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Folhas de Viagem

One of the narratives about the invention of a modernist plastic language in Brazil has its origins in the return of Tarsila do Amaral and Oswald de Andrade from France and in the first visit of writer Blaise Cendrars to the country, in 1924. Accompanied by Tarsila, Oswald, Mário de Andrade, financed by Paulo Prado, Cendrars undertakes a trip to the interior of Brazil, through the colonial cities of Minas Gerais. It resulted in a grandiose project, a collection of poems and writings that would have been organized into 8 volumes, but at that time, only one was published. Feuilles de Route: I. Le Formose is a logbook, in the form of a poem, of his ship journey to Brazil. The book is illustrated by Tarsila, with a sketch of A Negra on the cover. Along with this volume, Oswald published his collection of poems Pau-Brasil in Paris. In his memoirs, Cendrars described Brazil as being “(...) of an ineffable grandeur where civilization and savagery do not contrast, but merge, combine, marry, in an active and disturbing way....”
On the other hand, the propositions of Tarsila, Oswald and Mário, at that moment of meeting, were located beyond the field of visual arts, as they were involved in the construction of a new nation project, which would result in the publication of Macunaíma de Mário de Andrade, in his folklore expeditions and in the creation of the Department of Culture of the City of São Paulo. Tarsila develops her painting Pau-Brasil, and Oswald writes his Anthropophagous Manifesto, whose theses of “devouring the other” (in this case, European culture) have had a long trajectory in the poetics of artists here and there. In a world in which we are witnessing growing tension in different territories, in which we still seem to talk about differences between people and social classes, the propositions launched in the 1920s can still be remembered, as they pointed to the desire for a new humanity, especially in the case of Brazil, where the “mixture” of civilization and savagery seems to continue to operate in the imagination of those who arrive here.
From July to August 2010, French artist Laura Martin held her residency at MAC USP. As for Cendrars in the 1920s, his first encounter with Brazil was with São Paulo, a contradictory city, full of conflicts and underlying utopias. The artist recorded her journeys, her encounters, experienced impromptu or provoked, through a kind of diary of images and words, especially those that, for her, constitute silent “spaces” or “instants” of this reality. The collection of photographs Uma Cidade para Todos was created from records of a series of activities that the artist proposed with the support of MAC USP's educational action (in collaboration with educator Andrea Amaral). With the Touch to Say action (already carried out in India and France), and with the use of the “theater of images” technique, borrowed from the practices of Augusto Boal’s “theatre of the oppressed”, Laura Martin developed a collaborative relationship with your audience. In Tocar para Dizer, the gilding of the participants' skin served as a metaphor for the appreciation of the hands of artisans (from the streets) of social organizations. In Brazil, whose history is part of the tradition of slavery, the action sought to touch this invisible point. The techniques of “theater of the oppressed” were used in an action to record gestures and scenic experiences, with these same groups, who sought to translate their notions of resistance, reception, oppression, etc.
Words that we carry, words that carry us is an alphabet of words, which resulted from collaborative work with employees from MAC USP, from the Ibirapuera headquarters, not directly associated with the public face of the museum and its exhibition activities (staff from cleaning and security service), who shared this experience with the Museum's specialized employees. Through writing games developed by the artist, participants tried to choose words that were important or meaningful to them. Organized in alphabetical order, they form a large strip, which runs along the footer of the exhibition space.
As in the Oswaldian proposition, Laura Martin elaborates her actions by calling into question the traditional relationship between the artist, his creation and his audience, as her work questions the role of the artist as leader of the process. The poetic dimension of Laura Martin's actions reveals a subtlety that seemed to be at the heart of the modernist project we are talking about, as well as in some works by Brazilian artists present in the exhibition.
Quebrando Rocha (2008) by the collective MOMA/V-DOC consists of the editing and decoupage of a series of films, interviews and documentaries by and about Glauber Rocha. A central character of Cinema Novo in the 1960s, Rocha sought an authentic language for Brazilian cinema, an issue that is revisited in the collective's proposition.
In Untitled (Grupo Modigliani), Bartolomeo Gelpi confronted Self-Portrait by Amedeo Modigliani, from the MAC USP collection. This choice reflected, first of all, Gelpi's training, whose career as a painter was made in contact with the MAC USP collection. Gelpi treats the work as a kind of grammar of color, which he reveals to us in a set of paintings that systematically exercise the tones and colors used by the Italian artist.
This dialogue that Gelpi establishes with Modigliani is close to Gustavo von Ha's Tarsila Project. By copying Tarsila do Amaral's drawings from his Pau-Brasil phase, the artist replaces the problem of artistic training and treats that modernist experience as a canon for contemporary production. He goes even further when he works on sheets of paper from a hundred years ago and chooses frames, sometimes bought in antique shops, sometimes deliberately aged. In this way, and just like in the propositions of Gelpi, Martin and the MOMA/V-DOC collective, he deconstructs a linear apprehension of time and art history, making several times emerge contemporaneously.
Folhas de Viagem seeks, through the work of these artists, to revisit the anthropophagic gesture as a displacement and encounter with others – in time and space – rescuing the ties between art and life.

Ana Gonçalves Magalhães
MAC-USP curator
December, 2012

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