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Indepth Arts News:

"Forum 60: Rivane Neuenschwander"
2007-07-14 until 2007-10-28
Carnegie Museum of Art
Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Brazilian artist Rivane Neuenschwander’s Quarta-Feira de Cinzas/Epilogue (2006) on view in Carnegie Museum of Art’s Forum Gallery July 14–October 28, 2007, is a short video depicting ants carrying sugar-soaked pieces of confetti across the floor of a rainforest. Created in collaboration with Brazilian filmmaker Cao Guimarães, the video reveals a society where red and black ants of various sizes work together and rival one another while transporting the colorful confections to and from their nest. Accompanying the film is a soundtrack by O Grivo, a Brazilian experimental band, featuring a samba rhythm mixed with the ambient sounds of the rainforest. Together the audio and visual components combine to create a poetic and playful work that explores the blurred boundaries between the natural and constructed world.

Quarta-Feira de Cinzas, literally translated as Ash Wednesday, is the restful and melancholic day following the lavish, spectacular parties of the annual Carnival celebration in Brazil. In lush color and with masterful filmic techniques, Quarta-Feira de Cinzas/Epilogue captures typically unseen moments on the forest floor while suggesting a playful scenario in which the viewer might imagine the ants to be cleaning up in the aftermath of Carnival’s revelry.

“The collective nature of the ant colony is an appropriate metaphor for an essential element in Neuenschwander’s work—collaboration. Here, the artist collaborates with ants. In other works, she collaborates with the viewer or with natural processes,” says Heather Pesanti, Carnegie Museum of Art assistant curator of contemporary art and organizer of the exhibition. “Requiring participation becomes a means of catalyzing the artist’s intention and activating the work of art.”

Neuenschwander’s practice can be contextualized within the dynamic and complex history of 20th century Brazilian modernism. Mid-century artistic movements that embraced participation, interactivity, and the convergence of art, music, cinema, and theater into a hybrid counterculture were critical moments in the development of Latin American art. Brazil’s historical intermixing of cultural sources combined with an increased focus on the subjective and interactive are elements that inform Neuenschwander’s art. While the artist draws on the past for inspiration, her determination to unearth the beauty and elegance in everyday situations and with humble materials positions her squarely in the center of contemporary artists practicing today. 

In her artistic practice, collaboration, chance, and the unpredictable results of natural organic processes form the core of Neuenschwander’s “ethereal materialism,” a phrase she uses to describe the generation of poetic experiences from ordinary events and materials in beautiful, subtle, and often ephemeral ways.


Rivane Neuenschwander
Brazilian, b. 1967
in collaboration with Cao Guimarães,
Brazilian, b. 1965
Quarta-Feira de Cinzas/Epilogue,
DVD projection, 2006;
Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

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