Curated by Gabriel Bogossian
São Paulo, Brazil
September 22, 2020 – October 23, 2020
Directed by Leos Carax, the film The Lovers on the Bridge (Les amants du Pont-Neuf, 1991) follows the relationship between Alex and Michèle, two vagrants that orbit the oldest of the bridges over the river Seine, in Paris. He is a juggler and acrobat addicted to alcohol, and she is a visual artist turning blind. Marginals in a world of beauty and success, the couple meet in the shadowy zones of the French capital. There, the bridge and the city, more than a set, are characters that shelter and somehow define the course of this relationship flourished in the night, inhabitant of the mud and leaves of the streets.
Enquanto dormimos, a cidade nos arranha (As we sleep, the city scrapes us), solo show by Simon Fernandes at the Copan Building, in the city center of São Paulo, does not talk about love—at least not directly. Here, however, as in Carax film, the city is the place and the catalyst agent of affections and events; here, as in there, it is inside the city that we glimpse the chances of an encounter, and also of an artistic action or gesture. Not only this: in the exhibition, just like the film, we are inlaid in the urban fabric. It is the source of raw material—physical but also sensible—from which the work is developed, elaborating, after a long coexistence, the forms and the concepts that reflect and welcome us in a sense.
The works gathered in Enquanto dormimos, a cidade nos arranha echo the city and its noises. The allusion to sound is not accidental: as a constitutional element of the urban experience, sound is present in different ways in the exhibition, explored as sculptural matter capable of interfering on space and on the bodies that cross it. Trespassed by small sound landscapes, we give ourselves to this sort of tactile listening, founded without any grandiloquence also by its silences and pauses.
Landmark building designed by Oscar Niemeyer, Copan works as a huge sound sculpture and is the ideal metaphor for the relationship between body and sound. Pregnant with noises that interact in different ways with the physical matter that makes it, the building works as a microcosmus of the surrounding city; in a specular relationship with the place, some of the works explore the tensions between design and material, developing the impression provoked by the building, at the same time light (in its visuality) and heavy (in its materic dimension).
Different from Niemeyer’s creation, however, in the exhibition we have the dispersion and rupture of the great gesture. Because the works by Simon Fernandes are made of leftovers and rests of what builds the places we live in: industrial wastes and pigments; tar; plastics. There is no nobility in them, neither we see any attempt of transcendence. On the opposite: the fragility of some structures make evident the entropic force that inhabits us and our daily lives; in front of some of the works, we are on the verge of collapse.
In some other, entropy does not emerge as a fall, but as a transformation process; there, to contemplate it is to house the passage of time and the changes it brings. In this very same sense, the choice of materials reflect the desire of seeing the action of physical forces—heat, gravity—that transform them, exploring their precarity and perecibility. A similar desire brings the exposure of the backs of the architecture, showing, as it happens with sewing, the traces of a work equally transformative and discrete. In this procedure, the exhibition reveals its subtle political force, based not only on the evocation of the polis as a central element of poetical elaboration, but also on making visible the diverse forms of the labour that builds and sustains it.
Although its importance as matrix and home of the poetic fabulation, Copan is not the only place where the exhibition happens. Installed in the streets, sometimes mimicking its colors and structures, some of the works are placed on the surroundings of the building. As offerings to the flow of the streets, they can be taken away (it is likely), dismantled and have their materials reused in other circumstances, for other purposes.
Finally, a third group of works is placed in a virtual room designed by the artist for the project. Accessible through a QR code, the room hosts a development of this inventory of sorts that constitutes the artworks gathered here. Immaterial record of the concrete weight that otherwise surrounds us, the existence of this third space underlines the importance of technical subversion that is present in different ways in the exhibition.
Cities, like carcasses, support and feed the lives of many beings. Although inanimate, they are, by metonymy, something alive, as they take a little of the lives of all who inhabit them. In this way they are born, expand and last; thanks to that bond, too, sometimes they die. The somewhat erotic relationship we establish with their spaces does not spare us from their possible atrocious character. Perceiving them as a sensitive thing, and the intersections between our bodies and theirs, is a condition for inhabiting them; perhaps it is, likewise, a condition for us to inhabit ourselves.
—Text and curatorship by Gabriel Bogossian