At the modest entrance of Álvaro de Carvalho street, 427, in the center of São Paulo, it is Irene Silva who does the honors of the house. A resident there, she is the one who takes care of the entrance, during the day, through which around 500 residents from 120 families pass daily to enter the 9 de Julho Occupation, managed by the Movimento Sem Teto do Centro (MSTC).

In addition to the entrance, Ms. Irene also takes care of the occupation's garden and vegetable garden, “great hands that when they plant everything,” as the artist Lourival Cuquinha wrote, when answering my message asking for her name.

It's Dona Irene, with a smile on her face, who shows how to get to the Re Ocupa gallery, where the show takes place. What Isn't Forest is Political Prison, with around one hundred artists, including Cuquina himself. Art in the central span of a space of resistance. I felt in Bacurau.

The show, which runs from Wednesday to Sunday, from 14 pm to 20 pm, has been taking place since September with 74 artists, with another 15 being added in October and, now, in November, another group will be added. It is not known exactly how long the show will last, but it is certain that it will continue until the end of the year.

Artist is the appropriate term to describe those who participate in it, even if not all of them have art as their main activity. There are from internationally recognized figures in the art circuit, such as Ernesto Neto and Renata Lucas, among others who live and produce in the Occupation itself, while others stand out in nearby areas, such as the photojournalist Marlene Bergamo or the philosopher Peter Pál Pelbart. However, there is the most suitable place to put into practice the famous expression of Joseph Beuys, that “every human being is an artist”.

Despite the 89 names indicated on the maps that indicate the arrangement of the works in the show, at least another two dozen also participate with interventions along the other eight floors of the occupation – the Reoccupa gallery is in fact on the ground floor of the building, where the entrance to the Avenida 9 de Julho, which is not in use, and all its surroundings.

With 14 floors, the building was built as the headquarters of the INSS in São Paulo, inaugurated in 1943. Designed by Jayme Fonseca Rodrigues, the building is one of the icons of São Paulo architecture during the Vargas Era, president honored with a bust at the entrance, which disappeared when throughout recent history. Since 1997, occupations have taken place there, after 20 years of abandonment, and the current one, organized by the MSTC, began in 2016.

In it, artists have been collaborating organically since the beginning. The Aparelhamento, for example, which emerged in 2016, when Funarte began to be deactivated by the Temer government, helped to organize the community kitchen, which prepares festive lunches once a month, and has been important for maintaining the building’s conditions.

View of the reoccupied gallery space, which is hosting the exhibition “What is not a forest is a political prison”.

At the gallery, Felipe Figueiredo, a monitor and activist who has lived in the Ocupação since its first moments, in 2016, speaks about the works and knows not only about each work, but also about the history of the movement. He develops his narrative from the importance of taking mattresses in the first hours of an occupation to encouraging the visitor to listen Love Serenade, by Georgia Miessa, a compilation of macho songs in Brazilian popular music, since 1920.

Living in the Occupation, Felipe ensures a close link between artistic production and its context. Not that the works are placed there, oblivious to the space, as if it were a white cube. Far from it. But it is precisely this vital character triggered by the occupation that gives it particularity and relevance, and Felipe's voice is essential. But entering Re Ocupa is also smelling the food being prepared on the floors above, the cleaning products being used, listening to children playing, watching time erode a building that was once public and was abandoned. All very far from the traditional and sanitized spaces of art. All much more potent.

Not only is the environment libertarian, but the curatorial strategies themselves, starting with the selection of the show's name. When you go down from the first floor to Re Ocupa, you can read the exchange of messages in the group of artists participating in the show to choose the name. “It's our jet stream”, explains Cuquinha, when describing the assumed transparency process, even if the names are erased. The important thing is the process, after all.

Most of the artists present there have collaborated in the occupation in an active and systematic way, whether in the kitchen or in other functions. But not necessarily. The space was inaugurated by Nelson Félix, from Rio de Janeiro, last year, in parallel with his presence at the Bienal de São Paulo, at the invitation of Aparelhamento.

The current exhibition took four months to be conceived and, as the name implies, starts from two very current issues: the forest as a space for survival in the face of fires and indigenous genocide, and the current political prisons, ranging from Lula to other leaders. popular, such as Preta Ferreira, daughter of Carmem Silva, from MSTC.

Not by chance, obviously, Lula, Carmem and Preta are remembered in this scenario, present in several works, including works by Grape Surprise, the name given to when authorship is not essential and a work is collectively created.

But what is really essential is to understand how this exhibition starts a new key of artistic positioning, stimulated through a network of collaboration outside the traditional institutional circuit and away from the conventional commercial circuit of galleries and fairs, because there are works sold to maintain the space and assistance for occupation, pointing out that it is possible to rethink the sales relationship in art. In this sense, Galeria Re Ocupa joins other strategies involving artists, such as Casa Chama, in São Paulo and Lanchonete<>Lanchonete, in Rio de Janeiro. If current times seem like constant nightmares, What Isn't Forest is Political Prison shows that the dream still has space and can be viable. And Dona Irene still says goodbye smiling with an invitation: “Come back Always!”

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