“I think a work is never finished since one object could always lead to different possibilities or even to another object”
AT: Where are you from and how/why you start engaging to art?
PA: I’m from Portugal, based in Lisbon/Cascais. I’ve always lived by the ocean and between the urban and natural landscape. This contrast and dialogue has always conceptually and visually influenced me. I’ve learned a lot from both. Between long walks in the woods, hiking, surfing or diving you create a dialogue with the surrounding biosphere learning a lot from it. Therefore, my father was an architect and my mother a writer and both of them were deeply into music, collecting vinyl records and developing projects on those areas. The early contact with their friends, writers, musicians and other artists were always a strong input in my daily routine. So, somehow, visuals, sound and writing were present since I was a litle kid. I always remembered my father’s sketches and vinyl records on the table. That was my first interaction with imagery and sound. I believe I’ve always connected somehow with this idea of building different worlds.
AT: When did it become serious?
PA: I think it was somehow always serious and part of my DNA, since early drawing or philosophy classes in high school or music projects with friends. Along the way it became professional. I worked for a long time as art director for music, fashion and the design industry which gave me a lot of contact with all sorts of different media and supports, connecting me with different conceptual thinking processes. On one side, I was developing my own personal practice and research. Somewhere this became more and more important and present and took over my entire life and career. There was a moment when you connect to a certain energy and there is no turning back, so I started dedicating my entire life and career to my personal practice and research. In parallel I also co-fouded Re_act contemporary art laboratory and residence program in the Azores Islands which focuses on climate change, biosphere, transhumanism and themes that are directly related to my personal work and interests. A reaction to the time period we are facing, a rock and matrix in the middle of the Atlantic that joins artists and curators from different continents to think/re-think these essential questions about our planet and species.
AT: Are there any person who has been significant in your breakthrough as an artist?
PA: Well there have always been people present and truly significant. From my parents that somehow connected me directly and indirectly with visual culture and conceptual thinking, some of my closed friends who are also artists, engaged in music, cinema and visual culture. They’ve always strongly supported me and helped me trough my process and career.
AT: What is your first approach to the work? How would you describe your practice?
PA: Artists act as visual seismographers, measuring waves of social, cultural and natural paradigms. In my own research I focus in a triangle that engages both body, landscape and technology, raising questions on climate change, biosphere, extinction, transhumanism, and anthropocene. I am also quite interested in the relationship between the limits of myth, reality, magic, spirituality and science. I use both natural and synthetic elements (that in the end come from the same source). organic vs digital, matter vs non-matter. From found footage to filming or collecting objects underwater, volcanos or different landscape scenarios, using soil, plants and living matter combined with synthetic elements, digital imagery or holograms, transcending material limitations and creating a dialogue or conflict in space raising questions on the issues mentioned above.
Sensorial Divinities, 2019 | Exhibition view, Dimora Artica (ph Cesare Lopopolo)
AT: What do you aim to reach with your work?
PA: Well… we always raise questions. An exhibition works somehow as a geographical acupuncture, bringing cells together to pay attention to a specific point. I’m just looking and questioning a contemporary context that some may call 4th revolution (Klaus Schwab) )referring to a new digital paradigm and transition to a moment in time with presence of superintelligence, IA; biotech; nanotech and other elements that will transform nature, society and reality as we know it. Since we are becoming spectators of a precise moment where science fiction is now becoming science facts. Swiping reality, scrolling trough daily life we are experiencing an age of technologic and biologic exponential change and a new DNA and sensorial revolution. We may arrive at a place that we shall decide what is machine and what is human, thing that has already started. Supercomputers, called now smartphones, are used as external prosthesis that guide us and control our daily existence trough artificial satellites leading us into a techno-dematerialisation lifestyle and that in the future could integrate or not our physical body. This body as well as landscape as a playground for atoms and molecules will transform into a new physical and even spiritual paradigm. All this affects the biosphere, our climate our planet, our species. We are living a climate change, pandemic viruses and facing questions regarding extinction of our species or planet, using reality emulators to communicate and survive, uploading our ideas and ourselves to the cloud aiming for #digitalimmortality.
AT: What are your favourite tools and materials for working?
PA: I came from painting, so my work, even if it consists of moving images, it always has a very pictorial approach. Nowadays I like to explore different media and materials, I truly like experimentation, learning from intuition and mistakes, which I find it more honest and more in tune with real life and natural processes. From soil, plants, living matter, glass, ceramics to photography, video and holograms. I often try to create a dialogue between the natural and the synthetic elements. In every exhibition I combine these elements and each one helps its conceptual purpose, each material has a specific dna, history and energy to bring to the hole composition.
AT: What do you feel while you work? Do you usually think about the final outcome beforehand?
PA: Sometimes but.. mostly trough the hole process, learning from materials things usually evolve and change along the way. I always try do adapt, learn and take advantage of the process. Sometimes it’s the final object that reveals me its own story and open a door to a new one.
AT: How do you understand that a work is finished?
PA: Honestly… I think a work is never finished since one object could always lead to different possibilities or even to another object. I truly think this is one of the most beautiful things in art since we are dealing with mutation and transformation. it’s never a closed answer but an open question.
POSTFOSSIL (A1, A2, A3), 60 x 45 cm, digital print on dichroic film, acrylic, 2019
Sensorial Divinities, 2019 | Exhibition view, Dimora Artica (ph Cesare Lopopolo)
AT: Where does the inspiration for the work come from?
PA: Definitely nature is the main source. Water, plants, soil, animals, all biosphere is definitely my main research engine. Of course Im influence by writers, film directors, musicians and other visual artists but all their works are processed data coming always from the main database.
AT: Are there any artists who influenced your works? Why?
PA: Well its impossible to name them all, I think we all have influences from other artists and friends. I think its very positive and creates dialogues and different currents of toughs and ideas. I really like cinema, Wong Kar Wai and Christopher Doyle are two major references references as well as the strong visuals of Igmar Bergman. Writers and philosophers like Timothy Morton (Hyperobjects; Realist Magic; Dark Ecology) has also been present in my research. In Contemporary art there are many many different names that I have in mind, some of them for references, some of them are close friends. I think in the end we are in contact with a lot of visual culture so normally you are strongly influenced by. Such different names and aproahes like Olafur Eliasson, James Turrell, Timur Si-Qin, Cory Arcangel, Jesper Just, Marguerite Humeau, Ernesto Neto, Nicolás Lamas, Adrien Missika, Pakui Hardware, Inês Norton, Mit Borrás, Gioia Di Girolamo, Virginia Lee Montgomery and many others.
AT: How important is the role of social media for you?
PA: It has both sides…I think sometimes, like everyone, “I miss my pre-interenet brain” (Douglas Coupland) but, somehow, like for many others social media had played an extremely important role in my career as an artist. Coming from a small country like Portugal gave me the opportunity to communicate worldwide and to build strong international relationships that materialized in several projects, exhibitions and collaborations. Although it is also responsible for the swipe reality we are living in it also created several opportunities. In general empowered artists and curators in a more democratic way, helping them to create all sorts of different projects, residence programs, platforms and contents. It’s really just the way you use it. Almost like everything else.
Meanwhile, At Home (Detail), 2017 | Installation view, Quartier General, Switzerland, Curated By Corina Weiss.
Territorial Skin, variable dimensions, dye on synthetic sail, aluminium, hardware, 2017.
AT: As an artist, what is your point of view about the contemporary art system?
PA: One thing is to be an artist, the other thing is to work in the art world. The demands of the art market, the system, the decisions and protocols can easily destroy the uniqueness, poetry and freedom to create a honest body of work that truly comes from what you believe. I truly think that you have to stay honest towards your work and research and strong enough, but sometimes it is quite demanding, not to loose yourself in that matrix.
AT: What do you find to be the most challenging or daunting thing about pursuing art? What is the most rewarding part of working as an artist?
PA: I think the first part of the question was answered before. Definitely the most challenging part is you work towards market and building a career. Choosing the right path without loosing yourself, the magic or your work in the process. The most rewarding and amazing thing about working as an artist is that you can build you own worlds, talking about issues meaningful to you, experimenting with many different kind of communication and media in order to be able to learn different sorts of crafts and also to interact with amazing people from all sorts of areas that contribute to your research.
AT: What do you do besides art?
PA: A lot of different things, (*Well by curiosity Arraiano means one who lives on the frontier or border and in this case I think it suits me) I’m a nature addict, I love my deep relationship with the ocean that is for me a temple since I was a kid, where I’ve learned to contemplate it extremely influenced my work and research. I’m also a culture addict; I’m always in the borderline between the urban scape and nature. Music is something always present since I was a kid as I’ve mentioned before so I collect vinyl and have been working in the past with many projects on this area. Also cinema and writing.
AT: What are your goals and expectations for the future?
PA: I truly hope to keep my research moving forward. Having the opportunity to grow as an artist and develop my personal research engine. I honestly think that we are living in a very decisive moment for the humankind and for our species. The natural is in crisis. It is an historic moment when, instead creating borders, thinking individually or simply ignoring what is happening with our planet, a living organism that reacts to consecutively threats, ignoring its healing power, regeneration, response or revolution, we should rethink our condition as species. As an artist I truly want to engaged in this kind of moment and have a meaningful role in this paradigm.
Towards The Last Unicorn, 2019 | Installation view at 55SP, S. Paulo
Paulo Arraiano (Portugal, 1977) is a visual artist based in Lisbon, Portugal