MuBE's chief curator Galciani Neves. Photo: Marcus Vinicius de Arruda Camargo
MuBE's chief curator Galciani Neves. Photo: Marcus Vinicius de Arruda Camargo

A first exhibition curated by Galciani Neves at the Brazilian Museum of Sculpture and Ecology (MuBE) was not intended to be seen by visitors to the São Paulo museum. Nor was it created aimed at the virtual environment, as has become common in recent times. Opened on the 5th of September, two months after Galciani assumed the position of chief curator of the institution, The air that unites us is aimed at pedestrians, bus users and drivers who pass through Europa Avenue, in the west of São Paulo, as the institution remains closed amid the Covid-19 pandemic. And, whether in this desire for dialogue with the city, or in the themes it raises, the exhibition already shows some of the concerns that should guide the management of the new curator of the museum.

“We invited artists whose works do not exactly thematize the pandemic, but somehow speak of a kind of connection, of the fact that even at a distance connections and dialogues insist on happening. They talk about the way the planet behaves and the way we behave”, explains Neves in an interview with arte!brasileiros. Questions referring to the destruction of the environment, the Anthropocene, the indigenous cause and the educational role of art appear, in different ways, in the works of Ana Teixeira, Artur Lescher, Laura Vinci, Motta & Lima, Paulo Bruscky and Yoko Ono.

Born in Fortaleza, with a PhD in Communication and Semiotics from PUC-SP and professor at FAAP and the Federal University of Ceará, Galciani assumes the position after four years of managing Caue Alves, who recently became the curator of the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo (MAM-SP). She intends to continue her predecessor’s project of building a collection of “project-works” – in which the artist makes available to the museum the project of the work and the possibility of assembling it, but not the work itself – and states that its priorities are to bring greater diversity to the museum and intensify its pedagogical role.   

“I think that a desire to place the museum's task in its vocation as a place of education should be highlighted. This is my biggest wish. And when I say education, I mean, in a general way, understanding education as a practice of freedom. Paulo Freire already said this. Understanding that educating and educating oneself is a transit, a bridge”, he says. “I think what we really have to do is open the doors of the museum, make it a friendly and empathetic space. That’s why it’s so important to think about educational processes.”

As for urgent issues related to the environment, in a country that is witnessing the accelerated destruction of its ecosystems, Galciani speaks of his desire to bring scientists and researchers closer to the work at MuBE and quotes the French anthropologist and philosopher Bruno Latour: “There is about a year he said in an interview that finally the fear of losing the world is no longer just for artists and poets. I was very shocked by this. So the fear of losing the world is now broad and unrestricted.” In this context, she continues, it is necessary to understand that the task of art is one of resistance, of questioning. Read the full interview below.  

ARTE! – You took over as the Chief Curator of MuBE in July, that is, just under 3 months ago. I wanted to start by asking how the work has been and what has been possible to do so far, especially considering that you took over amid the pandemic and with the museum closed doors.

Well, from the beginning we knew that the museum would be closed indefinitely. So the beginning was an understanding of the institution, of what the vocation of the museum could be. As you know, Cauê Alves, together with the new board, had already repositioned the museum in a very different way than it had been in the last ten years. So, for four years now, there has been a collection being assembled, exhibitions have been made with consistency, there is an educational team, courses in the history of art and architecture that were already being taught. MuBE really thickened the programming. So the beginning was partly to recognize this terrain, albeit from a distance. This is very difficult, even because the building is charming, it is very good to be there, in that open space, in contact with the architecture of Paulo Mendes da Rocha. I really miss this get-together. 

And one thing we started to do was to intensify the online programming, to see what was possible to produce. There was already a program called MuBE ao vivo – Conversa com Artista, and what I was able to do a little more deeply was to prepare series for this program. First there was the series “hic et nada: the city as a space/time of artistic experiences”. And we invited five women, each week a Brazilian artist: Regina Parra, Alice Shintani, Eleonora Fabião, Virginia de Medeiros and Abigail Campos Leal. And the debates were super cool, with great public participation. We made a second series, called “entrenos, uma ponte”, trying to establish dialogues between art and education, with artists whose artistic processes are inseparable from pedagogical processes, such as Jorgge Menna Barreto, Vânia Medeiros, Renata Felinto and Lia Rodrigues, among others. others. Now we are putting together a third series in which each debate will always have an artist and a researcher/scientist discussing the urgencies of the Anthropocene. We want to put art and science in dialogue.

So these activities were the main focus. In addition, Educativo has been carrying out activities that already existed before I joined, such as the “distance workshop”, generally more aimed at children. There is also “meeting the artist”, which is a video in which educators present the production of an artist, usually someone who is in the exhibition that was already assembled – Project works: New MuBE Collection, which was the last one that Cauê did. And there's still the "tell the tale". These are the online activities that we were able to do.           

Artur Lescher, Aerólito, 2003, in the exhibition “The air that unites us”. Photo: Marcus Vinicius de Arruda Camargo

ARTE! – You also made the exhibition The Air That Unites Us, already curated, which is not a virtual exhibition. Could you talk a little about her?

Yes, that's what we managed to do, remembering that we didn't open the museum for the exhibition to happen. So it was made in the outdoor area to be seen by those who pass on the sidewalk, in cars and buses. She starts from Cair converse, by Yoko Ono, and we invited artists whose works do not exactly thematize the pandemic, but somehow speak of a kind of connection, of the fact that even from a distance, connections and dialogues insist on happening. They talk about the way the planet behaves, and the way people behave, the way cultural heritage is constituted and transmitted.  

ARTE! - En a recent interview you talked about the proposal to bring greater diversity to the museum and to democratize access to it. Do you think that this exhibition, by opening up to the streets, would already be a step in this sense of desire for greater integration with the city?

I think so. And the desire for integration I think is something we're going to talk a lot about now. Because in times of isolation, what we dream most is to be together, right? This has become very expensive for us. Before being a curator, I am a teacher, so I really miss the classroom. We know how much the classroom experience is made in conviviality. And I also understand an exhibition as a public sphere of discussion.

For me, first of all, the vocation of a museum is education. And this also has to do with the immediate surroundings, with the city, with the street, with the public. And when I think about expanding the audience, I'm not just talking about the people who visit the space, but it's super important to think about access to cultural production means, proposing a possibility of bringing greater diversity among people who can participate in exhibitions, lectures, etc.

ARTE! – Could you explain a little better what this greater diversity that you intend to bring to the museum would be and how this can be done in practice?

We have already started this process. I know that the idea of ​​representation is still something that we need to overcome. I mean, we need to get out of the “one black syndrome”, which is what we see in most spaces, right? And I don't want to take that risk. But I know that thinking about this is fundamental work, which has to be on the main agenda of MuBE. And we have to understand that an exhibition, a curatorship, is a place of legitimation, and that as a curatorship looks at, selects, legitimizes and puts some works on display, it also fails to put other things in circulation. So I think the work starts mainly from a process of research, of dialogue, and then of dialogue, of relationship. We know how many initiatives and platforms for mapping attempts exist, for example, by black artists, trans professionals and researchers, but perhaps the biggest challenge is our ability to access and communicate with these people. And to be honest, I think we're still in its infancy in that regard. Brazil was not prepared for this. We are very used to living dialoguing and exposing the great names, already hegemonic and already crystallized. And I think it's super important to expand the spaces, but also to expand the view, to understand a diversity of action, of points of view. And this shouldn't just be a museum platform, it shouldn't just be the art platform, we have to think about inclusion, that the means of cultural production have to be unrestricted for these people as well.          

ARTE! – You have already mentioned this proposal to work on the idea of ​​the Anthropocene, which seems to have a relationship with the name of the MuBE (Brazilian Museum of Sculpture and Ecology). What does it mean to bring the debate on the Anthropocene to the museum, including thinking about the current Brazilian context of destruction of its forests?

We are experiencing a crisis that is humanitarian, sanitary, political… In short, it has become an agenda that we face every day, it is in our bodies, linked to our displacements, to our privileges of coming and going. So we have a plan at the museum that is starting to be designed for next year, in which we are talking to many researchers and scientists to understand the urgent agendas for 2021. Understand the topics that cannot be missed. So this series of conversations that I mentioned, for example, is already the result of an initial dialogue with some people. Bruno Latour, for example, is a thinker who is here at my desk, literally, the before Gaia It's here with me. And in Brazil we are starting to talk to SOS Mata Atlântica, Marcia Hirota has been nurturing us with young people and researchers who work with agroforestry, with the impact on the city's ecosystem – including to understand the city as an environment. This is also present in the training of educators. We are trying to provide them with a very diverse and plural education, going through the ideas of cultural heritage and environmental education, so that we can also start preparing the internal public to receive this content. Another important content is about climate change, which involves a greater understanding of how the museum works, an engagement with the daily life of the institution. There is, for example, the 2030 Agenda, with various protocols and operating instances, and we are trying to position the museum in relation to these strategies.

I think one important thing that I've started to learn from researchers is that we're going to increasingly watch the planet speak for itself, react. For a long time, modern science treated the planet as a place of resources that would never run out, more passive, a kind of mother that accepts everything and nourishes everything, gives everything. And I think the biggest lesson I've learned right now is the interconnections, everything is immersed, the planet will start to react more abruptly, so to speak. And we have to think about how to deal with these issues.                

ARTE! – Does this debate also include addressing indigenous issues, for example?

Yes, because we also understand that native peoples, like us, are part of the environment. But it is also a subject that has a delicacy. We cannot just aestheticize it, understand it as a kind of eccentric production. I think we have to be careful to deal with these things, we're learning to think about it. We cannot make the mistake of museifying things, but we need to understand them in a plan of action of the immediate, the contemporary, of even cultural connection. Maybe we still have to suffer a little to work with this kind of subject.

ARTE! - thinking about the moment troubled political situation we are experiencing, more specifically in Brazil, we have a government that seems to treat art, culture, education and the environment almost as enemy areas. I would like you to talk a little about how you see this context, thinking that these are exactly the main areas of action of MuBE…

About a year ago Bruno Latour spoke in an interview that finally the fear of losing the world is no longer just for artists and poets. I was very shocked by this. So the fear of losing the world is now wide and unrestricted. And it is a threat that has been built with more strength and power in front of us. But, starting from this, I understand art as a social activity, embedded in the social environment, in our political issues, in our effective exercise as people, no matter how obvious it is to say that. So, at that moment, it is really important to understand that the task of art is one of resistance, of questioning. I think we still have some hope if we understand that the main vocation of art is education, which can bring changes for the next generations. And specifically in MuBE and in my activity as a curator and teacher, I am thinking about future generations, what transformation can really happen. Maybe there won't be much left for the next generations, but we have to try to sow a base, another soil, our obligation is very great. And in this sense, art also has this task of disobedience, also at a level of collective engagement, and being at the head of MuBE is to think about bringing all this inside, but above all it is to summon and circulate, to be a kind of nerve center for some people. So that we can produce and circulate information that is more humanitarian, that somehow distributes justice, not in a demagogic sense, but of some social equity, of some dream of social equity. 

ARTE! – Finally, talking about the museum's collection, you enter after a period of four years in which Cauê dedicated itself to creating a collection of artists' projects. Will this continue in this next period?

The museum's collection is made up of project-works, which means that the artist's ideas are being taken care of by the museum. Which also means that we have the possibility to reassemble these works. So, for example, if we borrow a work from MuBE, we send the project and then the other institution is responsible for the assembly. And the artists are super partners in this, because it's not just a sketch, but a whole descriptive memorial of the works. The artists made videos, they are in dialogue with the conservator, who is Flavia Vidal. And I think that what Cauê started was very important to reposition the museum, also to place it as the holder of a collection. And yes, I'm already talking to people who will have projects incorporated as part of the MuBE collection. Soon we will be able to announce who they are.

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