The exhibition Q&A showcases eight installations by contemporary artists Cildo Meireles and Various Artists.
The works dialogue with each other in a dynamic that Meireles and Various Artists describe as Q&A, or “Question&Answer”. Four themes are explored in the course of this encounter: water, excrement, value, and mathematics. The discussion shifts from the theoretical to the visual spectrum. Without clear questions or answers, the dialogue rather aspires to a conceptual level.
Meireles and Various Artists share the view that water is destined to become the oil of the future. Water supplies are now widely privatized and concentrated in the hands of a few companies that manage it at a global level. Water is an urgent and topical problem that will sorely test the global economic system and security.
Meireles’ installation Chove Chuva (Rains Rain) from 1997 presents an interactive and technological rain environment that was especially created for this exhibition. Four screens demarcate a room. The viewer is invited to enter this space and spend time there. When walking on large transparant cushions filled with water, it starts raining. The screens of the space show images of rain, and the viewer is immersed in a setting that takes him to the streets of Sao Paulo. Inspired by Jorge Ben Jor’s Chove Chuva, an iconic piece of Música Popular Brasileira, this installation recreates the showers of the city.
Various Artists responds with Agua Con Gaz (2014-2016), a work comprising a series of bonsai of different species and ages, submerged in aquariums. The whole installation is tilted and shown in a darkened environment. The theatrical light guides the visitors eye through the lugubrious beauty of the installation. The drowning of the bonsai recreates the image of a drowned landscape due to human interference, prompting us to reflect upon the extreme impact that certain forms of cultivation can have on nature.
The theme of excrement leads both artists to engage with the cultural notion of aesthetics. Meireles presents KU KKA KA KKA (1990-2015) – two apparently identical greenhouses, one containing real flowers and fake excrement, the other plastic flowers and real faeces – while Various Artists shows nn.pearls (2015-), a collection of pearls that were ‘processed’ by the artist.
Both artists play with the notion of fooling their spectator. What you see is not what you get. Real flowers smell like shit, real poop smells like flowers. And the beautiful peals of nn.Pearl are not to be mistaken for ‘real’ pearls, they all passed through the digestive system of the artist, diminishing in size, but adding an artistic layer to the small gems.
Value is an issue that can be tackled from various points of view – monetary value, economic value, how to exhibit value, how to differentiate between exchange and use value and interpret the symbolic value. In this case, both artists focus on the representation of the value of art. Meireles and Various Artists interact with the art object as if it were a luxury item, goods for exchange, a category like any other that can be traded and exchanged, on which one can speculate and interact with.
Meireles explores the alchemy of gold in Águaurum (2015).
Various Artists recreates googolplex (10 to the power of 10 to the power of a 100) (2015), the expression of an almost infinite number whose transcription is quasi impossible, which the artist formalises as a looping poem in multiple volumes.
The final theme of discussion between the two artists is mathematics. Various Artists and Cildo Meireles share a love for mathematics.
In 1968 Meireles conceived the idea of working with as little material as possible, designing spatial situations with the simple use of a thread. This gave rise to his Virtual Volumes where Meireles created a mental concept of space instead of a fixed material idea.
Over the years Various Artists has developed his own technique for realising abstract works, called “human mathematics”. Workshops are the chosen method to disseminate and evolve this alternative design methodology that serves to render formal, factual and even very personal data into mathematical abstract artworks.