Slam Magazine .
SLAM FAD #140- Caio Fern: From Mein Welt, With Love
by Terri Lloyd
© Caio Fern
SLAM: Caio, you were born in Brazil and you studied psychology at Universidade Paulista. When did you become an artist? And how does your education influence your work?
C - As a matter of fact I was already producing visual art before to decide about college and what to study. When I started to work with the intention of producing something for real ( 1995 ) I was 20 years old and experimented many medias including computers and technology related materials. Psychology was a choice I took because believed that it would give me a better way to go deeper into the art work . I never had the intention of being a professional psychologist, only worked with this for few years and dropped. So my art has influence on my scientific way to deal with myself . Studying it helped me to see human being in a less romantic way and with less ideologies too. I can say the science gave me a good level of freedom to explore myself with no conceptual excuses.
© Caio Fern
SLAM: It’s been stated that you are sometimes described as a realist with a highly individualistic style. How you do see yourself and your work? Do you find this assessment accurate or is this just another label to perhaps help us cope with the deeper intensity and exploration of your works?
C - I don’t mind when people talks about realism when see my work . I think it is funny . I am laughing now. It isn’t wrong at all. All my paintings are result of observation . Light can give all that is necessary for self expression . I really try to do not be creative . I believe that creativity is a weakness, a resource you use when aren’t able to deal with things the way they are . It happens with me, sometimes I have to go beyond of what is considered reality . But it is still real . There is no lie or fiction. Is only reality by other angle . My way to see and deal with reality is extremely subjective and lonely. When I look to my works… they are hipper-realistic to me. But I get surprised when see people calling that realism or “a kind of realism” . I really didn’t expect that people would be able to see this way . Most part doesn’t .
© Caio Fern
SLAM: You have stated that “the intention of your work is to be impressive exactly by the fact that it has nothing impressive about this.” Is this minimalist or do you find this to be perhaps more aligned with a zen, if you will, type of intent?
C - I don’t like to see me as a minimalist , even less with the 20Th century’s concept of it . Because this idea would never allow me to go further and deeper into my work if was adopted, it would never fulfill my needs . About art today, it is the opposite, it is trying to impress too much .It seems that it is made for teenagers, maybe because is a very immature society . It is extremely Rococo and at the end all you have is thousands of exhibition with very impressive works that doesn’t feed, making you go back home with that feeling of “whatever”. It is all shallow . Even more with Tumblr , Flickr, blogs, so many art-fairs , biennials….. where you have to capture the viewer as fast as possible making it easy to digest . Art has became something very similar, if not identical , advertisement . I only want to develop a work with no frames or ornaments inside it . Simple and direct … but that allows the viewer to have a long relationship with it for many years . If sometimes my painting causes impact, I want to make it sure that has much more than this, that you can look to this for your entire life and will always discover and rediscover the work. Sounds contradictory , I know, being direct , simple and at the same time having so many layers of perception to be experimented for years .
© Caio Fern
SLAM:”Reductive” is also a word you’ve used in relation to your work. So is “a lack of spice.” How so?
C - Yes , Reductive is what I believe the best way to describe my work . It has the intention to reduces the feelings and attention of the viewer towards a target . There is nothing else, only focuses on that and go deep . Any distraction is going to be allowed . That is the reason I choose this word as the name of one of my books . Lack of spices is pretty much about this too . It is interesting you put the both expressions here together .
© Caio Fern
SLAM: This is a fabulously audacious thing to say, ” …only mediocre people produce with no pretentious [pretense]. Art is about pretentious [pretense], is about to go beyond. Even my smaller drawings has the pretentious [pretense] of an entire empire.”
Do you think artists today are losing the pretense or vision of their individual empire’s? And why do you think this is?
C - This is a thing that annoys me a lot about my culture . Everything here is too Bossanova , everybody wants a easy life with small inoffensive pleasures and any real commitment , any real target . Sometimes in Brazil the word ambition is seem as a sin . It has only created mediocre artists happy for spending the entire life doing plin plin on the piano or acoustic guitar singing about coconut water and teenager ass . With visual art isn’t different, everyone here only wants to follow some world’s trend because it is easier , pretty , correct , acceptable . When I get into my studio , I don’t accept anything nice or acceptable . I want to go beyond everything I have ever done and breed my own universe doesn’t matter the cost of it . On the entire world I see artists of all the generations and styles with that mentality of ” I want to do something cool” . Fuck the cool . I want something real ! If an artist hasn’t a very personal way to see him/herself and the world… so get out of my way, the world doesn’t need more people putting in practice the same values over and over again . We already have bad corporations and horrible governments doing that for us .
© Caio Fern
SLAM: What is particularly refreshing is to hear, read, you say how much you love your work. Often this is not a widely acceptable acknowledgement of what an artist does. Do you think it takes courage to be yourself, love yourself, love what you do? Or is this a necessary component to further exploration –of self, art and process?
C -I prefer to make clear that I need this as I need air . During the last decade I tried to give up of producing art and even hated art in general. But life forced me to keep doing it . At the hardest times only art was there by my side. It is very corny to say , hahah!! But is totally true . At the end the few real satisfaction I had in my life wasn’t traveling around the world or fucking a perfect pussy, helping poor people, planting trees and defending animal rights, eating a 4 cheese pizza, having friends …… but was finishing a good painting . How do I know if it is a good painting ? I only feel . It is very personal and I can’t say it applies to another artists , but all I need in my life only art can offer . I don’t know how sad or good it is … but that is the way it works with me .
© Caio Fern
SLAM: Something one notices when spending time with your works, is the influence of Punk Rock, Ramones, Misfits, Pettibon, in your work. Would you speak to SLAM readers about this?
C - One thing I really like is that when people talk with other artists about their influences they always talk about visual art , but when they talk with me about my influences names as Ramones and Misfits appears . Isn’t that great ?! hahah!!! I am serious , it really makes my day. The idea of Reductive came exactly because of punk rock : direct, intense and sincere . No guitar solos or frames , no bullshit . Cut off the crap . No conceptual excuses , no text behind . Do what must to be done and fuck off. About Raymond Petybon… I spent many years in my bed listening the albums and looking to the covers . His work was there in a way that was extremely good and reachable. I remember that my friends and I used to say : “He doesn’t look like an artist, he is real ” . Yes , I agree his work is very illustrative and sometimes even descriptive, but his ability to make the image “happens” used to fascinate me . Misfits , I think it is brilliant about everything, but Ramones is where you can find the real geniality . I like to tease people saying that Ramones is the only real form of art created on the 20Th century . I am only teasing and I know it really annoys everyone . But has some truth about this . If the Reductive idea found a form on the last century was with then . Everything that matters is there extremely concentrated. I still listen then in my studio, they are great teachers always helping me to do not lose the track .
© Caio Fern
SLAM: One would think that the influence of Punk might contribute to your statement regarding the importance of cheap supplies in the studio, “for you do not feel remorse to only sketch or try different things.” It is encouraging the artist to keep working and yet it also is a wonderful way of saying “ha ha fuck you, I’ve got pretense and cheap supplies!” Is this part of your underlying humor?
C - It made me remember now when I was starting to paint . I was very arrogant, almost as much as I am now .hahah!! I used to go to the galleries to see the exhibitions and I always got a smile on my face saying : “hahah!! my work is ten times better than this and cost 100 times less to be produced !!” The experience showed me in a fast way how important is to use really good material supplies for painting . Not only concerning about the way it looks and the possibilities for going deeper into that , but about the effects of time on it . I want to have a very well preserved work in the future . The idea of having cheaper supplies in the studio comes much more from the fact that I have no money to buy the best paints and canvasses all the time and it can make you stop before to do something you’re not sure about the results . So having cheaper stuff will help you do not have to think twice before to do anything. Do it and shut up , stop to complain about the money .
© Caio Fern
SLAM: Would you talk to us about Mein Welt? What is it? Where is it? How did this evolve?
C - Mein Welt . Long story in a very short way . In 2002 I isolated myself from the world in a dark old dusty haunting house for cleaning myself from my own life . I even left the art market , my last solo exhibition was in 2002 and after that year I wasn’t working with any gallery anymore . I started to paint again only in 2004 or something , and very few works . The Mein Welt idea was because I started to create an new universe to live with all the new values I was developing ( moral , ethical, aesthetically ). Exists my old humor inside this but I was really serious . Or I killed the world inside me and the life I had had or I would kill myself . I wouldn’t accept middle term . Mein Welt came when I was empty of all , it fulfilled my life . Was a search for a new life with beauty and peace . Something very rare when you are born and raised in Sao Paulo doesn’t matter you social class or origins . This was a period from 2004/5 to 2009. I realised in 2010 that I could keep my life going beyond of what was called Mein Welt , but it is the essence of what I live today , all my actual personal values for the everyday life were built on this period. Today this is my nationality . I consider myself a Welter , and intend even to take my own passport as a Welter very soon. When people asks me where I am from my answer is : “- From Mein Welt , sure , don’t you recognise by the typical accent ?”. Trust me , it isn’t a joke to me .
© Caio Fern
SLAM: You’ve written about how the Internet is changing the way we see art, how it influences art production, and that it also access to the learning about art. However, you’ve also stated to view art in person, is totally different relationship. (We agree!) That there is a physical power and presence when one is in front of art. But in front of a computer screen art is weak, boring.
Do you see this changing, and if so, how? Is this something that will get better over time, or something else all together?
C - Yes , it has changed . It has changed the way to see art , to discover new artists , to negotiate art , to study , to learn , to relate with art institutions and galleries, what is very good for somethings….. . About aesthetic values I won’t judge if it is going to be good or bad , but I am very optimist about it too. New medias and new ways to deal with the old ones are always welcome . I have met and talked with artists today that have produced only thinking about how it is going to look after posted on their blogs or pages . It isn’t bad at all. Not that I have any interest to produce thinking about how people will see it by their computers or whatever is the media they are going to use . I still paint for the person that is in front of the work . My only fear is that it starts to create more mainstream trends increasing gaps between artists with different productions in the market. What is very easy to happen and when I read blogs of art critics in general I start to feel this approach. It is interesting for art institutions , galleries , curators and critics to have as much people as possible thinking, doing and consuming the same . So Internet that so far has being a vehicle for alternative aesthetic values have a chance to exhibit itself and show that exists, what was almost impossible before, can be used to convince a larger number of people “what is good and what isn’t” or ” what must to be followed and what mustn’t” . I hope that collectors, new artists, and audience in general don’t be so stupid to fall into that .
© Caio Fern
SLAM – In this regard, you’ve stated, “I am here, producing what I want and sending a big FUCK YOU to the system. This is the sensation of the governments and corporations don’t want you to have…. this is the real freedom.” Are you an anarchist? Do you feel that art is perhaps a subversion from the norm, and act of anarchy?
C - Last week I send an email to a dear friend of mine saying how much I hate to be an outsider . I am an outsider because a guy that burns bridges, has a big mouth and more than everything : develops a work that is totally not related with any aesthetic or conceptual trend of the contemporary market … will not be invited to exhibit its work at the Tate Modern so soon. I don’t give a big FUCK YOU because is an ideal , but because this is what I do , simple like that . And nobody gave me the chance do NOT behave that way . I wish I was a very formal and conventional person shaking hands and having the work recognised as it should be . But is hasn’t happened so far . hahah!!! I don’t want to be part or apart of any “system” , I only believe that my work and I should be treated with more respect . But I have no doubt that art is the only human activity with power to subvert and norm . One of the facts that made me go to the college to study Psychology and not art , is because I didn’t want my name related with any academic art institution . DIY is something I take very seriously.
© Caio Fern
SLAM – Caio, you have also produced a couple of books. You wrote one, “Alemão.” It is described as a love story between two characters that grew up together and decided to give up of understanding or belonging to the world creating their own values and life style… the novel exposes contemporary values by the point of view of who lives at the other side of the concept of globalization and new world.
That’s a powerful statement. Would this reflect some of the intensity found in your art?
C - I don’t see difference between what I write and what I paint. One doesn’t complete the other and they could exist alone . I am the same person on both , I can’t change that . The book Alemão is very realistic, all you read there happened at the time the story is told ( between 1990 and 2009 ) . It isn’t a self-biographical work but there is no fiction there . The book tries to put down myths about racism , globalization, tolerance, bureaucracy in a ‘United World” and show how it all can sound as bullshit when you are at the “wrong side” not just of the world but of the life ” . The main characters are victims of other people’s values and it totally screwed their lives and minds . But isn’t a negative book . As it is described : “A love story “…. yes , an extremely not conventional love story . But beautiful . I believe that this book is edgy about everything , including aesthetically . The prove of this is that everybody starts to read the book and send me emails saying that have started . I have never received one single email of a person that have finished it .hahah!! I know that many ones got revolted and very angry . So , please , never buy my book , I don’t need more people hating me . hahahah!!
© Caio Fern