Rio de Janeiro, Dec. 2012: Marcos Chaves is a globally renowned artist, whose multi-layered conceptual practice–which includes drawings, video, photography, as well as large-scale site-specific projects and installations–has appeared everywhere from Moscow to Melbourne since the 1980s, as well as prolifically inside his native Brazil, where he is a treasured member of the artistic community. Rich with parody, Chaves’ work departs from his observations of modern conventions and appropriated values–often steeped in vulgarity or steered by geographic and historical boundaries–and translates them into something tragicomic. The effervescent Chaves kindly answered a few of our questions between recent travels to Chile, where he has been working on a new project, and hosting a flood of holiday guests back home in Rio de Janeiro.
Marcos Chaves, Logradouro, 2002, Detalhe - exposição Museu Vale do Rio Doce | Vila Velha; courtesy of the artist.
Charlotte Jansen: Where is home?
Marcos Chaves: I live in Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro where I was born and raised.
CJ: Where do you work?
MC: I live and work in the same place; I have my studio in the biggest room of my house. But over the last few years I've been working a lot abroad, out of my studio. I used to have permanent assistants but lately I've been experimenting with another method: calling them only for specific projects, according to the type of work I'm doing. But then there's the whole side to the work that is administration–that will probably make me employ somebody to take care of it.
CJ: What do you enjoy most in life?
MC: To leave Rio… and to come back to Rio.
CJ: What has been your defining moment in your artistic career, to date?
MC: Winning the National Arts Award in 1998.
CJ: What else would you still like to achieve with your work?
MC: Freedom and clarity of ideas and spirit.
CJ: Your favourite piece of your own work?
MC: The site-specific ones.
CJ: Your work involves plays with many forms; how has your background shaped this predilection for experimentation with media?
Marcos Chaves, Evento, 2010, Site-specific utilizando o próprio mobiliário do Palácio | Projeto Ocupas, Palácio da Aclamação, Salvador; courtesy the artist.
MC: I graduated in Architecture in Rio–I don’t come from a ‘traditional’ art school, and my first experiences (mainly spatial, installations, and so on) were in the college studios. Some of the teachers were important artists from the Neo-Concretism movement, which was an important experimental period of our art history in Brazil. I didn’t study painting or sculpture as separate disciplines–so I never saw them in that way. The generation before ours were sort of conceptual; I think the group I grew up with just carried [on] in the vein of this practice. And I also really like to be free to choose the best media for each individual project or idea–rather than be constrained by the material in the first instance.
CJ: Who is your favourite contemporary Brazilian artist?
MC: Antonio Dias and Raymundo Colares (who died in the 80’s).
CJ: Most of your major solo exhibitions have happened inside Brazil. Is your work strongly connected with being in Brazil?
MC: I think of my work as universal, but for sure I am quintessentially Brazilian–as my work is too. My main gallery representation is here, in São Paulo, and the nature of my work–in its plurality and in the mixture of media I use–makes it difficult to present it internationally.
CJ: How do you feel things have changed, working as an artist in Brazil, over recent years?
MC: For sure things have changed a lot: our economy is stronger now, which makes the whole art industry stronger too. But the quality of the art that has been made here remains the same; it’s just that now the rest of the world has gotten to know it better.
Marcos Chaves, Pontos de fuga, 2008, Painel com 21 imagens (impressão lambda em diasec) |180 x 522 cm.
CJ: Your work has many touches of poignant, reflective humour. Is it important to make people laugh?
MC: Laughing at oneself leads to change. The ability to laugh at yourself forces you to look at yourself with a certain level of detachment, it makes you think about your own procedures, processes, foibles and flaws; if you are able to analyze them, you will want to change. I think this can be applied to a bigger scale, to society.
ArtSlant would like to thank Marcos Chaves for his assistance in making this interview possible.