“Always Something Between Us”*
Cláudio Bueno

The title of this article, “Always Something Between Us,” (“sempre algo entre nós” in Portuguese) is aimed at establishing a sharing relationship with the artists with whom I maintain a dialog in my artistic practice. This title in Portuguese is the same as the title of an artwork by Vitor Cesar, who in 2012 produced an A2-sized, white, stencil-type poster with the letters of this phrase cut out of the paper. Vitor provided these graphic items to the public that visited some of his exhibitions. He therefore reinforced the desire to remember that there is something between: you and me; (him) and the other (public); and, finally, between all of us, when we access this item in the exhibit space or perhaps when we are surprised by this text painted on a city wall.

fig 1. Public accessing Vitor Cesar’s posters located at the entrance to the SESC Ipiranga in São Paulo, Brazil. Courtesy of the artist.

fig 1. Public accessing Vitor Cesar’s posters located at the entrance to the SESC Ipiranga in São Paulo, Brazil. Courtesy of the artist.

The dual effect of this work can be seen on the interdependence between reflection and the senses, because when we read “something between us,” a field is immediately constructed between the reader and the receiver of the message. Therefore, it is with the senses, along with words, that we complete the perception of this field. In a type of circular movement, the phrase activates the senses and the senses recall the phrase, reinforcing the perception of this invisible field between us.

Exercising the notion of “distribution of the sensible” (Rancière, 2004) with other artists and different fields of knowledge has become fundamental for my artistic practice, in everyday situations such as day to day conversations, as well as in developing co-authored work. Sharing, in the latter case, is not always an easy task, since it poses the need to negotiate individual research within its more intimate limitations – what is desired in terms of aesthetics, concepts, language, personal experiences, lines of research, and positions in relation to circuits, and so on. These are negotiations that force a constant movement between resisting and giving in to the other.

I begin this paper by calling attention to this kind of sharing, which can be empirically reported means talking about this “something” between us that is not a completely empty nothing, without any type of filling, meaning, or awareness. Yet it is “something” that, although invisible, immaterial, and hard to name, can be experienced.

In order to produce that experience, there must be knots, whether modified at the time of action, between the expressible[1] (which is not yet something in the moment that is expressed, but is felt), and the words, the images and the things (that take on a material character when they appear). These knots, define a field of invisible action, and are anchored by the spaces, networks, things, sets of people, and the changing pronouns, such as: I, you, and they and so on.

The knots between people, that create invisible fields between themselves, are experienced through elements such as tensions, negotiations, flexions, and possible dialogs. And these elements are driven by desire, power, capital, affection, social position, seduction, and especially by notions such as equality and difference.

Difference is a hard element to assimilate with precision, leading us to fall into certain traps, as discussed by Antônio Pierucci in his book Ciladas da Diferença (2000). The author defines left wing and right wing ways of treating the idea of difference. The left brings up the idea of an “egalitarian difference,” that is, defending the idea that we are different as a way for us to achieve a certain common good, of bringing the conditions of social groups to the same level. On the right, however, which recognizes difference even before the left, this idea is supported in order to establish clear distances between groups, producing racism, prejudice, and so on. Yet discussing this concept is not simple, and requires a dialogue in order for the appropriate contradictions and complexities involving the theme to be created, as Antonio Pierucci does so well in his book.

I now return to the field of art and a play on pronouns proposed by artist Ricardo Basbaum. In his choreographic game titled me – you: 9 choreographies (superpronouns) (2003), shown at the Tate Modern (London) among other places, the artist invites groups to wear shirts stamped with the pronouns “me” and “you”(fig 2). It is a project with a group dynamic that considers the specificities of context, people, and groups involved (person or group specific) to create instructions or actions in the space that can last between one day and two weeks.


fig 2. Ricardo Basbaum, me-you: 9 choreographies (superpronouns) (2003). Courtesy Galeria Luciana Brito.

Amidst the instructions and actions created by the group, the artist seeks to verify what he will call “pronoun traffic,” that is, the passage from “me” to “you” and even the coining of “meyou” and “youme” (superpronouns). In the movements created in these exercises, there is an interest in activating a memory in the participants’ bodies regarding a pronominal space occupied or mixed by each of them with each course of action. But there is also a perception that this traffic is not only defined in a binary way, “this or that,” but rather is modulated in the meeting and organization between the participants. These are definitions that occur in the passages, in the interstices or in what is recognized here as fields of invisibility,[2] which in this situation are organized into relational spaces.

The discovery of the organic line by artist Lygia Clark is one of the conceptual bases of this type of modulation and organization proposed by Basbaum. The organic line, understood through Lygia Clark’s text, is that which arises from the meeting and in the passage between two planes of the same color, as can be seen in the grout between two tiles on the wall, for example. The organic line modulates the passage, organically organizes the space, sequences things and actions, without pause; it producing folds, in time, in space, and in relationships. This concept gave rise to a series of works by the artist: the Superfícies Moduladas (Modulated Surfaces) (1952-57), the Contra-relevos (Counter-reliefs) (1954-58), the Casulos (Cacoons) (1959), the Bichos (Animals), (1960), and Caminhando (Walking) (1963).

It is in this meeting between pronouns, contained in Basbaum’s game as “me + you,” or “you + you,” in yellow or red uniforms, that the “superpronouns” appear. And it is in the result of these sums that the superpronouns take on the power of an organic line. For Basbaum, the superpronouns are:

nominative pronouns, converging in a single word.
meyou, youme
mixture, hybridization, reciprocal contamination
of one by the other, me by you, you by me into one thing.
object’s ecstasy, ideal desire synthesis.
tool for negotiating actions towards an embodied otherness, in flight (Basbaum, 2008)

Understanding these passages and mixes of pronouns through this work will allow us to observe the switching that occurs in the other works analyzed below. Therefore, whenever we notice a modulation, or rather, a change in the subject’s position in relation to the other(s), whether as a superpronoun or as two different pronouns, we will note the definition of this position as a tag, placing it between brackets [ ]. I adopt this type of game in my interpretation below to draw out themes of duration and intensity in Basbaum’s proposal, but also, little by little, to become aware of these shifts that impact relationships.

“I am another”

The famous phrase by Arthur Rimbaud “Je est un autre” (also referenced by Basbaum in his thesis), will allow us to advance in our understanding of this “something between us” through Divisor (1968-2010), a work by artist Lygia Pape.

In this collective performance, bodies moving in space hold up a large 900 square meter surface of white fabric, and as a result the individual begins to be perceived as part of a collective body. In other words, the individual “is another” and is also the space in which he acts [meother] – affecting and being affected by the movement produced by the collective.

Art critic and curator Paulo Herkenhoff, in a text published in the catalog for the exhibition “Lygia Pape. Espaço Imantado,” (2012) at Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, tells us:

Divisor can be seen as a diagram of collective mobilization, using urban guerrilla warfare as theorized in Brazil as a coeval model and parallel. In the corpus of Lygia Pape, Divisor is conceived as a large white plane and primal space for painting. […] She describes it as a ‘fabric.’ Pape never forgets Malevich. Divisor is a field of light, the supreme zero degree of the neo-concrete aesthetic.

These observations introduce us to the complexity of the formal and contextual dialogs of the work. By bringing the artist closer to Malevich, Herkenhoff calls our attention to this field of immaterial, non-representative, non-object light, putting not visual purity into play, but rather the artist’s feeling in relation to her time. The “fabric,” highlighted between quotes, is therefore a dematerialized architecture, a way of feeling the space, much more than a metaphorical representation or reference to the space.

This manner of feeling, unveiled by the artist in “Divisor,” would find connections with the political situation in Rio de Janeiro in 1968. It was the year of the 100,000 person march in Downtown Rio as well as of the signing into law of AI-5[3] at Palácio das Laranjeiras. Pape was attuned to her time, in which demonstrations in public squares had resulted in physical confrontations and deaths, while nevertheless producing none of the desired changes in relation to the current military regime. She created strategies to share the feeling of the time, also looking for transformations at the individual level.

Divisor, made up of a set of slits that allow floating heads to be seen, creates neither hierarchy nor center, nor is it a model of discipline and depreciation of individualities; yet, it shows the desire for individual freedom in the collective body.

The paradox created above by the word “individuality” is similar to that of the word “difference,” as previously discussed. In this case, we are to understand that Pape wants to produce a “collective-individuality,” on the left wing, and not of the individual that only thinks of themselves (identified by Antonio Pierucci as a typically right-leaning behavior). The artist brings us a place of poetry and utopia, by producing a free sociability in space, as she stated in her writing: “EVERYONE’S skin: smooth, light as a cloud: free.”[4]

fig 3. Lygia Pape, Divisor (1968). Credit: Projeto Lygia Pape website.

The reflection regarding individual movement as a generating particle of collective movement leads us to the “idiorrhythmic” concept discussed by Roland Barthes in his courses and seminars entitled “How to Live Together,” given between 1976 and 1977, at Collège de France, in Paris (Barthes, 2013). The author exemplifies idiorrhythmy (idios: own, rhuthmos: rhythm) in relation to the monks living on Mount Athos, who maintain limited connections with the monastery and seek to adopt their own rhythm of living. A utopian idea, it is an individual delirium based on the possibility of living both together and separate, and a desire for a distance that is incapable of breaking affection.

It is in this sense that it is interesting for us to look at Pape’s work. Not as a gregarious will to live together all the time, like a fantasy of sociability, always stable and balanced, almost without space for individual deviation. Nor as an idealized coexistence, free of conflict, where everyone moves in the same direction. Yet we look at this action, this master plan seen from above (fig 3), where there is a certain homogenization of faces, like a “whatever singularity,” introduced by Giorgio Agamben (Agamben, 1990) – a type of singularity that does not allow for classification, that is not acceptable to the State, which always wants to tag, identify, label.

Reviewing this legacy of work produced in Brazil in the late ’60s, it is not enough for us that it is made in an exclusively contemplative and historical manner. Some further material is needed to verify updates and latencies of these ideas in the contemporary era. It is therefore up to us to ask: What kind of sociability and individuality do we want today? What are the new diagrams of collective mobilizations? What is the “fabric” that involves us?

Wearing the invisible

Here we will discuss a proposal of mine entitled Wearable Nets (2010).[5] Here I will explore an immaterial “fabric” that evolves us, characterized especially by digital communication networks.


fig 4. Cláudio Bueno, Wearable Nets (2010). Courtesy of the artist. Video record of the work available at: http://vimeo.com/16815929

Wearable Nets is a collective performance based on a virtual elastic net that is geo-located, with a graphic representation on the cell phone screens. Two or more people connect to it and become nodes in the net – which is pulled to tension through physical displacements and movements in spaces that are near or far. The body moves, virtually setting in motion the physical movement of the other bodies, which must move or else the nodes in the net will tear and break apart, disconnecting the subject participating in the work.

This work appropriates the official infrastructure of communications networks and their processes of selling so-called apps. Therefore, unlike the commercial and utilitarian games and services offered on these networks, Wearable Nets seek to activate an artistic experience that joins body, space, and information, triggering new modes of sociability and feeling space.

This proposal comes up in the dialog with the Lygia Clark’s 1973 work Rede de Elástico (Elastic Net). In this artwork, the artist asks people to work together to weave a network of rubber bands, which they next place over themselves and then they stretch it with their bodies in every direction. For Lygia, the action and duration of the weaving was as important as the action of becoming involved in this net, organically tangling bodies and identities, designing lines and vectors in space.

Looking at this proposition, a question occurred to me about the idea of the net today, of ways of relating, of proximities, of distances, of what this net would be that would involve the body today. I then imagined the possibility that we would wear a net, as is done in Rede de Elástico, but now in relation to an immaterial net, with fragile bonds – which would also problematize the degrees of complicity of the bonds, in relation to so many possible connections.

In Wearable Nets bodies organically combine with the logical and functional space of the nets. They become mobile relational vectors in space. They are traversed by a diagrammatic geometry of the mobility and distance (interpreted by the graphic interface), differentiated from the well-defined space in which Lygia Clark executed her proposals. This is because Wearable Nets has local and global connections and lines.

The body is posed as a place of direct contact with the invisible flows activated by technologies. The work involves flows that activate paradoxes of: centralization and decentralization, the individuality and collectivity, freedom and control, stability and instability.

The network in Wearable Nets, comprised here by the immateriality of information, behaves like the fabric in Divisor by traversing the participants’ bodies and placing them in relation to each other. The difference is that the “place without margins” (noted by Paulo Herkenhoff regarding Pape) has now effectively exploded into space, forming lines that connect different places, near or far.

The presences that occur in Wearable Nets are configured as knots, which are connected and unravel according to the availability and desire in wanting or not to be part of the net, remaining or not remaining within it. It is a game without rules, where development of the net takes place through decisions made in the relationship between the people and groups connected each time. The specificities of a temporary group (group-specific, as defined by Basbaum) overlap the qualities of each place where the work is updated (site-specific). And insofar as the connection takes place, information takes the participant’s body and moves it, in an agency between giving in to and/or resisting the others [methem].

Although the work suggests a degree of freedom to negotiate the presences in relation to this net, a more pessimistic look could also tell us that this freedom is an illusion. After all, what controls the presences and relationships is the invisible fabric, and intangible architectures that can be understood today as being the datacenters, the telecom companies, and so on. Thus, many people are frequently deluded when faced with the digital networks concerning the idea of “collective being” [usus], when actually they feed structures based only on what their superpronoun would be [meme].

Although these networks capitalize on people’s data and the need to continue communicating, they also allow for deviations. They cause public wishes to emerge, be organized, and be leveraged. Consider as an example the demonstrations in June 2013 in Brazil, organized particularly through digital media.[6] The massive physical presence on the streets, the negotiations and the complexity of the events were articulated by the so-called mass media and also by the so-called social media. In this example it was this immaterial space between us (highlighted here by the bias of technology) that would be one of the activating particles of the clash of bodies in the city.

Feeling the invisible

In Study for duel (2013), a work that I developed in co-authorship with artist Paula Garcia (fig 5 and 6), we desired to cause the immaterial fabric that provides the tension for relationships to be felt, in an absolutely physical manner, in the head-on and focused meeting between two people.[7]

In this work, two magnetized vests are placed at each point of an installation. Two steel bars form a corridor approximately six meters long. These bars serve as a track for moving the garments and, as a result, the people that will occupy this structure. By sliding down the track and attempting to meet or run into some point of the installation, the participants produce a power play mediated by an invisible magnetic field that makes contact between them impossible.


fig 5. Cláudio Bueno and Paula Garcia, Study for Duel (2013). Courtesy of the artists. Video record of the work available at: http://vimeo.com/72106734.


fig 6. Cláudio Bueno and Paula Garcia, Study for Duel (2013). Courtesy of the artists.

Here, the invisible is apprehended in these people’s very bodies, physically and mentally. We therefore flirt, in a way, with a Kafka machine, described by Kafka in 1914 in his short story “In the Penal Colony,”  published in 1918.[8] This machine was used to carve the sentence of the condemned prisoner on his skin before he dies. The immateriality of the text was converted into a brutal physical materiality by being thus transferred to the body.

Upon exiting the machine that Paula and I produced, after having gone through the experience of the physical impact with the invisible, it is expected that the subject will create a type of sensitive and psychological memory in their body, as part of the remainders that will remain from this duel, allowing them to perceive these invisible forces in everyday relations. Despite the strong experience loaded with a certain pessimism contained in Study for Duel, this is evidently not a torture machine like the one described by Kafka. Also, here there is no possibility whatsoever of being condemned or victimized; to the contrary, the subject is called upon to actively respond to the structure.

Unlike everyday machines with a friendly appearance, since they are so adapted to their users’ bodies, this machine seeks to reflect a certain inversion of values, assuming their brutality.

The installation completely reveals its architecture, almost like an improvised mode of a technology based on hacks. The work is not presented in a black box, and the precarious nature is assumed as aesthetic sharing, based, in this case, on elements of civil construction, partially purchased at a junkyard. This is a dirty work, different from the sterilization of the white cube typical in art spaces.

Study for Duel do not suggest freedom, but intensify through its architecture the disciplinary character of daily movements in the cities. This material and immaterial, corporeal and incorporeal condition, brought here between the metallic structure and the repellant magnetic field, begins to question a certain light and libertarian tone that may be ideologically impregnated in contemporary space. The discomfort expended by participation in this installation, in relation to an era of “cute” machines, today seems to be a necessary experience.

This machine reveals a dystopic sentiment. The expectation that technologies will bring us more freedoms and produce something based on a common well being proves today to be highly paradoxical. The use of technological devices has created new (invisible) centers of slave production throughout the world. Equipment quickly becomes obsolete, generating a huge amount of trash across the planet. The canniness of the capitalist system was agile by inventing new models of centralization and commercialization of data. This data has, in extreme cases, been supplied for governments to exercise surveillance and control. In this context Study for Duel does not intend to unveil any utopian idea of the future, but rather to significantly problematize the experience of the present.

The notion of the duel proposed here adds a new layer to the discussions of pronouns that have been developed by Ricardo Basbaum. Since total contact with the other is impossible, the creation of a superpronoun [meyou, youme] will also be made impossible. Yet this impossibility, which marks the distance and the difference between “me” and “him,” also reinforces the individual responsibility of each person before the body of the other. Whether known or not, by taking their positions within the work, their eyes will be directed and they will need to quickly establish an ethical game between [them], which will regulate the intensity of the “clash” and may involve a greater or lesser degree of perversity and complicity.

Various works by other artists also promote this kind of head-on meeting, where the field of invisibility has not chance to dissipate; it is hard, yet necessary and inevitable that it be faced. One example is the performances by Marina Abramovic and Ulay, in works such as Rest Energy (1980), or Relation in Space (1976), in which they exposed their bodies to physical and mental limits. In the former, using a bow and arrow, the artist’s body is placed before an imminent accident. In the latter, the artists run their bodies together, one against the other, breaking the invisible and possibly tortuous field of tension between them (they were married at the time).

fig 7. Marina Abramóvic and Ulay, Rest Energy (1980). Credit: Media Art Net.

fig 8. Marina Abramóvic and Ulay, Relation in Space (1976). Credit: Media Art Net.

Lastly, following the variations of fields of invisibility among us, we will verify the confrontation of an individual with the crowd. The radical, physical, and psychological notion of this kind of meeting will be studied through Experiência no2 (Experience #2) (1931) by Flávio de Carvalho.

“I am one against a thousand”

In the book with the same name as the performance Experência no2, published in 2001 by Rio de Janeiro publisher Nau, Flávio talks about and analyzes his own action just three months after it happened – a short enough time to recall the details of the experience, but long enough to create graphics and texts that resemble a good fictional narrative, which is a necessary exercise of translation to convert action into text. After all, as Jacques Rancière tells us when discussing the topic of fiction in the distribution of the sensible, the ability to “pretend is not to put forth illusions but to elaborate intelligible structures.”

It was Corpus Christi day; a pleasant sunlight bathed the city, there was a festive feeling everywhere; women, men and children moved vibrantly colors of ordinary fabric; old black women in glasses and robes or anything similar…” (Carvalho, 2001).

Faced with this scene where everything seemed very peaceful, imbued with a certain anesthesia and beautiful details of ordinary life, the artist put on his green velvet hat and followed the path of a procession in the opposite direction of the faithful, in the provincial São Paulo of 1931.

His desire, as he describes it, would be to:

…unveil the soul of the believers through any reagent that allowed for a study of the reaction in their physiognomies, gestures, step, look, to ultimately feel the pulse of the environment, mentally palpate the tempestuous emotion of the collective mind, register the flow of this emotion, provoke revolt to see something of the unconscious. (Carvalho, 2001)

In this way, quite aware, rational, skeptical and arrogant, Flávio entered the procession and observed each individual that acted there as a collective mind, that is, temporarily loaning their individuality to the group, in the name of the invisible god that loves all and that pervades all.

In the artist’s statements and analyses, each moment of this trajectory is noted. First, the attitude of the elderly who, firmly grasping sacred objects, were humiliated by his attitude; the priests who intensified their praying; the fat sweaty women disgusted him; the potbellied and thin men with sharp elbows inconveniencing his passage. Up until then, there had been no animosity in this passive, proud and slow-moving mass. The artist maintained control, modulated his speed and flirted with Mary’s lovely daughters.

Focused on being a disturbance, he continued to advance towards some obstacle, until the collective mind began to first protest timidly and individually, followed by a contagion among the people that turned the environment more hostile and unfriendly.

Flavio had reached the group of bourgeois young men when his emotional state began to undergo transformations, creating a certain nervous tension in relation to this part of the procession. He tried to discover, even though he was overtaken by a certain emotion in the moment and, as a result, had less ability to reason, “to what point does the ancestral control of god reach in stifling the revolt of the youth.” If up to that time he had gone more or less unscathed, upon threatening youthful virility and signaling the possibility of taking the place of one of these young men, Flavio begans to be challenged.

It was at this point, after hearing “take off your hat” a few times and resisting the successful commands, that his hat was ripped off of his head and he began to notice the furious faces that regarded him with extreme hatred.

Having recovered his hat and not knowing exactly how to continue, he tried (unsuccessfully) to appeal to the rationality of words, opening his arms and saying: “I am one against a thousand…” Yet, as the artist had somewhat already expected, the mass continued, obedient and hypnotized by the invisible overlord, with no individual awareness, reacting instinctively and brutally against he who had tried to take the prestigious place of the honored leader that moved them – in this case, Jesus Christ.

Making verbal insults, Flavio tried to get the crowd to reflect, wishing them to somehow lose the emotional and unconscious power that made it into a group, a collective mind. But he had to be fast, since he knew of the possibility of an emotion contaminating a group that could lynch him. At this time, he moved away taking slow steps backwards, until he found a reasonably comfortable zone, where he could cross the procession by using his fast movement as a privilege guaranteed by his quality as an individual, the only decider of his movements, counter to the rest of the group that would delay until making a decision to cross the crowd and get stranded in the middle of it.

Guided by danger, without being able to clearly notice his decisions and driven by the voices that yelled “get him…,” Flavio entered into a dairy, fled through the skylight in the kitchen, fell into a hall that accessed a dark latrine, and there he gave up, faced with his mental state that caused him to relax his muscles and, for the first time, feel afraid! After remaining completely debilitated for some moments, he heard someone say he was under arrest. It was a police officer that promised him safety and after searching him, helped him to leave the place. When he got to the police station, he was first accused of being a communist and throwing bombs at the procession, but soon this attempt proved to be a failure and they released him without any major problems.

Even before a mass with a well-defined identity, as if they were all the same, activating the superpronoun [wewe], Flávio refuted any relation of equality between himself and the mass. He took a different position, but without, however, affirming himself as an artist. In fact, we even question the real need to qualify this action as “art.” After all, classifying it in this regime gives it no greater quality, yet merely institutionalizes that which was placed at the decidedly experimental level and the level of the many activities developed by Flávio (architect, engineer, visual artist, sculptor, decorator, etc.).

The statements and analyses left by the artist in his book show us his desire to verify the practice of Psychology of Crowds.[9] This book later influenced the creation of the 1921 text by Sigmund Freud Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego.

It is impressive to see the confrontation of a theory with the experimental field in such a pointed manner. In his analysis of the action, Flavio goes through the entire psychoanalytic theory of crowds, as if he were testing its validity, in a detailed laboratorial process, based on the observation of the phenomena that erupted in the tense duration of the entire trajectory travelled.

This testing becomes evident when we read a notation by Le Bon, highlighted in Freud’s own text, about crowd psychology:

The most striking peculiarity presented by a psychological group is the following. Whoever be the individuals that compose it, however like or unlike be their mode of life, their occupations, their character, or their intelligence, the fact that they have been transformed into a group puts them in possession of a sort of collective soul which makes them feel, think, and act in a manner quite different from that in which each individual of them would feel, think, and act were he in a state of isolation. There are certain ideas and feelings which do not come into being, or do not transform themselves into acts except in the case of individuals forming a group. The psychological group is a provisional being formed of heterogeneous elements, which for a moment are combined, exactly as the cells which constitute a living body form by their reunion a new being which displays characteristics very different from those possessed by each of the cells singly. (Le Bon in Freud, 2011).

Le Bon will perversely analyze the crowd, attributing it a primitive, instinctive, and wild nature of the loss of individual consciousness based on a collective mind, similar to a highly controllable and manipulatable herd. This way of seeing clearly takes us to the moments of rage that begin to arise in certain moments against Flavio de Carvalho in the middle of the procession – for instance, when they ripped off his hat.

To understand the logic of the groupings, there are countless mental details put into play by Le Bon and Freud, such as: the conscious, the unconscious, identification, leadership, gregarious instinct, objects, libido, contamination by suggestion, and others. These elements cause us to see that there is “something between us,” invisible and sensitively shared; this something is not pure abstraction, but as described above, it is a conjunction of various variables. This “something” that joins two or more people suggests that there are links that cause this union or creation of a field “between.” These links are identifiable in the characterization of each group and how it is organized. For example: in the procession, the organizer is the church, belief, religion, fear and the desire to be equal with god.

It becomes important to note the various positions that Flavio takes, depending on the kind of subjective identification or interpretation that he establishes with each look, each contact, each individual during the trajectory. For instance, when a friend of Flavio’s approached him, the direct relation of the artist with the crowd was broken, becoming a type of [meyou], a link that occurs based on friendship and affection, two acquainted individuals – a situation wisely avoided by the artist, once again taking his position as an agent provocateur [methem]. Other links continued to occur in the middle of the forces contained in this crowd, including identification with the young bourgeois students, which led to confrontation based on their similarity to the artist. The daughters of Mary seem to establish some kind of erotic link, whether of repulsion, submission, or seduction. Finally, the elderly took little notice of Flavio’s presence, showing that he does not threaten their virility, given the age difference in their relationship. Flavio was thirty two years of age at the time.

It is important to note the danger of using and interpreting theories such as these, which by so precisely explaining the standard behaviour of the masses are appropriated and become the basis for totalitarian regimes. Here I am referring to Benito Mussolini, who in his autobiography, written by Richard Washburn Child in 1928, says that he has read Le Bon. Having “verified” the crowd’s incapacity to make conscientious decisions, Mussolini assumed that these decisions could be made by the State.

By understanding that the masses needed leaders to be guided, the dictator pretentiously took on this role himself. Regarding this matter, Le Bon tells us:

He thinks that as soon as living beings are gathered together in certain numbers, no matter whether they are a herd of animals or a collection of human beings, they place themselves instinctively under the authority of a chief (p. 134). A group is an obedient herd, which could never live without a master. It has such a thirst for obedience that it submits instinctively to anyone who appoints himself its master. (Le Bon in Freud, 2011)

This theory became a basic reference for various studies of crowd behaviour. The most evident of these is in the field of digital communication and advertising, which uses databases to map identifiable patterns in crowds, detecting the “something” between them, to be installed in practically every interface we use. They begin to create “totems” and direct what each group should consume.

Despite this, it is in the same digital network that new experiences have been tired out without the figure of a boss or leader. They are parties and models of governance that exercise non-hierarchy and horizontality. Some of them are: Partido del Futuro, Partido Red, Wiki Government systems, etc. In this model, there is no longer a unique “something” that organizes our relations, but there are multiple desires, wills and singularities that make relations complex.


* This text is part of the doctoral thesis entitled “Campos de Invisibildade” (Fields of Invisibility), in development at ECA-USP – School of Communications and Arts at the University of São Paulo, with the support of a CAPES grant.



[1] Here I draw on Anne Cauquelin’s use of the theory of incorporeal expression (2006).
[2]  Fields of invisibility are the central theme of the thesis from which this text was excerpted.
[3] I-5: Institutional Act number 5. It was the fifth in a series of decrees issued by Brazil’s military regime in the years following the Civil-Militar Coup in 1964 in Brazil. It gave extraordinary powers to the President and suspended various constitutional guarantees.
[4] “A grande passeata,” O 1º ANO DE VEJA, Brasil 1986,
“http://veja.abril.com.br/especiais/veja_40anos/p_100.html”. Accessed on 18/05/2013.
[5] Work commissioned by the Festival Arte.Mov (2010). Received an Honorable Mention at the Prix Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria in 2011. The work was programmed by Roger Sodré with video documentation by Cauê Ito. Watch the video on the work at http://buenozdiaz.net/redesvestiveis.html. Accessed on October 18, 2014.
[6] June 13, 2013 in Brazil was marked by strong street protests in several states in Brazil, initially calling for reducing public transport’s fare, followed by general topics related to politics and the city’s infrastructure.
[7] his installation was developed as part of the Videobrasil em Contexto artistic residency, done in a partnership between Casa Tomada, Videobrasil (São Paulo) and Delfina Foundation (London). Development of this piece included the indispensable collaboration of artist Paulo Galvão.
[8] “In the Penal Colony,” original title: “In der Strafkolonie.”
[9] Psychology of Crowds is the title of the book by Gustave Le Bon, released in 1895, – translated from the French: “Psychologie des foules.”


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