“The relationship with natural space, physically, conceptually, literarily or even holistically is something that comes from numerous places, including through an influence of my grandmother, who was Argentinian and extremely connected to these issues, that brought me a huge relationship with the land, myth and other places of speech, other than the ones I found here. “

BIOPHILIA – 2020, Installation View at Mosteiro de Tibaes.
Curated by Inês Valle.

Paulo, your artistic universe conveys two, somehow, paradoxical emotions: calm and restlessness – maintaining a balance. Are you aware of the impact of this dichotomy in the expression of your work?

According to François Matarasso – Art comes from a place of restlessness – The restlessness is and will always be part of the creation process, it works for me as a research engine and research booster. Contemporary artistic production is based on questioning, the creation of questions, and in my case, I like to use the term visual seismography, where the author measures waves concerning new natural, social and cultural paradigms in contemporary discourse. But yes, a constant search for the place of tranquility and being is natural to me, the importance of recognizing certain personal paths that, in my case, led me to study and investigate, for several years, matters such as Chinese medicine, shiatsu, sound healing, among others, and my deep relationship with the sea gives this structure to my work and research. This same relationship with the sea, that is very present in my work, has this same issue, being the sea a hyper emotional object (Timothy Morton) that automatically relates to the same dichotomy between calmness / restlessness. Which, in a way, are inherent elements of all human and natural existence.


In 2011 you worked as an art director and designer, today as an artist. Is your artistic process based on an organic change that meets your personal evolution or on a need to evolve in your art?

Once again, enters the process of a restlessness related to the idea of creation. My academic background is related to Literature, Philosophy, Psychology and Communication; however, the universe of image and sound has always been present, both at a family and personal level. My father was an architect and my mother a writer and journalist, both music and book collectors. All this universe deeply influenced me, and I have always been connected to numerous musical projects. Design and art direction came naturally as an extension of the academic path in the universe of communication, predominantly in areas such as music, fashion and editorial, but the creation process was always present and accompanied my professional path at the time. Art direction and design, in a way, generate a process that more and more I felt was inadequate to my essence, because the conditioning side in the creative process or the very mercantile objective of it disturbed me deeply. Once my artistic path took a larger place, it easily overlapped, taking on the essential role of my journey. Initially, I had a need to move away from all the techniques and technological tools I used in my practice and production, and painting entered relating directly to plasticity and matter, but with time I clearly came to realize that this was not enough for the themes I approached or the kind of questions themes and research that my work addresses and requires, and I ended up making peace with these production mechanisms, which I now consider essential to my practice, and although my work, even in video or image, has characteristics of the medium itself, it always ends up starting from a clearly pictorial principle and place.


It is noticeable in your work an interest in disciplines such as anthropology, biology, oceanography, artificial intelligence, bio and nano technology, history, mythology. Do you have collaborations with professionals in these more scientific areas?
And artistic collaborations, do they represent a significant part of your process?

The relationship between natural and non-natural space has always been something that interested and disturbed me. I grew up near the sea and had a huge presence and influence from it while growing up. The relationship with natural space, physically, conceptually, literarily or even holistically is something that comes from numerous places, including through an influence of my grandmother, who was Argentinian and extremely connected to these issues, that brought me a huge relationship with the land, myth and other places of speech, other than the ones I found here. These made me interested in research, concerning the physical body and the natural body, themes such as matter-non-matter, biosphere, extinction, transhumanism, climate change, natural and human diaspora, Pan-oceanism, and Anthropocene. Starting from a principle like acupuncture that when we place a metal, a foreign agent in a living body, we create an inflammatory process, causing the cells to move towards that point in a healing method. The creation of a work, exhibition or project works like a geographical acupuncture process where this process of questioning through the work produces this same inflammation, drawing the cells into a process of transformation.
In my production process collaboration with various areas such as academic, scientific research is inevitable, collaborating with biologists, scientists, scholars and thinkers, or people related to certain types of work in different types of medicine, shamanism, etc. The dialogue between science, magic, technologies, and other elements are essential to my research and production. This whole process is one of enormous share without which my work could never exist. I play countless times with the idea of “plastic autistic”, from which I intend to escape in my research process and even production. I soon realized that to work with the themes I relate to I wouldn’t have to be in the studio representing them, but rather in deep dialogue and collaboration with them, and this can only be done in the field. The camera, microphone or other elements of dialogue with the natural environment end up working as brushes, without leaving a mark on the ground, and thus being able to create more by working together with them.

BIOPHILIA – 2020, Installation View at Mosteiro de Tibaes.
Curated by Inês Valle.

The location of the Re_Act Contemporary Art Laboratory in the Azores archipelago, co-founded with Paulo Ávila Sousa, is on purpose?

No doubt about it. The Azores work for me as an extremely biophilic process and an enormous laboratory for research and work as well as a place for sharing and dialogue on these issues I mentioned above.
The fact that in a “rock” in the middle of the Atlantic, curators, thinkers or academics gather every year to work intensely with artists, both from different continents, in this archipelago is not a coincidence. The strength of the place, its geographical component, the volcanic presence and the island element makes the whole process extremely immersive and intense and, in a way, provides an extremely deep connection in the object of study. An artistic laboratory is developed there based on Terceira Island, which focuses on establishing a philosophical thought not only about myth and history, geopolitics and colonialism, but also about environmental justice, climate change, extinction and ecology. This residency addresses the question of the Anthropocene and the geographical divisions imposed on a Hyper object like the ocean. Between performance, writing, technology and environment, artists here are invited to create a thought about the indivisible relationships between natural and human diaspora and invited to think about the ocean from a holistic perspective of cultural, visual, textual and material interrelationships, filtered through contemporary art practices. How, from a diversity of materials and references, and the interweaving of artistic expression with the multiplicity of political, aesthetic, and philosophical discourses on art and nature, identity and space.
Artists such as Paul Rosero Contreras, Regina de Miguel, Jakob Kudsk Steesen, Adrien Missika, Pedro Barateiro, Richard Healy, Ingela Ihrman, Diogo Evangelista, Mit Borrás, Virginia Lee Montgomery, Daniel Van Straalen, Gabriela Maciel, João Paulo Serafim, Antonio Bokel, among others, and curators such as Borbála Soos, Angels Miralda, Irene Campolmi, Ultrastudio, and Scandale Project, among others, have already visited the site. The location and the specificity of the archipelago are essential to the whole creative and human process of everyone who has been there. It is, without a doubt, a privilege to be able to share the experience of being with other peers and to be able to think in a place like this archipelago that allows enough distance from the urban spectrum and the common urban place characteristic to cultural development and presentation and in a way to drop some exoskeleton intrinsic to it in this place that allows to look at the work in a more holistic and human way and create a closer dialogue with the surrounding.

INHALE, EXHALE (self breathing kit)
2020, Full HD Video on Led Wall 3m57s, 200x100cm
Installation view at Travessa da Ermida, Lisbon
Curatorial Text: Borbála Soós

And regarding WATA Publishing can you share how it all came up?

In a very specific context, in which we globally found ourselves, due to the pandemic, the lockdowns, and the impossibility for artists to develop their research through artist residencies, Re_act Contemporary had the impossibility to receive artists and the impossibility to exhibit.
WATA emerges in dialogue between my editorial and graphic background, as well as my research as an artist on the oceans and issues related to natural and human diaspora and climate change with Camila Maissune, graduated in visual anthropology, independent curator, researcher and curatorial assistant at Maat, she is someone extremely connected to the editorial component and who had already developed her research and PhD on the Indian Ocean.
The word WATA comes from – Wata Mommy – better known as Yemọja in Yoruba. This assumes itself as a publishing project that brings together artists, curators, and thinkers between contemporary art, anthropology, and science through a visual laboratory that raises critical questions about current movements in contemporary societies that aims to work closely with thinkers, theorists, and artists from the European continent, Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America, focusing on issues related to ecology, ocean thinking, environmental justice, post-colonialism, diaspora, and ethnography.
The publication itself appears as the residency space, a laboratory of thought and dialogue between artists and thinkers, in essence, an exhibition space in book format.

Currently we are working on a publication project entitled – From the Indian Ocean – This publication will be co-edited by both of us and with the advice of the invited scholars: Daniela Zyman (Austria), artistic director of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21), Nada Raza (Dubai), artistic director of Ishara Foundation, Stephen Muecke (Australia) from Flinders University, South Australia, and Pedro Pombo (India) from the University of Goa. From the Indian Ocean has on board artists such as Max Pam (Australia), Dawit L. Petros (Eritrea), Raqs Media Collective (India), Ampannee Satoh (Thailand), Muhanned Cader (Sri Lanka), Lungiswa Gqunta & Thulile Gamedze (South Africa), Yasmin Jahan Nupur (Bangladesh), Donna Kukama (South Africa), Himali Singh Soin (India), Fazal Rizvi (Pakistan), Shilpa Gupta (India), Hassan Meer (Oman), Debbie Symons (Australia), Syowia Kyambi (Kenya), MAHI-Maritime Archaeology And Heritage and Veera Rustomji (Pakistan), among others, as well as thinkers and writers such as Nada Raza (Pakistan/UK), Stephen Muecke (Australia), Sama Issa (Oman), Sneha Ragavan ( India), Meg Samuelson (Australia), Jyoti Dhar (Sri Lanka), Thanom Chapakdee (Thailand).

Created as a residency and publication, From the Indian Ocean aims to fill a gap in contemporary art across the Indian Ocean in the well-researched theme of cultural exchange in oceans such as the Pacific or the Atlantic. We aim to deepen the discourse and understanding of how the ocean functions as a center of aesthetic and conceptual transnationalism and experimentation, closely linked to oceanic thinking and the current ecological and environmental crisis. This project thus brings together theoretical and visual essays by artists, curators, scholars and thinkers who critically engage with the Indian Ocean as a series of interconnected places; as a natural and cultural site that expands our imagination and contributes to the emergence of a new perspective on the correlations between art, ecology and identity.

INHALE, EXHALE (self breathing kit)
2020, Full HD Video on Led Wall 3m57s, 200x100cm
Installation view at Travessa da Ermida, Lisbon
Curatorial Text: Borbála Soós

Visual and Digital Arts – Cascais School of Arts & Design.
You are the course director, as well as one of those who designed the course.
What are the particularities of the students that reinforce and justify in you this mentoring role?

Designing a course related to new media in contemporary art was undoubtedly something extremely stimulating. We tried to develop an organic course that unites a strong theoretical and research component with fieldwork, production and exhibition methodologies. Numerous curators and artists are invited to collaborate, creating an organic structure of work for new thinking about art production in a post-internet age. It is extremely stimulating all the interaction with the group creating a core of thinking and joint discussion in a very horizontal format between students and faculty, and I receive a lot in return, it is a super instigating exchange because we end up creating an osmosis of academic thinking, research and artistic practices together.

Sensorial Divinities
2019, Installation view at Dimora Artica, Milan

Is there a medium that you haven’t worked with yet that you really want to try?

Particularly I don’t think I have been experimenting with numerous mediums throughout the process of research and creation because I can’t focus on just one specific medium. I never intended to have technical virtuosity in a specific medium, but to use the various possible tools to create a dialogue between the themes that concern me or about which I like to research and the receiver. Perhaps working on another scale at the image level, closer to the cinema that requires another type of investment and production could be an interesting challenge and one that makes some sense for the body of work.


Which medium do you like to work with the most?

My work always starts from an essentially pictorial place, initially I did it through painting, however I realized that when approaching themes related to certain ecosystems and natural scenarios it wouldn’t make much sense to be closed in a studio in the process of representation, but rather to be in the field and mostly in dialogue with these places to work with and not on them, giving them their place of speech. Thus, the camera ended up replacing brushes, and image and video ended up being a media with which I feel quite comfortable. It was decisive after a long period connected to painting to research and work on the NASA archive and work with cameras and satellites and images that put me in a place of questioning that really representation was not enough. On the other hand, I take enormous pleasure in working with organic matter, with soil, plants, and I discovered an enormous fascination for glass production, the whole process is super intense, magmatic, immediate and intuitive which are components that attract me greatly.


Is there a space or setting (dream place) where you would like to hold an exhibition?

No doubt there are several and they are the ones that many know as temples of reference, however more than that I feel like working more immensely in other continents than Europe, with other places of speech than a westernized vision regarding contemporary art, its production, canons and rules dictated by a certain market and point of view.

2021, Installation view at Uma Lulik_, Lisbon
Curatorial Text: Borbála Soós

How to describe a typical Paulo Arraiano day? (Are there any typical days?)

Definitely not. Although after the pandemic I stayed longer in the same place for obvious reasons I ended up alternating between studio work and research and travel, field work and exhibition. I’m not one to stay at home or locked up in a studio for too long, I need input a lot and enjoy working in teams and creating dialogue. The travel component is essential to me as a human being and to my whole body of work and research, so it makes the idea of the -typical day- a little absent.

Photographies by Inês Ventura, at the artist’s atelier, in Juzo Village, Cascais. 
9th March 2022. (except the artwork)


Paulo Arraiano is represented by the galleries Uma Lulik_ [Lisbon] and Dimora Artica / Candy Shake Gallery [Milan].
He is also co-founder of Re_act Contemporary Art Laboratory and Residency Program [Azores]; WATA Publishing and No.Stereo, (artist-run platform). His practice relates to an idea of visual seismography, measuring waves concerning new natural, social and cultural paradigms, his research, between matter-non-matter, involves body, landscape and technology, raising questions about climate change, biosphere, extinction, transhumanism and Anthropocene.


Paulo Arraiano is a Portuguese artist born in Cascais in 1977, where he lives and works to today. 

Paulo Arraiano at his atelier, in Juzo Village, Cascais.

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