After much insistence on my part, Renata Har invites me to her studio and (temporary) living quarters, which have been relocated at L’Atelier Kunst Spiel Raum. She has been given free reins over the space. The work produced will be shown as part of a preview from the 13th till the 16th of September and her new show “It’s a long way”, at L’Atelier from the 15th of September till the 14th of October. This is the artists’ second Solo Show here in Berlin, a city Renata has moved to recently, from Brazil by way of Paris, where she did her Bachelors. During our meeting Renata Har explained how her ideas have changed and transformed through the time spent in the (new) studio and also her many experimentations which help her to formulate her visual vocabulary and informs her future work. Renata is open, direct in her speech and quite informed in her research. Here is what she had to say on a particular day:
Alex: When you think of a new project how do you start, is it with the material or with the concept?
Renata: I think it’s both at the same time, sometimes I can start from a material that I’m seeing a lot, and then I think I start to think why I am using this material. Then the concept starts to appear more clearly, but I think it’s never that clear, I think it is both at the same time and then when I reach the point for the concept I can never get rid of these new ideas that come through the materials I was researching.
Alex: How do you see your work from starting point to end. Do you see a work as being done, or do you constantly go back to your work. In the chronology of your work is there ever an end or is it a continuation:
Renata: No I think it is more a continuation, it’s difficult to say when it starts and when it ends. Sometimes there are things that are hanging on the wall, and then…for instance this T-shirt with the candy cups(one of Renatas’ previous works), I did it in a really spontaneous way, and I left it in my atelier wall, but for me it wasn’t finished, and then because I was seeing this all the time I actually realized that it was finished, because I didn’t have the need to go at it again but it always can come back in another context.
There are some works that are finished and then there are some that I keep on visiting again.
Alex: There is a variety of materials in your work, you were talking earlier about things that are ready-made and so what is your relationship with these objects in your work:
Renata: Yes, this idea that I was telling you, at first when I started creating with the objects, because they can have one name, as an example this is a bottle(picking up an empty bottle lying around), but it can be combined in a different way, and I can maybe just put two together and then it becomes like an hourglass and I like this magic moment, this twisty moment with objects that are so concrete and so ideas of the world and how we learn at school that a glass is a glass, and serves a particular purpose, but why…it can exist in another sense. I really love to give like to give other senses to these objects.
I also think that we live in a society where everything happens really fast and I really don’t have enough patience to be working and painting with oil( we had been talking about Master paintings and the …… prior to the interview). I think it is fair and I really admire that but I am not this kind of person, I really like to do things in an “urgence” mode, I need to see a result…this with that, how it goes and then I like this idea relating to our society
Also budget, how much money you employ in your work, I always try to do the max I can with the minimum that I can, and so I reuse these objects, it is also natural and easier way to work for me.
Alex: So time is a constraint for you, is it because you think that if you spent too much time analyzing your work you would lose your essence or is it simply because you don’t have the patience:
Renata: I don’t know why, it works like this for me…but then I get excited with something, I want to see it happening. I always had this feeling that, if I would be in a war how can I work. How can I still say something or express some ideas…when I am in the atelier, and this idea with the lamps, though I don’t know if I will using(referencing a work in progress), I needed this sort of packaging for the red confettis(refering to a new work Renata was showing me), and I thought of what I could use that could be broken, but not bottles cuz it was too heavy and the glass could fall on us, and that would be dangerous, and I needed a really thin glass and then I thought of this girl I know that can blow glass, and ask her if I could go through with my idea, and then I would have this proper round circle glass, but couldn’t spend much time, so I looked around in the atelier and I saw a broken bulb, and wanted to try it out, and when i was trying it out, I saw that it could work even better, because there are plenty of bulbs that are broken that I can use, and it’s beautiful how these objects can have other senses depending on the context, and then I think that bulbs are quite a strong symbol, and then to throw them on the wall, and then having them brake, I think it just adds another layer on the work, so I let go of the idea of asking the glass blower, this is more the way I like to produce.
Alex: Something that is interesting is this idea that through the destruction of something you create something else, and create, do you think there is an ephemeral feeling to the work you create, do you think about how your pieces will age, or do you just take all of your works after a show and turn them into something else:
Renata: This ephemeral that you were talking about is quite important, and also how to relate it to something. That is also one of the reasons why the works rarely have a title. We were talking about this urgency feeling of trying and then doing….because, in the end, we could be dead tomorrow and I want to achieve and make as much that I can.
So this feeling and at the same time a complete detachment because pieces are just things in the end. I don’t like this sacrilization of the art object. I have some works that have more strength and endurance, like something with wood, and they resist as a piece, and I also have some that you can undo and do again, like a music partition, where you can play in a different way, depending on where you are and what you want it to relate with.
Alex: How do you see your rapport with the public because for some pieces you create is direct public participation and for other ones it is more subtil, do you think it is important to push the public to interact with your pieces or do you think they:
Renata: There is place for both of these ways of experiencing work. There are interactive works that you could also experience as an art object and just look at it without being obliged to interact with it.
Like with the Hourglass it is totally different if you perceive it only by seeing it, and you can also see it through others experience, because others are interacting with it and then you see how it works.
I personally think that the work, if it demands a type of interaction it’s quite important because you feel something also tactile, you have another approach and it motivates people to make a choice, so you are confronted with something that you can decide whether you want to do it or to see it. You have two options, and then your experience is also very different from other peoples’ experience, and his also gives other layers to the work than i could’ve even imagined.
I like to give more strength to this relation in between the spectators, the work of art and the artists. How it happened with Hourglass is that I could be wherever in the space and I knew when someone was looking at my work, because they were making noises, so i like this noise and body interaction with the art piece that is there…if you want to.
Alex: One of the first times I met you, was during the Open Doors at Agora, where you showed your work and you talked about this idea of you taking the physicality of the body out of the pieces but it still being very relevant and palpable in a certain sense…so I feel like you often play with the notion of absence and presence, what does that mean to you, in a more specific sense:
Renata: I think that body is this relation with the materials as well, the materials i am using, this strong image that i have that a body can contain so many things, history and character, and meetings, all of this experience, all of these things that is a being, like you are Alex, you are all of these things, not JUST a body, and how when your body dies, it’s this material as well, how it becomes completely banal. then it is put with all the other bodies and then it is always this circle that becomes mystical, though I don’t like to get into to much, then it starts to grow again.
So for me this body is a material. The title of this show is “It’s a Long Way”, for me life is not short at all, it’s long, but it passes really fast, how you can accumulate all of these experiences, and how at the end the body and the experiences become nothing, how this can be everything and nothing at the same time…and then the elastic band(referring to one of Renata’s work-in-progress), it’s also this idea of stretching it to it’s limit, the physicality is really important to me.
Alex: You also work a lot with time, do you see time, as Past and Future or is there definitely a Present:
Renata: I think there is a Present time, it’s all that we have, but the Present time is always mixed with the past and Future at the same time. They are all together at the time. If you look in a mirror and you see your nose, it can belong to someone in your family that you don’t even know, so the past is always on you even if you don’t realize and then the future as well because we are always acting for the future, to have some expectations and some lust, so this is always related to the future.
Alex: Earlier, you were talking about the Magic of Happiness, do you think it’s important to keep an open-mind and puerile eye in relationship to how you see the world:
Renata: I think it is often associated to childhood, but i wouldn’t say that it is this feeling, it’s about being an adult and totally conscious that you were a kid, still a kid sometimes . Trying to be open in general to perceive and push new doors…like my practice with drawing, also a mix with this use of (pre-fabricated)objects you can see drawing as paper and crayon, but you can see drawing in a photo, you can see….like the one I am showing in the preview, it is related to that, how it can happen without the tools that you normally see, inf you go back to pre-historical ages you could draw with blood on the top of rocks. At the beginning people were really open-minded i guess to do this(we both laugh) and how to be…but I don’t know what you really mean with this…
Alex: Oh sorry, you know how in ART, there is this very mature, arrogant, theoretical way of defining things…:
Renata: Ah yess, this I don’t like that….
Alex:…and so that is more what I meant, I formulated my sentence wrong, but you know how things always have to be defined in a certain way, through appropriate vocabulary and categorizing:
Renata: And this i think that in Europe it is really common, I was studying here, and when I came here at first, I was completely lost because let’s say I was doing a video and showing it to the teacher and all of these questions while you were trying something…and sometimes you don’t have the answers for it all, you are trying to find it inside yourself with constant exercises, but I think that here(Europe), you have a lot of pressure which is good because it makes you conscious of what you want to say and how you can do it better, because you have to know it to adjust your field of hints you are giving through your work, but it’s quite had when you are starting to do because sometimes, you lose, trying to to go for a concept that you think is right and then forgetting things that were more important but they didn’t have the patience to let it come.
In Brazil, it is the opposite, people are just happy to do it, and some things are nice aesthetically but it doesn’t have the Why, The why is the most important question in a work but you have to let it happen
Alex: In your drawings you sometimes use text, that creates an immediate dialogue with the spectator, why is it necessary for you sometimes to use words in your work:
Renata: Because I always liked to write, it is part of my practice, just a text doesn’t fulfill my need so lot’s of times I start a work because of something that I wrote, so in the atelier I always have this mess, and things touching each other, and sometimes i put a text in the middle of that and then there is this magic moment, let’s say you see the materials in my work and then the text and then you see these two together that was really the context I was looking for, so the text is a material as well, they are not always there, but it becomes an input and i really like this language, how we are always communicating through words, but how you can misunderstand and possibilities you can have, like Wittgenstein was saying, and at the same time how you sometimes need other ways to express what you have to say. Our bodies also has so many other expressions, and art is also one of these ways that you can say something and also this text comes with this duality, that it is more precise but it can be a trap.
Also because I don’t like to put titles, and so this idea already brings the title inside a piece.
Alex: When you say that you don’t like to put titles to your pieces, but you still seem to research a lot for the titles of your pieces, what do you mean exactly:
Renata: Oh no, I like to find titles, it’s a good exercise, but when I feel that it is no need for it, for the language, then I don’t come up with them afterwards. At the beginning I was never putting titles, it’s like naming someone, if you don’t have a name then you are not an individual, the same things with the words, then people have to describe the piece somehow, to talk about it and I like this.
Alex: I know that you have a lot of visual vocabularies, but is there one thing that you always want to say or achieve with your work:
Renata: this question other artists have said that and I agree, but you never know it, otherwise you would stop doing I think, while you are doing it is also an attempt to understand what is going on inside of you, what is so urgent and what you want to say really. It goes through different phases. Like now I am exploring more this idea of “It’s a long way”and how it stretches, how i can measure this time of life, what choice do I make, Life and Death and Sex, this is all Art history, I think you can always…I don’t know what I am ALWAYS trying to say but I feel always and I am trying to express this feeling with the works.
Alex: You were talking about how things always turn in a circle, because you were thinking of using a wheel for one of your pieces, so could you just elaborate on this idea of the wheel:
Renata: The wheel, is one of the oldest forms we have as a technological artefact that led us to where we are now. In technology as well, and it’s related to this still-life, so it transforms…in french you say”fenêtre Temporelle” like this temporal window as we were saying about the past, present and future, it’s related, and the wheel has this form, that when you see it, you will project it going away, making it’s own way, you imagine this movement, but it can be still.
Alex: There is often the notion of fragility in comparison with harder, weightier materials in your work, could you talk about this a bit more:
Renata: I think it’s because all the contradiction that we can have in us, how for instance the confetti can have a lot of weight, but at the same time seems weightless, and as i was aying this contradiction of the content and the body, being everything and nothing at the same time, and i think the material is that but I also think in a more conceptual way, for me it’s that I like to play with these limits. Make something light seem more hard, and how harder things can look in a soft way.
Alex: In this case you have been given a space to work with on your own, but also you have been in a situation in which you shared a space, how do you find these opposites:
Renata: I think each one has it’s challenges, it depends on the group, sometimes it can be stressful, depending on the people and the space and constraints, and ego problems for different spaces, but sometimes it can bring new possibilities, and bond with others. Discussion with others is the main difference. How you create this common territory, it’s not about only your work, how you are contributing to this whole. By yourself you feel this responsibility, you are assuming it by yourself, you always have the collaboration of your friends and the curator, which is another way of creating this territory in a way. I get much more introspective, now that I am alone.
Alex: How do you see school within your art practice now, looking back:
Renata: I can’t tell how it would’ve been had I not been there, but I do think it depends on the artist, actually you don’t learn how to create in school at all. Having teachers is funny sometimes, the way that you approach and finding this way of interacting with them. For me it was really important. I had this need and when I started it was more because I had to go to University whether it was for my family or actually for myself. When I arrived in Paris, and saw these possibilities and these ateliers, you suddenly had more ways of materializing what you wanted. When I was in the frame of the University, I could explore with technicians, that would help in translating your ideas with these other materials. Touching and seeing other processes and materials. It was like being in a collective, which is important for the artist because you do create so much by yourself.
I was really lucky because I found these two teachers that gave me a lot of their energy and advice. One of my old teachers told me a joke that I didn’t have to go see a shrink because I was seeing him and it was kind of true, because the conversation went further then Art. The other one, he was a Art History teacher, through him I got to know Buckminster Fuller, who I am really into for this exhibition, because he used to talk about the fundamental failure and how you can deal with it in Art and Life. It helped a lot.
Alex: Have you ever seen failure in your work:
Renata: Uhmmhm, yeah.
Alex: But you have grown from that, it didn’t stop you:
Renata: Yeah, of course nothing is wasted, but there are sometimes where things don’t fit, but to reach this other point you had to pass through this obstacle point.
Alex: For this exhibition you were saying that you were going back to older works to give them another meaning, and make them evolve in your discourse; why is that important:
Renata: This idea was because…now it has been ten years that I have considered myself an artist and acknowledging the fact that I am creating and coming back to this process of university, that is why there are some bad points as well, because sometimes you start something, and someone asks you why and you don’t know, and you doubt, but the work still haunts you. If your work didn’t become something and it is still nothing, than it haunts you and stays inside of you.I wanted to come back to this idea, that failure is not a waste and how I neglected so many projects and ideas because of external factors, it didn’t fit with what I wanted to say at a certain moment or I didn’t have the skills to render at that point. Now it is so much relayed to what I am doing that I needed to incorporate them in what I was doing….
It’s a long way as well, it’s part of the concept as well, I thought it could be pertinent to do that at this point, it’s a long way of creation, even if it’s urgent and it happens fast, the process is really long.
Alex: How do you see light:
Renata: How do I see light?….Sometimes I like it and sometime I don’t like it. I wrote a couple of days ago this idea of how light has this power. When there is no light you can be hiding, and then you can feel protected, because you don’t see anything, you can be hidden and protected but how this can also create problems, how by having the light you feel more protected because you can see. With light everything is there for you to see, so many secrets can be revealed and also push you away from that.
Alex: In a lot of your mind processes you go back to modern thinkers, like Beuys and Fuller, so what is interesting for you there, is it because you are continuing their dialogue or is it because you are inventing a dialogue with them:
Renata: I think both. I don’t think that anything is linear, so also in Art History everything is part of the same whole. I believe there are some families, for example I relate more with expressionism than Renaissance, but yeah I like to bring up this dialogue with them to my practice, since they are not there anymore, how they contributed, and this is what I would wish as well for my work, to leave behind something that people can relate to.
Alex: Do you believe, in general, that it is possible for a work to spruce up from this clean slate in your mind:
I don’t think we create all ourselves, it’s really important to be in the movement of life and to have lot’s of friends around that do different things or these side jobs that don’t relate to art, like I have been a waitress since I have been out of school and I enjoyed this more than working in a Museum. You meet so many different people and you are there to serve them, and I like to have these experiences with others and that is the engine for me to create….and then go back to being on my own.
I was talking with a friend when I was preparing my exhibition at Agora( “The Non Spectacular Please“)before and we were saying that artists are the most selfish and self-centered beings, like now I am saying all of these things that I think about, and then it’s nice to get feedback to get other ideas, and so you need to be really inside yourself, especially now that I have decided to live here and be really isolated, and on the other hand with these other things you can share.
Alex: That is another thing, you seem to be in tune with what is happening around you, it’s not just a closed process:
Renata: I try at least, I really think…it’s like the WHY and other questions as the base for my work, like what does it mean to be here now in 2012. It is good to be around others, to be in tune with the space where I am and not to stay in this self-related work. Gilles Deleuze is another one I like to talk with and he says the when you are artist you don’t write for someone but in the place of someone, you give them a voice which is your own.
Alex: It’s a very fine line between narcissistic sharing and trying to actually reach others:
Renata: Yeah, it’s like I was saying with this letter from my Grandfather(referring to an experiment she had worked on), for me it’s touching, but why and how can it touch other people, with your experience can it be brought to this universal state of mind. It’s a lot of responsibility, and there is lots of things in the world, and I try to do that and I don’t think I manage all the time, if you do 2 really good works in your life that connects people, I would be really happy, really.
Alex: In this situation you are working more closely with the curator so tell us how it is to work with a curator:
Renata: Now the curator is the gallerist and it is Stefania (Angelini). The first exhibition I am having at her Atelier, we had “To Perform an exhibition”(a three day performance Renata was a part of with Agora Collective, during the month of Performance), but it was something else. we thought back then that it could be interesting to know one another and to work together, doing this show. I am really happy because she is really open-minded and we tune in with our points of views and how we both see the work. She relates really fast with the work and she has this ability to organize the ideas and have an extraordinary memory. Let’s say you forget about a work and she brings it up and relates it to what I am doing, to enforce my ideas. It’s like a game and I am Really happy to be playing it with Stefania.
Alex: Okay and now for the last question…What do you eat on Sunday mornings:
Renata: Sometimes nothing(laugh), if i woke up too early i go straight to lunch, and if I am hungover than it’s Coke and cheeseburger, and if I feel homey, I do a brunch…but actually I have no routine…
Alex: Yeah, I am just asking because normally Sundays are leisure time:
Renata: Actually Sunday is often a good day to work, I prefer to take my day off during the week and then on the weekend work, because you have these people in the street and I like to do the opposite actually.
From the 13th till the16th September
PREVIEW ART FAIR BERLIN with Benjamin Laurent Aman, Renata Har, Daniela Huerta, Clemence de La Tour du Pin
It’s a long way, Opening Reception on the 15th of September form 18h-22h, exhibition from the 15th of September till the 14th of October at L’atelier Kunst Spiel Raum
Photography: Ottilie Matters