“Mercado”, a 2002 work that is on display. PHOTO: Disclosure
“Mercado”, a 2002 work that is on display. PHOTO: Disclosure

Feeling depressed because of the Brazilian political events of recent years – from the impeachment of Dilma Roussef to the arrest of Lula and the election of Bolsonaro –, poet and visual artist Augusto de Campos, now 88 years old, found himself “little excited to expose anything”, as he says. After 70 years of career, “I didn't have much disposition and patience with 'artices' and 'artisms'”.

When Luciana Brito Galeria invited him to hold a solo show, he hesitated, but accepted mainly for the “opportunity to express my nonconformity”. For this, he decided to bring together old and current works in the same exhibition, which together point to the parallels between the worst periods of the military dictatorship and the present day.

“Apart from the horrible turn to the right, I have never seen so much mediocrity together, so many ugly people, so much setback, not even during the military dictatorship. It is a nightmare, in which everything has been bent and debased, and a monstrous figure like Trump appears as 'deus ex machina', flattered and favored by our rulers in the worst parody imaginable of the historical parody that was the twenty-year dictatorship that haunted us. ”, says the writer.

Creator, alongside Haroldo de Campos and Décio Pignatari in the 1950s, of what became known as concrete poetry and owner of a vast “verbovicovisual” work – a term that refers to the semantic, sound and visual dimensions of the word –, Augusto now exposes , in the show Poems and Counterpoems, from famous works such as LUX, from 1965, until unpublished as STONE CLAUSE. Apparently a simple transcription of an article in the Brazilian Constitution, the 2018 poetry reveals itself, in the current context, as a scathing criticism of the “legal-political situation in the country” and the imprisonment of former President Lula.

“No one will be found guilty until the final judgment of a criminal conviction”, says the poem by Augusto, who, in addition to being a visual artist, poet, writer and translator, has a law degree and was a state attorney for 40 years. But Augusto himself emphasizes that the exhibition does not only present poems with a political bias. Works with other themes and her work with different materials and supports – on paper (screen printing and printing), on canvas and on vinyl – are on display at Galeria Luciana Brito from this March 30th.

After a long career being recognized mainly in the field of letters, Augusto begins to gain more space also in the field of arts, notably from the retrospective show TO REVIEW, held in 2016 at Sesc Pompeia. In 2017 – the year in which he received the Janus Pannonius Grand Prize, a kind of Nobel Prize for poetry – he held his first individual in an art gallery, also at Luciana Brito.

By e-mail, Augusto de Campos replied to what would be a short interview sent by ARTE!Brasileiros – just four questions – but which became a long and scathing text by a thinker who was never afraid to take sides in history. Read the full text below.

ARTE!Brasileiros - The exposure Poems and Counterpoems brings together works from different periods, created from the 1960s to today. How did you choose the works and how do you see these works when put together?

Augustus de Campos – It all started with an invitation I received from Galeria Luciana Britto. I, in fact, was not very excited to expose anything, depressed as I find myself with the country's legal-political situation, without much disposition and patience with “artices” and “artisms”. But I decided to accept the idea when they accepted that I would expose, in addition to new works, some of my “counterpoems”, works that challenge both the conventional notion of poetry and the political moment we are going through. In my state of mind, it was difficult for me, a long-lived poet, with 70 years of artistic activity, a “survivor” of several generations, to think about exhibiting myself again so soon. But the proposal made to me was a reduced exhibition, with few works in large format and in new materials, not all of them unpublished. And the opportunity to express my nonconformity, rare for me, which I have little space in the usual media, prevailed when it occurred to me to associate some new contestatory experiments with a poem that was born from an analogous moment, LUX, which I published in 1965 and which I now display again in a different way. There is an arc, therefore, in this temporal curve, of more than half a century, embedded in the show.

Do you see parallels between the Brazil of today and the one when you started producing the “counterpoems”?

Yes, I see parallels. composed LUX, in 1965, in the midst of the military coup imposed the previous year, and the poem was suggested to me by an incident that occurred in December 1964, at the Popcretos exhibition I did with Waldemar Cordeiro, at the Atrium Gallery in São Paulo. When we went to remove the works, after the show was over, they had all been damaged with offenses written in ballpoint pen. In one of my works, which had a clear anti-dictatorship bias, the word “garbage” had been written. The advertisement for luxury apartments, published the following year, with kitsch-decorative phototypes, was associated in my mind with the word with which they tried to vandalize that work of mine and led me to the conception of the poem, which sought to satirize the middle and upper classes. , who, for the most part, supported the then coup. LUX it was published as an object-poem and as an insert in magazines, books and videos, here and abroad. At the time, it had occurred to me to make a different version, in a round shape, like an exquisite garbage lid, which ended up being discarded due to lack of funds and technology. We now try to approximate this idea with the best available technique. The poem LUX it is the tip of the arc that begins in the 60s, under the aegis of Mayakovsky's motto — “without revolutionary form, there is no revolutionary art” — and continues in the “counterpoems”, concrete-conceptual, composed more recently. I highlight among them STONE CLAUSE, which is nothing more than a ready made. This is the transcription of item LVII of article 5 of our Constitution, a precept that can only be amended, expanded or attenuated by a new Constituent Assembly, and which prohibits a citizen from being found guilty before being convicted in the last instance, and not only in second trial, and imprisoned, as was the case with former President Lula, in evident disrespect for the Major Law. As this matter will be, it is announced, soon re-discussed by the Federal Supreme Court, the poem comes in handy, and I insist on sharing it, in the hope that the egregious court, Supreme among the Powers, this time will not be afraid of of the pressures of haters, right-wing extremists and radical military personnel and enforce the fundamental rule of the Magna Carta, which enshrines the presumption of innocence and guarantees our individual rights. If the current decision, which divides the High Court, and also contradicts the curial principle “in dubio pro reo” prevails, we will have premature arrests, with little evidence, and that induce the higher courts to maintain the judgments, even if unfair or lacking in evidence. evidentiary support, given the irreparable damage to which those who have been deprived of their liberty and demoralized in a judicial process in the middle of the road are subjected. For how to indemnify a prisoner who is finally acquitted? Not. Let the judges work. For cases of obvious danger, there is the remedy of precautionary detention. Political arrests are not justified.

How do you see the current political moment and the rise of the extreme right?

As for the current political situation, I find it simply deplorable. In addition to the horrible turn to the right, I have never seen so much mediocrity together, so many ugly people, so much setback, not even during the military dictatorship. It is a nightmare, in which everything has been bent and degraded, and a monstrous figure like Trump appears as “deus ex machina”, flattered and favored by our rulers in the worst parody one could imagine of the historical parody that was the twenty-year dictatorship that ushered in. haunted.

The content of the works is never dissociated from the forms, materials, colors, and modes of exposition. I would like you to talk a little about how this part of the research and production of the new exhibition took place.

The exhibition does not consist only of poems with a political bias. There are also poems of a different nature, less dysphoric, some well-known, but presented in different forms and supports, and which try to compact themselves into a cut that I would say ideographic, seeking to constitute a formally coherent set. I exchanged many ideas with the organizers, who shared doubts and solutions with me. Given the relationship between the dimensions of the works and the available space in the gallery, we could not count on a large number of works. On the other hand, there were graphic limitations for the expansion of the original dimensions, since most of the works were produced for smaller formats, not all susceptible to sufficient vectorization so that they could be enlarged without loss of quality, produced by me, almost all with digital programming. Each case was analyzed and resulted from its own research to choose compatible material, with a view to the general tone of the show, in which the works are ideally embraced by the poem. CIDADECITYCITY, from 1963, in a version specially designed for the gallery space.


Poems and Counterpoems

Luciana Brito Galeria – Av. July 5162th, XNUMX

From 30/3 to 1/6

Free admission


  1. Immense congratulations on honoring the greatest art of Augusto and his admirable political courage, against the tendency of intellectual circles to behave as if the public sphere had nothing to do with what they do – or should do.

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