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“Travessias” at the Bela Maré warehouse: show breaks new ground, literally
While all sorts of entitities and institutions, Good Samaritans and optimists have been zipping over to the recently-occupied Rocinha and Vidigal favelas to offer their help, a courageous and pioneering effort is taking shape on the other side of the city.
“I won’t drive in, sorry, it’s an area in conflict,” says a taxi driver, letting off a passenger at the corner of Bitencourt Sampaio and Avenida Brasil. Here, just before overhead walkway # 10, is the edge of the Nova Holanda favela, one of sixteen that make up the Maré Complex. This week, a man on his way back from walking his wife to the bus stop near here was shot and killed by a stray bullet in a battle between drug traffickers and civil police, said to be laying the groundwork for Rio de Janeiro’s next police pacification unit.
Located on the innermost North Zone shores of Guanabara Bay, the Complex is home to at least 130,000 residents, including drug and paramilitary gangs. Close to the Rio de Janeiro Federal University’s “Fundão” campus, it’s on of the best organized areas of the city; the NGOs Observatório de Favelas and Redes de Desenvolvimento da Maré are headquartered here.
Long-term violence partially explains the abandonment of dozens of industrial warehouses along the Avenida and nearby. Now, exactly one year after the Brazilian Army’s historic invasion of the Alemão complex, the depressing scenery may be about to change.
“The warehouse was closed for about fifteen years,” says Fred Coelho, one of the Travessias show’s curators. Actually it starts November 26 at 4 p.m. only a few safe steps from Avenida Brasil. Open until December 18, the show includes an exhibit, urban interventions, videos, performances, workshops, talks and parties.
In addition to Coelho, the curators are Daniela Labra and Luisa Duarte. Sponsors include Petrobras and the Rio de Janeiro State Cultural Secretariat, by way of a tax incentive law.
Supported by the Observatório de Favelas and artist of the documentary Wasteland fame Vik Muniz, a group of artists have made a US$ 88 million equivalent downpayment on the warehouse in the photo above, renamed Bela Maré (Beautiful Tide) Warehouse. To turn this show into the start of a fruitful relationship between Brazil’s visual arts and one of the city’s ugliest sections, they need a bit more than an additional US$ 70 million equivalent.
Yesterday, artists and curators were setting up the artworks. Davi Marcos plans to place four giant photographs in nearby favela streets. Raised in the housing project on the other side of Avenida Brasil, he’s the sole local among those who are showing. In the classes offered at the Observatório, Marcos has taught dozens of photographers.
Mentioning that the area is dangerous only when heavily-armed police are stationed at the favela entrance, signaling a raid, Marcos sees the show as a chance to “bring the presence of art, with world-renowned people, to a space that the media and society ignore”.
Marcos also created a playful bit of photographic nostalgia with a former worker-turned-factory guard, who showed him how to operate one of the machines left behind.
The other participating artists are Alexandre Sá, André Komatsu, Chelpa Ferro (Luiz Zerbini, Barrão and Sergio Mekler), Eli Sudbrack (AVAF), Emmanuel Nassar, Fish Filet (Alex Topini, Fernanda Antoun and Felipe Cataldo), Henrique Oliveira, Lucia Koch, Marcelo Cidade, Marcos Chaves, Matheus Rocha Pitta, Michel Groisman, Raul Mourão, Ricardo Carioba, Rochelle Costi, and the Pandilla Photographic Collective.
For the first time, Raul Mourão created his kinetic sculptures using steel piping and clamps as a building technique, instead of solid bars and electric soldering. The assembly team customarily makes bleachers. “Usually I work with right angles,” says an engineer while testing a sculpture in the Lia Rodrigues Companhia de Dança‘s warehouse, a partnership with the Redes NGO. “The diagonals complicate things.”
After a visit, it’s not at all complicated to climb up and over the walkway crossing Avenida Brasil, to find transportation back to the South Zone. To the tune of a pirated cd, passing kiosks selling candy and snacks, you make your zigzaggy way through a legion of pedestrians: a man walking his bicycle, a couple lifting a baby carriage to get it down the stairs; a fellow coming home from work, empty lunch pail inside a plastic bag. The wood planking floor is a little loose, and when you least expect it, you realize you’re on top of it all, above a wide, humming, dizzying avenue, the scent of sewage slowly making its way to you from the other side.
And the angle has changed.