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Lia Menna Barreto

Diario de una Muñeca by Lia       Menna Barreto

interview transcript

Date of Interview: Jul 26, 2004
Location: Brazil
Topic: Interview with Lia Menna Barreto
Interviewer: Virginia Gil Araujo

LatinArt:  Recently, during the Mercosur (Southern Common Market) Biennale, your artistic proposal was a factory in full operation. In this, your latest work, the "Factory", we still find allegoric appropriations and assembly procedures that have been present throughout your career. Could you comment on the importance of these procedures?

Lia Menna Barreto:  The assembly procedure, using a clothing iron for casting, appears within the "Factory" system as one of the features which make up the work. "Factory" is a plastic rug production system developed along a period of time. In this case, it was adapted to last 2 months, the time during which the 4th Mercosur Biennale would take place. It can last more or less time, since it can adapt to time and space. The use of a clothing iron to transform the plastic objects came up as a home-made solution for an urgent need –I wanted to remove a doll from its usual shape, from its condition of being a serial and commercial object, and actually mold it. This procedure, using the iron for casting, started in 1993.

LatinArt:  The work entitled "Journal of a Doll", made in 2000, already demonstrated your concern for establishing a systematic strategy of production rhythms and continuities. May we regard it as a "before and after" in the context of other works, as it shows another way for your artistic process?

Lia Menna Barreto:  "Journal of a Doll" – the discipline of repeating the same action over and over, along a period of time, at first non determined, made me reach the conclusion that I was building a body whose permanence depended on my actions and whose products -in this case, dolls- could be remade or taken up again at another time when I next reassembled the work. This could take one week or even years. In this case, reassembling the work means taking up the movement again with discipline, with myself, Lia, transforming the work once again. I adopted discipline in order to follow a determined track and give life to the work. The outcome of this work, several hundred dolls forming a great body, displayed this line of thinking.

LatinArt:  What is the difference between your creative process and the "Factory" work? In other words, to what extent is the "Factory’s" operation the outcome of your process?

Lia Menna Barreto:  In the "Factory" I created a system for producing rugs. And this whole operating system is the result of time devoted to experimenting. "Factory" is a finished work, and as such, it may be reassembled any number of times.

LatinArt:  Although you have developed a systematic strategy for your artistic production, chance seems to be a predominant feature in the way you make art. Chance as a poetic feature is very much evident in the work "Embroidering Machine". Could you explain how this operates, especially in this piece?

Lia Menna Barreto:  Chance is the starting point, a discovery, the moment of attention. In the case of "Embroiding Machine", several "cases of chance" assist the system’s composition. I started by revisiting the experience with a work called "corn on wet cotton" I carried out at school. I revisit the experience I had lived within the study, I take care of the corn after the sprouts are dead, I am very interested in the tracks left by the roots in the cotton, and and as a result of that work with cotton and seeds, sprouts become a part of my work. In other instance, my friend artist Elaine Tedesco, with whom I worked when I was doing this piece, was working with beds and gave me one of her wooden frames because I needed a base where to place the enormous plates for planting. It was incorprated in my work. Another case of chance was when I went to a fabric shop looking for a suitable fabric to replace the cotton, and found a bale of cotton for sale, which helped me imagine that the work would "march", so as to be the consequence of its continuous happening. The embroidery could be remade as the days went by.

LatinArt:  "Embroiding Machine" and "Factory" as well, seem to break the concept of authorship. Do you agree with the idea that once they have been set up in the exhibition space, capable of operating as continuous happenings, these works become autonomous, they become less about your authorship?

Lia Menna Barreto:  These ideas have an author, these systems were created by an artist. These systems are not unique pieces, they are "unique ideas" which may be re-assembled and revived when necessary. In order to exist, they need to occupy a specific time. Both "Embroidering Machine" and "Factory" allow for the same systems to be shown in different places at the same time. The embroideries produced by the Embroidering Machine, the rugs produced by the "Factory" and the dolls created by "Journal of a Doll", show the time and space the system has covered. They are the outcome, the mark of a journey.

LatinArt:  Do you believe that the art market understands and absorbs your work from the very beginning of the creative process, that it is interested in its level of intricacy?

Lia Menna Barreto:  No, the market is interested in selling unique pieces, therefore, it ends up selling fragments of a great body, but not the whole work.

LatinArt:  Is the experience of attraction and repulsion carried in the way people perceive your works, owing to the mood caused by non-designed products and, at the same time, by the fabricated copies or simulacrums– mice, frogs, snakes and lizards- a part of what concerns your creation process?

Lia Menna Barreto:  I don’t choose my copies for their meaning, I think that what is important is that they are good copies. The malleability of the materials, for example, is considered at the time of choosing, since it makes work easier. I have already worked with fake flowers, fruits, children, etc. The choice of materials adapts to space and time. It happens that the factory which produces and supplied these animals specializes in disgusting animals; but personally I don’t consider them so. Strangely, copies manufactured in Brazil are very like the real thing, in size and color, the lizard, the toad and the mouse are all very life-like and they were all made in Brazil; this does not happen with Chinese products which are quite fantastic, they change colors and original shapes and are not very malleable.

LatinArt:  In your opinion, how important is the artists’ relationship with art institutions in Brazil?

Lia Menna Barreto:  Often institutions want a show, the artist’s attendance, and in many of those cases, the work suffers pressures since it needs to be expanded/ reduced or removed from its original idea, in order to be useful for the institution.

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