Célia Pinto, from Rio de Janeiro, interviews:
VATER (Brazilian visual artist and visual poet, living in Texas, USA)
I would like you tell me about your childhood
and about your artistic formation. When did you to be an artist?
think that since I was three or four years old I have loved everything
visual. I used to draw all the time. My mother used to say that when
I grew up I should marry the owner of a stationary store. I discovered
very early that to be an artist is something very important. I came
to this conclusion because of my doctor Dr. Calazans Luz, my father's
colleague. Every time I had a consultation with him he asked me to
pay for my visit with a drawing of [an Afro-Brazilian] baiana. I don't
know why, but I loved to draw baianas. It seems that since then I
was interested by how my Brazilian roots could inspire me as an artist.
I was around nine years old, in my usual naughtiness, I started to
experiment with some installations in my family's Copacabana apartment.
After learning about the hanging gardens of Babylon, which had fascinated
me, I decided to make a replica of them at home. My mother had gone
shopping and left my sister and me alone at home. The house was filled
with flowers because of a birthday party earlier that week. Under
the spell of my experimental spirit I used a pin to carve out part
of the wax in the wooden parquet floor of the living room, and there
I stuck many flowers. When my mother opened the entrance door she
was assaulted with the vision of my sister and I watering that fantastic
think this was my first installation, but not the last. Many others
followed during that period with the same panache and joy extended
by the freedom of experimentation. My mother scolded me a lot, but
I think that underneath her stern exterior she was amused by our creativity.
As I entered adolescence I started to draw and paint exhaustively.
So much so that my father finally gave me some oil paints. He forgot
to give me brushes though, and the day those oil tubes arrived I spent
the whole night awake painting with my fingers.
father, who didn't know very much about art, wanted me to study painting
with one of his clients, a Belgian painter called Van Back. But being
already aware about Van Gogh paintings I thought very little of the
academic Van Back, and I continued in my self taught style until the
day that I discovered Frank Schaeffer, who gave painting classes for
a group of artists in his studio very close to my home.
my father didn't want to pay for my classes with Frank, I resolved
to work to be able to pay for them. I started by working with my father
in a clinic he had in Rio and I also gave private geometry classes.
That was what happened until I started the architecture school. By
then I also started to paint at the Ibere Camargo studio. Ibere helped
me to free myself of many rules in art making. I was not very easy
to understand that in Art, there are no rules. That it is you who
make the rules. But I think that both the experimentation of my childhood
and as well certain encounters I had with Ibere in the beginning of
the 60's and with Helio Oiticica and Lygia Clark latter on in the
seventies, helped me a lot to understand what Gilberto Gil says "I
am the maker of my own road."
faith I had that Art could be my Road was so immense that I dropped
out from architecture school. But until today I have a very special
relationship with Architecture. That is clear in the fact that I did
more than 150 installations (which points out my deep relationship
with "SPACE"- please read the text I wrote about space in
my portal at (sambaqui section) http://www.imediata.com
my belief that Art is overall the practice of freedom, invention and
experimentation (what lead me to a work totally not commercial) pushed
me to use the precepts of order, organization and harmony learned
at architecture school to invent a parallel career for myself as a
graphic artist. And since very early (in the sixties, I produced many
graphic works in Rio, including movie posters for the Faria brothers
and Luis Carlos Barreto. I was even invited by Fernando Lobo to produce
a drawing for the Tropicalia Long Play jacket. The Phillips Company
paid me and framed my gauche, which I saw hung on one of the Phillips
walls, many years later, when I made for them the jacket for Calabar,
by Chico Buarque de Hollanda. They didn't use my design for Tropicalia
because the manager of the group Guilherme Araujo opted to use something
that could display a photo of the members of that musical movement.
Joaquim Pedro de Andrade also came to talk with me when he was filming
Macunaima to see if I could do the titles for his film. But what could
a shy girl like myself do to compete with artists who already had
an established network?
was one of the factors that made me to move to São Paulo in
1970. I believed (and I was right) that there I would have more of
a chance to survive as a graphic designer not only because São
Paulo has a bigger graphic industry but because São Paulo is
a emigrants' land where the value of what you do has more importance
than the relationships that you establish. In this sense São
Paulo was not just a training field, but also a jump board for my
I would like you talked me about your artist's book. How did you initiate
that kind of production?
I made my first artist's book in New York in 1973. It was part of
the Luxo-Lixo series. I made it in silkscreen which I printed myself
at the Pratt Manhattan studios where I studied printmaking. It was
composed of a small brown envelope containing sheets of clear film
with printed words. When the films were overlaid, the words formed
are your favorite books? Why do you associate the artist book with
- In 1974 I lived in Paris and there I made another book with black
and white photocopies using photos which I took with a photographer
called Miro during the whole Christmas day inside the Chatelet station.
We took the photos always from the same point looking across to the
other side of the platform. I was inspired by a text by Henry Miller
where he speaks about Christmas underground and it was also inspired
by a parable that Einstein used to explain relativity. I like this
book a lot, actually several copies of it where stolen from several
shows that I participated in, including one that Lucy Lippard organized
in the 80's at the Franklin Furnace. The title of this show was The
Copy Cat Show.
Why do you associate artist's book with performances?
also like very much the Book of Hope, which I made during my residence
at the Art pace Foundation in San Antonio, Texas which was also part
of the installation titled The Lady of Hope this installation was
inspired by Oxumare (the rainbow serpent) and the Brazilian syncretism
with the black Madonna of Aparecida. The book was a result of a compilation
of many poems, letters (almost as written ex-votos) connected with
hope. Part of a correspondence I received from various poets, artists,
friends non artists, people from different social ranks including
servants of some friends in Brazil. Because I printed the whole book
on my home computer printer, I only could produce one single book
that was beautifully handmade with help of my Art Pace grant. Because
of that it received a special attention in my Art Pace catalogue.
this installation has to do with the altars to Isis and to the Black
Madonnas in the European Cathedrals, the book is almost like a prayer
book although many of its contributions have nothing to do with prayer.
First of all I would like that you tell us a little bit about your
friendship with John Cage how he influenced your art?
you receive my text about Cage, which was also published (in Portuguese
and English) at http://www.imediata.com?
I think that you could find there the answers for this question.
you tell me about your book Sounds Good?
As for the technical part, the book is composed by smiles:
you photograph those smiles? And about the digital part of it, the
design, is it also yours? Or is it only an idea that you had? Do you
work as a graphic artist in the computer? If the answer is positive
what is the software you use?
Yes and Yes (I have an immense pleasure in the graphic work which
I made in Brazil during many years to survive - I made many jacket
for books and Long plays. I made the layout for Chico Buarque de Hollanda's
Calabar and even the first jacket for Tropicalia which was rejected
by Guilherme Guimarães because it didn't have the portrait
of the participants of the movement which after all he decided to
include in that cover. I use Photoshop.
The Form and the concept:
idea of creating an accordion book was pretty good, suggests a shower
of smiles or that smile is contagious. It also escapes from the linear
narrative. Could be that with this format, what you intended it was
to show the possibility of the expansion of this concept "The
most revolutionary act one can commit in our world now-a-days is to
be happy." Or you didn't think about any of this and you didn't
use anything rational, just your intuition?
RV> I liked very much your
intelligent and sensible interpretation but frankly the results come
intuitively from my experience as a graphic artist. Because I intend
to continue the book in its back, I did that to give a sense of loop
(no end) just as a vote for that the existence of smiles never finishes
in the world. This is what I intended to reach with the design but
I do not know if people read in that way.
Interaction. Tell me about the installation Sounds Good and the public's
reaction to it...
Well, 4.000 people pass by the installation every week. Because
I am not there all the time, it is very difficult to know. But it
is a very white installation (that gives it an inner light) and it
is decorated with smiles, which everyone tells me is very uplifting.
Many people have thanked me because they say that they need something
like this in the present moment (March 2003).
are a visual artist. When and why did you develop an interest in poetry?
During my childhood in "Jardim Botânico", a neighborhood
in Rio de Janeiro close to the city's Botanical Gardens, I had a neighbor
who was a poet. According to my mother, he was a cousin of the "Prince
of the Poets" (Alberto de Oliveira) - a title which I thought
incredible and magic well. This old man used to compose poems for
me. This used to give me a sense of very special importance. The sister
of my father also kept saying that we were related to the "Dove's
Poet" - Raymundo Correa. I remember that I made a serial photo
work in Venice (1976) connected to the subject of time, in homage
to him. The subject of time, by the way is a theme that I have been
pursuing for long time (since 1970.)
father also used to say "your great-great-grand father (his great-grandfather)
was a very important poet." There is even a square with his statue
in "São Luis do Maranhã"o (the capital of
a very traditional state in the North of Brazil which was considered
the Brazilian Athens). He was talking about Odorico Mendes, whose
real importance I verified with Haroldo de Campos many years later
(Mendes was the first translator in Brazilian Portuguese of Homer
and Virgil, and did excellent work). My mother, who always helped
me with my first grade Portuguese lessons, is also a natural poet
and loves poetry. I remember that in my French classes I even used
to write poetry in French.
is even a funny episode: in my adolescence I used to write poetry
all the time. Because I was on the staff of a school newspaper, one
day I went with my colleagues to the house of Manuel Bandeira to interview
him. I brought a copybook filled with my poems. After the interview,
I shyly asked him to read my poems. After a fast glance through them
he turned to me and asked "my dear girl, do you know what chicken
pox is?" I answered that it was an illness that almost every
child has. He replied "in the same way, poetry it is something
that always attacks during adolescence." From that day on, I
archived my copybook and all my pretensions to become a poet. Because
I was already drawing furiously, I turned all my passions to the visual.
But poetry never ceased to be important and venerated by me.
the sixties, when I was already supporting myself as a graphic designer,
I created the design for a poem by Eliane Zagury (O Mercado, published
by Cadernos Brasileiros). This helped open my eyes to Concrete Poetry.
then, Drummond (an extremely very well-known and good Brazilian poet)
for me was the king. He even wrote a poem exclusively for me (poem
which was lost by the Petite Gallerie when I gave it to them to be
framed. I will never forgive them for this loss.)
I started my series Knots in 1972 (Drummond wrote about them in one
of his columns in the Jornal do Brasil, one of Brazil's most well
known news papers) I realized then how important a title is, and what
an intrinsic poetic part of the artwork it is. From then on after
all the knowledge I acquired about Duchamp, for me, to give a title
to a work is as important as the concept with which I am working on.
the beginning of the seventies I was introduced to Concrete Poetry
by chance, by Olga Savary (a well know Brazilian poet.) I was already
living in São Paulo. Olga came to visit me just after a visit
she made to the poet Augusto de Campos. He had given her his poem
Lixo-Luxo (Luxury-Garbage) that she brought with her to my studio.
I confess that I became fascinated and it never left my memory. My
husband says that a seminal work is that one that comes to your mind
in recurrences, over and over again.
I arrived in New York in 1973, at the first impact from the city,
that poem came to my mind as a large billboard. I started a large
series based on this inspiration. It was then that I started to experiment
with visual poetry, and produced in silkscreen in the Pratt Institute
for a small artist's book titled Garbage.
these series also belongs the Postalixos or Land(e)scapes. These Postalixos
were part of a mail art project I did. After that came the Scul(ru)ptures,
photos of garbage that I found forming by chance something that looked
to me like sculpture. I composed an audiovisual of photos of New York
garbage and New York luxury. I wrote a poem for this project that
Helio Oiticica read when we did the sound together. Actually, Helio
liked the piece so much that he insisted not only that I write to
Augusto de Campos telling him about the project, but also helped me
with the sound. We did a concert for live radio and TV sounds by four
hands without editing at the same time that Helio read the poem. I
participated at the 1976 Venice Biennial (the first international
show totally dedicated to ecology) with this work.
you an see I came to visual Poetry through a very natural and organic
path. But it took a long time until I had the courage to consider
myself a poet. Poetry for me belongs to the terrain of the sacred.
it is not only visual poetry that attracts me. Poetry is Poetry. Recently
overtaken by a burst of audacity (inspired by the philosophical mind
of Edgar Morin and perhaps also by the desire of sharing with others
part of my narrative poetry), I sprinkled the Edgar Morin, http://edgarmorin.sescsp.org.br
, site with some of my poems. If this site is still up I will invite
you to give a look at the following items: "mito, conhecimento,
civilização, estetica, olhar, ignorância, exclusão,
cultura, amor, caminho, intelectual, amizade, sujeito, sabedoria,
compreensão, animais, crueldade, vida, círculo, música,
terra, sabor, ação, verdade, viagem, morte, literatura."
To find me you just click in the "próxima" in the
internal section until you see my poems.
you consider your artist's book as visual poetry?
there is a strong connection of Artist's Book with Visual Poetry.
you have knowledge of the new technology tendencies (animation, interactivity
for visual poetry?)
course, I only didn't use them until now for lack of opportunity and
for lack of instructor. My husband actually knows about these things
and even teaches them but as you know "in house of iron worker
the nails are made of wood".
you believe that only now poets have the means to realize what Mallarmé
predicted with the Coup of Des?
for me is the supreme territory of freedom therefore everything is
possible in it. For me it is always the artist who invents his/hers
own rules. But it is also important that we leave room in the experimental
for the flowering of the intelligence of the content. Without content,
everything is reduced to gratuitous gestures. The cultivation of Experimentation
and the cultivated Content must come side by side.
Are you interested in the new technological poets and by the softwares
that makes possible the creation of this new poetry?
mainly by those ones who have something interesting to say. I do not
know if I would like to waste my time with magical tricks.
you have expertise in some of the software?
I already answered that. "In the house of the iron worker..."
Brazilian Visual Poetry Show" was the first time that you worked
as a curator?
No. In 1979 I curated an exhibition for the Nobe gallery (East 57Th
Street, Manhattan) that included works by the following artists::
- AMALIA TOLEDO,
- ANNA BELLA GEIGER
- ANNA MARIA MAIOLINO
- ANNA SZULC
- BENÉ FONTELES
- BETTY LEIRNER
- CARLOS VERGARA
- CARLOS AUGUSTO LACAZ
- CILDO MEIRELES
- CLAUDIO TOZZI
- DIMITRI RIBEIRO
- EDGARD BRAGA
- FLORIANO RAISS
- FRANCISCO INARRA
- GABRIEL BORBA
- GRABRIEL ZELLMASTER
- GENILSON SOARES
- GILSELDA LEIRNER
- HELIO OITICICA
- JULIO PLAZA
- LEONHARD FRANK DUCH
- LYGIA CLAK
- LYGIA PAPE
- LUCIANO FIGUEIREDO
- LUIZ FERREIRA
- MARIA CARMEM ALBERNAZ
- MARIA DO CARMO SECCO
- MARIA LUIZA SADI
- MARIO ISHICAWA
- MAURICIO FRIEDMAN
- NELSON LEIRNER
- NEWTON MESQUITA
- OSMAR RAMOS
- OSMAR FONSECA
- PAULO BRUSKY
- PAULO GARCEZ
- REGINA SILVEIRA
- REGINA VATER
- ROBERTO EVANGELISTA
- ROBERTO KEPLER
- ROGÉRIO LUZ
- RUBENS GUERCHMAN
- TERESA SIMÕES
- UBIRAJARA RIBEIRO
- VERA CHAVEZ BARCELLOS
- VERA SALAMANCA
was perhaps the first show of Brazilian art in New York that highlighted
the experimentation and the very contemporary side of our art. I curated
a show of Super-8 Films for the Millenium also in New York where Ana
Maria Maiolino and Paulo Brusky participated. I also curated a photography
show for a gallery in the Village and in the beginning of the 80's
a show of Latin American art in a gallery in New York state titled
Latin American Visual Thinking. A total of twelve artists participated
in this show, including Anna Bella Geiger, Ana Mendieta , Papo Colo,
Liliana Porter, Camitzer, Catalina Parra, Cecilia Vicuna, Alfredo
Jaar, and Juan Downey.
in 1983 I was one the editors for the first issue of an art magazine
published in the US about contemporary Latin American Art. Flue #2,
vol. lll was a published by Franklin Furnance Archives, New York,
and contained works by Roberto Evangelista, Lygia Clark, Lenora de
Barros and Regina Silveira from Brazil, Luis Dias from Guatemala.
Jonier Marin from Colombia and Padin from Uruguay among others.
How did you select the artists for the Brazilian Visual Poetry show?
In spite that you say that your work as a curator came from your creative
process how did you felt doing this work? If the work was a consequence
of your creative process there was a difference between Regina Vater
as curator and Regina Vater as artist?
I never thought about this, and I am not sure how to answer. Perhaps
there was a difference in the sense that I was not so intransigent
in the choice of the artists as I am with myself when I produce my
own artwork. I tried to incorporate all in a more flexible way perhaps.
What was the greatest satisfaction you got with the show?
The six page article written by the critic and also a good poet Raphael
Rubinstein which came out in the Art
In American magazine which with Art Forum is considered the most
important magazine for the visual arts in the United States and perhaps
in the world. This magazine had never published such a large piece
on any show ever made in Austin. I had people writing me from France
asking me things about the show because this review.
Did anything thrilling, funny, or curious happen during your curatorial
work or during the show?
the work for the show was hype in the good and in the bad sense, I
do not know if I want to remember all those emotions. I was very stressed
and put on a lot of weight (60 pounds!) When it was all finished I
ended up sick in bed. I did everything almost without any money at
all and using a very old Mac that broke down at the end. I worked
the whole time (a year and five months) from eight in the morning
to ten at night. I just had the very generous and free help of three
editors and my husband, when he was not furious with me for not paying
more attention to him. I literally "hunted a thousand rabbits
hiding a cow," and "harvested many hurricanes."
about your own work, the installation Camões' Feast, it also
came from your intention of allowing the American public a better
contact not only with our language but also with our culture?
Yes, of course.
why Camões if the show was about Brazilian poetry?
When the Americans pay reverence to Shakespeare they are not making
a distinction between American and English culture. "My language
is my continent's".
an installation if it was a poetry show?
me there are many ways to register poetry. If people today use digital/visual
methods, why not use an installation? This actually is nothing new.
Augusto de Campos already had done it and probably other before him.
In art there is no rules. The artist makes his/hers own rules.
is Poetry for you?
of this question was already answered in a certain way before. But
personally, poetry for me is the most economic way and the way with
more latitude to arrive to the center of the matter. Heiddegger said
the "the essence of Art is poetry, and the essence of Poetry
is the instauration of truth".
I have a lot of difficulty with narrative poetry because many times
its sin is the lack of economy just for not speak about the lack of
latitude. Many poets insist on using poetry to write diaries. In my
opinion, by doing this they take the risk of confining the poem to
a problem of ego instead of expanding it with universal values. I
prefer to watch soap operas. Another thing I do not have patience
is for ornaments of language. Ornaments always are used to hide something
that does not work very well.
installation Camões' Feast could represent the festive space
of poetry in the Portuguese language, or perhaps because the Portuguese
language is a Feast for poetry?
think that making the question you already answered it as a good spectator
I feel you are.
the guests for the Camões' Feast was Affonso Romano de Sant'Anna,
who recently wrote a series of articles about art and has often criticized
installation art. Did he have chance to see your installation? If
the answer is positive, what was his commentary?
I have been living outside of Brazil for long time, therefore I am
far from these domestic quarrels (so much more common in Brazil than
here.) It was my intention to bring to the Camões table samples
of various tendencies of poetry in Brazil by living poets. My project
was not exclusive but inclusive. It was to invite to a dialogue on
good terms about the Portuguese language and about Poetry, including
some people who don't get along with each other. Affonso represents
a more conventional vein (and I knew that) but at least he does not
write diaries. About his more conventional way of looking at art I
had already an intuition through many texts that I read signed by
I never thought that he could be capable of such radicalism because
I remember that he admired a work by Frances Torres, a Catalan artist
who makes very provocative installations. What happened with Affonso
must have been the same thing that happened to Ferreira Gullar - they
both lost their "Stone".
did you select the artist that were included in the show?
Based on my familiarity with the work of the various poets.
of Artist Books by Regina Vater
- Garbage 1973 N.Y.(silkscreen).
- Christmas Underground or A Brief Introduction
to a Time Travelogue, 1974 Paris 3 3. Black and white photocopy.
Naturalezas Still Alive, New York 1975. Color photocopy.
- Tina America, São Paulo 1975. Black and white photos (by
Maria da Graça) pasted in book of pictures bought in the brides'
district in São Paulo. (photo of this book of artist is in
CAYC's Catalog - 1976) collection CAYC - 1976) collection Fatima Bercht.
- Beds around the word, São Paulo 1975. Produced with black
and white photos and color photocopies glued to a photo album (photographs
of this book are in the artist's book in CAYC 1976 catalogue).
- What does Art mean? São Paulo Answers, São Paulo 1978.
Edited by Massao Ohno.
- X-RANGES - Book of loose pages, limited edition, by "Galeria
Arte Múltipla", Buenos Aires (1976). It is made up of
photographic x-ranges of houses of the artists: Hélio Oiticica,
Lygia Clark, Vito Acconci and John Cage. There are four silkscreens
relative to each one of these artists two.
The Endless Book, São Paulo, 1978, black and white photos.
- Urbaccion, São Paulo 1978-1982. Color photocopy.
- What Does Art Mean? New York Answers, New York 1980/1998 photocopies.
11 - Cinematic Drawing, New York 1981. Artist's book installation
approx. 20" X 44" based on Japanese animal scrolls and inspired
by the Amazonian myth of the turtle's race. In this Amazonian version
of the race between the turtle and the fastest animal, the turtle
wins because it counts on the support of other turtles. This work
is a cross-reference to both the European and Native American versions
of the story.
White Rabbit, who carries a watch in his hand and never has time,
is printed in regular and equal intervals throughout the backside
of the paper. On the external side in calculated intervals according
to a mathematical progression, a Native American turtle was drawn
24 times (the 24 hours of the day). When the drawing is rolled up,
the rabbit appears 24 times in the upper side of the scroll but always
just behind the turtle And when the spectator finishes rolling the
scroll the last turtle is already waiting for the rabbit at the end
of the paper. Shown in an individual show at the Eugenia Cucalon Gallery
in New York.
- Harvest of Wisdom, Austin 1987. Photocopies.
- The Snake Scrap Book, Austin 1988. Photocopies companion book for
the Saneke nest that also can be considered as an artist book.
Snake Nest, 1988. Installation 16' X 8' X 4' - It consisted of framed
88 BXW photocopies of images of mythical snake symbols represented
in different parts of the earth as good or evil omens. Shown at the
Laguna Gloria Museum, Austin. Inspired by the snake symbolism in diverse
mythologies around the Earth.
- "Comigo Ninguém Pode", Chicago 1988. One installation
in a series (of eight -- until 1995) The first work of this series
(which stated in 1984) as an artist book was exhibited in Artists
Books Works store window - Chicago It measured 13'X 6' X 3 ' It consists
of BXW photocopies of faces of all ages, races and people of different
social levels. (The source of the photos is I.D. card photos taken
in Brazil in 1982 by a street photographer); a Dieffembachia plant
and dirt. Inspired by Afro Brazilian traditions of sacred plants and
the universal myths of the Tree of Life and the dying and reviving
- ARTéMIS à NoUs, Austin 1989. light box, inspired by
the book of Octavio Paz about Duchamp (Castillo de Pureza).
- The Jaguar Eye (ou o Olho da Onça), Austin 1998 digital print.
- The Book of Hope, San Antonio 1999. Digital prints.
-Camões' Feast, Austin 2002. Off set limited edition of 500.
- Sounds Good, Austin 1987-2003. Limited Edition of 300.