Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2008
In Projeto Respiração, published by Editora Cobogó and Fundação Eva Klabin Rio de Janeiro, 2012
I thought of José Bechara for the 9th edition of the Projeto Respiração [Breathing Project] because of A Casa [The House], a project that he began in 2002, with a proposal for Faxinal do Céu, in the municipality of Pinhão (PR), curated by Agnaldo Farias and Fernando Bini. This project, which became known as Faxinal das Artes, brought together a hundred or so artists for two weeks in a residential villa, which had been planned to be used for the construction of the Copel power plant, but which, instead of being destroyed at the end of the project, became a permanent venue for educational and artistic projects.
José Bechara was invited as a painter and came out of this experience as a sculptor. For a number of reasons, Bechara wasn’t able to paint, but transformed the house he was living in into a visual manifesto in which the furniture was thrown out of the windows and the doors. Through this act of formal and symbolic revolt the artist succeeded in expanding and giving new meaning to his work.
Contrary to what one might immediately think, there is a strong connection between his “paintings” on truck tarps, animal hides and rusted surfaces and The House project. The key to this enigma was provided by the artist himself in an interview with Glória Ferreira, in the book on his work published by Dardo: this experience was about the origin of my painting — the truck tarps I used, the transformation of steel, the rusting process: shifting a certain material away from its normal purpose.
“Shifting a certain material away from its normal purpose” is a formal and conceptual operation that Bechara follows when truck tarps are deprived of the function for which they were designed and come to be artworks about the passage of time; or when the house, made to receive people, rebelled against its destiny and threw out the furniture, subverting the relationship between container and content. This is possible because Bechara recovers the irreducibility of matter as form: the truck tarp is a canvas; the stains informal abstractions; the furniture geometrical structures. By treating matter as pure form, he gives it a symbolic character, capable of producing new twists of meaning. Except that this deviation, is in fact a deviation towards the object itself, in so far as it reduces the object to its formal aspects, and thus transforms it into raw material for art: the chair that is made for sitting on, when its function is taken over by art, can be made to represent, conceptually, an idea of tension rather than of comfort, that is proper to it.
Likewise, in his work for the Breathing Project, the artist seeks to deviate from the collector’s idea of a house museum. It is as though the meaning installed by the founder were not enough and it were necessary to deviate from the purpose established by Eva Klabin, in order to get closer to the original meaning that a museum is a structure that constantly needs to be updated. Thus, like all those who have participated in the Breathing Project, José Bechara provided yet another deviation from, or rather a new becoming for, the collection.
Apart from the immediate association between house museum and The House project, I invited Bechara to participate in the Breathing Project, because the logic implicit in his work had developed in such a way that it was capable of accepting the challenge of working with a house, a collection, and a personality, without repeating the dynamics of containment/explosion/expulsion, which, for obvious reasons, would not be acceptable in a museum.
José Bechara’s intervention resulted from a conversation. I said that I felt that Eva Klabin had not died, but simply decided, one fine day, to leave, shutting the door behind her and leaving the house as it was. Bechara went on to imagine that the house missed its former owner. Walls, doors, stairs and fitted cupboard abounded and filled up the vacuum she had left. Once again, the idea here was to turn material away from its original purpose. What was one is now many. What was once an object is now a subject in another reality installed by the artist.
The house replicates itself because it misses its owner and seeks to fill up the sense of loss. José Bechara transforms the space, replicating the objects and the spaces in the house, with the resulting impression that, when Eva Klabin made her house and her existence into a museum, she created a third entity, beyond the collection and her residence, capable of providing multiple perspectives on life, like Borges’s Aleph. Eva Klabin’s gesture provides a crystal-cut vision that allows numerous reflections of the developments of reality.
With Saudade it is as though all the spaces in the houses have become pregnant with their own life. It all reverberates like a fable in the imagination and the house takes on a life of its own. Imagination is superimposed on reality. Objects come to life. Like a living body, the house grows, seeking to fill the gap left by Eva Klabin’s absence. José Bechara breaks down the boundary between objectivity and subjectivity, by creating a third way capable of breathing life into inanimate objects. Objects capable of feeling and shifting our perception of the space originally set up by the collector. The artist has created a baroque fable in which the world speaks. The objects echo themselves. The result is an aesthetics of excess. The tool is the concept. The work is produced by reducing material to its formal condition. The method used is metamorphosis.
He also interweaves, or rather, creates a field of drives, in which we can find, alongside the art of the past, examples of the contemporary mode, such as conceptual art (the concept presides over the intention of this intervention and legitimizes the idea of metamorphosis), minimal art (the reduction of material to its radical condition of form is the basis on which his imagination rests) and an updated version of the baroque, which is the underground stream that feeds José Bechara’s fabulous imagination and directs his work towards a purity hidden in excess.
 Quando a noite encosta na janela. Interview with José Bechara by Glória Ferreira. In José Bechara. Blefuscu. Santiago de Compostela: Dardo, 2008, p. 146.