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27.01.15

Reflections on Brazil: Graham Domke, Exhibitions Curator, Dundee Contemporary Arts

by Graham Domke
 

Research trip to Brazil led by the British Council and supported by Creative Scotland, September 2014.

Brazil has produced so many outstanding artists in the last fifty years who have made telling contributions to modern and contemporary art practice. It was a long-held ambition of mine to travel there and so the invitation to go on the occasion of the Sao Paulo biennial was irresistible. The MASP collection and building was world-class and SESC Pompeia was an inspiring venue and community asset which also presented an important edition of Videobrasil while we were there. I thought the Sao Paulo Biennial was very strong and I especially admired their commitment to social engagement and to non-mainstream/alternative identities that was presented with sincerity and conviction. The inspirational educational programming at MAM and their exquisite Rivane Neuenschwander show. The rigour and knowledge and strength of the collection at MAC, USP was palpable. I would have liked the opportunity to see a couple of commercial galleries such as Vermelho and to meet more artists living and working in Brazil. However I appreciate the time constraints we were under and as a research trip, it was an excellent introduction.

DCA has presented major exhibitions of Cinthia Marcelle and Ernesto Neto’s work and we will continue to track the practices of a number of emerging artists from Brazil. I had a great experience and left Brazil with a very positive impression of the city of Sao Paulo and the country’s overall engagement with contemporary visual art and hope to use this experience in my programming for DCA. My schedule at DCA prevented a longer trip and trips to Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro but I felt very blessed to experience the art, architecture and atmosphere of Sao Paulo and now feel better placed to understand the cultural ecology. The stark divide between rich and poor and indeed privilege determining opportunity was discomforting and more marked than I have ever experienced before.

I hope there can be developments for collaborations in Brazil and projects here in Scotland. The British Council staff in Edinburgh and in Sao Paulo were excellent in their arranging of our itinerary and open to working together. The group was nicely balanced and was complemented by the earlier in their careers Simon Gowing and Alex Storey Gordon joining us whilst on their independent travels. We all too rarely get to meet up, catch up and share forward programming so the connections and benefits were on a national aswell as an international one. It was an excellent opportunity to meet Tobi Maier and to re-connect with Charles Esche who was very generous with his time.

I am still exhilarated for having been inside and on top of Oscar Niemeyer buildings and for seeing some of the very best artworks I have ever seen in my life.