As a young teenager living in Mexico, I remember my father extolling the creative virtues of the Mexican construction workers building our beautiful home. While some of the “creative” shortcuts may not have been safe (like when they replaced a fuse in the electric box with a centavo (penny) to continue getting electric current!), the workers knew that by not getting the job done, they would not get paid and therefore probably not eat. So the improvisations were about surviving life when the resources, for whatever reason, were not readily at hand.
This conversation came back to me last week during a visit to the inaugural show of world renown Brazilian artist Cao Guimarães at Society Contemporary, a New York-based gallery dedicated to Contemporary Art from Latin America and Spain. The show, Gambiarras, “depicts the ingeniously improvised and often humorous ways in which Sao Paulo citizens rework their surroundings to exploit the functionality of objects beyond their original purposes. Makeshift in their construction and poetic in their creativity, the Gambiarras reveal the inevitable effacement of temporary objects reminding us it is not wealth but (rather) need that is the mother of all invention”.
No matter if from Mexico or Brazil, when there is a need, the clever look around to find the tools to make it work and move along. Guimarães’ incredibly emotive photos masterfully capture this human need for survival.
Image credit: © Cao Guimarães | Gambiarras 106 | 26 x 39.1/2 in. | 66 x 100 cm. | edition 1/3 | 2010