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Pajé: Studio Visit

Pajé: Studio Visit

I met Pajé at Casa da Xiclet. He probably sensed my intimidation, I didn’t speak Portuguese and the friend, who I invited to come along, did. Everyone instantaneously vibed and joked around in their native-tongue as I watched. To be honest, my lack of Portuguese has been a major pitfall. When two Brazilians are caught in storytelling, I tend to smile, nodding my head in fake-understanding. This usually works…but Pajé caught on fast. I don’t remember the exact conversation but at some point we were struggling to find the English translation for a Portuguese word. Pajé, overhearing our struggle, chimed in “Country-house.” He spoke English.

Pajé and I soon determined we got along. I was invited to have a chat with him at his studio. Ever the gentleman, he picked me up at the nearest Metro station so I wouldn’t get lost finding his place. Our first meeting came a day after Dilma Rousseff was officially ousted from her role as Brazil’s first woman President. Pajé, like a lot of people here, looked worn out. You can see the stress on people’s faces.

Pajé means shaman, a childhood nickname that stuck. Through performance and painting, Pajé is interested in how art exists beyond the object. Today, his practice honors his namesake. “All objects I produce are part of a ritual” he told me. Formally trained as a painter, the ultimate object, such as one of his paintings, becomes a part of a larger process. Even when evaluating other artists’ works, he considers the entirety of the artist’s life that surrounds and produces his or her singular object. There is no autonomous artwork, it is all a part of the spirit’s output. The meaning, the effect, of the object does not end with the initial encounter with that object. It reverberates through space and time. An arts education sometimes grapples for places to anchor its theories, perhaps that is why I was quick to label Pajé as a  conceptual artist mid-conversation. He kind of winced when I first said the word. Eventually, if only to humor me, he assumed the label. For those not familiar with the term, The TATE Museum defines it as: art for which the idea (or concept) behind the work is more important than the finished art object.

As our friendship blossomed, since we seemed to share such sameness in wavelengths, Pajé and I meditated on the impact our conversation and exchange would have beyond the present moment. As we drew inspiration by each other’s philosophies, transcended our differences in time and place, a little spark of a deeper understanding of why I want to dedicate my life to art began to flicker inside me. Conversations with people like Pajé make me better understand the art and philosophies I am most drawn to, work that is intangible, where I can stand in the presence of a creation that has no material form. Life, for me, is better understanding myself through the experiences of others, and those experiences, by definition, are not tangible. Art, as a communicative medium, allows us to focus in on distinct engagements of our individual lives but within the greater context of the human network. If the artist made the work in front of me, by receiving the work, I am inherently connected to the art and therefore the artist. Works of art become mirrors where I can reflect on myself within the artworks existence. Pajé’s art practice is rooted in his study of objects (the ones he’s created and the one’s he interacts with in a daily realm) and his relationship to them.

Pajé’s philosophy comes from a mixture of influences including his very own composited Brazilian identity which incorporates Umbanda* beliefs and the specific philosophies of artists, not limited to, but most significantly, Hélio Oiticica. I say this because Pajé handed me a large text, “Fios Soltos - a arte de Hélio Oiticica” to read as best I could. Both artists are neoconcretists - wherein the neoconcretism movement brings back viewer subjectivity to the process of artistic creation and then proceeds to expand that work beyond the material object. I find their interest in how the viewer manipulates the initially artist-produced-object most interesting. “The work” hand in hand with “the concept” for the artwork becomes a dance between two partners in which both artist and viewer take part and create. “My art is the way I reestablish the bonds that tie me to the universe,” Pajé told me, “art is a tool for self knowledge.” When this philosophy puts the viewer on an equal level as the artist, a beauteous symbiosis unfolds.

I paused our conversation to quickly jot down his words. Art does not have to be prefixed in who is seeing it. Currently, most of what I make (art-wise), maybe even do (life-wise) is with the hyper-concern of the ultimate reception of it. I need to shed this mentality. I don’t need to make work with so much intention and conceptualization of an intended effect on the viewer. I can not control how others see me or my work. When I created my Fall thesis Media Studies capstone project, my professor told me that we can learn more from the responses viewers get from our work. How people receive our art can give us new ideas. This lesson echoed in Pajé’s words, “being an artist gives us content for continuation.” Going with the flow, life is a practice of trusting our intuition and being in harmony with our present.

Visit his website here.

*Umbanda is a spirit-possession religion that emerged in Rio de Janeiro in the 1930s and combines African possession religion with Catholicism, occultism, and Allan Kardec spiritualism; it has many regional manifestations.

O peixe (The fish)

O peixe (The fish)

Chapter C: Genealogy of Pain

Chapter C: Genealogy of Pain