Eva Rocha is an ArtPrize Artist reflecting on her experiencing participating in ArtPrize and her first impression of seeing a huge variety art forms displayed in non-traditional, public spaces.
Many times, while visiting a museum, I had this thought, ‘I wonder what all the art that was produced during a certain time period and that never made it to a museum, looks like and where it is.’ Somehow, I think there is a parallel art history that is being denied to us. The art included in a museum or gallery collection depends on the personal taste of a curator or a collector donor or through other dynamics that made that art and/or that artist, to be included in the books of art history. When we review art in these books, we read about events such as the Salon des Refusés (Exhibition of Rejects) in France in 1863, that included the works of Manet and others that were rejected by the Paris Salon, for not suiting the style, or the taste of that time. If we think about it, there must have been many works that were neglected in different times and happened in a parallel history of art that we will never know about.
Last year I had the opportunity to participate at ArtPrize for the first time. Seeing all that diversified creation at once really impacted me. It was amazing that, in a democratic way, nothing was filtered: art of all kinds was there, all available to the public — and a very diversified public. On walking thought an ArtPrize event and seeing all that art, one could think, in a judgmental way, "good art and bad art." But it might be more expansive for one to think, “There is no such a thing as bad art". Art is an individual expression and a language and all individuals have a voice. It is amazing to consider and question why one individual chooses one or other medium or subject. It is also amazing to see it displayed in a multitude of places: not just galleries and museums but also bars, post-offices, churches…
In returning this year, my work will be displayed in a church, in a memorial room with names of soldiers who died during World War I. My current work is an installation that grew from an initial interaction of women victims of human trafficking. It was actually my intention for those women to be seen in a human, yet sacred, context since they had gone through a process of dehumanization. I wanted to have them as the subject of a memorial installation that remembered agents of histories we normally might wish to forget. I got very excited that my work could be displayed in such a potent space. That would not generally happen outside of an ArtPrize event. Although it can be challenging and difficult to have your creation exposed to a competition since it is reviewed from the outside while art is created in an inside world, what moved me to participate then and now was the possibility of accessing such a large and diversified audience in one single event. For me, due to the nature of my work, the experience of dialoguing about an issue through my work with such a broad audience is very important.
I think the ideal place for an artist is a ‘bridge-space’ that includes the most knowledgeable of the art critics and the first time ‘illiterate viewer’ of art —if there is such a thing as an illiterate in art. Art is not a privilege of a few and art is not something only happening in the realm of special places. Art has been created by individuals in all civilizations since primordial times in caves, tombs, and any ordinary place. I was born in Brazil in a three-street rural town surrounded by the ‘daily art’ of the embroidered table clothes and the decorations on the religious processions. I did not see art in the context of a museum until I was nineteen-years-old. While I walked among the work at ArtPrize for the first time and saw all sorts of expressions in art everywhere, I remembered what an artist from my country, Helio Oiticica, once said: “The museum is the world!”