A central axis in the work by Daniel de Paula (1987, Boston, USA) is the constant process of rereading and nearly physical confrontation with the references and models that inspire him, and mainly with the artists linked to the practices of minimalism, conceptual art and land art of the 1960s and 1970s. One of the first mature works by Daniel de Paula – untitled [to Charlotte Posenenske], 2014 – for example, consisted in translating and making available to the public the manifest published by Charlotte Posenenske in 1968 on Art International VII/5. In this manifest, made shortly before she stopped producing art for good, the German artist stated: “It is difficult for me to come to terms with the fact that art can contribute nothing to solving urgent social problems”. De Paula also questions himself deeply about the effective social and political function of art, and the homage to such a radical and crucial character in this discussion is certainly meaningful.
Another nerve center of his practice is the negotiation between the historical references and the demands and particularities of an oeuvre extremely focused on the current moment, especially when we consider that negotiation (with academic, political, social, industrial or bureaucratic spheres, depending on the context and specificities of each project) is key to the realization of his work, to the point of often being included by the artist in the description of the work, among the elements that went into it. testemunho [witness/core sample] (2015) is one of the works by de Paula in which these questions are posed most clearly and directly. The rigorous and precise arrangement of the core samples (obtained by drilling the earth to various depths to catalogue the types of subsoil, in order to plan construction foundations) might recall some installations by Walter de Maria, such as Broken Kilometer (1979), but the origin of the core samples reveals political implications far removed from the closed and tautological poetics of the American minimalists. The large construction firms that gave the core samples to the artist (after the mandatory time for holding them had expired) are the same ones who, in recent years, were extensively cited in the large corruption schemes that have rocked Brazil. The core samples that the artist presents to us, in this sense, are both artistic objects as well as incisive proofs, irrefutable witnesses to the perverse operation of the destruction of the national territory and to the failed utopian promise of a more just and democratic country.
In 2018, Daniel de Paula, Marissa Lee Benedict and David Rueter managed to rescue, from the Chicago Board of Trade, a “trading pit” that had been used through decades for the negotiation of grains. The device would be discarded as part of a definitive shift to digital transactions. The resulting work, Deposição [Deposition] (2020), presented for the first time at the 34th Bienal de São Paulo, is at the same time a kind of anti-monument and a platform for public encounters of different natures, which were conceived with the purpose of emphasizing the meeting and confrontation atmosphere prompted by the structure itself. The artists plan for the "pit" a series of public appearances in cultural institutions along the next years, with the aim of promoting discussions beaconed by the different political, social, artistic and philosophical views that the object can symbolize.
Support: Graham Foundation for the Advanced Studies in Fine Arts, Resource Center (Chicago, IL) and University of Oregon
Caroline A. Jones, Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).
Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).