Artist: Katinka Bock
Venue: Pivô, São Paulo
Exhibition Title: Avalanche
Date: August 31 – November 9, 2019
Full gallery of images, press release, and link available after the jump.
Images courtesy of Pivô / Everton Ballardin
Build fire and read
the future in smoke
Carry out ash and
scatter over head
not to look back
the art of metamorphosis Paint face
As a sign
(W. G. Sebald)
The book Of Cities and Women (Letters to Fawwaz), by Lebanese artist and author Etel Adnan, is a compilation of letters written to Fawwaz, her editor, to whom she had promised an essay on feminism. Instead of fulfilling the task, the artist wrote a series of letters, which were sent from cities as diverse as Berlin, Beirut and Aix-de-Provence. The tone of the texts oscillates between meditation, mediation and immediate responses to situations experienced by the artist herself and the women she met on the way. The content of her accounts stems not only from a sensitive and cosmopolitan gaze, but also from the experience of a body that is invariably open to listening and relating, and that apprehends – or perhaps absorbs through the skin – the intrinsic relationship between certain cities and their inhabitants (in this case, women).
‘She lives in that zone where humanity can dissolve in Nature’, ‘what is the malaise of women in the streets of Marrakesh? In Marrakesh women carry their social status much more than they carry their soul’, ‘I tell myself that we are terrorists, not terrorists in the political or ordinary sense, but because we carry inside our bodies – like explosives – all the deep troubles that befall our countries’, ‘everything about her, and around her was poverty’. Etel Adnan uses her own perceptions while in transit to meditate on the feminine, opting for letters rather than an essay, or perhaps for affective excursions rather than critical argumentation. Her acute prose reveals, without any fuss or over-complexity, the psychosocial and political issues that affect women’s lives in different parts of the world.
These sentences, extracted from Adnan’s letters to Fawwaz, reverberate both in the work and methodology of Katinka Bock. Like Adnan, Bock opts to inhabit, and react to, the context where her exhibitions take place. Avalanche, her first exhibition in South America, is no different.
The German artist visited São Paulo for the first time in September 2018. On this occasion, she explored not only the exhibition space at Pivô but also the service areas and common areas in the commercial and residential zones of the Copan building. The textures and idiosyncrasies of the building complex and the contingencies of its current state of repair (the protection net that breaks loose with the wind, the glass tiles that break off the façade…) were of more interest to the artist than the history or technical and architectonic achievements of Oscar Niemeyer. Since her first visit, the building has played the role of interlocutor rather than object of study. Bock turned her gaze to the city of São Paulo. She collected samples and, with the help of her analogue camera, created images that she calls the ‘periphery of the work’. These photos constitute a sort of diary of the artist’s working process. However, they show no narrative pretension, neither do they aspire to be a chronological record. They are clues, evidences of lived experiences, and also her way of getting in touch with the mechanics of the society in question, in a free search for its constitutive elements and peculiarities.
Katinka Bock’s sculptures and installations stem from encounters and the precise mediation of natural and induced processes. In this exhibition, items as varied as a floor polisher borrowed from the building and two pacová plants bought at the local plant market (Polo norte, polo sul, 2019), aarchitectural fragments crushed by hand (Sand (01046-925), 2019), and an iron radiator brought from Buenos Aires (Warm sculpture BA/SP, 2 019) are turned into sculptures, counterweights and supports for objects cast in bronze and ceramics. Bock’s sculptures carry their origin without raising a banner. They insistently straddle time and its ever-mutable movements, and hold a clear suspicion of everything that is supposedly fixed and irrevocable (her material arrangements are almost always transitory or reversible). Bock often ‘profanes’ the formal exhibition spaces, making it porous through simple operations, such as opening a window in winter or via more ingenious solutions, such as in the installation Fountain for avalanches (2019), in which she creates a route of pipes that transport rainwater inside Pivô and sends it back to the street through a hole in the glass of the exhibition space’s reception. The expectation of heavy rain, or the frustration of dry days, interrupts the lethargy of the objects displayed. These, as well as us — the spectators — are kept waiting for something to happen. In this displacement, Bock also turns time into dense matter.
The effects of natural phenomena are also seen in the work For your eyes only, parte pelo todo I/II/III ( 2019). During her second stay in the city, four months before the exhibition opening, the artist rolled out almost 20 meters of blue fabric on the roof terrace of the Copan building. The material, marked by strong sunlight, rain and dust, and partly ripped by the strong winds, is a record of the time and weather to which it has been exposed to since then. The size and shape of the frame are the artist’s informed choices in response to the tonal variations created by the circumstances. This operation, as well as several other works by Bock, undoes the common opposition between active subject and passive object.
In Horizontal word, Copan, (2019) — perhaps the most radical example of this agency exchange — Bock threw a piece of raw clay wrapped in resistant industrial fabric from a high open terrace at Copan. The impact of the free fall irremediably shaped the matter. The level of energy used to create this work — from the effort of the people who carried the clay up to the negotiations with the building administration and the logistics involved in the transporting it to the exhibition space — impregnates the matter as much as the effects of gravity. The sculpture is the direct product of an event. Its final form depends not only on the care and attention of those transporting it but also on the surface that absorbs the impact of the still-wet clay. The artwork will last as long as the exhibition, as it will be destroyed at the end of the project. Bock leads this piece of clay into a ‘state of art’ only to later return it to the state of organic matter, like an actor coming in and out of a scene without ever losing dignity or the vitality of their presence.
In Lebanon, Etel Adnan wrote: ‘nothing can save us from the sadness we feel. But then, what a bliss when we find a restaurant without noise, when war hasn’t yet broken out in the desert’. Avalanches can be caused by many reasons, from an abrupt climate variation to the weight of a skier. To prevent them is almost impossible. Katinka Bock chose Avalanche as the title of an exhibition in a country where it never snows but which is on the verge of collapse, like so many others. Bock’s artworks remind us that space — or the city — is not a static plane orthogonal to time, but an interlacing of trajectories and phenomena. The artist is interested in the nuances and in the loose ends of narratives under construction, which often materialises in quiet restaurants that host conversations loaded with complicity and connections still to be made.
Link: Katinka Bock at Pivô