On the future (...)
One commonly voiced critique of the Anthropocene relates to how it emphasizes human agency – it fosters the illusion that humanity will once again overcome the current crisis with the marvels of modern technology.[i] Eclipse (2017) by Felipe de Ávila Franco (b. 1982) features a globe of light that is gradually swallowed up by oil dripping from above. Finnish philosophers Antti Salminen and Tere Vadén analyze the significance of oil in the modern way of life, specifically what economics describes as “the oil curse”: “The discovery of oil reserves often leads to the ecological, social and economic destruction of the country or territory in which it is discovered, while the resultant ‘gains’ and prosperity are enjoyed elsewhere – again, oil unites us by dividing us […]”[ii] A driver tanking up at a service station might be indifferent to where the oil comes from, but no form of energy is magicked out of nowhere. Salminen and Vadén argue that fossil fuels alienate us from reality: we become blind to the connections between oil and familiar everyday commodities, their sources in faraway lands, the giant rafts of microplastic pollution floating in our oceans, and the alarming amount of plastic particles found in the stomach contents of fish and other marine creatures.[iii]
De Ávila Franco’s work alludes to a solar eclipse, a celestial event once believed to be an ill omen in many cultures. Ancient astronomers were highly valued for their ability to predict eclipses: seeing the future and foretelling the movements of the sun was important to the fate of the monarch. De Ávila Franco’s eclipse is unrelated to celestial movements, however: the ‘sun’ is a light bulb slowly engulfed by sticky oil. Eclipse urges us to contemplate what lies at the extreme conclusion of the Anthropocene – humankind’s self-constructed trap, a hopeless dystopian future in which every invention is perpetually eclipsed by another, leading to a dead-end from which there is no escape.[iv]
[i] T.J. Demos, Against the Anthropocene. Visual Culture and Environment Today. Sternberg Press, Berlin, 2017, 21
[ii] Antti Salminen & Tere Vadén, Energia ja kokemus. niin & näin -kirjat, Tampere, 2013, 34-35
[iii] Ibid., 54
[iv] Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble. Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University Press, Durham & London, 2016, 3
Saara Hacklin - Curator, FD - Ph.D. at KIASMA Finnish National Gallery
Excerpt from the catalog Yhteiseloa | Coexistence, A Museum of Contemporary Art
Publication 166 / 2019.
Felipe De Avila’s monumental sculpture Ode to Anthropocene immediately attracts one’s attention and sets the mood for the entire exhibition. At first glance, the pitch-black hourglass of De Avila’s work might suggest of Walter de Maria and the tradition of minimalist sculpture, but a closer inspection reveals its true nature: on the surface of the sculpture, there is a constant stream of oil which ebbs and flows in and out of the hourglass. Acting as an analogy to the Anthropocene — the geological created by the epoch of the age of industrialization — the oil on the surface of the sculpture is in a constant and almost imperceptible movement. As a self-contained system, De Avila’s Ode to Anthropocene is like an ode to the impossibility of the modernist utopia.
Laura Kokkonen - Mustekala Kulttuurilehti (Mustekala Cultural Magazine)
In Felipe de Ávila’s exhibition modified traces of human life and behavior turn into dystopian strata of the future. The artist’s archaeological excavations of perception of time and space lead us on a journey through the ages revealing our own primal need to survive and protect ourselves to the point of no return. De Ávila sees art as a tool made out of different components – he combines sculpture, painting, and writing using 3D printing as well as video in order to achieve the right shape for the idea behind each work. Material juxtapositions and thematic contradictions follow from one work to another, forcing us to question our endeavors in relation to geopolitical issues, energy transference, nature, and its resources. Movement and transition are sometimes barely distinguishable, like the slowly proceeding bitumen, which seeks balance over handmade bricks piled as unstable structures. 3D printed teeth buried in concrete as an everyday survival kit but also as an important source of information after the death brings us back to the questions of mortality and our fragile presence on earth. The attempts to build walls, mold the future and slow down the process of dying seem darkly amusing and quite desperate when represented as archaeological findings in the form of drugs, ironical games, and ancient objects of tradition and belief that have long lost their original meaning. Together the works in the exhibition constitute a path where nature and society are deconstructed into fragments, exposing many simultaneous but contradictory futures in this self-created material-based system already out of control. Brazilian artist Felipe de Avila’s (b. 1982) exhibition forms the second part of his master’s thesis in sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki.
2017 . Katariina Timonen - Curator (2017)
Brasilialaisen Felipe de Avilan Drift-teoksen ympärillä tuoksuvat teollisuus ja koneet. Urbaanin kaupunkimaiseman pienoismalli löllyy paksun moottoriöljyn keskellä. – Kyse on teoksesta, jonka kelluvat osat yrittävät löytää oikean asentonsa ja sijaintinsa pohjois-eteläsuunnassa, kuten kompassikin. Töissäni on hyvin voimakas geopoliittiinen lähestymistapa. – Meillä on Brasiliassa sanonta, että etsin omaa pohjoistani, ja että pohjoiseni on kadoksissa. Tämän teoksen tarkoituksena on lihallistaa kyseinen sanonta, ja samalla kyseessä on nyky-yhteiskunnan vertauskuva, de Avila jatkaa.
Jussi Mankkinen - Yle (2015)
The artist Felipe de Ávila has gained prominence in Finland, where he lives since 2013, due to his research on the sculptural materiality of the residue spilled in the ore tailings dam disaster in Mariana, Brazil. The artist moved to the European country to develop a master’s degree, which explores questions about ruin, approaching debris and waste in search of collective memory.
Lucas Buzatti - Culture journalist at Hoje em Dia (2018)
Ode to Anthropocene (2016) is an unusually bold and technically complex work to be presented in the context of a student’s Salon style exhibition, Kuvan Kevät. Despite the heterogeneous environment, the work stood out with a monolithic quality. By creating a constant flow of black industrial oil along the sides of an hourglass-shaped stainless steel sculpture, Felipe de Ávila formulates a sinister metaphor for the shortcomings and self-destructive aspects of modernity. He also refers – almost as a visual pun – to the concept of “liquid modernity”, coined by the late philosopher Zygmunt Bauman. With the reference to “the Anthropocene”, de Ávila touches directly on the environmental and geological debate surrounding this concept, which has intensified in recent years. Not the least has “the Anthropocene” had a strong influence on discourses within art – worth mentioning is how artists like Nestori Syrjälä and Axel Straschnoy from the Finnish art scene have approached the topic from other angles. Ode to Anthropocene shows how de Ávila masters working with scale, where the man-size sculpture manages to occupy and control the surrounding space with impressive impact. It was in my view the work that stood out strongest in the entire Kuvan Kevät exhibition. Its materiality and shape connect it to industrial functional aesthetics, while at the same time approaching the authority of a sculpture of high modernism. The kinetic aspects of the work relate to time and spatiality, combining the static presence of a solid sculpture with the temporal flow – and fluidity – of liquid. This is a work that ties together a modernist abstract approach to the environmental concerns and discourses of current times.
Pontus Kyander - Curator (2017)
The work of Felipe de Ávila Franco constantly presents material and conceptual dichotomies. Situations where the material arrangement creates an inquiry, a comprehensive and not focused on the object itself, but creating a new sign. His works are developed from discarded material, where the ideological load that permeates the objects allows the imaginary to create another. The triads compose in each image a perfectly palpable intention within its immateriality, where opposites or parallels become complementary. Dimensions that until then were only rough, emerge beyond the substance itself, and gain a sense of weight and lightness that balance each other.
Marcus Vinicius Correa - Art Historian and researcher (2011)
Conceptual critical statement for the exhibition VS. at COPASA Art Gallery - 2011