Carlos Pasquetti
Carlos Pasquetti, Work on a gas mask, 1972, Photo 24 X 18 cm

Fifty years ago, Institutional Act No. 5 was published. The decree, which suspended constitutional guarantees in the country, symbolizes the moment of consolidation of the military regime and leaves deep marks on Brazilian society. The state of exception affects not only the direct victims of the regime, who experienced torture, death and exile, but society as a whole. The rupture of democratic legality leads to the loss of the right of expression, self-censorship, institutional instability, among other consequences, whose tentacles extend to our days. To investigate the effects of this trauma on the artistic field, the Instituto Tomie Ohtake gave space to the exhibition “AI-5: It's not finished yet”.

It was an exhibition that was both archival and artistic, historical and contemporary. The backbone of the event were documents, testimonies, records and works gathered over a year of intense research. About 40 artists were consulted, not only visual artists but from other fields of culture such as music and cinema, in an attempt to create a broader panorama of the effects and responses given in the period.
by society. “It's a kind of essay on the power relationship between the creative field and the authoritarian forces of the time”, summarizes Paulo Miyada, creator and curator of the show. Covering a wide period, from 1964, when the coup took place, until 1980, when the opening process began, the show is divided into different temporal nuclei.

The four years before the hardening caused by AI-5 are seen by Miyada under the aegis of the concept of “opinion”, which permeates a series of initiatives (exhibitions, shows, theater…) and summarizes the viable path. In a period when party-political action was no longer possible, the expression of ideas and the notion of counterculture, of strengthening in the face of interdicts, remained as a form of resistance. “With the decree, opinion was criminalized”, says Miyada, for whom this generation active in the mid-1960s represents the apex and breaking point of a highly engaged aesthetic project. Among the works of this period are the work “Che Guevara Vivo ou Morto”, by Claudio Tozzi, which was destroyed by far-right militants at the Brasília Salon in 1967 (and later rebuilt by the artist).

From the strengthening of censorship, in 1968, some concealment strategies were adopted. Artists such as Cildo Meireles, Artur Barrio and Antonio Manuel began to incorporate guerrilla strategies, such as infiltration into other systems, clandestinity, and the use of the idea of ​​death as a symbol of the political moment. One of the highlights of the group were the drawings made in prison by Carlos Zílio, which the artist agreed to show only in 1996 and were rarely shown.

Paulo Bruscky, Voter Title Canceled, 1976

Other ways of giving continuity to artistic production in such a hostile environment were the adoption of a certain experimental marginality, challenging the moralist codes in force; the use of a self-coding level as a form of self-protection or the use of alternative circuits such as film clubs and mail art. Artists such as Paulo Bruscky, Anna Bella Geiger, Anna Maria Maiolino (who appears with a project, never realized, of a work on the disappeared), Wlademir Dias Pino, Claudio Tozzi and Antonio Dias are some of the names contemplated. Recently deceased, Dias was present with two very emblematic works from the final period of the New Figuration: an unpublished notebook that begins when he arrives in Paris in 1968, in which he writes, in reference to the anthological series of black paintings: “Negative art, for a country negative: entirely black paintings with only one word in white”, in a clear process of mourning, and the work “Cabeças”, made up of sealed urns painted black, arranged as if they were severed heads.

Closing the exhibition, Miyada recalled two important movements for the reaffirmation of Brazilian and Latin American art and culture, represented by two central figures in this process of reflection and systematization of Brazilian art: the project prepared by Mario Pedrosa for the reconstruction of MAM-RJ after its destruction in a fire in 1978 and the Meeting of Art Critics of Latin America, organized by Aracy Amaral at the Bienal, in 1981. And, to show that this is a broader problem, with repercussions
evident today, incorporated a small but powerful core of contemporary art, in which artists such as Paulo Nazareth, Matheus Rocha Pitta and Bruno Dunley, among others, deal with this scar that is still open.

Carlos Zilio, Lute (Lunch), 1967

Neither the idea of ​​the production of this period as something monolithic nor the possible criticism that
political engagement is made at the expense of a formal quality of the works is supported by a detailed research like this. Diversity and fertility impose themselves and make up a very diverse and rich plot. It's like “a historical puzzle”, says Miyada, who last year had already organized “Bone”, an exhibition that appeals to Rafael Braga's right to defend himself. Initially, his idea was to try to carry out a network action, involving other institutions, as a way of responding to the conservative discourse and the growing threats to artistic freedom, such as movements led by a certain “nostalgia for authoritarianism” demanding the closure and censorship of exhibitions and plays, for example. In place of these institutional partnerships, ties with the community of researchers – fundamental in data collection – and artists were strengthened.

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