November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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Category — Sociology



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“Primitive” as Futurist:

Intangible Heritage, Living Museum

and Transcultural Panel


by Professor Dinah P. Guimaraens
Graduate Program in Architecture and Urban Planning
School of Architecture and Urban Planning
University Federal Fluminense, Brazil

 “In countries like ours, not arriving exhausted, though oppressed and underdeveloped in terms of contemporary history,  (…) when we say it’s primitive or folk art, it is worth as much as to say that (it) is futuristic, or contemporary.” 

— Mário Pedrosa . Discourse to Tupiniquins or Nambás. Paris, 1977.

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Transculturalism and Revolt in Brazil

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A month and a half ago, Brazil lit up with protests as a million people took to the streets; violence ensued, people died. Inexplicably, the country is nevertheless due to host the World Cup in less than a year (and the Olympics in less than three), but many Brazilians are increasingly unhappy with the government’s imprudent spending of vast fortunes on huge sports-stadiums, while ignoring genuine, everyday human needs, i.e., necessary and urgent infrastructure upgrades, and a plethora of public services.

In April, the uprising began with the eviction of indigenous people from the site of the Brazilian Indian Museum. Soon, the unrest spread to the National Museum Honestino Guimarães (aka the National Museum of the Republic), which is part of the Cultural Complex of the Republic in Brasília. It is symbolic that the initial Amerindian struggle began in these particular buildings due to their Amerindian architectural allusions. The complex, the work of famed architect Oscar Niemeyer, is designed as a kind of retrofuturistic dome, like an ancient Amerindian earth mound resembling a spaceship.

It opened in 2006, paid for and operated by the government of Brasilia (Federal District). Artist and protestor Suyan Mattos explained the situation this way: “…the space is used for traveling exhibitions of renowned local artist, nationals and international lectures, film screenings, seminars, and other events,” adding that the museum has a “priceless” permanent collection of contemporary Brazilian art but focuses on rotating and temporary exhibitions.”

— Jillian Steinhauer, writing in  “Hyperallergic”


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In the famous words of the “socialist” art critic, Mario Pedrosa, “We are a country condemned to be modern” (Arantes, 2004). This ironic disclosure reveals the classic Latin American dichotomy that prevails between internationalism and nationalism, which constantly swings like a pendulum from one extreme to the other.
According to Pedrosa, South America-Atlantic hybridism of cultures is the trait that denotes Brazil’s erratic and unstable behavior, as well as its economic fluctuation from boom to bust. The nationalism that emerged with the neocolonial vogue in Brazil, for example, expresses the search for an identity in architecture, alluding to mythical Europe. As the Argentine cultural-theorist, Néstor García Canclini states, “Modernity is often seen as a mask, a mockery woven by elites and state apparatchiks, especially those concerned with the field of art and culture” (Amaral, 2005, p. 353-354).

The article “500 Years of Disgrace” by Aracy Amaral, written in 2000, describes the current state of indigenous culture, the culture that inhabited Brazil when the Portuguese arrived, as being destitute, unprotected, abandoned, and unvalued. Amaral’s essay also speaks of African or Afro-Brazilian cultures, in the 19th Century freed from slavery; yet, for the last hundred years still continue to be instantly identified with the disenfranchised, excluded or disqualified group(s) within Brazil; albeit, they are, according to common sense, the core of Brazil’s population. Amaral points out, also, the complete lack of political will, coupled with an astonishing lack of vision on the part of many Brazilian politicians, who inherently refuse to improve Brazil’s society, by failing to be responsible for the socio-cultural aspirations and expectations of the people as a whole. Instead, their focus is primarily on the elite classes. This lack of vision is reflected in the institutional cynicism revealed in the mensalão scandal and myriad court cases pending against members of the Brazilian National Congress (


Amaral points out that after 500 years, there still is not a museum of the History of Brazilian Man, just as there is no “large” “comprehensive” art museum dedicated to the indigenous people who populated the land before the European invasion. There is no “Indian Museum,” testament to a once enslaved population pushed to the hinterlands of Brazil’s “Central West” region, out of contact with one another, living in poverty and degrading conditions, begging the question, “Is this a nation with a viable Constitution representative of all Brazilians; on that is worthy of the name: “constitution?””

According to Amaral, a city without museums, such as Brasília, cannot expect to develop the higher spirit among its inhabitants. Canclini also reaffirms the near absence of museums in Latin American countries, calling it a symptom of neglect of memory, which the Bolivian art theorist Nicomedes Suarez-Arauz called Amnesis. Without memories, it is impossible to build a hierarchical relationship of continuity with the history of a society, a people, or a nation.

Pedrosa, in 1978, launched the project “Museum of Origins” in the ashes of the Museum of Modern Art – MAM/Rio. To the sound of samba, dancers from the School of Samba of Mangueira arrived on stilts designed by Affonso Eduardo Reidy and singed by fire, as a way to show appreciation for Brazil’s multi-cultural origins. Nevertheless, there is still no immense museum to express the contemporary lives and cultures of indigenous people.

Pedrosa highlights the importance of aesthetics in the face of science as a “struggle of knowledge against knowledge,” as advanced by Friedrich Nietzsche (1892) in his book “The Birth of Tragedy”. For Nietzsche, the spiritual dilemma of the future lies in “Mastering the instinct of knowledge in favor of a religion.” He favors aesthetics and restores to the arts their rights, positioning himself against religion, metaphysics, and science, in favor of a thoroughly aesthetic-civilization. For him, science cannot be a disciplined without the intercession of art, which has the innate mission to “recreate life.”
For Nietzsche, “Art is the affirmation of Life!”

Hence, in this Nietzschean light, in appreciation of the revitalization of the intangible heritage of indigenous knowledge, such as arises from the bioclimatic architecture of Malocas (Indian dwellings), this native architecture affords a theoretical and political position that warrants the right of Indians to permanently occupy the ancient Indian Museum known as Maracanã Village, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Indians own that museum in Rio, thus the world must condemn the traumatic expulsion of the indigenous inhabitants from Maracanã Village under volleys of rubber bullets, as well as cruel tear gas attacks by “elite squads” trained by Governor Sérgio Cabral with funding from the mega-entrepreneur Eike Batista. This forced eviction of natives from Maracanã Village contributed directly to the riots in June 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. The backlash from these evictions provoked the massive demonstrations that arose instantaneously from scratch, helped along by the “ninja press” Facebook and other social media, giving rise to vociferous protest (Agier, 2011, p. 172).

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International Seminar: “Museums and Transculturality”

“To establish an interdisciplinary and intercultural dialogue, the university should allow the strengthening of the social culture of human beings, promoting critical thinking that develops through philosophy, literature, art and aesthetics that are intrinsic to culture, communication, and history.” (Poulain, 2012)

The “1st Meeting of Museological Exchange: Living Cultures Seminar,” held in July 2010 in London and led by Professor Jack Lohman, former-Director of the Museum of London, aimed to outline practical guidelines for cultural cooperation and exchange between Brazilian and European museums. Co-sponsored by HSBC and UNESCO, a draft was prepared for a new, Living Indigenous Museum in Brazil by 2016. Some participants proposed implementing the project by 2014, in time for the Olympics; discussions centered about the philosophy of museums, intangible heritage, aesthetics, history and other cultural disciplines.

The project seeks to analyze the constituents of particular cultures by means of scientific research, based on the concept of transcultural anthropology stemming from work by Jacques Poulain, Professor and Chair of Cultural Institutions at UNESCO/University Paris, France. The Brazilian indigenous cultures in question and the museological institutions would be analyzed via a dynamic relationship in multiple areas to accurately identify, evaluate and recognize the ethnographic plurality that unites them. For example, according to a decree by the Department of Intangible Heritage (DPI/IPHAN n. 3,551 of 04/08/2000), the project aims to contribute to the recording of intangible factors which constitute the cultural heritage of Brazil. The decree refers to the Record Book of Knowledge, specifically the typical form of Indian dwellings represented by Malocas of Xingu, Amazon, along with the architectural styles of coastal communities that continue to construct similar structures to this day, as well as currently influencing both rural and urban Brazilian architecture.

Furthermore, the traditional architecture forged by Brazil’s ancient cultures are at present inspiring the creation of living art, i.e., an Experimental Bioclimatic Architecture, where Brazilian university students and faculty members interact directly with indigenous peoples from the Village Maracanã (Pataxó, Apurinã, Ful-niô, Tukano, Potiguara, Kaingang, Kamayurá and Tupinambá). This will be the basis of the participatory project of the Living Museum as a model of preservation and revitalization of traditional cultures recommended by IPHAN (Institute of National Historical and Artistic Heritage), MINC (Ministry of Culture) and ICOM (International Council of Museums) of UNESCO.

The proposed implementation of this project was discussed recently at the Museum of Contemporary Art – MAC Niterói / RJ, having as its theme the interrelationship of Transculturality, Architecture/Visual Arts, Music and Theatre/Performance. The aim is to create an interdisciplinary dialogue and strengthen cultural relations. The University Federal Fluminense, through its Graduate Program in Architecture and Urban Planning (PPGAU), and the University of Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO), seek to develop research and establish outreach with indigenous and African-Brazilian inhabitants.

Poulain (French coordinator of the technical cooperation CAPES-Cofecub n. 752/12), opened the international seminar “Museums and Transculturality: New Postmodern Practices”, held in May 2013, by stating that the university allows the strengthening of socialist culture in humans to promote critical thinking developed through philosophy, literature, art, architecture and aesthetics, along with culture and history of communication. In view of the Curriculum Guidelines for the National Education of Racial-Ethnic Relations and the Teaching of History of the Afro-Brazilian and Indigenous Populations (Law No. 11,645 of 10/03/2008), and the requirement by the Ministry of Education of Brazil that the theme of Afro-Brazilian and Indigenous History has to be included in the disciplines and curricular activities for undergraduate courses in Brazilian universities, the seminar asks: Is it possible to successfully integrate indigenous and African-Brazilians in the scholastic universe from the perspective of globalization and communication, in view of the policies of public space, the valuation of intangible heritage by UNESCO and its resulting cultural education equity?

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University Truth, Public Space and Live Art

It is within the philosophical viewpoint that the Living Museum intends to unveil some clues about cross-cultural issues that underlie the present historical moment of late capitalism in Brazilian society. This live art, mentioned by Mário Pedrosa (1978) to define the strength of indigenous cultures, can be symbolized by the tension between the Apollonian and the Dionysian as manifestations of art and life, which is present in the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche and was presented in 1871 in his first work “The Birth of Tragedy: or Hellenism and Pessimism.” Flusser, in his 1998 book “Philosophical Fictions,” appropriates this Nietzschean concept to express a postmodern living art characterized by two sweeping revolutions: telematics, and biotech.

How to talk about technological innovations to address the Brazilian native cultures alive today?

In case of the relevant discussion about a bioclimatic architecture or “green” architecture, look for inspiration to the indigenous Malocas (Indian dwellings) of Amazon, Xingu and the seaside regions of Brazil? It seems that architects such as Severiano Mário Porto already “had been there” in their search for popular techniques of housing in the Amazon to create prototypes of a new, intelligent architecture suitable for humid and torrid climates. These structures, with large covered roofs, allow the outward flow of hot air and thermal cooling of the interior space. Through the inspiration of the telematics´ revolution discussed by Flusser, is it then possible to prototype innovative Digital Malocas, where the technology is allied to ancient building techniques?

This is one of the questions asked by the current project, within the Innovation Agency of the Dean of Research and Graduate Studies and Innovation of the University Federal Fluminense.

The modern “baroque” inspired-architecture (according Campello, 2001) of Niemeyer, with its circular and spiral shapes, eventually influenced the structure of the kitsch architecture of the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, and the Northeast states of Brazil. The imagery of this architectural kitsch (Guimaraens & Cavalcanti, 2006) expresses an aesthetic that merges constructive principles of modern architecture of Niemeyer with the functionalism of Le Corbusier. The presence of a stream of Luso-Brazilian Baroque influence in the work of Niemeyer is characterized by the use of elements of curved lines and free-form (according Underwood, 1992), as occurs with the colonnade of the Palácio do Alvorada (Palace of the Dawn,1956 to 1958) in Brasília. Their columns were inspired in extended networks, or boat sails, and became icons of federal political power. The  constructive elements were popularized and copied in molds of plaster, and are widely used as decorations on the facades of the houses of the working classes throughout the country. Other elements absorbed from Le Corbusier and Niemeyer were the flat roof and the “butterfly” (ceiling in “v” with a rail center, where rainwater is drained), derived from the aesthetics of “machines-of-living” modernists.

The international seminar “Museums and Transculturality” had the key idea to honor the live architecture of Niemeyer, and selected the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC/Niterói), one of his most significant projects, as the site for the gathering. This museum is the city icon of Niterói and the district. During three days, conferees had the opportunity to experience in situ the concepts of the cross-cultural philosophy of Jacques Poulain by integrating academics, students, technical staff and indigenous and African-Brazilian members into a “full trial” university.

The “triumphant joy” of Parangolé and Tropicália is based on plastic experimentation of the schools of samba in Brazil, thus indicating what Hélio Oiticica calls “leisure non-repressive” which can “self-structure” the individual.

The kitsch aesthetic also throws into question the Brazilian identity: How can we create an “authentic” art (artisanal and regional) by incorporating international trends (technological and global)? The cannibalistic posture of Oswald de Andrade and Hélio Oiticica-HO, throws into opposition the aesthetics of vanguard and the consumption of the mass culture. The “ready-made” of Marcel Duchamp approaches the kitsch aesthetic by emphasizing the “non-purity” that blends spurious architectural elements. The kitsch aesthetic is therefore an anti-art. A transient work that incorporates the postures of everyday life. The experimental kitsch aesthetic expresses the role of mass culture as a territorial boundary between high art and popular art, representing a “vanguard” of shock.

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Transcultural Panel and Performance

The relationship between image and being over time defines the different artistic practices such as visual arts, sculpture, literature, architecture, music and dance/performance. The excess of visual images today is emblematic of our society, but does not necessarily reflect the discriminatory power of the era. Images taken from the Transcultural Panel traced by Duda Penteado and Fernando Pacheco, along with the student staff of the School of Architecture and Urbanism of University Federal Fluminense, and representatives of the former Maracanã Village, presented a creative exercise that closed this international seminar.

The presentation emphasized the dialogue between different artistic manifestations. In general, the graphical notations, in all forms of expression are considered basic tools of artistic design. The graphical notation used to draw diagrams and sketches are understood as fundamental to the design of this project. The use of axes and triangular shapes as elements of composition is a tradition in the visual arts. The imaginary axis establishes a support line that creates a kind of relationship between the parts of the composition when setting an ideal type of a “skeleton” that supports the design of the primary values of order, stability and domination. With this emphasis on the axes, the geometric idea of the Transcultural Panel starts by reducing the traditional solution of crosslinked network in a network system that determines the organization and layout of urban elements.

The artistic expression of something drawn on paper thus assumed the form of a medium, or the form of a plastic thought, as occurred in the proposed panel performed in MAC-Niterói on May 29, 2013. The conceptualization of this visual project can be expressed by the thought, and the thought of the design may be indicated by the aphorism proposed by the architect Lucio Costa (1962) that “the design is a design project.” The “design” of the two artists stimulated the imagination called “active” with an imagination “will” (Bachelard, 1979). The project design referred here to an activity where the graphical notation appears as a mode of discourse, i.e., the speech of a poetic style that symbolizes one of the four levels of accuracy proposed by Aristotle: poetics, rhetoric, dialectics and analytic. Such poetic discourse characterizes itself as part of the image where the conventional habits state a way of being that must be accepted as true temporarily, thus causing the suspension of disbelief about the reality of imagery.

The transition from the real world in the visual arts stems from the role played by the creative activity of the eye as an organ that provides a common space for architecture, sculpture and painting. The essential among the three arts of architecture, sculpture and painting is the element that the art theorist and German sculptor Hildebrand (quoted by Poulain, 2002) calls “architectural” printouts, and represents the confluence of verticality, horizontality and depth as a general law that constitutes the space of composition.

On visual perception of this Transcultural Panel, we can establish a connection with the world to answer the question: What is (re) presented by the image (real or imaginary)? (Cany, 2008, p. 47-48). The classic answer is that “the level of graphical consciousness is what formalizes,” because the traditional response states that “the unconscious is the plan that materializes” (Bachelard, 1979). Such poetic discourse is characterized as part of the image where the conventional habits state that a state of being must be accepted as true (only) temporarily, thus causing the suspension of disbelief about the reality of imagery. The Transcultural Panel instructs us, then, in belief in a multicultural society in Brazil. A society where representatives of different ethnic groups, social classes and educational levels can interact to build a dialogue and creative space in the art world, inspired and influenced by the circular-contemporary baroque architecture of Oscar Niemeyer.


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ARANTES, Otília (org.). Textos escolhidos – Acadêmicos e Modernos (vol. 3). São Paulo, EDUSP, 2004.
AGIER, Michel. Antropologia da Cidade: lugares, situações, movimentos. SP, Editora Terceiro Nome, 2011.
BACHELARD, Gaston. A Poética do Espaço. São Paulo, Abril Cultural, Coleção Os Pensadores, 1979.
CAMPELLO, Glauco de Oliveira. O Brilho da Simplicidade: Dois Estudos sobre Arquitetura Religiosa no Brasil Colonial. Rio de Janeiro, Casa da Palavra-Departamento Nacional do Livro, 2001.
CANCLINI, Néstor García. “La modernidad después de la posmodernidad”, in BELLUZZO, Ana Maria (org.), Modernidade: vanguardas artísticas na América Latina. Sao Paulo, UNESP/Memorial da América Latina, 1990.
CANY, Bruno. “Perspective Musicale”, préface in LYOTARD, Jean-François. Que peindre? Paris, Hermann Éditeurs, Collection Hermann – Philosophie, 2008.
COSTA, Lúcio. Sobre a Arquitetura. Porto Alegre, Centro de Estudos Universitários de Arquitetura, 1962.
FEITOSA, Charles. Du nihilisme europeene selon Nietzsche au nihilsme brésilienne selon Flusser. Paris, CAPES-Cofecub, 2012.
FLUSSER, Vilém. Ficções Filosóficas. São Paulo, EDUSP, 1998.
NIETZSCHE, Friedrich Wilhelm. O Nascimento da Tragédia, ou Helenismo e Pessimismo. Trad., notas e posfácio de Jacó Guinsburg. São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 1992 (1871).
GUIMARAENS, Dinah. Do Kitsch à Metafísica: Arquitetura, Estética e Imagética Transculturais. Niterói, PPGAU-UFF, 2013. (Org.) Museu de Arte e Origens: Mapa das Culturas Vivas Guaranis. Rio de Janeiro, Contracapa/FAPERJ, 2003.
GUIMARAENS, Dinah & CAVALCANTI, Lauro. Arquitetura Kitsch Suburbana e Rural. Rio de Janeiro, Paz e Terra, 2006.
HILDEBRAND, Adolf. Le problème de la forme dans les arts plastiques. Préface de Jacques Poulain. Traduit de l’allemande par Éliane Beaufils. Paris, L’Harmattan, 2002.
PEDROSA, Mário. Discurso aos Tupiniquins ou Nambás. Paris, 1978.
POULAIN, Jacques. « L’enjeu d’une anthropologie interculturelle pour une esthétique transculturelle ». Texto inédito apresentado no Seminário Internacional « Museus e Transculturalidade: Novas Práticas Pós-Modernas”. Niterói, MAC, 2013. La Neutralisation du Jugement ou la Critique Pragmatique de la Raison Politique. Paris, L´Harmattan, 2012. De l’Homme: Elements d’Anthropobiologie Philosophique du Language. Paris, Les Éditions du Cerf, 2001. La Loi de Vérité: La Logique Philosophique du Jugement. Paris, Albin Michel, 1993.
UNDERWOOD, David. Oscar Niemeyer e o modernismo de formas livres no Brasil. São Paulo, Cosac&Naify, 2002.


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Portuguese Original



Professora-Doutora Dinah Guimaraens                     02 de setembro de 2013

Programa de Pós-Graduação em Arquitetura e Urbanismo – PPGAU

Escola de Arquitetura e Urbanismo

Universidade Federal Fluminense


“Em países como os nossos, que não chegam esgotados, ainda que oprimidos e subdesenvolvidos, ao nível da história contemporânea, (…) quando se diz que sua arte é primitiva ou popular vale tanto quanto dizer que é futurista” (Mário Pedrosa. Discurso aos Tupiniquins ou Nambás. Paris, 1977)




Na célebre frase de Mário Pedrosa, “Somos um país condenado ao moderno” (apud ARANTES, 2004).  Este crítico de arte socialista aponta a clássica dicotomia latino-americana entre internacionalismo e nacionalismo que se dá em um movimento pendular constante. Para ele, na América do Sul Atlântica, o hibridismo de nossas culturas é o traço que denota nosso comportamento instável, assim como nossas economias flutuantes.

O nacionalismo que emerge com a voga neocolonial no Brasil, por exemplo, expressa a busca de uma identidade na arquitetura, inspirando-se em uma Europa mítica. Néstor García Canclini (apud AMARAL, 2005, pag. 353-354), por sua vez, afirma que “A modernidade costuma ser vista como uma máscara, um simulacro urdido pelas elites e pelos aparatos estatais, sobretudo os que se ocupam da arte e da cultura”.

Aracy Amaral (in op. cit., pag. 321-327), no artigo “500 Anos de carência” escrito em 2000, nos fala do estado atual da cultura indígena, indigente, desprotegida, abandonada, não-valorizada até o dia de hoje, cultura que aqui estava quando chegaram os portugueses. Ou sobre a cultura africana ou afro-brasileira como tendo sido liberta da escravidão há mais de cem anos e que continua sendo identificada com os excluídos ou desqualificados que constituem, segundo o senso comum, grande parte da marginalidade brasileira.

Amaral (id. ibidem, pag. 321) destaca, igualmente, a falta total de vontade política, aliada à espantosa ausência de visão por parte de nossos políticos – ou será àquele cinismo institucional ora revelado no caso do “mensalão” que tramita no congresso nacional -, como sendo os responsáveis pela situação em que se encontra o Brasil na área cultural. Para esta crítica de arte, na celebração dos 500 anos deste país, não havia um museu de História do Homem Brasileiro, assim como não há um museu de arte das primeiras populações que viveram em nosso território.

Ou um Museu do Índio, escravizado, acuado, empurrado para o sertão e para o Centro-Oeste, e que ainda vaga como mendigo pelo território do Brasil em nações indígenas que têm pouco contato entre si, vivendo em condição degradante aos olhos de uma constituição digna desse nome? Enfatiza Amaral o fato do Museu do Índio realizado por Niemeyer, a pedido de Berta Ribeiro, ter ficado abandonado por muito tempo, até que somente recentemente Marcos Terena assumiu sua direção (id. Ibidem, pag. 323).

Segundo ela, uma cidade sem museus, como Brasília, não pode esperar desenvolver o espírito cidadão de seus habitantes. Já Canclini aponta a quase ausência de museus nos países latino-americanos (apud AMARAL, in op. cit., pag. 325) como um dos sintomas de descaso com a memória e a ausência de construção de uma relação de continuidade hierarquizada com os antecedentes da própria sociedade.

Mário Pedrosa, em 1978, lançou o projeto do “Museu das Origens” nas cinzas do MAM-Rio, ao som do samba embalado pelos passistas da Escola da Mangueira que evoluíram nos pilotis projetados por Affonso Eduardo Reidy então chamuscados pelo incêndio criminoso, como forma de valorização de nossas matrizes culturais. Falta ainda, no entanto, um espaço museológico contemporâneo para expressar a cultura viva das populações indígenas, afro-brasileiras e populares.

Pedrosa (apud ARANTES, in op. cit) destaca a importância da estética em face da ciência, de uma “luta do saber contra o saber” preconizada por Nietzsche (1992) no livro O Nascimento da Tragédia. Para este filósofo, o dilema espiritual do futuro reside em “Dominar o instinto do conhecimento, seja em proveito de uma religião, seja de uma civilização estética: é o que se verá”. Nietzsche toma o partido da estética e restitui à arte seus direitos, posicionando-se contra a religião, a metafísica e a ciência, a favor de uma civilização estética. Para ele, a ciência não pode ser disciplinada a não ser pela arte, que tem a missão de “recriar a vida”.

É no sentido de valorizar a revitalização do patrimônio imaterial dos saberes indígenas decorrentes de uma arquitetura bioclimática de Malocas que me posiciono, portanto, teórica e politicamente junto a este movimento pela ocupação definitiva do antigo Museu do Índio/Aldeia Maracanã, após a expulsão traumática dos indígenas do local, sob saraivadas de balas de borracha e ataques de gás lacrimogêneo da “tropa de elite” treinada pelo governador Sérgio Cabral com financiamento do então mega-empresário Eike Batista.

Acreditamos que tal desocupação forçada da Aldeia Maracanã colaborou decisivamente para deflagrar o movimento popular de junho de 2013 por ter possibilitado a manifestação maciça daquelas identidades locais que logram “se enraizar” do nada, criando um espaço de reflexões urbanas (estabelecido pela imprensa “ninja” virtual e por interfaces como o facebook) e de ações que oscilam entre o vazio e o cheio, entre uma cidade nua e uma cidade densa que se mascara, se teatraliza, se pinta, desfila e escreve/grita slogans de protesto (cf. AGIER, 2011, p. 172).


“Para estabelecer um diálogo interdisciplinar e intercultural, a universidade deve permitir o fortalecimento da cultura social dos seres humanos, promovendo o pensamento crítico que se desenvolve por meio da filosofia, da literatura, da arte e da estética na cultura da comunicação e na história” (POULAIN, 2012).

Tendo em vista a continuidade dos esforços do 1° Encontro de Intercâmbio Museológico: Living Cultures Seminar realizado em julho de 2010 em Londres pelo então Diretor do Museum of London, Professor Jack Lohman, do HSBC e da UNESCO, com vistas a delinear diretrizes práticas de cooperação cultural e intercâmbio entre museus brasileiros e europeus e a conseguinte elaboração de um projeto de um novo Museu Vivo Indígena e um Canteiro Experimental de Pesquisas Transculturais no Brasil até o ano de 2016, momento de realização das Olimpíadas, acordaram alguns participantes da necessidade de propor a implantação deste projeto em terras brasileiras no ano de 2012, desejosos de amplos debates nas áreas museológicas, filosóficas e artísticas, no que tange ao Patrimônio Imaterial, Estética, História e outras disciplinas culturais

Partindo da concepção de antropologia transcultural da UNESCO baseada na obra de Jacques Poulain (da cátedra em Filosofia da Cultura e das Instituições na UNESCO / Universidade Paris 8-Sant Denis, França), o projeto procura analisar a emergência de sujeitos constituintes de determinada cultura no processo de investigação científica. Longe de ser um objeto de pesquisa em si, as culturas vivas indígenas em questão e as instituições museológicas passariam a ser analisadas numa dinâmica de relação entre múltiplos sujeitos de conhecimento, fazendo com que, neste processo cognitivo, estes possam exercer sua faculdade de julgar a verdade e reconhecer a humanidade plural que os une.

De acordo com o decreto do DPI-IPHAN n. 3.551 de 04/08/2000, o projeto pretende contribuir para o registro de bens de natureza imaterial que constituem o patrimônio cultural brasileiro, referindo-se ao Livro de Registro dos Saberes no que tange às formas típicas da construção de moradias indígenas, representadas pelas Malocas xinguanas, amazônicas ou das comunidades costeiras e que continuam, até os dias de hoje, sendo atualizadas por nossas populações nativas rurais e urbanas

Ao refletir sobre a arquitetura milenar de nossas culturas vivas nativas, o projeto propõe a realização de oficinas de arte viva que incluem a criação de um Canteiro Experimental de Arquitetura Bioclimática no Campus da Praia Vermelha – UFF, onde seu corpo discente e docente poderá interagir diretamente com indígenas oriundos da Aldeia Maracanã (Pataxó, Apurinã, Ful-niô, Tukano, Potiguara, Kaingang, Kamayurá, Tupinambá etc), de forma a estabelecer as bases do projeto participativo do Museu Vivo nos moldes de preservação e revitalização das culturas tradicionais recomendados pelo IPHAN (Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional)- MinC (Ministério da Cultura) e do ICOM (Conselho Internacional de Museus) da UNESCO.

A proposta de implantação deste projeto foi recentemente discutida no Museu de Arte Contemporânea – MAC, em Niterói/RJ, tendo como temática a interrelação entreTransculturalidade, Arquitetura/Artes Visuais, Música e Teatro/Performance. Visando criar um diálogo interdisciplinar e reforçar relações transculturais, a Universidade Federal Fluminense, através de seu Programa de Pós-Graduação em Arquitetura e Urbanismo-PPGAU, da Escola de Arquitetura e Urbanismo-EAU, ao lado da UNIRIO, busca desenvolver atividades de pesquisa e de extensão com comunidades autócnes de indígenas e afro-descendentes.

O Professor Jacques Poulain, coordenador francês da cooperação técnica CAPES-Cofecub n. 752/12 abriu o seminário internacional “Museus e Transculturalidade: Novas Práticas Pós-Modernas”, realizado de 27 a 29 de maio de 2013 afirmando que a universidade permite o reforço da cultura socialista no ser humano ao favorecer o espírito crítico que se desenvolve através da filosofia, da literatura, da arte, da arquitetura e da estética com a cultura da comunicação e a história.

Tendo em vista as Diretrizes Curriculares Nacionais para Educação das Relações Étnico-Raciais e para o Ensino de História e Cultura Afro-Brasileira e Indígena (Lei n° 11.645 de 10/03/2008; Resolução CNE/CP N° 01 de 17 de junho de 2004), e a exigência pelo MEC de que a temática da História e Cultura Afro-Brasileira e Indígena seja incluída nas disciplinas e atividades curriculares dos cursos de graduação das universidades brasileiras, o seminário tem como uma de suas intenções indagar: Será possível inserir adequadamente as populações indígenas e afro-descendentes neste universo escolástico sob a ótica da globalização e da comunicação, tendo em vista as políticas do espaço público, a valorização do patrimônio imaterial pela UNESCO e sua decorrente educação cultural patrimonial?


Os sociólogos de direita de todas as nações descrevem os efeitos da mundialização através de uma primitivização das relações sociais e da redução das intersubjetividades a acões de consumo alimentar / sexual e agressivas da humanidade. Habermas e Gehlen descreveram este processo como a desintegração de todas as instâncias de autoridade (cf. POULAIN, 2012.).

Ocorre aqui um individualismo máximo onde o mundo é o indivíduo e se reduz a ele mesmo, e onde ocorre uma alienação que reduz o indivíduo ao mundo.  Assim, na tautologia, o homem só encontra aquilo que procura. Experimenta-se, então, a palavra como grau zero do parceiro, onde ele não fala e somente se submete aos valores da autoridade.

O futuro da humanidade pressupõe uma redução da racionalidade ética à uma racionalidade funcional aplicada à própria história. A falsidade da imagem filosófica decorre da identificação do ser humano com seu ideal moral, percebido como a vontade de submeter ao espírito o ser irracional dos desejos (cf. POULAIN, in op. cit., apud Max Weber). A experimentação cultural, sob a égide do consenso comunicativo democrático, submetida à ânsia do domínio moral de si mesmo e ao domínio tecnológico do mundo, cria uma imagem do homem como sendo autônomo dessas instâncias.

A experimentação da subjetividade se dá, portanto, através da comunicação e da afirmação do consenso. O consenso faz de nós reféns de nós mesmos: a crise do mundo moderno se baseia na crise de comunicação, com o fracasso de instituições comunicacionais e democráticas que criam uma tautologia de linguagens que procura minimizar os apetites pelo domínio de si mesmo através da palavra como elemento dominante na sociedade.

É dentro da ótica filosófica que o Museu Vivo pretende desvendar algumas pistas sobre as questões transculturais que perpassam o presente momento histórico do capitalismo tardio na sociedade complexa brasileira. Esta arte viva, mencionada por Mário Pedrosa (1978) para definir a pujança das culturas indígenas, pode ser simbolizada pela tensão entre o apolíneo e o dionisíaco como manifestações da arte e da vida, a qual está presente no pensamento de Friedrich Nietzsche e foi apresentada em sua primeira obra O Nascimento da Tragédia: ou Helenismo e Pessimismo, escrita em 1871.

Vilém Flusser, no livro Ficções Filosóficas de 1998, apropria-se deste conceito nietzschiano para expressar uma arte viva pós-moderna, caracterizada por duas revoluções arrasadoras: a telemática e a biotécnica. Como falar de inovação tecnológica ao tratar das culturas vivas nativas brasileiras na atualidade? No caso da pertinente discussão sobre uma arquitetura bioclimática ou verde, como buscar, então, inspiração nas Malocas indígenas amazônicas, xinguanas e do litoral?

Parece que arquitetos como Severiano Mário Porto já “estiveram lá” ao pesquisar técnicas tradicionais populares na habitação do Amazonas para criar novos protótipos de uma arquitetura inteligente adequada ao clima úmido e tórrido, com amplos telhados de cobertura vegetal que permitem a saída do ar quente e o resfriamento térmico do espaço interior. Será que é possível, a partir da revolução telemática discutida por Flusser, criar protótipos inovadores de Malocas Digitais, aonde a tecnologia de ponta se alia a técnicas construtivas milenares? Esta é uma das indagações feitas pelo atual projeto, inserido dentro da AGIR (Agência de Inovação) da PROPPi (Pró-Reitoria de Pesquisa, Pós-Graduação e Inovação) da Universidade Federal Fluminense.


A arquitetura de inspiração “barroca”, segundo Glauco Campello (2001), de Oscar Niemeyer, com suas formas circulares e espiraladas, acabou por influenciar a estrutura da arquitetura brasileira de caráter kitsch dos subúrbios cariocas e do interior do Nordeste e de Minas Gerais. A imagética desta arquitetura kitsch (Guimaraens & Cavalcanti, 2006) expressa uma estética mesclada aos princípios construtivos da arquitetura moderna de Niemeyer, a qual por sua vez incorpora posturas barrocas ao funcionalismo de Le Corbusier.

A presença de uma corrente de influência barroca luso-brasileira na obra de Niemeyer é caracterizada pelo uso de elementos de linhas curvas e de forma livre (cf. Underwood, 1992), tal como ocorre com a colunata do Palácio do Alvorada (1956-1958), em Brasília. Estas colunas foram inspiradas em redes estendidas ou em velas de barcos e se tornaram ícones do poder político federal, tendo seus elementos construtivos caído no gosto popular e sido copiados em fôrmas de gesso, dispostos maciçamente como decoração nas fachadas das casas das classes trabalhadoras em todo o país. Outros elementos absorvidos das obras estéticas e funcionais de Le Corbusier e Niemeyer foram o telhado plano e o telhado “borboleta” (teto em “v”, com uma calha central, onde a água da chuva é drenada), derivadas da estética das “máquinas-de-morar” modernistas.

O seminário internacional referido teve como ideia-chave homenagear a arquitetura-viva de Oscar Niemeyer, tendo selecionado como seu espaço de realização aquele que é considerado como um dos projetos mais expressivos deste arquiteto: o MAC-Niterói, ícone da cidade e da Prefeitura de Niterói. No decorrer de três dias, tivemos a oportunidade de vivenciar in loco os conceitos da filosofia transcultural de Jacques Poulain ao integrar acadêmicos, alunos, técnicos e agentes culturais indígenas e afro-descendentes em uma “experimentação total” universitária.

A “alegria triunfal” do Parangolé e da Tropicália baseia-se no experimentalismo plástico do barracão da escola-de-samba, indicando aquilo que Hélio Oiticica denomina como “lazer não-repressivo” que pode autofundar o indivíduo. O kitsch questiona a própria identidade brasileira: como se pode criar uma arte “autêntica” (artesanal e regional) através da incorporação de tendências internacionais (tecnológicas e globais)?  A postura antropofágica, de Oswald de Andrade a Hélio Oiticica-H.O., contrapõe a vanguarda estética ao consumo da cultura de massas.

O “ready-made” de Marcel Duchamp aproxima-se da estética kitsch ao enfatizar a “não-pureza” que mescla elementos arquitetônicos espúrios. O kitsch é, então, uma ANTIARTE: obra transitória que incorpora posturas do cotidiano. A estética experimental kitsch expressa o papel da cultura de massas como território de fronteira entre arte erudita e popular, representando uma “vanguarda de choque”.


A relação entre a imagem e o ser, enquanto estrutura social no espaço-tempo define as diferentes práticas artísticas como artes visuais, escultura, literatura, arquitetura, música e dança / performance. A reprodução excessiva de imagens visuais na história contemporânea simboliza a imagética típica, em termos estruturais e históricos, da civilização dos meios de comunicação de massa, embora não represente o poder discriminatório de uma era.

As imagens do Painel Transcultural traçadas por Duda Penteado e Fernando Pacheco, juntamente com o corpo discente da Escola de Arquitetura e Urbanismo-EAU da Universidade Federal Fluminense-UFF e com agentes indígenas da antiga Aldeia Maracanã, expressam um exercício criativo que encerrou este seminário internacional, no qual o diálogo entre as diferentes manifestações artísticas foi enfatizado.

Em geral, as notações gráficas, em todas as suas formas de expressão, são consideradas como instrumentos fundamentais do desenho artístico. “O pensamento visual” adota os conceitos de “imaginação interativa” e do “conceito figural” para reiterar sua rejeição de qualquer dicotomia entre a concepção do projeto e a gravação da imagem figurativa. Em outras palavras, a notação gráfica empregada para desenhar diagramas e croquis é entendida como sendo fundamental para a concepção do projeto deste painel.

O emprego de eixos e formas triangulares como elementos de composição é uma tradição nas artes visuais. O eixo imaginário estabelece uma linha de suporte que cria um tipo de relação entre as partes da composição, quando se define um tipo ideal de um “esqueleto” que apoia a concepção de valores primários de ordem, estabilidade e dominação. Com esta ênfase nos eixos, a ideia geométrica do Painel Transcultural se afirma pela redução da solução tradicional da rede reticulada em um sistema de rede que determina a organização e o layout dos elementos urbanos.

A expressão artística de algo desenhado no papel assumiu assim a forma de um meio ou a forma de um pensamento plástico, tal como ocorreu na proposta de Painel Transcultural realizado no MAC-Niterói em 29 de maio de 2013. Na concepção deste projeto visual, a conceituação do pensamento e o pensamento do desenho podem ser indicados pelo aforismo de Lucio Costa (1962) de que “o risco é um risco” – projeto.

O “risco” dos dois artistas plásticos estimulou a imaginação dita “ativa”, ou seja, uma imaginação com “vontade” (Bachelard, 1979). A concepção do projeto referiu-se aqui a uma atividade onde a notação gráfica aparece como um modo de discurso, ou seja, o discurso de um estilo poético que simboliza um dos quatro níveis de precisão propostos por Aristóteles: poética, retórica, dialética e analítica. Caracteriza-se tal discurso poético como sendo parte da imagem onde o gosto de hábitos convencionais se afirma como forma de ser que deve ser aceita como verdadeira temporariamente, ocasionando desta maneira a suspensão da descrença sobre a realidade imagética. A transição do mundo real, nas artes visuais, decorre do papel fundamental desempenhado pela atividade criadora do olho como órgão que estabelece um espaço comum para a arquitetura, a escultura e a pintura artística.

O essencial entre as três artes da arquitetura, escultura e pintura encontra-se no elemento que o teórico de arte e escultor alemão Hildebrand (apud Poulain, 2002) chama de impressões “arquitetônicas” e que representa a confluência da verticalidade, da horizontalidade e da profundidade como lei geral que constitui o espaço de composição. Sobre a percepção visual deste Painel Transcultural, pode-se estabelecer uma conexão com o mundo para responder à pergunta: o que é (re) apresentado pela imagem (real ou imaginária)? (Cany, 2008, p. 47-48).

A resposta clássica é que “o plano da consciência gráfica é que formaliza”, já a resposta tradicional afirma que “é o plano do inconsciente que se materializa” (Bachelard, in op. cit.). Caracteriza-se tal discurso poético, expresso neste Painel Transcultural, como sendo parte da imagem onde o gosto de hábitos convencionais se afirma como forma de ser que deve ser aceita como verdadeira temporariamente, ocasionando desta maneira a suspensão da descrença sobre a realidade imagética.

O Painel Transcultural nos fala, então, sobre a crença em uma sociedade multicultural brasileira, onde representantes de diferentes etnias, estratos sociais e níveis educacionais puderam interagir para construir um espaço dialógico e criativo no universo das artes plásticas, inspirados e contaminados pela forma circular-barroca contemporânea da arquitetura de Oscar Niemeyer.



AMARAL, Aracy. “500 Anos de Carência” in Textos do Trópico de Capricórnio. Artigos e Ensaios (1980-2005). Vol. 2: circuitos de arte na América Latina e no Brasil. São Paulo, Editora 34, 2006.

ARANTES, Otília (org.). Textos escolhidos – Acadêmicos e Modernos (vol. 3). São Paulo, EDUSP, 2004.

AGIER, Michel. Antropologia da Cidade: lugares, situações, movimentos. SP, Editora Terceiro Nome, 2011.

BACHELARD, Gaston. A Poética do Espaço. São Paulo, Abril Cultural, Coleção Os Pensadores, 1979.

CAMPELLO, Glauco de Oliveira. O Brilho da Simplicidade: Dois Estudos sobre Arquitetura Religiosa no Brasil Colonial. Rio de Janeiro, Casa da Palavra-Departamento Nacional do Livro, 2001.

CANCLINI, Néstor García. “La modernidad después de la posmodernidad”, in BELLUZZO, Ana Maria (org.), Modernidade: vanguardas artísticas na América Latina. Sao Paulo, UNESP/Memorial da América Latina, 1990.

CANY, Bruno. “Perspective Musicale”, préface in LYOTARD, Jean-François. Que peindre? Paris, Hermann Éditeurs, Collection Hermann – Philosophie, 2008.

COSTA, Lúcio. Sobre a Arquitetura. Porto Alegre, Centro de Estudos Universitários de Arquitetura, 1962.

FEITOSA, Charles. Du nihilisme europeene selon Nietzsche au nihilsme brésilienne selon Flusser. Paris, CAPES-Cofecub, 2012.

FLUSSER, Vilém. Ficções Filosóficas. São Paulo, EDUSP, 1998.

NIETZSCHE, Friedrich Wilhelm. O Nascimento da Tragédia, ou Helenismo e Pessimismo. Trad., notas e posfácio de Jacó Guinsburg. São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 1992 (1871).

GUIMARAENS, Dinah. Do Kitsch à Metafísica: Arquitetura, Estética e Imagética Transculturais. Niterói, PPGAU-UFF, 2013.

(Org.) Museu de Arte e Origens: Mapa das Culturas Vivas Guaranis. Rio de Janeiro, Contracapa/FAPERJ, 2003.

GUIMARAENS, Dinah & CAVALCANTI, Lauro. Arquitetura Kitsch Suburbana e Rural. Rio de Janeiro, Paz e Terra, 2006.

HILDEBRAND, Adolf. Le problème de la forme dans les arts plastiques. Préface de Jacques Poulain. Traduit de l’allemande par Éliane Beaufils. Paris, L’Harmattan, 2002.

PEDROSA, Mário. Discurso aos Tupiniquins ou Nambás. Paris, 1978.

POULAIN, Jacques. «  L’enjeu d’une anthropologie interculturelle pour une esthétique transculturelle ». Texto inédito apresentado no Seminário Internacional « Museus e Transculturalidade: Novas Práticas Pós-Modernas”. Niterói, MAC, 2013.

La Neutralisation du Jugement ou la Critique Pragmatique de la Raison Politique. Paris, L´Harmattan, 2012.

De l’Homme: Elements d’Anthropobiologie Philosophique du Language. Paris, Les Éditions du Cerf, 2001.

La Loi de Vérité: La Logique Philosophique du Jugement. Paris, Albin Michel, 1993.

UNDERWOOD, David. Oscar Niemeyer e o modernismo de formas livres no Brasil. São Paulo, Cosac&Naify, 2002.







November 2, 2013   Comments Off on BRAZIL/As It Is

Pablo Caviedes/Art in Review

Pablo Caviedes  and "On the Map"

¨On The Map¨

Obamanation” or “Abomination?”

by  Dr. José Rodeiro
Art Editor

Ecuadorian-American artist Pablo Caviedes fashioned a powerful image titled On the Map, with an unseen apparatus that permits the image to rotate on the wall.  Caviedes’s painting  depicts the “continental” United States as an asphalt-bitumen colored floating Neo-Pop map-shape containing a Warholesque portrait of the USA’s 44th President: Mr. Barack Hussein Obama II, Esq.  The map floats on a painterly surface of tinted turquoise flecked with blood stains; all these subtle hues abstractly and symbolically connote (or suggest): “red,” “white,” and “blue.”   By means of his highly imaginative “conceptual figurative” style, Caviedes places his image at the forefront of a “new” Latin American Neo-Pop Art stylistic movement: “Neo-neopop,”  which coincides perfectly with the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s insightful “Regarding Warhol” exhibition, on display in New York City until December 21.

Side View of "On the Map", by Pablo Caviedes

In keeping with this universal reconsideration of the Pop idiom in visual art, in another recent Caviedes painting titled On the Map, he included a self-portrait (check RAGAZINE’s recent events-page).  As in that piece, Caviedes’s new Obama image metaphorically illustrates the importance of centuries of human migration throughout the USA’s vast expanse.  Hence, in this new work, President Obama has become America’s “new face,” circuitously turning the entire nation into a suspended, “surreal” Mount Rushmore, coalescing all of Mount Rushmore’s US Presidents into “ONE:” “President Barack Obama,” who, although painted, appears to be carved in stone.

Thus, as Caviedes’s On the Map  image rotates around, the whole nation is miraculously transformed into a hovering and spinning Keystone, South Dakota, the spot near where Mount Rushmore stands.   Paradoxically, when pondering Caviedes’s On the Map’s allusion to Mount Rushmore, it is ironic to recall that Mount Rushmore’s sculptor Gutzon Borglum sympathized with and briefly joined the Ku Klux Klan from 1923-25, an organization associated with white supremacy, fanatic nationalism, and racism. Nevertheless, despite Boglum’s naiveté or the Klan’s narrow-minded prejudices, in his image, Caviedes optimistically views the USA as a “big” nation filled with great potential and hopeful promise; a nation historically built by pioneers, immigrants, refugees, captured slaves and explorers. Ultimately, all were in one way or another “immigrants;” even the Native Americans arrived from somewhere else!  For this reason, Caviedes’s image answers all the “Birthers,” by seeing Obama as “America(n),” which is for some on the political Right an “abomination,” and for others on the Left, an “Obamanation.”

Perhaps, the viewer’s first impression, upon seeing a tenebristic portrait shadow-map containing sideways depiction of a human face, might be one of havoc and confusion. However, in time, by slowly visualizing the face, the viewer can find many analogies to our present society’s misguided perceptions of current immigrants – including the inability to value or acknowledge the vital contributions immigrants make each day to assure America’s overall success. Wisely, Caviedes’s image On the Map asks us to look deeper, to examine America from the perspective that all Americans might become beacons of a public-spirited light, as Caviedes  describes  as the piece’s raison d’etre:

“Portraying the true identity of the United States of America presupposes an approach to immigration as an ongoing phenomenon, since people from all over the world have never stopped coming to our shores — an influx of human capital that has fueled the engine of innovation that powers this great nation.

Now more than ever, it is imperative to support and grasp a better understanding of the fundamental human rights of immigrants, which directly or indirectly affect all of us.  We are the seeds that sprout (day in and day out); we are the present and the future of this nation, as we continue to shape our multicultural identity — enriched with cultural manifestations from every corner of the planet.

These very same cultures give shape to this painting, in the metaphorical sense, as they delineate the states of this nation,  as they delineate a human face that becomes visible as we turn the painting — as the point-of-view of the spectator is shifted to visualize an image, which visibly has (or signifies) humanity’s 21st Century spirit.

Now more than ever, it is imperative to provide testimony that we as immigrants are also part of the whole, not merely statistics.  All of us also make up this image: in that we are Obama; we are the USA, etc.  It could even be argued that all of our faces populate this territory, as the face of our President takes on collective meaning, as the embodiment of a brighter future filled with hope for social justice.”

— Pablo Caviedes
New York, June 2012

For more about Pablo Caviedes, visit:


About the author:

Dr. Jose Rodeiro, Art Editor of Ragazine.CC,  is Coordinator of Art History, New Jersey City University. You can read more about him in “About Us.”

October 7, 2012   Comments Off on Pablo Caviedes/Art in Review

Jim Palombo/Harlem Snapshot

Maysles Theater, Murphy photoMurphy photo

Maysles Theater


A Snapshot from Harlem

By James Palombo
Politics Editor

From May 16 to 19, The People’s Film Festival was held at the Maysles Theater in Harlem, New York. I happened to be in NYC at the time and as luck would have it one of my colleagues was interested in attending the event. So, it was that we went to the Theater for two of the four days it was held, specifically to participate in the film presentations of Stain – Changing Lives After Incarceration (by Doris Mangrum and the Saidiana Movement), and “OWS,” a series of shorts on the Occupy movement (including features: Day in the Life of Occupy Wall Street by Barbara Green and Right Here All Day by Alex Mallis and Lily Henderson.) Having had my share of experiences with both prison reform and the Occupy movement, I was very much looking forward to seeing the films and engaging in the discussions that were to follow.

But there was more to my interest. This is because I had the chance to once again visit Harlem, a place I had been in and out of for many years. The multifaceted issues that have always been part of Harlem are the same ones which, particularly as a criminal justice and sociology professor and community worker, have also become part of my concern. This of course added to my enthusiasm regarding taking the A train uptown in Manhattan to Harlem – it was a chance to see what was happening.

Stepping up from the subway, into the sunlight and onto 125th Street, it was quickly clear that Harlem remains as unique as it has always been. As I walked amid the famous (infamous) streets and avenues, it was easy to notice the significant amount of modernization happening.  Certainly, things are changing in the community as the businesses and rebuilt buildings readily attest. At the same time however, in taking better notice of the men and women crowding the streets, I couldn’t help but sense that there remained a culture that seemed almost reluctant to the change, a culture that recognized itself both in terms of its coolness tied to things like music, dance, and art and its chilliness tied to concerns like poverty, inequality and crime. In a strange, seemingly disjointed way, the culture seems glued to all of these aspects that, while not always consistent or constructive, have come together to define the particular nature of Harlem.

In many ways, this made me consider how much of what I was seeing resembled what I’m seeing more and more in the country, almost as if Harlem has become a symbolically enigmatic piece of the American experiment. There are changes occurring but people appear uncertain as to what the changes actually are and/or if they will lead to anything better. And for many, they have been left sitting by, listening to a great deal of noise while blankly staring back into the echoes of it all, weary from having heard these things before.**

Once arriving at the Maysles Theater, situated at 323 Lenox Ave/Malcolm X Blvd., and then enjoying the films and discussions, it was not hard to notice another element tied to what was occurring in the Harlem community. This element relates to the fiber of the people who helped organize the film festival, those who continue to try to work at the preservation of the Harlem culture while trying to improve upon and/or change the circumstances that have strained the essence of that culture. These are individuals who, by differing sets of skills and mediums, are trying their best to bring an understanding to the issues at hand, who are trying to maintain dialogue regarding the concerns that bear upon both the questions and answers pertinent to what has and may happen in Harlem, people who are trying to bridge the past with the future while staying involved with the moment. This is difficult work indeed, especially as the struggle between growth/progress and cultural identity also implies different political, economic and social agendas, all promising to have value as to what might develop. Add in the historical ties of the community to the “actualities of the system” and, well, I think you have the picture – it takes a particular strength to continue to work at the matters at hand. (In terms of this strength/fiber, I would be remiss in not noting the faith/religious underpinnings that are prevalent in the community. However one chooses to interpret this fact, there is little doubt that it is an integral part of the community efforts.)

In talking with the young people involved with the festival, some professionals in the field, others social workers and community activists, it made me think of the idea of hope – and that all of us to a significant extent are clinging to it while we struggle with the way “the system” has (and hasn’t) worked. In this light, perhaps we have some things to learn from Harlem and the people working there, perhaps there are some lessons to revisit. In this context, I suggest you take a trip uptown in the grand city of New York, and see what you think. And as always, don’t hesitate to pass your thoughts along. In trying to put the pieces of our collective puzzle together, we will need to continue to create informative dialogue.


**Addendum:  Upon reflecting a bit more on my brief trip to Harlem, especially in terms of what it meant in more comprehensive ways, images of the civil rights movement readily came to mind. The grand push for equality, for opportunities within labor, education and society in general, could hardly escape recall. Yet, I couldn’t help but consider that with today’s struggles, there is less certainty over what might be our direction in terms of addressing the problems at hand. In other words, in terms of issues like inequality, unemployment, under-education, governmental mistrust and of course war, cures for what ails us seem less evident.  This is especially so in that the substance of the issues has clearly been extended to the population in general.

Said another way, the reach of opportunity via education and jobs for most Americans has been stunted. Moreover, relying on pure market solutions appears illogical, as the market itself has shown us. Taken in the context of globalization and a world labor market, there is simply less room in the national labor force (or education for that matter) to facilitate promise. At the same time, government regulation/intervention appears fraught with concerns tied to corruption, inept policy initiatives and a set of cultural instincts that seem to fuel rather than alter the notion of “business as usual.” Additionally, and on this point of cultural instincts and “business as usual,” consider what is occurring in the public and social service arenas as well, as many of those individuals who work in those sectors point their fingers elsewhere while they continue to do/be/produce the same. With all these variables in play, certainly the notion of “progress” for the country, much like in Harlem, brings its own set of disillusion and doubt.

In thinking about these concerns as well as the civil rights struggle, there was one more point worthy of note. It relates to the equation that brings freedom and equality in relationship to abundance and prosperity to mind. It is no secret that the perceived nature of our freedom has always been linked to our historical ties to being able “to have.” This nature was challenged of course in terms of the notion of equality during the civil rights movement, as this pushed the idea that abundance and prosperity were not only to be measured by the freedom to access things, but also to share them. To a significant extent then, the movement altered ‘business as usual.” But the world, including the United States’ part in it, has changed. It is clearly an interrelated, globalized world, market and otherwise, and there are other powers now more prominently in the game, with other growth models that simply cannot be ignored.

Given this, is it fair to ponder what might be happening as our relationship to abundance and prosperity changes, as the means to produce and consume “more” is lessened? Will this encourage greater reliance on the idea of equality, the notion that we must somehow come to share more in the changing world? Or will this prompt an all out fight over what is on our table, certainly, by mere logic, providing those who already have access to things more of the same?  Given the scope of these type questions, it seems imperative that we also ask ourselves where/in what direction the “system,” as well as our cultural instincts, have developed in relationship to where it/they might be taking us? Of course, this demands that we come to an understanding of “the system” itself, as well as the cultural instincts that have followed.

In essence then, we have to get a better sense of just what the American experiment has been/will be about.  This is definitely tough stuff, a lot to undertake. But, like in Harlem, there seems no other way around the block– and no better time to take that walk. (For more on considering ‘abundance and prosperity’ in the United States, see Thomas Byrne Edsall’s significant book, The Age of Austerity: How Scarcity Will Remake American Politics, Random House Publishers. For more on the “nature of the system” and the idea of related cultural instincts, please visit


About the author:

Jim Palombo is Ragazine.CC’s Politics Editor. You can read more about him in “About Us.”

June 29, 2012   Comments Off on Jim Palombo/Harlem Snapshot