Portuguese Language Museum: Exhibition overview
Overview of the exhibition "Língua Solta", in the foreground "Look at my language", by Alex dos Santos. Photo: Ciete Silverio / Publicity.

A widespread presence of the word in the world of things, so evident and so little portrayed, is the motto of the exhibition Loose Tongue, installed at the Portuguese Language Museum (MLP) until next October. Purposefully merging separate categories, such as high culture and popular culture, contemporary art and mass culture, the exhibition combines in the same space and in an unordered way a wide and significant set of contemporary works of art – already endorsed by the market and the circuit – and a wide selection of objects, posters, packaging, commercial or protest banners and other elements of everyday life. In both, the focus is on the potentialized language as a sign. “Looking at the surroundings, we try to recognize that it is the language that animates many of the objects around us”, describes Moacir dos Anjos, who signs the curatorship together with Fabiana Moraes.

There is no universalizing or encyclopedic claim in the selection made by the duo. After all, as Moacir says, “curatorship is always a part of the world”. The choices derive from the experiences – objective and subjective – of the duo in the field of art and culture. The result is an exhibition in which the word seems to ricochet, indicating different ways of apprehending the world. One of the most evident aspects is the clear presence of a political demand discourse. “These are words that express desires, identities, complaints”, explains Fabiana, emphasizing that there is no sort of hierarchy in the exhibition between a language focused on entertainment, political suggestion or poetic elucubration. The spectator is often placed in front of manifestos that express the urgency of the present day. There is, for example, a set of letters and drawings sent by children living in Maré to the Court, with reactions to the police repression. Or a plaque in honor of councilor Marielle Franco, whose murder goes unpunished. “They are like screams”, explains Fabiana.

Even though it is not linear and organized in a way that promotes sparks between different ways of dealing with ideas, forms and words, the exhibition is articulated around six main cores: media, resistance, home, street, religiosity and pedagogy are the words around the which the various objects coalesce. Many of the selected works belong simultaneously to several of these categories. And they establish enriching dialogues among themselves. There is, for example, an interesting reverberation between the slides used by Paulo Freire in the 1960s for literacy and the work ABC of sugarcane, by Jonathan de Andrade, or even the painting Esperança , by Leonilson, who also uses the alphabet as raw material.

In the exhibition "Língua Solta", the work "ABC da Cana" (2014) by Jonathas de Andrade. Photo: Ciete Silverio / Publicity.
In the exhibition “Língua Solta”, the work “ABC da Cana” (2014) by Jonathas de Andrade. Photo: Ciete Silverio / Publicity.

The word, omnipresent, sometimes gives way to less explicit poetic approximations. This is the case of the group formed by the works of Lygia Pape, Lenora de Barros, Lia Chaia and Anna Maria Maiolino, in which the focus shifts from the written symbol to the physicality of language. The idea of ​​cutting, staining or impossibility of controlling one's own language, something common to the work of these artists, makes the approximation between them very powerful.

The list of artists represented in the exhibition is large, with very rare and deliberate gaps, as in the case of São Paulo poets linked to concretism. “We tried to avoid a literary character, privileging the presence of the poetic word in the artistic field”, explains Moacir. Leaving aside these exceptions, the great masters of the art who appropriate the word are there. Authors such as Arthur Bispo do Rosário, Mira Schendel, Cildo Meireles, Paulo Bruscky, Antonio Manuel, Leonilson, Élida Tessler, Vânia Mignone, Marilá Dardot, Ivan Grilo, Jaime Lauriano, among others, often appear with more than one work.

"Will you give me your word?", by Elida Tessler, in the exhibition "Língua Loose". Photo: Ciete Silvério / Publicity.
“Will you give me your word?”, by Elida Tessler, in the exhibition “Língua Solta”. Photo: Ciete Silvério / Publicity.

There is a permanent effort, in terms of montage, to undo categories, to demonstrate that artistic expression often derives from an attentive look at the world of the street and things, whether maracatu banners, dish towels, cachaça labels or signatures of pixo. A clear example of this hybridity is the work Will you give me your word?, by Elida Tessler, who promotes sewing throughout the exhibition. All over the space, supported by drying ropes, thousands of hanging clothespins zigzag. About them, a series of people invited by the artist wrote a word that was special to her. In a presentation made on the occasion of the international day of the Portuguese language, Tom Zé revealed his: “Disobedience”.

Originally the show Loose Tongue was thought of as one more core of the permanent activities of the museum. But the difficulties arising from the pandemic, the absence of technical conditions at the institution - which does not have any collection of works of art, therefore it does not have equipment such as a technical reserve, conservation team, etc. – and the wide presence of works on loan from private and public collections meant that the selection began to be exhibited on a temporary basis. On the other hand, it gained a space three times greater than previously expected. It is the only MLP activity that can already be seen by the public and is accessible to specific groups and by appointment, until the end of June, to reopen, along with the entire museum, from the end of July.

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