Bem Me Quer, Mal Me Quer (2011), Sidney Amaral, exhibited in LIVING UNTIL THE END WHAT I FIT - SIDNEY AMARAL: AN APPROACH
"Bem Me Quer, Mal Me Quer", Sidney Amaral, 2011. Photo: Private Collection/Courtesy Sesc Jundiaí
"Gargalheira or who will speak for us", Sidney Amaral, 2014. Photo: Private collection/Courtesy Sesc Jundiaí
“Gargalheira or who will speak for us”, Sidney Amaral, 2014. Photo: Private collection/Courtesy Sesc Jundiaí

*By Daniel Lima

I never met you, Sidney. Despite being two plastic artists from the same generation, from the same city, we don't meet in life. This mismatch is even rarer if we consider that we are two black artists, an exception in the world of contemporary art – even more so in the early 2000s, when we started our careers.

In my first exhibitions, my path forked into a path far from art galleries. I was part of this generation that opted for an encounter with the city, with the contradictions of urban space. A battlefield for poetic creations in a clash of scale, languages ​​and political-social contexts.

While you were developing these powerful works that are part of the exhibition Live to the end what fits me! – Sidney Amaral: an approach, curated by Claudinei Roberto da Silva, I was also dealing with poetic works with different plastic and conceptual solutions. But the crossings are the same, Sidney…

I noticed these transversalities in my encounter with his work when I was carrying out the exhibition Are We All Negrxs Now?, at Galpão Videobrasil in 2018. With the help of Claudinei Roberto – who had been a colleague at USP and who can certainly agree with being black in these exceptional spaces – I was able to find his works in their natural habitat: the studio where golden snakes of fork teeth; solid bronze headless barbies; spoons eating traps. The drawings and paintings of a virtuosity of technique meet this double of identity: the contradiction of blackness.

Being part of an immense minority in contemporary art and the majority in the population gives us this certainty of the importance of inscribing this Afro-Brazilian perspective so invisible. At the same time, the identity trap that we have to transcend is certain. A double challenge of bringing the unique context that forged us, but also of crossing the limits of what is considered as a denunciation of the social ills of our world. A contradiction to be elaborated in two ways: in relation to the identity trap and another, connected to identity, in the articulation of social denunciation and the announcement of other future perspectives.

The pitfalls are similar insofar as they pose the problem of how to escape the frameworks created for poetic political making. In other words, Sidney, we faced the challenge of speaking from the place of black individuals – and in this operation of looking at oneself it is almost impossible to ignore the violence that crosses us – but, at the same time, to undress black identity because they were created to tie us down and to hamper the potential of life. How does Achille Mbembe put in Critique of Black Reason:

“Will he not persist in recognizing himself only through and in difference? Is he not convinced that he is inhabited by a double, a foreign entity that prevents him from knowing himself? Will you not experience your world as one defined by loss and splitting and will you not nurture the dream of returning to an identity with yourself, which regresses to the mode of pure essentiality and, therefore, often, of what is dissimilar to it?”

This double in his work, Sidney, appears in an attack on himself. To assert oneself as black in image, plenitude, struggle, dignity, in a reverse sense to the historical animalization of blacks in the colonized world. Simultaneously struck by the certainty that something buries us in a rhetoric of death:

“The staggering threat, for millions of people caught in the webs of racial domination, of seeing their bodies and thoughts operated from the outside and of seeing themselves transformed into spectators of something that, at the same time, was and was not their very existence. ” (MBEMBE).

Sidney, when I went to Africa I could understand that “black” was created here in the Americas to define, dominate and diminish us. A term that, as I put it in the title-question provocation of our exposition Are we all black now?, was created to “signify exclusion, stultification and degradation, that is, a limit always conjured and abhorred”, writes Mbembe. But that, due to the need to survive, was re-signified by a path of struggle of the same history of violence and resistance. Being black has come to mean that we are brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of the Afro-Atlantic diaspora. And since then this black being “became the symbol of a conscious desire for life, a thriving, floating and plastic force, fully engaged in the act of creation and even in the act of living in several times and several stories simultaneously”.

I believe that this double that we re-enacted together with so many others in this generation redefines the meanings of consolidated and stereotype-consolidating images. The black boy with the mask shirt; the soldier angel; the woman who smiles with a wreath… Ways of replacing images in the world – and, in this way, we replace ourselves.

These movements are aware of the limitation in “simply establishing new symbols of identity, new 'positive images' that feed a non-reflective 'identity politics'”, as Homi Bhabha writes in The Place of Culture. Due to the wear and tear of this double identity, we build a labyrinth that ultimately leads to the multiplex identity: not fluid, amorphous or slippery, but solid on many sides defined by negation, by what we are not.

Thus, the themes, whether of slavery or in Gargalheira or who will speak for us?, whether of the colonial Catholic religion in Demiurge ou Our Bread, but also recent history in Dialogues/Meeting return as this “disjunctive present”, a present broken into conflicting, contradictory interpretations. This shift bothers many because it deconstructs worlds of stable beliefs. Only racial displacement, the black figure in the canonical context of art, already displaces the world around it.

These myth images, memory images, time images that invade and colonize subjectivities, Sidney, are being reinscribed by us not as heroic symbols of an identity politics. They are reinscribed in “the very textuality of the present, which determines both the identification with modernity and the questioning of it: what is the 'we' that defines the prerogative of my present?”, points out Bhabha.

Of course, this “we” of the Brazilian nation never included us. And, at this stage of capitalism, many are beginning to realize that it no longer includes them either. The current stage of exploration, whether material or cognitive, places the vast majority side by side in a fractal of segregation. “From now on, everyone will be known generically as black”, stated the Haitian Constitution of 1805, the fruit of the only black revolt to take definitive power and the first American nation to abolish slavery. “Now we are all black!”, they affirmed to agree the resistance between us.

We have agreed, between leaps and bounds, between battles and wars, between deconstructions and decolonizations, that we will not succumb to the kidnapping of the future. we reenacted
the past with the delusions of the present. I see in his work, Sidney, a force not close to the surreal dream, but bordering on delirium: a power of fascination and hallucination.

...

Sidney, I took the Covid-19 vaccine the day I went to visit your exhibition Live to the end what fits me!, Sesc Jundiai. In the morning, I had already prepared my documents. The doctor who received me after the short wait in line was sitting on the drive-thru disabled. Some people passed by asking which vaccine was being applied and what day would the one from Pfizer arrive. The doctor's green eyes examined the PUC diploma covered in gold writing. Then she filled out a form and asked me about my self-denomination: black. I remember that I manage to escape the statistic that places the black population among the least vaccinated in the country. Brazil vaccinates twice as many white people as black people (data from the Public Agency). I escaped because I fall into the ranks of those with a degree in Clinical Psychology. This is a type of measure that underground paves the way for a white portion – who are not necessarily at greater risk – to get vaccinated first. “Accepting only the diploma is a measure made for white people to get vaccinated”, the doctor agrees. And see myself here. Yeah, we've always been the exception, Sidney.

LIVING TO THE END WHAT I HAVE - SIDNEY AMARAL: AN APPROACH
WHERE: Sesc Jundiaí (Av. Antônio Frederico Ozanan, 6600 – Jardim Botânico, Jundiaí – SP)
WHEN: May 11, 2021 to September 4, 2021. Tuesday to Friday, from 14 pm to 19 pm and Saturdays from 10:30 am to 13:30 pm
Free entry. Visit by prior arrangement.

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