Artist: Caroline Mesquita
Venue: PIVÔ, São Paulo
Exhibition Title: In Vivo
Date: October 22 – December 19, 2020
Full gallery of images, press release and link available after the jump.
Images courtesy of the artist and PIVÔ, São Paulo. Photos by Everton Ballardin.
Caroline Mesquita (born in Brittany, France) has been developing a multimedia practice, mixing large-scale sculptures and installations with video and sound, since finishing her studies at the Ecole Nationale de Beaux-Arts in Paris. Pool tables, motorcycles, engines and drums form her first sculptures, which she manufactured herself by roughly handling heavy metals and ornamenting surfaces with different patterns and shades of oxidation. In 2015, she began to roll brass plates into playful spirals that mimic life-size human figures. The rolled metal resembles the elegant skirt of a lady, a hat or an arm angrily raised. After 123 Soleil (2015) ―a large arrangement with almost twelve figures―was presented at an art fair in Berlin, her gallery decided to store the figures in smaller groups. Mesquita was intrigued by the narratives that emanated from the intimate groups of two or three characters, in comparison with the monumentality of the whole group.
This was when she had the idea to animate her sculptures through film by using stop-motion, a technique both simple and powerfully expressive. In one of her first videos, Pink Everywhere (2016) she is the protagonist; the creator “possessed” by her creation. Later, she incorporated other actors, who often played several characters at once, suggesting “the versatility of identity and fate”, she explains. The fictional backgrounds are always conjured by mysterious catastrophes that send their human protagonists to sleep or die: an enchanted house (The Visitors, 2017), a machine room on fire (The Machine Room, 2018), and a plane crash (The Ballad, 2017). The sculptures eagerly seek interaction with the characters’ unconscious flesh, healing wounds or inversely causing stains of red paint that mark their silent juvenile faces. The pleasure of cheap special effects that achieve the maximum level of spectacle. Suddenly, the stories become pretexts for building ever more complex sculptural environments―or, in fact, precisely the contrary: the growing pleasure of building ever more complex “objects” inspires Mesquita to create increasingly surrealist tales. The stop-motion gives the films a Melièsque touch, but they are also inspired by 1970s’ Polish avant-garde cartoons, among other sources of inspiration.
In order to test the scale and overall structure of her installations, Mesquita began to make life-size paper and cardboard models in her studio. At the same time, building her spiral characters led her to further investigate the real structure of the human body, in particular the bones. These reflections culminated in Astray (2018-19), a two-year-long project that narrates the rebirth of forgotten bones discovered in the gallery, which are brought to life through the simple gesture of being watered. Here, human performers are awake and alive; their interactions with a series of cardboard animals are playful and vigorous.
With In Vivo, the video installation presented at Pivô in her first exhibition in Brazil, Mesquita expands on the manipulation of cardboard and paper, materials which differ from metal for their rougher aspect and the way they leave more room for the fragile and the ephemeral. In this oneiric exploration of the inside of the body, once again micro-dramas flirt with the burlesque, as human body parts and DIY worlds dissolve into one another. Humans are no longer lifeless, nor do they simply coexist with the sculptures. Instead―as suggested by the first scene where a surgeon’s hands, painted in white, dive greedily in the entrails of the butchered patient who lends their belly to the artist’s experiment―humans are finally ready to merge with the sculptural. Throughout the film, body parts play peek-a-boo with reconstructed cells, viruses, platelets and gametes, confusing our perception of scale, texture and function. Snuggled inside the cell-like structures and nestled in the Copan building like bacteria in the guts of a giant body, viewers are immersed in the loud sound that replicates what happens in the silence of their own organisms. Here, Caroline Mesquita’s intention is to make us aware of the details, geometries, sounds, and pulsations that irrigate the living. During the production phase, she was marvelled at the idea that she was “sculpting herself inside out”. Thinking of art as a way to sensitively connect with our environment, In Vivo proposes a kind of meditation on our human condition, affirming the need to understand the world through the mutual organic processes that make up our shared realities.