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5 Artworks that define my quarantine

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During these strange times, I experienced multiple feelings. Initially, as the pandemic seemed to be so distance, I was particularly curious about how it would affect social dynamics. Then, once the danger became part of my reality, I became very confused. How was life going to proceed? Why did we allow the situation to get to that point? And what’s the role of artists and museums in building the new conditions we are all going to need?


In between my constant questioning and the many more emotions that they awakened, I could find some comfort in art. Therefore, I decided to write this article to share some works that were meaningful to me in this process. Hopefully, I can enlighten more people to see this situation from different angles, while learning about amazing art pieces.



1. Venus of the rags, Michelangelo Pistoletto, 1967



In the first version of "Venus of the rags" (1967), the statue of the Roman goddess of love faces a pile of discarded clothes. When I recently studied this artwork, I immediately connected it with the Corona crisis for multiple reasons. Mostly, it appealed to me that it contemplates ‘the beauty of the past’ opposed to ‘the disaster of the resent’, an impression that many of us have now while experiencing harder times. Michelangelo Pistoletto (1933), one of the main representatives of the Italian Arte Povera, created this work in the post-second world war context. Bothered by the prevailing consumerism of that time, which he interpreted as a lack of collective memory, he incorporated in this installation ‘reused’ materials: a Venus from a garden centre and rags from his studio.


In our current scenario, I believe this work should serve as a reminder that we can reframe memories of the past (namely previous pandemics and other crises) to create a brighter future.


2. The system is the virus. Revolution the cure!, Unknown author, 2020


This intervention, which I found in the Kralingse Bos Park in Rotterdam, had a strong impact on me. Maybe for some people this isn’t art because it’s not aesthetically pleasing and it doesn’t show impressive techniques. For me, though, I love it because I see it as genuine Street Art. Someone left this powerful message illegally in the public space to spread it to as many people as possible. Just like this anonymous artist, many others are creatively active on the streets during the pandemic to raise public awareness. These are amazing examples of how essential Street Art is.


3. Abrigo, Brigida Baltar, 1996


Although from 1996, this artwork could have been specially made for the quarantine. In Abrigo (or Shelter in english), the Brazilian multimedia artist Brígida Baltar (1959) excavated her house’s wall in the shape of her own silhouette and later entered the cocoon. With this work, Brígida explores her house as her own body’s extension. By developing this new relation, the artist amplifies the solidity of brick as a structure, which supports the wall, while becoming the wall. This ‘living house’ plays a central role in Brígida’s body of work. Even now after moving to a different place, she continues incorporating bricks from the past house in her art to resignify our sense of habitat.


“ It's amazing, how important home is to me! In fact, I think that this applies to everyone... There is a philosopher, who says that man is, while he lives, essentially a resident. [...] All this inspiration started in that house in Botafogo, but the process continues, since I brought gallons of powdered brick to my new house. I use this powder today to make my drawings, sculptures and installations in space.” - Brigida Baltar, 2006

4. Good vibes, Daniel Padure, 2018



With continuous black lines that give shape to white gigantic characters, this work by Portuguese illustrator and street artist Daniel Padure could be about social distance. However, it was actually created in 2018 during Loures Public Art Festival in Portugal and it’s about good vibes, as the title suggests. It’s funny that although I thought this work was about the invisible space that separates us, it’s instead about the (also) invisible energy that connects us.


5. #existeamor em SP, Criolo and Milton Nascimento feat Amaro Freitas, 2021



Brazilian legendary singers Milton Nascimento (1942) and Criolo (1975) joined forces to create a new version of the classic "Não existe amor em SP", this time harmonized in the emotional melody by the pianist Amaro Freitas (1991). This poetic song, first released by Criolo in 2011, is about the lack of love in the gigantic metropolis of São Paulo. Now, in times of humanitarian crisis worsened by the global pandemic, the song's meaning got completely twisted.


On April 23, 2020 at 21:30, its videoclip was projected on a building in the center of the concrete jungle. This action intended to promote the solidarity funds #ExisteAmor (which actually means There is love) released by Milton and Criolo to support the vulnerable population of SP during the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides them, many other famous artists in the country have been performing online to raise funds to the needed ones in all parts of Brazil. This engagement is for me one of the truly inspiring powers of art.


“Once again, art presents itself as an instrument of humanization and sensitivity in a time of crisis. This crisis highlights the importance of humanitarian issues, since in all slums of Brazil, the state of public calamity exists throughout the whole year. And the lesson of this moment is that we do have the strength to transform everything into something good, something better." - Criolo, 2020

Bonus: the cutest urban knitting just around my corner



Around the interventions above, there was the same text: "Alleen samen krijgen we corona onder controle", which is the logo of the Dutch government during this pandemic and means "only together we can control corona". The adorable atitude of this anonymous urban knitter is my final reminder that there is hope in the 'disastrous present'.



References


Benfeitoria (2020). #Existeamor. https://benfeitoria.com/existeamor


Bomfim, H. (2017). BRÍGIDA BALTAR – Abrigo, 1996. https://heloisabomfim.com/historia-da-arte/brigida-baltar-abrigo-1996/


Kröller-Müller Museum (2020). MICHELANGELO PISTOLETTO (1933). Venere degli stracci, 1967 - 1982. https://krollermuller.nl/en/michelangelo-pistoletto-venus-of-the-rags


Mendel, P. (2006). Entrevista Brígida Baltar. http://www.blanktape.com.br/works/entrevista-brigida-baltar/


Padure (2020). Illustration. http://padure.org


Prix Italia (2016). Video message by Michelangelo Pistoletto about the Venus of the Rags on Lampedusa. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIFmdg0QPI4


Rodrigues, A. (2020). Street art sends a life-saving message on coronavirus. https://nowtoronto.com/news/coronavirus-street-art-graffiti/


Sanger, A. (2009). Michelangelo Pistoletto - Venus of the Rags - 1967, 1974. https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/pistoletto-venus-of-the-rags-t12200


Wexner Center for the Arts (2014). Brígida Baltar | Cruzamentos: Contemporary Art Brazil. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abci455oItY


 

Originally published on my personal Linkedin on May 14, 2020.

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