[-empyre-] Some local cases, maybe with a global implication, sort of (forward from Ricardo)

Hi Christina and all

I am entering this discussion just now and I am really impressed by the diversity of points of view on the topic of education and the whole packet of questions it brings with.

Given my background of work with grassroots groups, art collectives and media activists, I tend to have a less instutional approach to education, instead of some views presented.

I come from this country, Brazil, where education is a basic and deep problem, amongst many others, but where there have been also many projects or attempts to overcome a situation of poverty, ignorance and difficulty. Not only that has appeared in theorizations like Paulo Freire´s Pedagogy of The Autonomy, where the learning process is a process of raising counsciousness with the construction of both the one who teaches and the one who learns, but also in very grassroots projects dealing with open source and digital inclusion which I´ll talk later.

So from this point of view, education, as much as it, in a way or another, may involve art, can happen in many situations outside institutional contexts or market-driven interests. I believe education is a very broad term, and if we talk about art, (or activism, in another guise), why not see an artwork that intervenes in the public sphere as educational, or else an activist manifestation as a form of "critical pedagogy" as in Freire´s idea?

The projects I´ll talk about here in a way or another run away from the "closed" idea of education and in their own manner provide dialogue, information, teach and instill ideas working as art or either activist actions. As part of Documenta´s publication project, reports and articles on some of them will be published in the magazine I run in Portuguese, Rizoma ( www.rizoma.net).

The first ones are strongly related to the artwold as most of its authors come from the art circuit from Brazil but most of them created their projects in a grassroots or community-based way.

The first one I may have in mind is JAMAC (Jardim Miriam Art Club), which is sort of a association (it has indeed now become an NGO) founded by a famous Brazilian Artist, Monica Nador and other artists in the periphery of São Paulo, more specifically Jardim Miriam, a very poor region full of criminality, police persecution of the poor and black young guys and such. One thing we must have in mind is that São Paulo´s Periphery is "said" to be ugly and without aesthetics. It in part is that. But Jamac´s work tries first to ask, to investigate what are the symbols, what are the images that matter the most to those communities and persons. That can be the flower vase in the towel, a picture in a book, whatever. That "symbol" then becomes a pattern that is painted and adorned both inside and outside the house. Monica says her proposal is to bring beauty to those so suffered people. Jamac is also a space, so it gives courses and teaches how to paint and such. Two of its "students" became monitors in the last São Paulo Biennial and are very interested towards becoming artists. But Jamac itself took part in this last biennial, as it was mainly directed towards community and relational art.

The second one I want to call attention is Base Móvel (Mobile Base), a project created by a collective in the Northeast of Brazil, a region known by its poverty and poor resources. Base had its origins in Fortaleza and consists of an archive of the exhibitions of the group or the exhibitions of their network of collectives (there is a fever of collectives in Brazil since at least the middle of the nineties). This archive consists of catalogs, books, CDs, DVDs, posters, whatever concerning the activities and related material from the Brazilian artworld. The interesting thing is that all this material is archived in an enormous box (like one of those musicians that use to put musical instruments for shows) and they take it by hand traveling by bus all around the Ceará State (to which Fortaleza is the Capital) in little cities, villages and such, and contacting the local artists (usually very naïf ones who know nothing about the subtleties of the artmarket, the circuit of exhibition, even the production, of its Whys, Whats, and for Whats. Base Móvel epitomizes a need not only for Ceará but for most of Brazil, even São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro´s countrysides. The circuit itself is so self- concerned, small and limited to the capitals, and ignorance prevails. So an initiative like that may bring information, dialogue and awareness of how the art world fuctions and how to be become an artist if one wants to be so, mainly those ones that would not become otherwise.

Another art-related project is Arquivo de Emergência (Emergence Archive). It was crated by artist Cristina Ribas and is an authorial project fed by many collective projects. From the 3 projects ere presented till now, its is probably the more institutionally linked of them, once it is shown in collective exhibitions. And what does it consists of? To explain that we may understand a very specific situation as for the situation of Brazilian arts. First, as I mentioned before, the fact that there is a whole alternative circuit of collectives and urban intervention artists with their own networks, discussion-lists, urban art festivals, activist gatherings, actions with social movements, and art works all made and disappeared in the streets. All this material is yet to be researched and a history (if so) is yet to be written. Cause the question is that the majority of those collectives and individual artists are, in a way or another ignored or excluded from the normal art circuit. Critics don ´t write about them, in fact we could say "they don´t exist". A project like the Emergence Archive tries exactly to document a lot of those actions describing the actions, the group (ar individual artist) and putting a photograph in a paper covered with plastic. Along with that, a collection of texts concerning art and politics, collectives and magazines produced by the groups. Its an unvaluable and important material for this generation and also future ones who may look at Brazilian art from the beggining of the 21 st Century and that not everything meant the market or the international jet setters and stars like Ernesto Neto and such.

Well, I may be a bit longer still (just a bit), and I hope I may not leave you tired. I also hope you understand that all those references to local situations (at least for other participants of empyre that come from other peripheral countries but not only), also contain symptoms that reflect global situations.

So I make a shift towards more grassroots-activist practices that also deal with art (in a tangential way) but very much represent efforts to educate or bring awareness and raise critical consciousness to disenfranchised communities.

The first one was a project made by a network I was part of in 2004 and it was composed of tactical media activists, electronic sound producers, graphic artists, open source programmers, computer recyclers and Indymedia-Brasil activists. All those people gathered together, after some actions in group like a festival and such, to a project of giving classes of sound production, internet access, recycling of computers and all those specialities quoted before, all these using open source softwares. Chosen were 3 regions from São Paulo´s Peripheries, very poor and lacking basic resources. 300 youngsters from those districts were selected by an ngo that decided to work with us and even Unesco decided to help us with some funding. Those labs of autonomous learning were called Autolabs. Most of the students were women and course lasted around seven months. It was a very rewarding experience to all the participants once what they were teaching was not based on school books but in their own experience, so we may imagine the problems, the adaptations, the changes during the classes and such. None of the workshop givers were teachers, but the knowledge acquirement was also essential for some of the attendants. It may be said that the Autolabs were the very first seed for the known Cultural Hotspots promoted by the minister Gilberto Gil and his open source approach to Brazilian Culture, as most of the group that worked on this project came from the Autolabs.

The last one is for me the most significant of them all. It was born inside of a homeless ccupation in São Paulo´s downtown, the Prestes Maia building. An abandoned building from the 1950´s, that building is drowned in billionaire duties by its owner. As the problem of homelessness is a terrible problem in São Paulo, some of those homeless people organize themselves in movements and invade abandoned buildings. That was the case of Prestes Maia, invaded and commanded by women. The question is that never before had artists or artistic groups merged with those homeless movements, what started to happen by the end of 2003, with an exhibition inside the occupation. I won´t go too deep in the history of this movement (one part of it is being told by Gavin Adams in an article for Rizoma in the Documenta project) since what really interest is one of the outcomes that became a focal point for a lot of changes both in the relation of the artists and collectives with the movement and the society in general. Many events were realized in the occupation during the years of 2004 and 2005, most of them concerning the possibility of expelling by the police as the city government wanted them to be out and also because of the attempt to gentrify downtown. What happens is that most of those events uniting artists and homeless people did not call proper attention to the problem be it by the media channels, the society, the intellectuals, whatever. Someone between the artists discovered a space in the subterranean of the building where people got books and dumped them there. What was the brilliant idea following? Creating a library, with all those humble, abandoned, dirty books, there inside, organizing them, collecting more books, asking for donations, involving institutions, alternative schools, and so that was the first time the "marginalized" Prestes Maia started to appear in national newspapers, magazines and media in General, calling attention to the problem of homelessness and also showing that those people were not the dumb ones they were supposed to be but they would also like to consume culture and such. More than ever, from that discover on, intellectuals started to visit the building and promote debates and conferences, the society at large accepted the movement with more tolerance and problems with the police diminished extremely. The library was organized by artists and homeless people who live there and is currently being used by the inhabitants.

I just wanted to think with some of those examples that education may have a much broader field of discussions that not only concerns algorithms or philosophy but can be linked to very real and painful problems, i.e. concerning the most immediate reality that many of us may not know – maybe.


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