Daniel Senise


Daniela Labra

Published in catalog of the artist’s exhibition at Casa França-Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, in 2011 

Part I 

On an afternoon in April we recalled September 11, 2001, when the death count reached 2,977 in New York. We still had not considered the number of victims from the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which had already reached 12.876. These enormous numbers, considered as mere statistics, make tabula rasa of personal tragedy. 

2,892 is the cipher-titIe of Daniel Senise’s project. It refers to the blurring of extreme experiences and numerical data, as touched upon by the exhibition’s central piece; a monumental scale installation of facing giant screens made of used bed linens from a motel and from the INCA — the National Cancer Institute of Rio de Janeiro. 

Without specific commentary on the dramas of the unknown, Senise obtained, with the help of a mathematician, a practical calculation for the number of people in each establishment who had passed between these sheets during their useful six-month lifespan. Thus, he arrived at the title for each side of the installation – White 462 refers to the movement in the hospital and White 2430 in the motel. Added together they equal “2,892.” 

But we know Daniel Senise is not an artist fascinated by numbers exactly. His research basically explores the universe of painting, even though it’s been many years since he’s worked as a painter in the strict sense. Still remembered as an exponent of Generation 80, he began at the end of that decade to consistently seek out methods for discussing themes inherent to the pictorial medium, such as its history, technical elements, texture, materiality, and, principally, theories of representation and the place of painting in contemporaneity, among other things. 

ln 2,892, as in other exhibitions, the artist chooses mundane objects as his artistic media, and he preserves (or forges) the marks of time impressed on perishable materials. As such, he captures the everyday memories of these worn-out materials and transfigures them into works of art. Intervening minimally with the surfaces that he appropriates, Senise allows the signs of wear to mark the work, as in the case of the bed linen. With no further illustration of any kind, the patches and stains on the sheets evoke mental images and anonymous stories that provide a singular narrativity to the installation. 

In distancing himself from the customary pictorial process, today Daniel Senise works in formats that escape Iiterality. By presenting formal opposition, he comments on issues relative to painting and representation of the world without relying on figuration. Thus, he conveys reflections about the nature/culture binomial in the worn bed sheets, as well as in the grayed mass of recycled papers. 

This is also the case in Mil (Thousand) — the thousandth piece produced by the artist — a series of brick reliefs, made from recycled exhibition invitations and catalogs, suspended on the walls to suggest hanging paintings. The title celebrates and pokes fun at having reached his thousandth piece, while it simultaneously questions the excess of information and imagery printed on paper that is dispersed throughout the art world, its content becoming more white noise. 

ln addition to the pieces referred to here, the issue of narrativity and of representation is also delved into in a variety of ways and forms in two other works giving coherence and dynamism to the show. 

In Crucifixão (The Crucification) one sees the printed page of an art book from 1952, with a descriptive caption of a third work, a homonym that happens to be absent from view, inserted into a niche, a perspective drawing. Here, Senise explores illusory resources and points to the dysfunctionality of this descriptive text as a place for engendering work. lf, in the other cases, the accumulation of information and memories create an impenetrable tangle, this time the caption set apart from the image it references becomes itself both the image and the art.  

Lastly, the sequence of photographic prints entitled, Rua Silvio Romero 34, dez/2009 (34 Silvio Romero Street, dec/2009), reflect more obviously on temporal layering in the creative process. In this series, five identical photographs of the artist’s atelier are developed in pale colors, then trod on and dirtied, highlighting the human gesture over the constructed image. 

The descriptive title of the work exposes the crisis of representation in art, while the layers of events imprinting the passage of time on the surface of the work evoke a kind of meta-representation. Each photograph from this series carries a title that registers the moment that the image was first captured and exhibited, the footprints that add up afterwards, thereby provoking a certain temporal shock. Thus, the intrusion of life upon art suggests that the world is no longer represented but presented in contemporary poetics. 


Part II 

2,892… On the afternoons that we reflect on numbers, we also remember the negotiations with the establishments where the bed linens would be used and returned to the artist, fifteen years ago. 

At that time, the idea behind the work was still a shot in the dark, as it deviated from the path of Daniel Senise’s other work. Contact with the hospital had already been made, but negotiations had not yet started with a motel. This became the task of his assistant at the time: to create a contract with a by the hour motel in the city, where new sheets would be left for six months. The bed linens went and returned used to the artist’s atelier where they hibernated for many years. 

A decade and a half passed before Senise’s career reached a point where these materials could be incorporated into his oeuvre. Coincidentally, the time it took for this idea to mature into a work of art was the same period that transformed the artist’s former assistant into an art critic and curator. Today, through these same artifacts, I re- encounter Daniel Senise’s work again with some objectivity to write about a piece of art, which, in a certain sense, l helped to create.