Professor Renato Araújo da Silva. Credit: Rosana Goncalves
By Renato Araújo da Silva

Still with an identity crisis and on the margins of the centenary of the Week of 22 and from the African period of Picasso, Brazilian art, in its “cultural turn”, continues its course looking for possible answers to the old modernist challenge. How the art of the beginning of the XNUMXst century could face its suffocating instrumental use within multiculturalism, identity and the affliction of becoming a mere social (financial) inclusion of some artists and institutions, almost all cyclically on the verge of insolvency, whether economic, moral or existential? A hundred years later, has the primitive future really been abolished?

For national modernism, it seems that the structural challenge was a sincere search for a Brazilian identity distinct from external impositions, albeit vaguely identified with national mestizo, indigenous and black cultures. As coaches, the modernists wanted to organize this team, in what the athletes had of the most “primitive”, “genuine” and “authentic” – this despite the aggressiveness and violence with which they were always treated in the country. While the foundation of this Brazilian Afro-Indian identity in the flirtation typical of the cultural middle classes was continually in ebullition, we did not suppose that it was also at stake.

After that time, what prevented the realization of the modernist victory in this game of art and society? In other words, why the “hero of our people” and the motto tupi or not tupi quickly ceased to make sense back there, in their original but isolated, almost idealistic, historical lapse? Social historians who have focused on this problem have rightly blamed the changes brought about by the Second World War (the good neighbor policy), the Vargas and military dictatorships, the provincial fado of that eternally agrarian “country of the future”, tied to the colonial past. , oligarchic, clientelistic, among other delays that define us so much. However, there is something extremely remarkable about Brazilian art, which is still diffuse and yet quite obvious and which, as soon as it emerges, is constantly being swept under the rug: in the field where art is played, one of the rules of the game is the racism.

Like that aggressiveness that the ego (identity) introjects, internalizes in the sense of itself creating the superego and the feeling of guilt, the aggressiveness against the mestizo or afro-indigenous identity in Brazilian civilization – that is, our racism – expressed itself if in the form of a need for punishment and self-punishment. As the indigenous person was acquitted within us townspeople or expelled from the game and deterritorialized from the beginning, as he is extemporaneous, that is, he was already born murdered, let the black man be punished! 

Before the breaks and interruptions “due to lack of light”, the modernist game continued with excellent players who explained the Brazilian Afro-Indian identity; in the “back”: Sérgio Buarque de Holanda, Gilberto Freyre, Caio Prado Jr.; we had few good goalkeepers!, but very good forwards: Guerreiro Ramos, Florestan Fernandes, Darcy Ribeiro, Mário Pedrosa, Antônio Cândido, Joel Rufino, among many others. But today, with these players physically and ideologically dead and with this game with no possibility of prorogation, how great must be the weight for the conscience of the historiography of Brazilian art if the black and the Indian have to be included “by quotas” or only in the form of the feeling of guilt?! Worse still, what reenactment of a social disaster would emerge if this inclusion happened in the art world only by forced pressure from multiculturalism (in its contradictory post-racial evocation)? What business strategy would welcome black people into museums and galleries if not the same as that of algorithms and focal ads – that of numbers? At the moment of this cultural massacre of the digital society – which helped to deliver the last blow to make not only the black identity disappear within the Brazilian one, but the very interest in any identity that was not the consumer – the Afro-Indian-Mestizo foundation -Portuguese-Brazilian is now glimpsed in the form of this game over depressing thing that wakes us up: the loss of the beautiful anthropophagic match that seemed so certain of victory in the jovial eyes of a Mario and an Oswald
from Andrade.

The Macunaímas of the streets, as well as the Timótheos and Estevam Silvas of the museums, are being surgically exterminated at the root. The scrawl in the aesthetics of consumer society is rewarded, because the scandal was swallowed and naturalized. That's why today, despite the news mainstream and from the “maps of violence”, racism in the digital age returns to the sphere of indifference or taboo. In the post-truth era and the “save yourself if you can” imposed by large corporations and new oligarchies, the decrease in human dignity is proportional to the increase in the dignity of the machine, just like the black elite and black artists now called to the ghetto by the waves of institutional valorization in which they participate as food, they do so within a calculated risk: not for dignity and talent, but for the flow of this feeling of guilt mixed with the fulfillment of the orders of political correctness.

How can we talk now about Brazilian art, black bodies, black consciousness, mockery of citizenship, remnants of the master and slave dialectic if we are all more or less slaves to numbers and algorithms? Just to say the ululating obvious that “some are more equal than others”? that black people too make art? of what black lives matter? The only possible answer is that much deeper social trends arising from the tragic (or pathetic) cultural logic of late capitalism forced all of us, biological beings, to play on the same team: that of the defeated; but without identity crises, because there is no way to talk about Brazilian art if it is not really Brazilian.

Afro-Brazilian art, by the way, is not a style, not an avant-garde, not even a social or artistic movement; it is the art of Brazil – if not pleonasm. But, in this case, being ashamed of what we are or trying to get rid of the prefix “afro”, of this compound noun, a semantic union of such synonymous words, assuming that with this we would alleviate social tensions, weights of conscience or thematic pressures on a certain “freedom”. of the artist”, would be the same as curbing that carnival drive that resides in every Brazilian and forcing it back into the unconscious from where it will invariably scream again: Arte!Afro-Brazilians!

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