The leading Brazilian artist defies our expectations with photographed installations, challenging a society too apt to consume images rather than examine them.
VIK MUNIZ: Images have specific agendas and a rhetoric we often miss. Very occasionally we think about what we are seeing. And there are economic interests connected with the image. I am not saying this is either bad or good, just the way the world is. It has two image industries: One to do with marketing and the other, with contemporary art. Both generate image consumption.
Yes absolutely, although the context is what differentiates between a commercial and an artistic image. When a person enters a museum, he seeks an image-related experience, which is why I always try and do work that deepens our knowledge of the image.
Yes, I grew up in a Sao Paulo slum called Jardín Panamericano. My father worked hard all his life as a waiter and my mother was a phone operator. I have done a thousand different jobs.
Yes I think I have been very lucky. There are people with talent who work hard but still fail to achieve things. I have done all kinds of things: I was a mechanic at a service station once. But whatever I did, I tried to do it as best as I could. I always tried to be the best. Another important thing is that I always considered myself a thinking person: even when doing the most sordid jobs, I kept the world inside me.
I used to draw as a child. I am dyslexic so when I wrote, I would doodle. And that way I began to draw more and more. But when I was 19, I worked in a firm that made road signs, and I designed a poster for which they gave me a prize. The night of the award ceremony, a girl stopped me on the street and asked me to help, saying they were killing her boyfriend. I approached and separated two people who were fighting, and the one who had been mugged went to his car, took out a handgun and fired a shot. He hit me in the leg. He had a lot of money so he gave me a reward so I would not report this to the police. I accepted. With that money I bought a ticket to the United States to learn English. After six months I returned to Brazil, but I first went to New York for a weekend, and well, ended up staying 30 years. For six years I was illegal, until they gave me citizenship.
When I was in New York, I realized my generation was the one creating things, the structures. So I thought: this is my moment. I was friends with some artists, so I started to think I could start doing some art. First I did sculptures, then things which were to be photographed.
I want people to say, what is this? What is it made of? What is its real size? Why is it made this way? I want people to think they know what the works are about, until they get nearer and realize, they do not.