Renata Lucas: Redcat

By Bedford, Christopher | Artforum International, November 2007 | Go to article overview

Renata Lucas: Redcat


Bedford, Christopher, Artforum International


Renata Lucas works on an institutional scale and with unmistakable institutional ambition, but like that of certain other Brazilian artists whose work has gained both critical traction and market currency in the US over the past decade--Cildo Meireles and Helio Oiticica, for example--some of Lucas's most provocative work is, owing to its benignly threatening nature, completely untenable in the context of a major American museum. Her lighthearted but persuasive brand of institutional critique does not, therefore, operate from within the museum, but instead refuses to enter that economy; Falha (Failure), 2003/2007, shown recently at REDCAT, is a signal example of this strategy. This is not to suggest that Lucas's installation is a deadly serious undertaking--quite the contrary. The artist's insistence on empowering the viewer through direct interaction with her materials leads to an irresistibly rambunctious encounter that throws into sharp relief the deadening effects of conventional institutional installation and emphasizes our limited (not to mention staid) conception of phenomenology in a museum setting.

Falha is a floor-bound modular installation composed entirely of plywood boards. Each unit is made up of two sections hinged at the center and outfitted with a metal handle so that the pairs of panels can be shifted from the horizontal all the way to an acute, rather precarious-looking vertical orientation. Since gallery goers are invited to tug, push, and pull the boards into any configuration permitted by the dimensions of the gallery, there can be no definitive incarnation of Falha, only a fugitive, whimsical horizon line likely to change with the arrival of the next visitor.

In fact, the installation's mutability is of central importance since, as a dormant object, Lucas's installation manifests an obstinate lack of visual appeal. …

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