Progress, Vitória, Morada dos Sonhos, Esperança, Novo Mundo, Maravilha and Paraiso are not terms that, especially at the present time, can be close to any description of the city of Rio de Janeiro. These words, however, are present in Rio's daily life as names of neighborhoods, streets and villages and are part of the mapping carried out by artist Rosângela Rennó to #RioUtópico [under construction] for the Moreira Salles Institute (IMS) of the “wonderful” city.
One of Rennó's most daring and complex projects, #Utopian River led the artist herself, known for being a photographer who doesn't photograph, to return to working with the camera.
Part of the original idea was to ask residents of 50 locations listed by the artist for carrying the idea of utopia to take photos of their surroundings and send them to the IMS. The collaboration proposal needed, however, to be improved. To this end, workshops were held with more than 50 participants, initially organized in partnership with the Redes para Juventude Agency.
Subsequently, with the work of the educational sector of the Institute, five young people were hired, becoming project stimulators, going to about 50 chosen locations, in a rotation system, and they also taking images.
"In #Utopian River, Rennó works as an organizing voice, sharing the vision and calling for participation, even when she photographs herself, a rare thing in the artist's career”, explains Thyago Nogueira, curator and organizer of the show. Collaborations are a constant in the artist's career, a large part of her work is about re-signifying photographs or even objects made by others, in general a reflection on the production and circulation of images in society.
It was the case of the last photo (2006), for example, when Rennó gave analogue cameras to photographers, asking them to portray Christ the Redeemer, in Rio, a city where the native of Minas Gerais has lived since 1990. Both the images and the cameras were then exposed, composing a panorama of the diversity of analog cameras and photographic styles. With the last photo Rennó also addressed the change from analog to digital paradigm, in addition to discussing the copyright in the exhibition catalogue, since the iconic image of Christ the Redeemer belongs to the Archdiocese of Rio.
Now in #Utopian River this procedure is radicalized, both by moving away from the cliché of the carioca tourist image, and by opening up the possibility of collaboration with anyone who was willing.
The result was divided into two supports: in the exhibition, which ran between December 2017 and April 2018, and in the extensive 480-page catalog that brought together about 500 of the more than a thousand photographs collected and detailed texts on the history of each Lugar _generally started as a resettlement of residents removed from favelas in the south zone or as an illegal occupation of unbuilt areas.
The exhibition was still being built over time, like an album being filled in little by little, while the images arrived at the IMS. A large map of the city was plotted on the floor of the exhibition space, leaving empty spaces on the walls to be occupied by images related to the communities spread across the map.
At the end of the show, the images formed a mosaic made up of dozens of views, from residents, workshop participants, and the artist herself, without hierarchy and mixed together.
With all this, Rennó reveals the different layers that make up the urban utopia of Rio de Janeiro far beyond Corcovado and Christ the Redeemer through texts and images. Vila Progreso, in Vila Kennedy, for example, a non-urbanized settlement with 58 m2 and about 1.500 residents, is portrayed by Thais Alvarenga, in images with children playing and occupying the streets of the place. As the project continued to receive images this year, it already encompasses the ill-fated military occupation in Rio, as in photos of Vila Aliança, taken by Alan Lima and Danilo Verpa.
Thus, the photographer who does not take more photos but has returned to photograph creates an image of Rio de Janeiro that is more dystopian than utopian, a portrait of a country of promised and unfulfilled hopes, a rare panorama in the end within the well-behaved system. of Brazilian visual arts.