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Brazilian art outside Brazil

The interest in Brazilian art has been growing all around the world.  Brazilian art is no longer limited to its own country – at the beginning of this century there was lots of attention directed toward this beautiful country.  In 2001, Gasworks, a United Kingdom art collective, in association with  Colchester presented Gambiarra - New Art from Brazil, which will included the first UK presentation of Brazilian artists Ducha, Marepe, Jarbas Lopes, Efrain Almeida as well curatorial collective Capacete Entertainments.

All of the artists and curators included in Gambiarra drew on the languages of contemporary popular culture of Brazil as sources of inspiration and used their practices to comment on the political and social aspects of a country which has weighty economic contradictions and a population that is one of the most ethnically diversified in the world.

Working in a wide range of media, the artists and curators included in Gambiarra presentations were true representatives of a younger generation of practitioners whose work possessed the same creativity, prosperity and multiplicity that people have come to associate with visual art from Europe, combined with a more explicit and overtly political voice.

Gambiarra presentation -- or making do when translated from Brazilian Portuguese -- was a reflection of a common strategy engaged by all of the artists drawn in, who not only see this as a probable tactic for creating works, but also, and more importantly, it was seen as a powerful and positive metaphor for their reflections on the state of cultural institutions and the density of their position as part of and in relation to those institutions.

The conscious decision by the artists and curators in Gambiarra exhibition to use short-term solutions, low-tech materials and to make do with what was to hand rarely had direct reference to their own situations.  It was also variously referring to the large number of severe injustices that have become part of the fabric of Brazilian society, inherently influencing the country’s values.   

Including works from private and public collections from Latin America, the USA and Europe, as well as newly commissioned pieces, the exhibition also included two three month residencies for Ducha, and Jarbas Lopes who were invited to make a series of off-site interventions in response to the different exhibition locations. During his residency, Jarbas Lopes workedwith The London Printworks Trust, Brixton to create a public artwork made in collaboration with ten young people who live in South London.

During his stay in England, in 2003, Jarbas Lopes – probably one of the best representative of Brazilian artists that is able to capture and pass on the Brazilian artistic spirit so well -- held workshops at Gasworks and at the London Printworks Trust. Since his work was strongly involved in social and communal visual culture, his residency provided a perfect opportunity for the outreach project.

The most famous project was: what is a landmark for you? Jarbas spent the first day in discussion with theartist group, after giving a short slide show of his work so far in Brazil. They spent time discussing their goals and Jarbas introduced the idea that a landmark could be defined in many ways other than traditional tourist symbols.  The artist group decided to base the project around this idea.

Each participant took a disposable camera and went out to photograph anything that they felt was a landmark, whether personal or institutional. There was another session when the group got together for a picnic, in order to create a strong group atmosphere and begin a theme of relationships as landmarks. Their presence and the activities in the park contributed to this understanding of public art; it was a realization of their emphasis on people actively occupying public spaces, establishing bonds and using local resources to create landmarks and communities.

Other sessions with Jarbas had the participants making drawings, collages and designs based on all their experiences and photographs, leading to their work at the London Printworks Trust.  During these sessions all participants were taught how to print on T-shirts, learning a variety of techniques and styles.

Throughout these sessions Jarbas discussed the view that everybody is a monument since everybody carries a combined personal and public history – metaphorically or othwerwise.  For example, the T-shirts were made for the event of a mass distribution on the streets of Brixton.  When people walked around in their new T-shirts, the visual effect of the bright colours and striking designs conveyed a sense of unity and individuality at the same time.

The event stirred a lot of curiosity in the UK, and many critics commented on the importance of projects such as this, which attempt to replace the apparent anonymity of the city with a sense of community.