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On Jac Leirner.

  • May 30 2022
  • Daniela Labra
    is a curator, cultural critic and educator. She is a founder of the art studies platform, and lives between Berlin and Rio de Janeiro.

Jac Leirner's critical and humorous minimalist-looking work formally dialogues with Brazilian constructivism, the Bauhaus and conceptual art. The artist, whose trajectory went international in the 1990s as the art system became globalized, has a keen eye for the capital flows that accompany the cultural industry, tourism, entertainment, and the frenzy of large cities. Her installations, sculptures or collages are generated by collecting industrialized materials, cataloguing and finally juxtaposing them in the space. Such sets of ‘things’ collected from personal consumption experiences or received from friends are assembled in the exhibition room, imprinting atmospheres of rhythms and vibrations. These propositions, in fact, are dense and "play with the aesthetic, representational and socio-cultural levels of the objects' meaning."[1]

Leirner has been collecting bags and other objects since 1985, bringing them together in different collections. In 1989 she presented a collection of plastic bags for the first time at the age of 20, at the Bienal de São Paulo, and the following year at the 44th Biennale di Venezia. The bags were initially shown as large padded surfaces that covered walls and sometimes the floor, as sculptures from smaller groups or, later, as grids.

Jac Leirner recognizes that today her media, materials and visualities have become obsolete. However, she continues seeking to unravel languages and sto speak of the flows of things and lives in the industrial world. Yet, the artist never positions herself in the first person in this narrative: "I always had that in my mind. I learned it from the poets - not being the subject of my own verses. This is why I choose these objects that belong to all of us, to everyone." But, she adds, "it was an illusion."[2] After all, such objects she collected were part of her own experience, which produces an inescapable autobiographical layer in the visual work. Her presence, then, is like a spectre, an invisible thread of affection that ties the assemblages together and dialogues with 20th-century historical references such as those of Sol LeWitt and Agnes Martin.

The artist's intervention in this edition of AWC starts from the panel Us Horizon, exhibited in March 2022 at the Esther Schipper Gallery, Berlin. The work consists of over 200 shopping bags dating from the 1980s to the present day from museums she has visited or exhibited in, and other art, music, book and airline-related establishments. While in the gallery, the linear sequence of Us Horizon was organized according to its shapes, colors, logos and typography, in this publication it was dismembered, valuing details of the bags multiplied throughout the newspaper. The graphic intervention seeks the same logic of accumulation and cadenced juxtaposition of installations in physical space, as it relates with design, visual communication, and social and capitalist systems of production and disposal of things.


    [1] From 10.04.2022.
    [2] Jac Leirner interviewed by Yilmaz Dziewior, Wolfgang-Hahn-Preis 2019: Jac Leirner.

    Jac Leirner
    Us Horizon, 1985–2022 (detail)
    Exhibition view: Jac Leirner, Us Horizon,
    Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2022
    Courtesy the artist and Esther Schipper, Berlin
    Photo © Andrea Rossetti



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