I have been following Martin Ogolters work for a few years now, and I will never forget when I first met him for an interview in his flat in Rio de Janeiro in 2014. I was researching for a two-piece Feature I did for Interview Magazine about the experience living in a favela and the exploding artists scene in Rio de Janeiro.
The contrast of his super fresh, white cube style air-conditioned apartment, at the major seaside Avenida Atlântica directly at the Copacabana Beach, compared to the tiny room and house I stayed in, high above the Asphalto in the nearby favela complex Cantagalo-Pavão-Pavãozinho, couldn’t have been bigger.
His solo show at Collectors Room Hamburg, Stardust, is opening on 12th of December. So we caught up with the Austrian artist for our first piece of Coeur et art Series „Letters from Brasil“
Please tell us a little how and when you first came to Rio and why you decided to stay.
I was planning to go to Cuba, but a friend convinced me to look up his brother in Rio; instead, that was back in 1999, after the first 24 hrs I was already deeply impressed, I had never been to Brazil or South America. After several more trips and realising how the country is changing and gaining steam with the election of Lula in 2002 I thought I check it out for longer.
And concerning your works, it clearly had a huge impact, I only have to think of your After Party series, or your „Tupi, or not Tupi. That is the question.“ work – can you describe a little how the city or its Visual impact influenced you?
As I work with pictures, there is obviously a certain amount of influence, but my projects happen all over the place not only Brazil. Without a doubt there is something about the light and ocean in Rio that has a big impression on me. The after party series, civil possibilities (about the tunnels of Rio), the land of the future and most recently citizens, which is a rare project of straight portraiture, all of these works are veiled social commentary, some more obviously so than others.
Rio de Janeiro has changed a lot within the last few years, its a bit like having a whiplash. The very positive years with a creative explosion in many areas before the world championship and Olympic Games, and the pacification of most favelas in Zona Sul that made the so-called morro´s accessible for foreigners or gringos. The inhabitants of the Favelas had a brief time of hope. But then the big Petrobras scandal broke, which is part of the most likely biggest corruption scandal ever, „Operation Car Wash“, and the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff followed paralleled by massive Demonstrations which are uncommon if you look at the protest history of this country. Now Brazil voted for the openly fascist misogynic, homophobic, climate change denying former Military Officer Jair Bolsonaro who will be the new President of Brazil. A long story short, it is a tragedy, but also I feel nearly typical of its huge contrasts and the extreme ways of Brazil in general.
Tell us how it felt and feels for you as an artist, being well connected in the city regarding being able to work and show your works, is that still possible?
There is a very robust artistic community in Brasil, and the stars of that crowd continually show internationally, often much more so than in Brazil, their voice will not go away, and some are socially very active. How the incoming government will treat art and culture remains to be seen, but the signs are indeed grim.
Personally, I have worked here for many years, but I am still a gringo, Brazil has not been an immigrant country in the last 60 odd years, so the scene has difficulties with people like me, which of course also has to do with the market. The last gringo who came and had success was Miguel Rio Branco, a Spaniard who went in the 60s and most consider a “Brazilian artist” today.
And will you stay in Rio de Janeiro, how are your thoughts from an artist view? Is it now not even more important to stay, how dangerous is it?
I am not sure if I will stay, most likely not. The last election is an active mirror of Brazilian society today and being already a gringo in all aspects of professional life I don’t need the added danger and aggression, of course, today this is hardly happening only in Brasil.
You are showing new works in Hamburg at the Collector Room, the show is titled Stardust. Please tell us a little about it.
I started the Stardust series in Austria a couple of years ago and have made some pictures there and in Rio. Flowers, ice, light, mirrors and in some instances glitter make for some exciting universes. In the Instagram Culture of today, they go to the more abstract and poetic using elements of classical photography. Some images are rephotographed off an iPad screen so as in other series the distance to the picture changes the perception, in this case, you see the screen patterns which are again distorted I place by water drops and fingerprints.
What is next?
Thinking about a move and get started on projects I have been thinking about
Collectors Room Hamburg
Maria-Louisen-Straße 9, 22301 Hamburg
Opening 12th of December, 2018
19.30 bis 22 Uhr
Born in Austria, lives and works in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil