Luiz Camillo Osorio in conversation with Guerreiro do Divino Amor, PIPA prize 2019
30 August 2019
Obviously, it would be interesting to know more about your artist name. How and when did you start calling yourself Guerreiro do Divino Amor (“Warrior of Divine Love”)?
Guerreiro (“warrior”) is my surname by birth; Divino Amor (“divine love”) came about 20 years ago as a joke, at a time when my father was dating an evangelical pastor and we all lived together. Guerreiro do Divino Amor was my nom de guerre at the church where we wanted to set up a kind of heavy metal gospel band, which never came to anything. Over time, the name acquired many other meanings, and today it’s like a force that guides me.
You were partly educated in Europe. Could you tell me what that was like?
My academic background is in architecture, and I think this is still central to my work. The degree course at the university in Grenoble, France, was quite experimental and receptive to other ideas, attuned to what was going on around it, taking account of the body, light and materials, in order to understand the spaces that make up the city, on a small scale and a large scale, reflecting about how these levels are related to each other. At the same time, there was a focus on the emotional memories conjured up by certain places, on echoes and everything else that marks a given space on symbolic and historical levels beyond its material substance.
From the late 1990s and the early 2000s, I spent a lot of time in squats with their techno and punk scene. This influenced my work and was crucial to my political education, too, because we discussed alternative forms of building and experiencing the city.
The master’s degree course in Brussels was entitled “Contemporary Urban Condition” and focused on studying the influence of phenomena such as mass tourism and geomarketing on the construction of the city. It was during this time, in 2005, that I began the Atlas Superficcional (Superfictional Atlas), a project that I’m still working on today. I was finally able to make practical use all the tools of theoretical analysis and to give them shape and form: mockups, publications, short films, and drawings, which evolved over time. The form it takes today began to emerge only after I had taken a technical course in special effects and animation in 2013. It was as if the universe had opened up to me.
There is something in your work that recalls a camp aesthetic. Here in Brazil, there were two important moments in the development of camp models: Carmen Miranda and the Tropicalismo movement. Do you identify with these influences, or is your work unaffected by them?
I don’t identify with them.
I wasn’t aware of the term “camp,” but it’s always worth asking what and who labels such as camp, B or Z movies, underground, splatter, cult films etc. refer to. There’s always an underlying concept of “taste,” usually Western and white, defining what is aesthetically acceptable. Turning this concept on its head, we could think of the bad taste of producing minimalist conceptual art and geometric abstraction in Brazil today.
I think Tropicalismo has an inherent optimism, a certain enthusiasm, which is also linked to the time and social context in which it emerged. My work seeks to address the complexity of the apocalypse. Aesthetically, it has been influenced by various worlds that I encountered at different phases of my life, references such as Xuxa, Hans Donner, MV Bill, the rave scene, punk rock, samba school parades, telenovelas, neo-Pentecostal rituals, the natural sciences, historical reconstructions, concepts of the corporate world, and, more recently, agribusiness.
Your work always reminds me of the motto/work of Baldessari: “I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art.” Do you see echoes of this poetic principle in your work?
Just like science museums, real estate and livestock fairs, churches, and any other spaces where things are sold or imparted – these are places where fictions are created to provide better and more attractive access to content. The work follows the same logic, like a carnivorous plant, which has to be beautiful and eye-catching for insects to approach it and for it to be able to feed. It aspires to being a sort of mass media. We live in the age of entertainment, our sensory channels are already open to this type of language; these are the images, the sounds, and environments in which we are all immersed, which are already recorded in the collective unconscious and steeped in meaning. The aim is to create a competing narrative by feeding off these images. These days, catching the attention of the public is a very important form of power, attention being one of the most valuable commodities in the market and the object of intense competition. To get there, to compete with all these stimuli, the work cannot be boring. For me, to not be boring is also a question of respecting the audience.
Is visual excess a policy or an aesthetic strategy?
I think it’s the consequence of a natural process. The work tries to deal with highly complex phenomena and power disputes extending across many levels; this excess is a reflection of the juxtaposition of these interconnected layers, like a kaleidoscope. My work addresses issues that are in no way abstract, so it would make no sense to push it in this direction. The result could not be minimalist.
This sort of pop-like imagery also helps the work transcend the boundaries of art. I’m very happy for my work to be widely used in classrooms and to spread it to all kinds of settings from there. Moreover, as I said earlier, there is an inherent critique of the notion of “taste” that underpins all my work, over and above the issues I address.
Tell me a little about your ongoing project Atlas Mundial Superficcional (Superfictional World Atlas). Sometimes I think it is a dialogue with science fiction, and sometimes I think it’s hyperrealistic. Or is it neither of these things?
It’s both, because nowadays the two are entwined; the work simply exposes this conflation.
The project Atlas Mundial Superficcional began as scientific research into the economic, social, racial, and religious war for control of territories and the beings that inhabit them. In its most visible form, it’s an aesthetic war that rages in the urban space, in interior design, commerce, clothes, nails, hair and eyebrow design, and on spiritual levels, too: it’s a war that is waged on all levels. It has a certain realistic aspect because it is entirely built out of elements of reality, but it uses the vocabulary of science fiction; it creates new nomenclatures. I think that’s why it causes this sensation of mixing familiarity and alienation.
If you had to choose two artists from the history of art to exhibit alongside you, who would they be? And why?
I’m currently working in the context of the Bolsa Pampulha, a six-month grant program for artists, which I’m very happy to say allows me to share and develop projects alongside artists who I greatly admire, such as Sallisa Rosa, Ventura Profana, Gê Viana, Davi de Jesus do Nascimento, and other grant holders. I think that together our works develop a lot of force, in terms of reinterpreting historical power structures. Our narratives complement each other. It’s a story that’s being rewritten by many hands, like the Justice League. I’m keen to see the result of our work exhibited together this coming September.
In a more classical sense with regard to the history of art, it’s difficult to say; maybe Hieronymus Bosch, who continues to fascinate me. I think placing my pictures alongside his would be beautiful (laughs).
Actually, my ultimate dream would be to turn my superfictional allegories into a samba school parade and to perform at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro.