Brazil: interview with Paulo Goldstein

repaired chair

Here’s Paulo Goldstein’s complete interview for Positive+Magazine special issue on Brazil.
Who is Paulo Goldstein?
Paulo Goldstein is a Brazilian – Italian designer/maker/artist. Born in São Paulo (Brazil) in 1980, Paulo has always had a passion for “making things” and a deep interest in art, as well as design.
Paulo graduated from FAAP four-year Fine Arts course in Brazil in 2003 and went on to work as illustrator for magazines and children book to model making and sculpting for numerous stop-motion animation projects, including Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie” and Aardman’s “Shaun the Sheep 2”.
In the summer of 2012, Paulo completed with Distinction a two year Masters Industrial Design at London’s Central Saint Martins. , having studied under Ben Hughes, Ralph Ball, Nick Rhodes and Stephen Hayward, where he developed a strong interest in Craftsmanship, Critical Design and Slow Design. Paulo is currently based in London where he continues to explore his process.

RDF: What’s the role-played by the figure of designer in the cultural construction of the new Brazil?

PG: I think designers are in a privileged position; they have a great opportunity to influence the notions of need and desire of consumers. I think designers can use creativity to promote the desire of a sustainable mindset. The designer has the opportunity to inform and influence through sustainable projects, they can show the way, show alternatives. More and more you can see projects and ideas connected to open-source, hacktivism, repair, upcycling, etc… all of them almost subverting the classical notions of design and its function in society. Sugru for example is a product, which represents this ideal in a “silicon rubber” shape that can fix things and taps into the creative potential that we all have to solve problems. I know that I didn’t quite answered your question, relating to Brazil, but that’s the cultural contribution that I think the designer figure could play.

RDF: What are the everyday reasons that nourish your mixed background of fine arts/craftsmanship/design work in relation with your country?

PG: In Brazil, notions of contrast and conflict are everywhere, just to mention an example; you can find the rich and the poor fighting for the same space, like the “favelas” growing around the luxury buildings in Rio. In the middle of all this contrast and conflicts you can visually identify small subversions in the system. You can see adaptations and appropriations happening with power supply, people are stealing electricity, it is a crime but if you leave the legal and moral issues aside, it is possible to see a great deal of creativity, of resourcefulness. In Brazil we name this actions “Gambiarra”, where you solve a problem with a quick fix, you improvise a solution using materials and information that are available in your environment.
I would say that those are some of the influences that nourish my mixed background. Fine Art, Craft and Design are areas that I studied and worked with and so far are where I can explore, experiment and expand my interest in making and thinking about “things”.



RDF: From the artistic/design, social and cultural point of view which are, in your opinion, the dangerous aspects that are growing in your country?

PG: I’m sorry this question is too broad, I don’t know how to answer it.

RDF: The phenomenon of building speculation and the fast growing of Brazilian cities has something to do with your work ideals (in particular your idea of “Repair is Beautiful”)?

PG: I think the answer of this question is open for interpretation of the viewer, having in mind the answers of questions 2 and 5.

RDF: Can you describe your work? Do you have a specific generation target?

PG: My work is a celebration of repair, so I’m always dealing with broken things, going from a broken chair to a broken system. Things break. That is a fact. While this can be due to “wear and tear”, human flaw or even planned obsolescence, what if the problem is something not tangible, not made of a “material” thing? What if the problem is a feeling made of a combination of broken things?
In the past two years of my life, I’ve been working on a project called “Repair is Beautiful”, which started during my MA in Industrial Design at Central Saint Martins. Before that, I used to work with stop-motion animation as a sculptor model-maker for films such as Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox and Tim Burton’s Frankenwennie. Before that, I did illustration, BA Fine Arts in Brazil and so on… so making things and improvising is something that I’ve been doing ever since I was a child, repairing my broken GI Joe’s.
In 2008 the financial crisis started in US. It affected everybody at different levels and intensity. I got unemployed for a whole year. This created a strong feeling of frustration and that became the original inspiration for my final MA project. Can I repair a broken feeling, such as frustration?
So I started to reverse engineering my problem, which at first looked very simple, but simplicity and complexity often mask each other.
The causes of my frustration were an unintended consequence of a collection of solutions intended to solve a problem inside an extremely complex system ( in this case the financial system). I was frustrated because I was powerless when faced with such an immense problem; I had no control over the results of it and no effective solution to deal with the new situation. To try to understand what was broken, I started to research systems and I began to realize that similar problems that create a domino effect inside the financial structure, could also be found in a coffee machine at the university and other everyday things, because of the way we organize our social, economic, transport and other systems around us.
A complex system is made of many parts (e.g. people, institutions, financial system, a combination of all, etc…) that each somehow interact and affect each other. Once something goes wrong inside a complex system, it is really difficult to locate the problem. Then, when or if it is found, sometimes it isn’t possible to remove the broken part because the whole system might collapse, so the solution is to work around the problem, by creating new connections and building new bridges between the parts, keeping this fragile complex system in balance.
During my research on my MA I came across, a few authors such as E.F. Schumacher, David Pye, Richard Sennett among others, who influenced my response towards my problem. Schumacher says that growth and efficiency are the main concerns of our economic system, and technology is the major tool to achieve these goals. Instead, Schumacher proposed taking technology back to real needs and ‘actual size of man. Man is small, and, therefore, small is beautiful’. (Small is Beautiful: Impressions of Fritz Schumacher, 1978, 9 minutes).
The full title of my project is: “Repair is Beautiful – Homo Faber and the broken things”. The term homo faber means “man-the-maker” and in my project, the term stands for values of craftsmanship, empowerment of the individual and resourcefulness. This homo faber persona, with their hands-on approach and use of human ingenuity and creativity, tries to control this uncontrollable and complex scenario, of financial crisis. This leads to neurotic behaviour seen in the design of over repaired objects that reflect their environment. Repair and craftsmanship play a crucial role in balancing idealism with practicality by showing an alternative that is not better, just different.
Apart from the conceptual aspects mentioned before, what led the motivation to create from these pieces was a desire for the celebration of repair, the empowerment of craftsmanship and the attempt to get the feeling of control back in my own hands. I was inspired by Schumacher’s idea of scaling things down, by Bruno Latour’s discussions of the power negotiation between man and technology and Pye’s view of the nature of workmanship, and combined their views with my own frustration of being completely powerless when faced by the small scale consequences of financial crisis.
In a very practical sense, I developed a repair methodology based on scaling down the complex broken system, projecting it into broken objects that I can put my hands on and repair by applying unintended consequences in the repair process. By doing so I found a way to deal with my frustration, as repairing broken objects using elements of this broken system has created intriguing new objects that talk about the absurdity of it all. I can’t repair the whole system or social structure and I can’t affect it in the same scale that they affect me, but I can make pieces that reflect the environment that created them and question our society as a whole.


repaired anglepoise

repaired headphone

RDF: What project do you think could be more representative of your work?

PG: I’m sorry I don’t understand your question… I would say that “Repair is Beautiful” is more representative of my work.

RDF: What do you think about Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Brasilia? Can you give us a short description about your feelings and ideas related to this 3 cities?

PG: Rio is a Beautiful City, full of life; it is how the world sees Brazil.
São Paulo is massive, is chaotic, fast, dirty, you can find all flavors of Brazil in São Paulo.
Brasilia is the political capital of the country, is Niemeyer.

RDF: In the last years Brazil is growing quickly. Can you tell us your good and bad aspects about this situation?

PG: Brazil is economically growing very quick but socially we are still very behind in education, health, and transportation, among other issues.

RDF: World cup and the Olympics vs. recent people demonstrations. What do you think? Which is the dark side aspects involved in this events?

PG: Lately, we have been seeing Brazilians and Turkish people taking the streets to protest against government decisions that affect the citizen’s lives. The initial causes behind the protests are relatively “small things”. In Turkey is about closing a park to build a shopping centre in its place and in Brazil is about the R$0,20 increase in transport faire ticket.
Both protests have legitimate reasons, but the proportion that they took was unexpected considering the original causes. The protests turn into violent conflicts with the police, promoting new and bigger manifestations.
In Brazil the public opinion is trying to understand what is behind such a mass demonstration of dissatisfaction and how this came to be organised, nobody believes it is just because of 0,20 increase on the public transport.
It is understood in Brazil that the causes behind the protests are linked with low living quality in São Paulo, generalised political corruption, violence, traffic, health and education systems, among other structural problems in Brazil.
The Spanish Sociologist Manuel Castells, believes that the protesters:
“They are against this precise democratic practice in which the political class appropriates the representation, unaccountable in no time and justify anything based on the interests that serve the state and the political class, or economic interests, technological and cultural. They do not respect the citizens. This is the manifestation. That is what citizens feel and think that they are not respected…
But now, the ability of self-organization is spontaneous. This is new and these are social networks. And virtual always ends up in the public space. This is new. Without relying on organizations, society has the ability to organize, discuss and intervene in public space.”
I think is nice that Brazil is hosting the World Cup and the Olympics, but I think the priorities of Brazil, as a country, should be others right now.
People are protesting in the streets claiming back nothing more than our own rights as Brazilian citizens.

RDF: Can you imagine Brazil in 10 years? Can you describe it with an image, photo, etc ?

PG: Sorry, I can’t say at the moment, I think it will depend on what happens in the next few months, considering the manifestations and with the elections approaching… it will depend on how serious the people are about changing Brazil…

Edited by: Riccardo Del Fabbro
Artworks: Paulo Goldstein
Where: Brazil

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