Raphaël Zarka

by Raphaël Fonseca

Raphaël Zarka


On 2007, the Canadian band Arcade Fire released the album “Neon Bible”. The last song of the CD, “My body is a cage”, has initial verses that I am pretty sure that a whole generation knows by heart: “My body is cage that keeps me / from dancing with the one I love / but my mind holds the key”.

Yes, our bodies can be a prison to many acts that ask for courage and self-affirmation: dancing, loving, communicate, expressing ourselves. We all begin with our bodies and from there we experience the world. The same way that the body can be seen like this type of cerebral prison, it can be also be understood as a trampoline for freedom; as Barbara Kruger wrote in one of her most famous works, “Your body is a battleground” (1989) – it is an arena for shouting, screaming, dressing and showing to the public gaze: I exist. Sometimes there’s no time to leave the keys with the mind; we need to act in a libertarian way through our bodies – specially in times like these when we’re facing fascist waves all over the world.

The five artists I decided to share here on ElaineAlain come from a personal curatorial interest I have on the recent months: these relations between the human body and freedom in an anti-fascist point of view. These artists – Cecilia Bengolea, Claude Cahun, Bertrand Dezoteux, Kengné Téguia and Raphael Zarka - develop researches that deal with the body as triggers for reflections about resistance. These uses of the body have a range of media: some of them are central in performative ephemeral acts, while others are depicted through video, digital animation and photography. Their program can be quite different but they all dialogue looking at the human body as an agent of empowerment that can engage the audience physically or at least suggest them that our bodies can be tools of micro- micro-revolutions.

The relations between urban furniture, sculpture and how they can be used by the human body is one of the main interests of Raphael Zarka. His research deals not only with documentation of how skaters use public sculptures to their practice but also in creating sculptures that can either be seen and used for skating. The limits between the senses – specially between seeing and touching – and the boundaries between what is public and what is private are topics constantly worked and reflected by Zarka. The skater’s body, on his perspective, is a free body that can dance and improvise from the design of the city.

Raphaël Zarka
Raphaël Zarka
Raphaël Fonseca

Raphael Fonseca is a researcher in the areas of curating, art history, art critic and education. He worked as a curator at MAC Niterói (Contemporary Art Museum of Niterói, Brazil) from 2017 to 2020. He holds a PhD in Critic and Art History (State University of Rio de Janeiro). He’s one of the curators of the next edition of the SESC_VIdeobrasil Biennale, working along with Renée Akitelek Mboya and Solange Farkas, in 2023. Since mid-2020, he develops the project “1 curadorx, 1 hora” (“1 curator, 1 hour”) where he interviews curators related to Brazil and from different generations and regions of the world. He received the Marcantonio Vilaça Curatorial Award (2015) and the Centro Cultural São Paulo curatorial award (2017). He writes regularly for artists, institutions and publications. Recently he curated “Sweat” (Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany, 2021) and “To-and-fro” (Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, São Paulo, Brazil, 2019).

For almost 20 years, I have developed a practice of painting that has gradually opened up to very diverse fields, from performance to monumental sculpture, from painting on silk to installation. Using various bases and developing reuse, assemblages and formal confrontations, I wish to show how the modern project resists in the body and materiality of its own representations. As the result of an intense activity as an iconographer, my work is based on an open practice of the form, quite the opposite of a nostalgic or referential re-reading, enabling the free exercise of the most unexpected visual combinations. The idea is for me to materialise images, literally making them concrete. Started in 1998, mainly through the practice of painting, my work gradually has become more characteristic, more specifically in recent years, with a large variety of means in play.

Karina Bisch, Karina Bisch