The artist is using the institute’s collective studio to produce works for the new set-up of the Gene Flow exhibition, which will tour Europe this year
This year, the exhibition Gene Flow, by Italian-Brazilian artist Lucio Salvatore, will tour Europe. Launched in June 2022 at the Museum of the Environment, in the Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro, the individual show, co-organized by Instituto Inclusartiz, will be presented throughout 2023 in some European capitals.
For this season, Salvatore has been preparing new works to be incorporated into the exhibition, as a development of his research. For such, the artist has been using, since December of last year, the collective studio of Inclusartiz Cultural Center as his workplace. Throughout this period, the public and the local employees can follow closely his creative process.
“It has been a process of letting go of certain ways of working, producing outside my studio where I normally work in isolation, like a hermit. This openness to the eyes of others during the process is a new experience for me. The process is very rich, as the conversation with the public begins well before the exhibition, and it is this conversation and reciprocal learning that matters most,” he says.
Inaugurated in June 2022, Gene Flow occupied the second floor of the Museum of the Environment at the Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro, with about 24 works of art inspired by scientific work carried out by the Research Directorate of the Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro – DIPEQ-JBRJ. This was the second time that Salvatore, whose work focuses on multidisciplinary projects created as a foreigner, exhibited at the venue.
Check out the full interview with the artist below.
Lucio, please tell us a little about your trajectory as an artist. How was its beginning?
It was a natural but painful path, as it is always when we leave the comfort of a privileged destination as an economist trained at Bocconi (Luigi Bocconi Commercial University) in Milan to embrace the unknown. The need to question myself, to become aware of my instinct of not wanting to conform to injustice and the desire to reach out to others were the inspiring forces. In practice, I started creating out of a need to materialize intuitions and concepts in works that incorporate their meanings and stimulate a critical spirit and openness.
You were born in Italy, but have lived and worked in Brazil for many years. How was that shift? What caught your attention in the country and particularly in Rio de Janeiro?
My relationship with Rio started well before my first arrival. It is a city that has always been inside myself with all its harmonic scale of contrasts. I don’t know why, but that is how it was. Physically, I arrived for the first time in October 1999 as a traveler, without documents. I was going through a period of transformation at the time and initially I stayed on the outskirts of the city, which is what I wanted. Soon after, I connected with people engaged with social issues, which have always been decisive for me. I created my family ties and, for that, I am eternally grateful to Isabel Salgado (her personal friend and former volleyball player, who passed away in 2022).
In your work, you use mainly organic materials, such as leaves and wood trunks, in addition to creating paintings and other productions that portray or make reference to these elements. How did this artistic interest in nature come about? Tell us a little about your research objectives.
Life is like a breath that passes through us, it is the expression of nature. Even artificial cultures and technologies exist only within the breath of nature. Now, its complexity is what interests me. When meditating on a simple stone or a dry leaf, we understand that they are not simple at all. Complexity is a challenge for me, embracing it with a critical spirit is the antidote to the authoritarian ideologies that have invaded our lives.
In 2022, with the support of Instituto Inclusartiz, you opened the Gene Flow exhibition to the public at the Museum of the Environment, located in the Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro. How was this experience of producing and exhibiting in a space that dialogs so much with your production and research?
Reopening the Museum of the Environment, an institution directly managed by the Ministry of the Environment – which during the pandemic wished to transform the listed building into a luxury hotel at the time of the worst sabotage of Brazilian environmental policies –, was one of the greatest achievements of my artistic life. This was possible thanks to the support of DIPEQ-JBRJ researchers, with whom I developed the works and who pressured the presidency to obtain all the required permits; and to Inclusartiz, which is always at the forefront to help when there is a just cause, whatever the size of the challenge. My goal was to reopen the doors and welcome visitors for two months so that they could re-appropriate a unique public space for free, and I confess that I was moved when it came to exhibiting the work “Defense of the Environment” at the entrance of the Botanical Garden. Obviously it was censored by the President’s office the following week and I had to remove it, but the message continued to stand out in the middle of the exhibition halls during its entire term.
Since December of last year you have been using the space of Inclusartiz Cultural Center to think about and produce the developments of the Gene Flow series. How is this process of creating in an open studio being followed up not only by the institute’s team, but also by the public?
It has been a process of letting go of certain ways of working, producing outside my studio, where I normally work in isolation, like a hermit. This openness to the eyes of others during the process is a new experience to me. The process is very rich, as the conversation with the public begins well before the exhibition, and it is this conversation and reciprocal learning that matters most. The exchanges with Paulo (Herkenhoff, curator and art critic at Inclusartiz), with Lucas (Albuquerque, Coordinator of the Artist Residency and Research Program), with Frances (Reynolds, President of the Institute), who resonate within myself and that I find again days later in details of my work, without even knowing why.
Is there any element of the territory where the cultural center is located, in the Port Area of the city, that you are incorporating in this research?
Life in Praça da Harmonia [Harmony Square] is a familiar reality for me, and this familiarity comes from a correspondence with the imaginary that was already within myself. Gamboa is a neighborhood rich in history, great for walking, and I grew up in Southern Italy, where community life still takes place in the streets. At Inclusartiz, I work behind a window through which the sound of people walking, the tram, children playing comes in. I go down to have my açaí with Rubia (Lopes, Operations Manager at the cultural center), everything is very real, people are very real. This spirit is present in the works that I am reinventing from scratch with leftover material.
This year, a new assemblage of the exhibition, including the works you are currently producing, will tour Europe, visiting Italy, Spain and England. What can you reveal about it?
What I can reveal can be seen on the cultural center’s second floor walls. You are all welcome!