A narrative built around storytelling and life's transitions

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The Brussels-based artist Rita Nobre joined me for a visit through M Leuven. We had the opportunity to talk about processes and transitions, while closely following Wael Shawky's story told through his work. As we take a quick look at some of the striking details of this new exhibition, Dry Culture Wet Culture, we invite you to discover how Rita Nobre develops her work.

Can you introduce yourself? 

It’s always hard to introduce myself. I’m still discovering who I am through what I do and what I learn. Probably the right answer would be the following: I’m a Portuguese artist living in Belgium and I’m developing my work in sculpture, photography and video, making installations as a result. I guess the most important thing to say is that I always discover more about myself through my work.

I always discover more about myself through my work

Dry Culture Wet Culture talks about transitions and different facets of it. You have also gone through geographical and cultural transitions, right? 

Yes. I think it all happened very naturally in my case. At first, my transition started through Erasmus, and then I began to like the experience of being myself somewhere else. It’s important to point out that it all comes with challenges and some of those challenges take part in this exhibition as well.

To what extent would you say these transitions have an influence on your artistic work?

I didn’t use to believe that people change but I started to recognize that life happens and people adapt to it. By living here in Belgium and moving from Ghent to Brussels, I have been discovering a need and desire to connect with others and that has certainly had an impact on my work. Other than that, I truly believe that moving to different places gave me a lot of new tools to use in my artwork. 

What are your thoughts about this exhibition?  

I really enjoyed it. I felt invited to be part of a theatre play, especially when seeing Wael Shawky's marionettes installation, from Cabaret Crusades III, The Secrets of Karbalaa. The installation is also part of the film trilogy Cabaret Crusades and we got the chance to watch some of it. At a certain moment in one of the movies, a marionette says 'I will always accept my own naivety'. This sentence stayed in my head and it won’t go away. [laughs]

There were things that caught my attention until we got to the last room of the exhibition. We reached the top floor of M Leuven and we saw a large artwork that somehow represents the city. Right behind it, we had a semi panoramic view of Leuven through the window. The whole thing just fitted perfectly.

The whole thing just fitted perfectly

Can you tell me what exactly got your attention in this work? 

With this piece - Cabaret Crusades III: The Secrets of Karbalaa - the artist created another reality, a mini world. Each marionette had a role just like we do in life. The artist chose a specific moment of time to reproduce through the marionettes and we can see that they are all in the middle of an action. It really touched me. 

I really enjoy hearing stories and, through Wael Shawky's exhibition, I could easily follow what he wanted to share with us. The narrative was always accompanied by representations, whether through the marionettes, or the relief woodwork produced by the artist.

Through Wael Shawky's exhibition, I could easily follow what he wanted to share with us

Is there something particular about your creative process you would like to share with us? 

In general, I use a lot of objects that I find in the street. Usually, those are objects that are part of our daily routine and I like to create a dialogue between them and what I produce. 

I also take a lot of pictures of moments that somehow get my attention. Sometimes I like to reproduce them on my installations. I’m always attentive to objects in general, especially when I’m outside. 

What are the things that have been inspiring you the most at the moment?

It might sound weird, but for some time going to secondhand shops like Les Petits Riens was a great source of inspiration. I was always buying some sort of metallic structure to work with because, symbolically, it meant something to me. I had a feeling I had no structure back then and somehow I had to represent that in my creations. [laughs]

Do you have any projects in the near future?

I haven’t been producing anything except small experiments in my room. But I’m looking forward to moving to my new atelier where I’ll be able to keep exploring my practice.

Wael Shawky  

Until 28 August - M Leuven, Leuven 



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