Vik Muniz
[Artist, b. 1961, Sao Paulo, Brazil, lives in New York.]

 Art objects are inanimate sad bits of matter hanging in the dark when no one is looking. The artist only does half the work; the viewer has to come up with the rest, and it is by empowering the viewer that the miracle of art gains its force. 
 I hate to say I’m a photographer, because I learned photography as I went along. But I also hate to say I’m a painter, a draftsman, even an artist. I think it’s good when you’re confused about what you are; it means you haven’t defined yourself as an artist yet. 
 I have failed so much that I now stand on failure itself. It has become my work place and where I harvest my best ideas. 
 In photography, the theater of consumption assumes yet another curious form: whenever someone buys a picture, he or she is subliminally buying part of the soul of the picture’s subject. We buy a picture of a thing, just for the sensation of owning a remotely detached and mediated part of that thing. 
 The first century of photography was all about making a decent picture. After that, it was mostly about making something look decent or indecent in a picture. 
 A lot of what happens in my work is at the level of recognition. The viewer is in front of something that either is an archetype or an icon, recognized to a point of exhaustion. Images of the Virgin and the baby Jesus say a lot about dress code, how wealth was distributed, how politics worked. People today can bypass the subject matter, because they know it so well. They’re able to see what’s around it. 
 Even though photography was a direct result of the general difficulties people encountered while trying to draw a picture, ironically… very few people have paired the two media with success. 
 Some people may find it hard to call what I do photography, but I don’t feel myself so distant from the wedding photographer who asks people to smile before he takes a shot. 
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