MAYRA SERGIO - AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE BRAZILIAN BORN, NETHERLANDS BASED ARTIST HARNESSING SCENT FOR DIALOGUE.
Raised in Rio de Janeiro and now based in Amsterdam. Educated in Brazilian Cinema and then Dutch Design. The result of two cultures colliding is a new and unique approach to the creation process and material research.
Your work is both thought provoking and fascinating – how would you describe Mayra Sergio the Artist?
I would say I have a personal and poetic approach to themes.
There is clearly a great depth of thought behind your work – what is your mission?
I have interest in being able to create work that is a sensorial experience but also convey reflection. I love the research part of the process, gathering books about a certain theme, reading and writing. Then start experimenting with materials. It`s very important for me to keep on writing and testing at the same time. You start molding materials to fit an idea but then the materials start to mold the idea also, it`s a fascinating dialogue.
In Sensorial Shelter you deal with themes of ‘foreign’ and ‘finding a sense of belonging’ through coffee? Why did you choose that medium?
Those themes are very personal; I have chosen to live in a foreign country and that`s at the same time attractive and painful. It`s only when you move to an unfamiliar environment that you can realize what is familiar and what are the pieces that together make your identity. On my first year in the Netherlands, without noticing, I became the crazy coffee lady. Stocking Brazilian coffee, filling suitcases with it, asking friends to bring it to me when visiting. The funny thing is; it was not about Brazilian coffee being of higher quality, it was about re-experiencing that taste shared with friends and family through the years. It was about re-experiencing that warm feeling of belonging. I realized that I didn`t belong in this country but when I drank my cup of coffee my body felt at home. Even if only for a little while.
You recently exhibited with Gaggenau in London- high-end coffee appliances maker and the ‘coffee artist’ – a marketers dream! How was the experience for you?
When I first got the invitation I was very excited but not sure what to expect once it was a new way for me to present my work. But the Gaggenau team was very respectful of my vision and incredibly warm on the days I spent in London building up the work. So I`m very happy our paths crossed and I hope we can collaborate again in the future.
In Impossible Records you tackle our two-dimensional recording of experiences with a choice: save scent for the future or experience it now. What drew you to this subject?
I`ve always been fascinated by the relationship between smell and memory. Smell is such a powerful trigger! At the same time very hard to contain in a way that you have access to, like a photo album. Also the more you smell that scent that triggers on you a certain memory, the less powerful it gets.
What choice (experience now or save) do most spectators go for and why do you think they make that selection?
It`s funny coz in the exhibition space I only get to see the leftovers of the open prints. So I thought everybody was choosing to experience. But months later I came cross a few people that still have one of the prints vacuum sealed hanging on a wall of their house. I think that says a lot about someone’s character. But I must say I love this tension of “Am I ever opening this?” The question between preserving or experience is a bit everywhere, even how we relate to our own bodies, for example, we know that alcohol, cigarettes or fried food are bad for our heath but we still choose experience.
What is your Earth Prints project about?
Because of “Impossible Records” I was invited by the duo Khurtkova Bourlange to collaborate for their publication “Looking for The Ursa Mayor”, which is part of their project “The Sky is on Earth”. I applied the technique I develop to silkscreen with spices but this time using earth. They went on a trip following the stars of the Ursa Mayor constellation and collected earth from each location. This publication was nominated for the Anamorphosis Prize and is now part of the MoMA library
You studied cinema and worked as a set designer for 5 years in Brazil before studying at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam – how has that blend of experiences influenced your work?
When you work as a set designer you learn how to silently tell the story that is on the script. How does the house of a character add its complexity? How the shape of a room adds to a scene atmosphere? I still have interest in storytelling but no longer in the realistic way in which most films are made nowadays. I believe I quit set design so I could create my own narratives and choose the way to tell them. And by making sensorial work I can explore dimensions that are not possible on the cinema screen. But in cinema I learnt how to create in dialogue with other people and the practical side of things like coordinating a big crew and a build up for example.
You are from Rio de Janeiro and now based in Amsterdam - what qualities do both cities share?
This question makes me realize how much I`m busy observing their differences... Those are two opposite places: the architecture, streets, weather and people... Amsterdam is very stable, organized, well taken care of, safe. Rio is this explosion of extremes so astonishing beautiful and ugly. I think that in a way I need both.
What have you got coming up and where can our readers see you exhibiting in the coming months?
Sensorial Shelter will be in London until the 24th of August and I have another work called To Break Ground showing at Tijdlijk Museum in Amsterdam until January 2018.
Find out more about Mayra Sergio: www.mayrasergio.com