A multifaceted portrait of graphic artist, poet and composer Rogério Duarte. This is what Marginália I reveals, on view until August 26 at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro (MAM-RJ). Composed of 70 items, including movie posters, album and book covers, poems, posters, photographs and personal documents, the diverse and multicolored mosaic gathered at MAM attests to how much, from the second half of the 20th century onwards, Rogério's trajectory made inseparable from some historical chapters for the country's culture. It is not by chance that emblematic pieces are on display, such as the movie poster God and the Devil in the Land of the Sun, masterpiece of Glauber Rocha's Cinema Novo, released in 1964, and covers of divisive phonographic works, such as the homonymous albums released by Caetano Veloso (1967) and Gilberto Gil (1968), two embryos of tropicalism as a musical genre.
Unanimity aside, Marginália I is also an invitation to the public to go beyond the usual aesthetic fetish of these renowned works. The exhibition, which also includes the publication of a book of the same name (Editora MAM-RJ), expands the understanding of the artist and allows the public to have a more diverse reading of what tropicália was. The movement, circumscribed by many as a mere musical phenomenon and not as a collective action, brought together other cultural fronts to capitulate a series of conventions and statutes that were overturned with the adhesion and dialogue of other great characters, such as the plastic artist Hélio Oiticica, the playwright José Celso Martinez Corrêa, poet Waly Salomão and novelist José Agrippino de Paula.
Curated by the German graphic designer Manoel Raeder and with the collaboration of the musician Diogo Duarte, who is Rogério's son, Marginália I brings to light forgotten records, such as the graphic material of apocalypothesis, a multimedia event held by the Bahian in the outdoor area of the MAM carioca in 1968, and works that reveal other interests of the artist, including the metallic structure musicúpula, a kind of geodesic web that will host, on August 12, a jam session with songs and instrumental themes composed by Rogério – at the age of 13, he discovered his passion for music by deciphering the chords of a cavaquinho and, at 17, he became devoted to the six-string guitar, with which he composed more than 300 musical pieces.
At 76 years old, Rogério Duarte lives in Salvador. In poor health, he chose not to attend the opening of the show, held at the end of last June. However, he intends to participate in the jam session conducted by his son Diogo, which should bring together friends of his generation and will precede the closing of Marginal I. Even in prison, on the occasion of the exhibition, Rogério kindly spoke to Brasileiros. In principle, the answers to the script of questions sent to the Bahian master would be delivered by e-mail, but they arrived at the newsroom through an audio file in MP3 format, with the record of his deep and paused voice. Among other topics, discussed with extreme lucidity, Rogério also opposed the shallow interpretations of tropicalismo. “I consider this to be another poorly told story of Brazilian culture. There were several tropicalismos and I may even have been one of the mentors of the movement, but I was much more engaged in its totality, which included music, literature, cinema and other things.”
Rogério’s goat, with this narrow view disseminated, especially with the late cult of the movement in Europe and the United States, takes on an emphatic tone when he responds about how he reacted to the so-called “burial of tropicália”, a symbolic act interpreted by his friends Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil in the last episode of the program Divino, Maravilhoso, presented by his countrymen on the defunct TV Tupi on December 27, 1968, 14 days after the AI-5 decree. “I have nothing to do with the birth or burial of this tropicalism of the music media represented by Caetano and Gil. I was in Rio de Janeiro (the program was recorded at the station's São Paulo headquarters) and I didn't even know about the funeral. It was a long time later that I found out about their attitude.”
But anyone who sees in this statement a rancidity of the graphic artist in relation to his movement peers is wrong. When dealing with the recent controversy involving the presentation of the Bahian duo in Israel, scheduled to take place in Tel Aviv on the 28th of this month of July, and which has been the target of insistent boycott requests in defense of Palestine, Rogério deflects and comes out in defense of the individual liberties of old friends. “I have no opinion on it. This is part of the career of Gil and Caetano, who must have their reasons, which I try to respect, and do not judge them.”
Throughout the recording, the voice that emerges from the speakers borders on the guttural and expresses opinions that are difficult to diverge. At times, it hovers in silence, then unleashes fragments of a complex and tortuous story. Few artists embody the mix of perseverance and disenchantment experienced by the generation that lived in Brazil in the 1960s and 70s like Rogério. The military's response to the aesthetic of shock unleashed by the Tropicalists came in an atrocious way and with the same effectiveness of the repression aimed at resistance nuclei - the Popular Culture Center, the CPCs of the National Student Union (UNE), and institutions such as Editora Voices, Catholic stronghold of intellectuals, such as Leonardo Boff and Frei Betto, who defended the so-called Theology of Liberation, with a Marxist orientation. In fact, two fronts of regular collaboration by Rogério in the first half of the 1964s, when he migrated from Bahia to Rio de Janeiro: at CPC, he was a graphic artist for the advertising nucleus; at Editora Vozes, he acted as artistic director.
The exercise of activities like these, considered subversive by the dictatorship, made Rogério, along with his brother, engineer Ronaldo Duarte, star in one of the first episodes that made the growing practice of torture public. On the way to the seventh-day mass of high school student Edson Luís, killed by the military in the student restaurant Calabouço, a crime that motivated the so-called Passeata dos Cem Mil, Rogério and Ronaldo were arrested on April 4, 1968 and subjected to torture for a week. The episode is reported with bitter lyricism in the chapter entitled The Great Door of Fear, from the book tropics, released by Editora Azougue, in 2003. In it, Rogério tells how he and his brother, alternately, observing the suffering of the other, were subjected to all sorts of sadisms by the torturers. “The electrical wires in the back, in the mouth, in the armpits. The unlit matches in the back, the hot coffee spilled on the sex. It is necessary not to count as if everything had happened. It is necessary to be there all the time necessary, it is necessary to die of fear and water the flower of fear that will be born on the tomb until the appearance of the fruit, even if it is the golden fruit of hatred, because the seeds... or that there will be the fruit and the seeds if not with the madness of my hope?”, thus describes Rogério, in tropics, the vision of brother Ronaldo being tortured.
Madness and hope were direct consequences of the torture faced by Rogério, who did not shy away from denouncing the episode to the country's press and was silenced by the dictatorship of General Médici with a compulsory internment, between 1969 and 1971, in the Psychiatric Pavilhão do Engenho de Dentro. , one of the three units in the state of Rio de Janeiro at the amazing Pinel Hospice. “There was a brutal interference, a rupture in my life from that episode, but I didn't stop living or working. After that, I continued making book covers for Editora Vozes, until I had to take refuge from military persecution.” Another brief pause of silence and the deep breath of Rogério's voice returns to reveal the place where, living in hiding, he plunged into a hopeful quest for spiritual elevation. “I had the forest in the interior of Bahia as my particular Sierra Maestra (Rogério alludes to the refuge of the troops of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in the Cuban mountain ranges). It was in Serra da Violeira that I took refuge. In my life, since childhood, the spiritual quest has always been a constant. As a matter of survival, I joined the Hare Krishna movement and I am a part of it to this day. I am a scholar of Vedic culture.”
This mystical facet unleashed by Rogério between the second half of the 1970s and the following decade, made him question the functionality of continuing to exercise his career as a graphic artist, a profession that, for him, was linked to a sociocultural context fought by nebulous forces, which put an end to their generation's dream of building a more just and progressive society. Forces that, according to him, are still recurrent. “It is impossible to let go of anything that is part of our life, unless we let go of life itself. In fact, I don't believe this was an isolated moment. Brazil is a country with many dark moments and that was another one that deeply touched my generation.”
Rogério's voice now pursues the final questions of the script. Hesitantly, he asks: “My God, is it going to record? Let's go ahead, I hope it's recording." The comment precedes the last question, which takes advantage of the hook of the previous one to register his opinion on the growing wave of reactionaryism that, ironically, devastates the country in the middle of the 21st century, almost 50 years after Rogério's generation believed that everything could be divine. , wonderful. Asked if he fears that this retraction, symbolized by the election of the most reactionary Congress since the 1964 coup, could lead the country to relive the tragic days of the dictatorship, Rogério concludes, pragmatic, as if to challenge our capacity for resilience: what does that mean. I don't participate much in this type of discourse of patterns, reactionary/non-reactionary. I think the hole is further down, but I'm not afraid, because I'm a big believer in the law of history. If it happens, it's because there was no way to avoid it. So if it comes, we'll have to face it all again. With the same and even redoubled vigor.”