[-empyre-] Critical Pedagogies from Brazil

Here I am sending my post again

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 21st 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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