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Where our eyes are turned to

Arthur Bispo do Rosário :: ‘Manto da Apresentação’ :: sem data












It is assumed that Arthur Bispo do Rosario lived for about 80 years – no one knows the exact year of his birth. He spent 50 of these years as an intern at an old mental hospital in Rio de Janeiro called Juliano Moreira, being 25 continuous years until his death in 1989.


As a black man, grandson of slaves, poor and migrant, he tried to survive in Rio de Janeiro as a janitor, caretaker, building doorman, employee of a public utility company and bodyguard of politicians, until he was considered “a paranoid schizophrenic”. In a context marked by the rise of fascism – including Brazil, where the acting Brazilian League for Mental Hygiene took a hygienist, racist and xenophobic approach – he was subjected to lobotomy, electroshock and punishment by psychiatric methods that mutilated and excluded those who disturbed the order.


His work was made public, as a whole, only after his death – and revealed an immense artistic legacy of originality, profound thematic creativity and diversity of shapes and materials, bringing to light a previously unknown life whose understanding was based on art, not insanity.


Consciously appropriating of his exile as a way of facilitating self-expression, Bispo do Rosario created art out of any material resource he laid his hands on, irrefutably demonstrating man’s innate ability to create – in spite of difficulties of any nature: technical, material, theoretical knowledge or personal history. His hands made bottles, combs, coins, shoes, mugs, spoons, brooms, pieces of fabric (taken from sheets), sewing threads (for embroidery, taken from the inmates’ uniforms) leave their original purpose to become vehicles of his obsessive quest for ordainment, structure and rhythm of time and thought.


In the words of Louise Bourgeois, “Bispo do Rosario had the ability to take an object of his life of confinement and turn it into a symbolic object of his self-expression, mystery, beauty and freedom”. Coming across any of these objects is an experience invariably fraught with great emotion for its astonishing plastic beauty and the possibility of recognizing shapes, words and meanings that silently talk with the human soul, awakening universal feelings and existential questions.


Questions, yes. Because by looking inward, listening to his own soul and allowing himself to give vent to his creative essence even in the face of immense adversity, Bispo do Rosário yielded beauty and put himself in a time in history psychiatry will never reach. We then wonder where our eyes are turned to, what our ears are listening to and why, even when there is no adversity, we find ourselves reluctant to let forth the creative essence that each one of us carries, in a unique and singular way, inside of us.


In 1982, the Bispo do Rosario Museum of Contemporary Art was inaugurated in Rio de Janeiro – http://www.rioecultura.com.br/instituicao/instituicao.asp?local_cod=119


In 2007, CosacNaify published the beautiful book named “Arthur Bispo do Rosario – Seculo XX”, put together by Wilson Lazaro, with texts by Emanuel Araujo, Louise Bourgeois, Paulo Herkenhoff and Ricardo Aquino, currently out of print.

At the table

Henri Matisse :: ‘La Desserte’ (Dinner Table) :: 1896-97













Human beings might not even remember that dressing once had only a functional meaning in their lives – to protect the body from wheather conditions. After this first moment and over the centuries, dressing incorporated other meanings – social, religious, or even ideological and political – to become, as it is today, an act of codes, rituals and cares.


The history of eating has followed a similar path – if the purpose of food once was just to ensure survival for human beings, it has gained developments over time and, permeated by economic, social, religious or geographic issues, food has also acquired its codes, rituals and cares.


When we look at the evolution of manners and customs, we can also observe another aspect, more subtle but not less relevant: the need for humans to give greater pleasure to mandatory acts which are essential to their existence. As man became conscious of his own existence and gained perception of his tastes and pleasures, he was no longer able to stand endless, mechanical and routine repetition of tasks that did not provide comfort also to his soul. Expanding the meaning of such affairs has become imperative.


We can confer beauty and therefore pleasure to any acts and accomplishments of the human being, and to the various ways of relating to them and among ourselves. In the introduction of his book “A beleza salvará o mundo” (Beauty will save the world) – (Ed. Difel, 2011), the philosopher Tzvetan Todorov explains that beauty, be that of a landscape, a date or a work of art, does not refer to anything beyond these things, but makes us appreciate them as such – and therefore, allows us to try the sensation of living full and exclusively the present moment.


Being at the table to enjoy a meal is one of the richest and most frequent opportunities we have to experience such a feeling – and it amazes me to see how many men and women waste it daily by relating to food as did our ancestors.


At the table, the shape of arranged objects, the taste of a certain food, the encounter with the others, or with yourself, are all possibilities for us to enjoy this fullness – in the words of Todorov, “instant yet infinitely desirable feeling which gives meaning to our existence; thanks to these precious moments, it becomes more beautiful and richer in senses”.


Let us, therefore, be attentive and generous with ourselves, remembering every day that every meal is a chance to meet with the beautiful, to give ourselves pleasure and thus to expand the meaning of our existence.

Contemporary aphorisms

Mira Schendel :: sem título :: 1964













Being is not having.

A purse is no trophy.

Shoes are not a pedestal.

A movie theater is not an amusement park, and the restaurant table is not a tribune.

Aesthetic intervention is not a matter of public interest.

A company badge is not a medal for merit.

The concepts of ‘exhibition’ and ‘elegance’ are mutually exclusive when applied to people.

You can convert identity into image. The opposite, however, is not possible.

Every personal consultant you hire represents a confessed incompetence.

Neckline and skirt (or dress) length increases in direct proportion. Alcohol level and adequacy, however, in reverse proportion.

Swear words mean lack of vocabulary.

You have to be beautiful to be a model, but you don’t have to be a model to be beautiful.

The use of kindness and courtesy is not proportionality related to the socioeconomic status of the listener.

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Our immoral soul

Clarice Niskier :: The immoral soul












“There’s a look that knows how to tell right from wrong and wrong from right. There is a look that sees when obedience means disrespect and when disobedience means respect. There is a look that recognizes the short long paths and the long short paths. There’s a look that sees through, that does not hesitate to point out that there are wicked fidelities and betrayals of great loyalty. This is the soul’s look.”


‘Our immoral soul’ is one of the most beautiful and striking theater plays I have seen in recent years – a theatrical adaptation elaborated and interpreted (elegantly and sensitively) by Clarice Niskier, from the homonymous book by Rabbi Nilton Bonder. Based on the concept that the human soul is transgressive in its very essence, the text confuses, deconstructs and reconstructs ancient views on the concepts of body and soul, right and wrong, obedience and disobedience, betrayer and betrayed.


Bonder establishes the awareness of human beings on their own existence as the origin of the moral body, which then becomes the guardian of customs, conformity and adaptation – the keeper of past traditions, who works through them for the reproduction of the species. The soul – which carries the rebellion and the capacity of mutation – is one that allows thoughts and behaviors that break the established moral, thereby contributing to the evolution of this species. He says it is the tension generated by these two conflicting and interdependent natures, and the dialogue between these forces – the conservative and the transgressive – that allow human beings to transcend themselves.


“There is no tradition without betrayal. And there is no betrayal without tradition.” Just look at the history of mankind only to find, in various forms of human expression, the beauty and truth of this statement: from Michelangelo to Picasso, from Beethoven to Stockhausen, from Isadora Duncan to Pina Bausch, from Brunelleschi to Frank Gehry, from Shakespeare to Guimaraes Rosa … human evolution depends mainly on acts that, through the eyes of customs and tradition, are deemed as betrayals. But betrayal would be not to give voice to our transgressive souls, for they are the ones who provide us with pleasure and evolution in our existence.


About the play ::  www.almaimoral.com
‘Our Immoral soul’, Rabbi Nilton Bonder, 2001, Shambhala.

The strength and beauty of words

Xenon on Berlin’s Matthäikirche, 2001 © Jenny Holzer













Born in Ohio in 1950, Jenny Holzer is an artist who, over the past three decades, has been consolidating a beautiful and impressive work in the visual arts. In spite of her flirting with the abstract arts at the beginning of her career in the late 70’s, when she moved to New York, Holzer chose the word as the driving force of her work, and began to use non-conventional media such as billboards, LED panels and lighting projections to convey both dimensions that make up a word: form and content.


The texts used have different origins: many of them are her own writings, others are internationally known poems, others are even extracted from governmental documents. But Holzer uses this diversity to work in a single line, which speaks of universal values and establishes counterpoints that deeply touch us all: the public and the private, the political body and the physical body, the universal and particular.


More impressive, however, is Holzer’s counterpoint between form and content: we see, at one time, sensitivity and strength, gigantism and fluidity, frailty and perennity – all with a plastic result of unarguable beauty.


It is impossible to stand indifferent when faced with one of Holzer’s pieces of artwork. The strength of her words beautifully invades our eyes, our minds and our souls.


To learn more: www.jennyholzer.com
“ProtectProtect”, Jenny Holzer Exhibition at Whitney Museum, NYC, 2009 (video)

Why Chanel

Photo :: Gabrielle Chanel


Almost 100 years after her first creations, Chanel is still revered in the fashion world – and outside as well. In an era when products, thoughts and relationships are increasingly ephemeral, one should wonder why such a long stay.


Freeing the woman from rigid attires at the end of the nineteenth century (which favored ostentation at the expense of comfort), Chanel reproduced, on an industrial scale, her own image – a distinctive image in absolute harmony with her personality and the historical moment in which she lived. And here lies the secret of her stay in the collective imagination for so long: we are not fascinated by her clothes, necklaces or perfumes – we are fascinated by her identity both strong and unique, which is revealed to us through the objects she used and (re)produced.


Some say that the intensity of Chanel’s presence annulled those of her rivals. It doesn’t seem to me, however, that this fascination came from the objects she chose to wear… On the contrary, such objects were personal and conscious choices, result of the intensity of her thinking – and of the understanding that, also by dressing, she expressed her own identity.


Ironically, the industrial production of a unique personal style has become a paradox – to the point when Chanel herself stated: “I am no longer what I once was: I must be what I have become.” The desire for a socially recognized and valued image combined with the lack of knowledge and reflection on oneself make thousands of people seek in bags, shoes and clothes the ability to grant them personality and identity, in a total reversal of roles.


As I once wrote in the text ‘About dressing’ (Jan, 2011), beauty lies in being and perceiving ourselves as unique. Beautiful, therefore, is not to own Chanel – beautiful is to be Chanel.


Piet Mondrian :: Composition C :: 1935


I watched the final minutes of the interview with Roberto DaMatta in the show Roda Viva, on TV Cultura channel, last January 10th. Since then, I have been thinking about something he stated firmly: “Human beings need to learn the meaning of the word ‘enough’. What is enough for me? What satisfies me? This question is fundamental, terrible, critical.”


We live in a time when there is almost no room for reflection, and certain ways of being and having are spread as universal truths: the clothes you ‘must’ wear, the car you ‘must’ own, the music you ‘must’ listen to, the place you ‘must’ go to… So many people repeat such “truths” without any reflection or questioning! And worse, many others suffer and blame themselves for failing to pull off a particular ‘being’ or a certain ‘must-have’!


Seeking something without being aware of how much of it is enough only intensifies dissatisfaction and anxiety in each one of us – because the conquest of that which we do not want does not bring any pleasure to the soul.


Being aware of what is enough for us is like being free. Looking within ourselves and understanding the measure of what we want to have, be, use, feel or hear is the only way to extend the pleasures that we can offer to our soul every day.