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A conversation with Ricardo Basbaum

New York, Rio de Janeiro, 6 Nov 2009 / pdf


This conversation was realized for a publication about the CURATOR CURATOR exhibition series, organized by Enough Room for Space in 2008 and 2009.
Being asked to reflect my experience during the After All... show in this book, I wanted to use the opportunity to write about my personal relation to curating which, if I had to define it broadly and at this very moment, bases on a potion of artistic research and collective thinking. The title CURATOR CURATOR already takes the institutional authority of the label curator with a grain of salt. At the same time it celebrates the poetic of its openness. Inadvertently, as I was assured by the organizers, the title also recalls an essay written by artist Ricardo Basbaum for the project The Next Documenta Should Be Curated By an Artist, a publication gathering diverse responses to the title statement put forward by curator Jens Hoffman in 2003. In his contribution I Love Etc.-Artists, Basbaum makes a somewhat ironic vocabulary distinction for which he forms various alliances between the labels artist, curator and other professions or responsibilities. The conventional curator who focuses exclusively on curating should thus be tagged as "curator-curator", Basbaum suggests. Shortly after I was invited to contribute to this book, I met Basbaum by coincidence when he was giving an artist talk and workshop in New York. I figured that altogether this prompted more than enough reasons for a conversation with him...

Jens Maier-Rothe: I was interested in this conversation because I think we share a few aspects in our practices. Collective thinking and collaborative work play an important role for both of us, while they lead us to different models of blending art practice with curatorial techniques. Our different perspectives, with you being a visual artist and me being a curator engaged in aspects of listening, also suit the concept of my exhibition included in the series. The relation between curating and art practice has been overly discussed in the past few years, which was in part driven by the major debate on art as a form of knowledge production. This frequently lead to a shift or even collapse of the line between the two roles with various intentions. Perhaps I should positions myself in that context before we go on. I work as an artist and curator and sometimes I combine the two roles. This results in a hybrid which is often disregarded, particularly when mistaken as the one or the other. This certainly has its downsides, but can be productive as well. Collaborating and curating have always been part of my work as artist. Some artistic projects resulted in exhibition making and some group shows I curated came out as collaborative installations. About two years ago I began to research on the role of auditory experience in the art discourses. I realized very quickly that for this topic I would have to read across and experiment with extremely different practices, ideas and approaches of various artists, curators and thinkers. A mix of artistic and curatorial research seemed to be not only very productive but actually the only applicable method for this subject. Accordingly, I also had to find modes of production that would combine artistic research with exhibition making, collective thinking and writing. Following the idea that sound, as a medium and methodology, would be highly invaluable for critical art practices, I wanted to find new ways of collectively experimenting with modes of display for sound. The initial question has remained the same till today: What shapes the social and political dimensions of listening and how can critical art practice inhabit them? Concepts like sound art and audio culture still feature as first-hand alternatives to visual representation. Because listening is underrepresented in critical discourse many people attach a counter-hegemonic quality to it per se. But I think this is a simplifying way to think about it and there is more to it. I want to explore and try to articulate what else there is, but a single person should not try to answer that question. Collective thinking across all kinds of practices is necessary to avoid that this results in a discourse among experts. This is why I engage people with diverse backgrounds in conversations like this one. The majority of your projects affects visual perception. However, your visual concepts often inspire me to rethink them in sonic terms. They seem to work in both ways of thinking. Do you see your work in any way connected to listening?

Ricardo Basbaum: It definitely is, yes. I often work with music. I actually did a lot more earlier in the 80s, and now I try to explore it again. In certain talks or presentations, for instance, I recently mixed my speech with some sound work, but I just started experimenting with that. Somehow I have always been involved in musical contexts, I play the guitar and do sound experiments here and there. I got inspired by the work of John Cage and others, which made me think of all my speech as the sound of a singing presentation. So, what I would like to do is mix my writing with some sort of presentation that adds sound, to explore the sound of my voice, to repeat certain sentences as some sort of refrain and these kinds of things. But I've just started and I haven't done this many times so far, but it is definitely something that I want to explore more in the future.

J: What you describe reminds me of a performance piece by Robert Morris. In this piece 21.3.1964, Morris gives a fake reading of a section from Panofsky's "Studies in Iconology". In fact, he recorded himself reading beforehand and performs a lip-synch reading to his voice coming from tape. A very early lecture performance if you want. Actually, when you talked about your NBP project I had to think of sound all the time. You mentioned visual contamination, for example, a concept that reminds me of noise pollution and phrases like "the word is a virus" and so on. I think contamination, in whatever sense, happens with sound very easily due to the pervasiveness of sound, and it might be interesting to compare how sound and vision contaminate our minds in different ways. I mean, sound travels in space and it links our bodies through resonant vibration. And then there is a kind of affect which you cannot really get away from because you cannot close your ears just like that. This all is very close to the notion of contamination and it makes me also think of a phrase by Arundhati Roy: "Once you see it, you cannot unsee it", which works in the same way like this: "Once you hear it you cannot unhear it".

R: That is interesting. You know, I think you could say that all my work is somehow affected by music. It always contains certain aspects of music and all the situations around it. Even if I do not directly work on that I am completely aware that my work is somehow crossed by that all the time. Recently, I presented a talk and a diagram during a symposium called SITAC in Mexico. I was asked by the organizers to develop a diagram that would function as a discussion of the main topic of the symposium and as a logo for the event. In my presentation I stressed the role that rhythm plays, not only on the diagram as a drawing but also when it interacts with the audience. Here I used the expression 'percussive politics', in a way to describe that you always relate to the public and that this relation is always permeated by some sort of rhythm or layers of resonance. So, in some way most of my work has been crossed by music or topics related to that. I'm very interested in that, not only because I play guitar or because popular music is really strong in Brasil, but also because I think that curatorial work has some connection with music...

J: Music making surely is a beautiful allegory for the collective aspect of exhibition making. A curator could never do a show completely alone, she always needs to work with other people, otherwise we would call her an artist, I guess. Even though in practice curating and making art works are mostly seen as separate, collective thinking is inscribed into the essential meaning and contemporary understanding of the term curating. If it doesn't have that aspect it's something else, at least for my understanding. In that sense, I also find a curatorial aspect in your work, for example when you collect and organize other people's reactions to an object you send around, like you did with the NBP shape. Versatile like a curatorial concept it is a container for an idea in relation to which people position themselves. That is where I see a parallel to my project, with the difference that I use an abstract idea and not a material object. I propose a certain way of thinking about auditory experience, that is, that we use the prevailing systems of knowledge production and their foremost visual paradigms to access and foster a sonic thinking instead of generating new vocabularies that then become preconditions for sound related debates. In short, there is a lot of complex visual theory out there, let's use it in the most direct way. That's what I'm trying to say, and I'm curious how people respond to that. Another difference between your project and mine is that you appear as an artist, whereas my approach is received as a curatorial technique.

R: I am not sure if I see that connection between our projects. Could you describe a bit more what you exactly do? How do you build your project that you consider it similar to mine?

J: So far, I ask various people to respond to the idea of sonic thinking in different ways, for example in conversations like this one, or in the form of a contribution to a show, in an audio essay which then exists as reading and sound piece while both can be completely different from each other, and so on. I operate with these materials in different ways, in group shows that I curate, in installations, I use them for radio broadcasts, and so on. Over time, an archive emerges from that which then shapes and continues the initial idea and creates new responses. In your NBP project you send this shape or object around and invite people to do whatever they want with it. You send an object and I circulate an idea. Two discursive processes that are very different but somehow similar.

R: The results and their presentation are also different, I guess. How do you think of the 'display' of sound in your work?

J: Sound is always not so easy to exhibit, because one source can easily dominate the space and contaminate the rest of the works. That also exists on a visual level, of course. Just think of the radical shift from a traditional hanging of paintings to Salon style exhibitions, where the visual spilling from one painting to another was the desired effect. The spilling of sound is a lot less controllable, of course, but it is definitely an interesting thing to work with when you create an exhibition. When you participate in a group show as an artist it's different, you don't have a lot of choices then. Other artists are very often afraid that your sound might interfere with their pieces. They are extremely reluctant to an unplanned simultaneity of sounds and images, whereas they are more likely to trust in the sequence that a show builds in people's mind, however planned or not that might be or even can be in the end. When you curate a show with a lot of sound works, a lot of things happen accidentally. That can be a good and a bad thing. For example, I did a project where I considered the whole exhibition to be one big sound sculpture. That worked perfectly well with the concept in that case where the show was about sound recycling. But it can also be problematic when you can't predict the behaviour of the single works, simply because some of them are too long to try it out in the space. Then you have to create some sort of hierarchy from the start.

R: Do you consider yourself as a composer when you organize those sounds?

J: Not so much, actually, because I want to get away from the notion of music and toward a more general understanding of listening. But the comparison works in a certain way, of course, since an exhibition organizes its space and the sensorial experiences within it. Either way, there is always room for accessing a space in a different way, so if you want to use that trope it would have to be an open composition. I see myself more as a researcher and what happens in my shows often surprises me as well. I learn from that myself every time, which is totally ok I think, because how sound is received in exhibitions still needs to be tested out and treated in an experimental way. And as I said before, sometimes it's almost unpredictable how the works sound together in one specific space. What about trying out some of your projects with a sound instead of a shape or visual element? Did you ever consider doing that? Would it even be possible, you think?

R: In this project with the NBP specific shape, I prefer to use that expression, I see myself much more as a visual artist, even if I had been doing many multimedia projects at that time. With that object I had several experiences using sound as well. It has been used by a composer in Argentina for a concert, by a Turkish musician from Kassel who recorded sessions where he used it as a percussion instrument, or by a group of kids from Mangueira during a participative action in Rio de Janeiro in Brasil who also played drums on it. So, this object has been used in different ways to produce sound. But in the 1980s, before I was working with this shape, I worked in another project with a logo which looked like an eye. I spread this image on stickers to interfere with other objects and the architecture in public space, and there was a moment in 1987 when I did a large scale project with this eye during a residency at the university of Campinas in São Paulo. I invited the musician Sergio Basbaum to translate that image into some sort of sound logo, and he composed a short piece that lasted only seven seconds. This piece was then played from time to time at a certain point on the University campus, where I invited art and dance students to perform later on the same day. I haven't tried this with the NBP specific shape, to create a sound equivalent or anything like that. In the 1980s I collaborated with Alexandre Dacosta in a performance duo. We composed short popular songs using nicknames to appear as a different characters. In these songs we made comments on our work, on the art scene of Brasil in general, as some sort of art criticism. These songs also worked as some kind of memory devices, because popular music has this very direct effect on people's memories. There is also one song in which I comment on my NBP project, but I haven't released that one actually, I'm still working on it.

J: I guess, the material aspects make it difficult as well to replace the object with a sound...

R: I mean in reference to what you mentioned about your project earlier, the distinction between vision and sound doesn't really apply here. The object I use here is strongly material, it has a weight, it is made of metal, you put your hands on it, while you cannot touch the sound, it's much more purely sensorial and immaterial. I almost never use the logo or that specific shape as an image only, it is always embedded in the context of an installation or situation. It doesn't make much sense for me to play around with the image itself. Anyway, sound is so much something that you don't touch, unless you are really sensitive and the frequencies are so low that they resonate in your body.

J: I would say it's actually the other way round, sound touches you and you are not touching it. Let me give you an example that explains how I imagine the similarity between logo and sound. In one of your installations you placed the visual image of the NBP shape on a wall in the middle of a gallery space. The space itself is divided by many little obstacles on the floor. When people navigate through that space they have to look down on the floor to not step on one of the objects. In between they always look up to oversee the rest of the space while their eyes always go back to the image of the shape first. That way, the logo becomes imprinted in their minds, it remains as an idea in their head and will further on shape their thinking, maybe even long after they left the gallery. Isn't that similar to what you said about popular music?

R: There is more to it. The image is some sort of virus that circulates in our body. You're infected but you won't find it in your blood. It is there in the symbolic layers, in the image faction of your brain. The plot of the work would be that there is no place in your body where this image will stop, no space where this particle fits perfectly, and in a way it is a lack of space that you open in your body and which then forces you to think differently. It is some sort of suggestion or involvement, and I cannot do anything else than just that. The other half of the work, let's say, you have to complete yourself. I want to produce some sort of transformation, but what kind of transformation exactly I cannot say, I cannot write the program. I mean, this is up to you. Of course, I beieve that I can trigger that process more or less, but I can't tell you where it's going to lead exactly. But I also believe that it will lead you into a transformation that means an enhancement of your thought or a provocation in your thinking process, making you feel much more aware of where you are, more alive let's say. But actually I leave a gap, some kind of open space. I keep it open because I believe that other aspects of the work are unknown to me, the openness is part of the poetic of the work. It plays together with other references, other artists, other topics, and so on.

J: For the "After All..." show the sound activist collaborative Ultra-red did an installation, in which two microphones transfer the sound from the outside to the exhibition space. In fact, the sound comes from a part of the building which is used for military intelligence and medical training. All windows in the exhibition space are covered by walls, only a glowing stream of light crowns the walls. Centered between the two speakers that fill the space with sound, there is a text tells you how to interact with the listening situation in three steps, basically to listen in front, behind and beyond the wall. It's not even necessary to follow the steps, just reading the instructions and thinking about the situation already has the effect that you carry the idea with you, and you will remember it and rethink it in other listening situations later on, at home, in public spaces, and so on. I find it fascinating that a pedagogical gesture, or proposal, can have such an effect on your thinking and maybe even your perception. I think the effect you are talking about is closely related to that, it also works on a pedagogical level to some extent.

R: I agree, both projects are about making you aware of where you are, about taking you directly to the present time, to the here and now, which are the conditions of perception. Somewhere on your website you mention Rudolf Arnheim, who was completely into Gestalt-theory, or even phenomenology, and very aware of the senses. And of course, this is a very important topic, I agree with you, because when you are confronted with these instructions in your example or the obstacles in my installation, when you are taken to the here and now, to the specific site, it means that you are getting aware of sensorial layers. Because all sensorial experience is based on a radical presence. You have sensorial experience only in the very present moment, everything that comes later is only representation, and it is a very unique moment. I see this as a connection between the two examples. What also plays an important role in my work is that this aspect of sensorial relation to art works is a very strong issue for Brazilian contemporary art. It started in the late fifties with the first steps of Lygia Clark and others, and from that moment the idea of phenomenology to relate sensorially to a work of art became very strong. So, I was confronted with that heritage somehow. If you worked here you were confronted with that. But I was also trying to update that for myself through reading the work of Foucault and Deleuze. They somehow related to phenomenology since they believed in the sensorial and gave a lot of significance to affect and direct contact. But they were also critical of phenomenology because they thought it based on a kind of fiction of purity that doesn't exist anymore in terms of having direct contact with the work only through the senses. So, Foucault introduced discourse at the same moment as we still talked about sensorial contact, because he believed that there is nothing before knowledge, no moment before words as phenomenologists liked to believe. This was an anti-foundational concept. According to Foucault, there is no space before the sensorial and discourse begin, and that was very important for me and my NBP project, because I was kind of free to organize both layers at the same time; all the discourse around the work and all the material or sensorial aspects, hitting two birds with one stone, so to say.

J: Did other Brazilian artists do that at the same time? Was there some kind of movement or were you the only one?

R: There were a few people working on similar ideas or in resonance with that, people with whom I am in dialog, some art historians or even art critics, but it's not so transparent, let's say those topics as such, but in terms of because the discourse here between people in the art world can be sometimes kind of too much based on more daily direct issues and not so much in terms of theory etc. Sometimes we feel kind of lacking more dialog in such terms. But yes, I would say there are people here who work on and share the same register if you want. Deleuze is very influential here somehow, there are groups working with his concepts, studying his writings and doing related film and video works. I published a text in a reader on the reception of Conceptual Art, it was published in 2006 by the MIT and the Generali Foundation, perhaps you are aware of that book, it's called Art After Conceptual Art and was edited by Alexander Alberro and Sabeth Buchmann. My essay in it is based on those assumptions more or less, to try not to separate the sensorial and the conceptual, what usually the common sense or even some readings of art history try to put apart, what is conceptual art and what is more directed and linked to the experience with the body. I think it's important to break this. Now it's more the common sense to put together all those conceptual aspects that are organized through discourse but also through the sensorial aspects that make any art work so provocative.

J: Well, I think sound would be a very interesting medium to explore that, taken as a methodology to go more into that direction. Last but not least because sound triggers completely different behaviour among audiences, mainly due to its immediate, immaterial and ephemeral appearance.

R: Yes, I think you're right, especially in the way you and your peers play with that. Sound is very challenging and for sure it puts together very directly conceptual aspects and a kind of bodily sensorial reception.

J: This conversation will appear in a publication that documents an exhibition series called Curator Curator. In I Love Etc.-Artists, your entry in Jens Hoffmann's book, you suggest a semantic differentiation between the various forms of professional engagement in art, for which you use the expression "curator-curator". I think, it wouldn't make too much sense if I tried to summarize your statement, so I suggest that our readers look it up online (see title link). My question to you would be: Do you think something has changed since 2003? The last Documenta in 2007, for instance. Did it show for you that Hoffmann's statement is still valid or maybe even more than it was before? What would you like to add if you were asked to comment on it today?

R: I think the statement is still valid, absolutely. However, a lot has happened since then. Shifting between curatorial and artistic positions or thinking of them as going together has become a lot more natural. Also, a lot has changed in terms of how the two roles come together in person. Here I think that artists are now more aware of their curatorial role, while many curators still aren't conscious at all of their artistic qualities when creating some kind of big installation work with a show, for instance. In general they don't assume that artistic interference as much as they should, I think. Some curators can be very manipulative and they sometimes really manipulate the artists' work. A certain negotiation should always take place between the two, but sometimes it simply doesn't. Either way, with regard to these roles it's interesting to see that both artist and curator share, or can share, similar concerns. Very often we see these roles taken apart institutionally, that is, by the institutions or the institutional networks that create them as separate positions. This separation is not based on any given nature of both roles. If they want they can share many issues. So, I think my response to Jens Hoffmann's statement still makes sense and I wouldn't change today what I said six years ago.

J: Do you think that this blurring of lines between curator and artist has made questions of authorship and representation more complicated and problematic in the past years?

R: Authorship should always be shared somehow. But if you are aware of what is attributed to each of the positions it should be clear as well what each one has contributed to the collaborative situation. I made many exhibition experiences with different curators who take on this role of a dominant organizer and manipulate some of the art works. But if the artist and the curator then sit together and talk, they have a chance to find a common agreement for that. When there is room for conversation this negotiation can really happen. Too often the institutional profile does not provide this kind of conversation, as I've seen in Documenta for instance, mainly due to the scale of the shows and the time constraints during the realization process. In the case of Documenta 12 the curator really did some very strong interventions in the spaces, like painting the walls and other things. My experience has shown though that when both artist and curator have the possibility to sit down and discuss their collaboration they mostly find a point and the artists often accept this intervention of the curator, because then it makes sense to them. But when this conversation does not take place the artists feel like the curator invaded the space and awkward situations are the result. However, even if they have a conversation they sometimes don't find an agreement, and maybe then the artist should just leave. So, I think if you are in a show with a curator then there should be a conversation between you and that person, otherwise it doesn't make sense. If there is no dialogue, no common ground, I mean, what are you doing in that exhibition as an artist anyway? Unless it's completely formal or conventional and market oriented.

J: Some Documenta 12 artists like James Coleman even rejected the color schemes and insisted on having their own space. But I think the last Documenta also took this problematic kind of curatorial intervention onto the next level, that of modes of display. The audience wasn't properly informed about the formal decisions made by the curators, which made it extremely difficult for the average visitor to distinguish what came from the artists and what from the curators. Perhaps this was even intended and formed part of the show concept and its modes of display. I would say, there are at least three levels on which this problem can occur in an exhibition project. One level is the collaboration between the two roles while the exhibition is produced; how that collaboration is then represented in the exhibition is another level; the third one is the way in which the documentation of the project represents that collaboration. And I think on the third level the question of authorship cannot but create a conflict. I see that as a big issue in my work, for example. Not only because people always want to see images even if I am talking about art works which in fact mainly or exclusively operate in sound. It's more the fact that I always take on some kind of authorship when documenting an exhibition afterwards that I find worrying, an authorship that is not given to me as a curator. In the least problematic case what I show is the result of a balanced exchange between me and others, but very often I merely represent other people's work. I try to deal with these questions when I document my exhibition projects on my website.

R: The lines are completely blurring, that's right. I think the curatorial lines should be definitely made more transparent for the audience because, as you said, in my case the green carpet in the installation was not my decision, I wanted another material. Actually, I wanted to play with some artificial grass, but the curator convinced me after several meetings that I should use this carpet. He was very convincing in his arguments and I accepted, but the audience doesn't see that later on. These examples reveal that those curatorial gestures were made somehow invisible. I think, curators should make these gestures clear for the audience and find ways to train people to see these things. Why not do this in the same way as catalog texts or labels inform you about the concept and materials of an art work? I also like to use words like curatorial installation or curatorial sculpture because as a curator you organize the works of other artists in a certain way for specific reasons, or you even organize the space itself in some way, you may decide to paint the walls. But whatever you do those gestures should be made transparent for the audience, they should be labeled or attributed, and not just become invisible. This is something that could be really thought about. For instance, in the 7th Mercosul Biennale (2009) the two main curators, one curator and one artist, nominated only artists as curators for all sections of the show. There was a sound project, a public interventions project and so on, and they were all organized and created by artists, even the information system. There were four or five big warehouses, each one for a different project by one of the curators, and one of them was really radical in terms of curatorial intervention: Laura Lima, the curator, covered the space with sand, several tons of sand, and all the artists had to work with that intervention; video artists, painters, performance artists, all of them agreed to display their works in that space. But it was completely transparent who did what and in a way you could read these warehouses as big curatorial installations. Of course, some art works were more and others less embedded in the curatorial context. With some of the pieces you even had difficulties to identify them as art works in the environment. However, the big difference to Documenta 12 is that here they created a system of information which made it very clear who did what, and you could actually enjoy it more because of that.

J: I think the idea you just mentioned is actually very interesting, to create a detailed register that traces the decision making process of an exhibition. That could be a project in itself. A documentation of how artists and curators collaborated, a list of all the steps taken by the different people involved. In that context, and along with the example you just gave, I'm also wondering what it actually means to engage the term 'curator' or 'artist' to define someone's the role in the whole process. Wouldn't it be better to just name the people and literally say what they did, instead of attributing a title that adheres to certain conventions within the division of labour? I know this is a provoking idea since it somehow questions the profession of the artist, but that's not my point...

R: I think it's important to keep attributing some specific work to the artist, to somehow reserve some space of mobility. But we can also enact the roles in a way that they blend into each other. If we are speaking institutionally, it's interesting to differentiate the roles or rather the responsibilities with respect to the specific kind of collaborative work. As an artist the convention of calling something an art work already has a function and you have to take the responsibility for this act, in terms of what its meaning is or can be in the future, how it relates to the audience, what conceptual layers you provide in a particular piece etc. This responsibility should be taken by someone and in the same way the curator has to take responsibilities when organizing an exhibition with different people. As an artist at Documenta 12 I could only think about my work, I had no idea how the exhibition was planned as a whole. The only ones who could think about it as one giant piece were the curators. I could only see my work, I didn't have access to all the information. There were clearly different responsibilities and we could see the different roles. I think this is interesting for certain contexts, but at some point it's also important to consciously enact the roles in a way that they blend, when in a certain moment and for one particular gesture it would be more interesting to mix the roles. It can be productive to see how we can take the one for the other in a certain situation. So, I think sometimes it's necessary to assume certain responsibilities with regard to the art work and its conventions and sometimes the roles need to be exchanged or mixed.

J: I was thinking more about the terms themselves and how we use them. For me these words, and that includes other terms like the critic to some extent as well, only serve as placeholders in most discussions. The terms themselves don't mean anything but the discourse around them is what's interesting. I'm particularly curious about their overlaps and grey zones because they can stimulate new debates, as you just said, about how artistic practices and their modes of display shift, have shifted or will change in the future. The curator Raimundas Malasauskas made a great remark during a symposium in Rotterdam earlier this year. He said that curatorial discipline is probably the one that is mostly affected by the concept of always changing the model without actually trying it. I think he really brought it to the point. The label curator can mean a lot of things, what you do in practice and how you position yourself in relation to that term is what makes the difference; what is behind your use of the term and how that relates to the art world and other social contexts. Speaking of overlaps, your NBP project, for example, is a large participatory project and obviously has a curatorial component as well, no?

R: I agree that these labels are empty words unless you really practice them. This project you just mentioned, "Would you like to participate in an artistic experience?", indeed involves many people and I feel I'm some sort of administrator of the process. I have to contact different people, I organize gestures, I make it all happen and somehow I create this structure to present everything publicly, which is the website. So, I guess you could almost call that a curatorial project, yes.

J: In your text I Love Etc.-Artists, you write: "When artists curate, they cannot avoid mixing their artistic investigations with the proposed curatorial project: for me, this is the strength and singularity they bring to curating." Is this something you also try to do as an artist?

R: Yes, in some way. As artist I have been working as a critic as well, writing reviews, introduction texts for catalogs, and I also did curatorial projects. Having the chance to work with these different roles at certain given moments, it was clear to me that I didn't want to be just a critic or a curator. I knew that if I would do those things, writing or organizing exhibitions, I should do them in a different way. A way that brings those activities closer to my preoccupations as an artist. I can only write about artists who I feel have some connection to the kind of work I do myself, for instance. It became clear for me that there should be a difference between an artist who writes, an artist who curates and a curator-curator. Whichever role they take on artists should mix their poetic preoccupations and the issues of their work with the preoccupations of the critical or curatorial gesture. I would not like to do a curatorial project that brings me far away from what I do as an artist. It would not be so interesting, I would not have much to say. But of course, in the same way curators can also mix their own investigation as researchers, as anthropologists, as philosophers and so on with the curatorial statement.

J: As I mentioned at the beginning, curatorial and artistic research are quite similar practices for me, if not identical in some cases. I see artistic research as essential for my curatorial work while exhibition making can both serve as a research tool and result in collaborative art works, too. Thank you very much for this conversation, Ricardo.

R: Thank you, too.

New York, Rio de Janeiro, 6 Nov 2009