Tag Archives: Brazil

Southern Panoramas: Perspectives for Other Geographies of Thought


Edited by Sabrina Moura

Texts by Milton Santos, José Rabasa, Arjun Appadurai, Jean e John Comaroff, Joaquín Torres García, Artur Barrio, Cildo Meireles, Rasheed Araeen, Southern Conceptualisms Network, Moacir dos Anjos, Anthony Gardner, Charles Green, Geeta Kapur, Néstor García Canclini, Achille Mbembe, Sasha Huber, Ana Longoni

Part of the publications launched by the 19th Festival of Contemporary Art SESC_Videobrasil (São Paulo, Brazil), the book SOUTHERN PANORAMAS | PERSPECTIVES FOR OTHER GEOGRAPHIES OF THOUGHT organized by Sabrina Moura, explores the notion of Global South as an axis of thought and knowledge production.

Conceived in the form of an anthology of texts, the book features contributions from various disciplines and offers a critical perspective on the formation of the concept of South. “Over the last twenty years, the South expands on a global level, configuring a map of historical and political experiences that have refused to keep within hemispheric lines. If its uses sometimes incur in the contradictions inherent in binary thought, they also indicate new and complex flows of economic, cultural and symbolic capital”, says Sabrina, who brought together works of artists Joaquin Torres-Garcia and Cildo Meireles, philosopher and political scientist Achille Mbembe, researcher and writer Ana Longoni, art critic Geeta Kapur, among others.

By revisiting essays, historical documents and manifestos, the publication presents debates previously unpublished in Portuguese — as the work of South African anthropologists Jean and John Comaroff on Southern theories — and translates into English reference texts written by Brazilian authors, such as Spatiotemporal relations in the developing world, written by the geographer Milton Santos in 1976 during his exile in Paris.

From the claims of non-aligned countries that gained strength during the Cold War, to the emergence of post-colonial thought and its critique, the publication offers an important contribution to the debates that question the validity of Eurocentric representations and narratives.

About the editor:
SABRINA MOURA is a researcher and curator based in São Paulo, Brazil. She is a PhD candidate at the University of Campinas (Unicamp) and holds a master’s degree in aesthetics and art history from University Paris VIII and in cultural projects direction from University Paris III Sorbonne Nouvelle. She is the curator of Public Programs of the Contemporary Art Festival SESC_Videobrasil (2013, 2015).

A Brazilian perspective on Aboriginal art in Australia

GOLDSTEIN, Ilana Seltzer. “Visible art, invisible artists? The incorporation of Aboriginal objects and knowledge in Australian museums in in: Vibrant – Virtual Brazilian Anthropology (link).

Abstract: The creative power and the economic valorization of Indigenous Australian arts tend to surprise outsiders who come into contact with it. Since the 1970s Australia has seen the development of a system connecting artist cooperatives, support policies and commercial galleries. This article focuses on one particular aspect of this system: the gradual incorporation of Aboriginal objects and knowledge by the country’s museums. Based on the available bibliography and my own fieldwork in 2010, I present some concrete examples and discuss the paradox of the omnipresence of Aboriginal art in Australian public space. After all this is a country that as late as the nineteenth century allowed any Aborigine close to a white residence to be shot, and which until the 1970s removed Indigenous children from their families for them to be raised by nuns or adopted by white people. Even today the same public enchanted by the indigenous paintings held in the art galleries of Sydney or Melbourne has little actual contact with people of Indigenous descent.

Nicholas Mangan–recreate the past for the future

Installation shot from Nicholas Mangan 'Progress in Action'

Installation shot from Nicholas Mangan 'Progress in Action'

Nicholas Mangan is a Melbourne artist with a strong interest in the material histories of the Pacific. His previous show at Sutton Gallery Nauru, Notes from a Cretaceous World concerned the history of phosphate mining in the remote Pacific island, which had become a processing centre for asylum seekers (see article). His recent show, Progress in Action, concerns struggle in 1988 by the Bougainville Revolutionary Army to close the Panguna Copper mine which was polluting their island.

Copper plate from Nicholas Mangan 'Progress in Action'

Copper plate from Nicholas Mangan 'Progress in Action'

Mangan’s strategy is to re-stage the BRA’s attempts to cope with the blockage of food and energy by developing new modes of self-sufficiency. Locals took to the ubiquitous coconut as a resource to sustain their existence (as told in the film Coconut Revolution). Mangan learned how to extract oil from the coconut which could then be refined as a fuel to power a generator. This energy was then used to project a film documentary montage from the time. Alongside the installation and performance were copper plates, reproducing publications such as the Bougainville Copper annual report.

Mangan’s work follows that of others who seek to re-enact past struggles, such as Tom Nicholson. What’s particularly interesting here is the contemporary relevance of the energy system that he re-creates, showing the way in which the necessity of deprivation can lead to the invention of renewable energies. As Mangan says,

Beyond the politics or history for me it always comes back to the core materials that are formed or sculpted by an ideological determination, like copper being used for capitalist extraction or the coconuts being used as the agency for an eco-revolution.

In Australia, this has particular meaning as a challenge to the way neighbouring Melanesian region can be dismissed as an ‘arc of instability’. It ranks alongside the television series Straits as a way of imaginatively connecting the continent to the oceanic web in which it is embedded.

Installation shot of documentary projection in Nicholas Mangan 'Progress in Action'

Installation shot of documentary projection in Nicholas Mangan 'Progress in Action'

Mangan’s work also opens up a particularly southern strategy for art making, in revealing the means of production. Exposing the supply chain works against the commodification of art by revealing the process that lies behind the product. It sociology it demonstrates the kind of creative potential in the ecological knowledge outlined by Boaventura de Sousa Santos.

Of course, it could go further. The exhibition itself is lacking a relational dimension. There is no active role played by people in Bougainville today. If only Mangan had the opportunity to visit Bougainville himself, and find ways in which they might like to become actively involved in his work.

Fortunately, the project is far from over. Mangan is in the process of shipping the installation to Brazil, where it will feature in the Mercosul Biennial at Porto Alegre. According to the curatorial statement, the biennial

gathers works together that explore different kinds of atmospheric disturbances propelling travel and social displacement, technological advancement and world development, vertical expansions in space, and transversal explorations through time.

This seems a perfect fit for Mangan and an important opportunity to have an Australian artist represented in this key South American event.

The proposal to legalise drugs in South America

Security is one of the most important topics in International Studies. This concept is not always related to the North, the South has had its own threats too: throughout 19th and 20th centuries there have been Western empires, ideological battles and US interventions. But today, in South America, the main threat is drug trafficking and its roots are in economic globalization.

Free trade around the world is one of the most important long term economic trends and the exploitation of the free trade by emerging powers is an important short term trend. In this way, regions around the world have been impacted by new world economic powers like China. The Chinese demand of commodities around the world has resulted in high international prices and lucrative imports from countries like Chile, Peru and Brazil.

Together with China, Brazil has been very important in South America (in spite of its low growth throughout 2012) especially for countries like Bolivia or Paraguay, two landlocked states, where the main export to the Brazilian market is energy.

Thus, most of South American economies are growing around 4%[1] and during last decade poverty has decreased, even in Bolivia, the poorest regional country;[2] this is mainly because government efforts in this period have been focused on keeping macroeconomic responsibility plus implementation of social programs. Nonetheless, there are two main economic menaces in the region: first, most of South American countries are relying on China’s economy success, which in turn will not be forever. Second, if Brazil keeps its economy dependent on a bumpy Europe, and if the called “Brazil Cost”[3] continues without solution, most of its neighbours will suffer some consequences in the future[4].

In this context, most important security challenge in the region is drug trafficking and the first goal of defence policies is in human security. In order to overcome these issues countries are developing their own military actions: Democratic Security Policy (Colombia), “Ágata” Military Operations (between Brazil, Bolivia and Peru), “BOLBRA” war games (Bolivia and Brazil), or the New National Security Strategy and Defence of Chile whose main theatre of operations is Arica, region located in the border with Peru and Bolivia.

To understand this regional security challenge, first we have to highlight two of its main causes. First, despite the regional economic growth and social programs there are a huge social inequality and a strong social feeling of injustice (let’s remember student’s riots in Chile during 2011), many disadvantaged people choose alternative ways to realise social progress through gang activities. This happens in Rio do Janeiro (Brazil), Ciudad del Este (Paraguay), VRAEM (Peru), La Legua (Chile), and so on. It is certainly true that South American social problems could be worst if emerging powers cannot maintain its economy growth in the future.

Second, the economic growth and social programs in countries like Chile or Brazil have resulted in a huge middle class with capacity to consumption and, therefore, drugs traffickers have new markets to sell cocaine, besides its traditional big markets such as the United States and Western Europe. Clear example of this is the power gained by gang Primero Comando da Capital in Sao Paulo, which traffics from Paulist jails to the Brazilian market. In this sense, it is very important for Brazilian authorities to keep the control over international borders, because these gangs make business with cocaine dealers from Bolivia or Peru.

Without doubt, the situation is more complex when gang activities are connected to terrorist groups or irregular armies like the FARC. In this case the Colombian government has made enormous military and political efforts in order to combat this organization; actually today there is hope on Colombian peace negotiations lead by President Santos, because the end of war in Colombia could be the end of the main “narco-guerrilla”.

The Colombian case is especially worrying due to the guerrilla’s war impacts on Venezuela and Ecuador[5], two countries known by their difficult borders. According to the UNODC (2012) Venezuela has become the main port for Colombian cocaine to transatlantic routes, and Ecuador has become an important transit place too.

There is not easy solution to this kind of regional challenge, because drug trafficking and social inequalities are the first link in an intricate chain connecting Central America and Mexico, where transnational criminal gangs have got a dangerous power. On the other hand, South American countries are not the primarily responsible or, at least they are not only responsible of drug trafficking, because the primarily cocaine consumers are in the West.

In other words, this problem seems to be a transnational issue, and in this sense, one alternative would be legalizing the cocaine trafficking in order to dismiss criminal gangs, to get secure cocaine markets and better statistics of cocaine consumers. But this kind of solution would require big cultural and institutional changes.

For instance, in Uruguay President José Mujica has recently proposed to legalize marijuana consumption and to educate people about this issue, but this proposal will not be able to become law while conservative groups have influence over popular opinion, especially the Catholic Church and right wing parties. In fact, Mujica recognized later that society is not yet ready to this kind of measures.

Another important step has been Bolivian experience during Evo Morales presidency, because his administration recognizes coca leaf farmer rights and coca cultural values. Bolivian policies on coca leaf represent a deep change of mentality since DEA interventions in the country two decades ago, when coca leaf activities were synonymous of crime. But at the same time, the new Bolivian institutional model has not meant the end or decrease of illegal coca leaf planting.

Both Uruguay and Bolivia cases show that, at least, the legalization debate has started. In this sense, maybe the most important signal of a new time has been the Global Commission on Drug Policy, where much respected intellectuals and politicians were able to participate, such as Mario Vargas Llosa, Fernando Enrique Cardoso, César Gaviria, Ernesto Zedillo, Kofi Annan, Paul Volcker and George P. Schultz. In its report (2011) the Commission proposed to create new institutional models around the world in order to legalize drugs. The main argument for this proposal is the failure of drug policies during last fifty years, especially the war against drugs launched by President Nixon; together with this, the commission stated the importance to pay more attention to health programs instead of military policies[6].

Notwithstanding this, all these signals are not enough to take seriously an international legalization model and certainly they are not enough to overcome current military policies as key actions to combat drugs trafficking.

Claudio Coloma is an academic at the University of Santiago of Chile


[1] IMF-Western Hemisphere Department. Regional Economic Outlook. Washington, D.C. October 2012.

[2] Weisbrot, Mark, Rebecca Ray and Jake Johnston. Bolivia: The Economy During the Morales Administration. Center for Economic and Policy Research. Washington, D.C. December 2009.

[3] Combination of bureaucratic hurdles, complex taxes and insufficient infrastructure. Glickhouse, Rachel. Rousseff Takes on the Infamous “Brazil Cost”. AS/COA. May 22, 2012.

[4] According to IMF “low growth and uncertainty in advanced economies are affecting emerging market and developing economies”. Emerging powers such as China and Brazil are reliant on developed countries, especially USA and UE. IMF. World Economic Outlook. Washington, D.C. October 2012.

[5] IISS. The FARC Files: Venezuela, Ecuador and the Secret Archive of ´Raúl Reyes`. London. 2011.

[6] Informe de la Comisión Global de Políticas de Drogas, junio de 2011, www.globalcommissiondrugs.org

Honouring Jorge Amado in today’s Brazil

Exhibition curator and academic Ilana Goldstein describes her exhibition about the life of one of Brazil’s leading writers, Jorge Amado. According to Amado, “We did not want to be modernists but modern.”

A video glimpse of the exhibition “Jorge Amado and the Universal’

Jorge Amado (1912 – 2001) was one of the the most well-known Brazilian authors – in Brazil and abroad. Most part of his 33 books are translated into 49 languages and he has been adapted many times to soap-operas (television), films (cinema), theatre plays and cartoon.

Some scholars and critics from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have been sceptical about Amado, saying that his literature is too popular, too easy to read. But despite his apparently funny and easy style, his novels are well constructed, he was a very cultivated person (friends with Picasso, Neruda and Sartre, for example) and really concerned with national problems and issues – which underlie his fiction.

The exhibition was a celebration of the 100h Birthday of Jorge Amado. It was on in São Paulo untill the end of June and then toured to Salvador, Bahia, maybe Recife, Frankfurt and probably other cities, not yet confirmed. The show is sponsored by Santander bank, using the Lei Rouanet, a federal law which allows sponsors to pay less Income Tax (saving almost the same amount given to the cultural project).

The rooms of the show

1. The tile wall in the entrance

Getting out of the lift, the visitor will see a big tile wall. It has two senses. First of all, it alludes to the traditional architecture of Salvador. Old colonial buildings are traditionally decorated with blue-and-white tiles. The houses of Jorge Amado and all his friends (artists, writers from Bahia) in Salvador are also decorated with tiles, but replacing the traditional Portuguese drawings by sentences and quotes carefully chosen, that welcome guests.

The second reason of the wall to be in the entrance of the show is to suggest that the public leave behind all its prejudices and all television images linked to Jorge Amado. The surprise effect is obtained through the reading of the sentences, which deal with history, the mission of the artist, ethics, universal questions. The quotes are not signed, so that for some seconds the person asks himself/herself: am I in the correct floor? “Are these sentences really from Jorge Amado? They have nothing to do with the clichés I have always had from him…”.

2. Characters room

The first room is devoted to Amado´s characters. Nine LCD screens show 3 minute-films about nine selected books and its main characters. The names of these chosen characters are written in the wooden walls around the room. But this is just an “appetizer”, for Jorge Amado has created more than 5.000 characters! Our way to represent that huge universe was writing the names of other 200 characters in the colourful back wall of the room. The small ribbons remind the typical souvenir from Bahia: “fitinhas do Bonfim”.

The scenography of this room and of the rest of the exhibition is composed by urban “ready-made” objects: washbowls, market boxes, book shelves etc. Nothing is fake, little was fabricated for the show. They remind the popular and collective daily life of Bahia, which was the main source of inspiration for Jorge Amado. The scenographical choice has a reason. The writer said he didn´t make up things: he used to write about people he had known and situations he had experienced in the streets of Bahia, of course adding imagination and poetry to them.

3. Politics room

In the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s Jorge Amado was very engaged in left-wing politics. He became a member of the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB), he travelled to many socialist countries in East Europe, and he was even elected as a congressman in 1946. As a congressman, he proposed two very important legislative changes: one in the the Copy Right Act and the other in the Religion Act. He was responsible for approving the cult freedom in Brazil. Even if he was an atheist himself, cultural diversity was very precious for him. He had seen Afro-Brazilian temples being invaded and destroyed by the police in his youth and that really touched him.

During 25 years, Amado´s fiction was influenced by his political concerns. Strikes, poverty, hunger are common elements of the books in this moment. Amado has also published a lot of newspaper articles in this period, working as a journalist and as an editor. This fact explains the scenography of the room.

But in 1954 he found out all the crimes committed by Stalin. At the same time, he was tired of the rules the Party imposed to communist writers. So, he decided to get out of the Communist Party and to devote himself exclusively to his literature. The first book of this second period of his work and life is Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, published in 1958. His fiction changes a lot then, becoming funnier and lighter. Gabriela receives many prizes and sells very quickly.

4. Mixtures and blends

The third room of the show deals with the cultural mixture characteristic of Brazilian society. In the United States, for example, people classify themselves as blacks or whites. But in Brazil the identification process is much more complex. First of all, people don´t think about races, they think about colours. And they don´t think in a dualistic way. In 1976, the government let the question “What is your colour?” open in the census. The result was a list with 136 different answers, comprising from “dirty white” to “light black”, from “sun tanned” to “pale”, from “green” to “blue”. This funny and impressive list is reproduced in one of the room walls. Jorge Amado was very sensitive about this Brazilian feature and in his novels we have found dozens of different manners of describing the colour of the characters as well – which are reproduced in the opposite wall.

A second important element in this room is the religious syncretism, represented by the various religious elements coming from Afro-Brazilian cults as Candomblé and Umbanda, but also from Catholicism, Judaism and Islamism. In Amado´s books, some characters combine different beliefs and all these religions appear in a respectful way. It was another way for the writer to spread his message of tolerance and cultural exchange.

5. Sex and tricks

Love, sex, prostitution and sometimes pornography or sexual violence are frequent elements in Amado´s fiction, specially after Gabriela (1958). It is a way to celebrate the pleasures of life but also to talk about social relations in another manner.

The neon lights in this room contain names of brothels that appear in Amado´s novels. Brothels were central institutions in Brazilian society in the 1rst half of the XXth century. Housewives were shy and repressed. Men were almost authorized to visit whorehouses – including Amado´s father, uncle and the writer himself. Men made business, discussed arts and decided politics in these places. Extracts from Amado´s book dealing with these subjects are shown inside the light boxes.

A second subject present in this room is the “jeitinho brasileiro”, or “the Brazilian way”. Since colonial times, as the historian Sérgio Buarque de Holanda has already written in 1936, Brazilian tend to erase the limits between public and private spheres, avoiding to follow rules, using the law only when it seems interesting, asking personal favours instead of achieving formal rights. On one hand this brings much flexibility to our society. On the other other hand, it is dangerous for the development of the country, because everything that is official and formal tends to be disdained and only what is connected to friendship and affection seems to be desirable. Some of the texts in the light boxes bring parts of Amado´s books that translate this “Brazilian way”.

6. Bahia square

This is the last and biggest space of the exhibition. Some of its highlights are:

  • The photographic wall with pictures of Bahia, displaying its beautiful side (nature, food, street parties) and its sad aspects as well (poverty, architectural destruction, dirty).
  • The bottle wall, containing Dendê oil in dozens of plastic bottles. Dendê oil is a central ingredient in Bahia´s recipes, very appreciated by Jorge Amado. At the same time, the disposal of so many bottles allude to the sea, very important in Amado´s novels. Amado´s sentences describing the sea are glued on the bottles´surfaces.
  • The cacao seeds walls, where the LCD screens are. They allude to Amado´s childhood in the south of Bahia. His father was a pioneer cacao farmer in the first years of the XXth century.
  • The “Jorges” room, separated from the rest, where hundreds of biographical documents are hanging, from family pictures to passports and diplomas, from book covers to letters sent to him by other writers.
  • The artworks wall, where original prints from three Brazilian artists are displayed: Renina Katz, Calasans Neto and Carybé. All three have translated the literature of Jorge Amado into the visual arts.

After all, one of the impressions we think the exhibition will leave is the mutual relation between representations and reality: Bahia/Brazil has become similar to Jorge Amado’s portrait and, at the same time, the writer looked and acted like one of his characters.

‘Decoloniality’ in Latin American art

This paper by María Helena Lucero was delivered at the Southern Perspectives series at the Institute of Postcolonial Studies on August 11 2011. It introduces recent Latin American thinking about modernity, particularly in the concept of the ‘decolonial’.

Beyond the Favela, the Rua and the Museum: Reading Hélio Oiticica and Artur Barrio from Decoloniality.
Fluctuations and Paradoxes of a Latin-American Modernity[1]


Thinking about modernity in Latin America implies revising the works of certain artists who have been protagonists of episodes of rupture in the local as well as in the international cultural arena, including the decades of the 1960s and 1970s. As we move in this direction, it is possible to recognize visible signs of a decolonial position in two emblematic artists of Brazilian, and thus Latin American art: Hélio Oiticica (1937-1980)[2] and Artur Barrio (1945). The aim of this paper is to focus on a reading of these two visual trajectories, from a critical perspective that is rooted in what Ramón Grosfoguel and Santiago Castro-Gómez (2007) have called the “decolonial turn,” given that it is necessary to re-evaluate certain cultural itineraries from an adequate epistemic framework if we are to concern ourselves with a Latin American specificity. Decoloniality formulates a vision of knowledge that is compatible with that of postcolonial studies, an aspect that will also be taken under consideration. In this way, the development of theoretical perspectives that aim for the expansion of discussions around the global-south implies pluralistic modes of perception and interpretation of the cultural productions that emerge there.

Hélio Oiticia

Hélio Oiticia

Artur Barrio

Artur Barrio

Hélio Oiticica has gone through different artistic stages, from the two-dimensional paintings we associate with the Frente group in the 1950s to his Cosmococas in 1973, or actions born out of “contra-bólido”’ toward the end of the 1970s. His explorations resulted in theoretically complex, vigorous, and coherent constructions, that drew a personal itinerary that stimulated a “permeable corporeity”: he would activate not just a connection with certain surroundings, but also perceptual channels that, at times of oppression, would work as zones of self-conscious liberation and as decolonial signs. Artur Barrio initiated, toward the end of the 1960s, a series of interventions in urban and peripheral zones in Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte. His well-known trouxas ensanguentadas, pieces that alluded to physical remains that were wounded or devastated, operated as provocation devices that altered the perception of the unaware walker-by, who would come across these disturbing packages that were squirted and stained with a violent red as he stepped along the city sidewalk.

Both trajectories have shown us visual propositions that, on one hand, instituted regional expressions within an international artistic arena, expressions that are tied to the subversive character of Latin American conceptualism –a counter-discourse strategy that questioned the political hegemony of the State and the fetishist condition of legitimated art. On the other hand, they openly rejected the military dictatorship that took place in Brazil (1964-1985), which reached its crudest and most violent moment in 1968, when the law AI 5 was passed to suppress the civil and political liberties of Brazilian citizens.


Before developing the concept of decoloniality, let´s consider the academic backgrounds of the members of the modernity-coloniality network, the nucleus from which the concept arises. Certain Latin American intellectuals, among them Aníbal Quijano in 1996 and Ramón Grosfoguel in 1998, while working in U.S. universities, began to debate colonial legacies, the geopolitics of knowledge, and the coloniality of knowledge in Latin America. Up to par with researchers like Santiago Castro-Gómez, Walter D. Mignolo, Edgardo Lander, Fernando Coronil or Enrique Dussel, these intellectuals participated in the activities of the modernity-coloniality network. As do Cultural and Postcolonial Studies, “…el grupo modernidad/colonialidad reconoce el papel esencial de las epistemes, pero les otorga un estatuto económico, tal como el análisis del sistema mundo” [… the Modernity/Coloniality Group recognizes the essential role of epistemes, but it assigns them an economic status, like world-system analysis] (Castro-Gómez, Grosfoguel, 2007: 16-17). This epistemic frame is in some ways linked with the theories of Homi Bhabha and Gayatri Spivak, but it has also avoided automatically introducing postcolonial reflections on the Latin American stage, in order to examine regional singularities and to consolidate a discussion on Occidentalism “by and from” Latin America. It is in this context that the term “post-occidentalism” has gained currency, as a reformulation that conjugates decolonization and postcolonialism, where knowledge is forged in interstitial or hybrid ways, “…pero no en el sentido tradicional de sincretismo o ‘mestizaje’, y tampoco en el sentido dado por Néstor García Canclini a esta categoría, sino en el sentido de ‘complicidad subversiva’” [… but not in the traditional sense of syncretism or ‘mestizaje’, and also not in the sense given by Néstor García Canclini to this category, but in the sense of ‘subversive complicity’] (2007: 20).

Strictly speaking, decoloniality, as it has been mapped out by Castro Gómez and Grosfoguel, insists on the liberating nature of the term and encourages a second decolonization—of an intellectual and cultural nature, in comparison with a first decolonization that is restricted to the legal-political level, achieved by the Spanish colonies in the nineteenth century and the British and French colonies in the twentieth century. The transition from modern to global colonialism took place without a substantial transformation of binary organizations, such as the economic poles of centre-periphery, thus reproducing political and economic submission. The crisis of the modern condition produced cracks and variables in the historical canon of power that denied multiplicity, superposition or hybridity, making a turn toward increasingly plural global presences. In spite of these changes, the colonial traces of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries have endured. Thus, it follows that the decolonial perspective pushes for a culture that is intertwined with decisive effects on ethnic, racial, sexual, epistemic, and gender dimensions. In and of themselves, racial discourses provoke negative consequences in the international labour system, a worrisome aspect for decoloniality.

Racial premises would justify the access of supposedly “superior races”[3] to better offers in the labour market, as opposed to the “inferior races” that would be relegated to badly-remunerated tasks, thus tracing a way of thinking that inherited notions of the nineteenth century. This condition should be examined from a heterarchical perspective, where no level exists that dominates or subjugates others but, instead, there is a multiple and shared influence that works for a new and better paradigm. Let us remember that the idea of heterarchy, developed by sociologist Kyriakis Kontopolous, is antithetical to hierarchy and undertakes the analysis of social structures by including dysfunctional aspects in a partial, discontinuous, and non-homogenous way. Likewise, decoloniality confronts coloniality of knowledge, which is grounded on an economic dimension as well as on mechanisms of social control. As Mignolo (2007) has noted, decolonial thought has been configured as a resistant and different zone from modernity/coloniality itself. In this manner, coloniality exteriorizes the situation of domination of those who have been forcibly submerged in modernity.

Even though the theoretical alignment of the modernity/coloniality group traces differences and relocations with respect to postcolonial studies, they do share its interdisciplinary and deconstructive character with respect to the Eurocentric, colonial paradigm. Mellino (2008) has presented a revision of the term “postcolonial” in order to delineate a genealogy of its repercussions and incidences in the international academic world. He makes a distinction between a literal and a metaphorical interpretation of the concept of postcolonialism. In the first case, it would refer to a “post” moment of decolonization in the political arena, or forms of emancipation from territorial colonization at a given time period; in the second case, there appear far-reaching implications that are not contained within a segment of time. The crucial precedents for this way of thinking are to be found in Edward Said, an intellectual associated with anti-imperialist criticism; in Gayatri Spivak, who detects, in British literature, the echoes of colonialism and imperialism that subsist beyond the multiple cultural meetings, contacts, and shocks between Orient and the West; and in Homi Bhabha, whose expressions of “hybridity” or “the in-between” have endowed us with the capacity to give a name not just to the cultural interstices forged on fluctuating borders, but to new social actors who do not have a fixed locus. Here, postcolonial criticism works through the deconstruction of the Western imperialist subject, exploring the degree of epistemic violence in the narratives that are cast upon cultural alterities.

From Said´s, Spivak´s, and Bhabha´s contributions, the postcolonial paradigm came to be formed as a “desarrollo del pensamiento posmoderno orientado a la crítica cultural y a la deconstrucción de las nociones, de las categorías y de los presupuestos de la identidad moderna occidental en sus más variadas manifestaciones” [development of postmodern thought aimed at cultural criticism and the deconstruction of the notions, categories, and presuppositions of modern Western identity in its most varied manifestations] (Mellino, 2008: 51). For Homi Bhabha, colonial discourse attends to a system of symbols and practices that organize social reproduction in colonial space. According to him, the sense of “post” that is implicit in the term “postcolonialism” refers to a “beyond” and embodies a certain “inquietante energía revisionista” [unsettling revisionist energy] (Bhabha, 2007: 21) that has the ability of transforming the present into a locus of experience and plurality. In this operation (which, in the end, assumes a political stance), culture makes up a seminal dimension, founding a “estrategia de supervivencia es a la vez transnacional y traduccional…” [strategy of survival that is at once transnational and translational…] (2007: 212) and that establishes a space “in-between” that allows for the emergence of hybrid and interstitial cultural signs.


In order to circumscribe the critical tone of the productions generated by the aforementioned artists, let us remember that the tone that preceded conceptualism in Latin America stimulated reflections on the idea of dematerialization. Mari Carmen Ramírez (2004) has pointed out that this cultural project did not depend on centre or metropolitan phenomena, but transcended the opposition “centre-periphery” and accentuated structural and ideological factors over perceptual conditions. A systematic “inversion” occurred through Latin American conceptual experiences with relation to the North American model, given the conditions of marginalization and repression that Latin America experienced in the 1960s and 1970s. The revision of conceptualism in these latitudes obliges us to approach it as “the recovery of an emancipatory project” (Ramírez, 1999: 557). These incipient enunciations predict developments in global conceptual art from an eccentric position, outside or displaced from the centre. Luis Camnitzer underlined certain mechanisms that marked Latin America as a “cultura de resistencia en contra de culturas invasoras” [culture of resistance against invading cultures] (Camnitzer, 2008: 31), whose visual and formal productions pollinated dimensions of the political along with poetry and pedagogy. These sides merged, and the result was a globality that transcended the dichotomy “agitation/construction”: the artist didn’t propose himself as an activist but as a builder of forms, objects, ideas that become embodied in the artwork. There would be a Latin American specificity in contrast with the U.S. conceptual process, observable when taking in account areas such as: the role of dematerialization, pedagogical incidence, the application of the text or literature. For the Latin American case, the process of dematerialization followed a politicized and politicizing condition, more than an aesthetic choice.

Oiticica developed part of his work in the period that immediately preceded as well as during the Brazilian dictatorship. The 1964 Parangolés were capes that were made of ephemeral materials, outside the art circuit. The spectators, besides integrating the work, would make movements in space to the rhythm of Rio de Janeiro samba, thus establishing a dialogue with the surrounding context. In this way, there appeared a new “una experiencia integradora donde la Percepción cumple el doble rol de estructurar y transformar el mundo de lo cotidiano (…)” [integrative experience where Perception has the double role to restructure and transform the quotidian world (…)] (Lucero: 2009a: 2). In 1965, the common denominator among artists and critics was their opposition to the system through protests of a cultural nature, that took place in events such as Propuestas 65 in São Paulo, an event that was similar to Opinião 65 in Rio de Janeiro. These were interdisciplinary exhibits that discussed the fate of the arts after the military coup. Hélio, in Propuestas 66, called this new trend “our objectivity”, thus underlining the avant-garde characteristics of these encounters, as well as promoting a space of experimentalism where subjects could free their imagination and, besides being part of that world, they could also be its creators.

Hélio Oiticica Parangolé P 08 Capa 05 – Mangueira, 1965; P 05 Capa 02, 1965; P 25 Capa 21- Nininha Xoxoba, 1968; P 04 Capa 01, 1964. Image from Ivan Cardoso’s film H.O, 1979. Credits: Catalogue Hélio Oiticica. The Body of Color, 2007, p. 317

Hélio Oiticica Parangolé P 08 Capa 05 – Mangueira, 1965; P 05 Capa 02, 1965; P 25 Capa 21- Nininha Xoxoba, 1968; P 04 Capa 01, 1964. Image from Ivan Cardoso’s film H.O, 1979. Credits: Catalogue Hélio Oiticica. The Body of Color, 2007, p. 317

Tropicália from 1967 was the product of diverse appropriations, which allowed him to advance his environmental agenda, and can be understood as “an idea of a garden for sensory and graphic experiences” (Figuereido, 2007: 118). The notion of anti-art coined by Helio emphasized the artist´s condition as an instigator of creation and that of the spectator as an active participant of the artwork. Anti-art was the response to a collective need in relation to the creative action, that was exempt from intellectual or moral premises: it was man´s simple position within himself, “in his vital creative possibilities” (Oiticica, 1999: 8). Dance was a direct search for the act of expression, and in contrast with ballet´s mechanical choreography, the movement suggested by the dances of carnaval was the equivalent to the exteriorization of the popular element in these communities. The collision with preconceptions related to artistic practices formulated “the connection between the collective and individual expression – the most important step towards this -” (Oiticica, 2006: 106).

Artur Barrio has been a reader of Frantz Fanon (also Oiticica had a translated copy of The Wretched of the Earth). This is an important detail that helps us understand his plastic choices as well as what it means to produce art in the periphery of capitalism. The reference to residues of cheap materials targeted hierarchies and reflected the idea of “economic leftovers”, or edge of the margin. In this sense, “la obra de Barrio incluye estrategias del Conceptualismo apelando al uso de elementos precarios, banales y frágiles, trazando una opción disidente respecto a los materiales industriales de alto costo económico” [Barrio´s ouvre includes conceptualist strategies, that make use of precarious, banal, and fragile elements that delineate a dissident alternative with respect to industrial, high-cost materials] (Lucero, 2009b: 6). The sum of his aesthetic choices constituted the equivalent of an attitude of resistance against others´ control over his own matter. “La postura estético-política de Barrio es una toma de conciencia en relación a la producción del arte en el Tercer mundo como resistencia a la contramodernidad” [Barrio´s aesthetic-political position is an act of conscience with relation to the production of art in the Third World as resistance to countermodernity] (Herkenhoff, 2008: 15), if we understand “countermodern” in Homi Bhabha´s terms, that is, as related to neocolonialism. In this way, Barrio took a clear position before an instance of oppression, that colonized liberty and the senses. In 1969, the artist piled up packages that were toned with blood in one of the rooms of the Modern Art Museum in Rio, that were presented under the title Situação..ORHHH.OU..5.000.T.E..EM.N.Y…CITY: the word “situation” set a deviation from traditional notions of art, while emphasizing an attitude of spatial intervention. One month later, those packages would be taken to the steps of the garden or to the street. The project became more and more extended and in 1970 Barrio deposited the trouxas ensaguentadas on the banks of the river that runs across the City Park (Parque Municipal).

Artur Barrio Trouxas ensanguentadas, in Situação…T/T1; Belo Horizonte, April, 1970; Credits: Inverted Utopias. Avant-Garde Art in Latin America, p. 370

Artur Barrio Trouxas ensanguentadas, in Situação…T/T1; Belo Horizonte, April, 1970; Credits: Inverted Utopias. Avant-Garde Art in Latin America, p. 370

He then packed five-hundred plastic bags with human remains, such as nails or bones that were splattered with bodily fluids, and he placed them in different sites in Rio and Belo Horizonte. The trouxas were, according to Herkenhoff, evidenciadores or “witnesses” that altered or brought a different dynamic to a particular state of affairs. These evidences or demonstrations translated into: operations of repulsion against countermodernity; distributive circuits in the urban and marginal fabric; objects that were “anxious” to force a confrontation with the visceral fear that emanated from the dismembered or gashed organism; visual contaminations, fragmented bodies, paintings, flesh, and finally, living mud. Also in 1970, he did an ambulatory experience that consisted in spending four days and four nights without food or sleep, and just smoking manga rosa, a seed that is grown (sativa) in Brazil that became popular during those years. His body was the physical support for an action that became effective at every moment, in a way that was erratic and to-the-limit. The artist recorded these explorations in perception in a notebook and eight years later he wrote a text defining the term “deambulário” as a one that was written and inscribed on the body (Klinger, 2007).

In Oiticica, the Parangolés provoked an attitude of emancipation in all of the participant´s perceptive dimensions. Each cape provided a different tactile arsenal, with different textures, and colours, promoting a decolonial sense in two ways: the independence involved in dancing with the piece of clothing, and the liberation of showing revolutionary and rebellious phrases: “be marginal, be a hero.” The Tropicália installation generated feelings of provocation and dislocation because it subverted the order of conventional visuality. There, a cultural need irrupted that made it possible for the subaltern to empower and renew himself, while rescuing the symbolic remains that accumulated in the margins and infiltrated the artistic production, an enunciation that was also political and that grew out of a bastard, emergent territory that induced new, contextualized ways of seeing.

Barrio, on the other hand, swept away with the high cost industrial façade while augmenting the symbolic value of throw-aways from the technological circuit. The trouxas ensanguentadas were furtive cargo that reinforced a decolonial strategy, not just because of the precarious and ephemeral materials from which they were made, but because of their subversive wink against despotism and nationalized torture. He reconstructed private cartographies (the location of the packages) as well as public ones, transforming the urban theatre through minimal interventions that were reiterations but also effective. The wandering that went on for days, that put in risk his physical and mental health, opened an erratic channel that, among other things, allowed him to explore his own bodily limits and his autonomy of action – a personal choice that is articulated within the mode of decoloniality.


Why speak of a Latin American modernity that is vexed by fluctuations and paradoxes? From the field of sociology of communication, Roncagliolo (2003) defines the broad concept of modernity through its chronological and cultural aspects. When we think of the beginning of modernity since the end of the fifteenth century (and through the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries), this temporal category designates, in Berman’s words, a whirl of interacting, parallel phenomena. But this series of vertiginous events were directed toward three potential zones: a nucleus of cultural, scientific, and ethical signification; another of a financial and industrial nature; and another with political roots. The voracious development of economic modernization drove forward the accumulation of capital, an action that was stimulated by the colonization that has expanded toward non-Western territories since the fifteenth century. The projection of these modernising trends in Latin America was attempted with great difficulty, The geo-social reality here differed so profoundly from that of Europe: “América Latina fue una región necesaria para la modernización del mundo capitalista, pero ella misma no se modernizó cabalmente” [The Latin American region was necessary for the modernization of the capitalist world, but Latin America itself wasn’t completely modernized] (Roncagliolo, 2003: 114).

Some of these frictions stem from the persistence of unequal degrees of modernization and, as Achúgar (1993) notes—quoting the Mexican writer Fernando Calderón—, Latin America accepted the cohabitation of the premodern, the modern, and the postmodern. Mixed temporalities exposed paradoxes in our modernity, which provides the conditions of decoloniality.

I have noted here that decoloniality calls for a cultural, artistic, and intellectual decolonization. As a critical category, it refutes Eurocentric views within the field of culture and confronts the heavy weight of coloniality in the realm of knowledge. It opens other senses which, in confrontation with the cultural mainstream, strengthen contortions that betray, perturb, and invert that mainstream. The chain of signifiers is exposed in the objects themselves: the significances disperse, disseminating in the multiple gazes of the spectators. The cultural movements that began in the 1920s and continued in Latin America, and which became belligerently propelled in the 1960s, fought against this condition of coloniality that was rooted for centuries, allowing for the emergence of a “búsqueda de conformación de plataformas de pensamiento propias” [search in the formation of self-made platforms of thought] (Palermo, 2009: 16).

The restitution of local and regional materials, challenging the official status quo of art, and a deeply politicized visual production, are pivotal characteristics of Oiticica’s and Barrio’s installations. Moving their actions to public or socially neglected areas places these aesthetic versions on an institutional edge. At the same time, these artists proclaim, with a most fervent individual freedom, a cultural act that is fuelled by decoloniality. Both Oiticica and Barrio revealed a nucleus of signification that refers to disruptive gestures that, in turn, transcended legitimated art media channels, slipping beyond the favela, the rua, and the museum. They bore witness to a state of crisis not just in their own social and political context, but also in the notion of modernity itself that, as a local phenomenon, was marked by fluctuations and paradoxes, thus producing a cultural convulsion on the Latin American stage.


ACHUGAR, Hugo. 1993. “Fin de siglo, reflexiones desde la periferia”. In AAVV. Arte Latinoamericano Actual. Exposición, Coloquio. Noviembre de 1993, Museo Juan Manuel Blanes, Montevideo, Uruguay, pp. 85-90.

BHABHA, Homi. 2007. El lugar de la cultura. Ediciones Manantial, Buenos Aires.

CAMNITZER, Luis. 2008. Didáctica de la Liberación. Arte Conceptualista Latinoamericano. HUM, CCE Montevideo, CCE Buenos Aires, Uruguay.

CASTRO-GÓMEZ, Santiago y GROSFOGUEL, Ramón. 2007. El giro decolonial. Reflexiones para una diversidad epistémica más allá del capitalismo global. Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Siglo del Hombre Editores, Colombia.

FIGUEIREDO, Luciano. 2007. “’the world is the museum’: Appropriation and Transformation in the work of Hélio Oiticica”. In Ramírez, Mari Carmen. Hélio Oiticica. The Body of Color. Tate Publishing in Association with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, pp. 105-125.

HERKENHOFF, Paulo. 2008. “De un Glosario sobre Barrio (dos apuntes: Tercer mundo y Trouxas)”. In AAVV. Artur Barrio. Catálogo de Exposición. Museo Rufino Tamayo, Colección Jumex, México DF, pp. 15-20.

KLINGER, Diana. 2007. “Artur Barrio y Hélio Oiticica: políticas del cuerpo”. In Garramuño, Florencia, et al. Experiencia, cuerpo y subjetividades. Literatura brasileña contemporánea. Beatriz Viterbo Editora, Rosario, pp. 197-205.

LUCERO, María Elena. 2009a. “Diluyendo los límites. Deslizamientos en la práctica artística de Hélio Oiticica (Brasil)”. In AAVV. I Jornadas Internacionales de Arte. Educación en la Universidad. PICEF. Universidad Nacional de Misiones (UNAM), Oberá. CD-Rom, pp. 1-4.

LUCERO, María Elena. 2009b. “Interpelar la opresión: los disturbios de Artur Barrio y Adriana Varejão”. II Congreso Argentino-Latinoamericano de Derechos Humanos: un Compromiso de la Universidad. Facultad de Humanidades y Artes, Universidad Nacional de Rosario (en prensa).

MELLINO, Miguel. 2008. La Crítica poscolonial. Descolonización, capitalismo y cosmopolitismo en los estudios poscoloniales. Paidós, Buenos Aires.

MIGNOLO, Walter D. 2007. La idea de América Latina. La herida colonial y la opción decolonial. Editorial Gedisa S.A., Barcelona.

OITICICA, Hélio. 1999. “Position and Program”. In Alberro, Alexander; Stimson, Blake (editors). Conceptual Art: a critical anthology. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. London, England, pp. 8-10

OITICICA, Hélio. 2006. “Dance in my Experience (Diary Entries)//1965-66”. In Bishop, Claire (edited by). Participation. Documents of Contemporary Art. Whitechapel London, The MIT Press Cambridge, Massachusetts, pp. 105-109.

PALERMO, Zulma. 2009. Arte y estética en la encrucijada descolonial. Cuaderno Nº 6, Ediciones del Signo, Buenos Aires.

RAMÍREZ, Mari Carmen. 1999. “Blueprint circuits: Conceptual art and politics in Latin American”. In Alberro, Alexander; Stimson, Blake (editors). Conceptual Art: a critical anthology. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. London, England, pp. 550-562.

RAMIREZ, Mari Carmen. 2004. “Tactics for Thriving on Adversity. Conceptualism in Latin America, 1960-1980”. In Ramírez, Mari Carmen y Olea, Héctor. Inverted Utopias. Avant-Garde Art in Latin America. Yale University Press, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, pp. 425-439.

RONCAGLIOLO, Rafael. 2003. Problemas de la integración cultural: América Latina. Enciclopedia Latinoamericana de Sociocultura y Comunicación, Grupo Editorial Norma, Buenos Aires.

[1] Translated from the original text in Spanish by Laura Catelli. The citations that appeared in Spanish in the original have been kept in the original language of publication and translated in parentheses.

[2] This presentation has been extracted from my Doctoral Dissertation, Approximations to the Construction of a Methodological Device from the Crossing of Disciplines: Analyzing Productions by Tarsila de Amaral and Helio Oiticica from an Anthropological Perspective. Here, decoloniality is formulated as one of the key concepts for the examination of the artworks.

[3] The term “race” is used here in quotation marks in order to highlight its biologicist and determinist sense. Let us take in consideration that the concept will be debated afterwards, given that it connotes a strong colonialist view that stems from the reflections of authors such as Bernier, Gobineau, Buffon, Renan or Le Bon. For more details, see Tzvetan Todorov’s “Race and Racism” in On Human Diversity: Nationalism, Racism, and Exoticism in French Thought (Harvard UP, 1994).

Dr María Elena Lucero teaches at the School of Humanities and Arts, Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Argentina. She is Director of CETCACL (Centre of Critical Theoretical Studies of Art and Culture in Latin America), Universidad Nacional de Rosario. She is the author of many publications on Latin American art movements and artists, including Eugenio Dittborn, Cildo Meireles and Adriana Varejão. She has also written widely on pre-Columbian cultures.

Talk – Modernism as a local phenomenon: the art of Artur Barrio and Helio Oiticica

María Elena Lucero, Universidad Nacional Rosario, Argentina
11 August 2011 7:30pm, Institute of Postcolonial Studies, North Melbourne

María Elena Lucero

María Elena Lucero

Visiting Argentinian art theorist presents a paper on influential Brazilian artists Artur Barrio and Helio Oiticica in relation to recent ‘decolonial’ thinking in Latin America. In this, she tracks a particular local modernism that drew its materials from the margins. She makes reference to the tropicalia movement, which endures as a quintessential southern way of thinking and creating. Her paper reflects a ‘decolonial aesthetics’, as found in Latin America writers such as Ramón Grosfoguel and Walter Mignolo. Broadly speaking, such an approach advocates a system of meaning that is located in Indigenous forms of knowing that are independent of imperial ideology. This paper is a unique opportunity to consider the relation between the Latin American ‘decolonial’ and the Anglo ‘postcolonial’.

Dr María Elena Lucero is Director of CETCACL (Centre of Critical Theoretical Studies of Art and Culture in Latin America), Universidad Nacional de Rosario. She is the author of many publications on Latin American art movements and artists, including Eugenio Dittborn, Cildo Merilles and Adriana Varejão. She has also written widely on pre-Columbian cultures. María Elena Lucero is coming to Australia exclusively to speak at the Southern Perspectives series at the IPCS.

Southern Panoramas

A call from Videobrasil

Southern Panoramas: accepting submissions until March 10
With a new name, focus, and format, the 17th International Contemporary Art Festival SESC_Videobrasil is accepting submissions for the Southern Panoramas competitive exhibition up until March 10, 2011. Open to all artistic manifestations for the first time, the exhibition is accepting submissions of installations, performances, book-objects, and other experiments. Visual artists from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia (except Japan), Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Oceania may submit artwork produced from May 2009 onwards.
View the regulations and entry forms for the 17th Festivall here.

And from Tokyo:

South by Southeast: Australasian Video Art
SJ RAMIR | Patricia PICCININI | Steve CARR | Angelica MESITI | Swirhana SPONG | Daniel CROOKS | Shaun GLADWELL | Damiano BERTOLI | Ronnie VAN HOUT | Daniel VON STURMER | David ROSETZKY | Richard BELL
10.30 – 12.30 Sunday 20 February 2011
16.00 – 18.00 Thursday 24 February 2011
Australia and New Zealand exist at a point somewhere between the eastern and western worlds, maturing away from British colonialism to become progressive modern countries with specific indigenous heritages. South by Southeast operates as a broad survey of recent single channel video works by Australian and New Zealand artists, reflecting the complex diversity of artists living in these countries and their unique approach to art making. The works emerge out of the specific cultural and geographical conditions of these isolated countries while reflecting the pervasion of, yet irrefutable distance from, the centres of global cultural influence.    
The works within the screening program seek to introduce a selected survey of current art practice from these countries, marking a shift from the documentation of the performative – prevalent in the early employment of the medium of video within an art context – as well as the narrative format prominent within conventional cinema works. This selection of single channel video works often foresake a stringent narrative linearity, instead creating drama that operates outside of a defined temporal sequentiality. These works are for the most part produced with a gallery and museum framework in mind, operating more within the realm of the moving image, rather than as films intended for a cinema context.
Many of the works evoke a strong sense of isolation, depicting singular figures within various situations or against the backdrop of almost undisturbed landscapes, be they urban, suburban or rural. This alludes to the distant position of these countries in relation to the rest of the world, whilst also referencing the relative expansiveness of their respective topographies and comparatively sparse populations. To this end, the Hitchcockian title refers to the idea of locating oneself, both physically and psychologically in relation to our geographic and cultural differences, and in particular, on the occasion of the Yebisu International Festival for Art & Alternative Visions, to the geographical location of Australia and New Zealand in relation to Japan.
For more information on the program please go to:
Yebisu International Festival for Art & Alternative Visions
Daydream Believer!!
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography
17 – 27 February 2011