The artist Diana Vaz, one of the agents responsible for the creation and organization of the "ReFundação" exhibition. Photo: Disclosure
The artist Diana Vaz, one of the agents responsible for the creation and organization of the “ReFundação” exhibition. Photo: Disclosure

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With 134 artists and collectives to date (new enlistments are expected throughout its duration, until January 28, 2024), the exhibition ReFoundation, which reopened on September 2nd, the ReOcupa Gallery, at Ocupação 9 de Julho (Rua Álvaro de Carvalho, 427), presents an unprecedented opportunity to witness the result of a visual arts exhibition whose originating impulse is totally democratic, entirely collectivist and with open visions. To give you an idea: with private, governmental support and incentive laws, 35th Bienal de São Paulo has 121 guest artists. The Ocupação 9 de Julho exhibition, organized by the gallery with support from Movimento Sem Teto do Centro (MSTC) has 134 participants so far only with the collective effort of organization and assembly.

It is no coincidence that Ocupação 9 de Julho has become the object of an extraordinary focus of the art sonar at this moment: the popular gastronomy experience of its community kitchen has been one of the stars of the recently opened 35th Bienal de São Paulo – choreographies of the impossible, a mega-exhibition underway at the Ibirapuera Park Biennial Pavilion. Also set up in volunteer efforts (the kitchen has, for example, an oven collected by the artist Ding Musa from a Brazilian woman who made cakes and, after marrying a German, went to live in Europe and donated the piece), the kitchen was opened in 2017 and consolidated its action during the Covid-19 pandemic, today serving around a thousand meals a day (half of them for homeless people) and using organic products from family farming and its own garden.

Installed symbiotically in the Ocupação building, in the gallery on the ground floor and on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd floors, between the apartments and the routine of the approximately 400 people who live there, with residents as visitor monitors, the exhibition ReFoundation is part of a utopian perspective on the social mobility of art that began with the designer, sculptor and professor from Rio de Janeiro Nelson Felix exactly five years ago. In 2018, during the 33rd São Paulo Biennial, Felix, commissioned by the foundation to create a work, chose to carry out his work outside Ibirapuera, at Ocupação. That work, titled Schizophrenia of fashion and ecstasy, whose duration would be 24 hours and would cover the spring equinox (which, in 2018, occurred at 22:54 pm on September 22), consisted of a sculpture composed of iron, steel cable and two mandacarus of seven meters each on the building's gables (continuity of the series of sculptures that Felix had assembled on the 2nd floor of the Bienal Pavilion). After installing the pieces, the artist used the bathroom wall of the occupation gallery to outline his work (and principles) in in situ drawings, in the manner of still life painters. This intervention is still there, as if passing the baton for the new ongoing exhibition.

On the internal staircase of the building that gives access to the three floors there is a matte fabric panel with an unprecedented 7 meter long drawing by Lia Chaia, the Ossilda (2023, with the figure of a human skeleton superimposed on the photograph of the building's facade), which accompanies the visitor on the route. There is no hierarchy of spaces between renowned artists, such as Rivane Neuenschwander, Ernesto Neto and Leda Catunda, and the local artist collectives themselves, such as Bordadeiras Ocupa (the Borda & Ocupa MSTC group), formed by 13 people, especially women from the occupation.

“The exhibition proposes a review of existing political marks and cracks in our historical narrative, at the same time that it reflects the need to create other ways of thinking, relating and practicing art in the world”, said artist Preta Ferreira, artist and activist who spent more than 100 days in prison for her work in the Homeless Movement in the Center and in the Fight for Housing Front in the city of São Paulo. Preta Ferreira's definition circumscribes the motivations that led to the agglutination of artists present in the ReFoundation: social concern, activism for fundamental human rights, commitment and proximity to social movements and affirmative themes.

The artist Guilherme Bretas, for example, sought material from the pioneering past for his aesthetic engagement between memory, politics, technology and History. He created, on an old monitor, an animation that uses 1837th century photos of black people found in the collection of pioneer photographer Militão Augusto de Azevedo (1905-XNUMX). Using Artificial Intelligence, Bretas created an animation of the anonymous photographs, displayed in black & white with a new “life”, as he explained. “When delving into the Militão collection, I found photographs of black people of all types, such as engineers, architects. This was something that affected me, with the vision they gave us. We always have this idea that black people were limited to slave labor during this period,” he said.

André Komatsu plays a double role in ReFoundation: he is part of a curatorial organization committee and exhibits his work there at the same time. In the large gallery, Komatsu exhibits Crónica, a work from the series Social contract which he started in 2018, lead sheet origami with which he covers part of the body of a copy of a certain press vehicle (leaving out only the name of the journalistic company). The object forms a kind of shield. “Thinking about the material, both the newspaper and the lead, I see this double function, both protection and poisoning”, pondered the artist. “Lead is toxic; the newspaper, the ink used, is also toxic. And seeing this relationship of conveying information as one of the founding and constructing bases of reality, (I see) that it is information that is coordinated, manipulated and directed according to private interests. Therefore, in this series, I propose several geometric reformulations and leaving only the name of the vehicle”. Crónica is the name of a Mexican newspaper.

Komatsu, as well as Ding Musa and other members of the exhibition, are part of the body of collective decisions that articulated the exhibition. As it is a collective action, the answer to questions of arte!Brazilians on the choice process was also prepared collectively and sent after a short debate. “The de-hierarchization of artists, evident and intentional in the exhibition, is manifest not only as an organizational proposal, but above all as a reference to the diverse and legitimate ways of existing, in society and in art”, state the organizers in their response. “This non-vertical way of operating is present in the exhibition and in the way we organize Galeria ReOcupa. From the beginning, all decisions made came from a collective and horizontal discussion.”

In this way, the artist is already integrated with an idea, a purpose, contained in the theme of ReFoundation. “Over the seven months of organizing the exhibition, each member of the collective nominated artists who were voted on by the group. After that, the lists were analyzed to ensure parity between the artists. There was a long and democratic process to guarantee a balance of presence. Thus, dehierarchization did not appear spontaneously in the result. It was the result of conscious, democratic and judicious work of conversations and adjustments”, explained the organizers of the exhibition.

Affinity can then be demonstrated by proximity itself, as is the case of the artists who already live there, such as André Chiarati, resident of the 13th floor, or by long collaboration, such as the JAMAC collective (acronym for Jardim Miriam Arte Clube, a space culture of the south zone of São Paulo, created by the artist Mônica Nador in 2004, with collective action and management).

This could give rise to the conclusion that the discourse, the pamphlet approach, predominates. There is no demonization of the pamphlet, on the contrary: from the triptych of the renowned Cinthia Marcelle (a drawing in which a rack of t-shirts and the first one bears the inscription “Private property created crime”) to the plaques from the Mangue Archive (Camila Mota and Cafira Zoé ), with phrases like “Everything alive corrodes”, politics permeates the interventions. This policy is, however, the admission that it is necessary to continually act in the social fabric to affirm common wills, rights, perceptions, and this ranges from the Ocupação 9 de Julho Kitchen (“Cooking is revolutionary”) to the photographs of the Retratistas do Morro – a work to recover the experience of photographers who lived and worked in favelas, recording the daily ways of life of their communities over the last 50 years.

Themes dear to the Occupation, such as housing, food, social protagonism and emancipation predominate, but there are also works that evoke very recent and new conflicts. These are the cases, for example, of the works of Fumaça Antifascista and the work Listing Process. In the latter, Elton Hipólito presents the following working material: “Acrylic paint on fabric and wooden support on the Federal Constitution of 1988”. It is a reconstruction of the coup invasion of the headquarters of the Three Brazilian Powers on January 8th of this year, a painting of the coup plotters with football team t-shirts perched on the symbolic statue of Justice – the entire work is supported by a wooden rafter, comment by the artist about the fragility of democracy. A ReFoundation It takes place in the still hot terrain of recent fascist attacks, but its testimony is that of resistance and the strength of survival strategies in the face of circumstances.

“The sharing of exhibition space between already established artists (in institutions and in the market), from different generations, at the beginning of their careers, possibly uninteresting to market models, and artists with less visibility, are indications of the desire for a society in which everyone can enjoy the benefits, recognition and opportunities generated by their productions”, say the organizers, who intend to make the exhibition itinerant, taking it to other cultural spaces in the country. One of the signs of the idea of ​​opposing the logic of the market is that, from the sale of works, part of the resources will be directed directly to the needs of the MSTC and part will be reverted, in an equitable way, to benefits for all artists participating in the exhibition. The Gallery does not seek profit or pay any remuneration to the organizing members, except for the two hired educators and the exhibition's assemblers.

The organizing committee for the ReFundação exhibition had the following artists (and curators) as members: Andre Komatsu, Alan Oju, Alexandre Baltazar, Ana Avelar, Carla Cruz, Débora Bolzoni, Diana Vaz, Ding Musa, Georgea Miessa, Lourival Cuquinha, Lucas Bambozzi , Marcelo Zocchio, Marcius Galan and Tomaz Klotzel.

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