[-empyre-] Ricardo's post on Brazil, forward from Brian Holmes

dear list, 

The mailman software is having problems with really long subject lines, perhaps. Let's try some new short ones.  Meanwhile, Brian Holmes has asked me to forward ...... 


Hi Christina, hi Ricardo -

Hmm, this mail keeps getting back to me as unsolicited bulk! Too long I 
guess! Any chance of slipping it in anyway, Christina???? best, Brian


Hello Ricardo -

It is really brilliant to hear from you on this subject. Thanks a lot!

I can add little but still want to say how much I've been struck, in my 
visits to Brazil, by the lack of a state. The phrase is shocking (and 
certainly only true in one specific way), but it sums up an aspect 
that's hard for people from the developed world to understand, and maybe 
illuminating when you do.

The thing is that in the Brazil I have encountered, the great majority 
of art events, funding, publications, education and experience is 
limited to the classes who can pay for it out of their pocket. Before 
the Lula government, as far as I can tell, there were very few chances 
to do anything like the Autolabs. Art seems to be largely paid for and 
appreciated by multimillionaires, by the corporate officers of obscenely 
profitable banks and by the people who tag along with them. And to "tag 
along" with these people, as I briefly did on one visit, is really 
devastating: you realize that what is represented in national 
institutions is mostly also what's represented in these people's living 
rooms, where the decisions are made. Think hard before you say it's 
exactly the same in the developed world. What this additionally means is 
that all kinds of intermediaries,  where they do exist - cultural 
centers, project funding, publishers, courses - are largely oriented 
towards a highly commercial and status-conscious scene set by the monied 
interests. Even Monica Nador's Jardim, when I visited it a couple years 
ago, betrayed lots of traces of this orientation, transformed in a kind 
of charitable way (but that was the very start, it is likely much 
different now). In such a context, for sure, the kinds of archiving 
projects, portable museums, informal discussion groups, popular 
libraries, webzines like Ricardo's and so forth are really fundamental.

You could say this is also true in Europe or North America or Australia, 
but not really in the same way. In all those places a broadly accessible 
university system has been frequented for generations by vast waves of 
people from rural and working class origins, who have made niches within 
the university and other state functions, developing a relative autonomy 
from the rich patrons that used to define art exclusively. I am sure 
this has happened in Brazil to some extent, maybe Ricardo can comment, 
but it seems very very different to me. Even in the Sao Paulo equivalent 
of municipal art centers - the relatively autonomous, often very 
welcoming and socially oriented SESC institutions, paid for by a tax on 
business - one can feel that it is someone else's property, that one's 
presence is tolerated, but maybe only sometimes. (I dunno, I was largely 
impressed with the SESCs, but even there I got that feeling.) The 
incredible vitality and also combativeness of many of the young 
Brazilian art groups I have met - mostly "middle class" people who 
cannot stand their isolation from the rest of the population - all too 
often seems to come up against a wall of privilege.

The effect this realization had on me was less to make me romanticize 
marginal Brazilian projects - which I really admire, factually and 
without romanticization, no doubt about it - than to think much more 
about how to use the social-state functions in the developed countries, 
and for what. When I saw a world without a middle class in the litteral 
sense of the word (in Brazil, where the so-called "middle class" is 
maybe 10% of the population) or a world where the middle class is under 
attack (in Argentina, where there has been a huge slide toward poverty 
over the last 10 years), of course it made me appreciate the huge 
importance of what is "just another center-left reformist government" 
(as some would-be radicals want to say about Lula and the PT). But above 
all, it gave me different eyes to look on the social-state institutions 
back home, whether in France or the US. What I now see there is a whole 
segment of national populations who managed to escape the coordinates of 
the dominant-subordinate relation and institute a zone in which it is 
possible, sometimes, with luck, to become something else - to 
experiment, to develop another sensorium, another vocabulary, another 
way of thinking, to escape this painful orientation of "culture" to the
ideal figures of the aristocracy and the industrial bourgeoisie or now, 
the financier class that inherited from the old aristocracies. I'm not 
talking about so-called "popular culture" which is often a nostalgic 
category - I am talking about a mutant culture, a culture that only 
emerged in the twentieth century. I am wondering if maybe, in our 
amnesiac societies, it is only possible to see such things when they are 
threatened. In a period where there is really a neoliberal attack on 
those social-state institutions, it is particularly important to go on 
trying to open them up to more kinds of circulation, more kinds of uses, 
and not just to defend the possibility to make pseudo-aristocratic art 
because you happen to have found your way into a safe or prestigious 

Anyway, I recognize that all the above is painfully naive, and those who 
have always understood these things might have much much more to say.

thanks again Ricardo,




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