Photo: Vanderlei Lopes Democracy is a myth, 2018 Gouache on bronze 3,5 x 40,5 x 30 cm

It has always seemed contradictory to me that the conditions of political and social violence in Brazil, especially the homicides against young and poor trans, black and indigenous people, did not generate compelling works and exhibitions on this theme.

Of course, there are isolated cases, and two recent editions of the Bienal de São Paulo, 2014 and 2016, addressed this issue quite explicitly, in striking works such as Apelo, by Clara Ianni and Débora Maria da Silva at the Bienal. Like… things that don't exist, from 2014. Even so, in such an intense and vibrant circuit, the themes are not actually present as seen, for example, in Israel, which also lives under a strong conflict situation and where many works address these dramas critically, often opposing the very role of the state.

Andre Griffo, The provider's room, 2018

Rio de Janeiro, under federal intervention since the beginning of this year, is possibly where these contradictions become most evident and it is therefore not surprising that two exhibitions were inaugurated last September, exploring wounds that usually only attend the police or politics pages, not culture: Arte Democracia Utopia – Who doesn’t fight is dead (until 05/2019), at the Museu de Arte do Rio, and With the air too heavy to breathe (20/09 to 24/11). XNUMX), in the new headquarters of the Athena gallery.

They are very different exhibitions, one institutional, the result of a long research by the curator Moacir dos Anjos, the other commercial, but with a construction process that started from a provocation by Lisette Lagnado.

“How has the news affected your daily life?”, the curator asked each of the artists represented by the gallery, who “lived their majority during the period when the country had a left-wing government that took on as a program the reduction of poverty and hunger” ”, according to his observation in the text that accompanies the exhibition.

With this strategy, the exhibition reaches a temperature that is sometimes even documentary, which presents a complex picture of the current situation. There are references to the fire that destroyed the Quinta da Boa Vista National Museum, in Rio, in Frederico Filippi's work, With the air too heavy to breathe, which gives the title to the exhibition, made up of steel sheets covered in black paint, superimposed by turn by drawings and blank scribbles. It is as if the residues of the fire were contained there. Almost to the side, André Griffo's painting, “The provider's room”, which, representing a museum space with portraits of “benefactors”, reinforces the criticism of a white elite, which seems unharmed by reality.

Matheus Rocha Pitta, Slab #77, (The first stone), 2017

The political issue, however, appears more explicitly in works by Lais Myrrha, Matheus Rocha Pitta and Vanderlei Lopes. It's his "Democracy is a myth a bronze sculpture painted with gouache, where you can see a newspaper whose headline is the name of the work along with the image of a bus on fire, and the work was also slightly burned. In a time of fake news, partisan media and manipulated elections, the
Sculpture is the synthesis of 2018.

Rubens Gerchman
Identified police officers from the Massacre (Police Record Series), 1988
Collage, mirror, oil on wood, plastic telephone and television
150 x 166 x 25 cmTogether with the 12 artists represented by the gallery – the majority created works for the exhibition -Lagnado brought together a team of “historians” such as Antonio Dias, Antonio Manuel, Rubens Gerchman, Artur Barrio and Letícia Parente, among others, who The 1960s and 70s also produced works that were absolutely oriented to their time, such as the ”bloodied bundles”, from 1970. With this, the curator points to the cyclical times of art, politics and society itself, after all, a necessary distance for those who live the barbarism of today.

At MAR, Moacir dos Anjos follows the series of exhibitions that began in 2009 as part of the Politics of Art project at Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, in Recife. Since then, the curator has organized several exhibitions that address this issue, whether in commercial galleries or institutional spaces. Arte Democracia Utopia – Who doesn't fight is dead seems to me the biggest of them and, given the current conditions, of a city under intervention, which after 8 months has not solved the murder of Marielle Franco and Anderson Pedro Gomes, and of a country divided into a election after the parliamentary coup, the strongest of all.

This context increases the tension, obviously, and Moacir knew how to bring this temperature from the streets and networks to the show, including from Laerte comic strips to the actions of the #coleraealegria collective. With this, the curator points to limit situations, where it does not matter so much where the action comes from, but the importance of using language in new ways.
In this sense, the presence of Claudia Andujar, an artist always included in the curator's exhibitions, takes on the character of a precursor, since her work with the Indians was never concerned with art itself, but with the defense of a cause.

Rivane Neuenschwander

The panorama built by Moacir is wide: there are more than 50 artists and collectives, which occupy an entire floor of the museum and present different poetic aspects. Is there "Appeal”, the visceral video about the killing of teenagers by the police on the outskirts of São Paulo seen at the Bienal de São Paulo, in 2014, to a new version of “Utopian River”, by Rosângela Rennó, seen before at Instituto Moreira Salles.

Rosângela Rennó, #utopian river, 2018

The show, however, wins by questioning the very structure of the institution, since structures were built on the glass walls that limit the entrance to MAR, allowing it to be possible to enter the museum in another way, at the same time that this new space is occupied both by debates and by groups that wish to do so. The exhibition space itself also contains an area for meetings, and it is because of this type of reception that the show differs from a conventional exhibition. It is not just a compendium of art and politics, but a space to practice art and politics.

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