Anya and Andrew Shiva Gallery
What happens when nostalgia and the future collide? A very complicated gift, suitable for group performances. Against, Again: Art Attacked in Brazil presents the work of more than 30 artists whose practice responds to a wave of authoritarianism that seems to be changing again in Brazil with the election of right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro. Since his inauguration in January 2019, Bolsonaro, a retired military officer and admirer and ally of President Trump, has begun ongoing attacks on Brazilian democracy and its institutions, threatening and criticizing political opposition, activists, intellectuals, and artists. In addition to being vocal opponents of same-sex marriage, environmental regulations, abortion, affirmative action, immigration, drug liberalization, land reform, and secularism, Bolsonaro was a strong defender of the Brazilian military dictatorship (1964-1985) and his torture. practice.
The event starts with America: racial democracia, melting pot and pureza de razas (2019) by Jaime Lauriano, based in São Paulo, whose work often discusses institutional violence and historical trauma. Here, he revived the aesthetics of colonial cartography and the “new world discovery” on white textiles, drawing America with black chalk used in syncretic Afro-Brazilian religious rituals. America distinguishes itself from colonial cartography by concretising, in language, with honesty and irony, the ideals and deceptions of colonial-settler expansion and its genocidal practices. On the Lauriano map, instead of the Atlantic Ocean, viewers read in Portuguese “Racial Democracy” while “Racial Purity” replaces the Pacific Ocean. “The Melting Pot” is described in ancient typography on North American soil.
While Lauriano’s work examines the production and representation of history, the practice of Maria Thereza Alves that has lasted for decades has focused on the detrimental effects of Portuguese imperialism on Brazilian indigenous peoples and the impact of Spanish conquest in America. The program featured two iterations of Alves’s meeting with his mentor, the traditional leader of the Tupã-Y Guaraní (Marçal de Souza). The first, from 1980, is a black-and-white photo Guaraní stands on the edge of his tribal land in the interior of Mato Grosso do Sul, pointing to the mountain that once marked its border. Other documentation presented by Alves is an audio recording of his conversation with Guarani, also in 1980, which was played as a single-frame video soundtrack made of photos, which have been colored, from Guarani pointing to the mountain. During their discussion, Guaraní explained that the unity of indigenous peoples had been formed and encouraged Alves to join in the struggle for customary rights. Three years after their meeting, in 1983, Guaraní was brutally murdered by Euro-Brazilian landowners who wanted his tribal land.
Despite the recent decline in killings in Brazil, violent crime continues to infect the country – a problem compounded by the use of lethal force by Brazilian police. Apologies for the Elephants (2019), a video by Brooklyn Parisi based in Brooklyn (born 1984), dedicated to five children, ranging from ages 8 to 12, who were killed in the favela of Rio de Janeiro during a police raid. The video begins with footage of a baby elephant, “… very funny, young and plump … tame eyes … very dark,” the narrator said, walking down the street, before the video shifted his tone. An older elephant was later sentenced by a trainer, a middle-aged, white woman. The training sequence dissolves into a police recording breaking into the favela, gathering boys and men, beating and lowering their black and brown bodies, made by gray and blue police cameras.
Also on display Camuflagem # 01 (2018), a photograph by performance artist Berna Reale (born 1965), who is known for using her body in building reflections on conflict and social inequality. For Camuflagem # 01, Reale wore military uniforms while pushing carts carrying packages shaped like human corpses and made of sheets used to cover victims of violence. Reale, who is also a forensic investigator, was sourced from his colleagues who worked in the police department. In Camuflagem # 01, Reale’s back is in front of the camera – the perfect target body position.
This event is also included Enter the circuit with the following ideas: Look here (“Insertion into the Ideological Circuit: Banknotes Project”), the work of famous conceptual artists and sculptors Cildo Meireles (b.1948). For this installation, made in 1970, Meireles stamped official banknotes with subversive messages and then returned them to regular circulation, including one ask “Matem Herzou quem?” or “Who Killed Herzog?” The question refers to the death by torture of journalist Vlado Herzog, vocal opponent of the military dictatorship, by the police. Herzog’s murder was officially reported as suicide. Banknote Project exemplifies the practice of Meireles in generating unexpected opportunities for viewer involvement as he did again in response to the 2018 murder of Marielle Franco, a woman councilor in Rio de Janeiro, feminist, human rights activist, and a fierce critic of police brutality and extrajudicial killings law. In 2019, two former police officers were arrested and charged with murder. Before their arrest, the two suspects took a picture with Bolsonaro. Recently, several Brazilian media reported that police were investigating the possibility of the Bolsonaro’s second son, Carlos, being linked to the murder.
Originally the title of a book by the Vienna-born writer Stefan Zweig, “Brazil is the land of the future,” is a repeat that is repeated among Brazilians who imagine what will happen as a society characterized by plurality, diversity and economic prosperity. In the last few years, the last part of the phrase, “and always will be,” has been replaced by “but that future never arrives.” Between idealism and determination of the first and the irony of the accompanying phrase is a positive bias. This positive bias, which is common to all people and not just Brazilians, refuses to recognize the future as an adverse condition that is immune to the promises of historical and technological progress. Part of that future is present life, which is quarantined to sustain the world.
On the way out of the gallery are the works of the #CóleraAlegria collaborative action project, which makes banners, posters and flags for political demonstrations and online campaigns. On the day the gallery reopened after being closed for one day due to the COVID-19 outbreak, between the two gallery shifts, the front desk was empty. In accordance with the moment and the atmosphere, # CóleraAlegria’s poster hangs on an empty table and chair: “Democracy, what time will he return?”
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