The Whitechapel Gallery has invited Brazilian artist Rivane Neuenschwander (b. 1967) to make a work of art for the annual Children’s Commission. The new work explores childhood fears ranging from ‘spiders’ and ‘heights’ to ‘talking trees’ and ‘electric ghosts’.
Featuring an installation of vibrant handmade capes, the 2015 commission by Neuenschwander combines elements of drawing, textiles, design, performance and writing with her interest in the rich history of modern art in her native Brazil.
The artist worked with children aged 7-9 from across London to gather a broad collection of fears, from the ones shared by many throughout their lives such as ‘drowning’ or ‘bees’, to ‘strangers’, ‘nightmares’ or the more abstract ‘silence’. Neuenschwander has translated the children’s drawings and texts into fabric cape designs. Associated with protection and supernatural power, the capes also echo her interest in folk traditions, children’s literature, nature and psychoanalysis.
The title of the new commission, The Name of Fear is borrowed from the song ‘Araçá Azul’ (1972) by Brazilian composer, singer and writer Caetano Veloso, and echoes the poem ‘O Medo’ (Fear) by Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade.
The project expands on I Wish Your Wish (2003), in which the artist drew from a Brazilian tradition where pilgrims bind ribbons inscribed with their wishes to their wrists, in the belief that when they fall off or disintegrate the wishes will be granted. The Name of Fear at the Whitechapel Gallery expands on this work, reflecting on how our personal wishes often mirror our most intense fears.
Rivane Neuenschwander was born in Belo Horizonte in Brazil, and currently lives and works in London. Her work is associated with Brazilian conceptualism covering sculpture, film, performance, painting and textiles. Ephemeral in nature and presentation, the artist’s installations often investigate the phenomena of memory, time and social interactions, and look at how these can be shared through language and objects.