If it’s possible to make some humans look like grotesque pigs with the help of plastic surgery, why shouldn’t we do it the other way around and turn pigs into grotesque humans? Brazilian artist Zé Carlos Garcia constructs such things, along with super-insects, four-legged animals with wings, Carnival trucks, and a whole bunch of other things.
Vice: How did you get into art? I heard you got started on these big Brazilian Carnival trucks?
Zé Carlos Garcias: Oh, I’ve been making sculptures all my life. I was introduced to Carnival though art school. I still do that, by the way.
Yeah, it’s a great way to make a living. I worked at a Carnival school for six months--that’s where the big trucks are designed and built--and that way I make enough money to do what I want for the rest of the year.
That’s great! Who pays for it? The state?
Yeah, nowadays it’s the state. They want to attract tourists, of course. But before that, it was the mafia and the big drug lords. It still happens today. It’s a big prestige thing for those guys.
So how did you start to work with organic animal "material"?
It started with chickens. I grew up on a farm, you know? I collected the feathers that the chickens lost, dipped them in paint, and put them back onto the birds. So there were all these colorful chickens running around on the farm.
Fantastic, what came next?
The insects. As said before, I live in a rural part of Brazil. There you have huge bugs and insects flying around your lamp at night. I caught them, dissected them and put them together in a new way. For a Brazilian those hybrids are like a puzzle. He tries to assign the single parts to the insects he knows.
And then you started to turn pigs' heads into human heads. Do you have any experiences in plastic surgery? It’s completely different to work with flesh, isn’t it?
Yes, but as I said, I did sculptures all my life. Also I just love animals, so that wasn’t a big problem.
For a man who loves animals, you treat them pretty roughly. Your pig sculptures really look kind of nightmarish.
Oh yes. One time I made this joke: I invited all those people to an art opening and I cooked this big feijoada for them. That’s a traditional Brazilian dish with black beans and lots of pork. Right next to the pots and dishes I put the deformed pig’s head on the table.
That's kind of gross. Are you a vegetarian?
No, but I think I created some new vegetarians that day.
I just talked to your cousin and he said you’re a mixture between an artist and murderer. Do you agree with that?
Hmm... yes. I mean, we kill to eat, why shouldn’t we kill to admire?