YOU BETTER NOT GET USED TO IT
34 artists and Brazil as of today
Helena Ribeiro Ruschel
Poster “É melhor já não ir se acostumando”, 2020.
BR-235 is a Brazilian crossroad that connects the city of Aracaju, in the state of Sergipe, to Novo Progresso, in the State of Pará. Along its route, it crosses 7 Brazilian states. It is one of the most complicated highways in Brazil, as there is no asphalt for most of its length, and there are still many non-existent miles.
An unfinished road cuts the forest towards progress. The land exposed on the BR-235 divides infinity as depicted in the image with which we begin our journey. In the previous photograph one sees two opposite sides of the same coin called Brazil. How did we let things get to this point? Borrowing the question from photographer Tuca Vieira, in the description of his iconic image below, one inevitably comes to the conclusion that at some point, from the distant past to the palpable present, we lost our hand as a society. However, the present exhibition does not intend to make the critical appraisal of the times, but to connect stories and visions of the present, with flashes of the past, to raise questions. You better not get used to it is a manifesto for free thinking and resistance to today’s and yesterday’s threats, as of forever.
The images can be enlarged, just click on them. We suggest viewing on a large screen.
“This image does not show in reality how things truly are. The most wealthy don’t live at this building with the swimming pools, nor do they live side-by-side to the poorest, which at their turn are not the inhabitants of Paraisópolis. The symbolic and didactic power of the image prevails though, with its simple and direct visual grammar. Some say it is Photoshop, which seems more like a disbelief in what the scene shows than in the photo itself. The absurdity of the image imposes a sense of unacceptable defeat on us: how did we let things get to this point? ”
Statement by Tuca Vieira to Revista Zum # 3, in December 2012.
Former military men hide their faces from the photographer during a session of the trial in which they are being accused by the Argentine state of crimes against humanity perpetrated during the last dictatorship from 1976 to 1983.
In 1975, at the hight of the Cold War, six Latin American countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay e Paraguay) then ruled by wright wing military dictatorships created Operation Condor, which gives name to the series of photographs by João Pina, on the subject of the victims of state terrorism in Latin America. Aimed at eliminating political opponents, the plan carried out over more than three years resulted in the extrajudicial executions of dozens of thousands of people. Pablo Di Giulio, photographer and Utópica founder, lived his youth in Buenos Aires and witnessed how the military, the federal police and its operational forces acted with impunity in daylight, anywhere, under the gaze and presence of silenced citizens, immobilized by terror. In March 1977, the governor of Buenos Aires, General Ibérico de Saint Jean, made the following statement:
“First we will kill all subversives, then we will kill their collaborators, then their supporters, soon after those who remained indifferent and finally we will kill the timid.”
Car brand used by the Argentine police and army in their operations and rounds in the cities, synonymous with terror for an entire generation.
During the brief democratic spring of May 1973, in Argentina, after a long period of dictatorship, under the government of Héctor Campora all political prisoners were released and the prisons opened. The young women portrayed were part of the Peronist Youth and were, like Alicia Sanguinetti and many other young prisoners, about to be released. Alicia had been in prison for two years and took the photo with a Leica that her brother passed on to her from the outside. The two Peronist girls were murdered years later during the dictatorship and their bodies were never found.
In the province of Buenos Aires, the region called Pampa extends over a plain with one of the most fertile lands in the world, concentrating the largest and oldest cattle farms in Argentina. The scene shows a tree on which carcasses of armadillos were hung, a very common animal in the region. Under this tree lived a wanderer who, with his dog, hunted and fed on the armadillos and, as a trophy or at least to mark his presence, hung the carcasses on the tree. Unpredictly as they appeared, the hiker and his dog, overnight, disappeared.
“You better get used to it” was the slogan broadcasted in 2018 during the electoral campaign of then candidate and now Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro. In a threatening tone, the current government proclaims there is one way which everyone must march. The country that the artist and poet Fernando Lemos chose for his exile, leaving behind the Portugal ruled by António Salazar, in 1953, revives the photography “One way” once again, a criticism of the repressive and obscurantist dictatorship in which his homeland was immersed. Are we still the same Brazilians represented by Gregório Gruber in 1984, refusing to see and condemned to repeat the past?
Black escaped [Nego Fugido] is a popular tradition in the quilombola community of Acupe, in the Recôncavo region, Bahia. It depicts the persecution, capture and release of black people. The presentation reconstructs the history of slavery in Brazil and places the black community as the protagonist of the struggle for liberation. The demonstration began in the 19th century, originated by enslaved people of the African Jeje-Nagô origin and takes place in the region every Sunday in July.
Rat syndrome. São Paulo, Brazil 2020
Video spoken in Portuguese. 0.51 min.
Saying no to the ignorance, intolerance, and brutality currently manifest in our society seems to be an arduous task. In Brazil’s major cities, part of the population lives "under attack", the title of the photograph which opens this section of the show. Records of small explosions produced by the artists from Garapa, in the middle of the Cracolândia territory and surroundings, in downtown São Paulo, the series reflects on the real and symbolic bombs that affect the region and its most vulnerable residents. Defenseless against stray bullets and violence promoted by state agents, or by the absence of these, over 55,000 people are murdered each year in Brazil, most of them young and black, with less than 8% of cases being tried. Wagner Almeida is one of the eyewitnesses to this undeclared war that affects his hometown, Belém, in the state of Pará. Unlike most professionals covering wars, the photographer does not have to travel across oceans to do his work, it is enough to leave the newsroom of the newspaper he works for as a reporter to attend a police incident in one of the neighborhoods where he once used to lived. At the urban landscape revealed in its smallest details by Felipe Russo, in his Downtown series, violence shocks an anesthetized and alienated public opinion for a few seconds, and oblivion prevails.
Manoel Neto is a self-taught painter who used to serve in the São Paulo police force. His paintings bring symbols of popular Brazilian culture and make reference to the artist’s daily life. Manoel is a Christian. The number 133 refers to a Psalm that begins with the following phrase: “How good and how smooth it is that the brothers live in unity.” The pig’s foot makes reference to police officers boots, in the slang of those who are outlaws.
In the world connected via smartphones, which plan, dream or idea of the future will prevail?
“The relationship we establish with our cell phones changes all the time and creates conflict, but in one way or another, we have already incorporated this habit into our lives. Smartphones have the dual power to connect us but at the same time to isolate us from the moment we are living. Everywhere we see people concentrated on their screens and disconnected from the world around them. We still cannot or do not know how to control this craze that has taken over each of the social spaces where we move.”
In search of people living away from conventional society, André Cunha came across a family that lives in the most Southern Region of Brazil, following an unusual analog way of life. Of German origin, the man arrived in the country in 1994 where he met and married his Brazilian companion. Their four children are alphabetized by their parents in both Portuguese and German and go to rural school when they turn six. The family subsists on agriculture producing their own material and spiritual sustenance. Along with an attitude devoidof complexity, what one could call eccentricity coexists, either because of the adults visagism, which escapes the more traditional aesthetics, or even because their way of life discards most of the amenities of the technological world.
Mixed technique assemblage – Slate board (France ca. 1930), figure of porcelain bather (Germany ca. 1940), fragment of Pietra Paesina (Italy) and coral from the Pacific.
28 x 24 x 33 cm.
Marola VII. Sergipe, Brazil 2020
Video. 0.58 min.
In 1989, Rogério Assis was the first photographer to have contact with the Zo’é indigenous people, who had been victimized by an influenza epidemic triggered by an American missionary group, who had encountered and lived with the ethnic group, until then isolated. Twenty years later, in 2009, Rogério returned to the Brazilian Amazon, in the state of Pará, to visit the Cuminapanema Ethno-Environmental Protection Front, maintained by the National Indigenous Peoples Foundation (Funai) for the preservation and isolation of the Zo’é Indigenous Land. The photographer then found a better situation, because protected and secure of their self-esteem, individuals were healthy and happy, and their customs and way of life preserved. The Ethno-Environmental Protection Fronts are responsible for the protection of isolated indigenous peoples in Brazilian territory. Since the current government came into power headed by Jair Bolsonaro, the Front employees have been regularly expressing concern about the dismantling policies at the Funai.
Artists known for their irreverent creations since the days of another violent regime, Antonio Peticov, Tomoshige Kusuno and José Roberto Aguilar close this exhibition, showing that in 1960 as in 2020 it takes courage, good humor and creativity to question and reinvent Brazil. Coming to the end of this virtual journey, we are again faced with a split image, two sides created and separated by man. But the author is no longer the same, this time the artist is the one creating the nation's future.