‘Linear time is a western invention; time is not linear, it is a marvellous entanglement, where at any moment points can be chosen and solutions invented without beginning or end.’ – Lina Bo Bardi *
Having filmed on location in São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP), SESC Pompéia and in the Teatro Oficina, Julien proposes an open- ended reflection on Lina Bo Bardi’s architecture and her approach to Brazilian culture. These three buildings, widely regarded as landmarks of Brazilian modernism, stand as representative of Lina Bo Bardi’s groundbreaking ideas. Travelling further north, the work also encounters Bo Bardi’s buildings in Salvador: the Museum of Modern Art, Bahia; the Coaty Restaurant and the Gergório de Matos theatre.
Starring the acclaimed Brazilian actresses Fernanda Montenegro and her daughter Fernanda Torres (as seen above), A Marvellous Entanglement portrays Bo Bardi at different stages of her life, as Montenegro and Torres recite texts closely adapted from the architect’s writings.
A central figure of Latin American modernist architecture, Lina Bo Bardi devoted her working life to promoting the social and cultural potential of art, architecture and design. Exploring these themes, A Marvellous Entanglement establishes Bo Bardi's iconic staircase, which she designed for the Museum of Modern Art, Bahia, as the stage upon which Julien orchestrates an original work by choreographer Zebrinha and performed by the Balé Folclórico de Bahia. The Coaty, a modern ruin perched on the Ladeira de Misericordia in Salvador, accommodates in turn a series of performances by Brazilian art collective Araka. In close collaboration with Julien, the collective performs in situ happenings reflecting upon the significance of Bo Bardi’s seldom-accessed masterpiece for a young contemporary audience.
Julien has created a nine-screen film installation – part homage, part poetic journey – that orbits Bo Bardi’s life and work. It features artists, and personal acquaintances of Bo Bardi’s, such as actor, director, playwright and co-founder of São Paulo’s Teatro Oficina, José Celso Martinez Corrêa (known as Zé Celso).
Bo Bardi graduated from the Facoltà di Architettura in Rome just before the outbreak of the Second World War, and shortly after that she became editor of Domus magazine – the architect used to say she started her career at a time when nothing would be built, only destroyed. After the war, Bo Bardi married Pietro Maria Bardi and the couple moved to Brazil. There she would find elements that permanently changed her professional life and world view. Travelling to the Northeast hinterlands, a region blighted by droughts and poverty, Bo Bardi was compelled to bring the creative spirit of Brazilian folk cultures into her sophisticated, prolific practice. Through building, furniture, jewellery and stage design, as well as a powerful theoretical approach, Bo Bardi was able to bring high culture to the masses and cultural awareness to the elites.
Inspired by both official and anecdotal stories about Bo Bardi’s life and work, the film is shot across seven buildings designed by the architect; four in Salvador in Brazil’s northeast region of Bahia, three in São Paulo. Each becomes a locus for a performance, intervention, enactment or reinvention of scenes that have shaped the history of, and the legends around, her architecture. Full of visual echoes and alliterations, the film focuses on key structural elements of Bo Bardi’s designs: staircases, windows and walls opening on to cityscapes, nature or the sea; details of construction; public spaces designed for social interaction. It also reveals the perilous condition of many of Bo Bardi’s masterworks, especially those in Salvador, and the pressing need for their conservation. In a country where a fragile democracy tries to survive after a dictatorship that lasted 21 years, Julien looks at Bo Bardi as a character whose voice can still shed light on issues that are as pertinent today as they were during her lifetime.
Following the conceptual thread which led to artistic investigations around portrait making such as Ten Thousand Waves, 2010, or the more recent Lessons of the Hour, 2019, Lina Bo Bardi – A Marvellous Entanglement looks at historical reparation through visual poetry, moved by the breadth and poetry of Bo Bardi’s work, and a profound belief that her legacy has yet to be fully acknowledged.