“Imaginary Gallery” is an urban arts intervention developed by artist Fernando Gois based on drawings and other artistic creations of children and teenagers from Santos, particularly the area known as Bacia do Mercado [the Market Wharf].
The project was sparked by a desire to create an artistic action that went beyond the boundaries of the digital realm, searching for other possible forms of connection. This led to an intention to create an alternative form of artistic creation and enjoyment for the children and youth living in the Bacia do Mercado area, one that could be carried out without agglomeration and taken to the homes of the participants, reinforcing the current social distancing measures. The main idea was to develop toolkits containing an “artist’s notebook” handmade by myself as well as drawing materials (pencils, erasers, sharpeners, colored pencils, crayons, scissors and glue) and a children’s book. The “artist’s notebook” is a sketchbook containing not only blank pages, but also suggestions of visual practices based on the creative process of the artist who produced it. The toolkit contains an explanatory letter to the participants’ guardians with contact information. The process consists of making photographic and digital records of the notebooks and drawings produced by the participants, digitally editing them and generating posters of different sizes to create an exhibit along the neighborhood streets: the “Imaginary Gallery”. Therefore, after the distribution of the toolkits, I contacted some of the participants online to receive the photos of what they created in the “artist’s notebook”.
The initial idea was to distribute the toolkits physically at a meeting spot in the neighborhood. However, because of the barriers to social contact and the closing of several businesses due to the pandemic, I decided to deliver them. Following that decision, I thought of ways to distribute them through performances in the neighborhood, engaging my work as a performance artist in the project. Ultimately, I made five visits to the area, which are summarized below:
1. In collaboration with artist Ana Letícia, we formed a team of clowns called Fêrruge and Preta. We walked through the area alongside photographer Andrey Haag and production assistant Dan Calunga. As we wandered through the streets and squares to the sound of instrumental Brazilian funk, we stopped to interact with the few passersby we could find. We ran mostly into mothers or caregivers and their children, to whom we explained the project and gave out the toolkits. We also did the first interventions in the space, drawing words and images in chalk. This first visit happened on a Sunday, an exceptionally slow day in an area often bustling with people due to the proximity to the commercial center. We distributed no more than 10 toolkits and used the rest of our time to investigate the territory, identifying the main transit flows, the places with the highest concentration of homeless people, and the main meeting and gathering spaces – which are sometimes still used despite the pandemic.
2. The second intervention was carried out by myself, again as a clown, alongside photographer Andrey Haag. We distributed additional tool kits and I once again carried out an investigation of the territory, this time with visual artist Natália Brescancini. Our goal was to map the places where we could place the posters, given that she had also done a project with this technique. In this stage, due to the lack of response from most of the participants who had received the toolkit, I decided to strategically distribute other copies to people I knew, with whom it was easier to keep in touch and get the necessary input.
3. In the third action, this time only with the photographer, I once again performed as a clown while I distributed the toolkits, which led to different outcomes. I went to a public playground with around ten children, turned on the music and began to draw in an adjacent wall, making contact with them from a distance and inviting them to be part of the project. I delivered the toolkits and gave out colored chalk to each one, inviting them to draw on the ground. To the sound of instrumental Brazilian funk, I proposed drawings and some sketches that followed shapes that I outlined on the ground. We soon filled the entire playground with drawings, words, colors and movements. The drawings were photographed to later be edited and used in the intervention.
4. After receiving a response from a significant number of participants and editing the photos of the chalk drawings made during the previous performance, I produced the material for the first intervention with artist Natália Brescancini and photographer Andrey Haag. The intervention employed the technique of “puzzle posters”, in which an image is split into different parts and printed on A4 sheets to be “built” during the application, creating an expanded version of the drawings. The spaces in which the intervention took place were located through the observation of the territory, seeking to interact with the local dynamic and with the relationships built during the distribution of the toolkits. The goal was also to create a playful environment in the occupation of space, making reference to the games children play on the street and other urban artworks that can already be found in the area. In addition to the posters and puzzles, I put up several A4-sized reproductions of the participants’ drawings, as well as one of my own drawings. The latter was produced as part of a creative process triggered by this project: I experimented with drawings made with nothing but crayons, fragmented into several A3 sheets that allow the pieces of the puzzle to be put together in different ways, exploring asymmetry, gaps and sheets of different colors and shapes.
5. In the fifth intervention, again in partnership with Natalia and Andrey, we established relationships in the area to get authorization to put up some of the posters in strategic spots. In this activity, only drawings made by the participants were used.
One of the most interesting aspects of the process was the interaction with local people and passersby as the posters got put up. We were surprised by the number of compliments, acknowledgements and descriptions of how the work moved the people. Fortunately, we didn’t face issues in any of the spaces – on the contrary, we were encouraged to continue the actions with the support of local residents. During interactions with some of the children and youth, I exchanged contact information so they could later send their own drawings for future interventions. The Imaginary Gallery is ephemeral and subject to the effects of time and the weather, but also permanent, as it can be constantly updated by the development of new connections with the participants. Therefore, encouraging these children and the youth to develop a new view of the space they live in was the most important thing.
In addition to the street exhibit, the Imaginary Gallery will also have a digital version through photo galleries and interactive exhibits that at the platform that will be developed for the projects of the second edition of Colaboradora – Arts & Communities. The idea is to use software and websites that allow the development of games and other interactive contents using the artistic productions of the participants and the artist behind the project. Up until now, an exhibit has been developed in which the participants have to build a puzzle in order to view the drawing – a proposal that references the way in which the posters were put up.
Coordenação Colaboradora Artes e Comunidades
Mentoria Colaboradora Artes e Comunidades
Coletivo Etinerâncias (Gabriel Kieling e Raíssa Capasso)
Artistas Colaboradora Artes e Comunidades
Ana Letícia Figueira (Anita)
Breno Garcia (Groovy)
César Augusto Esteves (Pakko)
Elizabete Fitzgerald (Bete Nagô)
Fernando Henrique de Góis
Luiz Augusto Marques (Vida/Marq’s)