Talking to Antonio Bokel about the currentclimate of “art for everybody” in Rio, it seems like what this really represents could finally break through the barriers of cliché. Bokel has brought another exhibition to the Atemporal, awash with new names on the contemporary carioca scene.
The Atemporal is a studio-cum-gallery with a limitless, timeless character, true to its name and the activities that fill it, too, are unbound by limits, working in various formats to communicate their art. The space houses an art installation in a strongbox, book launches, projections onto fabric to simulate the walls of the street, surprise performances, and live shows through the night.
Occupying a modest old house in between Lapa's Ruas Senado and Riachuelo, the space owes its existence to the passion and perseverance of architect Patrícia Bowles, responsible for Atemporal’s reform and conservation. “Patrícia gave me the carte-blanche to use the space however I liked. I was chuffed!” Antonio explains, with all the characteristic enthusiasm of one the precursors of this movement which seeks to integrate art, street and people.
“I arrived there full of materials, paint brushes, paint and loads of ideas to use the space as a lab for experiments and collaborations. You know what really motivates me here?” - He goes on after a pause staring outside beyond the gallery – “The fact that the community gets involved with the space and that art is produced right here. I am here everyday and invariably someone will arrive out of the blue, curious to know what I am doing. Often I spend a while designing with children from the community that pass through and stop here. Last year, the bar in front helped us out, exhibiting some of our paintings, and just yesterday, whilst we were mounting the exhibition, a guy arrived saying he was a poet and that he would like to speak to us about what he does… I replied: ‘Get involved!’ I love that people come here curious.”
Bokel brings together new artists in each edition of his exhibitions, many of them who have never exhibited in recognised galleries and most of which approach the creative process in an alternative, less traditional way. He is keen to point out though that this is not a mark of lesser intensity or success, citing the example of artist Joana Cesar who participated in the last edition focusing on urban experimental art.
“Many people arrive here without ever having exhibited their work. It is really difficult for people who don’t enter into market of more formal arts. Joana, for example, had really strong work but did not know how to organize it for an exhibition. Not long after, it turned out that Joana had exhibited her work in an important gallery and had sold 100 percent. It is fantastic that this style, this form of communication, is being absorbed.”
The bureaucracy of advertisement, the lack of decent sponsorship and the distance between people and art do not dishearten Bokel, who has previously exhibited work in the United States and Europe. On the contrary, it is the creative collective, the mix, and the closeness of the studio work to the people in the area which drives Bokel and his collaborators. They have things to say and a multitude of ways to say them.
For those who contribute to Atemporal, producing art is not everything. The gang here sustain the space with love and elbow grease, sweeping the floor, organizing the area and possible partnerships, carrying the pieces and inviting yet more people to visit and take part. Brokel speaks positively of this, explaining; “I make my living from art, and reinvesting energy in the movement is fundamental. Nothing comes of nothing.”
For all those who have been led by more traditional forms of art to think that galleries and exhibitions are only for those in the know, a trip to Atemporal is obligatory. It is always good to break boundaries, and this is something that Atemporal does well.