In many of Bugatti’s works, the spectator is an equal player alongside the objects, materials, and architecture at play. I tell her that I don’t experience a hierarchy in her work, something I highly value. There is a different tactility of every subject, but each player is equally important for the functioning of the whole.
In the view of Italian architect Lina Bo Bardi, the museum is a place where craft and art coexist. It does not place art in the center of attention, but as a common object among other attributes. In my practice, I closely follow Bo Bardi’s approach, as she redefined the identity of a museum and explored it as a permanent transformation, challenging the hierarchical structures within the museum space. After founding the Museum of Modern Art of Bahia (MAMB) in 1960, she considered it a school rather than a museum. According to Bo Bardi, the museum must first go back to nature: it must observe nature in order to function as a school so that it can learn from itself.
I first got introduced to her work in a seminar I attended by Brazilian researcher, critic, and exhibition maker Marcelo Rezende. In the same seminar he spoke about audience awareness, and the role an exhibition or artwork can play in creating greater awareness. He said: »In a building, you are affected by space, but you don’t think about the fact that you are in a building. Only in distraction can a shock suddenly come. You start to see not the things as they are. You start to understand that reality is much more.« For Rezende, audience participation means that you are part of the work and at the same time you have the opportunity to be reflective. As soon as we challenge the expectations of the visitor, for instance the moment when we start to disrupt the exhibition, it can become something very powerful.
When working in rigid institutional structures, as exhibition designers, curators, and artists, we are confronted with a highly controlled, often hierarchical, environment. The quality of the air, the movements (and expectations) of the public as well as existing architecture are seen as something that can not be disturbed or even changed, let alone the financial budget, personnel, and other institutional structures. The conversations between Bugatti and me often revolved around these issues; on how to find ways to challenge conventional exhibition structures. In my own curatorial practice, I also like to see exhibitions as a product that is constantly evolving, something oriented toward a process.
»In a building, you are affected by space, but you don’t think about the fact that you are in a building. Only in distraction can a shock suddenly come. You start to see not the things as they are. You start to understand that reality is much more.«
When discussing an exhibition as an ongoing process, I cannot help but think about Bugatti’s performance Rehearsing Brutality, until it’s totally destroyed, which is initially planned to take place during Beyond Walls at the Kunstmuseum in Stuttgart but due to the pandemic it is yet unknown if it is possible for the performance to actually happen. The work developed out of a collaboration with dancer/choreographer Alessandro Giaquinto and the Stuttgarter Ballett. The performance already took place, albeit in a different form, during the Symposium Paradoxes of Progress that took place at Akademie Schloss Solitude in March 2020. The work itself is a continuation of Bugatti’s fascination with the cube and random moments of destruction. Random in the sense that it is accidental, although partially rehearsed, which created a framework of expectation. Although a work is disrupted, it is always carried out softly, almost like a gentle shock. During our conversations we also discussed how we approach materials, in Bugatti’s case; or people, which is more common in my work as a curator. Vulnerability plays an important role in both our approaches. Vulnerability means the quality or the state of being exposed; the possibility of being attacked or harmed. I see it more as something that is soft and humble, as an exposure to uncertainty. It leaves me in a state of openness, where I am able to listen to the other and let the experience come to me, in which I adapt and learn. I also see this in Bugatti’s practice, where her approach to materials, performers and space leave room for vulnerability, for uncertain encounters to take place.
The foundation of Bugatti’s performance work is a seemingly solid shape of a soft pink ancient powder called »rotten stone« that Bugatti found by randomly searching the internet. »The material was used to stabilize dynamite,« Bugatti says. »I find it fascinating to think that it is something to be exploded eventually.« a common thread in her work is a fascination for what role materials have in our world, especially if they are in contrast with how they are being displayed. In this specific work the performer moves in close proximity to the cube, adopting stereotypes of masculine poses – copied from military training and sports – that contrast strongly with the cube’s color but at the same time respond to the material and the monumentality that comes with it. We talk about the cube and I ask Bugatti what this form means to her, she responds and says, »It means much to me, but I’ve become particularly interested in the cube as a symbol that carries associations to minimalism and rational thinking.«