Brazil Week: Lenora de Barros
This week we will turn our attention to Brazilian Photography. We’ll begin with the touching and necessary work of Claudia Andujar on the essence and transformation of the Yanomami indigenous people, we’ll delve into the rituals full of meanings of Rodrigo Braga, we’ll get to know the creative narratives of Lenora de Barros through the records of incredible video performances, we’ll be delighted with the sublime poetic fictions of Alexandre Sequeira and finally we will get to know the creative work of the acclaimed Rosangela Rennó, the photographer who does not photograph. – Ana Leal
Lenora de Barros
São Paulo, SP, 1953
Visual artist and poet, Lenora de Barros began her career in the 1970s. Graduated in Linguistics from USP – University of São Paulo, her first works can be placed in the field of “visual poetry”, associated with the concrete poetry of the 1950s. In 1983, she published the book Onde Se Vê, a set of somewhat unusual poems. Some of them dispensed with the use of words, being constructed as photographic sequences of performative acts. In the same year, she participated with videotext visual poems at the 17th São Paulo International Biennial. Since then, Lenora has built a poetics marked by the use of different languages: video, performance, photography, sound installation and construction of objects.
In 1990, she moved to Milan, Italy, where she stayed for a year, at which time she held her first solo exhibition, Poesia É Coisa de Nada, at Galeria Mercato del Sale. At the show, she inaugurated the Ping-Poems series of works by scattering five thousand ping-pong balls on the gallery floor with the title phrase printed on them. Between 1993 and 1996, she signed an experimental column in Jornal da Tarde, in São Paulo, entitled … umas. In this space, works and ideas were born that would become autonomous videos and photoperformances over the next few years. In 2013, the 65 columns and 2 video performances were exhibited for the first time at Casa Laura Alvim, in Rio de Janeiro, and in 2014 they were presented at Pivô, in São Paulo.
In 2017, she participated in the exhibition Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985, curated by Cecilia Fajardo-Hill and Andrea Giunta at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and the Brooklyn Museum, New York (2018). The show moved on to the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo in 2018. Her most important group and individual exhibitions include the individual Minha Língua, at the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, participation in the 59th Venice Biennale – The Milk of Dreams (Venice, 2022), RETROMEMÓRIA, at MAM-SP – Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo (2022), Tools for Utopia: Selected works from the Daros Latinamerica Collection, at Kunstmuseum Bern (Berna, 2020), ISSOÉOSSODISSO, at Oficina Cultural Oswald de Andrade (São Paulo, 2016), 4th Thessaloníki Contemporary Art Biennial (Greece, 2013), 11th Lyon Biennial (France, 2011), as well as participation in the 17th, 24th and 30th editions of the São Paulo International Biennial (1983, 1998 and 2012).
Her work is part of important collections in Brazil and in several countries, including the Hammer Museum (CA, USA), MACBA – Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Barcelona (Spain), Daros Latinamerica Collection (Switzerland), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Spain), MAM-SP and Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo.
Ana Leal: What led you to work with photography in addition to the many other languages you had already explored? And what keeps you connected to it?L
Lenora de Barros: Photography and video were, from the beginning of my career, fundamental languages for the development of my work, especially in performances, which involve actions from the body.
Since my first photo-performance, Homage to George Segal, in 1975, I have considered the use of photography as a means of recording the actions I develop. The “small narratives” created by me, in photo or video, have always been recorded from the point of view of “partner eyes” with which I work. This process involves a lot of trust and affection, and allows me to fully concentrate on the action, already conceived by me, in a kind of pre-script, which I develop during its recording. Along the way, I give myself completely to the action, and I also consider, most of the time, incorporating situations that occur by chance in editing, just like in a live performance. Unexpected meanings, however, desired and welcome, are often added to the work.
In the vast majority of my photo and video performances, with very few exceptions, the focus of the action develops from the plane of my face, expressions, “masks”, almost characters in “facial performances”. The word is not always present, but when it occurs, for example, as in the series “Não Quero nem ver”, it drives and composes meanings, and semantic dimensions, which intensify the meanings proposed by the performance.
And many of these video-performances, as is also the case with “Não Quero Nem Ver”, are developments and carry meanings from poetic texts created by me previously, in the column “…umas”, which I kept weekly in Jornal da tarde, from 1993 to 1996. This type of procedure is also part of my work process. A feeling, sometimes, that each work is never completely “finished”, always continues in another, and so on, reaching (I hope!), new meanings that can transcend the simple act of exposure to a camera, whether photographic or of video.
AL: What motivates you to start a new project?
LB: I have, on a daily basis in my studio, several projects (some long-standing) in progress, which I always revisit. Lots of ideas and notes anyway. And new ideas are also being registered. But the creation process also varies according to circumstances, requests and opportunities that arise for the development of original works, and to give shape and meaning to ideas. But always, in one way or another, these works are always born from my poetics and issues in the field of my interest.
AL: What are the biggest challenges you face?
LB: Oh! There are so many! Challenges are always present in creation processes, and in life… And taking risks is also part of it. Perhaps the biggest challenge, for me, in the creative process is exactly the moment of decision to choose a path based on an idea, give it form and generate meanings. Decide on techniques, languages and supports so that the work materializes and generates meanings and fruition, in its reception. And most of the time, from the moment we decide for it, this path becomes a point of no return, and we feel the need to move forward and establish the “end point” of the work in question. And within that process, as I mentioned above, the “chance” element requires decisions, acceptance, or not, and that also involves taking risks, and constant challenges.
AL: And what lies ahead?
LB: At the moment I am producing works for a solo exhibition that opens on March 8th, in the new gallery space Gomide & Co. Very lively, new works, which start from a reflection on issues related to Time. Here follows a spoiler of the title: I CAN’T SEE THE TIME.
Born in Northeastern Brazil and based in São Paulo, Ana Leal is an artist who works primarily in photography, considering it to be a tool for both depicting and escaping from reality.
Inspired by minimalist traditions and impressionist painters her images result simple and often abstract. She captures imagery she observes or stages shooting with 50mm lenses.
Leal is a Gold Award winner on the 2020 Tokyo International Foto Awards and the 15th Julia Margaret Cameron Award Winner both in the abstract category. She completed her Master of Fine Arts at Miami International University of Arts and Design (2018) and her work is part of the collection of the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts – FMoPA.
IG : @analealphoto
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