Museum  November 22, 2021  Chandra Noyes

A Marvellous Entanglement: Isaac Julien & Lina Bo Bardi

©Isaac Julien. Courtesy the artist and Jessica Silverman Gallery.

Isaac Julien, Um maravihoso emaranhado / A Marvellous Entanglement (Lina Bo Bardi – A Marvellous Entanglement), 2019. Endura Ultra photograph facemounted.

As the world moves to a post-Covid era, reflecting on how we live our lives in public and private spaces has never been more timely. While many of us had newfound time to closely examine our own homes, shared spaces have also taken on new meanings, representing both the potential danger of crowds and the joy of bringing communities together that were separated at the height of the pandemic.

Filmmaker Isaac Julien’s new project, Lina Bo Bardi — A Marvellous Entanglement, currently making its U.S. debut at the Bechtler Museum in Charlotte, NC, though conceived before the pandemic, is a timely one for a number of reasons. Previously on view at MAXXI, the National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome, A Marvellous Entanglement is an immersive experience that explores the life, words, and work of architect Lina Bo Bardi. A non-sequential biographical excursion into Bo Bardi’s world, the exhibition plays with the passage of time, showing us the stages of Bo Bardi’s life overlapping with the lives taken on by her own buildings. Julien spoke with us about his love of Bo Bardi and what makes her buildings so remarkable.

©Isaac Julien. Courtesy the artist and Jessica Silverman Gallery.

Isaac Julien, O que é um museu? / What is a Museum? (Lina Bo Bardi – A Marvellous Entanglement), 2019. Endura Ultra photograph facemounted.

Born in Rome in 1914, Lina Bo Bardi took on many artistic roles in her lifetime, including as a designer, scenographer, artist, and critic. After immigrating to Brazil in 1947, she would see her greatest success as an architect, going on to design some of the most prominent museums and cultural institutions in the country. Her unique take on Italian Modernism embraced Brazilian culture and aesthetics, a style visible in the Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP), the SESC Pompéia, a former factory in São Paulo that Bo Bardi converted into a recreation center for the public, and the Teatro Oficina, a crumbling office building she rebuilt into an avant-garde theater. Her home, the Casa de Vidro, a modernist glass structure set in the jungle, is also a landmark.

This year, the Venice Biennale of Architecture awarded Bo Bardi the Special Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in memoriam, citing that she best embodies the Biennale’s theme: How will we live together? Meant to be functional and enjoyed by all, Brazilians have embraced Bo Bardi’s multi-use buildings, which Julien describes as “very utopian, the way they could attract so many different people from different walks of life.”

© Isaac Julien, courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London/Venice.

Isaac Julien, Lina Bo Bardi – A Marvellous Entanglement, 2019. Nine-screen installation, super-high definition, colour, 9.1 surround sound. 39 min 08 sec.

British filmmaker and installation artist Isaac Julien first encountered Bo Bardi’s work on a trip to Brazil in 1996. In 2012, when his solo exhibition Geopoetics was exhibited at Bo Bardi’s SESC Pompeia, his interest in her work was solidified, and Julien became “obsessed with all things Lina Bo Bardi.”

The culmination of his obsession, Lina Bo Bardi — A Marvellous Entanglement, offers an enveloping way to experience Bo Bardi’s vision. To achieve this, Julien has created a space of his own, transforming the gallery into an immersive experience that transports the viewer into Bo Bardi’s life. Using nine screens simultaneously displaying his film, we watch as Brazilian actresses Fernanda Montenegro and Fernanda Torres, mother and daughter, portray Bo Bardi moving through her life in the spaces she created. Footage of musicians, actors, and dancers interacting with the buildings brings them to life and fills them with the spirit of Brazil. With the addition of sweeping drone footage, the buildings are contextualized within their cities and country, taking us from dramatic interior moments to grand exterior shots.

By layering Bo Bardi’s own words with images of her buildings and artist interacting with them, Julixen creates a non-linear biography, one that eschews straight facts in favor of feeling, allowing us to experience her creations and life viscerally rather than academically.

© Isaac Julien, courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London/Venice.

Isaac Julien, Lina Bo Bardi – A Marvellous Entanglement, 2019. Nine-screen installation, super-high definition, colour, 9.1 surround sound. 39 min 08 sec.

The exhibition’s title, A Marvellous Entanglement, is taken from Bo Bardi’s own writing on time: “Linear time is a western invention. Time is not linear, it is a marvellous entanglement, where at any moment, points can be chosen and solutions invented, without beginning or end.” A Marvellous Entanglement, consisting of nine video installations, as well as still photography and biographical information about Bo Bardi, is akin to augmented reality, taking the basic structures of her buildings, and layering her writing, local histories, and lived experiences on top of them to tell the story of Bo Bardi, her buildings, and Brazil.

©Isaac Julien. Courtesy the artist and Jessica Silverman, San Francisco.

Isaac Julien, Sem começo nem fim / Without Beginning or End (Lina Bo Bardi – A Marvellous Entanglement), 2019. Endura Ultra photograph facemounted.

Julien has long had an interest in archives and in alternative ways of examining and presenting history. Before turning to Bo Bardi, he worked in the biographies of Frederick Douglass (for 2019’s Lessons of the Hour) and Langston Hughes (for 1989’s Looking for Langston), delving into the seminal figures' lives and words. In A Marvellous Entanglement, Julien takes us deep into Bo Bardi’s world to examine it intimately, showing us how, as an immigrant and outsider, she was able to appreciate vernacular Brazilian design and “produce a kind of novel dialogue” with it.

“Her training allowed her to appreciate things in Afro-Brazilian Indigenous cultures, and to translate that into a design practice that encapsulated aspects of popular culture,” explains Julien. This is perhaps the reason her works have been so popular in Brazil, and are now gaining more international recognition. As Julien guides us through her life and work, we can see all that is possible in public spaces that bring together history and guide us into an optimistic future.

Isaac Julien: Lina Bo Bardi — A Marvellous Entanglement is on view through February 27, 2022, at the Bechtler Museum in Charlotte, NC.

35.224583661213, -80.8474178

A  Marvellous  Entanglement
Start Date:
October 30, 2021
End Date:
February 27, 2022
Venue:
Bechtler Museum
About the Author

Chandra Noyes

Chandra Noyes is the former Managing Editor for Art & Object.

Subscribe to our free e-letter!

Webform

Latest News

Pan American Unity by Diego Rivera at SFMOMA
In a groundbreaking partnership with City College of San Francisco, SFMOMA…
Mary Corse at Pace Palo Alto
Pace is pleased to present an exhibition of new work s by Mary Corse in Palo…
Denver Art Museum Polishes Architectural Gems Old & New
The largest, most prevalent treasures of the Denver Art Museum are the DAM’s…
Hogarth and Europe at Tate Britain
Few artists have defined an era as much as William Hogarth, whose vivid,…
ART 101: Cubism 
This constellation of artists was all occupied with the problem of how to best…