Southern Observatory 2 | Documents and Manifestos
From different perspectives and contexts, the guests of the second Southern Observatory project session, held in June at São Paulo’s Goethe-Institut, discussed political struggles and contestations of utmost relevance to the debate on the Global South, putting in check the very relevance of the meeting’s key theme. Titled Documents and Manifestos, the session focused on these issues to establish a dialogue with Neo Muyanga (South Africa), Gabi Ngcobo (South Africa) and Daniel Lima (Brazil) — researcher-artists whose works suggest a radical confrontation of status quo and a broadening of traditional worldviews.
Sabrina Moura, mediator of the meetings and curator of the seminar that makes up the 19th Festival's Public Programs, kicked off the second Observatory session by outlining how a few authors have approached the manifesto within the arts. According to researcher José Horta Nunes, the manifesto was born at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, as the outcome of an individual or collective stand, as a “textual format characteristic of European avant-garde movements.” Just think of the Manifesto of Futurism, which, in 1909, sang praise of the speed of machines. "We want to rid [Italy] of the innumerable museums that cover it with innumerable cemeteries,” the poet Filippo Marinetti asserted. In Brazil, whenever artists’ manifestos are brought up, one of the first ones that spring to mind is the Manifesto Antropófago (1928), associated with the modernist movement in São Paulo. "Only Anthropophagy unites us," said Oswald de Andrade in his attempt at devising a project of modernity for Brazil. Despite being the most often quoted, his was not the only project underway in Brazil at that time. In Recife, 1926, during the First Brazilian Regionalism Congress, Gilberto Freyre read his Manifesto Regionalista. He espoused a "movement of rehabilitation of traditional values”, born in Northeast Brazil. Ten years later, in Uruguay, Joaquín Torres García created his Escuela del Sur (1935), inverting the map of Latin America in an image that would later serve as an icon to myriad art and academia projects based on the notion of a Global South.
If modernity was what Arthur Danto dubs the "Era of Manifestos," then what would the contemporary equivalent of this textual genre be? How does our time reclaim its utopias, changes and departures? Far removed from the modern template in its categorical or pamphleteering rhetoric, the contemporary manifesto is much closer to a question: an artistic-political activity that can question hegemonic practices, anticipating or shedding light on our society’s contradictions.
A researcher of protest songs and black opera forms, Neo Muyanga began his speech at the Goethe by inviting the group to reflect on the methodology of the precarious, which can agency the dearth of resources that permeates art production in Global South countries. His artistic and investigative approach views africanness as the aesthetic elaboration of a contestatory practice wholly connected with the productive conditions of his local context. Integrating into Muyanga’s considerations, Daniel Lima’s investigation-action series evidenced transverse axes of commonality between racial (and police) control tools in South Africa, Brazil, and the United States. Finally, Gabi Ngcobo brought to the table a debate about gender and homophobia issues experienced over the course of her residency at the Raw Material Company (Dakar, Senegal), a Videobrasil Residency Network partner organization. Ngcobo also revisited the vandalism acts that prematurely ended the exhibition Precarious Imaging: Visibility and Media Surrounding African Queerness, organized by Koyo Kouoh and Ato Malinda during the 2014 Dakar Biennale (Dak’art).
Southern Observatory is a study and debate platform that is part of the 19th Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil | Southern Panoramas and the Goethe-Institut’s Southern Episodes project. The Observatory will feature four meetings at the Goethe’s São Paulo headquarters and Sesc Pompeia, focusing on thematic sections from a written anthology set for release in October 2015, as part of the 19th Festival publications, and providing input for the event’s Public Programs Seminar. The Seminars project, the publication, and the meetings are organized and curated by Sabrina Moura. Moura also plays host to the Observatory meetings, with collaboration from different guest artists and researchers in each session, plus four researchers selected through an open call — Alex Flynn, Cristina Bonfiglioli, Marina Guzzo and Nathalia Lavigne — and members of the Goethe-Institut, Sesc São Paulo, and Videobrasil teams — Katharina von Ruckteschell-Katte, Patrícia Quilici, Alcimar Frazão, and Ruy Luduvice.
Click here for a summary of the first session.