Selected by Ana Mazzei
How is it possible to create an idea of presence that is invisible? Or that is as close as possible to absence? Renan Marcondes produces longterm projects and series, each hovering in a zone somewhere between the visual and performing arts, that demonstrate an interest in the materiality of human bodies in a state of rest, passivity or powerlessness. This translates into situations in which bodies are affected or constrained by sculptures built specifically to be worn; or in situations in which the performer’s body has little or no agency, needing to be moved or stimulated by other bodies or forces. ‘I show images where a body is expected and bodies where an image is expected,’ the Brazilian artist says.
A certain passivity is a guiding element of the work, and the situations in which the artist places himself and the performers are usually pathetic, absurd and repetitive. In O maior museu do mundo (The Greatest Museum in the World, 2019) a body is lying down. The viewer observes as the performer moves slowly and makes contact with a series of small, singular organic objects – a tooth, an eyelash, earwax – placing them neatly in a kind of miniature museum. These beguiling actions see the body in a ritualised exchange between the public and the performer, with minimal movement and a sense of what resides after the movement has ended.
In Azul-Jardim (Blue Garden, 2022), Marcondes, in partnership with dancer Raul Rachou, takes inspiration from the film Blue (1993) by Derek Jarman to reflect on the different meanings of the colour blue in English and Portuguese, with the aim of emptying the word of all meaning. In Jarman’s film the only visual phenomenon present is a monochrome blue shot that lasts from beginning to end (79 minutes). In the performance, a young dancer acts alongside Rachou, moving between the personas of lover, of caregiver and of Rachou himself, albeit a many-years-younger version. The work revels in paradox: blue (or ‘the blues’) signifies sadness; in Azul-Jardim blue becomes synonymous with joy (“everything blue, everybody naked”, “everything blue, Adam and Eve and paradise”, the dancer and Rachou sing). Ironically, the end product of this monochrome performance is myriad meanings.
Renan Marcondes is a visual artist, performer and researcher whose work addresses the genealogy of performance art. He is a founding member of contemporary dance group Pérfida Iguana and a PhD candidate investigating neoliberalism, performance and presence. Marcondes lives and works in São Paulo.
Ana Mazzei is a sculpture and performance artist who lives and works in São Paulo. Her 2018 performance Ophelia, with Regina Parra, was recently staged at the Americas Society, New York.