Danka Nama #24 –> Brazil

Dear Danka Nama readers,

this newsletter is by Sana Jamal and features her report of a lecture on Brazilian art held in Islamabad, where Roberto Padilla shared his knowledge of Brazilian art scene with Pakistanis.

Brazil emerged as an art-influenced society, as every subsequent image was indeed a sign of the cultural exuberance of the country reflected in its current art scene and modern architecture. The disclosure came as a bit of surprise to the Pakistani art lovers, who for the first time perhaps discovered Brazil as a culturally vibrant country and not just as home to great football players.

This new image of Brazil was presented by Brazilian art connoisseur Roberto Padilla, who is currently visiting to Islamabad to share his knowledge of Brazilian art scene with Pakistani artists. Speaking to a large number of Pakistani audiences at a fascinating slideshow lecture “The Art Scene of Brazil Today”, he wished that the initiative by the Embassy of Brazil would help strengthen and ameliorate the cultural ties between Brazil and Pakistan and open ways for future bilateral activities. The art discussion was part of the celebrations being held in Islamabad to mark Brazilian National Day.

Brazil – a culturally Vibrant Society

Discussing various aspects of the art scene of Brazil today, he enlightened that Sao Paulo has 111 museums which receive more than 5 million visitors per year. Sao Paulo Museum of Art, internationally recognized for its collection of European art, shelters an emphatic assemblage of Brazilian art, prints and drawings, collections of African and Asian art, antiquities, and decorative arts, amounting to more than 8,000 pieces. The Museum, considered the symbol of modern Brazilian architecture, is well known for its concrete and glass structure designed by Lina Bo Bardi, whose main body is supported by two lateral beams over a 74 meters freestanding space. The building’s installations are homely with its concrete in sight, flagstone flooring covering the great Civic Hall, tempered glass, plastic walls, and water spaces.

Contemporary Art in Brazil

Presenting the broad panorama of the arts in Brazil, Roberto Padilla explained that modern art in Brazil evolved from Modernism and incorporated subsequent trends, focusing mainly on city life in early 21st century and displaying a huge diversity of styles accustomed with global artistic trends. Brazil’s spectacular modern architecture, designed by urbanist Lúcio Costa and architect Oscar Niemeyer, is one of the most potent expressions of its 20th century artistic confidence.

Padilla let the audience glimpse some of the significant artworks by prominent Brazilian artists including Angelo Venosa, Walter Goldfarb, Hilal Sami, Beatriz Milhazes, Ernesto Neto, Ligia Clark, Tomie Ohtake. “Vibrant works of art by Brazilian artists reflecting nature with plenty of colours and light also remind of the colours of Pakistan” remarked Roberto Padilla.

However the work of art that inspired most was a series of monumental photographic portraits made from garbage. Called “Pictures of Garbage,” they were created by Vik Muniz, an artist born into working-class family, who worked with the garbage pickers at an open-air dump to give them a new perspective on the world through art.

‘Inhotim’ – union of Art and Landscape

Padilla soon steered the lecture from artists to Brazilian art centers that appeared as innovative as the artists. Learning about Inhotim was the most enlightening part of the lecture, agreed most of the participants. Inhotim – the heart of Brazil’s cultural institutions – is an exceptional place that offers a broad ensemble of art works, displayed in the open air as well as in both temporary and permanent galleries, all located inside a Botanical Garden of extraordinary beauty. Bernardo Paz, an entrepreneur, conceived the idea of the garden while the scenic realisation was originally inspired by landscape artist Roberto Burle Marx in 1984.
Rare plant species and five lakes are arranged in aesthetic gardens, with preserved forest reserves and rural environment in the Botanical Garden allow the visitors to set free themselves to wander into the dazzling mountains and valley and actively experience the art in relation with the natural setting. This could perhaps be called the most charming dialogue of natural and man-made beauty.

“Besides offering artistic enjoyment and entertainment, what makes Inhotim Institute stand out among similar institutions is that it develops environmental research work, educational actions and program of social inclusion in art.” Today, Inhotim is the only Brazilian institution to continuously exhibit an excellent international collection of contemporary art. With over 500 works of art by more than 100 renowned artists from over 30 countries such as Adriana Varejão, Helio Oiticica, Cildo Meireles, Chris Burden, Matthew Barney, Doug Aitken, Janet Cardiff, Inhotim has proved that artists are no longer limited to their own cultural context.

Learning from Brazil: Inclusion of Society in Art

The character of artists has increased greatly over the past few years with globalization. Art no more remain impounded in honored art galleries but has developed into a tool not just for personal expression, but for social change to break communal barriers across the borders of language and ideology, education and awareness for both artists and public.

“We want the public to be involved,” says Brazilian art expert Roberto Padilla. Contemporary artists are expected to make art not just for intellectuals and like-minded artists, but also for the public. This is the reason perhaps that more Brazilian artists are incorporating art in everyday life. Few Brazilian artists have produced art to feel and to wear. Hélio Oiticica is famous for his series of wearable multi-coloured textile-creations called “Parangolés” that is related to dance activities.

While Vik Muniz, who transformed garbage into art, not only gave a new perspective on life to the garbage pickers, whom he worked with, but also gave a new meaning to the very existence of garbage. “The beautiful thing about garbage is that it’s negative; it’s something that you don’t use anymore; it’s what you don’t want to see. It becomes a very interesting material to work with because you are working with something that you usually try to hide” is how Muniz describes his effort.

Unfortunately contemporary art has barely found its place in Pakistani society. Nageen Hayat, curator of the Nomad Art Gallery, believes there is a need to create audience awareness before art can be extended to the public. “We can use art to create awareness and gracefulness within our society,” she says.

Pakistan is perhaps far away from becoming as art vibrant as Brazil, but there is no doubt that it has a lot to from the contemporary art practices in Brazil and especially from the Inhotim Institute where art meets the heart.

Sana Jamil

One Comments to “Danka Nama #24 –> Brazil”

  1. Andreas says:

    I saw the film “Wasteland” the other day (it is award winning and features the work of Vik Mukiz mentioned in this article. Here is a trailer:

    I was a bit disappointed or shocked or confused after seeing the film and my emotions are still mixed. The photographer works in the slum (favela) and sells it as a “joint art project”, while the people in the favela are not creative themselves. He comes with his idea and they just do what he planned (filling up his creations with garbage). I think it would be nice to involve them in a good way, looking at the art potential of people there and developping something more sustainable… maybe he is doing that and some of the dollars he earns are used to do something senseful (tricky task). Maybe I am alone with my confusion – anybody out there has seen the film?

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