In Conversation with Froiid

“I’m Not Concerned With Defending a Conclusion”

Deviating from the artistic trajectories guided by predetermined social concerns, Brazilian artist Froiid gets carried away by the wiles of the game, which he takes as a starting point to create his oeuvre.

C&AL: In your work “Grande Jogo” (Big Game), produced with the group MAPA:/ in the context of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, how was this “magic circle” articulated?

Froiid: We organized a soccer game and put up a field in Belo Horizonte, in an area where there had already been squatters occupying the land with a very powerful story – a dispute still ongoing today between the real estate market (an aesthetically futuristic shopping mall) and social movements. The field was put up following the proposal of the Danish situationist Asger Jorn, who created Three-Sided Soccer, where not two, but three teams compete against one another on a field that is hexagon-shaped, and with no referee, who looks, to him, like a representation of media and State bias in class struggle. The game was played in a way that the teams had to negotiate the rules amongst themselves, without any external interference. So, I thought that we could make a World Cup with Asger Jorn’s field and all the political relationships at play while the Cup was going on, that would reflect the history of those architectures. The game (you can see it in real time in the video recording) did not have a set duration; it ended when the players were exhausted.

C&AL: In the exhibit “Onde a coruja dorme” (Where the Owl Sleeps, 2019), you take mini table game (representing a soccer field, generally mounted on wooden trays shorter than a meter in length, where participants use their fingers to push a piece around until it reaches the goal of the opposing team). How do the fields here act as metaphors for relationships?

Froiid: Around the same time that we were thinking about The Big Game (2014), I was teaching in São Tomé and Príncipe, and I built some mini table games with the children. When I came back to Brazil, together with MAPA:/, we used this game as a basis, but we proposed deconstructing the models of traditional soccer: we took out or added graphics, developed other shapes for the field that made other ways of playing possible, with the participants creating the rules. We even offered some rules, but very vague – “play this way, win this way” – but the truth is there is no way to win, because that’s not the point. The idea is to construct another kind of language, something that makes you lose control of the game. What control is this that it seems people have, control over what? The mini table game is this. We put the game inside the gallery and gave guidance, but you play how you want. To conclude this project, we made the exhibition Where the Owl Sleeps, with the title refering to popular culture, which in Brazil points to that deadlock where the goalkeeper isn’t able to grasp the ball.

C&AL: “Time for the Jaguar to Drink Water,” your work currently on exhibit in Belo Horizonte, refers to a decisive, dangerous moment. Here, there is a reference to a very popular and recognizable aesthetic, which is the neighborhood bar, but also integrating elements of estrangement, like the actual size of the table and the incessant noise of the balls. Could you talk about this?

Froiid: The work that was built for this exhibition consists of a pooltable that is 13.3 meters long, with 14 pockets and 30 balls. Each time one of the balls is pocketed, the sound is amplified through microphones and speakers. Besides this, there are two videos presented, which consist of the recording of the work being put up by employees of the Palácio das Artes, where the exhibit is being held: three maintenance workers play a game of pool, until there are no more balls on the table, which lasts for an hour and a half. The walls of the gallery were painted red and green, a reference to the paint used for businesses and neighborhood bars, and which also serves the function of preserving the walls from the frequent client activity, putting their feet on them, dirtying their surface.

Bringing this functionality to the white cube – to the space of the gallery – is also interesting. Finally, chalkboards are hung on the walls, so that the players can put up their scores. The pool table is part of the imaginary of any Brazilian: in the slums, a small old rickety table, marked up, with a torn tablecloth; but it’s a game you see just as often in a neighborhood bar as in a megaprofessional context, with A-class international tournaments. This estrangement, between an aesthetic and familiar experience – the table, the paint, the sound of the ball falling in the pocket – and an amplication and dislocation of these elements is exactly what interests me.

C&AL: And these other world possibilities interest you more as imaginative rather than critical exercises?

Froiid: Yes, it’s not a work with an agenda. When I talk about losing control, it’s also about this: when your work has an agenda, you direct it to arrive at that point. And I don’t work like that: I throw it out there to a universe of possibilities, I’m not concerned with defending a conclusion. Although these questions also, obviously, do pass through my production because I work with games that speak about my relationship with the world – which is also political and emerges from a certain perspective that I have and from the possibilities at my disposal.


Lorena Vicini is a researcher and cultural manager. Currently, she is the Communications Director at the Inhotim Institute (Brazil), a doctoral candidate at The Kunsthochschule Kassel and a researcher in documenta studies. She coordinated the project “Episódios do Sul” (Episodes of the South) and the international conference “Ecos do Atlântico Sul” (Echos from the South Atlantic) at the Goethe-Institut São Paulo.

Translation: Sara Hanaburgh