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Antonio Cava

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Antonio Cava, an Italian acquaintance living in Brazil, met us at our hotel early Sunday morning to takes us on a tour of some important sites of the city. We first visited the Museu de Arte Contemporanea in Niteroi. This museum was designed Oscar Niemayer and has a very particular, spaceship-like structure. Antonio explained that Niemayer was also responsible for the architectural project of Brasilia. The urban plan of Brasilia was designed by Lucio Costa (whose wife died at an intersection) without intersections, only cavalcavia (tunnels). At the time of our visit, the MAC Niteroi was hosting two exhibitions. One exhibition was an investigation of painting that included works by seven young artists: Adams Carvalho, Alexandre Vogler, Bruno Vilela, Clarisse Canela, Eduardo Berliner, Geraldo Marcolini and Mariana Palma. The other exhibition at the MAC was called Fôlego, an installation creating a dialogue between the outer and inner landscapes of the museum, using video among other things.

After Niteroi, we visited the Paco Imperial museum where an exhibition about landscape architect and artist Burle Marx was being held. Before Marx, gardens in Brazil were copies of U.K. gardens, using imported European flora. Marx, instead, saw the potential of Brazilian vegetation and was engaged in tropical landscaping throughout his career. The exhibition at the Paco Imperial included models, drawings of some of his landscape design projects as well as a large number of paintings, sculptures, jewelry, tapestries and costumes.

We found a quiet corner in the Paco Imperial and Antonio started discussing some of his perceptions of Brazil. He explained the importance of modernism in Brazil and that modernism has been the key to the re-valorization of Brazil in looking at international phenomena and reinterpreting them through Brazilian features. This re-valorization is far from over because Brazil is still a country in progress, looking at itself in the mirror and searching for its identity. New trends are arising, but it is difficult for Brazilians to absorb them without first knowing themselves.

In Brazil, mixture is considered a good thing; it has a higher status than in Europe. Antonio brought up the buffet-ao-quilo (buffet by the kilo) example to show that Brazil even puts a spin on fast food.  He also touched on the issue of racism and pointed out that we all feel racism (we feel we are different), but in Brazil there isn’t racial hatred, diversity is well accepted because something has worked well in the mix. According to Antonio, social problems in Brazil do not have their root in racism, but in economic issues.

According to a certain survey Brazilians have a strong desire for culture. Apparently the Brazilian middle class is more interested in culture than is the Italian middle class. The lower class in Rio has personality according to Antonio. The poor have resided in the center of the city from the beginning, in order to be near their workplaces and thus the favelas in Rio are located in the middle of the city.

Brazil was born under the influence of Baroque. The Portuguese were the only colonists who went to every continent and wherever they went they brought Baroque with them. In every place where Baroque arrived it was contaminated and reinterpreted. With the presence of slaves in Brazil and their opposition to the excesses of the Baroque, emerged religious rituals voicing this resistance to the Baroque in the form of the Carnival. For this reason Brazil is full of religious rituals, faith and spirituality.

Contemporary art in Brazil seems to be divided into two types, international and the “popular”, the popular being more predominant in the inner part of the country and the international in the metropolises.

Finally, we visited Santa Teresa, a neighborhood located in the hills of Rio de Janeiro and surrounded by favelas. The picturesque quarter is famous for being an artistic hotspot.

by Kiki Sideris

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