An important house in the Cosme Velho neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Solar dos Abacaxis aroused, in mid-2016, the attention of a group very interested in revitalizing the space to promote a cultural project. Since then, Solar dos Abacaxis emerged and grew, which, according to Bernardo Mosqueira, curator and one of the founders of the space, “is a way of thinking and doing culture, relationships”.
Artists such as Adriana Varejão, Cinthia Marcelle, Ernesto Neto, Antonio Dias and Anna Bella Geiger have passed through the Solar programme, as well as names that have emerged in more recent times, such as Jaime Lauriano, Maxwell Alexandre, Juliana Santos and Anna Costa e Silva.
In interview with ARTE!Brasileiros, Mosqueira talks about the space, the institutional proposal and financing of the project, among other things. Check it out below:
ARTE!Brasileiros: How did the idea for Solar dos Abacaxis come about? What would be the “mission” of Solar?
Bernardo Mosqueira: For some time I had the desire to create an independent space here in Rio. I didn't know if it would be a space for exhibitions or residences, or where it would be, or how it would take place. So, I was introduced to the architect Adriano Carneiro de Mendonça by the artist Marina Simão. Adriano was one of the sons of one of the 13 owners of such an empty property and he wanted to occupy it in some way, perhaps with workshops. Previously, he had already designed a hotel project for the place, but at that moment he wanted studios or residences. We went to visit the space that was almost in ruins, and I was delighted. We dreamed together, spent months designing the project and traveling to present it to the owners. In the end, we got a deal with the family and started negotiating a contract. The owners are so many and so dispersed, that even Adriano being part of the next generation of the family, he never had any privileges in relation to the use of the house. On the contrary. We've always been a bit of an alien to the family. Right at the beginning, Adriano invited the producer Maria Duarte and I invited the educator Bruno Balthazar (a teacher and longtime friend) and the curator Ulisses Carrilho (who had worked with me on other occasions, such as the Encruzilhada exhibition, at Parque Lage). Maria wanted to open a school and came from an experience leading the Portinari Project. Bruno had been an educator for 20 years and had extensive experience and research on Afro-Brazilian culture and thought, in addition to having been a DJ and producer. Ulisses was a curator and super researcher of art, culture and activism. This formation with the 5 of us lasted a long time. Afterwards, the three left at different times and the producer Duda Medeiros joined. We can say that Solar (as it is today) is the result of the beautiful meeting between these 5 initial members. We did everything together and from nothing, from empty space and zero box. The robust Solar in gestation greatly reflects Duda's thinking and strength. We must also say that the Solar is the result of the collaboration of all artists, masters, interlocutors, musicians, curators, lawyers, dancers, visitors, partners of all kinds who gave a little of themselves to the construction of the Solar. It is the result of the encounter of struggles, desires, reflections and works of many people.
We spent time researching the history of the house. It was called “Casarão do Cosme Velho”, “Mansão do Cosme Velho”, “Casa dos Abacaxis” and many other names. We then chose the expression “Solar dos Abacaxis” to name the project, as we were interested in the idea of a solar institution and were inspired by the multiple meanings and symbologies of the pineapple. Pineapple could be synonymous with trouble or challenge, but for the British it is a sign of abundance and radical hospitality. Because it is fruitless, it could be a symbol of the collectivity. It is certainly a mark of tropicality, a strange bromeliad, with origins here in Brazil, in Latin America, and that conquered the planet being prickly on the outside and sweet on the inside. We were interested in being a solar house for these pineapples. So Solar dos Abacaxis emerged with the mission of catalyzing the meeting between individuals and groups committed to thinking and experiencing new, fairer, healthier and more affectionate ways of being in the world. We understand and build Solar as a space of convergence for artists, creators, thinkers and all types of agents who see the new Sun rise on the horizon of the margins. It is a space for freedom. But not just freedom in art. We understand that there are other places for the experimental exercise of freedom – we cultivate all of them.
A!B: Is there a story behind the building?
BM: Solar dos Abacaxis has this property as its current headquarters. It is a 1000m² house from 1843, with 1000m² of garden and outdoor area and more than 4000m² of forest, preserved Atlantic forest. The building is a neoclassical chalet that some say is the first neoclassical building designed by a Brazilian architect, Jacintho Rebello, one of the main disciples of Grandjean de Montigny. He designed the house at the age of 22. The house was commissioned by Commander Borges da Costa who, no one knows how, lost the property that became a rooming house. His granddaughter, Anna Amélia de Queiroz Carneiro de Mendonça, managed to buy the house back and did a major renovation (in which iron pineapples were added to the balconies). She and her husband Marcos inhabited the space as a meeting point for intellectuals, artists and politicians at the beginning of the second half of the 40th century. With the death of the two, time and family disputes, the house was abandoned. When we arrived, there were more than 50 leaks tearing the house apart. We did many, many works to keep the house standing. Expensive and practically invisible works. Roof, beams, shoring, floors, protections, tests, reports. But it was so worth it. That former owner, Anna Amélia, was a leading feminist and advocate for women's and students' rights. She wrote a poem in the 3s about the house called “Utopia” in which she began by saying “This house will someday be / a center of science and art / a refuge for history and poetry / here the young people will come to dream (…) and I shall not see, and I shall not see.” During those XNUMX years, we were able to see.
A!B: What are the main activities of the space? Is it an institution?
BM: Solar is a way of thinking and doing culture, relationships. I don't know if it's a “space”, because it could be somewhere else, nowhere, manifest in something else. I don't know if it's “independent”, because nobody is – and we're more interested in freedom than independence. I wouldn't call it an “institution”, because we are very aware of our constant mutation and our perpetuity. In the last 3 years, we have done more than 40 actions. 30 of them were exhibitions. One of Solar's main interests lies in the creation of other models of cultural activity in addition to those understood as “traditional”. There is, for example, FuzuErê (which is a program for children and families, with activities proposed by artists), ÀRoda (which is a program for debates, book launches, etc. , the Grandiosa Junina de Santo Antonio do Abacaxi (an exhibition in which all the works are inspired by the traditional elements of the feast of São João), the Baile da Aurora Sincera (an exhibition in which all the works of the artists are at the same time pieces of Carnival) etc. The most famous of these models is MANJAR, a way of creating reflection to which we invite collaborators, artists, musicians and chefs. The result is an exhibition, which is at the same time show, celebration and dinner, with all aimed at building a thought experience. Solar has always been very interested in attracting and bringing together audiences other than the specific audience for the visual arts. Our challenge and desire has always been to mix audiences. Therefore, the diversity of employees (in their practices and in their own lives) has always been important to mix publics at Solar. These shows only last one day (or 2 or 3 at most). This specific temporality of Manjar means that all audiences actually have to be at the Solar almost at the same time. Furthermore, if normally people have experiences in exhibitions of a few minutes, at MANJAR people spend 3, 4, 6, 10 hours in the exhibition. There is time to see, review, talk, change your mind, change your state of consciousness, feel again, rethink. The results of this are very powerful. The ways of setting up exhibitions and lighting and signaling at the Solar are very unusual (we use the woods, the bathrooms, heights, corners in every way, with the craziest lights), but the operation in the temporality of the exhibitions is perhaps our gesture more radical and with more profound effects. In Manjares, more than 100 artists participated. 80% of the works were unpublished. We are aware of the potentialities and problems of ephemerality and, therefore, we think a lot about memory and legacy. If 80% of these unpublished works were partially or completely commissioned, some of these works are offered as donations to the public collections of MAR and MAC. We are obsessed with recording shows.
A!B: How is the funding to make the proposal viable?
BM: All the exhibitions and all the structural works of the house were paid for with small donations at the entrance and with the sale of drinks at our events. At our events, at the entrance we inform how much was the production cost of each exhibition and, based on our average attendance, we say how much each one should pay to cover the costs of the action. Those who cannot pay enter without paying anything. He who can pay for two pays for one person who cannot pay. Those who can pay more and want to support the project, pay more. It was in this way and with the sale of drinks that we paid for everything we did. We are very interested in the study of new economies, new forms of exchange and organization. At the beginning we (and our friends) were all the teams (cleaning, editing, production, security, we set up the sound, sold the drinks). Nowadays, there are almost 50 people working for each Manjar to happen, for example.
A!B: What are the main activities that have taken place so far? Can you name the names of artists who have been there?
BM: More established artists have passed through the Solar (such as Adriana Varejão, Anna Bella Geiger, Antonio Dias, Carlos Vergara, Cinthia Marcelle, Ernesto Neto, Helio Oiticica, Laura Lima, Lucia Laguna, Marcos Chaves, Rivane Neuenschwander), many Brazilians from outside the Southeast (like Fernando Lindote from Rio Grande do Sul, Armando Queiroz from Pará, Thiago Martins de Melo from Maranhão, Tiago Sant'Ana from Bahia), foreigners from the Global South (like Colombian Carlos Motta, Cuban Carlos Martiel, Dominican Engel Leonardo, Nigerian Karima Ashadu) as well as countless young artists (such as Jaime Lauriano, Maxwell Alexandre, the collective Opavivará, Vivian Caccuri, the collective Mariwo, Rafael Bqueer, Lais Myrrha, Barbara Wagner, Jonathas de Andrade, Juliana Santos, Ivan Grilo, Ismael David, Anna Costa e Silva etc.). There are many, many artists responsible for the construction of the Solar. Among the people who have already come to participate in circles or classes are Suely Rolnik, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, Peter Pal Pelbart, Tatiana Roque, Mariama Bah (from Gambia), Charly Kongo (Congo) and many others. Among the curators, we collaborated with Catarina Duncan, Pollyana Quintella and Bernardo de Souza.
A!B:Is there a core team responsible for Solar? Who is part?
BM: Me, the architect Adriano Carneiro de Mendonça and the producer Duda Medeiros. Ana Clara Simões Lopes is our assistant curator and Clara Reis is our communication. Educator Bruno Balthazar and curator Beatriz Lemos also collaborated. Each of the activities in Solar has its extra teams. There are still many volunteer professionals such as lawyers, architects and administrators.
A!B:Is there a schedule for this year? If yes, which one?
BM: From now until the end of the year, we will have a little less regularity of exhibitions at Solar. The main reason is the fact that the current model of relationship with the owners of the property has reached its limit, and we understand that Solar will have to become, in a short time, the owner of its headquarters. For this reason, we are with some collaborators designing strategies and seeking investors or supporters to acquire the property, so that Solar can expand, improve and above all become a more permanent space of freedom in the city. In other words, there are quite radical changes on the horizon of Solar and we will need all the help!