The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2021

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FEB 2021 Issue
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a country of anonymous pain no more

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rafael amorim, from “cidadeequívoco,” 2018. Digital photograph. Courtesy the artist.
rafael amorim, from “cidadeequívoco,” 2018. Digital photograph. Courtesy the artist.

brazil. a white man in his gray coat, with a smile full of scorn at the corner of his lips, appeared on an internet video to say “brazilian art of the next decade will be heroic and will be national” in a prophetic tone, he said that the art of the next decade “will be equally imperative, since it is deeply binded to the urgent aspirations of our people, or else it will be nothing.” it did not take long to discover that, in an echo of the voice of the president, those words of the white man (the fourth of a list of five ex-secretaries of culture of the current government), were inspired by the minister of propaganda in nazi germany from 1933 to 1945.

his words seemed to have fallen short, to have died at the beach like the mythic indigenous woman moema. until some months later, when his successor, an actress who today is also an ex-secretary of culture, appeared on a national network with similar scorn. in the interview she gave, she minimized the number of victims of the brazilian military dictatorship and of the current pandemic. tacitly authorized as legitimate, both voices led to some backlash, but were ultimately not held responsible. history continued to sign onto a contract that institutionalizes and naturalizes barbarism.

what oswald de andrade vindicated in 1928, a world without dates, signatures, or contracts, is worth revisiting. perhaps it is possible to see the purpose of the malaise he articulated so well. his project traverses temporalities from the 1920s to the present. thus, almost 100 years later, the fixation on the idea of progress, criticized by the poet of that modernist brazil, still generates moral discourses that poison the desire for a truly anthropophagous practice—up to that point, it had been a promise against all catechizations.

in his manifesto, oswald dares to predict the delegitimization of this purpose so rooted in brazilian culture. a culture made through importation and appropriation: from the slave-holding past to the present day. 400 years late, 400 years after the first invasions, there was an attempt to name the anonymous pain of a country forged through the violence of different genocides and epistemicides.

rafael amorim, <em>Reconciliation</em>, 2019. Digital photograph. Courtesy the artist.
rafael amorim, Reconciliation, 2019. Digital photograph. Courtesy the artist.

in the meantime, the applicability of anthropophagy as a strategy to break with coloniality also seems to be being confronted. while before the attempt was to profane the unsuspecting refinement of countries north of the equator through consciousness of a naturally painstaking culture, today the criticism itself is in crisis. the preservation of excessively visual stimuli appears to repel the original and enchanting nature of brazilian self-awareness. the preferred optic criminalizes the other senses; we are no longer arriving as invaders at sea, but rather at luminous windows that transform individuals into consumers instead of citizens.

might there be a space for what we call art, which seems to stipulate that this white man in a gray coat has the authority to state in what mold the next decade shall be built? if for oswald it was necessary to swallow what came from outside, the so-called “canned consciousness,” now perhaps it is imperative to reappropriate the imaginary lines that designed the idea of art. to rediscover our own grammar such that anthropophagy no longer appears destined only for the flourishes of untranslatable texts in our own language.

neither a manifesto, nor a manual: before we ought to have understood that, for this oswaldian anthropophagy, to work our jaws chewing on these good portuguese intentions is synonymous with defending each of our rejections more and more. defending our reaction to appearances, to copies, to the flavor that does not come from the tropics. when unable to reject, to expel with gastric juice all of the waste of the hybrid product still left over in the stomach.

to bring to the surface our bread with egg, our packed lunches, the wastelands left in the middle of the road to selective and distant progress, the marimbas and handlamps as technologies from the outskirts of the city, the raffia ribbon for a new wave of propaganda, with a political bent.1 the poetry of a new grammar, that does not turn to bucolic appearances and morbid romanticism, but to images that reveal themselves as untranslatable to our predators. neither bishops, nor peons: another game with the official anagram for america being “é marica” (it is faggot/queer)2 poetry and art as a discursive retaking of voices hidden in the false docility of parliamentary speeches, but that whisper together. like stone, to delegitimize the eugenics of the window pane. like a tropical delicacy, to surprise and provoke the uvula to see what happens.

  1. this verse catalogues a sequence of signs i am also interested in related to production in the visual arts. it involves mostly characteristic elements of the regions at the outskirts or periphery of the city, where the precariousness reveals a strong inventive character in the face of social asymmetries that affect brazil. all of which reveals cultural products that are rarely portrayed in the “post card image” with which the country has been represented in international media.
  2. december 2020: in an interview, upon being pressured to resume tourism in the country, the current brazilian president treated the pandemic as overblown, saying that brazil “has to stop being a country of fags and face the illness.” in that moment, he employed the word in a pejorative manner popularly used to refer to homosexual people. for this reason, here i summon the anagram proposed by francisco mallmann, a poet who acts at the intersection between philosophy, criticism, contemporary art, literature, and dramaturgy.


rafael amorim

rafael amorim believes in the non-hierarchy of one word in relation to another, he is a visual artist undergrad in the school of fine arts of the federal university of rio de janeiro, a poet, researcher and independent curator. in addition to investigating the relationship between visual arts and the practice of writing, he works on the reorganization of elements of the sensible in urban territory.


The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2021

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