‘Sound sculptures’ engage community

02-18-09 Artist
Paulo Nenflidio arrived in Arizona from Brazil on Tuesday to begin his six-week stint as an artist in residence at the ASU Art Museum. During his residency, Nenflidio plans to work with musical instruments, designing collaborative experimental music and sculpture. (Claire Warden/The State Press)
Published On:
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
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First, it was a bicicleta-designing fiesta. After that, the curator’s desk on permanent display, surrounded by wall paintings selected by a 78-year-old Canadian tourist. Then, stitching.

And Tuesday, the ASU Art Museum invited its newest artist in residence, Paulo Nenflidio, to have strangers help him turn broken blenders into symphony instruments.

Nenflidio will have an open studio at the museum until March 27, effectively creating an exhibition on-site and from scratch that will be displayed through May 30. He is known in his native Brazil for creating electronic-based instruments with community members from old appliances, then recording and sampling compositions with them.

“In a sense, jam sessions,” said John Spiak, a curator for ASU Art Museum. “Paulo is really about sound art. He creates ‘sound sculptures.’”

Nenflidio’s exhibition will be introduced at the museum’s opening reception on Friday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., a free public event, which Spiak said will be a chance for students and other community members to meet the artist and talk about possible collaboration.

Nenflidio is the fourth artist to be part of the Social Studies Initiative, a series in which artists in residence create projects in an open workshop format that encourages involvement from community members. He will likely incorporate aspects of prior work into his projects at ASU Art Museum, but Spiak said flexible artistic vision is key to the Social Studies Initiative format.

“He has concepts about what he wants to do here, but it’s subject to change, to the feel of this community here,” he said. “The whole project is about openness.”

Spiak said the communal structure of these exhibitions strays from the closed-off process of forming most museum galleries and promotes a deeper relationship between artist and art consumer.

“The creative process is taken out of that [relationship]” in the traditional format, he said. “You only get to see the end results of the creativity.”

The series started in fall 2007 with “Cicloviaérea,” a project by Brazilian artist Jarbas Lopes studying the balance of aesthetics and functionality through artistic bicycle design.

Past artists in residence also include Seattle-based artist Josh Greene, who, in spring 2008, gave the community free reign over the exhibition design and relocated Spiak’s office into the gallery as an art installation, and Albanian artist Anila Rubiku, who created a community sewing project last fall.

Stacie Jackson is an intern for Spiak at the museum this semester and will be acting as Nenflidio’s assistant because she speaks Portuguese.

She was also working at the ASU Art Museum during Lopes’ residency and said the artistic dialogue on an individual level was a unique experience for her.

“[The Social Studies Initiative] is about relationships, not just between people, but relationships in ideas, objects, nature and life,” said Jackson, a museum studies and art history senior.

Ultimately, Spiak said the Nenflidio residency is part of a necessary realization that the museum needs to adapt and more fully connect students with the artistic process.

“If we stay a stagnant building with stagnant pieces, we’re not making progress,” he said. “We want to be that place that interacts with the community and brings art outward. We don’t want to a an irrelevant institution.”

Reach the reporter at trabens@asu.edu.