Eu desejo o seu desejo, 2003

Installation view: Eu Desejo o Seu Desejo, Galeria Fortes Vilaça, São Paulo, 2003, Photo: Eduardo Ortega
Installation view: Art Lesson, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain, 2017

Photo: Hélène Desplechin
Installation view: Rivane Neuenschwander: A Day Like Any Other, New Museum, New York, USA, 2010

Photo: Benoit Pailley | Courtesy New Museum

Colored textile ribbons printed with people's wishes
Overall dimensions variable

Eu desejo o seu desejo (I Wish Your Wish) radiates a burst of color composed of hundreds of differently colored cotton ribbons that hang loosely from a white wall. Small peg holes are drilled into the wall’s surface to hold the colorful straps or, in their absence, rolled-up pieces of paper. Each band carries a quote expressing a personal desire, hope, or dream, all of which begin with the same proclamation: I wish, yo deseo, je voudrais, vorrei…. In preparation for her first installation in 2003, Neuenschwander asked forty people to contribute to the initial selection of wishes; since then, thousands have taken part in sharing and exchanging their desires. The rules are simple—choose a ribbon, tie it three times around your wrist or ankle, voice a wish for each knot, and replace it with your own wish. Anyone can add to the collection of wishes by adding a new note into the empty spaces. The anonymity of the ritual and its playfulness allow the participants to confide their most intimate desires, frustrations, and longings to strangers, building personal yet untraceable connections.
The work celebrates a long-standing Brazilian folk tradition developed around the church of Nosso Senhor do Bonfim in Salvador, Bahia. Pilgrims are encouraged to wrap the Fita do Senhor do Bonfim (tape of the Lord of Bonfim) around their wrists or attach it to the gates of the church. The amulets also commemorate the òrìṣà, Yoruba deities who are invoked in the fulfillment of the three wishes. Like the blending of Catholic and Afro-Brazilian popular traditions, Neuenschwander explores intersections between cultures, people, and communication symbols. She connects past, present, and future in a cycle of artist and audience participation that is in perpetual formation, never completed.

Born in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in 1967. Lives in São Paulo, Brazil.
"I wish, yo deseo, je voudrais, vorrei... "
Deseo poder volar. 
I wish to be rid of irrational fears. 
Deseo que no haya incendios forestales. 
I wish there were more hours in the day for sleeping and playing. 
I wish I wasn’t scared of being alone.

Rivane Neuenschwander has been collecting wishes from many different places for almost two decades, as part of the participatory and collective process that generates the work ​​Eu desejo o seu desejo, activated each time by a different audience across different geographies—from Recife to Beirut, from Quito to São Paulo, and Bogotà. 

Whilst the act of verbalizing wishes often helps to formulate a wanted alternative to reality, the drive starts with an unease for the current state of things, whether it is out of fear or frustration, marginalization or injustice. Conjuring the wish helps to feel stronger and more confident, even if it is just for a moment. In the artist’s own words, the work Eu desejo o seu desejo has the effect of “getting spectators to articulate the most primeval of their anxieties,” almost as a ritual to sublimate them and generating proximity, bonds, and a feeling of interconnectedness, albeit in ephemeral ways. Embracing ephemerality, says art critic and curator Daniel Birnbaum, the artist “has produced a large number of works that seem to capture materials, living or dead, right at the moment before they change state or disappear.” (Birnbaum, Artforum, 2003).
In communities that are facing harsh conditions or have experienced collective trauma, the very act of expressing a wish can be seen as an act of resistance, as a way to defy alienation from one’s own condition and imagining possible futures.
Rodrigo Moura, "A Map, A Day, A Letter, A Wish," inThyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary:The Collection Book, eds. Eva Ebersberger, Daniela Zyman (2009: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König)
Rivane Neuenschwander, "I wish, yo deseo, je voudrais, vorrei... A selection of wishes (2003-19)," in Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary: The Commissions Book,, eds. Eva Ebersberger and Daniela Zyman (2020: Sternberg Press)
Daniel Birnbaum, "Feast for the eyes: the art of Rivane Neuenschwander, Artforum," in Artforum, 2003

Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary: The collection Book, 2009. Rivane Neuenschwander, pp, 293-297. Here

Stone, Byron. Artist Rivane Neuenschwander´s latest show explores Latin American culture through flags. It’s Nice That Magazine, September 2017. Article here 

Demos,  T. J. Decolonising Nature. Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology. Sternberg Press, 2016. Here

Lazard, Olivia. Carnegie Europe. Bologna Peacebuilding Forum, Day 1. Jun 7, 2021. Watch here

MauÍcio Angelo and Amazon Watch. Complicity IN Destruction IV: How Mining Companies and International Investors Drive Indigenous Rights Violations and Threaten the Future of the Amazon. APIB and Amazon Watch, Report from February 2022. Here