TEXTS FAILURE, IN PARTICULAR
Failure, in particular by Daniela Castro accompanies the exhibition Falha (Failure) by Renata Lucas.
I need you to bear in mind three examples of Renata Lucas’ artistic practice before I begin this discussion. Because it is not going to be easy to write about one particular work in this short essay, given the complexity of her work. It would be much easier to talk to you about her practice, for reasons you should know soon. We can perhaps talk about it in the café of Hordaland Art Centre or at a picnic in the parking lot outside another time? Meanwhile, I will rely on the images that illustrate these examples to take your hand and help me guide you through it.
In Atlas (2006), Renata Lucas temporarily erased the Galeria Milan from the cartography of the city of São Paulo. The domestic residence that is neighbour to the art gallery on the left hand side was extended half way into the building, taking over the courtyard and part of the exhibition space. The dwellers profited from a larger and greener backyard for the duration of the exhibition. The other half of the gallery underwent renovations so as to mirror the garage from across the street, which took over the remaining exhibition space. Throughout the show, this part of the gallery serviced city drivers with a parking facility in the busy neighbourhood of Vila Madalena. What remained from the original building was the gallerist’s office in the back, which gave collectors and art visitors a hard time finding the gallery.
For the 27th São Paulo Biennial, Renata Lucas doubled the sidewalk of Rua Brigadeiro Galvão, a street located in a former industrialist district, in Matemática Rápida (Quick Mathematics, 2006). The “new” sidewalk ran parallel to the existing one, duplicating along with it the also existing lampposts and flowerbeds. Not at all an art neighbourhood, but definitely a bohemian destination for the art crowd , the working class residents of the street who noticed the intervention felt privileged, thinking that the City had finally paid attention to their environment and improved it.
And in kunst-werke, 2010 (cabeça e cauda de cavalo; head and tail of a horse) for the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Lucas drew an imaginary circumference onto the floor of the façade and actually shifted the entranceway a few degrees to the right, as if subtly disorienting the regular geometry of the building from its axis with the street. To the continuous line of the sidewalk were added almost imperceptible jagged steps and discontinued sidewalk patterns as a result of the shift, albeit inaugurating a vertiginous rhythmic metric to the whole ensemble in Berlin Mitte, which seemed to have always been there. Inside the exhibition space, a large circle on the floor was rotated by the visitors’ steps, bringing the grass from the outside in, the room’s concrete floor out and back again, conforming to that rhythm of vertigo.
By now, I hope you will agree with me that when art writers and curators say that Renata Lucas’ work intervenes with architecture and urban spaces, they are right. But I have to say that this is not the whole story. As the artist says, “in fact I am a lay person when it comes to architecture. My interest has always been in ‘revolving spaces’, which was employed in some drawings and sculptures I used to make. My difficulty with scale made my sculptures look like models or studies for larger projects, which then were photographed so that the details suggested an alteration in scale. In my drawings, that difficulty didn’t occur due to the virtuality of the paper. The paper is a cut out of a broader visual field, thus no sense of scale is inherent to it. On the other hand, an object on a table suggests a sense of scale. I didn’t want to work with this relationship. My interest was in the juxtaposition of exteriors: that the background brought to the foreground, or ‘architecture’ if you want, became the ‘thing’. But I have to say that this came later… Also, architecture is something that artists always come across in their work, in how it is supposed to be installed, displayed; it’s the framework of the work. Architecture is a field of circumscription; a field delimited by quotation marks.” 
That’s my lead for the point I will try to make: quotation marks are from the field of language, of writing. The heavy construction that most of Renata Lucas’ works demand does not contrast with the subtlety with which her works operate. I would argue that the nature of this heavy construction pertains to the world of poetry, where each word or sign is brought to an extreme exercise of synthesis in order to render a subtly stunning imageless picture. In particular to concrete poetry, a movement initiated by Brazilian poets Décio Pignatari and brothers Haroldo and Augusto de Campos in the 1960’s, where the blank of the page doesn’t merely circumscribe the poem but functions as its delimitating quotation marks, as part of the text.
The reader has to trust me that what is left out from the brief descriptions of the three works that begin this essay – stories about the tea and cake with Galeria Milan’s neighbour on endless afternoons, the continual bureaucratic negotiations with City Hall for the construction of sidewalks and lampposts, the incessant institutional quarrels due to the permanent transformation of a state-of-the-arts architectural structure of a museum façade, and so forth – are not details of the making of the work, but a constitutive part of the prose that composes the work itself. I would not do justice to these stories if I were to recount them in writing. They have to be told, heard, absorbed through the interjections, laughter, angst, body gestures. That which would be considered the background to the making of the works is brought to the foreground and architect the ‘thing’ of Lucas’ artistic practice. Storytelling and architecture as part of the same narrative is a difficult pair to marry.
Falha (Failure) is a bed of hinged together plywood sheets that cover the ground of the exhibition space. Handles are placed on the edge of some of them as an invitation for the viewers to manipulate their ground at their will. The work is a surface ground that literally slips under one’s feet as another layer of plywood sticks upward on the other end of the room: ugly, clumsily, defiantly, as a failed attempt of edification, an anti-monument that struggles to stand right. Falha is the accidental geography of the under nettings that contaminate the art institution with an ambiguous autonomy: though it “fits” virtually in any space, it carries a discomfort of form, of origin and of meaning wherever it goes. The blind spot, that space of a-perspectivism, which Foucault elected as the intellectual’s point of failure, slides beneath one’s foot. The discomfort is that the blind spot – as the place from where one stands on to proffer an argument while missing precisely the point of observation that lies beneath their footprint – cries out. Falha exposes the fragility built in in any formal exercise of construing discourse, be that through bricks, plywood or words.
I paraphrase Haroldo de Campos’ verses to say that Renata Lucas’ interventions function as acupuncture with specially sharpened silver needles that penetrate the discourse’s conjunctive tissue. One doesn’t immediately notice the subcutaneous presence of the needles, but they exist, and they establish a sympathetic system of lymph and nymphs that long for perpetration by a simple contamination on the slippery phonetic surface of signified and signifiers. That is to say that Lucas’ work operates in a system of transfer. Architecture and urban spaces are not given structures for her to intervene on. Rather, she exploits them as signs that compose a given narrative, a given text – the slippery phonetic surface of signified and signifiers – which she rewrites, bringing to light what may have been hidden in between the lines, or recovering the poetry that was always there but that had been undermined. And both in the construction and in writing, though it entails heavy work, the end result in Lucas’ practice seems to be done in one stroke through a sharply contaminating editing mark. Falha hardly configures a proper image, but it exists, as the silver needle applied on the human body hardly configures pain, but it hurts.
The piercing discomfort in the work is the letter “h” in Portuguese language. An auxiliary mute consonant that complicates spelling, as in a “stupid habit of seeing the world always as a badly rephrased version of itself”, hábito, in Portuguese, can easily go without the “h” and get restarted with the first letter of the alphabet; and in fact it does in oral speech. The “h” is also a phoneme that minimally changes pronunciation and discerns “falha” (failure) from “fala” (speak). Falha gives you a place of perspectivism, of splitting with the rhyme of stupid habits. And gives you the chance of moving your perspective around, pulling down and sliding up; and choosing again should you lose the reason.
 I feel obliged to provide the reader with a little update: six years ago, one of the best bars in the whole of São Paulo – a 14 million people city – was Casa CB, located on the street where the work took place, which sadly no longer exists. In 2008, Fortes Vilaça Gallery, one of the most important in the country, opened its second venue in this neighbourhood, and others are following the successful enterprise. Four years after Lucas’ project, the area turned to the opposite from what took the artist’s interests to realize Matemática Rápida.
 Interview with Renata Lucas by Adriano Pedrosa on the occasion of her exhibition at REDCAT, Los Angeles, in 2007. This excerpt was extracted from the Appendix of her doctorate thesis, Viewed from the inside, Viewed from the outside, defended in 2008 at the School of Communication and Arts of the University of São Paulo, ECA-USP. The italics are my emphasis.
 Renata Lucas, Viewed from the inside, Viewed from the outside, doctorate thesis defended in 2008 at the School of Communication and Arts of the University of São Paulo ECA-USP, 2008. p. 100. Falha was originally conceived for and installed at Paço das Artes in São Paulo (2003). It was reconstructed for installation at the REDCAT, Los Angeles, in 2007. It belongs to the Inhotim Collection (Brumadinho, Minas Gerais), whose installation is scheduled for this upcoming September.
 Free paraphrased translation of “tudo tem que ver com isso” by Haroldo de Campos’ audio book poem Galáxias (1963-1976).
Daniela Castro, writer and curator based in São Paulo.