RECIPES FOR A B_R_Z_L_ ?

AnnexB’s exhibition AT SPRING/BREAK Art Show for the Special Projects section, curated by Tatiane Santa Rosa.

Photos by Joana P. Cardozo

Photos by Joana P. Cardozo

ABOUT THE exhibition

AnnexB is thrilled to be part of this year’s edition of the SPRING/BREAK ART SHOW. In RECIPES FOR A B_R_Z_L_?, AnnexB brings a group of Brazilian artists, most of them former AnnexB residents, whose works comment on the ways through which national narratives seek to discipline bodies, target groups based on class, racial or ethnic backgrounds, and shape us as individuals by imposing rigid notions of gender and sexuality. These works respond in very different ways to made-in-Brazil nationalistic orders and rules, as if unmasking far-right alarming fictions and their very real effects. Some of the artworks in RECIPES FOR A B_R_Z_L_?  elaborate on the format of the flag and Brazilian national symbols, while other works emphasize the presence of the body to comment on questions of race, gender, and sexuality.

Participating artists (alphabetically by last name): Nino Cais, Carla Chaim, Bel Falleiros, Ivan Grilo, Randolpho Lamonier, Raphaela Melsohn, Bia Monteiro, Moisés Patrício, Dalton Paula and Mano Penalva.

 

RECIPES FOR A B_R_Z_L_ ?

AnnexB at SPRING/BREAK Art Show NYC

Curated by Tatiane Santa Rosa

March 5th-11th, 2019

866 United Nations Plaza – Booth W21

Curatorial Essay

Tatiane S. Santa Rosa

In RECIPES FOR A B_R_Z_L_?, AnnexB brings a group of Brazilian artists, most of them former residents, whose works comment on the ways through which national narratives seek to discipline bodies, shape us as individuals by imposing rigid notions of gender and sexuality, or target groups based on class, racial or ethnic backgrounds. These works respond in very different ways to made-in-Brazil nationalistic orders and rules, as if unmasking far-right alarming fictions and their very real effects.

Although imagined communities are constructed as if based on “facts,” history stitches a nation together by officializing convenient narratives while excluding others that are considered troublesome by those in power. National flags function in similar ways to history: under apparently benign visualities these image-objects mobilize national discourses, transmitted to people as facts. Brazil has a long history of far-right dominance: throughout this history, national flags, its colors and symbols, have been deployed by right-wing-extremists to enforce control over specific bodies: those who are “different” from prevailing social norms.

Some of the artworks in RECIPES FOR A B_R_Z_L_?  elaborate on the format of the flag or Brazilian national symbols, while other works emphasize the presence of the body to comment on questions of race, gender, and sexuality. Opening the show, Bia Monteiro’s series Desterrada are photographs that result from the artist’s research on Brazilian natural resources––exploited since colonial times––and the pigments they can produce. After selecting each pigment, Monteiro creates photo-performances in which anonymous “women” pose amidst natural landscapes, holding transparent dyed flags against their bodies, in gestures of resistance and defiance.

Bel Falleiros’ To Recall the Absent (2018) is originally a site-specific-installation made for the Pecos National Historical Park in New Mexico, US. During a 4-week artist residency, Falleiros researched the histories of that site, which is deeply linked to Native American memory. The artist explored the park’s landmarks, its symbolic and natural elements. As a final installation, she created a circle by mowing the natural vegetation on a wild plain area, and marked the center of the site with white stones from a nearby river––this center was surrounded by four flag poles. The flag poles installed in RECIPES FOR A B_R_Z_L_? are the same that originally marked each of the cardinal directions at the Pecos National Park, in New Mexico. Unfired conical ceramic bases support the poles and transparent white flags on which Falleiros drew iconic images of natural landmarks, such as the sacred mountain that demarcates the Tewa territory. By bringing Falleiros’ installation to NY, we pledge solidarity with the causes of Native Americans across the Americas, as well as with the rights of nature, both threatened by far-right policies.

The white flag is also present in Ivan Grilo’s Privileges (2017). Inspired by flags that mark Afro-Brazilian terreiros, Grilo uses it as veil to partially conceal a historic photograph that  registered a moment during the abolition of slavery in Brazil, proclaimed in 1888. Brazil was the last country to abolish slavery, having been also the country that brought more enslaved peoples to its soil––around 4.8 million. Although Black people in Brazil have always fought to ensure their rights since their ancestors arrived in that country, slavery is an appalling past that Brazilian national narratives have often sought to attenuate. Grilo’s work may be commenting on the fact that, although the photograph underneath the veil should represent a victory for Black people in Brazil, it actually shows an audience comprised mostly of Brazilian elite men, some of those who even tried to halt the abolition.  

Other two works refer to this history. Moisés Patrício, one of AnnexB’s current residents, shows images of his series “Aceita?” (Do you Accept? 2013-On-going), a photo-Instagram-diary that has now more than a thousand images. During his walks across the world––but especially in his home city, São Paulo––the artist collects objects and materials from sites that often refer to racially-marked conflicts. Patrício then carefully composes a hand-selfie with objects or textures as the background for the palm of his hand. Through this gesture, he offers these objects back to society, emphasizing their Blackness, but also unmasking systemic racism in Brazil, as one of the legacies of slavery in that country.

Nilo Peçanha (2013), is a 2-minute-video performance by artist Dalton Paula. The work consists of two parts: first, a photograph of Paula’s naked back appears facing the city; second, in a smaller window to the left, viewers see a video of the artist’s skin being pierced with a National Brazilian Coat of Arms textile appliqué. The procedure is painful to watch, even if Paula’s body does not move. The piercing of his Black body, and the final image, showing his back juxtaposed to the capital Brasilia––the seat of national power––may suggest also  a resistance to Brazil’s national narratives, those that have sought to exploit Black bodies and obliterate Blackness. The work’s title refers to Brazil’s 7th president (1909-10) who is said to have hidden his Afro-Brazilian origins: Peçanha was often ridiculed by the press due to his skin color.

In RECIPES FOR A B_R_Z_L_?, we bring other two video works that respond to nationally-imposed-constraints over bodies, this time regarding gender and sexuality. Unlike Paula’s exposed body, Nino Cais’ Untitled (2016) shows a body entirely covered, wearing a horseback rider’s dark professional outfit, white gloves, tap-dance shoes, and a veil that covers the person’s face. Sitting on a chair in an all-white room, the rider starts to tap dance and drum his hands over his thighs, making noises that resemble a horse galloping. Cais’ works often challenge the figure of the normative male and the ways through which social norms clash against queerness. His mixed-media work Untitled (2018) dialogues with this video.

Raphaela Melsohn’s Wearing a Trap (2014-Ongoing) is originally a multiple-part-artwork (video, uniform, news bulletin, and installation) that investigates the existence of Nushu, a Martial Arts technique that is said to have been originated, created, and practiced in secret only by women. To bring attention to this women-oriented fighting technique, Melsohn intends to institutionalize and disseminate Nushu by supporting the Brazilian Nushu Federation and by organizing a series of workshops. (In fact, Nushu was invented by the artist as a fictional fighting technique, after researching about the history of Martial Arts).  

If in RECIPES FOR A B_R_Z_L_? the body in uniforms appears in action in videos, uniforms are also referred to in Randolpho Lamonier’s flag-like, large-sized, artworks. Using stencil printing on delicate embroidery, Lamonier responds directly to the current Brazilian political crisis. The rise of far-right preaching in Brazil has been encouraging militarization of children’s education as well as has praised the past military dictatorship (1964-84) and its leaders. Lamonier’s O Ódio Está Sem Uniforme (2018),a black square flag showing the phrase “Hate is Wearing no Uniform,” may point to the present condition, in which uniforms and hate speech go hand-in-hand. In El Gran Cacique (2018), Lamonier combines a floral patchwork blanket with embroidery of a semi-automatic gun, perhaps also commenting on how, within national narratives, insurgence and “national order” have been suspended in-between “good and evil.”

Unlike, Lamonier’s large flags, Carla Chaim brings her explorations on the relationships between the body and architectural spaces by presenting Ele Queria Ser Bandeira (He Wanted to be a Flag) (2017-On-going), a black flag that leans precariously on the wall, as if waiting to take the streets in both protest and mourning. Made proportionally to the dimensions where the work is installed, the flag is so delicate that would be destroyed upon its actual use.

Finally, Mano Penalva shows his photo-performance Porta Bandeira––Ensaio para Resistência (Flag Carrier - Rehearsal for Resistance) (2018). Produced during his residency at AnnexB last year, and anticipating times of political conflict, Penalva photographed himself against a neutral urban outdoors background, holding flag poles that support no flags. The artist posed in four official positions that follow the protocol for Brazil’s national flag’s honor: 1- Conducted in Parade;  2 – Resting; 3 – Shoulders; 4 – Salutation. In response to a proliferation of flags and national symbols that have now overwhelmed the field of representation in Brazil, Penalva stands alone, while the honored flags are missing, perhaps waiting for the tide to turn.