When Felipe Morozini moved to his grandma’s apartment in downtown São Paulo, in 2003, he had no idea how much that place would change his life. At that time he was a young lawyer, not so confident about his choice of career. Inside his spacious 3-bedroom apartment furnished with solid wood arrangement, vintage wallpaper and relics, remains a peaceful family atmosphere – the contrast comes from the outside with thousands of buildings and the most controversial constructions in the city, the Elevado João Goulard aka Minhocão [Big Worm].
Minhocão is a 3.5-kilometre (2.2 mile) elevated highway opened in 1971, under Brazil’s military dictatorship. It wrecked the historic town center and crushed the housing market in the area. After all, living near a highway, let alone within touching distance of one, is not desirable. For decades, public opinion has demanded its demolition.
From Morozini’s apartment, he is impacted not only by the noise and pollution of the highway but also by those people who, like himself, have survived the hostility of that environment. “Watching the urban life from my window has changed the way I see humanity”, he says. From there, Morozini has been taking pictures, making art interventions, and becoming one of the most influential figures in São Paulo’s contemporary art scene.
It all started in 2009, while growing sick of the massive concrete road suspended by his window, Morozini decided to paint giant white flowers all over the speedway, naming it “Jardim Suspenso da Babilônia” [Suspended Garden of Babylon]. It was one of the first artistic installations to envision the highway as a park, currently the aim of the Parque Minhocão Association, which Morozini is now a director.
As a declared voyeur, in the last decade Morozini also has taken thousands of pictures from his window, capturing the routine of his fellow paulistanos. As New York’s photographer Arne Svenson, who won a judicial battle for the rights of exhibiting “The Neighbors”, a series of images he took without permission in 2013, Morozini has exposed images of anonymous people in publications and art galleries like Zipper, in São Paulo. “I became a paparazzi of the urban life”, he says.
Aware of the influence that comes from his windows, Morozini currently works on a project named “Residency in the Residence”, hosting artists from all over the world in his place and allowing them to experience the (extra)ordinary routine of the largest city in South America.
The Brazil Curator spoke with the artist:
How do you feel living in São Paulo, a city so hostile and inspiring at the same time?
In a rough environment like this, being a dreamer is mandatory. Despite all the problems, I see São Paulo with optimism; otherwise, I would never be part of an association like Parque Minhocão, which claims for a park in a place that gives all the privileges to cars. When I interact with the city, I don’t do it as an artist but as a resident who provokes the society about the way we live and treat each other. São Paulo is not beautiful, and I’ve questioned myself many times if I’d be able to live in a beautiful place because I like the fact that São Paulo has a lot to improve and in here I can be an agent of positive changes.
With “Residency in the Residence” you have hosted artists from all over the world. What you have taught and learned through this experience?
I’ve learned to see the city I was born and raised with foreign eyes. Every time I share the view from my apartment with my guests, I see something new, something I haven’t noticed before. It keeps my curiosity alive. Also, I believe this project is so enriching to visitors because São Paulo is very diverse and accepting of different cultures. I recently hosted a young photographer from João Pessoa, a beach city in the North with a hot climate, and his work is all about cold. He feels dislocated in his hometown but in here he found not only inspiration but also people that relate to his work. At the end of his residency, I invited around 50 people to see his photographs and he left feeling encouraged to keep his style even if it looks strange to his folks.I’m blessed to live in a city that can absorb my talent.
How was the transition of being a lawyer to becoming a prestigious artist?
I have never studied the arts, which gives me the freedom to express myself without guidelines. I’ve always been interested in urbanism and architecture so I decided to use photography to explore this passion. I see this recognition more as a response to my ideas than as an appreciation of my artwork.
Your body of work ranges from photography to decoration [he has made the interiors of places like Oztel and Maksoud Plaza] to popular items such as t-shirts, posters and party balloons. How do you popularize your creations and still manage to be relevant for art galleries?
I enjoy materializing my ideas and sometimes I have great ideas that fit in art galleries, sometimes I have ordinary ideas that match with popular items like a party balloon. I’m not ashamed of that.I believe it reflects the new times in which we are in contact with all sorts of people all the time through social media. My work is all about inclusion so why limit the access to it and submit myself to snobbish standards? It reminds me of the way I met João Vitor, a young student of Architecture, who came to me because of a series of very simple posters I launched a couple years ago. In one of them it’s written, “I knew you existed”. He was touched by that idea and contacted me saying he would like to work for me. He would probably not be encouraged if he had seen my work in a museum, but the easy access and simplicity of that made him feel close to me. Today he is gladly my first assistant.
What are your favorite spots in your neighborhood, Santa Cecília?
Barão de Tatuí Street is growing trend with top-rated stores such as Pair and Irmãos Campana, among charming local restaurants like Conceição and Sotero, which make this area the true São Paulo.
For more info about “Residency in the Residence”, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org