The key

Kitagawa Utamaro :: Lovers in an upstairs room :: 1788















February 27th
Just as I imagined. My wife keeps a diary. To this day I took the precaution of not writing it in this notebook, but actually my attention was vaguely grabbed a few days ago.
… I am not so vile as to read the diary of my own wife without her permission. However, driven by bad feelings, I tried to cunningly remove the tape that sealed it so as to leave no marks. I wanted to show my wife that a tape alone would be useless.



March 7th
Then I found the key lying in the same place. I thought there must be some reason, and then I opened the drawer and pulled out my husband’s diary. To my surprise, it was sealed with a tape in the same way as I had done. Would my husband want to tell me “Try opening it”?
… I was tempted to try to pull the tape without leaving marks. And so I did it, simply out of curiosity”


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Listening to one’s own voice

Bobby McFerrin















“Is this what you want to do? Is this how you picture exploring music?” These were the questions Bobby McFerrin says he asked himself when still very young and thrilled by listening to Keith Jarrett’s piano performance. The vulnerability of a person alone on a stage had always fascinated him, and made him wonder if he could, as Jarrett, capture the essence of a song, its harmonies, and capture his own essence – and only then, sing the same way Jarret played the piano: with his heart and in his own unique and personal way.


He spent almost three years alone, singing, writing, listening and getting acquainted with his own voice. During the first two years Bobby did not listen to other singers – he was afraid of being influenced by some other singing style, convinced that this would make him turn away from his own style. He needed to discover himself, learn and take ownership for the sound he created, get to know and explore the possibilities of his own voice.


His ability to improvise was also a challenge to overcome. He wanted to discover the pleasure of moving without knowing exactly where to go… of letting himself go as a child does, without being guided by theoretical knowledge. He then spent many other years working out his own way to improvise – in his words, overcoming the fear of improvisation, the fear of taking risks, of looking like a fool and not having enough ideas.


Today, over 30 years later, Bobby McFerrin is known worldwide as one of the greatest talents of contemporary music. In addition to the musical genius in every note his voice sings and every gesture he makes, rare plainness and elegance become evident from the perfect harmony of what he does, what he looks like and who he really is.


Bobby McFerrin’s truth can also serve as an allegory for each of us. After all, there is nothing more beautiful, elegant and enjoyable than being and acknowledging oneself as unique, listening to one’s own voice, expressing one’s essence, not fearing the unknown and experiencing the joy of keep moving. And that’s what really matters.


To learn more:
To listen to: (interview)

The power of doubt

Victor Brauner :: ‘The Triumph Of Doubt’ :: 1946












We live in an era of certainty – or pseudocertainty. Ways of being, dressing or behaving, answers to questions or attitudes in response to situations appear to be unique, obvious and unarguable. In times of ‘personal services’ (trainer, shopper, organizer, stylist…!!!), self-help books and “how-to” handbooks (not to mention contemporary bibles such as Google and Wikipedia), not being able to keep up with the “must-bes” or “must-haves”, or not having the instant (and expected) answer to any questioning appears to be a sign of ignorance or weakness.


In 2008, in an interview to Franthiesco Ballerini, correspondent to the Brazilian newspaper Estadao in Los Angeles – in a context of criticism on television for its power to destroy reflection capacity – the award-winning actor Alan Arkin made an interesting observation: “Today, when you ask a question to a young person, they always have an answer. People no longer reflect before answering. Nobody says ‘let me think about it’. Even Einstein used to say this all the time, and he was reasonably smart.”


Doubt is one of the major human development drivers, and the capacity to reflect is one of our greatest assets. Certainty and unanimity are not only stupid, they are also stagnant – one can only grow, both socially and individually, through constant questioning. Those who do not say to themselves “I don’t know, I need to think about it” do not know the pleasure of listening to themselves – to their soul, reason and feelings – and of building their own identity.


Enjoying freedom of thought, exercising emotional and intellectual skills, taking ownership for one’s own way of being, dressing or behaving, as well as being whole and worthy in responses and attitudes towards life (well aware of the responsibilities involved in them) is one of the greatest pleasures human beings can indulge themselves in – and it’s the most elegant way of living life, unique as it is.

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 –


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.

Silent understanding

Issey Miyake by Irving Penn

Issey Miyake by Irving Penn :: 1990














The American Irving Penn was one of the key people in building the image of Western women in the second half of the twentieth century. He joined Vogue in the late 1940s through Alexander Liberman (his job was to “come up with ideas for the covers”), and eventually established himself as a talented creator of fashion images, full of glamour and sensuality to which the post-war American society aspired.


While on the one hand his near aristocratic view privileged poses of rigid formalism – which made reference to photos of previous decades – on the other hand the minimalism and the plainness perceived in his images showed, undoubtedly, the innovative nature of his work. Even when fashion itself was built on excesses, the sensitive eye of Penn filtered out the superfluous, and the resulting images were always of great elegance and sophisticated simplicity.


Born in Hiroshima seven years before the city was destroyed by war, Issey Miyake is undoubtedly one of the most creative clothing designers of the last century. Far beyond the “Japanese designer” label usually assigned by the international press, Miyake was never restricted to national identity, and always sought balance between tradition and innovation to create universal designs. “I do not create to express my ego or personality, but rather to get answers to those who are wondering about our era and how we should live it.”


From a simple and minimalist concept – “making clothes from a piece of cloth” – Miyake’s work is a result from the old principle of mixing a three-dimensional figure with two-dimensional material by means of folding. By combining Japanese fabric with western patterns, new technology and functionality, his “less is more” concept builds forms which are architecturally simple, elegant and of exquisite beauty.
For over 20 years, between 1975 and 1998, Irving Penn portrayed Issey Miyake’s work. The merger of these two artists from such diverse cultural backgrounds was registered in 1999 in the wonderful book “Irving Penn regards the works of Issey Miyake”, by Midori Kitamura and Mark Holborn, which will be the subject of an exhibition at 21-21 Design Sight in Tokyo, Japan, starting in September.


This union, which at first seemed unusual, has produced hundreds of stunning images, in that their work turned out to be a mirror to each other’s work. Under Penn’s influence, the models’ poses turned Miyake’s clothes into true sculptures, portraying scenes that look more like fragments of dance moves; Miyake, in turn, gave Penn a chance to exercise his formal rigor with textures, shapes and masks from another culture. And the union of these two “masters of reduction,” as defined by Holborn in the foreword of the book, yielded images of a dry, sharp and accurate nature, which offer no room for anything beyond the essentials. The result of this beautiful partnership, which Miyake poetically called “silent understanding”, proves that the concepts of beauty and elegance can indeed be universal – and can gently touch the most unique souls throughout eternity.

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 ::
‘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:
“ProtectProtect”, Jenny Holzer Exhibition at Whitney Museum, NYC, 2009 (video)

Multiple choices









Sample books have been used since the sixteenth century as working tools for all areas of the decorative arts. With the purpose of experimentation, documentation, marketing or distribution, they are endowed with refined beauty since it offers countless possibilities of colors, shapes, forms or textures, and provide the perception of variety – and by doing so in an orderly fashion, they allow understanding and pleasure. (Quoting Montesquieu: “It does not suffice it to show many things to the soul: we must do it in order, to be able to remember what we saw and begin to imagine what we will see; the soul thus rejoices for its extent and its ability to penetrate”.)


On this theme, in 2008 the Cooper-Hewitt Museum held a wonderful exhibition called “Multiple Choices – From Sample to Product”. The samples ranged from sales catalogs with replica buttons of the French industry of the eighteenth century to tiles resembling the porcelain colors of Sèvres, to the latest Pantone® Guides notebooks, books and objects of unparalleled beauty, capable of filling our eyes and taking our breath away.


The contact with such universe of colors, shapes and their infinite associations results in a sensory experience able to provide our soul with different and infinite pleasures. A beautiful example is the PantoneHotel, inaugurated almost a year ago in Brussels. By inviting people to “experience Brussels through the lens of colors”, the hotel assigned to each of its seven floors different color palettes, thus aiming to provide its guests with different sensations – and therefore, different pleasures.