The work of Pedro Barateiro (born in 1979 in Almada, Portugal, lives and works in Lisbon) offers a vision about the current state of western culture in times of advanced capitalism. It focuses namely on the way economical structures are both shaping and shaped in return by our daily lives, our behaviors, our vocabulary and our imagination. Starting with images drawn from popular culture, historical facts, literary or theoretical texts, or even objects found in diverse contexts and reused in his films, performances, pictures and installations, the artist’s work suggests a critical approach to the neocolonial narratives and the effects of globalization. In this interview, the artist speaks about his latest exhibition Dancing in the Studio showcased at Néon, Lyon, from February 10th to April 15th 2017.
Yoann Gourmel: To give it a start, can you expand on the title of the exhibition at Néon?
Pedro Barateiro: Dancing in the Studio is the title of a work from 2015, that I later used as part of a group of 7 panels/ photographs titled Dancing in the Studio (Protest), presented in the exhibition I did in 2016 with the writer and poet Quinn Latimer at the REDCAT in Los Angeles. The images used in this work were made a few years ago when I had my studio in Avenida da Liberdade in Lisbon. In the studio I had some large pieces of black linoleum covering one of the room’s floors and one day, without thinking too much about it, I started painting the linoleum with white acrylic paint. After covering the entire surface, some 4 by 5 meters, I felt the urge to step on it, and started making some disconcerted dance moves over the painted surface. It lasted for just a couple of minutes but it was very intense. I was a bit dizzy. My sneakers were covered in paint. I stepped out of it and looked at it while the paint was drying. Then I took my phone and did some photographs of the whole thing and a few details. The 7 photographs of details are now the group of images used in these works. They record an action made around November 2013. Around this time in Lisbon, demonstrations against austerity were frequent, and some of them would pass by Avenida da Liberdade.
YG: This work underlines the relationship between an individual body making an action in a private space (painting / dancing in the studio) and a political body, a collective action taking place in the public space (the demonstrations in the street). How did it dialogue with the other works presented in the exhibition?
PB: It occupied the central space of the exhibition because of its dimensions, but it was on purpose. The relation with the windows was important to underline. The idea was to use a large work in a rather small space so it would feel that we were really testing the physical limits of the space. Dancing in the Studio (Protest) is about that need of moving within a defined space and the necessity of going beyond that. The prints really contrasted with the floor and at the same time the wood felt like a dance or a rehearsal studio. The idea of relating the practice of an individual body and its relation to the collective, or to a group, was important to underline in this work and in the exhibition. It was present in other works like Prova de Resistência (Endurance Test), (2012), but also on a new work titled Relaxed Systems (2017), which is one of the first pieces of a new group of works where I use cut-out letters painted on canvas and hanged on different objects or other metal structures. In this case I used a metal coat hanger that I found at Néon.
YG: How does this new body of works address this relationship between individual and collective body?
PB: The decision on which word to use in these new works is very complicated. I've used words like Data, Systems, Economy, Algorithm that represent some sort of immaterial structures that are part of our daily lives. I mean that these words represent something structural and invisible that we're forced to adjust. These works also reflect the growing importance of words in our communicational systems, i.e. the way capital and big corporations profit from our online exchanges. I always think about the life and work of Aaron Swartz and his fight for free access to information on internet. I've been inspired by his work and the way he thinks about the production of knowledge today.
Pedro Barateiro - Dancing in the Studio 10.02 › 15.04.17 Néon, Lyon