An exhibition of Augustin Rebetez is often a visual and narrative construction, a heterogeneous installation that integrates music, video-animation, painting, sculpture, performance, theater, and more, with a specific goal: to elaborate an imaginary and pictorial representation through a storyline, capable of creating, regardless of the work, relationships between the individual and the collective, between the architecture of space and the dynamic perception of the viewer. Like the aesthetic handyman in Claude Lévi-Strauss’s, The Savage Mind, Rebetez is also a handyman. He is part of a world in which he must build his universe with “what he has at hand”. He arranges signs that are already there in a different manner, since in his installations he does not deal, for instance, with wood or iron, but “just” with a piece of wood.
Adelina von Furstenberg: Your personal universe allows us to imagine the questions you might have about how to explore a possible mastery of the world. For you, however, it seems that you take more pleasure in the work itself than in its outcome, which for you then is secondary. An eventual success comes as a complement.
Augustin Rebetez: I try not to think too hard and work with what I have. My hands, my heart, my stomach. What comes out of it is sincere. I am what I do.
AvF: On the other hand, you do not feel the need to seek knowledge of other cultures either. In fact, in your exhibitions around the world you move your art like Isaac Singer’s1 farmer, who moves his field to wherever the land is fertile.
AR: I believe in cultural bridges between different countries of the world. I think that movements, encounters and exchanges are important. Each context is different. I try to stay the same but I try as well to adapt to various situations. Sometimes I show dynamic works that are colorful and explosive, sometimes I prefer to show a more poetic, softer and sensible aspect of my work. It happens as well that I build my projects on the spot, with the local people. At each exhibition, I try to feel what each place has to offer, to show my work at its best. Often, it is a sweet mixture that takes place. I also think that art is universal. My work operates with and for the imagination. It is without words, without concept, it is a visceral work, direct and, above all, visual.
AvF: Like all artists, you shape an identity through your work to invent a destiny and develop another representation of yourself. I think of Arthur Rimbaud and his “I is another”2 … or several others.
AR: Human identity is so vast, artistic production has so many possibilities, that we fashion ourselves while searching for who we are. And the more we do that, the more difficult it is to find the essence. My real concern is not knowing who I am, but rather, how to express my multiple identities and make them resonate with others. How to best transmit the fireball that is in me, how to inspire dreams, how to create magic. With my installations, I try to emulsify human feelings, to vibrate souls.
AvF: From your installations, which graze the absurd and especially, from where emerges a twilight romanticism, dear to the surrealists, one leaves with a mixed feeling of fascination and unease. A fantastic world, where indescribable figures and post Gothic clowns are part of your artistic universe.
AR: I create a world that encourages dreaming as much as possible, a world that makes the imagination work in full speed. I want to dream, to have ideas and to create new forms. Imagination is also an alternative to reality. A reality that is sometimes outdated, boring, compliant, standardized and sterile. In this imaginary world, I do everything otherwise. My stools are crooked. Humans are made up, without gender, in animal or totemic positions, dressed in black and active. My work has the color of anarchy and underground and sometimes leads to more meditative images.
AvF: Also, when we watch your videos, our mind begins to wander, and we remember a sentence of Victor Hugo: “Reverie is a digging. Abandoning the surface either to go up or to go down is always an adventure…”3. Your animation videos have a special place in your work, can you describe them and especially define them?
AR: They came because of my voracity. I used to take so many photographs that this mass of still images started to come alive. Also, animation enables magic illusion. And the way I use this technique leads to an almost epileptic intensity. I’m seeking to fill a hungry eye, an eye that is accustomed to the stroboscopic flux of images. At the moment, with my video installations, I want to create immersive systems in which the public can feel something and vibrate with it. My goal is to make it pungent. When I enter an exhibition, I want to find something that shakes me.
AvF: Can you describe your solo exhibition at Sesc Consolação? How did you put it together?
AR: Because of its size, the exhibition at Sesc Consolação gives me the opportunity to show several aspects of my work. I have created all sorts of contrasts to give it richness and volume, aiming to allow spectators to enter and get lost in it. It’s a multi-explosive exhibition.
AvF: You called your exhibition here in São Paulo, Sesc Consolação “Shake Auroras”. As we know, aurora is the last stage of twilight before sunrise. What is the idea, what is your objective behind this title?
AR: My objective is to make exhibitions that are generous, that make you want to do things that are positive and full of energy. But they are not Disneyland. This exhibition is an invitation to disorder, to creation, to the mixing of ideas, to the combination of dreams. My work starts in landfills and ends in museums. I try to contaminate and transmit my anger and commitment, but I also want to gently intermingle it with glimmers of hope. Mix, shake, disrupt and disembowel the aurora. It is a call to action through art. I think we have to write manifestos, put ideas into practice, work, exhibit, collaborate, make people laugh and be scared, make them yearn, yearn for the underground, thwart advertising, I want to give my friends and the audience something else to drink.