Gatekeepers, 2018; Mestiço Café at Livraria Martins Fontes, São Paulo
Gatekeepers is a permanent installation disguised as interior decoration. The cafe was projected by architect Marcelo Suzuki and is grounded by the swift design of his wall-to-wall, built-in wooden benches. Gatekeepers consists of three wall-sized digital collages printed on laminated vinyl (Ritrama), flooring design in Paviflex (a soybean oil-based resin plate) and metal, and furniture, beam and column accents in Formica. The wall-sized prints take inspiration from mural landscape paintings that decorate cafes and restaurants as tromp lʼoeil back-drops. In three distinct panels, the compositions connect the picturesque shore vista to the control of geographical borders, interpreting current conditions of restriction and flow of people and information.
In one panel, Greek Ionic columns, constructed from stacks of wheeled baggage, erect from an ocean made of toothpaste and microbeads. The permanence of the classic pillars is transposed into a symbol for mobility, and storage space for stowed luggage. Their negative colour palette alludes to border control x-ray scanners, as the suitcases become stand-ins for the obstacles and limbo of human dislocation. In another panel, satellites and space stations, shaped like letters of the alphabet, hover adrift in outer space. Embodying satellite technology as the ABC of communication, Space Age sentiment is transferred onto Information Age anxiety; the surveillance, collection and fl ow of data, that invisibly dominates our contemporary means of
expression. The third panel renders a wall of male legs wearing khakis and penny loafers, meshed in and out of a marble balustrade. Representing the barriers of restriction that links art history to the recent reprise of the right wing, the disembodied generic legs refer to the faceless gatekeepers of imposed order in society. Holding post like broken and eroded statues at the terraces of a palace, the line-up simultaneously loiter and foist from the CGI marble railing, as enforcers of tradition.
Addressing the bookstore setting, the mural prints use torn paper effect, duotone, superimposed and collaged photography to harness printed matter as stylistic inspiration. The combination of patterns and materials Gatekeepers re-registers interiors of cafes; printed marble, heathered pattern of the Paviflex, Formica and metal plates, create an agglomeration of references that connect the institutional cafeteria to classic bistros and kitsch diners.