Ícaro Lira

Frente de Trabalho

A proponent of collaborative practices and actions across networks, the Brazilian artist discusses his notion of work stemming from places and groups on the margins of public policy.

The example of the hashtag to introduce the Frente de Trabalho exhibition is not at all by chance, taking into account Ícaro Lira’s artistic performance, which is almost always developed from collaborative practices and action across networks. Limiting analysis to the object materialized in the exhibition space, or to the very concept of a solo show, seems inadequate in view of a body of work whose process matters more than the final result, particularly shortly after the completion of a project like “Museu do Estrangeiro” (“Foreigners Museum”), at the recent 20th Sesc_Videobrasil Festival, in which he decided to forgo production as author of the works exhibited there, instead taking on the role of interlocutor and legitimating a group of immigrant artists, excluded from that institutional space by so many layers.

Although this show does not present works signed by other artists, the idea of ​​a work-in-process is clear in the installation, which transforms the gallery space into a “production site”, as Gabriel Bogossian described it in the curatorial text. Pieces of plywood used on construction sites are brought in to make up one of the axes, while objects and images collected from within their movements give indications of their various possible actions in exchange for subsistence – from fish nets to piano movers. The notion of a living archive, another proposal inserted in Lira’s research, also takes on strength in the small library mounted on another axis, mixing the artist’s publications with reference books, some of them indicating the origin of other works present there.

Among the various readings on the idea of work suggested here, there is room for interference in the view of how this activity is treated on the art circuit. One subtle example appears in a dismantled milk carton, where in Italian it reads “prodotto non commerciabile” – an item collected from donations for the disadvantaged. The text on the box brings some noise to the object no longer marketed in its original function, as the message alerts, but now as an art object.

If some of these works may sometimes appear disconnected from Lira’s practice when viewed in isolation, two videos play a fundamental role in contextualizing it more broadly, particularly FILME FRENTE (“FRONT FILM”), created with Isadora Brant and Fernanda Taddei. The work presents a sensitive portrait of squatters at the Hotel Cambridge, in downtown São Paulo, where Lira was one of the participants of the Cambridge Artist Residency in 2016. In documentary format, the characters appear in videotapes shot in frontal view, facing or looking away from the camera, almost always in silence. Pauses are broken by subtle gestures or very private comments about each one’s identity – such as the Paraguayan woman who speaks a few words in Guarani to her daughter, claiming that this is her official language.


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The theme of the work also appears in the words spoken by two residents who talk about their activities almost as something essential. One of them presents himself by saying “I work as a carpenter from Monday to Saturday”. Another says he is responsible for maintaining the building and providing services to the city government “from seven to four in the afternoon”. In the midst of this quasi-etymological series from this practice assembled by Lira, the two statements give a precise account of the temporal dimension of the work and micro-entities that form and dissolve at the punch of the time clock.

Nathalia Lavigne is a journalist, curator and researcher, with a Master’s in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies from Birkbeck, University of London. She is a PhD student at the College of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of São Paulo. She is a member of the Aesthetics of Memory in the 21st Century research group and is working on a project on digital collecting and images of works of art on Instagram.

Translated from Portuguese by Zoë Perry.