Magazine article Eye : The International Review of Graphic Design

The View from Here

Magazine article Eye : The International Review of Graphic Design

The View from Here

Article excerpt

Julio Bittencourt records the last days of Prestes Maia 911 in São Paulo, Brazil

In 2002, a disused building in downtown São Paulo was squatted by a homeless collective - hundreds of families. However in the summer of 2007, after years of threats and, eventually, a few concessions, the last inhabitant was evicted and the lower parts of its two linked tower blocks sealed with concrete.

In its last year or so, Brazilian photographer Julio Bittencourt documented its tenants, one window at a time, in a series of digital pictures taken from one block to the other. These have been published (In a window of Prestes Maia 911 Building, Dewi Lewis, 2008) and exhibited in New York, Berlin and elsewhere.

Some of Bittencourt's flatdwellers hover indoors, attendant on some domestic task, only half visible, like carp in a still pond; others embrace, chat to unseen neighbours or gaze listlessly outwards. The boards put over the windows to secure the building are still often partly in place, creating snarling gaps in the severe compositional rectangle which frames each picture.

There has been some interesting online traffic about Bittencourt's project. One blogger says that in emphasising the ordinary, domestic humanity of his subjects, he dishonoured the way they stood together against the state's attempts to prise them out: that the personal is not political, or not political enough. But there is nothing ordinary about Bittencourt's pictures. Stylised and moody, they speak of decay and fate. …

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