VISIONARIES

Franck-James Marlot

POP CENTER 2018

Above one of the two overpasses that span the Pop Center, a cloud of four hundred plastic slide viewers is suspended above the ground, occupying the vast exhibition space.

Their grouping intrigues the spectator, inviting him to open his eyes to scrutinize and observe images that may be seen by peering through the monocles that hang at different heights.

The spectator is afforded an intimate gaze at a set of photographs collected by artist Renato Bezerra de Mello from store owners who participated in the creation of an image bank of their professional and family lives.

This affectively rich corpus of images functions as a snapshot that reactivates a considerable part of the city of Porto Alegre’s history, arriving at the banks of the Jacuí River and, occasionally, extending to Brazil’s very border.

Because one cannot see all of the images simultaneously, it becomes the task of the spectator’s visual memory to collect those instants. Given that no one can see all the images, each view remains partial and unique, since some of the plastic viewers are inaccessible to any eye as a result of the extreme height at which they hang.

Renato had already presented this installation in 2002, in Paris, and later in Recife and São Paulo. Whereas, this time around, the piece encompasses the memories of the store owners who took part in the project, the one before it blended functional and fictional memories to the artist’s own as he presented portraits of members of his family alone. By virtue of its global architecture and its individual reading, this installation heralds the planetary web of social networks and the cybernaut behind the computer window.

As an extension of the Visionários [Visionaries] installation and above the two overpasses, Renato presents a second piece titled A gente é uma História [We Are a Story]; this one makes use of shop owners speaking.

For three days, he collected their stories about events that had marked them in terms of how they express the hardships of life or, alternately, introduced moments of happiness.

Following the extension of the Pop Center’s pathway, the artist has covered the glass along the overpasses with one hundred quotations from his interviews. Through the glass, the incessant flow of cars creates a visual contrast to the letters, to the words, to the phrases that inscribe themselves, frozen, in the transparency of the glass wall. Here, the collective memory of the shop owners is scarified in glass and offered up in subtle shards that suggest intense lives.

In the street, the letters inverted in the mirror are reflected like an echo towards the city. Pop Center is a place of work and trade for the citizens of Porto Alegre, but it is first and foremost a place of welcome and of humanity. The artist is a mediator of those voices and it is he who allows us access to this privileged encounter.

Side by side, these two installations extend like eyes and a mouth to make up a single face, the face of the Pop Center’s men and women that are the history of the [Brazilian state of] Rio Grande do Sul.

Both the first installation (Visionários) [Visionaries] and the second, A gente é uma História [We Are a Story], bring us the shop owners’ memories. Through the plastic device, this collective memory is fragmented to better evoke the intensity of these lives that through writings and images remain present and cannot be erased.

For this second edition of the Pop Residency, guest artist Renato Bezerra de Mello chose to enrich our view of his work by inviting us to move through six vacant, untenanted Pop Center stores painted museum white for the occasion.

The artist presents works that call up the labors of writing and of drawing through his use of carbon paper, crystal, fabric, buttons, and graphite. By introducing the reliquaries of one work into another, the artist imbues the process with the meaning of a thread that unwinds from work to work, as evidence of something to which only the artist possesses the keys.