Anna Maria Maiolino, "Chapter I", from the series "Mental Maps", 1971. Photo: Publicity
Anna Maria Maiolino, “Chapter I”, from the series “Mental Maps”, 1971. Photo: Publicity

Ha hybrid between magazine and book, released in digital and free format, Present is a publication with very unique characteristics in the world of the arts. It is not a publication of critical texts or reviews, nor a book focused on images, whether photographs or reproductions of works. It is also not a collection of academic articles, nor even a journalistic language magazine. Present, a new publication conceived by curator Paulo Miyada and artist Anna Maria Maiolino, focuses on correspondence – or we can call them letters – and “other formats of texts and productions made between two or more people”. 

Created in response to the difficult times of the pandemic - in which the need for social distancing has pushed people away, at least physically -, the magazine emerges as a proposal for dialogues and exchanges, as a form of approximation and even care and zeal among the participants. . Launched in the last month of April, on a quarterly basis, Present is the unfolding of a first correspondence exchanged between Miyada and Maiolino in the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic. “In the first half of 2020, when we started to isolate - at least those who could and despite the absence of a State policy in this sense - I imagined that for artists the suspension of meetings between them, and also of their works with the public, it would be something difficult”, says Miyada. “And I tried to think about how, despite all the cancellations and suspensions, it would be possible to maintain some level of dialogue with these people.” 

Castiel Vitorino Brasileiro, “Corpo-Flor”, 2016-2021
Photographic series. Photo: Disclosure

It was then that the curator began to write a set of letters to artists he admired and with whom he already had some kind of contact. Among them was Anna Maria Maiolino, to whom the curator addressed words about that pandemic context, so uncertain, showing her fears and insecurities, but also commenting on artistic dreams and daydreams. An affectionate dialogue followed with the artist's response, and the conversation ended up being published on the blog Entretempos da Folha de S.Paulo. “Months later, at the end of 2020, Anna called me and proposed that we do something, a publication or a magazine, a conversation channel not only between us, but now expanded to other people who wanted to think about the present”. With the invitation came the title, as well as the decision to make it a predominantly correspondence publication.

The name, therefore, refers to the three senses of the word “present”. First, the current time, the now, “which means putting in the foreground the possibility of art debating its time, being part of a public sphere, in which ethical problems are a fundamental parameter of aesthetic problems”, explains Miyada. This “present time” can only exist, he emphasizes, by looking closely at the past, without making memory invisible, and having some future horizon, “at least the possibility of collective construction and consequences for individual actions”. Second, “present” is the interjection uttered by students when responding to the school call and issued by protesters in an assembly. “And this seems important to me as a starting point, assuming that the magazine wants to expand the dialogue beyond the family or private sphere. We are here, thinking out loud about the situation,” says Miyada. Finally, “present” refers to the gesture of giving something, the gift, an important pillar of past and present societies. “It is an exchange regime not based on money, nor on the assumption of infinite accumulation, but based on expenditure and exchange. And I think the Present has a little bit of that spirit.”

Pat Bergantin, from the “Metal” series, 2020. Video frame, 30''. Photo: Disclosure

another time

Just as it distances itself from academic or journalistic texts, the format of letters also proposes a type of conversation that is not that of social networks and applications – with the accelerated dynamics and ephemeral air that are usual to it. For Miyada, the physical distance between people ended up being compensated, somehow, by the use of “certain technological channels that have virtues, but also have vices and tend to emphasize only one type of communication”. And he adds: “Returning to the logic of correspondence, something that takes time to write, to be read, to be answered, is a way of exercising another model, which is not better or worse in itself, but which ends up having a rhythm contrasting with the means we have used to communicate”. Present, in this way, makes room for what Miyada calls “procedural texts”, open, which emerge as a way of sharing ideas and dealing with the moment without reflections that propose themselves definitive.

Alongside Maiolino and Miyada, they participate in the first edition of Present – available in pdf and formatted to be printed on A4 sheet -, critic and curator Lisette Lagnado, professor and psychoanalyst Tania Rivera, artists Dalton Paula and Paloma Durante and artist and dancer Pat Bergantin. Interspersed between the sets of correspondences, poetry by Edimilson de Almeida Pereira and visual works by Castiel Vitorino Brasileiro, Fernanda Gomes, Pedro Moraleida. There is also an unpublished translation of a 1986 essay by the American writer Ursula K. Le Guin. The diversity of fields of action of the authors of texts and works reflects, therefore, in the multiplicity of themes and languages ​​that run through the magazine, beyond the field of visual arts. But the tying of everything is, once again, in the search for dialogue and in the zeal between people, a kind of care that is opposed to the almost dystopian reality that presents itself on the globe.  

Pedro Moraleida, "Ave Maria Gracia Plena", from the series "Smiling Couples with Tied Hands 02", 1998/1999. Photo: Guilherme Horta/ Publicity
Pedro Moraleida, “Ave Maria Gracia Plena”, from the series “Smiling Couples with Tied Hands 02”, 1998/1999. Photo: Guilherme Horta/ Publicity

“In the contemporary world, what has been exacerbated is very old violence. From racism, from the programmed genocide of indigenous populations, from ecocide, from environmental attacks, from the restriction of freedom of expression. Processes that span centuries, imbricated in the history of Brazil and the world”, says Miyada. “Perhaps what is unique at this moment is what has been called necropolitics, which comes with a perverse rationalization that delegitimizes the right to life, which goes beyond the restriction of citizenship and rights and reaches a trivialization of life itself. And we have seen this exacerbated in the context of the pandemic, in an even more obscene format.” And he concludes: “So inevitably critical thinking today needs to be done in a way that doesn't reproduce this contempt for every person's life – and I think artists, researchers and thinkers are looking for this vocabulary. This is one of the things that appear in the letters of the Present".

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