August 2014 | Andrea Tavares | 1978 | São Paulo | Brazil
Fine artist, PhD student at Escola de Comunicações e Artes (Universidade de Sao Paulo), and lecturer (Print Department FAAP) talks to Debora Ando about negotiations, interpreting materials, and reflections on the making of contemporary art.
Debora Ando: Among many other things in your production, there is a concern with drawing that is expressed through a variety of themes, techniques, materials and supports. Does the drawing originate your work or is your work about drawing? To what side of this equation does your work unfold into?
Andrea Tavares: I believe the work is about drawing, about the act, or better saying, about the desire to form an image. This desire, which is individual and subjective, is formulated and materialized in the image, drawing upon language, which is an accumulation of times and desires, that is tradition. I mean, my desire is materialized through the use of the language that in turn is an accumulation of constructions. My greatest concern is where exactly my drawing is, what would be of my own? How do I distinguish what’s of my own from what’s somebody else’s? Is it possible to make this distinction? I feel tempted to state that I can only perceive my experience through a certain tradition, I can only produce meaning, make sense for myself and the others when I merge in a collective structure. Even if you create an image by yourself, you will never realize it on your own because there is a repertoire, a cultural heritage (from any background) that will always be there with you.
DA: Marco Buti* says that “the choice of means/ techniques/ materials/ actions perpetuates the [artistic] rigor, in order not to lose completely the desire, that is the blasting idea”. With this he affirms that “these choices are in itself drawings in its multiple possible ways”.
AT: I agree! The choice is drawing. The organization of materials constructs the meaning. The drawing really begins with the negotiation between the first intention, one could even call it ‘inner image’, and its materialization, the shape that takes over the material. Recently, I found a definition of drawing, mark with meaning. I think it is important to highlight the intention of the actions, gestures, and choices in constituting meanings. Maybe for me drawing is the constitution of meaning that unfolds into the experience of others, throughout the process.
DA: The stages of collection, selection, appropriation and copy (not necessarily in that order) can be defined in your production as a work in itself. Art is as much in the production as it is in the final result. Invisibly but not indivisibly. So my question is: how to work the rigor of choices and how do you perceive these choices within the various stages of your process – from initial decisions to the work to be displayed?
AT: Recently I started organizing my plan chest and registering my production. I realized that I had around 15 years of work there… not of mature work but of trajectory. I wanted to get rid of some things, even some mouldy works… (laughs!) so I cleaned and selected them. It all fitted in one plan chest and two shelves. The most important was that I began to document those works that interested me because they still represented a subject or a concern that could have just been raised yesterday, as opposed in 2001 (when they were actually done). I started thinking about what concerns me in my process, about how much I plan, and about how things simply emerge… I go after things and things come after me.
I will try to be more specific… in Livro Vermelho (Red Book), for instance, everything happened in a contingent way. I was interested in the book format and I had already done two works mixing books with cut-outs and collages. Then I came across Moll Flandres in a second hand bookshop, a novel full of turnarounds whose protagonist is a woman. That interested me because at that time I was researching the feminine representation, both through the male approach and in contrast with it. I selected some texts that survived all the cutting out and gradually realized that I was working with forms of narrative. The book found me but I proposed a project to it.
In my etching series Memórias de O. I created relations among images from different sources. Some of them I kind of stumbled upon when browsing pictures in a magazine or newspapers, thinking, “Ah this one needs to join the archive”. Some others I deliberately went after. I wanted a reproduction of Courbet’s L’Origine du Monde to reinforce erotic meaning, an authoritarian regard, a regard that is understood in the arts as masculine. I also wanted pornographic images of male bodies. I searched on the internet until I found something that could be treated in order to belong to this series. I wanted images with no face. Then I got a timid body and the image of an erect penis. Only two results came up out of the whole search.
In Memórias of O., my idea was to work with a concept of memory and archive that is interrelated individually, subjectively and collectively. The immaterial eye that inhabits the way we look at things, our memories, and the imaginary. Our experiences also feed the eye. They also update its repertoire and always interfere in the individual production of images, being the eye a deposit of them. The plates I etched for this project are like a database for this much bigger archive that Memórias de O. is. There is an interpretation of this database at each proof I make. For each plate I have printed different versions of it, and will still do more. Most of the times when I etch I don’t have any idea how I am going to print the plates… First I think about keeping the images and after about multiplying them. In my process I always work with contingent situations and negotiations.
DA: Your works form a mesh of poetical discourse, an open play with the viewer where there isn’t a linear narrative and there is a lot of freedom of interpretation through the innumerous syntaxes that will result in an infinity of semantics. It is an endless story. Is this something that you control and reflect on during the making of your work or this happens in an organic way? The work of art likewise words need to be awakened by the spectator/reader (paraphrasing José Saramago). Is it down to the artist to create the necessity of an active participation (both physical and intellectual)?
AT: The narrative of interchangeable components has been a concern for me. When I was tidying up my plan chest, as I told you, I realized that. My works are series where I sometimes use a variety of techniques. These series can be rearranged in between or within themselves. Memórias de O., which is an archive, can be displayed in sets. One print from this archive can be presented as part of a set and paired each time with a different print, photograph or drawing.