Capsules (NBP x me-you) is a multi-part installation consisting of four beds/capsules, two wall drawings and a soundtrack of the artist’s voice. The visitor can lie down in the capsules, look at the diagrams and listen to the audio CD. Each capsule is designed to be occupied by visitors, who become performers in Basbaum’s work. Though alike in their basic shape – the form of a stylised eye – each capsule differs in design. The capsules restrict contact between their occupants to certain forms of interaction. Some of the capsules are more open than others, providing convivial spaces that allow unrestricted interaction. Others interrupt and impact to a greater extent on the behaviour and experience of the occupants. Each capsule is an open invitation; a communal space aimed at breaking down normal behaviour and social codes, offering different possibilities for physical and emotional proximity.
The stylised eye form of Capsules (NBP x me-you), which mimics a corporate logo, appears throughout Basbaum’s work as part of an ongoing project called New Bases for Personality (NBP). This project deals with issues of relations between self and other, and has encompassed installations, performances and objects. NBP is also a critical reflection on – and attempt to reform – the expectations of inter-subjectivity and interactivity prevalent in contemporary art. Basbaum’s work embodies the notion that art is an inherently political activity which ‘counteracts the orderliness of institutional operations, whether global corporate power or the rituals of the art gallery, with the un-predictability of everyday life and the user’s personal response’ (Felicity Lunn, ‘Conversations’, in New Art Gallery 2002, pp.18–19).
Basbaum’s Capsules belongs to a particular trajectory in Brazilian art, founded in the radical transformation – during the 1960s – of the constructivist tradition into a participatory art that involved the visitor as a creative part of the work. The visitor is involved in a relationship that is not only visual but also intellectual and sensory. Behind this participatory strategy is the idea of vivências or ‘lived experience’; a key concept in participatory Brazilian art from the 1960s onwards, including that of Helio Oiticica. The revolutionary, participatory nature of Oiticica’s work –and that of contemporaries such as Lygia Clark and Lygia Pape – has been taken up by Cildo Meireles and a younger generation of Brazilian artists, including Basbaum himself, Ernesto Neto and Ana Maria Tavares.
Basbaum’s long-term project Would you like to participate in an artistic experience? 1994–ongoing was presented at the Logan Center Gallery, Chicago, in 2012. The following year he presented another NBP work, re-projecting (london) 2013, at The Showroom, London; this took the form of a series of nine participatory events in locations around Church Street, Marylebone.
Vivências: Dialogues between the Works of Brazilian Artists from 1960s–2002, exhibition catalogue, New Art Gallery, Walsall 2002.
Renato Rodrigues da Silva, ‘Ricardo Basbaum, the NBP object and Four Verbs’, Border Crossings, vol.28, no.1, February 2009, pp.56–62.