Meet the Residents Eduardo Navarro
Sarah Demeuse: This is Meet the Residents, a series of interviews with Amant’s artist in residency in which we speak and digress about research. The impact of context on artistic process, serendipity and making community. Amant is a nonprofit arts organization and residency in North Brooklyn. Our studios are at 306 Maujer, where we host four artists for three months, one cohort in fall and another one in spring. My name is Sarah Demeuse. I’m your host and Amant’s head of publications. This is our spring 2023 season.
Today I’m in Eduardo Navarro studio.
So Eduardo, thank you for inviting us into your studio. We are sitting here on the couch.
Sarah Demeuse: I wanted to ask you a very basic question in the beginning, just so we know where to place you, but where were you before coming to a Amant? Where are you normally based?
Eduardo: Before coming here I was exactly in between Buenos Aires and Uruguay. And I usually don’t think myself of being based in a place because I have a hard time understanding what that really means. That’s like living there.
Sarah Demeuse: Yeah, no, it’s actually a hard question to ask too because in a way, I mean what is the context from which you normally work, but often it coincides with where you live and then often it coincides with where you’re from. So there’s many layers. I think what I’m trying to lay out here is map where your practice was before, where it was happening before coming here to these specifics to the environment.
Eduardo: I feel like it’s much more accurate to say that all of that search for an origin in my case, more based in terms of how I perceive myself than where I am or what I’m doing, which is also very much connected to what I consider Eduardo and how that perception of identity works rather than where or when or how or what because I feel like that’s much more really responding as me than, because I can say that where I was doing my drawings and things like that, but for me it’s more occurring in another layer if I have to be really, really, really honest. So it’s more a matter of what defines me as me.
Sarah Demeuse: So I mean kind of going along with that language, as you morph, as you land into a specific residency, is it a continuum? What happens?
Eduardo: No. I had a really, really hard time landing here. Not in the residency, but in the city specifically because it’s a city that, it’s a huge mind that simultaneously swallows you and once you’re swallowed by that mind, it’s very difficult to keep yourself free from identity perception, which is much the root of all meditation. So being in New York is the opposite of… Was kind of a surprise because it really felt like the opposite of what I was trying or the direction where I was going in my internal belief system. And the demands are a lot of focus to be here without the feeling of being swallowed by a large mind.
Sarah Demeuse: Because where you are in your own development is letting go of the self emptying. And over here, you’re always asked to provide content or to produce or how could we phrase it?
Eduardo: In my perception of what I’m trying to find is a place that is not enters in a conflict in that constructive mind zone. So here in this city it’s very much about who you are, where you come from, what you do, what’s your practice. So those terms for me are like, I think that’s trying to convince myself that there’s something that I’m not on any of those terms. So that was a really difficult part of landing here.
Sarah Demeuse: Is it also maybe more in a general way because you are constantly asked to define?
Eduardo: I think New York City, it’s exactly the definition of a mind. It’s something that is hyper-realistic and its self-invented because once you live in New York City, I feel like where was I? Why did I get all these things? Why did I wanted to meet so many people? Why did I feel like I was not doing enough? And I feel like it’s very much how the mind works.
Sarah Demeuse: I wonder though if you’re seeing this because you came here with a certain idea in mind and what you had in mind was just shocking more clearly with this city as an all absorbing mind.
Eduardo: The idea of interviewing Swami was very much connected to a personal belief system and I was intrigued with how they would see a society that’s so pragmatically and functional and how they would help people in this society. And I was like, maybe if I can learn how they help people, I can do that too in my work and invent my own method of combining drawing and meditation.
Sarah Demeuse: Note: In Hinduism, Swami is a title given to a religious aesthetic leader.
Eduardo: But the word meditation simultaneously is so… It’s like self-esteem right now. So people just imagine somebody letting go and not using their mind or something or being extremely relaxed. And it’s kind of the opposite, it’s accepting everything, which is also really difficult in the city. Nobody is really okay with acceptance. It’s really once you accept everything then you can deal with things. But here is the opposite. You can do it, you can make it happen, you can accomplish it. So I was wondering how would they deal with that kind of people that visit them or what do they teach since they’re in a completely opposite perception of who they are. That was the goal. But ironically the Swami doesn’t have time for questions.
Sarah Demeuse: The swami is too booked. Yes.
Eduardo: Oh my God. Okay. If the swami is too busy, what else is there?
Sarah Demeuse: So first, when you were here, you were cooking maybe as a way of escaping, I don’t know. But now it seems that you’ve… When you’ve gone back to drawing, which is something that you’ve been doing throughout, but I wonder how the transition goes and how the drawing might be related to the Swami not having time and developing other methods.
Eduardo: It’s always a self-portrait drawing, no matter what. You are drawing, you’re always doing a self-portrait. So for me, drawing right now was a way of channelizing all these endless layers that I feel that are in the city and all these programmed ways of interaction that are here that are simultaneously, they’re very pre-established, but simultaneously there’s always an under energy or under communication that is not explicitly talked about. So all those underlying energies I was, I think it’s the only way I can capture them is drawing because drawing is like capturing ghosts.
Sarah Demeuse: Can I ask you with the drawing in what’s, because there’s also a yoga mat and I know you’ve been doing practices with a stethoscope, but maybe also other forms to sharpen your mind to do the drawing. Is that happening also with these drawings or it’s not related?
Eduardo: I think that sharpening the mind for me, it’s kind of like the moment that I’m drawing, I’m kind of feels throwing out the garbage rather than sharpening the mind. Once I threw out all the garbage, then I feel like okay, now my mind is like, it’s not… It has got rid of all this electricity. So the yoga mat and the yoga ball are specifically to do exercises, stretching exercises because I also felt very physically I need to do those stretches otherwise all the mental electricity that I accumulate during the day in the city, if it transfers to my body, then it’s really difficult to get it out. So all those jumping rope and stretching, all of that is just a way of not allowing the ghosts to start sculpting my body. You can see less amount of people like that. Their bodies morph into what they’re thinking, their faces, their backs, their eyes, everyone’s kind of like, it’s the mind modulates the body. So I think that is important to be aware of that.
Sarah Demeuse: And in a way it does relate with putting out the trash to me at least. Because it also takes away all of that residue from the body.
Eduardo: Ironically, when it takes it out of the body, since the body is inside the mind and not the mind inside the body, then you can really feel that there’s no separation. Which is also something that is very much confused here in the terms that your body and your mind are two separate things. But when doing all those exercises, the body becomes like a construction. The body falls into the category of the mind and not the mind inside the body, which is so waste. When you see people walking here on the streets, you feel like they’re walking, their head goes first and then their body. And that’s the opposite of what it really is ultimately.
Sarah Demeuse: So I mean this studio space is very isolated and I wonder whether there’s something about the setup of this that allows you to do these practices. I imagine it’s not anywhere in the city that you can do that.
Eduardo: And there’s no exterior windows, which for me is a relief. Because when I’m walking on the street, I feel like I have to make an effort to shield myself from so much information, noise, advertisements, food and everything. That then being here is kind of, it is a nice place to isolate. I think it’s very important to have a space to isolate in the city. So at first I was claustrophobic, I have to admit. So I was like, when these turbines turn on, all the drawings come flying everywhere and I cannot control it. It felt like a hamster in an experiment. And then now I’m like, “Okay, no, I was kind of stressed. Perhaps now I’m enjoying it.”
Sarah Demeuse: Are you still walking around a lot in the city?
Eduardo: Yeah, I try to. This past week, this week was busy, but last week I would walk at least three hours a day.
Sarah Demeuse: And how does that relate to this, when you walk you try to isolate as well? Or is it kind of a complete opposite?
Eduardo: I think that there’s something of a serendipity and walking a lot in the city because I always find stores or things that I was… Unexpected things in the city, on the street, it’s a very spontaneous place. There’s a lot of really old places that are still there surviving from another time. So I’m thinking it’s an invocation to walk three hours in the city because since I always find something or a store or something on the street or a photograph, something that I was like, it’s a surprise. The drawing, I relate it much more with garbage, I don’t know why.
Sarah Demeuse: That’s funny.
Eduardo: Because I feel like I can, I don’t know, well yeah, more garbage in a positive way, know. I could say a lot of things about the printing of the drawing. But in the end, the way how it feels in the mind is making all those subconscious endless amount of information that I gather to become an image.
Sarah Demeuse: And I mean there’s a stack there. I’m just wondering, it feels like it’s somewhat automatic. Is it kind of there’s multiples or it is just one day one and then that’s it? How is that process? Or is it an abundance of garbage all at once?
Eduardo: It depends on the day because in the end I feel like it’s more the act of throwing the garbage. But then it is not that I consider them. I feel like in the end, once I see something that it’s… The drawings always explained me something that I didn’t know. So once I find that image that it explained me something about a certain dynamic, I’m like, “Okay, this is enough for today. It did something.” Sometimes I make one drawing and then that drawing leads to another and another and another. And then it’s in one day I make perhaps 10 drawings and then it’s three days without the whole electric system gets and then it’s again. But sometimes one drawing that I feel like it explained a lot is enough.
Sarah Demeuse: Do you look back at them to see the explanation again or is it literally as if you need to get rid of it and you do not need to see it again?
Eduardo: No, I see them a lot when I’m after… The more I do them, the more I need to see them all together because then they generate some sort of map and I understand, “Ah, this is the drawing that I did when I just arrived. This one was afterwards, this was after this.” So they’re very personal, but at the same time, nobody can read what’s personal about them. I guess.
Sarah Demeuse: Yeah. But you for example, you would look back on them when you were back, I don’t know, between Buenos Aires and Uruguay. You look at them and you say, “This is New York. This is where my body was when I was there.” Maybe the question is it’s really connected to this space and the charges that you’re experiencing.
Eduardo: Yeah, they’re like fuses in a car, once they’re burned, they have a feeling of being matches that they burned something or it was capturing a certain light or whatever in that moment. And then when I see them, I can understand where I was in that moment in time because they’re always self-portraits, so when I see drawings that I did 10 years ago, 5 years ago, all of the sketches that I do in notebooks that are in my work that I keep are always diaries. But if you see them, you probably don’t see the personal aspect of them. Because I don’t want also to be a romantic diary. I don’t like that.
Sarah Demeuse: I mean I know some of your drawings and I feel that some of them also feel like proposals for something to build or make. Whereas these don’t seem to have that at first sight to me.
Eduardo: No, these ones are much more kind of, if I could imagine doing some sort of a… I feel like that they are… I don’t know. I feel like they all could be something that could be done. But they’re more the feeling of when you in a dream see many things happening simultaneously. And when you try to explain them, it’s like there was someone, there was a head on a bed and there was somebody entering through the window. But then, I don’t know, this friend that I hadn’t seen in a million years was dressed in my mother’s dress and all these crazy symbolisms come together without explanation, they’re kind of more that spirit and which is something that I haven’t done in a while to just draw more like, drawing. That’s it. No planning, no execution, no performance, no nothing.
Sarah Demeuse: And the drawings they’re done on very light paper. They also just feel more like tracings.
Eduardo: I like the idea of drawing on paper that doesn’t force me to feel that I’m this artist doing an artwork. So I draw a lot on napkins, on sandwich paper or newspapers that I save them later because then there’s a lot of ideas there. But at the same time I feel like if I use really cheap paper, it’s more about the conclusion of what the image is harvesting than the actual object of the art. And then of that, wow amazing paper, really nice drawing. And I’m like, “Okay, who cares about the paper.” Sometimes there’s a lot of amazing drawings done an amazing paper, but it’s not for me.
Sarah Demeuse: Yeah, I mean it’s also very light and easy to take back with you in a sense, it’s very mobile.
Eduardo: That kind of paper?
Sarah Demeuse: Yeah, no?
Eduardo: Yes. I feel like it’s the kind of drawings that if there’s a stain of oil on them, it would be good for, they are kind of filters. They’re filtering something. So I think it’s good that they keep that nature of the not feeling sacred.
Sarah Demeuse: I wonder [inaudible 00:23:05] to bring this back, the Swami, I’m thinking of the Swami who said no who didn’t have time. Are you still trying to see people or meet people here while you’re here?
Eduardo: No, I’m not. I think that once I get a no, I don’t receiving two nos. So I think the Swami approach perhaps is not the right time or the right place. So I take that as a way of continuing my own imaginary vacuum electronic or magnetic vacuum cleaning and developing my own system rather than perhaps I’m not ready to become stuck like a metal in a magnet in another system that is much more ancient. So the moment I received the no, then I was like I have to go into another direction.
Sarah Demeuse: And it seems that it works within this setup.
Eduardo: It’s the experience. As long as I live with a feeling that I created an experience that was key that allowed me to understand something, then I’ll be happy. I don’t need to have the blessing of a Swami to… If that happened, it would’ve been amazing, I guess. But it was not, it’s certainly not the time.
Sarah Demeuse: Well I actually, I like the idea of the key that allows you to explain something because this is termed a research residency, but perhaps research, it’s just about that key. If you understand it in a more expanded sense of it’s locating a key versus necessarily going to a specific archive or doing this or that. It’s much more abstract.
Eduardo: Yeah. Because then it’s like who is governing you? Because you have an idea, then you’re there, then you go to the archive, you get everything and then nothing has happened simultaneously. So the idea of the key is more giving sense to the origin of why you are looking for that. What do you need to find in an archive? What’s out in an archive? And why you research, why the word research in terms of searching for something. So that inner key I think, it always requires a lot of elasticity in terms of what you expected and then what you got. Because that’s why it’s art and not building bridges. I think it’s better to build bridges that you can take with you everywhere rather than aim to creating this amazing bridge. And if it doesn’t happen, then you feel like you have wonder if you’re really worth it or not.
Sarah Demeuse: Yeah, I think that’s a good point to end with, thank you.
On our website, you can find a transcript as well as some images of the drawings Eduardo has been making. Go to amant.org. In our next episode, I talk with Nadja Abt.
Our theme music is composed by Silas Edgar. Eda Li recorded and co-edited the interviews. Sound editing and engineering is by Isaac Silber. Thanks for listening. Join us again next time.