L'officiel Art - - News - BY TEN­ZING BAR­SHEE

Grand Tour

When I vi­si­ted Mat­thew Lutz-Ki­noy in São Pau­lo, it was sum­mer and it rai­ned a lot. Some time be­fore, I had in­ter­vie­wed him on his on­going re­la­tion­ship with the spraw­ling, beau­ti­ful and harsh ci­ty. This was his third trip. The first time, we tra­ve­led in Bra­zil to­ge­ther (with our dear friend Mi­chele D'Au­ri­zio), I en­ded up wri­ting a text en­tit­led “I went to São Pau­lo and lear­ned a lot”, and Mat­thew made char­coal dra­wings ins­pi­red by the ci­ty's pol­lu­tion and its gay night­life. This time he in­vi­ted me, while I was drif­ting around, in awe of the world's mad­ness and, coin­ci­den­tal­ly, I en­ded up just be­fore in Goa, In­dia, ano­ther prior Por­tu­guese co­lo­ny. Mat­thew, tan-fa­ced, Fa­ce­ti­med: “Hi an­gel, I'm ma­king ce­ra­mics in the jungle. Please come. It'll be hea­ven.” In an­ti­ci­pa­tion of mul­tiple ad­ven­tures, I met him in this in­fi­nite place, this ci­ty of ma­ny, which we've sha­red be­fore. First, there was on­ly concrete jungle in sight and eve­ry­thing was la­be­led in Por­tu­guese again, which was a weird sen­sa­tion, tra­ve­ling from for­mer co­lo­ny to for­mer co­lo­ny. As it tur­ned out, la­ter there wouldn't be any jungle ei­ther, but ne­ver­the­less lots of blu­shing na­ture and a fee­ling of com­plex en­gulf­ment, which I ve­ry much as­so­ciate with the idea of a jungle. In any case, I ar­ri­ved in the ci­ty and we went straight to Lourdes: a bar run by Lui­za Ber­nardes and co-ow­ned by the gal­le­ry, where Mat­thew was about to do his show. There we dan­ced the night and my jet­lag away. As we rode through the night and ci­ty lights, on our way home, I felt like I was ar­ri­ving, by dis­so­lu­tion, in this place and in the true in­ti­ma­cy of friend­ship. There are a few places which trig­ger my ro­man­ti­cism about what it means to live and to set­tle so­mew­here. They're my per­so­nal lit­tle cli­chés (which I'm sha­ring with loads of people): my heart goes to São Pau­lo, Na­po­li, Mar­seille, Pa­ler­mo… and any place where Mat­thew picks me up at the air­port. Af­ter a couple of days, we left the concrete and took to the road, past Cam­pi­nas, a near­by uni­ver­si­ty ci­ty—or was it on the way there, who real­ly knows what comes first these days, on­ly to ar­rive in a lit­tle pa­ra­dise, the home of Sil­ma­ra Wa­ta­ri and her fa­mi­ly, a Bra­zi­lian wo­man who stu­died Min­gei, Chi­nese, and ana­ga­ma pot­te­ry for thir­teen years in Ja­pan. In her coun­try home, she built an ana­ga­ma wood fi­ring kiln, which she hadn't used in a while. So­me­how Mat­thew, who's got a ta­lent for fin­ding the right people in per­fect places, en­ded up with Sil­ma­ra and had been pre­pa­ring the fi­ring of around 150 ce­ra­mics. Any­thing real­ly, from ti­ny sa­ké cups to gro­tesque loo­king face masks, but al­so bowls, pit­chers, etc. Ear­lier, we had tal­ked about how his in­ter­est in craft lies in the so­cial fan­ta­sy that sur­rounds it. So, not real­ly how it's made, but ra­ther the so­cio-cultu­ral threads which condi­tion, en­able, and merge his­to­ri­cal and contem­po­ra­ry crafts. Fin­ding Sil­ma­ra must so­me­how have been the jack­pot. Isn't it in­ter­es­ting how these life nar­ra­tives ma­ni­fest in the most nuan­ced uti­li­ta­rian forms? This ge­ne­rous, gentle wo­man of wis­dom, beau­ti­ful like a 1970s film star, who ma­na­ged (through hard work) to bring to­ge­ther so much in­tense Bra­zi­lian and Ja­pa­nese culture, old and new, in such an un­pre­ten­tious but pri­vi­le­ged way, was tru­ly an ul­ti­mate so­cial fan­ta­sy. The things that the two of them were ma­king there we­ren't real­ly ar­te­facts of any sorts, but ins­tead the re­sults of an on­going mu­tual se­duc­tion. Bet­ween their ar­tis­tic vi­sions, in­ten­tions and ex­pe­ri­ments – and per­haps I'm fal­ling in­to the trap of my own ex­pe­rience, but so­me­how these ob­jects, which were made amid­st lus­cious Bra­zi­lian greens, os­cil­la­ted bet­ween the eter­nal ques­tion of whe­ther we make these things for the world, or whe­ther the earth sim­ply re­turns them to us. I was constant­ly thin­king about how Mat­thew ma­nages to cri­ti­cal­ly en­gage and crash in­to his sub­ject mat­ters and ma­te­rials with full force and convic­tion, ba­si­cal­ly how he crashes through the world and crushes hard at night. I felt like I was tum­bling, wat­ching them work, subt­ly as­king a ques­tion here, ma­king a com­men­ta­ry there. Sup­po­sed­ly, I had ar­ri­ved at the end of all dif­fi­cul­ties and at the be­gin­ning of some hap­pi­ness. Mat­thew had al­so brought two large-scale flo­wer pain­tings, sen­sual mas­sive things— no­thing could keep him from where he was going—and if his large pain­tings are best sui­ted for a dis­tant gaze, per­haps his ce­ra­mic are best consi­de­red with gentle touch. The struggle for their in­ti­ma­cy is al­so a struggle with in­ti­ma­cy it­self, with the un­cer­tain­ty of whe­ther it's bet­ter to de­sire or be de­si­red. It had been sun­ny be­fore, but at one point the rai­ny sea­son ki­cked in. Eve­ry day around 5PM sho­wers of soft rain came down, but then, when they be­gan the fire, the sun came back out. The fi­ring las­ted maybe a week. Once, en­ough ash had de­ve­lo­ped and the heat ar­ri­ved at a pla­teau of ap­proxi­ma­te­ly 1250° Cel­sius, the fire tra­ve­led through the kiln-bo­dy, spraying out of the chim­ney, tou­ching eve­ry­thing in­side. They stir­red the ash by wig­gling a stick or sho­vel, per­for­ming a type of fire dance, which crea­ted tur­bu­lence through which the ash adhe­red to the glo­wing ce­ra­mics. The ash flakes rode the hot air like but­ter­flies. This ex­ten­ded the ideas of per­for­mance, mo­ve­ment and in­dexing, which Mat­thew had been pre­vious­ly preoc­cu­pied with, beyond the pla­cing of the clay in­to the kiln, in a trans­fer of mo­ve­ments of the bo­dy and the fire. Be­fore that, on the first eve­ning when the fire star­ted burs­ting out of the chim­ney, Mat­thew or­ga­ni­zed an ex­cur­sion of sorts, fol­lo­wing the lead of Fe­lipe Dmab (one of the gal­le­ry ow­ners) and Ma­gê Abà­tay­gua­ra (the most char­ming gal­le­ry di­rec­tor), Lui­za Ber­nardes and other illus­trious mem­bers of the São Pau­lo art and night­life scene, such as in­ter­na­tio­nal ar­tists Eri­ka Ver­zut­ti and Adria­no Cos­ta, ar­ri­ved in our lit­tle pa­ra­dise, and al­to­ge­ther we ex­pan­ded the idea of a so­cial fan­ta­sy to its pos­sible li­mits. Sil­ma­ra gave a pas­sio­nate speech, ex­plai­ning their pro­cess. Mat­thew tal­ked about how he's been thin­king about the space where per­for­mance takes places and how to deal with its af­ter­life. The ce­ra­mic-ma­king ve­ry much lent it­self as an illus­tra­tion of these ideas, es­pe­cial­ly of the way the pro­cess un­der­goes dif­ferent stages of un-control­la­bi­li­ty, which turns the fi­ring it­self in­to a space of an an­ti­ci­pa­ted unk­nown, where the bur­ning of large amounts of wood not on­ly har­dens the ce­ra­mics but pro­duces a pile of ash, mel­ting with the ce­ra­mic sur­faces, ad­ding co­lor and tex­ture. But it was al­so the shape of the kiln, which at the time read as an an­thro­po­mor­phic fi­gure, an in­ca­les­cent bo­dy of bricks co­oking si­lent­ly amid­st a bunch of lus­cious Bra­zi­lian greens, the heat in the ground flu­shing out spi­ders, scor­pions and big toads. The lat­ter were im­mense and im­pres­sive, their sounds haun­ting us the whole night, their screams heard un­til the mor­ning light. In the end, eve­ry­thing nee­ded to co­ol down. I went to bed thin­king about the so­cial and ma­te­rial nar­ra­tives of these ves­sels, the oven, the ce­ra­mic contai­ners, these ar­tists, people, fee­lings—all and al­ways in re­la­tion to the hu­man bo­dy, the ori­gi­nal ves­sel for any form of ex­pe­rience, and one of the most in­sis­ting re­cur­rences in Mat­thew Lutz-Ki­noy's won­der­ful­ly ela­bo­rate art.

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