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Forbidden Archeology

SESC THERMAS - 2019 / 2020

 SESC THERMAS - 2019 / 2020


Installation, 2019 / 2020

2.690 sq ft

SESC THERMAS, Presidente Prudente, Sao Paulo

Gustavo von Ha presents “Forbidden Archaeology” at Sesc Presidente Prudente. The work is the first of a series of an in-depth research on social processes of exclusion and marginalization in his hometown. The Brazilian artist Gustavo von Ha presents the work “Forbidden Archaeology” as part of the exhibition “Imagined Revelations”, at Sesc Presidente Prudente, on view until January 2020. It is the beginning of an in-depth research on the history of his home town, Presidente Prudente, and its surroundings. The aim is to systematically interrogates the limits of the art, as well as to raise questions about the social processes of exclusion and marginalization, eliciting historical, social and political aspects.



“Forbidden Archaeology” wants to reveal the stories buried by the narratives imposed by the current powers. Gustavo von Ha's new research brings to light images, concepts and stories often silenced by the Brazilian history. Through archaeological tools and verisimilitude concepts, the artist creates artefacts from various materials such as ceramic, glass and bone. The work unveils, above all, how a local identity can be forged by an authoritarian society that, since the beginning of Presidente Prudente until today, provokes conflicts and generates pain in order to have the land. Located in the West region of São Paulo state, Presidente Prudente is sadly marked by the extermination of the indigenous groups of Caiuás, Xavantes, Caingangues and Guaranis.


Through the archaeological practice, Von Ha creates a new visuality on the secrets hidden by the soil of his homeland. "This work represents an opportunity for me to reconnect with the city and review my own background, which has been subjected to the narratives that build the memory of Presidente Prudente and its region," he says. The artist delves into the marginalization of indigenous people, questioning how the town participates in this excluding process of pushing its own people away to the periphery. Nowadays, only a little over two hundred indigenous still survive in the outskirts of the town, in precarious conditions, without access to healthcare, education and sanitation, as a result of an increasingly strong process of being detached from their own original culture, such as subsistence farming and contact with nature to preserve the costumes. 


Some decades ago, a tribe called Krenak were forcibly uprooted from the Rio Doce Valley, in the state of Minas Gerais, by mining companies and sent to the Presidente Prudente region, where they lived on a “piece of land” with indigenous people from seven other different ethnicities, with their distinct languages and cultures. Over time, they learned to live together and have remained there for over a hundred years under dramatic conditions imposed not only by the big landowners, but also by the government itself. The indigenous leader Lidiane Krenak and her family were invited by the artist to speak alongside him, as part of the talks programming of the show. During the conversation, she pleaded "let the forest come back to us".


In addition to a critical analysis of the indigenous people situation, Gustavo von Ha also appropriates of graffiti’s symbols to raise totems of ceramic vases in the excavation areas, alluding to the urban actions that occupy the city, also judged and marginalized by conservative groups.

Gustavo von Ha has a long history of formal investigation through the concepts of verisimilitude. To each work, he incorporates a version of himself, materializing images and narratives silenced or make inaccessible by Brazilian history and artistic education. This strategy draws attention not only to the problematizations of a weakened society, but also to the artist's own role nowadays.

His works are part of public and private collections, such as the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, MAM-SP [Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo], MAR [Museum of Art of Rio de Janeiro], MAC-USP [Museum of Contemporary Art of University of Sao Paulo], Tokyo Cervantes Foundation and NCC [Nassau Community College] in New York.

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