Interviewed By: Eliana Blechman
We asked Gustavo Prado a few questions about fragmentation of the body, site-specificity, and the influence of Design in his work. Read on for more...
Art-in-Buildings: You explain in your bio that the Measure of Dispersion Series acts as an anti-camera, reflecting the body across multiple points in space. Can you expand on this idea and the effect of fragmenting the body?
Gustavo Prado: One of the ongoing tasks in my work is that of challenging the separation between different mediums in art. In the Measure of Dispersion Series, one of the core objectives is to cross two fundamental aspects of sculpture and photography: photography's ability to fracture the continuous flux of reality through a partial cutout - the frame, which even in sequence is merely a fraction of the complexity and outspread of reality - and sculpture's traditional attempt to encapsulate movement, and its potential consequences, in just one "pose" or position.
The sculpture In Stride installed at West 10th Window is an example of this amalgamation of mediums. In what could also be viewed as the opposite movement of what the camera does (specifically a film camera), it appears to be constantly looking at, or capturing, each moment of the strider's path parallel to the window, while remaining a still object. Like much of the Measure of Dispersion Series, In Stride attempts to create a delayed, or reversed, "phi phenomenon". In other words, instead of creating the perception of motion through a succession of still images, it creates a maze-like sense through a succession of mirrors that discontinue the sequence of movements, creating a multi-dimensional path.
This brings us to what the Measure of Dispersion Series also tries to effect: a discontinuity of the image of the body as opposed to a fragmentation of it. It tries to achieve a momentary reversal or a limited transformation of what is described in Jacques Lacan's "Mirror Stage" concept. According to Lacan, our reflection in the mirror, in our first years, allows us to realize that we have a coherent body that responds to our conscious commands. But, if it was thanks to our reflection that we can start forming a body image that corresponds to our own sense of identity, we can also see our reflection as the originator of the illusions we have about ourselves. For the attempt to control how one is seen by others comes from the illusion of obedience that the mirror enacts. In Stride offers a different experience than what was in our infancy a crucial step to forming our sense of self and identity.
Thus, the Measure of Dispersion Series creates the experience of a disobedient mirror in order to prevent the reinforcement of this illusion that we have about ourselves, which we call identity.
AiB: How does bringing your work into the West 10th Window space influence the way the viewer interacts with it?
GP: The West 10th Window created a unique opportunity to constitute a relationship between viewer and work that was completely new for the Measure of Dispersion Series. For the choice to interact is not there.
In other works from this series, although we can say that once one sees the work, one has already been captured by it, it is only when one gets close that he/she can realize and notice their own image on its surface. In the case of In Stride, because of the position of the window in relation to the street, one is already upon it when they see the work. Therefore the separation of viewer and work is almost nonexistent. This is a significant addition to what the series attempts to do - to reveal how objects are not as passive as we think, that they actually present much more of us and what we project on them, than what we choose to notice.
AiB: To what extent is your artwork planned vs. responsive to its environment?
GP: In regards to the Measure of Dispersion Series specifically, it is a group of works that, in a sense, is also the same work. Therefore, a better way to describe it is by calling it a system that is both radically planned and radically unplanned. The system is responsive, which is the only way it can exist, as it relies on the image and interaction of the viewer. If I ever fully planned their configuration before installing them – which most of the time I don't – I could not control or predict how much of their experience is transformed by where they are located. They are more about attracting outer space inwards, than projecting themselves outwards, like most site-specific installations in art.
AiB: How does your industrial design background influence your practice?
GP: It influences my practice in ways that I can be aware of, and certainly in ways that I'm not aware of. In all of the rationality that accompanies the work, a lot of it is actually done intuitively and accompanied by critical thinking after it's already been done.
I do think that my interest for modular structures definitely has a connection to my interest for design. I'm just not sure which one came first. But to fully answer that question one would have to talk about what design is, and without having my good friend João Doria here with me, I'm not sure I can do that. But one way of scratching the surface would be to think that design is more about a particular and ongoing way of associating and presenting content than an established, set-in-stone set of rules, and in that sense I see my work as a parallel exercise. If any of my meek training and fragile attempts at design, have given me anything, it is that it taught me a method, or a discipline for finding better ways to present an idea. But then again, so did philosophy. But this is a good way of thinking about this - maybe philosophy brought me an interest in how language can present ideas in a certain way that corresponds to what design has shown me in terms of finding new ways to present new ideas through clear visual solutions.
AiB: What's next for you?
GP: A lot of things, I'm having a very exciting year. The list includes an installation in North Carolina, a show at Lurixs gallery in Rio, a series of books with art critic Saul Ostrow constituted by a larger book about the sculptures and installations from the Measure Of Dispersion Series, but also three artist books with photographic series like Harem Turrell, Oedipus Punishment, and The Unseen. I'm also editing the 4th issue of Jacaranda Magazine, a publication devoted to promoting Brazilian Art, with my senior editor and partner in crime, artist Raul Mourão.