Culture, Art and Politics in an Authoritarian Context Brazil, Brasília: 1967 - 1979

Article excerpt

"Talk about art in Brasília is to talk about art inside art."

Frederico Morais

The transition from the 1960s to 1970s in Brazil is very relevant to the field of the arts and particularly to visual arts. Time had come to surpass the abstract vs. realism debate and to put aside the modernist criteria of purism and good finishing. It was time to embrace, instead, a dirty aesthetic, made of cockroaches, garbage and blood. Coming from the hegemonic concretism of the 1950s, this generation of artists is interested now in political art, be it in the front of a new pop figuration, be it in the form of a powerful conceptual art represented by artists such as Nelson Leirner and Cildo Meirelles. Both artists are important references for the study of the field of the arts in Brasília, subject of my present work, part of a wider research, called "Migrating capitals, peregrine power, nomadic representations."

I am concerned with the topic "Representations", looking for the Artists' Itinerary and the way the field of visual arts has been constructed, in Brasilia, from 1958 to now. So, I am also concerned with contemporary art and I intend - while dealing with my empirical data - to advance theoretical (and I hope, relevant) questions related to art and its complex social process of mediations. Art and language, as a collective heritage.

Those reflections are based on the he first results of the second part of the research which aims at mapping and analyzing the construction and the consolidation of the field of visual arts in Brasilia. My whole project is divided into three significant moments of the city's history: the fifties, when the rationalist model in architecture and urban design, and concretism in the field of the arts became hegemonic; the late sixties, when conceptualism was strongly affirmed on the Brazilian art scene; and finally, the two last decades, which brought big changes to patronage and to art market strategies. At this point of the research, I feel the need to emphasize some theoretical and methodological remarks.

About the object itself, this is not the first time I am dealing with the city and the arts: the city as an artifact collectively idealized and built; urban culture, particularly the youth musical culture from the seventies on.

According to previous conclusions (Madeira, 1997), cities, in all times, can be considered as a place of mixtures, confrontation of differences, space of cultural exchange whose synthesis, in form of any art life and art works, represents the collectivity's frailty or vigour. Citizens should be able to recognize themselves in the city, in its cultural practices, in the urban space and in the artist's expressions.

Unfinished by definition, a city is a cultural artifact, a work of many generations who inscribe, on these places, their hopes and interests, the landmarks of their history. Being a place of convergence of ideas, in the cities one can see the consolidation of cultural practices, sometimes coming from distant regions, brought by the nomads, itinerant people who constitute the ethnic diversity of the urban landscape.

Stemming from the modernization boom, which quelled-fuelled the country in the fifties, Brasilia is special in many ways. Not only was it projected specially to become a capital but also it was designed on an empty space, with little previous cultural reference. Traditions from all over Brazil were transplanted. Along, with the "migrant powers", the workers, technicians, artists and intellectuals arrived, impressing on the city's landscape the utopian and aesthetic values of modernism and modernization.

Important social changes, specially for Latin American countries, came up with the end of World War II. The shift of European hegemony to the United States, which became the most significant reference in both economical and cultural fronts has, certainly, played a major role in the new style for Brazilians. …