The Word Processor

THE WORD PROCESSOR

A CONVERSATION WITH ARTIST FERNANDO RIBEIRO

Introduction and interview by Ulisses Carrilho
Photographs by Victor Nomoto, Hick Duarte and Victor Takayama
Monday, April 6 - 2015

March, 27. 2015 - page 492

"Now it's too crowded there and [I] realized that I'd need lots of energy to keep up with all the talking. As yesterday I discovered that I'm not the best documentary maker for speeches and conversations - I'm better at facts and events – I decided to walk down the Street.”

[“Agora ficou muito cheio lá e percebi que precisaria de muita energia para conseguir acompanhar toda a conversa. Como ontem descobri que não sou o melhor documentarista de falas e conversas – sou melhor com fatos e acontecimentos – resolvi caminhar pela Rua”.]  

From the opening minutes of Terra Comunal - MAI until the very close of the exhibition, Fernando Ribeiro is typing impressions of his surroundings somewhere at SESC Pompeia. Silent and accompanied solely by his typewriter, some might suspect it to be a sort of writer’s compulsion. Ribeiro is part of MAI Presents, a section of the larger exhibition featuring eight Brazilian artists curated by Paula Garcia, Lynsey Peisinger, and Marina Abramovic. The perform artist is often on the move. The only way to locate him at any given time requires taking a walk around the space.

If one tried to get him to talk during the hours that Terra Comunal - MAI is open to the public, the conversation wouldn’t be possible. In The Typist [O Datilógrafo], the artist makes no exception to his own rules: he remains silent – and writing – at all times. Writer and curator Ulisses Carrilho talks with Ribeiro, who hails from from Curitiba, Paraná, in a rare moment outside the exhibition:

In terms of the choice of works for MAI Presents, I do notice an appreciation for simplicity, something that has been stated by the curators. Writing is an everyday action. It can be considered a very simple action, though filled with complexity in its power to disseminate knowledge. Is there a paradox in this action?

In this performance I write my impressions, my feelings, my thoughts. What I see in the here and now. In this work, writing is my only way of expressing myself. There's body language and the sound of the typewriter, too. I’ll be exposing myself through words, though. Writing is the mediator. It's a way of organizing ideas, it's a filter. The experience itself is one thing, but when it is written, it changes.

On your choice of letting the public access the written material resulting from your performance: is this an act of being completely open to the public? Do you consider the work to be complete only when the words are read, or is the act of writing more important?

My writing is intimate; and at the same time is not. It is a subjective point of view, but [one] that shouldn’t be read as a simple narrative or a diary. It’s a fusion of fact, the space that I narrate, and things I think. And some philosophical issues. Some reflections on terms, facts, or situations. My writing is meant to do more than expose my intimacy. The work need not necessarily be read, but the possibility, availability, are important. Whether or not to read it is [based on] a personal relationship that everyone chooses to build, or not, with this text. This is part of the public and this is part of the performance. I always think of the public as a key part of the performance. The French philosopher Paul Ricoeur says that each text is a world. Reading a text is the meeting of two worlds. I do not know who will read it, this is what I like best. The relationship that each person creates with the text is an experience of the audience’s world to my world, that of the artist.

You write in different locations, not only in the exhibition areas. How important are your surroundings to your artistic process? Is there a fusion between you and the space, a willingness to be overlooked as an artist?

It’s not a provocation. In several of my works, I like to begin working from everyday acts to make the performance. I appreciate leaving directly from the mundane to go to performance. But not as a camouflage. There is no predetermined space. I'll be typing, but there is also the recognizable sound of a typewriter. This stirs curiosity and memories. People may not know [exactly] where I am, but they will know that there is someone typing by the sound. I potentially have all of SESC as space is to increase the possibility of establishing relationships with people. The poignancy the work gains is amazing. I want to type in the pool, for example. Somehow I’m involving all of SESC within Terra Comunal - MAI.

Tell us about the choice of an outdated technology, such as the typewriter, for this performance. Does it goes beyond the ability to make the sound of its mechanical system? Can it be considered an aesthetic choice that is charged with meaning?

I call this choice "old-fashioned.” Today I heard the word “anachronistic,” and liked it. It is an anachronistic choice! But the machine has a simple, easy use. Once I was doing a performance and a child came over and said, "Wow, it prints just on time!" And this is true. It brings memories for the those who have a past connection to the object. But there is another question, which is the typing technique. We still use keyboards, but this technique has been lost. I took three courses, the technique involves not looking at the keyboard and using all your fingers. I write better with the machine than with my own handwriting. I have a personal relationship with typing.

There is a question of athletics in long-durational performance. Writing for so long, so precisely, how does it fit in with your other work?

I made a different version of this in 2009. I was in a moment of reflection on my work, a moment of return to artistic practice after a pause. I was able to get an idea of what was present in my work as a whole, to look at it as a whole. I had 10 years of work [experience as an artist] already. The ideas were more experimental, active, and linear. This work will be more introspective.

Introspection is a characteristic of my work. The relationship with the public can happen organically, but it is not a search of mine. This piece has many characteristic features of my other works. The idea of developing something for a long time, though, is something new. I usually never know the exact duration of a performance when I start it. This performance begins the long durational phase in my work: the idea of extending time.

Doing the same thing, such as writing, for a long time may seem simple. What is the challenge of repeating an action like this for so long?

I like simple actions. I have just a few artworks that can be considered complex. The simple has always interested me. When Marina Abramovic asked me to create a performance that would take two months, I thought: what I can do for two months? I couldn’t stay still, as she had, sitting and looking into the eyes of another person in constantly. In my work I need to do something. I do not necessarily need to produce something, but to do something. It’s different. My main challenge is to think: what action can I do, not for eight hours a day but for two whole months? The concept of teleology of action, which comes from philosophy, is very present in my work. I think about the ultimate goal of the action. It makes no sense to look at the writings separately, but the words must be looked as a whole. I look at this writing and I can only think of it as complete when I write the last page of it.


Terra Comunal - MAI is free and open to the public until May 10, 2015 @SESC Pompeia, São Paulo - Brazil.