Somewhere between art and magic

Sara Arrhenius writes about the preparation of a show which invites the viewer to become a part of an unusual world filled with fantastic experiences.

5 min read

The first large scale solo exhibition of the Brazilian artist Laura Lima in Scandinavia is opening on September 10 at Bonniers Konsthall in Stockholm. It will be my third experience of her both mysterious and expressive installation The Naked Magician.

The first time was within the dense, colonial, 19th Century walls of the Casa Franca museum in Rio de Janeiro. Blinded by the striking sunshine and heat outside, at first I was unable to focus on anything in the half-light of that monumental room. A few moments passed before I could begin to decipher that the room was stuffed full of tall tilting shelves and long workbenches piled high with the most remarkable objects. In the midst of this apparently disparate collection of things stood a man wearing a top hat and a tailcoat with the arms cut off. He appeared to be very preoccupied with creating something, much like an alchemist or artist.

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The next time I came across him was at the Migros Museum in Zurich. The room itself was brighter this time round, but equally as stuffed with entirely different objects which kept the magician occupied, when he wasn’t busy preparing a meal or resting on a bunk beside a number of crammed bookshelves.

He will appear once again at the Bonniers Konsthall exhibition, and yet what he will do, how the room will be arranged, and which objects will surround him remain yet to be discovered once the exhibition opens. The Naked Magician is different each and every time it is shown. Laura Lima uses the room itself and the collected objects as her starting point when she constructs the work. The installation is also influenced by what the varying magicians themselves decide to do.

Each and every observer witnesses an entirely unique experience, as the installation is constantly transforming. The red thread running through the varying versions of The Naked Magician is the framework Laura Lima establishes for the installation. In this case, she has drawn up a detailed list of the objects the installation shall include. During the spring we have been looking in every nook and corner for the things she needs in flea markets, attics and on the net.

Moreover we have had an open call for donations in our communication in daily newspapers, Facebook and billboards. Everyone that donates an object gets two tickets to the exhibition in return. The reception has been more than generous and the different kind of objects we have been given has been both odd and surprising.

There is a powerful charge between the apparent and the unspoken, that which is visible and that which is kept secret, in Laura Lima’s art. The magician openly reveals his tricks to the public, his sleeveless tailcoat making it impossible for him to hide any cards up his sleeves. But what he eventually creates remains a protected secret. Laura Lima’s art contains a generous invitation for the viewer to become a part of a world brimming with fantastic experiences. Yet her work also contains an elusive puzzle. Truly great art always contains yet another secret.

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The wish list of the magician:

Folded notebooks (different types and shapes, 50 at least to be transformed)
Notebooks with sandpaper pages
Folder cardboard to make notebooks
Fold studies (cloth, rugs, paper, and different materials)
Cut studies (in different materials)
Second hand books with geometric cut-outs

Miscellaneous books used as research material for the magician and to make them fly

Flour
Pulleys
Ropes or Chords
Stardust
Easel
Paint thinner
Hatchet or axe (or both)
Big knife
Stapler
Walking cane
Umbrellas
3 Rolls of Paper
Crutches
Empty egg shells (emptied through a pinhole in the shell)
Big paper balls (meters and meters of paper, old newspapers, or used paper of any color, to make geometric and spacial studies, etc.)
Different types of china to be used as sculptural studies
Clay (several hundred kilos)
Things wrapped in plastic or paper
Sewing, pottery, carving, sculpting, carpentry, (etc) tools
Potters wheel
Small electrical stove (with two places)
Sewing machine
Electric Drill
Hand saw, jigsaw,
Electric Jigsaw
Electric Mixer
Electric Blender
Boxes small and big and of different types
Chocolate
Comic books
PVA glue
Several deck of cards (to play solitaire and to make sculptures)
3 meters Green felt (as used in playing tables)
Paints (different colors an types)
Iron oxide
Iron bits and pieces
Wooden sculptures and wood bits
Broken furniture to make sculptures
A world Globe
Books and notebooks made of Kraft paper
Rolls of Kraft paper (to make landscapes, holes, mountains, inverted mountains)
Blackboard
Glass bottles
Chests of drawers

If you have something you wish to contribute, please email a photo to caroline.elgh@bonnierskonsthall.se. Donations may either be dropped off at Bonniers Konsthall or arranged for pick-up. All contributors receive two free tickets to the exhibition, as well as a mentioning on Bonniers Konsthalls website.

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