Stupidity is one of the defining traits of the human condition. From simple mental slowness to downright idiocy, the concept can express either a temporary quality or state brought on by certain factors, or a permanent, unresolvable condition. The essence of this project is based on the idea that there is no limit to people’s stupidity. Being stupid is stupid. All people are different, yet all people are stupid. And when I say people, I mean everyone. Including myself. It is time for us to embrace this stupidity of ours with open arms.
The origins of this project date back to 2011 when Portugal was hit hard by the sovereign debt crisis and forced to seek out a financial bailout from international institutions with devastating consequences. Wanting to denounce the stupidity of politicians, bureaucrats, financiers and such, I became engaged in a series of street actions such as hanging effigies from bridges and flyovers representing the people responsible for the crisis, which I crudely cast from paper and tape. Yet while reflecting on the nature of this statement I realised that it was misdirected. We were all responsible. We were all equally stupid. I therefore decided to shift the aim of the project in order to highlight this defining trait of ours and began working on a new series of deformed anthropomorphic sculptures with the objective of placing them in stupid situations and contexts.
The first installation was produced for the 2013 edition of the Walk & Talk arts festival that takes place every year in the Portuguese mid-Atlantic archipelago of the Azores. It came to life in a landfill located outside the city of Ponta Delgada, on the island of São Miguel. Sitting comfortably and oblivious amidst the piles of rubbish and the encroaching gangs of voracious seagulls, this first piece introducing Mr. Stupid to the world was intended as a critical statement on consumerism and waste, helping people to reflect on the animals we truly are. My original intention was simply to place something that was incongruent and contrasting enough to stand out sharply from its surroundings. Something that was simply stupid.
The following installations were created in more accessible locations and, to my great surprise, I noticed that just like the seagulls had done with the piece in the landfill, people started flocking naturally towards Mr. Stupid. There was an immediate, instinctive attraction. This unforeseen interplay ended up turning the whole installation into a performative action where the inanimate yet friendly Mr. Stupid acts as a catalyst for human interaction. What started out as the search for a nice photo op ended up evolving into a live performance on our human nature stupidity, which I like to observe and record. Being stupid is stupid, yet it can also be interesting. And fun.
Robert Panda (1982) is a Portuguese visual artist who started his path as a notorious graffiti writer in Lisbon’s suburbs. His sculptural street installation entitled “The Stupid People Project”, a philosophical approach to human foolishness, is based on the placement of friendly, stylised anthropomorphic figures crafted from materials such as paper and adhesive tape, fibreglass or cement, in various locations with the intent of surprising and interacting with passers-by. His thought-provoking work has also been presented at a variety of art festivals, events and exhibitions in Portugal and abroad.