It all starts with harvesting. To collect, to store, to accumulate things: cardboard tubes, corks, wooden fragments or little branches fallen after a storm.
Any collection demands selection and classification, that is, the search of a certain principle of identification. In spite of belonging to the same kind, it does not necessarily mean that the collected things have an intrinsic connection. One may even think the opposite: if you have a great number of the same kind of thing, each thing may lose its particularities and become only an element of the whole.
That’s why these things are woven, a weft made with loops, knots, fastenings. Ribbons, threads, colored ropes wrap, hold, sustain the collected pieces, leaving their inner forms free. In the tense game between the repeated element and the flexible order promoted by the interlacing we observe the paradox of geometrical discipline connected to affective drive.
There certainly is something primeval in this act of linking, an always present physical energy, as if such articulation intended to create an ontological knot among the beings. This "sewing of things" reminds us of the Art historian Gottfried Semper, who conceived the idea that works of art were originated from the tectonic concept, that is to say, as articulate structures delimitating a certain space (this concept clearly contradicts the classical tradition, in which plastic arts originate from the latent forms concealed within the solid material. The tectonic constructive concept denies the mimetic impulse that extracts form from the material). The same method applies to the art of weaving, carpentry and even to the construction of a primitive cabin made of vegetal fibers and wood. They are all articulate and light structures that tend towards immateriality and appraise the links of their constitutive elements. In the end, it is all about a form which adapts itself to its pre-existing condition, either physical, psychological or corporeal, depending on what can be found at the place. But here the challenge proposed to the artist is to intervene in a space that is already full of meaning and artistical intention. We are not talking about a plain white cube. We are talking about the architecture of Le Corbusier, a Le Corbusier who had just discovered a place for the sacred, a place where men wish to establish a channel of communication between earth and heaven. In this space dedicated to the inner self, the architect creates an actual visual tension that runs along the whole edifice, evoking dialectical limits: repetition and singularity, Cartesian geometry and plastic emotion, light and matter, straight and curved lines, planitude and depth.
It is exactly in the unceasing exchange between diverging orders that we can find the connecting point of Iracema Barbosa’s installations and the work of Le Corbusier. The artist’s interventions take profit from the internal course of the building, being located in strategic places: in the oratory, in the corridor leading to the library, in the atrium, in the “petit conduit” and in the crypt. The idea is to be taken by the “promenade architecturale” conceived by the architect. But to follow this dialectical reasoning implicates contradicting it, based upon the instability of the articulated structures made of corks, fragments of wood, branches and tubes when compared with the solid and abrasive matter of which the edifice is made. Bois de Carnaval brings a cultured forest to the interior of the building, but in a particular way, because the branches fall loose from the ceiling, emphasizing the roughness of the walls all along the narrow corridor. The moving light that enters through the slits existing in the rough walls reinforces the chromatic vibration and the dance of light and shadow. So, the space becomes even more "indecidible". The Tube transmits a feeling of instability as it reverberates from the different levels of the crypt’s floor. One might think the elements were disposed at random, were they not linked by a rope and a certain concentration was not created by their own weight. The colored strips of wood of equilibristas (Equilibrists) provoke an optical instability, due to the game of colors (the tones are intentionally similar and opaque in order to adhere the wood) as well as a physical instability, due to the number of pieces and their “disordered” disposition, giving the idea that the architectural wrapping had become insufficient to keep them together. One cannot decide whether the wooden pieces are at rest or in movement, as far as they seem to be on the verge of a real collapse.
Faced with the expressive grandiose plasticity of the monastery of La Tourette, the delicate interventions, nevertheless, do not conceal a certain fragility. The proposed interventions make evident their difference in relation to the modern, as they demonstrate, by contrast, that Le Curbusier’s plastic tension is based upon a classical idea of balance, considering that its powerful constructive articulations still depend on the sovereign exercise of an expressive will.
Iracema Barbosa and her installations invite us to think about the dramatic condition of the presence in the contemporaneity, which seems to accept only unstable arrangements, transitory connections. But it does not mean – and that is what the artist demonstrates – that art must get used to a way of living without substance, as if other kinds of corporeal experience and life itself were no more possible.
(João Masao Kamita for the catalog of the Démesurer exposition at Tourette Convent)