Skip to content

Fernando Cocchiarale


Fernando Cocchiarale is an artist and carioca art critic. Between 1972 and 1974, he studied at Museu de Arte Moderna, in Rio de Janeiro (MAM RJ), and participated in several exhibitions, especially concerning video art, in Brazil and abroad. He was one of the pioneers of photography in contemporary art, as has been shown in the retrospective exhibition “Anos 70 – Fotolinguagem” ( Parque Lage, Rio de Janeiro, early ’90). In 1977 he graduated in Philosophy at PUC –Pontificia Universidade Catolica- in Rio de Janeiro and began to write more systematically about art. He became professor of Art History and Aesthetics in the Art History and Architecture course at PUC in Rio and he is teaching at the Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage, as well.  He worked as curator for the MAM RJ  (2000 -2008) and for Itaù Cultural Artes Visuais (1999-2003). He is a philosopher, art critic, curator and professor. He lives and works in Rio de Janeiro.

(Biography from and from


The Brazilian identity is the main topic we discussed with professor Fernando Cocchiarale. He told us about the “contamination” that characterizes the Brazilian culture, helping us to define a historical framework around this crucial point.

First of all he suggested making a comparison between Modernism in Europe and in Brazil, in order to better understand the idea of contaminated identity, facing a concrete example.

Modernism in Europe deals with the issue of purity, both in art and politics, it is the world of specialization, with well determinate fields, and clear separations. Modernism in Brazil, instead, deals with the issue of hybridization; from a cultural point of view, the most important concept is anthropophagy, theorized by Oswald De Andrade1 (comparison with Europe: Bauhaus with the ideas of purity and knowledge). De Andrade affirmed that cannibalizing other cultures was the way  Brazil asserted itself against European postcolonial cultural domination: Brazil was able to grab what the western colonialism left, “ate” it and put it forward again in a new and better way, as, for example, Burle Marx did. From a political point of view we have to consider the ideas of Plinio Salgado2 the leader of “Integralism” (comparison with Europe: Fascism and Nazism). Salgado adapted virtually all Fascist symbolism and salutes like paramilitary organization, regimented street demonstrations and aggressive rhetoric. The main difference from western dictatorships was the rejection of racist ideologies: he was promoting the supremacy of a new race, but it was not a pure one; he was talking about the fifth and harmonious race, made by the mix of all the races.

Professor Cocchiarale made us think of the fact that Brazil has a history made of colonialism and exterminations: from 1500 this country was constantly colonized and occupied by conquers and immigrants from different European nations. They settled down bringing different traditions that are still strongly alive and are the foundation of the present Brazilian society.

He explained that also the idea of Brazilian nationality is in a certain way contaminated. It is more geographical that connected to “blood”: a person considers himself Brazilian just because he was born in Brazil, apart from the ancestor’s origins; all the people underline proudly their origin, but at the same time are feeling deeply and truly Brazilian.

Cocchiarale told us why, from his personal point of view, Brazil can be considered as the country of the future: today we are in the electronic era where the circulation of information is becoming quicker and quicker and where we are constantly bombarded by an enormous amount of extremely heterogeneous stimulus; we are in the era of hybridization. Brazil has been experiencing this hybridization for many years, it is the most remarkable feature of the country.

He suggest us a book by Darcy Ribeiro, a Brazilian anthropologist: “The Brazilian people: the formation and meaning of Brazil – Complex and volatile reality of Brazil’s national identity as a product of his ethnic roots”.3

We asked him a good criterion for selecting artists and works for a meaningful and relevant Brazilian contemporary art show. He answered: “Forget criteria. Select works that people don’t expect to see. This is the real essence of Brazil: surprise”.

1 José Oswald de Andrade Souza (January 11, 1890–October 22, 1954) was a Brazilian poet and polemicist. He was born and spent most of his life in São Paulo. Andrade was one of the founders of Brazilian modernism and a member of the Group of Five, along with Mário de Andrade, Anita Malfatti, Tarsila do Amaral and Menotti del Picchia. He participated in the Week of Modern Art (Semana de Arte Moderna).Andrade is best known for his manifesto of Brazilian nationalism, Manifesto Antropófago (Cannibal Manifesto), published in 1928.Born into a wealthy family, Andrade used his money and connections to support numerous modernist artists and projects. He sponsored the publication of several major novels of the period, produced a number of experimental plays, and supported several painters, including Tarsila do Amaral, with whom he had a long affair, and Lasar Segall. His role in the modernist community was made somewhat awkward, however, by his feud with Mário de Andrade, which lasted from 1929 (after Oswald de Andrade published a pseudonymous essay mocking Mário for effeminacy) until Mário de Andrade’s untimely death in 1945.


2 Born in the small traditional town of São Bento do Sapucaí in São Paulo state, he was the son of Colonel Francisco das Chagas, a local political leader, and Ana Francisca Rennó Cortez, a teacher. A very active child at school, he had special interest for math and geometry. After the loss of his father, when he was 16 (fact that is said to have made him a bitter young man), his interests shifted towards psychology and philosophy. At the age of 20, he founded and directed the weekly newspaper Correio de São Bento. It was through his articles that he would become known by fellow journalists in São Paulo, and would later be invited to work there in the political paper Correio Paulistano.In 1918, Salgado began his political life by taking part in the founding of a party called Partido Municipalista. This party congregated town leaders from municipalities in Vale do Paraíba and advocated municipal autonomy. Also in that year, Salgado married Maria Amélia Pereira, and on July 6, 1919, his daughter Maria Amélia Salgado was born. Fifteen days after giving birth to her daughter, Maria Amélia died. Filled with sorrow, Plínio turned to Catholicism for comfort, and then began to read material from Brazilian Catholic thinkers.Again, the death of a loved one had a great impact on the course of Plínio’s life. He would only marry again 17 years later, with Carmela Patti (from

3The late Ribeiro was a remarkably prolific scholar, novelist, and activist for Brazil’s indigenous and underprivileged. Upon returning to Brazil in 1974 after a ten-year political exile, he became Rio de Janeiro’s lieutenant governor and federal senator. Brilliantly translated by Gregory Rabassa, this book is the decades-old product of Ribeiro’s labors as he attempted to come to terms with the complexities of Brazil’s national identity. Scholars and other critics have faulted his work, but Ribeiro’s enthusiasm and broad interpretation never appealed to academics anyway. More important, as Elizabeth Lowe says in her helpful introduction, this highly readable and enjoyable book marks the end of a grand tradition that encouraged Brazilians to understand their country as a product of its ethnic roots. For Ribeiro, Brazil was the “most beautiful and luminous province on earth” but was cursed by its history of class and ethnic antagonism. Nonetheless, Brazil’s strength lay in its people’s fundamental creativity and the promise offered by its mixed blood and Latin roots. Ribeiro was confident that Brazil will someday pose a worthy challenge to the United States and Canada-“mere transplants of Europe onto broad spaces overseas … [that offer] no novelty to the world.”)


by Giulia Casartelli

%d bloggers like this: