In 2014, a group made up of Alexandre Canonico, Bruno Dunley, Isabel Diegues, Luis Barbieri, Marina Rheingantz, Mauro Restiffe and Paloma Bosquê began to plan an immersion trip. Led by the desire to embark on an observation expedition to Brazil’s hinterland, they chose the state of Piauí as a destination, as none of them had ever been there. The rock paintings and the peculiar geography of this remote region were key factors in their decision. The mountain ranges of Capivara and Confusões, classified by UNESCO as World Heritage sites, hold the greatest number of rock paintings in the world, scattered over 600 archaeological sites.
As well as the prehistoric paintings, the idea of a road trip across the Backlands of Piauí seduced the group so in June 2015 they ventured on a 12-day journey starting inland and ending at the immense Parnaíba Delta on the Atlantic coast.
They relied on the experience of local guides to navigate the territory, visit the rock formations and learn about the history of this distant region of Brazil. Travelling together through such rugged terrain was an intense experience. For the artists the highlights were the silence of the barren lands, sky gazing, the intensity of the caatinga vegetation, the immense light, the vastness of the planes, the diversity of rock formations, the dry and arid landscape which was once fed by numerous rivers, and the sense of extended time evidenced by the prehistoric rock paintings.
In a state of suspension, the artists experienced hands-on the tension between nature and culture in a context and geography totally distinct from their everyday reality. The ramifications and impressions of the experience are shared with the public in this exhibition, in which each artist conveys, in their own way, the vestiges of this journey on their personal practices. Some of the works were made during the trip, using materials found on the journey, others were made back in their work environments, and the experience, both of crossing the Brazilian hinterlands and researching the rock paintings, takes different paths through photography, sculpture, drawing, painting and audio.
Projeto Piauí is not presented as a conclusion, since the road trip did not aspire to be a final objective. The impressions brought home are the result of the de-automation of each traveller’s gaze, and the works exhibited derive from their willingness to be open to the experience, much more than a discursive pretension. In this sense, the exhibition shares with the visitor this exercise in living together, displacement and contemplation, not only during the journey, or its preparation, but also in the conception and installation of the public presentation of the process.
About the artists
Alexandre Canonico (b. 1974, Pirassununga, Brazil) lives and works in London. Recent exhibitions include Galeria Marilia Razuk (Brazil), Drawing Room (UK) and St Moritz Art Masters (Switzerland).
Bruno Dunley (b. 1984, Petrópolis, Brazil) lives and works in São Paulo. Recent exhibitions include Centro Universitário Maria Antonia (Brazil), 11 Bis (France) and Instituto Tomie Ohtake, (Brazil).
Isabel Diegues (b.1970, Paris, France) lives and works in Rio de Janeiro. She’s the editorial director at Cobogó where she organized publications such as “Adriana Varejão – entre carnes e mares” (2010), “Pintura Brasileira Séc. XX” (2011) and “Fotografia na Arte Brasileira Séc. XX” (2013).
Luis Barbieri (b. 1981, Araraquara, Brazil) lives and works in São Paulo. He’s a grain trader, practices drawing and for the first time participates in an exhibition.
Marina Rheingantz (b. 1983, Araraquara, Brazil) lives and works in São Paulo. Recent exhibitions include Kunsthal Kade (Netherlands), The Museum of Fine Arts (Japan) and Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo (Brazil).
Mauro Restiffe (b. 1970, São José do Rio Pardo, Brazil) lives and works in São Paulo. Recent exhibitions include K10, Kunzarchive & Projects (Switzerland), Inhotim (Brazil) and Garage Museum of Contemporary Art (Russia).
Paloma Bosquê (b. 1982, Garça, Brazil) lives and works in São Paulo. Recent exhibitions include The Modern Institute (UK), Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit – MOCAD, (USA) and Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil Rio de Janeiro (Brazil).