoclorofilotopy (0.70m x 17 m) for the Zurriburi exhibition at the Largo das Artes gallery, with the German artist Anton Steenboch and curated by the Portuguese Marta Mestre. The Largo das Artes gallery is located in an old building in the centre of Rio de Janeiro, in a high-ceilinged space. The work “Score for the Silence of a Drifter”, which was originally meant to be a work on paper, became an installation in which the roll of monoclorofilotipy paper ran from the bed of an antique press towards the walls and woodwork on the roof of the gallery, where vines snaked through the space to form a swing. This is where, together with my partner, Alexandre Brasil, we produced a performance for the closing of the exhibition (https: //vimeo.com/86697895).
Back and forth, to and fro.
The body and the mind move in sync. The course of action and reflection also materialises in this swinging.
The Zurriburi wanders through the city streets among the crowds, walks alone through distant landscapes, swings back and forth with the freedom of a child, and carries in his suitcase poetry, delirium and the revolutionary desire to create situations where art and life permeate each other.
Photos: Pepê Schetino
Curatorial text, by Marta Mestre
Only those who work in inevitably absolute solitude are capable of populating it, not with dreams, fantasies or projects, but with encounters. “You find people (sometimes you don’t know them, or have never even seen them before), but also movements, ideas, events, entities,” writes Deleuze.
Anton Steenbock (1984) e Gabriela Gusmão (1973) had had many of these kinds of solitary encounters with movements, ideas, events, and entities over the last few years, and more frequently over the last few months.
Artists from different generations and followers of different trajectories, educated in “antipodean” geographical realities, they now share a tiny 30 square meters in a workshop in the centre of Rio de Janeiro.
What unites them are not common ideas, nor the themes or research lines to which they have dedicate themselves. This provides us with the opportunity to speak about something that exists between the two of them, that runs in parallel to them, like a zig-zag, a serpentine line, moving back and forth between them.
For our encounter, Gabriela brought two enigmas for us to decipher, from a story by Jorge Luis Borges: “zurriburi” and “drifters.” We translated these expressions freely, trying to cultivate a soil with neither roots nor sediments (the music, free of its aerial vines, entering Gabriela’s artisan press), relying only on the minimum sustenance necessary to orient the action (the invisible maestro who conducts the atonal score of Anton Steenbrock).
“Zurriburi” is almost a linguistic noise, a loud sound – zurrriburiiiii – and it also refers to a “despicable” or “insignificant” person, making it a good subject for a translation exercise between a Brazilian who lives with the world, and a German who found himself here, and a Portuguese in flux. What follows is an extract from our exchanges and the crossing of our paths/purposes:
Anton: hello my dears, I’ve worked up this concept, I will try to to write it out tonight and sent it by email…. it’s turning out well! - I’ve also managed to fix the windshield motor (it was a mission!!!) and on Monday I’m going to test it out. I had another look to better understand the word “drifter”, I think I understand it now…might it not mean, in other words, someone who is“there by chance”?!?!
Gabriela: To me, it is someone who is open to unexpected situations, who has submitted to the reveries and the possibilities of extraordinary discoveries (…). He is ready to live synchronous or “chance” experiences. The meaning that you’ve discovered is totally well-founded. I also recognise the idea of someone who walks without a fixed destination, rambling, and in that way starts to daydream. A drifter is not necessarily a person who is idle, but a person who lives life in an idle fashion. A Zurriburi strolls around as if in a daydream throug h a crowd, or in an idyllic landscape, and might knock up againts a good idea or a melody. I knocked up against one such idea myself, the notion of the “silence of the drifter”. Does this message help explain things, or does it confuse things further?
Marta: Hello Gabi and Anton. While Gabi’s title is very suggestive, you need a lot of mental gymnastics and rhetoric to relate Zurriburi to the Dovstoyevskian “idiot” and the “drifter”. Even so, I can see in this fallow land the potential for constructing meanings, even if only provisional ones. There is an element of going back and learning how to speak, and I still think art, and artists, give form to something indeterminate. Like the idiots, the “fools” or even the Christian hermits who removed themselves to live another kind of experience in the world, artists too have their own singularity, which is fragile and provisional. I also see our attempts to “construct” something that is so provisional in nature (starting with language itself), as being a very Brazilian cultural mark. In this sense it is also a very Portuguese one, which begins with the formation of Brazil and leads to our contemporary ignorance about each other.
We did not reach many conclusions, and followed starting points without seeing where they would lead us. Until the exhibit was assembled the work continued, moving in unpredictable directions, giving it its unpredictable relevance. This is how it usually works.
Nevertheless, throughout our encounter, I kept trying to make sense of something that the artists themselves had brought as a link. Without ever having said anything to each other, they both deal with seagulls in their work. In Gabriela Gusmão’s work, they appear as large metal sheets on the external wall of the Gentil Carioca gallery (2012), and in Anton’s work they appear in “Gaivotas”, a book of anonymous graffiti markets from the streets of Rio de Janeiro (2010).
There was now a kind of communicant between them, no longer the silence of the encounter. Through the seagull, the focus of a common interest, the artists found in each other a unique series of transformations that they do not share, but that affects them both and brings them together.
I ended up thinking that it made sense that what brings them together are birds. They are also “drifters” in the freedom of the skies, breaking rules, capable ot covering long distances on a solitary trajectory, like people, like artists.
Marta Mestre, Rio de Janeiro, November 2013