Regina Silveira is still the name of the moment

In an interview, the artist comments on her recent exhibitions and the current moment of her career

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
abyssal (2010)

Influential in the art market since the 1970s, Regina Silveira has never stopped being one of the biggest names in the Brazilian artistic circuit. This year alone, it is featured in five 5 projects in the country: the series of “Tropicals” rugs, custom-made for the lobby of the Rosewood hotel in the Cidade Matarazzo project; Fauna Mix – exhibition at the Luciana Britto gallery;  Other Paradoxes – retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art MAC-USP; touch – large-scale installation at the newly opened Galeria Hugo França; and still In scale – solo exhibition at Galeria Bolsa de Arte.

Read below, the exclusive interview where Silveira tells a little about her work:

Giovana Nacca – Your works depend on the engagement of the public and you bring extremely everyday situations to your work. What was it like for you to go through social isolation due to the pandemic situation? How has this impacted your output, beyond the various exhibitions and projects that have been halted?

Regina Silveira – Well, I had several things scheduled, several things in progress when this general situation began in which we could not attend or that things were difficult to carry out. I had one exhibition that was still in the Paço das Artes, another that opened just when the pandemic situation was confirmed and that took a few months to actually open in Rio Grande do Sul at the Vera Chaves Barcellos Foundation together with Spanish artist Antoni Muntadas. This exhibition moved from February to September. The Paço exhibition, which was just opened, took a few months to reopen. In any case, I was already committed, my life has always been filled with many achievements with a scheduled date and one of them was the invitation to participate in the Bienal de São Paulo, another was my exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art of the University of São Paulo, which which ended up also opening together with the Bienal because they were two collaborative exhibitions.

So these two projects were the ones that I “dragged”, let's say, because they were quite big commitments and involving a lot of people to be able to fully fulfill them, right? So the work for the Biennial – the glass labyrinth with shots – was already conceived. During the pandemic period I still tried to change by taking some of the physicality of the work to make it an augmented reality, then I went back, that is, I was oscillating, but with support from the Bienal. I called this work landscape, it was a kind of capture of our feeling, of our landscape even of violence that we are experiencing, right?

And the MAC exhibition is very large, it has almost one hundred and eighty of my works that belong to the museum's collection, and needed to be distributed throughout the newly renovated spaces in the museum's annex. So for months I, the curators and the architect Álvaro Hazuki, who did the expography, worked hard to be able to set up the exhibition in the middle of the pandemic after it was already completely assembled virtually.

Those two things took a lot of energy, in the sense that I had to do it. I was never one to stay very much in my things, I had to participate in it and physically too, I had to be in person in many of these things, right?  

And we are still in the pandemic, so after the Bienal, I still opened an exhibition there in Trancoso, in a new space by Hugo França, in a circumstance in which the production and location of the Bienal’s work that goes to a public collection is also involved in Pernambuco at Usina de Arte. And there's still a lot of exposure to go, so really, I think my way of facing the pandemic was to work hard. With remote assistants and everything else. Difficult, but really I managed to maintain a level of occupation of my head and my time that contributed to a state of general and mental health as well, otherwise I wouldn't be able to. But I think the scene has changed a lot in those two years. Art has also changed a lot, it has been greatly affected as a language, as circulation.

GN – Taking advantage of your mention of the Bienal, in this edition we had some works like yours, or by Carmela Gross, or even by Hélio Oiticica that were made under a context of military dictatorship in Brazil and reflected on that state. Now they have been re-exhibited in the 2021 edition in a different context, however, with themes that are still current and urgent. I would like to know how you see the passage of time, what new meanings can we attribute to these works?

LOL - I didn't show this work just because it was a historic work, but I showed it because it is a work that is still valid. That general over that battle tank is about power. So it's valid because we go through situations like that. Those shadows of those little figures want to discuss this story there, right? They are distortions, they are anamorphoses that by themselves already explain what they mean, right? So I think it's a work that continues to be worth it.

I had no desire to show this work just because it's historical, it's from 81, that's many decades. But it is a work that was done with appropriation of the printed media. The media today provided me with all the shots I needed for that labyrinth, that is, this is our landscape, right? In this sense, I thought that these invited artists were invited with works that continue to talk about the current moment, even if in a different way, another moment, in another context, but they continue to be statements strong.

Installation by Regina Silveira at the 34th Bienal de São Paulo | photo: Tuca Vieira

GN – Speaking now of more recent works, what are the differences and similarities between the Fauna Mix series of tapestries and the series of rugs tropicals? And how was the development of your poetic research around the meaning and representation of the Brazilian fauna from the 1990s to the most recent series? 

This fauna survey is a “wild mix” of images appropriated from natural history manuals, from historians and travelers who wrote down the species of the new world, even from the historical cabinets that kept these exotic species. All this interested me and has interested me for many years. So, for a while now, I started collecting these images, appropriating them, redesigning and making these assemblies, which somehow allude to this universe of carpets from the Netherlands.

The tapestries showed New World savages, New World critters, and things that were exotic to the discoverers. I always wanted to make works in parallel with those that could be ironic comments on that. But that's a long story, because I worked on it for several years and over those years I also made those sets for that show in honor of Gal Costa's seventy years with various animations of these animals. And then the hotel invitation appeared, right? It was the strategy of creating a module with foliage, but also with spiders, centipedes, butterflies, ants… So these rugs are like a backdrop of nature where you step on spiders, centipedes, ants. It's a piece of Brazil with a 'Z' (laughs).

And now I'm finally realizing what I've been imagining for the longest time, which were these tapestries hanging on the wall with all these mixtures. Now, making rugs and tapestries has been on my path since the eighties.

“Alados” from the series “Fauna Mix”, 2021

GN – But it's the first time you've worked with color, right?

LOL - With color yes, it's the first time. Because the other 1988 rugs and tapestries were all on a neutral wool background and a black silhouette. Because there, history was the carpet itself, like a surface where the shadows of objects would shelter. Which is very different from what I've done now, where I used the color itself as an allegory of the seasons in the hotel's rugs, for example. There I called the sets of rugs tropicals, the tapestries in the gallery I called Fauna Mix. Another difference is the use, one you look at and the other you step on. Or even the type of carpet too… One is a loom handmade on the walls, while the other is another type of thicker loom to resist those hundreds of people passing over it.

GN – Is it possible to analyze a little of the response from guests and visitors? Or is it still too recent? I wanted to know how their interaction with the works was.

LOL - So, I don't know… I confess that I don't use social networks for anything… But I think they have a degree of surprise, it's a bit of an unexpected place.

GN – In general, illusionism and distortion of images in shadows are very strong marks of your work, right? When did you realize that this was relevant in your production and what do you hope to convey through them?  

That's a long story, see? But my interest in investigating the reality that illusionist images can carry came from questions that I placed myself very early on within a very critical position in relation to this whole chain of illusionism, these assumptions of reality implied in the image. I think my whole journey was a journey that cares about the nature of the image, its modes of production, and how it works, whether with politics, or how it works in life, in behavior and in the relationship with the world . So the shadow has many kinds of messages about the world, about absences, about phantasms.

But I think what characterizes my work is my relationship with architecture, for example. That I have coated many times with image narratives with the intention of modifying the experience of that place. This appears a little in the exhibition that I opened at Bolsa de Arte, which has several models that show the use of footprints, embroidery, words, in short, in a way that I have been dealing with the architectural space as a challenge, a challenge of language itself.

GN – I have the impression that your generation of artists, especially those who work with space, architecture and scales within the visual arts, are mostly men. You are one of the main female names in this field. I would like to know if you agree with this, if you see relevance in this point of view and, finally, how do you see yourself in this issue?

LOL - This is a question I also have. I have for a long time.

In the eighties, before there were those more feminist exhibitions by Ruth Escobar about women's art, I was organizing an exhibition with the Museum of Contemporary Art together with an American artist that brought works by these American women. I was very curious to investigate formal aspects, not content, and understand if there were forms of art more practiced by women. I was after questions that had already been raised. I never found that answer, but I think so, that there have to be women who face large scales. I think there may be a dose of ignorance about why there are many men who get involved in such tasks and works, but I don't think it's possible to characterize “man” and “woman”. I don't know how to answer your question (laughs).

I think that my work is always a woman's work, because I am a woman in the world.

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