Cover for the project send as part of the selection process for the 19th Biennial (1987). Artist’s dossier.
Ricardo Basbaum is an artist participating in the 30th Bienal de São Paulo and his definition of an “etc-artist” is an interesting point of departure for understanding his work and his role as an artist:
When an artist is a full-time artist, we should call her/him an “artist-artist”; when the artist questions the nature and function of her/his role, we should write “etc.-artist” (so we can imagine several categories: curator-artist, writer-artist, activist-artist, producer-artist, agent-artist, theoretician-artist, therapist-artist, teacher-artist, chemist-artist, etc.). […] I see the “etc.-artist” as a further development of the “multimedia-artist” that emerged in the mid-1970s, mixing the Fluxus “intermedia-artist” with the “Conceptual-artist” – today, most of the (interesting) artists could be considered “multimedia-artists,” but for “speech” reasons they are referred to only as “artists” by the specialized literature and media. “Artist” is a word with multilayered meanings (the same is true with “art” and related words, such as “painting,” “drawing,” “object”) – that is, it has several meanings at the same time, though one writes it always the same way. Its multiple meanings are invariably reduced to a strong and dominant one (with the obvious help of a majority of conformist readers). Therefore, semantic differentiation needs to be made. The “etc-artist” even brings to the forefront connections between art and life (e.g., Kaprow’s “un-artist”), art and communities, opening a pathway for a curious, rich mixture of casual and singular circumstances, cultural and social differences, and ideas. […] I do love etc.-artists. Maybe because I consider myself one of them, and it’s not fair to hate myself.”
Ricardo Basbaum, I love etc-artists. Published as part of the project The Next Documenta Should Be Curated by an Artist, translated into Portugues for Políticas institucionais, práticas curatoriais, organized by Rodrigo Moura (Belo Horizonte, Museu de Arte da Pampulha, 2005). The artist’s dossier.
In the mid-1980s, Ricardo Basbaum, distributed a logo throughout the campus of the University of Campinas that had the image of an eye which had reduced to some simple lines. Basbaum’s Olho (Eye) was applied to a range of objects and also sold as a sticker that people could put wherever they so wished.
The artist Chico Chaves appropriated the Eye and stuck it to the Statue of Justice in Brasília. Basbaum commented on this episode in the newspaper, A Gazeta, on the 31st of January, 1993: “He went to prison, it came out in the papers, it created something in the press. I was really pleased. That’s what the Eye logo is all about. What I do is make suggestions. That fact that it’s available – for sale as a sticker – suggests that people can use it according to their own strategies”.
Basbaum wearing the Eye t-shirt. O Globo newspaper, 23rd of May, 1990. Artist’s dossier.
In 1989 he felt the need to create another brand which was verbal rather than visual this time. He moved on from the visual brand of the Eye to the abbreviation: NBP, New Bases for a Personality. The NBP looks at the idea of the subliminal. The idea is to inject into the memory of the viewer so that they consume the work – not exactly buying it, but looking at and relating to the object. And so that person would leave the gallery carrying the work with them in their mind. This is the idea of artificial memory. As if an art chip had been injected into the viewer’s memory”, says Basbaum in the newspaper A Gazeta on the 31st of January, 1993.
NBP is the conceptual base from which Basbaum would develop work for the following decades. Th abbreviation was associated with a form, which, just as with the Eye, was designed to be easily memorised:
Image taken from the site of the project.
Over time, the specific form of the NBP was constructed using a number of techniques and materials which were always developed from the principal “vector-ideas” of the project: the immateriality of the body, the materiality of thought and instantaneous logos.
Image for the invitation to the exhibition, NBP: New Bases for Personality. Artist’s dossier.
Basbaum participated in the 25th Bienal de São Paulo in 2002 with the work Transatravessamento (Transcrossing), an NBP installation defined as following by the curator of the Brazilian side of the exhibition, Agnaldo Farias: “[…] a longitudinal construction of spaces built from reinforced walls that are separated from each other by small hexagonal forms that the visitor has to cross through in order to move from one to the other. Basbaum takes off the lesson taught by Lygia Clark and Helio Oiticica, who understood the viewer as an active being, at the limit, a coauthor, someone capable of setting the work in motion. The basic difference lies in the emphasis on making the viewer one who circulates among things, driving them to the walls, detaining them so they read text displayed on it, bending them over to pass through narrow openings, and making them lie down to simply let themselves be “(Agnaldo Farias, Brazil for the 25th Bienal catalog, p. 37).
Ricardo Basbaum, Transatravessamento, 25th Bienal. Artist’s dossier.
Would you like to participate in an artistic experience? is an ongoing work by Basbaum based on the NBP in which a metal object has been travelling around the world since 1994. Each person who receives the object what to do with it and documents the process as part of the artistic experience. As a participant in Documenta 12 (2007), this project took on a significantly different form. Twenty new objects were produced that were identical to the original and they have been travelling around the world ever since: ten in Brazil and Latin America, nine in Europe and one in Africa. During this time (almost twenty years!) more than 140 radically different experiences have been recorded. Someone destroyed the original and sent a replica back to the artist, another person changed its shape and it has been used as a sink for washing clothes, been donated to a museum, discarded beneath a waterfall….All of this activity raises a number of questions pertaining to contemporary art such as, authenticity, appropriation, collectionism, the environment…All the experiences that have happened so far can be seen here on the project’s website.
Image taken from the project website
The form of the abbreviation NBP has been employed by the artist in a number of other contexts that have given rise to diagrams, texts, interventions and installations. In re-projecting (Utrecht), a project carried out in May of 2008, at the Casco art centre in Utrecht, Holland, Basbaum applied the form of the NBP object to a map of the city as a way of determining nine locations for collaborative projects.
Image taken from the Casco site
At each location different activities were organised with artists and groups of artists, people from local communities, thinkers, philosophers and curators…The experieces were often makedly different: from choreographies, games and Me & You exercises organised by the artist in a playground in the city’s suburbs, to a debate on the “public sphere” with writer and curator Simon Sheikh in a more private environment (the living room of one of the city’s inhabitants). All of this ended with a beautiful samba and barbeque in a recreational park on Rio de Janeirodreef (street), guaranteeing that no Dutch participant could find fault.
The images are taken from the Master’s dissertation in museology An experiment to build a free model, by Fernanda Curi, Reinwardt Academy Amsterdam, 2008, and the Casco website.
“All artistic work involves some type of transformation. All artistic work is connected to transformation. Perhaps because I come from the Eighties and don’t subscribe to any utopia, I don’t believe we will arrive at a state of perfection….we will always have to deal with this mixture, a type of negotiation, some type of paradoxical situation, we will never completely resolve this […] At the end of the 1950s Helio Oiticica and Lygia Clark were able to believe in a type of universal transformation. But here I ask: what transformation, how, when? My work reveals various ambiguities…it is much more than a type of provocation. The transformation will be the fruit of its own desire and effort […] I think my work invests in involvement, I have to involve the other in all my projects: but this involvement only happens when you want it to. You have to engage in a type of production, or then nothing happens.” – Ricardo Basbaum (interviewed at the Master’s dissertation mentioned above)