*By Paulo Miyada.
A The exhibition “AI-5 50 Years – It's not over yet” ended on November 4th, one week after Brazil's presidential elections ended. Since the highest position in the executive power was once again decided by the direct vote of the population, there has never been an electoral campaign in which public debates and private discussions have discussed so much the legacy and breadth of the military dictatorship. Relativization, denial, misinformation and bad faith have all shown their fangs in attempts to rewrite history as a heroic, nationalist revolution. On the other hand, all sorts of efforts for elucidation and reparative justice – among which this exposition is certainly found – have proved to be insufficient and have confirmed that more than the dispute with current obscurantist discourses is at stake: the task of to complete the cycles of historical reparation and institutional refoundation that were only partially fulfilled in the long, bargained and incomplete “redemocratization” of Brazil.
As a cultural and artistic action, the exhibition was at the opposite pole of the attempts to relativize the data left by the military dictatorship in Brazil. When trying to minimize the impact of the coup and its repressive policy by claiming that the regime's "excesses" affected only left-wing radicals, three perverse injustices are committed: 1. It is not true that only radical terrorists were arrested, tortured and killed, the Vladimir Herzog's example is one of hundreds of cases of brutal violence against those who only exercised their citizenship; 2. Even in the cases of direct combatants to the regime who followed paths of armed struggle and urban guerrilla warfare, the role of retaliation should never fall to the State without all the legal apparatus that underlies the rule of law – if the government acts by the law of the eye- for-an-eye, tooth-for-tooth, what is the reference left for citizens to act differently?; 3. In addition to cases of direct State violence through deaths, exiles, torture, arbitrary arrests and withdrawal of political rights from its citizens, the dictatorship registered and monitored over 300 citizens through its censorship bodies, in addition to operate systematic policies of censorship of the press, culture and art. The consequences of this last point go far beyond the scope of the dictatorship that is trying to relativize, and they were the ones that received special attention in the exhibition, which started from the context of the visual arts to understand the cost of silencing the population and paying tribute to those who knew how to express something when nothing could be said. What we are now experiencing is a burning aftermath of how deep the damage left by the years of military rule was, compounded by the precarious nature of democratic institutions that have not been revised and strengthened as much in the last 3 decades as would have been necessary. In this sense, the AI-5 is not yet finished, and everything suggests that its effects will be even more felt in the coming years. It seems that the veil of morality that still demanded some discretion from the most perverse re-enactments of authoritarian state violence has been lost. The first to enter the line of fire will be precisely those for whom the idea of redemocratization has always been between legend and hyperbole: blacks, indigenous peoples, LGBTQ+ people and the miserable. For this very reason, the persistence of struggle and resistance will have its root, motive and knowledge in them.
*Paulo Miyada, curator and researcher of contemporary art, is currently the creative director of Instituto Tomie Othake and guest curator of the 34th Bienal de São Paulo