From left to right, above, Claudinei Roberto da Silva and Vanessa Davidson, below, Cristiana Tejo and Cauê Alves. Photo: Disclosure
Facade of Mam-SP, in Ibirapuera Park. Photo: Karina Bacci/ Publicity

“Sob as Cinzas, Brasa”: the title chosen for the 37th edition of the Panorama of Brazilian Art at the Museum of Modern Art (MAM) in São Paulo, which opens its doors on July 23, already gives clear clues to the party adopted by the event curatorial team. In addition to highlighting the interest in illuminating the intense contradictions, absences and paradoxes that mark Brazilian culture, the phrase simultaneously refers to conservative impulses and creative powers, which coexist and mark the national art scene. It is impossible not to refer to the tragedies of the National Museum, Cinemateca Brasileira and also to other more metaphorical fires such as the dismantling of the country's cultural structures, nor to ignore that under cloaks of invisibilities and more sedimented and official interpretations lies an incandescent force that must be rescued.

There is also in this guiding phrase an evident reference to the centrality of the national question for any reflection on the directions of the arts and for the debate around themes such as formation, development and national culture. After all, the name of the country comes from the term brasa (derived from the pau brasil tree, the first product explored in the region by the colonizers). “Forms are not separate from politics, from ideology,” he says. Caue Alves, current chief curator of the MAM-SP and that together with Cristiana Tejo, Vanessa Davidson and Claudinei Roberto da Silva conceived the exhibition project.

From left to right, above, Claudinei Roberto da Silva and Vanessa Davidson, below, Cristiana Tejo and Cauê Alves. Photo: Disclosure

The selection of artists conceived over the last year, in weekly meetings and intense dialogue between the participants, is still a secret. The names of those invited to participate in the exhibition will only be announced in April, but the search for diversity and the proposition of a view that is both historical and prospective is already evident. The symbolic force of the celebrations of the bicentennial of Independence and of the centenary of the Week of 22 creates an unavoidable opportunity to review established myths and propose new readings about our past. “It is a paradigmatic year, an interesting moment to rethink our historical cycles”, says Cristiana. “It is important to know which tradition we are talking about and our desire is to dialogue with silenced, neglected traditions”, adds Claudinei Roberto. “The proposal also incorporates the idea of ​​rebirth, something that is reborn like a phoenix from the ashes”, adds Vanessa.

According to the North American curator, who has researched the art of South America for years, the show will be structured around different thematic centers, which make up a very interesting and diverse path, addressing different aspects of past and recent production, such as the of the political symbologies of colors; the strong relationship of national artistic production with the earth, soil, clay and the search for artists who have knowledge of a deep Brazil; or even a reflection based on symbols of power and oppression, such as Borba Gato. There is also a clear intention in the Panorama project to recover the panoramic character of the event, which since 1969 has endeavored to map contemporary artistic production and provide space for very diverse curatorial reflections. “We seek to rescue a broad and generous vision for the surroundings, for the human and cultural landscape of the country”, summarizes Cauê.

MAM-SP during the 36th Panorama of Brazilian Art. Photo: Karina Bacci/ Publicity

Evidently, the prospection of new poetics was hampered by the pandemic (which also forced the postponement of the biennial exhibition for a year), but according to the curators it was possible to create other possibilities of circulation and dialogue and the fact of working together, in a horizontal way, contributed to this, expanding the references, since each one of them starts from a particular point of view. “In this case, two plus two is more than four”, jokes Cauê.

Claudinei Roberto, for example, brings to the group a powerful experience of investigation, as an artist and curator of black, peripheral art, which questions established canons. “We need to go to the periphery to learn and not to colonize”, he says, recalling the striking differences found in this wide range of poetics. As attested by the terrible fact that one of the selected black artists had to work late into the night filling gel alcohol and by day as a motoboy, while many were quarantined.

Cauê Alves and Cristiana Tejo, an independent curator from Pernambuco and currently residing in Lisbon, have already jointly curated the 32nd Panorama, in 2011, which had as its theme the idea of ​​displacement, of travel, something ironically impossible these days. A certain deceleration was imposed, with repercussions even on the exhibition's calendar, which will have an extended duration of six months, to expand the audience, allow for a more in-depth work with the educational and virtual dissemination of the event.

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