It was thanks to the movie eyes wide shut (1999), by Stanley Kubrick, that the Brazilian from a Finnish family Marianne Soisalo created one of the most radical artistic residencies in the midst of the exuberant nature of the mountains of Alto Paraíso de Goiás, 230 km from Brasília, in Chapada dos Veadeiros.
Living in London in the 1990s, Mari, as she is called by her friends, was one of the owners of the cabaret Madame Jojo, which was rented by Kubrick to record one of the scenes in his film, when the character played by Tom Cruise meets his musician friend.
“With the rent money, she bought the land where the residence is today”, says artist Rodrigo Garcia Dutra, who since last year has shared responsibility for the ALTO residence with Mari.
Although the film was shot at the end of the last century, the land in Alto Paraíso was only acquired in 2008 and construction began in 2011. Meanwhile, Mari, an environmental activist with a master's degree in Zoology from the University of Cambridge, slept in the Bruce, his Landrover, when he was in the region.
On the spot, she had two houses built in different trees, planned and built by a German specialist, one of them 30 meters high. The view from there is breathtaking, with blue macaws flying over the region. These homes form the basis of Mariri Jungle Lodge, a creative home and a space for permaculture projects. It was together with the artist Karolina Daria Flora and the Spanish artist Rafael Perez Evans, currently living in London, that she created ALTO, receiving artists both by registration through the website www.altoartresidency.com and by invitation, which has been organized by Dutra and Mariana Bassani.
The artist moved to Alto Paraíso in 2017 to work at the Institute of Art and Education of the Goiás Department of Education and work with art in public schools and in a Landless settlement. “After five months in the public service I decided to leave, and as I was already in contact with Mari, I ended up getting involved in the residency”, says Dutra. Having graduated from the Royal College of Art, London, in 2014, he returned to Brazil to participate in the exhibition Mestizo Stories, in the same year, held at Instituto Tomie Ohtake, and ended up getting involved with the Huni Kuin Indians, who were there for an ayahuasca ritual in the work of Ernesto Neto. “Because of this tea I decided to return to Brazil”, explains the artist.
ALTO is a very private residence, with an open stay, as it is aimed at artists with an involvement with the land and sustainability. This is the case, for example, of English writer Olivia Sprinkel, who will spend time there in the coming months, writing about global warming.
However, the guests are not just activists, but also those interested in the theme, as was the case of the artists Manoela Medeiros and Romain Dumesnil, who spent two weeks there at the end of last year, at the invitation of Dutra. Together they own Átomos, an autonomous art space in Rio de Janeiro. Artists Marcia Ribeiro, Julie Beaufils, Daniela Fortes and Bia Monteiro have already visited the residency at the invitation of Dutra, and, still in 2019, the coming of the artist Ivan Grilo is scheduled.
“I think it is important to move the spaces of production and reflection in art outside the large urban centers”, defends Dutra.
One of the works created by Medeiros in the residence is a reinterpretation of Walking, an emblematic work created by Lygia Clark, in 1964, in turn an appropriation of the Moebius tape, where inside and outside are constituted as the same space. While Clark's work is on paper, Medeiros' review is with banana tree leaves.
If on the one hand the experience in Alto do Paraíso is dazzling, due to the diversity of forests and waterfalls in the region, it is also challenging in the face of conflicts with agribusiness. He was probably responsible for the fire that occurred in October 2017, which destroyed 35 hectares of cerrado vegetation in the Veadeiros National Park, shortly after its expansion by about three times. It is speculated that the fire, started at the same time in many different places, would have been a counter-offensive by the farmers.
With this situation of polarization, which is, after all, the portrait of Brazil today, ALTO becomes an immersion experience in an ecological sanctuary that, far from being mere tourism, is after all another way of experiencing the most central conflicts and dilemmas in the country.