Antonio Dias, The Last Bedroom, 1968, oil on canvas, plastic, 61 X 50 cm, Marta and Paulo Kuczynski Collection

"OBRAZIL HAS A HUGE PAST AHEAD”: Millôr Fernandes’ sentence has never seemed more current and accurately summarizes the feeling of a significant part of the public that gathered in the last week of October at the Tomie Ohtake Institute to debate the country’s future, on the eve of of the election of Jair Bolsonaro to the Presidency of the Republic. The meeting, organized around the exhibition “AI-5 – Not finished yet”, carried out a double and deeply connected mission: to discuss the content of the exhibition on display at the cultural center until the last 4th of November and at the same time update this reflection to the present day, highlighting the links between the heritage of the dictatorial period and the repressive setback experienced today.

Once again, it was found that silence and erasure in relation to the deeds of the dictatorship period are deeply responsible for the virulent return of policies of denial of historical facts, of hostility towards cultural practices that propose to expose the wounds of the past and present, and by the growing attempts to forge narratives that reconstruct and modify this past, transforming victims into executioners and executioners into heroes. Students, artists, critics and editors present at the Assembly were unanimous in agreeing that silence is primarily responsible for
this ghostly rebirth of repressive actions. And not just in relation to the more recent past. This phenomenon is repeated in longer historical processes,
such as slavery and indigenous genocide, denied because they were not properly purged. This shared diagnosis, to a certain extent, repeats the one already outlined in the
“Oso” exhibition, held in the same space also curated by Paulo Miyada and which is admittedly the starting point of the AI-5 exhibition.

The desire to reflect on this terrible moment in Brazilian history, of suspension of rights and political persecution by the State apparatus, is not only the result of the 50th anniversary of Institutional Act No. of these latent issues. It is born both from the experience of bringing together contemporary works interested in dealing with these ghosts and from the effort to create a space for symbolic reflection on the intense social violence in the country. “Bone” – both the exhibition and the debate it aroused – brought together two important points: the artistic expression of social and political issues and the denunciation of a specific case of injustice against Rafael Braga, unfairly framed in the anti-terrorism law for carrying cleaning products.

Such negotiated forgetting did not occur in countries like Argentina and Chile. Instead of “conciliatory” amnesty, neighboring countries tried and jailed those who took power by arms. And they continue in this purging movement, as evidenced by the current process underway in Chile against the military involved in a wide network of corruption. From the point of view of art, the parallel is the same. While what was seen in
Brazil was a silencing in relation to the more critical production of the 1960s, the predominance of an institutional self-censorship posture and the disregard for these questions.
In the later period, in neighboring countries there was an effort – both institutional and by civil society – to institute memorials capable of transmitting to the population the tragic facts of the military period. It is true that we have the Resistance Memorial in São Paulo, but its scope and dimension fall far short of the seriousness of the facts on which they focus.

Memorials have meaning beyond the symbolic field. They are effective actions that prevent the erasure of memory, but they are also testimonies of how art is vital for the elaboration of these traumas. The project developed by Nuno Ramos for Parque de la Memória, in Buenos Aires, and which is yet to be built, seems to touch precisely the nerve of this issue of visibility/forgetfulness. The proposal, one of the 18 winners of the competition held in 2000 involving more than 600 projects from 44 countries, is both simple and blunt: the artist proposed to recreate part of “Olympus”, the feared center of torture in the Argentine capital, but inverting his architectural appearance. What is opaque, like walls, would be made of glass, while openings, like
doors and windows would be made of black marble, thus making explicit the hidden and terrible character of the regime's persecutions.

Author of some of the most compelling works on the social and political situation in the country, such as 111 – a work that focuses on the Carandiru massacre, in 1992 –, Nuno says he is frightened by the “discursive madness” we are experiencing in the country. His response to this violence came in the form of a series of performances, quasi-theatrical works, developed in recent months. These presentations, which intertwine speeches, television narratives, political debate, tragedies (such as “Antígona”) and allegories (such as “Terra em Transe”), are available at youtube . “Very acute moments bring more immediate reflections”, says the artist, emphasizing the importance of dealing with things in the heat of the moment, expressed in the title “Aosvivos”, which names the trilogy of the pieces.

Perhaps the aspect that scares Nuno the most is the unbearable level of violence in our society, “this anonymous violence, against the anonymous”. “They kill 63 people a year, with ever-increasing rates, across different governments, and we tolerate it,” he laments. However, he considers that we should not let art take the blame, believing that because of the heightened tensions it should take on the role of always responding to events. “Art has to be good, anyway”.

Rescue

Going back and reviewing these forgotten movements by institutions, critics and the art circuit is vital if we want to find ways to block those who defend the end of the democratic path in the country. In this sense, the exhibition AI-5 pinches in our recent history two projects of great importance – symbolic and conceptual – that deserve to be reassessed today, when we are looking for new outlets. The first of these is the plan drawn up by Mario Pedrosa for the new Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro, after it was destroyed by fire in 1978 (any resemblance to the case of the National Museum is not purely coincidental). Shortly after the disaster, Pedrosa suggests restructuring the museum around five vital axes for the understanding of Brazilian art, with centers dedicated to black, indigenous, popular, unconscious and contemporary arts. The second is the attempt led by Aracy Amaral to reorient the Bienal de São Paulo, transforming it into a kind of Latin American hub, capable of stimulating the exchange, production and exhibition of regional art as a form of political and cultural strengthening. Both did not get off the ground, but they are – along with the rest of the production of their authors – vital sources of feedback in this process of rescuing models capable of guiding the process of resistance in the face of attempts to break up national culture.

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