“Doing together is a matter of choice and principle” reads the curatorial statement of the show “Elementar: Fazer Junto” (Elementary: Doing It Together) on display at MAM Sao Paulo. The curatorship—Valquíria Prates, Mirela Estelles and Cauê Alves—articulates more than seventy works from the collection, composed of the most varied languages and evoking ideas of cooperation and participation linked mainly to the educational work of the museum. The collective exhibition seeks to propose reflections on what is necessary to establish a relationship with the other, taking into account the barriers to be broken in order to accomplish things in communion, whether social, cultural, political or geographic, in an exercise to reflect on issues such as otherness and freedom.
At first, the title of the show awakens a certain uneasiness in us—probably linked to the fact that the contemporary world provides us (and possibly even imposes on us) interactions and collaborations of all kinds and at all times: screens, devices, terminals, buttons, spreadsheets , meetings… But when we enter the exhibition, the expectation of perhaps finding experiments on interaction seems to frustrate us.
The vast majority of the works presented can somehow connect to curatorial ideas, but we have little at our disposal in terms of interaction beyond a traditional relationship with the works and the space, guided by the visual experience. There are, of course, some exceptions, such as a work located at the end of the exhibition: “Totó Treme Terra” by the group chelpa ferro, which is a foosball arcade always occupied by young people playing (and whose sound invades and fills the entire exhibition space); there is also a version of the museum recreated in the virtual environment of the minecraft game, and even an educational station at the beginning of the exhibition that presents itself as a clean, simple and spatially bold display.
But if frustration appears at first, it also awakens us to some opportunities. The first is related to the fact that we can reflect on the local institutional limitations in the acquisition of works and consequently the formation of collections, whose inclination toward physically formalized works overlaps with the great challenge of acquiring and safeguarding works that are themselves processes, events, experiences, situations and the like—qualities linked to or expected from so-called procedural and interactive experiences. Frustration also allows us to review the degree of conditioning to which we are subject; that is, it can become here a productive challenge that leads us to review our postures in the face of the closest surroundings, which impose interaction on us in an almost mandatory way in many cases and most of the time… the nightmare of participation.
Willingness and receptivity also appear in the curatorial statement (referring to the sociologist and historian Richard Sennett), positions that are so necessary today in a time-out-of-time like the one we currently live in. In its range of languages and works, “Elementar: Fazer Junto” provides us with a moment to look at our own interactive impulses and then question them to the point of deciding that, among the countless possibilities of interacting, there is also the option of not doing so: of wanting to pause, to rest from the frenetic daily rhythm, of waiting for the dust to settle… Frustration of this place, then the feeling of clearing a mirror, something that never seemed so active as after leaving this exhibition at MAM São Paulo.
“Elementar: Fazer Junto”
MAM Sao Paulo
Ibirapuera Park (Av. Pedro Álvares Cabral, s/nº – Gates 1 and 3)
Through August 13