Spiraling Time: Reflections on Nuno Ramos and Sergio Delgado

On March 15 and 16, 2013, the Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley presented the symposium Spiraling Time: Intermedial Conversations in Latin American Arts. In the audience were students from Professor Julia Bryan-Wilson’s History of Art course Latin American Art Since 1920. We are grateful to them for sharing with us their reflections on some of the lectures and conversations they heard.  This post is from student Kelly Leilani Main.

Nuno Ramos and Sergio Delgado in conversation at Spiraling Time.
As Nuno Ramos, Brazilian sculptor and author stated, “In Sao Paulo, there is an intense sense of urgency—life wants you, and life asks you to do everything…you are required every minute…you are necessary.” This sense of urgency and immediacy is reflected directly in his work, which embodies the very humanistic quality of the work being dead after its work is done, of being finished at its conclusion. Despite this, there is a tremendous amount of conversational vibration that surrounds the ambiguities in his work, a direct reflection of the ambiguousness of life in Brazil, where social configurations and a colorful history are intertwined like thread. The capriciousness of “the almost,” the poetic moment of falling but not having yet fallen, echoes in the way that Brazil’s present history echoes with its past, from cannibalism to colonialism to anthropophagic dictations and autocratic dictators. Ramos’s work, which includes monumental sculptures of soap and sand, has recurring themes of breaking, of earthiness, and of the fleeting moment.
            In conversation with Ramos was Sergio Delgado, who brought attention to deeply driven themes of transversal materiality and conscious materials in both the work of Nuno Ramos and Brazilian artist Lygia Clark, known famously for her declassification of objects and the stripping of meanings from the banal in everyday life. By doing so, she, in Delgado’s words, emphasized that “all consciousness is consciousness of something,” that there is little separation between the subject and their environment, the self and the world because of inherited meanings and values. In her work, such as her bichas,Clark aimed to give the work its own answers—the bicha had inherent meaning within itself that the viewer had to explore through direct subjection to movement. In this way, the handler was forced to surrender to the will of the object—this theme of surrender reappeared constantly in her therapeutic work, which aimed to give agency to the senses as theoreticians in themselves. Delgado also brought to attention the words of Karl Marx, who asserted that in the production of private property, man becomes the object as an embodiment of his material power, that man is a social being through his possessions.
            The conversation between Ramos and Delgado brought to my attention the true fragility of objects in a moment. Sculpture and objects serve as a material connection between the viewer and art, and sculpture provides in many ways, a breaking of the bonds between the expectation of the viewer and the object of their view. In Ramos’s work, some of which are characterized by the fluidity of mediums such as Vaseline and water, draw attention to the fleeting qualities of our visual experience. Pieces such as his Ai, They Seemed Eternal, intentionally shock the viewer out of their expectations in order to emphasize the moment which looms so presently in his daily life in Brazil. Clark, in this same way, used her therapeutic techniques of surrender to place the body beside the object that gave sole proprietorship of the experience to all of the senses, and not just to the eyes. As many people rely heavily on sight for their memorial experiences and their collection of daily life, to both force change and destruction upon the sight of the viewer, as both artists do, and then to remove sight altogether, as Clark did in some of her therapeutic work, seeks to provide an alternative measurement of temporal shifts to the viewer.