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GOETHE-INSTITUT BRASILIEN, Studio Visits BLOG, January 2011 /

by Stefanie Hessler

It is Friday afternoon, 5 pm. I am meeting Fernanda Chieco at her studio. She has set up her working space at her apartment, a clean-cut place dominated by simple shapes and a functional, clear design. I came across Fernandas work at her gallery Leme in Sao Paulo, where I saw the piece The anteater died under the bridge as soon as the wolf ate the giraffes cherry (2008) of the series Battle Fields. Looking like a war zone between movement and coming to a rest, the drawing is inhabited by simple-lined naked figures who execute their actions individually, following their own destinations and absorbed in their own world of thought. In the midst of the scene stands a giraffe-headed man who is urinating on a person cowering before him. The other figures are hit by cherries, suffering, apathetic, but all seemingly emotionless.


Intrigued by this scene entirely following its own logic, I contacted Fernanda for a studio visit. While we have coffee in her kitchen, she tells me about her work, her time studying at Goldsmiths College in London and her residencies in Bristol, UK and Ballinskelligs, Ireland.


Fernanda Chieco explains that she is interested in the functionality of things and the limitations reality imposes on us. Finding more freedom in drawing that offers possibilities, which in real life could not be implemented, the figures and constellations in her pieces also create doubts of whether they could really exist. Her compositions are arranged in a manner that remind of the large-sized mural paintings and frescoes in Italian Renaissance churches. The people in her drawings are connected in an elaborated system, which nevertheless does not allow for any direct communication between them. Tongues, which in Fernandas narratives take on the role of the source of life, connect the people by coming out from and entering their mouths and anuses. Fernanda invented an own logic and system of rules for the universe she has created and that obeys her decisions. She has invented a world in which the tongue - as sticky as a flycatcher, lending its name to another series of works of which Lizard watering the moss (2009) forms part - can grow to an infinite length. In a question / answer section on her website, she explains the functioning of the tongue: It is the essential organ for the figures, whereby they can connect to other individuals. Those who do not possess a mouth or other way for the tongue to leave the body, have swollen bellies with rolled up tongue trapped inside of them. When a person dies, the tongue leaves the body and looks for another humans or animals tongue to connect to in order to survive.


While the people in Fernandas images seem to mechanically and almost apathetically follow a task that the artist has given them, they neither feel pleasure nor pain, behaving like the artists instruments. Seemingly posing and of perfect body shape, they act as if they knew that they are being watched. Without any architectural reference or background, the figures are set in a non-space, impossible to define. The representation of this idea of a self-containing scheme with its own set of rules, gains strength through the objectivity-adding black and white shades of the drawings that do not allow for any marginal doubt about the systems truthfulness and functioning. Seemingly emotionless and due to the pure lines that form their silhouettes, the figures allude to firmness and veracity in this world between dream and nightmare. People whose heads are replaced by those of a lama, frog or lizard, mingle with the other figures and are placed into the centre of the images. Only those details that enter the closed system from the outside and give a work its title, such as the giraffe in the work described above, are coloured.


In Fernandas participatory installation Red light suction device (RELISUC) (2005), participants sit down in futuristic armchairs, naked like the people in her drawings, and suck in red light through optical fibre. Alluding to the tongues in the drawings, people are connected through the pipes, seemingly taking up red light into their organisms.


Fernanda explains that for her, peoples roles in social environments is a main subject of interest, rather than gender roles - what might seem likely when looking at her drawings first. The objects that take over the humans and execute a certain control over their bodies become the metaphor for a criticism of our supposedly free will. Instead, Fernanda addresses issues of control, consumerism and connections we might not be aware of.


In her studio, she is currently working on a large-sized piece on which an elephants head is starting to take form. Allowing for more colours to enter her world, Fernanda continues with the creation of this phantasmatic universe between scientific research and her own concepts.

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