In Inhotim, I still had artworks to see, the more classical ones maybe or, in any case, those whose scenography felt less pompous. First, a superb polyptych by William Kentridge on eight screens, addressing the end of Constructivism, stifled by Stalin. Except for one screen devoted to text (the 1937 Central Committee’s deliberation expelling Bukharin from the party), Kentridge’s tried-and-true style is on display here. But what is featured? Nicolas Gogol’s nose – that other characters sometimes use as a mask –, a horse (“I am not me, the horse is not mine”), a Monument to the Third International that was never completed… And a dancing Red Army soldier, but only his shadow is visible – everything is an illusion. It would have been nice also to be able to watch the performance/speech [pdf] Kentridge gave to complement the installation.
One of the artists I discovered in Inhotim, in the midst of all those well-established artists, is the Czech Dominik Lang (36 years old) – besides the Brazilian Chelpa Ferro. In his piece Sleeping City, which some might have seen in Venice in 2011, Lang – the son of a Modernist sculptor, Jiri Lang – uses and abuses his father’s Modernist artworks with a mix of respect and cruelty: putting them on stage, in perspective, in cages or showcases, and even putting them to rest. The sculptures testify to a glorious past, and even if they have lost all relevance, their soul (or aura) remains, maybe as a bitter sense of nostalgia. Two broken legs seem to reference the dismantlement of Stalin’s memory after 1990, and an intricate ensemble of rods and cages bring Giacometti to mind – but Dominik Lang doesn’t even need those to masterfully combine past and present, roots and offshoots, Modernism and the future. It’s no surprise that Jiri Kovanda is his mentor and friend.
Also interesting: Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s splendid audio installation – even if it is easier to let the mind wander in a Gothic chapel (where I first saw and listened to this artwork) than in Inhotim’s concrete room. Thomas Tallis’ Motet for 40 voices, written in homage to Queen Elizabeth Ist, is also an attempt from this Catholic composer to express a more Baroque and “Ancient Rome” feeling, in the midst of a more and more Anglican culture. Even with the local setting of white concrete, the magic happens and it’s enchanting to listen to each and every speaker successively. Another impressive artwork is Yayoi Kusama’s narcissistic garden: an ocean of balls made of steel reflecting the sky… or the visitor’s face. Better than a selfie!
Further along, in the – hermetic as well – pavilion dedicated to Miguel Rio Branco, there are many pieces, some documentary, others addressing above all the notion of presentation. Among them, I noticed a panel clashing a bit with the rest, titled Blue Tango, showing the interplay of shadows created by two Capoeira dancers (Capoeira: the oppressed fighting back against the oppressors – the opposite of Krav Maga).
Finally, in an exhibition on the Gutai movement (in which Yamazaki’s red installation was not accessible, sadly), I stumbled upon Hitoshi Nomura’s film, which is worth mentioning too – among so many other artworks… The image featured above shows, on the left, the artist holding out his arm, making his camera spin and, on the right, the movie obtained. It is a remarkable work on space and time.
Hum! No French artist in your Inhotim reviews, Red Glasses…? Well, there is only one featured in this very large ensemble. Besides, when you remember the choice made by the curator of the São Paulo Biennial, who is also Inhotim’s director, it is only normal that the French artist there and the French artist here both hail from the same faction. So: on a hill, five bus shelters stand on barren ground… Not much to say about it, especially when you read the companion text (invoking a mystical dimension, cultural nomadism, psycho-geography and more to boot). Poof! A damp squib.
In the end, Inhotim felt like an utopian oasis to me, where art would allow us to forget about the harsh complexity of the real Brazil, like an occasion for a delightful opiate dream. It is a place where artworks are adored as idols, in dark sanctuaries hidden deep in temples as hermetic as pyramids: an ideal yet idolatrous dream, and a (political) conception of museum visitors diametrically opposed to the MASP’s.
Photos Kentridge, Lang and Nomura by Lunettes rouges
Original publication date by Lunettes rouges: October 4, 2016.
Translation by Lucas Faugère