Stories of a Mute-servant

A mute-servant (literally translated) is today in Brazil the name for an object of everyday use, a piece among many other pieces of the bedroom furniture. However, the word mute-servant itself, is perfectly trivialized by the language without causing any kind of strangeness in its users, and it clearly shows an heritage of a time when certain places and tasks were placed by a man’s body, forcibly inert and silent, spectator and witness of all the stories which happened just in front of him. Stories which were nullified by the muteness of a silenced but singular and valid point of view. This is the weight of the mistery, of culture and of history, and this is the very starting point of the current exhibition.

In one hand, Nicolás Robbio (1975, Argentina) forces us to establish a critical relationship with this shared memory (as a reality that is far from us, that doesn’t belong to us because we are not able to get the plenitude of its context and of its own truth). The shared memory is right inside the word that we use, but we just don’t notice that. And in the other hand, he puts us against some leftover objects and situations which distort and contaminate the success of a great readding of something. Namely making use of some facts from the brazilian contemporary political situation, as the media case of the Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment, that we see on the video installation.  The video shows the ones who should be the representatives of the people, the ones who should talk in their name. But instead of that, there they appear with a great distance, imposed by the tv mediation of the event, and also by the complex and encoded speeches, underlined by the specificities of the installation, the decisions of the artist. This brazilian politic power was displaced to Brasília in the modern period, which is a distant city with a controlled access, a kind of an invented city, almost imaginary, perfectly designed to a symbol of modernity and avant-garde, prepared to receive a government more and more distant from its people, either physically or symbolically. The place which should give the voice to the people has actually become an unreachable place around which high walls were erected.

Made in bricks quite similar to the bazilian modern cobogó, the wall points to the utopia of that time, and also to that nonexistent communication between one side and the other.  There is an empty face on the wall, contrasting to the other, that is full of life, full of everyday objects and some details and vestiges chosen by the artist in orther to create that sensation of human presence. They just corrupt and invade the aesthetic utopia and the formalism of the modern time. They are the history of those who look through the wall. And then, again, the memory. The weigth of the history and the idea of an eminente repetition. The set of the (human) amputations is presented by an almost religious installation, it is almost sacralizing each part of the body, quite similar as what we do with some historical objects, objects inside the colletive memory, in the shared memory of the people; just like the mute-servant which was held in the language and which activates by its use – in a conceptual sense – this history of slavery, which relates an everyday object to an human being.

Almost all the works of the exhibition are recognizable objects, linked to a certain collective memory. Although there is one, placed in the center of the room that doesn’t have the same recognition level then the others. It is a triangle and a mount of lemons arbitrarily distributed. There are two main reasons for that work: first of all, because of the memory of the triangle, a memory of a rigorous order which is inside our collective memory and where it is a symbol of equilibrium; and then because of the lemons, as codes of natural spontaneity, of the chance, of the natural accidents, of the contamination of life. AIl the exhibition is linked to the idea of a past which is presented in the presente almost as an misconception, not only because of the ignorance in our using of the language, but also because it’s evident that certain situations and certain subjects keep veild from us and only allow a controlated, limited and un incomplete reading of them. So this last artwork is like a synthesis of all this.


Maria Joana Vilela

  • Nicolás Robbio