Giselle Beiguelman, Monuento None. PHOTO: Ana Ottoni

My visit to Giselle Beiguelman’s interventions in the city center coincided with her turn to the text of the historian Jacques Le Goff, “Document-Monument” (History and Memory. Ed. Unicamp, 2003, p.525), motivated by the studies I develop on the Monument to the Flags, by Victor Brecheret. Faced with the artist’s “devices” strategically located in two emblems of the city’s past that insist on not draining into pure and simple disappearance – Solar da Marquesa and Beco do Pinto –, Le Goff’s reflections have never seemed so current to me. There, he underlined the need to analyze the “monumental” dimension that documents have, since they can (and should) be analyzed as an index of the power that generated them.

Join the reading of “Documento-Monumento”, that of an article by Álvaro Costa e Silva, “Next stop: ferro-velho”, published in the FSP on the 22nd, in which the columnist comments on the crimes committed against sculptures public in Rio de Janeiro (seven, this year alone). The two texts serve as “prologues” to the considerations below.

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What Giselle presents in the city center are not exactly “works”, or they are not in the traditional sense that we give to what is conventionally called “work of art”. They are interventions, a kind of special devices placed within our perception.

Massacre of Light it is a set of remains of sculptures that adorned the Lago da Cruz de Malta, in Parque da Luz, since at least 1870. The pieces of sculptures are arranged on cheap blankets, those used by the homeless. Surrounding the quadrilateral formed by the pieces on the blankets, an adhesive security strip (like those yellow and black, used by the police) emphasizes/mimics the museological devices used to prevent the public from getting close to the works. The title of the intervention – Massacre of Light –, in turn, emphasizes the connections between the crime of depredation that took place in Parque da Luz in 2016 and the practice of massacres that periodically occur in São Paulo and other Brazilian cities. These indices that associate the artist's work with the massacres have another point: both the aggression against the sculptures and the mass murders were not – or are not – solved.

Until 2016, the sculptures on the shores of the Parque da Luz lake emphasized the garden as a space for contemplation and delight. If the garden itself is already a construct, an artifice in which nature submits to human designs, the sculptures arranged neatly at the water's edge announced that it, art, was also worthy of the visitor's gaze, of its contemplation and treat. The sculptures, therefore, formed a monument to the perpetuity of beauty, a belief that the groups that ruled the city at the time wanted to leave to posterity a message about beauty and about themselves.

The sculptures were destroyed three years ago, their remains were photographed and cataloged – thus transformed into documents of the barbarism that the sculptural group suffered. Taken to a City Hall warehouse, they were properly stored and forgotten. Found by Giselle, they were transferred to the Solar and Massacre of Light finished (next September), Giselle's monument/document will be dismantled and taken back to the warehouse, now again only as a document of barbarism. But while it lasts, Massacre of Light will be kept in this “non-place” where it is perceived as a monument to barbarism and neglect and as a document of barbarism and neglect.

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Se Massacre of Light, emphasizing the dichotomous dimension of the concept “document/monument”, directly addresses its meaning towards the drama we live in the current stage of Brazilian society, even broader seems to be the potency of the pieces that form the artist’s second intervention – Monument None – set of pieces formed by pieces of monuments – installed in Beco do Pinto, (with the exception of one of them, also presented at Solar).

Although it is possible to know where those fragments of sculptures that were transformed into “no monuments” come from – one of them, a piece of the Monument to Duke of Caxias, by Victor Brecheret, victim of a bomb attack in 1991 (does anyone know what happened?) – there is no doubt that, perched on bases or on a cupboard, they look like no monuments/documents about nothingness.

The allegorical dimension of these pieces of Monument None, finally, seems to me even more protean because it does not so strongly direct the meaning of the work in just one direction. Anyway, I think that the two works by Giselle Beiguelman are opportunities to apply and reflect on the concept of “document/monument”, created by Le Goff, but, above all, to think about the degree of barbarism and indifference in which we live in São Paulo and in Brazil, when our past and our present are rushing towards the junkyard of History.


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Read also Leonor Amarante's text about the exhibition, “Chacina da Luz” shows the failure of public space”.

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