Facade of the Paranaense Museum, in Curitiba (PR). Photo: Heloisa Michele/MUPA
Facade of the Paranaense Museum, in Curitiba (PR). Photo: Heloisa Michele/MUPA

aConsidering urgent current issues, such as rescue and the right to memory, repair and restitution, the Paranaense Museum (MUPA) began in 2019, with the arrival of the current management, a critical look at its trajectory in the light of different perspectives . Founded in 1876, in Curitiba (PR), MUPA began to encourage a dialogue between its collection, made up of approximately 500 thousand items, and contemporary artistic production.

In this sense, the museum's traditional research centers (archaeology, anthropology and history) are linked to the field of arts. In turn, the The museum’s programming and educational actions are guided by four axes: imultiple identities, ecology/sustainability, memory and worldviews.

shows how Image Restoration (2021) and necrobrasiliana (2022) were the result of the methodology implemented five years ago at the institution. In the first, indigenous artists Denilson Baniwa and Gustavo Caboco and the MUPA team pored over the museum's photographic collection, a set of around a thousand photographs, slides, photographic and glass negatives, photopaintings and other representations. Using images that portray various indigenous ethnicities from Paraná and Latin America, Baniwa, Caboco and guests created a series of works whose central themes are the relationship with the land, family ties and indigenous resistance. 

Already in necrobrasiliana, the result of a partnership between MUPA and the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco (Fundaj), from Recife, curator Moacir dos Anjos brought together works in which 12 Brazilian artists reinterpret and reinvent the Brazilian, a documentary set belonging to the museum, composed of productions from the 16th and 19th centuries, by artists, writers and photographers, such as Albert Eckhout, Jean-Baptiste Debret, Johan Moritz Rugendas and Christiano Jr. The collective presented works by Dalton Paula, Gê Viana, Jaime Lauriano, Rosana Paulino, Rosângela Rennó, Sidney Amaral and Thiago Martins de Melo, among others.

In interview with arte!brasileiros, Gabriela Bettega, director of MUPA, explains that the museum has been making two moves:

“One of them is to bring the institution and society closer together; another, to expand the boundaries of the museum's scientific disciplines, through contamination with contemporary art. The exposure Subject Object, currently on display, is emblematic of this, by bringing together 12 artists from different regions of the country to think with us about what the Museu Paranaense is, questioning what themes the institution explored throughout its history and its own collection”, says Gabriela.

It is possible to translate into numbers the success of the Paranaense Museum's approach to society, especially young people: between 2019 and 2023, MUPA's audience almost doubled, jumping from 73.327 visitors to 134.067. Secretary of State for Culture of Paraná, Luciana Casagrande Pereira tells arte!brasileiros that the museum has always been more associated with history than with contemporary times. There is a catch:

“MUPA changed its profile a lot. Before, you entered the museum and only saw banners telling the history of Paraná. Now he is working with many languages ​​in addition to exhibitions. There you see traditional communities being valued, you see a lot of music, a lot of dancing, cinema. The Public Program, which started recently, is like a festival, with an intense program, within the museum”, says Luciana. “MUPA is generating seeds. By the end of the administration we will have a Paranaense Museum in each macrorregion of our state, that is, we will have eight branches.”


Designed by curator Pollyana Quintella (Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo) in partnership with the Paranaense Museum team (Felipe Vilas Bôas and Richard Romanini), Subject Object is a long-term exhibition that establishes a dialogue between more than 140 items from the institution's archaeological, anthropological and historical collections and the works, mostly unpublished, created by 12 Brazilian artists: Arthur Palhano, Clara Moreira, CL Salvaro, Érica Storer , Frederico Filippi, Gustavo Magalhães, Gustavo Caboco, Isis Gasparini, Josi Souza, Laryssa Machado, Pedro França and Willian Santos. Half of them have some connection with Paraná or have had some experience in the state, a condition defended by the curators.

The title of the collective comes from the poem of the same name by the writer from Paraná Paulo Leminski (1944-1989), originally published in 1987 in the book Distracted we will win, his last poetic work in life. The curatorial text is topped by an excerpt from the poem, which says:

[...] you will never know
what comes after saturday
who knows a century
much more beautiful and wiser
Who knows, just another Sunday [...]

In the text, the curators quote Waly Salomão – “memory is an island of editing” – and state that “past and future are vectors that intersect and transform continuously […] fields of battles that never cease, whose space of symbolic significance occurs in the present itself”. And they continue:

“In this exhibition, temporalities are interconnected. Facts and events were selected not for their exceptionality, but for their historicity, that is, transformative historical character, which explicitly or implicitly relate to the trajectory of the Museu Paranaense: its collections and narratives chosen and propagated over time.”

In interview with arte!brasileiros, Felipe Vilas Bôas remembers that Subject Object is the result of work that began in January 2023, in which MUPA seeks to “think about itself in its narrative forms and ask how it deals with the issue of time within the discipline of History, one of the areas of research that the museum has at its base since its inauguration.” And keeps going:

"Subject Object wants, in general, to discuss the production of historical narratives, their relationship with different temporalities – be it the past, the present or a possible future – and the way in which they are intertwined. The institution questions not only the collections it mobilizes, the stories it tells, but also those it reproduces”, says Vilas Bôas.

Pollyana Quintella, guest curator for the exhibition, highlights that the discipline of history is not a crystallized narrative, but that it demands listening. Each time, she says, has its own idea of ​​the future and the past.

“We want to understand how the present reshapes our understanding of history. To do this, we started from two symptoms: one of them indicates that our time suffers from a certain presentism. We have a lot of difficulty producing memory, elaborating on past experiences, mourning. And we also have difficulty producing futures that can take us away from the catastrophes that are intensely affecting us in the 21st century. We live an experience very marked by the here and now”, ponders Pollyana. “How do we, together with artists, manage to oxygenate this imaginary of historical time, making the experience more elastic, that is, being able to look at the future and past in a healthier way?”

The second symptom, continues Pollyana, would be the “fantasy of historical linearity that guides the modern project”. In the 20th century, says the curator, this concept maintained that everything pointed to progress in history, that everything forward pointed to the most evolved, and everything that pointed backwards would be less interesting and less sophisticated.

“Today we know that this is fiction. We live in an experience of spiral time that shuffles past, present and future. There are a series of new arrangements that arise from the diversification of the agents that make up the story, which offer new ways of narrating. That's why we invited contemporary artists, with their feet in the 21st century, to respond to both local and national events that were already part of MUPA's collection.”

Pollyanna points out that the works commissioned to artists become part of the MUPA collection and that, in this way, Subject Object takes a step forward in updating the museum's collection, diversifying the ways of understanding history. The curator also highlights the group’s exhibition:

“[Through expography] we choose to discuss history not only from a thematic point of view, but from a structural perspective, as the works are not all displayed on the walls, side by side, leading to visitor on a linear route. On the contrary, what we have here are islands of aluminum and concrete that mix up what is front and back, left and right, beginning and end of a given subject, seeking to inflame visitors' doubts about which route they are going to take. What kind of story are they going to weave?” he asks.

In response to the provocation of the trio of curators, the selected artists presented works with different typologies. Pedro França, from Rio de Janeiro, immersed himself in the MUPA archeology center, motivating a discussion of history from a “longer perspective” from geological eras, in the words of Pollyana Quintela. França held ceramics workshops with the museum's public and developed a work that integrates pieces of archeology from the institution, such as fragments of middens, into its composition.

Cleverson Salvaro, from Paraná, occupied a niche in the exhibition space, confining himself behind a wall, to discuss the visibility regimes that make up a museum structure, according to Pollyana. “The museum hides much more than it reveals. The technical reserves are much more full of content than the exhibitions we see”, she says. In this exercise between revealing and not revealing, Salvaro addresses the power relationship over what we call historical narratives, recognizing the role of the museum in their construction.

Still in a discussion about museums, Isis Gasparini from São Paulo bought a series of objects at a fair that takes place on Sundays, in the square in front of MUPA. In Neighborhood, one of the four works she presents, the artist mixed the acquired objects with items belonging to the collection, without identifying their origin, opening a discussion about the criteria that guide the formation of a public museum's collection. “I was also interested in discussing the idea of ​​anonymity, of stories that are lost or that can be retold”, says Isis, in an interview with arte!brasileiros.

On a wall of the exhibition space, other anonymous items – “images that were in a kind of limbo in the collection, especially photographs and newspaper clippings, many of them in duplicate or without registration”, according to Isis – were incorporated into a concrete block in the work And then, yesterday. 

“Somehow, there was a desire to discard or repurpose these items, but this is something that depends on a series of museum policies. My gesture was to return this material to the museum, almost like a burial of something that was no longer visible to the public eye, which remains there as a presence, matter, body, but which also does not reveal itself as a unit”, explains Isis.

At work 1 minute, 72 steps, 45 meters, 1839 images, from the series Sequence plan, Isis brings together frames from a panoramic sequence captured by her at the Paranaense Museum, also assembled into a block. In this way, the images are no longer presented as units, but also as a sculptural form.

Finally, Isis presents the work Veil, a diptych with two images captured during his visits to MUPA, “mainly behind the walls, in more technical spaces”. In them, the artist claims to have condensed the “absence of an identity”, in the painting of a woman whose face does not appear, next to a kind of landscape, in fact a mountain of objects found in the collection. “Together, the four works are talking about invisibilities, the problems and paradoxes that involve the construction of narratives within a museum”, she concludes.


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