Wednesday, February 13, 2008


From Bomb magazine. Fernando and Humberto Campana, Transplastic Exhibition, 2007. Albion Gallery, London. Installation view. Photo: Ed Reeve.

In the winter issue of Bomb magazine, writer Vik Muniz profiles the art of two Brazilian brothers, Fernando and Humberto Campana. To explain the style of their work, Muniz (who is also Brazilian) describes a form of ad hoc problem solving used in their country:

In Brazil, the term gambiarra applies to a spontaneous and makeshift style of problem-solving that is very present in our tool-depleted yet resourceful tradition. Gambiarra refers to an unlikely mend, an unthinkable coupling, a solution so raw and transparent that it illustrates the problem at hand instead of eliminating it. Brazilians pride themselves on repairing airplanes with paperclips, catching fish with prescription drugs as bait, or using saliva as a building material. Consequently, cities, the government, and belief systems have become gambiarras themselves: the survivalist ingenuity of a people who live for the present alone compensates for the lack of material and psychological security.

When it comes to architecture, design, and creative endeavors in general, a surplus of supplies, money, and options frequently stunts innovative solution. What so often stymies invention is a belief that we know the answer. We self-edit. We believe there is "a way." Which is why I often hear architects and designers talk about how freeing client limitations can be. You know where you can't go, you know that you have to proceed within a confined construct. The most successful creative (and productive) people I have met and profiled over the years are the ones who remain open to any answer. They start by clearly naming their goal—they understand the needed or desired outcome. But then they strip away pre-conceived ideas, start from scratch each time, and allow for a multitude of possible solutions. As one architect/artist I very much admire once said to me, "It's about finding a new path each time to that house in the woods."