The urban environments which we inhabit both elucidate and curtail the cultural and political expressions which we as individuals attempt to access and explore in the daily mechanics of living. What shared experiences the individual should encounter in the public sphere, one would think, would be helped along in the constructions of the urban environment. However, more likely than not, the urban public environment in which the individual meets the other of the social world constantly mitigates against the creation of a true public space and the interactions which would unfold obviously in the realm of the public space. For such a public sphere to actually be created and give raise to the meetings of the individual(s), as both private and the public beings, there needs be an opening up of all of the possible spaces within the urban architectural context (and its built systems) which would be a facilitating means of interactions (and possible alternatives to this interactions) between individuals transitioning or inhabiting the public realm. This recreating of the urban environment as the public sphere (and the encounters this entail between individuals of the shared social) requires a robust jettisoning of the rigid and fix of the topography of the urban for the flexibility of the constantly negotiated interpersonal public spaces. This call to reassessment is apparent, and a major motivating factor, in the work of Renata Lucas.
Renata Lucas: Kunst-Werke, 2010 (residency)
Renata Lucas work intervenes, alters, and participates with the public spaces and urban architecture of our milieu in order to illuminate the manipulations and determinations which the constructions of our common urban spaces foist upon us and our consciousness. As redhat notes, in a concise explanation of Lucas work and material means, Using basic building materials (plywood, bricks, concrete), Renata Lucas manipulates urban spaces and architecture to intensify the tension between inside and outside, public and private, past and present. Lucas’ practice is a critical interpretation of how our built environment determines actions, behavior and social relationships, and by extension, society’s dependency on the preservation of prescribed definitions of space, property and order. In her work, Lucas imagines a space where these barriers break down, where the possibility of deconstructing these boundaries–through even as simple a symbolic gesture as tearing down a wall–might result in a different social dynamic. By offering an alternative spatial imagination, one that brings into consideration malleability, manipulation and play, Lucas provokes the possibility of new subjective and collective engagement within our built environment.
Brief Backgrounds: Born in 1971 in Ribeirco Preto, Brazil Lucas has received her BFA and MFA at the Universidade Estadual de Campinas. She now lives and works in São Paulo.
Along with a impressive number of solo and group shows, Renata Lucas was a participant in the 27th Bienal de Sco Paulo (2006) and the following year saw her exhibiting at the Tate Modern, London (2007). Her work exhibited at the São Paulo Biennial, was titled “Quick Mathematics”,
and exemplifies her concerns and directions in her work. For the piece Lucas reinstalled an entire city block by placing all of the elements of the street “on top of the existing elements” already there. Sidewalk covered sidewalk, Street pavement covered Street pavement, curb and streetlights were placed on the surface of the existing elements of this space. This covering and overlay confronted the onlooker to contemplate and consider the arrangements and placements that go into the construction of our public arenas. Motion, hindrances, accidents and assemblages of infrastructure are re-illuminated by the simple gesture of redoing and reinvesting the concrete activity and presence of the street. The simple and direct retelling of the urban environment, the simple act of a doubling, creates the pressured necessity of individual reassessment of the social and political presence urban street as architecture and ideology.
Thinking of Lucas’s concerns with the local expressions of public space and individual circulations in these locales, Lynn Zelevansky’s catalogue essay on the pieces talks about Luca’s fascination with the “makeshift nature of Brazilian construction, the way buildings are adapted and then readapted until they no longer have a functional logic. The narrow slice of street in Quick Mathematics brought to consciousness the process by which São Paulo’s built environment has evolved, and the cafe that was integrated into it revealed the manner in which Brazilians themselves adapt, making the best of the situation.”
Laying out this concern with local, and specific architectural spaces, is the attempt by Lucas to galvanize and activate all of the myriad possibilities which the individual may gather in order to become emancipated interlopers of the public urban environment. The Atlas exhibition is case study in just this procedure of reassessment, and reactivation of the space and, the individuals occupying it. As the piece is described by Lisette Lagnado, “Visitors to her ATLAS installation at Galeria Millan Antonio, São Paulo, in 2006 could walk or drive past the gallery several times and seemingly find ‘no there there’. But there was a lot there, as it happened: the interior of the gallery had been opened up, as though turned inside out and made to submit itself to its immediate surroundings – the panel beaters across the street had been replicated, for example, and the gallery’s main exhibition space turned into an extension of its car park and garage. The wall marking the boundary between the gallery and its next-door neighbour’s garden was demolished, and the gallery effectively giving away a portion of its property, with the dwelling’s outer fence penetrating and splitting the gallery from one end to the other. In the process, once quasi-public space became private; who exactly ‘owned’ what was hard to establish.”
A presentation of Renata Lucas and her work in the Ladonia Biennial 2009
How to reinvest a urban space which gives token architectural gestures in the direction of the public but manifestly inhibits the creation of a real public sphere is the nexus of Lucas’s practice and informs the variants of her production. The Public sphere, the awareness of the urban in all of its contexts, and the multiple possibilities for activity and expression in the spaces we create and live within are the concerns which motivate Renata Lucas work.
Interview and works of Renata Lucas, (finalist artist for the Investidor Profissional Art Award 2010 – PIPA 2010)
Update I: Note that one mistaken picture for the Piece titled Quick Mathematics has been removed. Sincere apologies for the mistake! Note Lucas’ comments in the comment section for information.