[Discover today’s artists] « Despite the dust that obscures our gaze, there is always something to come » Rodrigo Braga has been engaged for two decades in a wrestle with the forces that unite or oppose man to nature. The Brazilian artist does not shy away from addressing the animality that lies dormant in each one of us. He exhibits at Salon H in Paris from October 16th to December 12th, 2020.
Don’t believe in appearances! This small man who appears so sweet has in him an astonishing determination. Rodrigo Braga never ceases to blur the lines between humanity and landscape. And it’s difficult to define with precision his artistic and spiritual field of action!
The artist has had a privileged contact with the Amazon rainforest’s natural and spiritual wealth since his birth. Born in 1976 in Manaus in the home of researchers and pioneer ecologists located at the « gateway » of the Amazon, nature has become his workshop.
He physically invests, in the true sense of the term, as evidenced by videos and photographic documentations as well as the many books: « I investigate human’s ability to create systems that are linked to nature, that modify it or extract elements from it, and I realise that despite all possible contradictions, we are all part of nature and its changes. »
However, the artist who currently lives in Arles cannot be labelled with Land Art. His work is temporary; he embraces Nature and does not walk around in it. He tries to merge with it, he doesn’t build anything with it. He barely touches it, preferring to leave it intact, whilst absorbing its mysteries. No Spiral Jetty (1970) by Robert Smithson (1938-1973), but intimate embodied works where his body serves as a link with Mother Earth.
For him the body, his body, is a guarantee of authenticity. This shaman artist knows how to draw from his personal experience, whilst mobilising the symbols that allow his performances to fix the most exact point of tension between environment and human psyche. His quasi-mediumistic commitment to Nature frees or challenges our collective unconscious, whose ambivalences he captures and exposes.
What sets us apart as a biological being? What relations do we have with the animal, plant and mineral world? Since 2004 Braga has been physically exploring the limit between animal and human through radical hybridization experiences: whether he stiches a dog’s head to his face, appears with an ox’s tongue sticking out of his mouth, transforms into a fish-man, is tied to a goat or engages in a fight with a giant crab. This reminds us about the American artist Chris Burden (1946-2015) whose idea of personal danger as an artistic expression was central to his work or about Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) who was rescued by Crimean peasants and retained their ancestral practices. Like his elders, Rodrigo favours the themes of the vital energy and the relationship of the individual with humanity and the cosmos.
In his videos and in some of his photographs, the artist is present, often naked, acting-performing directly in nature, drawing up an inevitably asymmetrical balance of power. His work does not exclude the deadly, the repulsive and shows the public a state of tension, of latent energies, of forces in suspension between his own body, the animal world with which he puts himself on an equal footing and nature. From 2009 he intervenes more directly in the natural space that surrounds him: he digs, extracts, moves, pushing his physical and mental limits to the extreme, for example by burying himself with a dead goat (Comunhião / communion 2006).
In the video work “Tônus” which was presented at the 30th São Paulo Biennale in 2012, his body acted in nature in a kind of ‘measure of forces’, sometimes proactive, sometimes repulsive, where death is never far away. He gives us his incredible inventory of mimicry of the plant and the animal worlds. His video « Mentira Repetida » filled with Munchean anguish and made at Rio Negro in 2011 can undoubtedly be considered as a highlight: Faced with the vastness of the virtually impassable tropical landscape the artist decides to be as tall as the jungle, permeating his body in the trees and existing through the scream, his scream. « The performance escapes his control and becomes a spontaneous existence, » he tells Singulars.
But Rodrigo Braga also knows how to distance himself from his Brazilian roots.
For his solo exhibition, inaugurated on the occasion of the Nuit Blanche in Paris in 2016, his “Mar interior” (the interior sea) had taken over the basin of the esplanade located between the Palais de Tokyo and the Musée d’Art Moderne in the city of Paris. The monumental installation, comprising 45 large limestones including some encrusted fossils, revealed traces of the prehistoric sea that covered Paris some 45 million years ago. “I symbolically stage the depths of the sea. The stone waterfall which descends towards the Seine weaves a link between a reconstituted inland sea and the river which crosses the city. It evokes the geological past of Paris which is always present in our daily life.” He commented.
“In opposition to the blind egg that never hatches, I offer you the egg that sees beyond. A new egg different from all the others, but which also carries within it an eternal archetype » indicates Rodrigo Braga at the heart of his next exhibition » O ovo que vê « ( » the egg that sees « ) presented at Salon H. All animal presence has disappeared. The earth and charred trees turned ash, coal, lime, covered the artist’s body. The oppositions have become binary: black / white, stone / living. Only the presence of white stones with a regular ovoid shape brings a promise of rebirth. Seized in the palm of the hand, and observed from all angles, these stones reveal ‘to who can see’ the presence of an eye, and become talisman.
Faced with regressions, violence and ecological, political, economic uncertainties which are shaking the whole world, this « omniscient egg stone » is the hope of a possible renewal. Rodrigo Braga refuses indeed any apocalyptic vision, this « solastalgia » described by Glenn A. Albrecht, author of the book The Emotions of the earth (The links that free, 2020) as ‘a chronic emotion experienced in the face of a negatively perceived environmental change, a kind of distress”. Similarly to the Australian environmental philosopher, Braga shares the radical need for the passage from Anthropocene to « symbiocene » described as « The advent of the government of the living for all living species without exception », the only one capable of opening a harmonious future for the Earth.
It is time to discover and share the visions of this Brazilian-Arlesian convinced of the possibility of a passage from Chaos to a symbiotic order, with a great economy of means. Even more so as in Arles, the shaman has not finished surprising us.
”O OVO QUE VÊ“, project by Rodrigo Braga showing Photographs, drawings, installation and video. From October 16th to December 12th, 2020. Salon H, 6/8 rue de Savoie, 75006 Paris. Please contact the venue on firstname.lastname@example.org