In a recession-ridden world, we asked ourselves what kind of exhibition, or rather – what kind of provocation – would be in place to usher us into better times. As the financial system collapsed, we are plunged into uncertainty of what is to come. In Brazilian culture, when the going gets tough, one turns into divine help to see way ahead. In most religions, offerings act like promises and are made of objects which carry a communicative value between the believer and his/her god and acting as energy points between the visible world (what we call reality) and the world of the spirits. This prompted us to ask ourselves about the symbolic value of artistic production today. We are not quite sure if art today still has a ritualistic purpose in establishing this connection. This exhibition is an attempt to reintroduce belief and faith, in whatever form, in whatever way, into the practice of art-making.
The exhibition consisted of a year-long blog between the art collective members and culminated into an exhibition of 13 artists, a symbolic number, in the 12th month of 2009. See the blog here.
We all need different kinds of ways to activate or to preserve memory. We hear echoes of the past in old buildings, family albums, love letters, objects that fell into disuse, smells, sounds and recurrent dreams. We must also establish a link with the spirits, a link between the living and the dead, opening a present within the past and finding comfort in a mirage of the future.
And thus was born the “despacho”, a ritual offering that provides a structured opportunity for the invisible soul of the dead (or of those gods hovering over us) to return to their place of origin – to go home – taking symbolic objects as trap for their return to our realm. This symbolic communication strengthens the ties of affection, it restores the soul, provides a moral grounding and agency with those entities that give us a sort of identity in return. An offering is, like the word says, a gift. Ironically, in our bureaucratic culture, “despacho” is reminiscent of “dispatch” which also means “bringing” (the paperwork), “sending forth” (the law) or rejecting (as in lovers).
And yet objects, even symbolic ones, are only objects. If we consider art as a collection of inert objects, living on their pedestals or cloistered in their frames, they are not always designed to establish such an esoteric link. One speaks of “interaction” with the viewer, but we still remain stunned while standing in front of mere artifacts. When devoid of function, art remains in a vacuum in which we no longer know why we create these objects and what is their purpose. Maybe art is just pure entertainment.
DOC collective proposes the exhibition “Despacho”, and commissioned thirteen artists invited to meditate on this issue and to enter a dialogue with the gods they serve and to make their objects more than just ‘things.’ The number 13 is also the symbolic: one artist for each month of the year, and a thirteenth in honor of EXU, the mercurial entity in Afro-Brazilian religions, the dispatcher between the spheres of gods and mortals.
All artists were offered a white screen as a starting point for their piece, following the traditional ritual of in Brazilian cult offerings. They acted as a springboard for initiating a dialogue with a je ne sais quoi, seeking to identify which gods we would liek to talk to, if any, and ask them: where are we going? what are we giving? what are we promising? what are we receiving? who are we speaking to? and to say what?