Urban (and human) intervention by Néle Azevedo
How long does a life last? Many factors must be considered in this equation - the constitution and functioning of its cells, the conditions in which it exists, how it nourishes itself, how it regenerates itself, how it deals with threats to its integrity. If we think about human life, then all that touches the spirit, individually and collectively, must be added to this. Life, especially human life, does not develop on its own, does not stand in isolation. Survival and well-being depend on the cooperation between different people.
A community is made up of many individuals whose subjectivity is related to others in matters that affect the community. This is how families, societies and entire countries are organized. There is an unstable and dynamic balance between the me and the us. To ensure the integrity of one it is necessary to act taking many into account.
It is undeniable that Néle Azevedo’s interest is “us”, especially when this “us” is in a vulnerable position. It is that us that shows up multiplied in different spheres – it might be called women, indigenous, workers, or even be part of more than one group. Before anything else, “us” means people. In Néle’s worldview, which her body of work addresses, it is imperative that we become aware of the other as part of a systemic whole, in which each element affects the others. Her production approaches the threats that loom over many of those “mes”, but always from their inseparability of the us.
Néle invests in the character of art as an instrument to build social awareness. Therefore, she privileges actions in the public space, where the highlighted subject can touch not only the customary connoisseurs, but also the general population not used to frequenting the (somewhat restricted, it should be remembered) world of museums or galleries. It is on the street that the average citizen is, and that is where a work can effectively establish a two-way dialogue. It has been so with Minimum monument, an intervention that has been presented in 24 cities around the world. The performance/installation consists of inviting passers-by to place small ice sculptures in the form of humans in a public space and watch them melt. From the transience of life to environmental issues, many perceptions arise.
Ice is also the material chosen for the Suspended State intervention, which the artist presented in the square in front of the São Paulo Municipal Theater on June 28, 2019. One thousand ice figures in the form of humans with elongated limbs, both male and female and in different sizes were hung on a metallic structure. On the floor, bowls and pots collected the drops from the melting, and the sound was captured and amplified in real time. The early evening lights passed through the ephemeral sculptures, causing a variety of nuances and reflections that danced to the sound of the incidental melody. Passers-by stopped to watch and sometimes risked expressing their insights into the unusual scene. Many stayed until there was no trace of the figures. Expressions like “human frailty”, “life goes by so fast” or “we are wiping out the planet” were heard and there.
Suspended State brings out several aspects of the human condition. Starting with the material, one of the states of water. Our body is made up of about 70% of water, and its deprivation inexorably leads to the end of life. Watching the figures fall apart is like observing the transience of our presence in the world. There is, on the other hand, something poetic in the transformation of different bodies into one, fluid and capable of providing growth to other forms of existence, nurturing the land and sprouts that feed yet other living beings. The contrast between the fluidity of the material while liquid, its lightness when gaseous and its resistance (although fleeting) when solid also becomes evident. But Suspended State speaks, above all, of the historical, social and political moment the country is going through. The sum of the figures hanging by a thread that can only hold them for a few hours expresses the warning about the suffocation of rights to which we are being subjected to by determinations coming from the organs in power. Historical achievements like labor laws, human rights for socially vulnerable groups, environmental preservation measures and policies that fight inequality are being dismantled. Insecurities grow, tempers rise, tension underlies everyday activities. Art seems as the last refuge, but it does not escape persecution either. But stubborn it is, and refuses to disappear. The brevity of the intervention is illusory – those who saw it took with them the visual impact and the reverberation of the sound, which awaken awareness of the finitude and fragility of being alive.
Only by connecting with ordinary people can such a work restore to art its ability to trigger in the spectator some concern about the need for social transformation. It is on the street that artistic creation gains power, it is in contact with the other that the feeling of belonging is founded. It is in this encounter that the recognition of the strength of communion is embodied.