Chance to relax and have a cuppa

OPAVIVARA! members play in their hammocks at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Photo: Linda Robertson
OPAVIVARA! members play in their hammocks at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Photo: Linda Robertson
Opening the public up to experiences they might not otherwise have is the goal of Brazil-based artist collective OPAVIVARA! Rebecca Fox talks to it about being a collective.

Swinging in a hammock or relaxing with a cup of herbal tea is not what you usually expect to do in an art gallery.

But instead of looking on, people will be invited to get involved when Brazil's ''OPAVIVARA!'' exhibition opens at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery this weekend.

The group's four members, all artists primarily based in Rio de Janeiro, are bringing to the gallery their Rede Social (a giant hammock) and Paje Curumim (communal tea stations) works, together with new work to be developed here in Dunedin.

Rede Social and Paje Curumim formed part of the group's first solo exhibition in the United Kingdom, ''Utupya'' at the Tate Liverpool last year, but it always aims to create something original when they are in a new place.

Both works aim to get people interacting, whether it is taking a seat in a giant hammock designed to initiate negotiation and collaboration between strangers, or having a chat over a cup of tea.

OPAVIVARA!’s Brasa Island, Sao Paulo, URBE Exhibition in Potato Square in 2018. Photos: Supplied
OPAVIVARA!’s Brasa Island, Sao Paulo, URBE Exhibition in Potato Square in 2018. Photos: Supplied
They have been able to do the Dunedin visit through the 2019 International Visiting Artist Programme.

OPAVIVARA!, the group, speaks as a collective and does not publish individuals' names, say the members of the group, who all completed bachelor of fine arts degrees at the Parque Lage School of Visual Arts in Rio de Janeiro.

The group formed in 2006 and collectively develops and decides on the projects they undertake.

''No one person has a special role.''

Their practice takes a performance-based approach to create situations for interaction and participation in the gallery and public space - highlighting the importance and transformative power of bringing people together through shared experiences.

''We are a collective of artists who work with collective experiences in public spaces, sometimes private. We propose interaction of people who would not normally have the chance to. We propose things that open up the possibilities - a hammock that could be a boat, that makes sound - and you have to negotiate the space within a playful experience but at the same time it brings a lot of other layers underneath.

''It is sort of a collage of elements, aspects of what we believe are positive, which we believe is important to survive in a dreadful world.''

The challenge comes when they are commissioned to complete a work.

''That is where negotiation comes into it. We are a collective but we are four artists, with four lives, four families.''

Their work is diverse and often takes its inspirations from the social problems in Brazil or its troubled colonial past.

''Brazil is in one of its most devastating times, there are very little rich but very many poor. We bring a lot of Brazil's contradictions into the pieces.''

''Utupya'', for example, was created out of the conversations OPAVIVARA! had with community groups in Liverpool and is a response to its history of migration and the current, ongoing discussions around borders.

The name ''Utupya'' comes from the largest tribe in Brazil which was ''massacred by colonialists'', OPAVIVARA! says.

''It's a play on that idea of utopia.''

Brazil today is a ''melting pot'' of cultures which the group tries to integrate into its work.

The hammock work, which they have shown in Brazil and at the Tate, is a reference to one of the biggest indigenous groups in Brazil, the Tupi tribes.

''It's an important item for them.''

The other important aspect of the group's work is to get people interacting with their work.

''It requires people to occupy the space and play around it. It is a more active way of participating.''

Chuvaverao involved people showering in the streets.
Chuvaverao involved people showering in the streets.
While the work OPAVIVARA! will create in Dunedin (with the help of local art students) is still being developed, the group says it will involve sounds of the sea.

''It's a surprise.''

The tea room will allow people to sit and drink herbal teas, which are known for their medicinal properties in Brazilian indigenous cultures.

''[The exhibition] invites you to sit down, to relax, to take your time. We're trying to get people to stay, not just pass through as you would normally do in a gallery.''

Some of their works might not translate from country to country such as one which involved people showering in the street.

Paje Curumim the communal tea station will be set up at Dunedin Public Art Gallery.
Paje Curumim the communal tea station will be set up at Dunedin Public Art Gallery.
''That kind of work might not work in Europe where people might not be that keen to shower in the street.''

For Kitchen Drumming, which was performed at the Guggenheim, they created wearable apparatuses from basic kitchen equipment such as frying pans, pots and kettles and used them as noisemakers.

In another work, Collective Kitchen,

the group made stove-tops and food items freely available to artists, activists and educators over a three-month period and in The Bush, the group placed chairs and plants in a circle and invited visitors to sit, establishing an ''open-forum jungle''.

To see
‘‘OPAVIVARA!, An International Visiting Artist Project’’, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, November 2 to February 23.

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