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Cruzamentos. In English it translates to “intersection” or “crossroads,” but like a handful of words specific to Brazilian Portuguese, it has a much deeper meaning. For Brazil, the next several years will certainly be a crossroad. Whether it’s this summer’s FIFA World Cup, or the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the South American [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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Cruzamentos. In English it translates to “intersection” or “crossroads,” but like a handful of words specific to Brazilian Portuguese, it has a much deeper meaning. For Brazil, the next several years will certainly be a crossroad. Whether it’s this summer’s FIFA World Cup, or the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the South American powerhouse will be in sharp focus for the rest of the world to see.

But is the rest of the world versed in the arts and culture that reflect Brazil, and the country’s global impact, in the 21st Century?

That’s a question the Wexner Center for the Arts aims to answer with their prescient Via Brasil project. Four years in the making, Via Brasil is a constellation of events including film, dance, music and even a book translation. It’s anchored by the Cruzamentos exhibition, a survey of contemporary art in Brazil curated to express the contrasts inherent in being Brazilian. (Nearly a case in point, the title of the show uses the Portuguese spelling of the country’s name, “Brasil.”)

“I think the ideas that foreigners have about Brazil is that it’s this booming country that has solved all of its problems, but that’s not the case,” explains Paulo Venancio Filho, professor of fine arts at the Federal University in Rio and co-curator of Via Brasil. “Brazil is still a country that has strong contradictions. I don’t think there is a unique definition of Brazil. So this idea of cruzamentos, of crossings, of showing that our country is always headed in multiple directions, really speaks to what Brazil is.”

Indeed, it would have been easy for the curators who helped shape Via Brasil to cull only well-established artists from the São Paulo/Rio axis. Exploring work which has never shown in the U.S. from cities like Belo Horizonte and Recife, though, was more in line with the challenge presented to the Wexner Center when they were first approached by the Mellon Foundation to conceive the project. To show Brazil in all facets, as both triumphant and tragic, modern and primitive, and indelibly diverse, was paramount, according to Wex director Sheri Geldin.

“We were told to be ambitious, be mission-centric, something that is meaningful to the academic community and the center and then go,” says Geldin of Via Brasil’s inception. “We had very few restrictions and nothing but opportunities. This is meant to be a truly immersive look at the creative vitality of Brazil across multiple art sectors.”

The exhibit displays that vibrancy in a number of forms. Everything from inkjet prints to rotting fruit and dust from the Brazil’s arid sertão region are fair game when it comes to the medium. In Tatiana Blass’ Penadurado, a paraffin figure of a dog is hung from the ceiling, arched over a heat plate that will slowly melt the sculpture in time. Gisele Carmango’s Capsula paintings are massive assemblages of smaller components, while Rosângela Rennò’s piece is a series of photographs of Rio’s famous Christ monolith shot from nine perspectives (with each camera framed to the side). The thread throughout is to constantly re-invent the Brazilian identity, but to make-do with what’s at hand, or “gambiarras.

“Gambiarras is more than just art, it’s a way of solving problems,” Filho said. “Let’s say you don’t have a pillow: you can put your head on a coconut. It’s improvisation. We never had a rational formation for culture in Brazil, so much of the formation of our culture is improvisational.”

That aesthetic is readily noticeable in the show’s centerpiece, Laura Belém’s Venice of Brazil installation, which contains three clapboard shacks floating on the gallery floor as portable fans breeze from the perimeter or in Jonathas de Andrade’s O Levante, a mixed media work of film, pictures, posters and maps which documents an illegal horse race he staged in the streets of Recife. It’s a spontaneity that even seeps into Cruzamentos’ accompanying film series (see sidebar), comprised entirely of documentaries that give a narrative to the diversity and hybridism of modern Brazil, as well as blurring the line between memory and reality.

“We feel ourselves as a country that plays a role in the global scene now. The sense of being an undeveloped third-world country is over,” Filho said. “We feel the sense that our future is coming and that we’ll solve our problems and move ahead. I think this is a feeling that has been spread all over, not just from the inside but from the rest of the world’s perception of Brazil.”

To that end, the totality of Via Brasil is quite staggering, a veritable primer for anyone hoping to discover a country that’s been overlooked and underrated for too long. And in the grand scheme it serves as just the first step in a global gateway initiative between Ohio State and São Paulo, where the university set up a satellite earlier this year.

“In many ways this gateway is designed to foster not only academic and business exchange, but also civic and cultural exchange,” concludes Geldin on Via Brasil’s mission beyond a mere exhibition of art. “So here’s an opportunity for arts and culture to lead the establishment of some of these relationships.”

Via Brazil will show from February 1 through April 20. For more information and complete list of events and times, visit www.wexarts.org/viabrasil.

From Brasil, with Love
As a complement to Cruzamentos, curator Chris Stults has assembled a film series surveying the oft-overlooked world of Brazilian documentary. Much like Cruzamentos’ art exhibit, the works on view show a complex and diverse portrait of how Brazil is adapting in the face of constant progress.

“In researching Brazilian cinema, I found that the country has a rich tradition of documentary film, with almost no exposure in North America,” Stults said. “The country is changing so much, so I wanted to do something that speaks to this moment.”

Here are four selections not to be missed:

Twenty Years Later
(Eduardo Coutinho, 1985)
Considered the classic among Brazilian documentaries, Twenty Years Later starts in 1964 with the assassination of a rural activist until director Eduardo Coutinho was forced to stop filming by the country’s military regime. Coutinho returned in 1984 to follow-up with the survivors and how the effects of the dictatorship shaped their lives.

Prisoner of the Iron Bars
(Paulo Sacremento, 2003)
Filmed in the years preceding the demolition of São Paulo’s infamous Carandiru prison, there’s a gritty realism portrayed as the director gives his cameras to the prisoners to reflect on their primal and hostile conditions.

Bus 174
(Josè Padilha, 2002)
Padilha is best known in the states for his underrated Elite Squad films, but he began with Bus 174, a documentary detailing the hijacking of a Rio bus, which transpired live on national television.

Tropicàlia
(Marcelo Machado, 2012)
The music and ideals of the Tropicàlia movement remain Brazil’s most recognizable export. Serving as the newest selection in the Cruzamentos series, the film details how Tropicàlia came to be and why it was so important in building the Brazilian counter-culture.

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What’s Open: Venues slowly start to roll out live music

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When it was announced in mid-May that wedding venues and banquet halls would reopen at the beginning of June, the next question became: When will music venues be next?

Although the rollout has been slow and will be gradual, Columbus venues and attractions that regularly house live music are making their comeback. When the high-spirited, good-feeling cover band Popgun graced the Natalie’s Music Hall & Kitchen on May 27, many people’s greatest fears of being robbed of live music for the rest of the year were eased maybe a little.

The only way for us to get currently get down to live music is to sit down, which is a fair trade-off given the times.

Check out a few Columbus venues that are set to reopen or have reopened under strict coronavirus guidelines.

  • The Forum Columbus -- The Forum welcomed back live music on May 29 with a tabled RSVP DJ showcase. For this event, guests were required to come in groups of no more than 10, be seated six feet apart from other groups, and remain seated unless you have to use the restroom. There are no future events planned as of this publishing.
  • Otherworld  -- The immersive art installation that took Columbus by storm in 2019 is set to return on June 11, according to the venue’s webpage. Otherworld will be operating at a capacity of one visitor per 160 square feet, or around 20 percent of the regular admittance. It’s unclear when the next time Otherworld will host live music, but this is a giant step in the right direction in terms of venue re-openings.
  • South Drive-In -- It’s not a venue in Columbus that traditionally holds music, but it’s become one and may stay one for the time being. Viral DJ Marc Rebillet will be bringing his sold-out drive-in show to the South Drive-In on June 14. With these types of performances popping up all around the country and the South Drive-In owner getting plenty of event requests, we will hopefully be seeing more shows of this nature in the warmer months.
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Q&A: Columbus artist Mandi Caskey wants to bring us together

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Photo by John Thorne

Context plays one of the most important roles in our understanding of art. For instance, if you saw the unveiling of Columbus artist Mandi Caskey’s latest masterpiece, you’d probably equate the message to the daily protests that have been held in Columbus over the past week.

When the mural on the abandoned highway overpass near Scioto Audubon Metro Park was started, that wasn’t the case. It was a message meant to distract us from the hardships that COVID-19 flooded our lives with.

Video by John Thorne

 

Now, to some people, the mural’s message, which stretches over 400 feet, takes on a new meaning.

(614) caught up with Caskey to find out the inspiration behind the piece and how she feels about subjectiveness in art. Check out a brief Q&A below and some incredible aerial footage from photographer/videographer John Thorne.

Obviously a project this big can't be tackled alone. Who all helped bring this idea to life?

This project was originally an idea that I wanted to do secretly aka illegally, but my business partner came up with a better idea. And that was to get other artists involved and pay them during the stay-at-home order. 

The whole time we honestly didn’t think we would be able to get approval on all the permits we needed, but thanks to Lori Baudro, over a month and a half we got permission and permits from the Department of Public Service, ODOT, and the Arts Commission. We were honestly in shock. 

When it came down to businesses, we started working with Tim Cousino, who’s an architect. He figured out all the measurements we needed. From there we had to get our hands dirty and clean the surface of the bridge, which had five 9-foot around dirt piles that we shoveled off.

Once the surface was prepped and ready to go, we had Jacob Bench come out. He’s an engineer that helped translate all of Tim’s measurements. The project would have been 10 times more difficult without him! 

Through the process, we slowly grew the team. David Greenzalis is my partner in crime so he was there from the beginning. Katie Bench, Hawke Trackler, Lisa Celesta, Ariel Peguero, Chris Blain, Patrick Cardwell, Eric Terranova, Sam Rex, and Justin Paul, who has taken the amazing footage everyone has seen. All of these people are passionate, hardworking, and just awesome to be around. I was excited when we all came together. 

From what I've read, it seems like your idea for this was green-lit very quickly and easily. Why do you think people responded to the idea in your message so strongly?

There’s a combination of reasons everything moved so quickly (in terms of government) ha-ha. Part of it was the fact people were at home; they wanted something to get excited about. This was a project people could easily get geeked out about: 400-foot long mural on the bridge that has been abandoned for 10-plus years! I think they just wanted to see if it could happen. Also, the bridge will be torn down in a year or so; this means the mural doesn’t need any upkeep. The fact it was temporary made it an easy Yes for people. Still in shock this all worked out so smoothly.

What roadblocks did you run into during the process of creating the mural?

A big roadblock that no one could help was the weather. Man, was it a beast to work with. When we first started prepping the bridge, it was raining and around 40 degrees outside. We were in coats with gloves for half of the project. Then it rains for almost two weeks straight, which pushed back any painting we wanted to do. The days when we did get to work was easily 95 and scorching! We were all burnt to a crisp! It was stressful but fun working with this crazy Ohio weather.

How do you think art helps people during times of unrest and uncertainty like we're in right now?

Art is truly the bridge between thoughtful conversations and action (pun intended). Public art specifically can be the most impactful since it’s meant to be viewed by everyone. There’s no fee to look at it, no dress code, no need for art knowledge, just acceptance and appreciation are necessary. 

Art in general helps people look outside of their own personal bubbles. We can see into someone else’s mind for a split second and become apart of the art and experience. I think we forget that art is a living representation of us, but I hope through this unsure time we start to remember why humans started painting in the first place.

I think there's something to be said about how the mural was made on the basis of the coronavirus pandemic and bringing people together and now it can take on the meaning of the social change that needs to happen in this world. What are your thoughts on that?

Originally the mural was made because I personally felt alone and knew so many other people were feeling the same way during the stay-at-home orders. Once the project actually started to become a real thing, “we are stronger together” became more about the people who were working together; so many different types of backgrounds and artists. People from different periods in my personal life, all coming together and making something epic. 

When it was all said and done, the words are made for everyone, from any background, race, gender, far and wide. It’s a message that I hope makes people know I’m with them, that no matter the craziness in the world, someone’s got your back.

 

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Columbus artists employed to paint boarded-up downtown for #ArtUnitesCbus

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The Columbus arts community has really stepped up to the plate when it comes to trying to unite and inspire during tumultuous times. One of the latest efforts from visual artists around the area includes CAPA and Greater Columbus Arts Council (GCAC) latest partnership, #ArtUnitesCbus.

“When I do these projects, I try to remember to have fun and enjoy my loved ones. Even though it’s a bad time, there’s always room for love,” visual artist Hakim Callwood said.

The creative venture will exist to employ around 20 Columbus visuals artists. Their job will be to paint murals in place of the broken windows at the Ohio Theater and GCAC office. 

The art installations are expected to be finished by the end of the week.

“#ArtUnitesCbus is just one small way the arts community is trying to help. These murals are not the answer, simply a message that we ALL can, and must, help heal our community,” said Tom Katzenmeyer, President & CEO of the Arts Council, in a GCAC press release on Monday

Now more than ever is an extremely important time to give our community artists a platform. 

“The Columbus artists are more of a family than I think people understand,” Callwood said. “Whether we all talking every day or hanging out together; it doesn’t matter. When there’s times of need we always use our talents to support.” 

Check out the progress of their murals below.

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