Brazil – Country of the Future. Intervention inspired in oft repeated phrase coined by Stefan Zweig and the calligraphy of outsider artist Gentileza on Boa Viagem Beach, Niterói, c.1998.

Genealogy of Arte Ação Ambiental: Folding Care In Between MAC-Macquinho

Luiz Guilherme Vergara

The overthrow of social prejudices, group barriers, classes, etc., would be inevitable and essential in the realization of this vital experience. I discovered there the connection between collective and individual expression – the most important step for which – is the lack of knowledge of abstract levels, social “layers”, in order to comprehend a totality. The bourgeois conditioning to which I was subjected since I was born has been disintegrated as if by enchantment…

Hélio Oiticica1

“We start out empty:” Future, Front and Novum

As Ernst Bloch begins his book The Principle of Hope, I open this essay by invoking a key dimension of this hope that is what he calls a state of “start[ing] out empty.”2 It is a hope that deeply pervaded the inaugural-experimental state of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC) of Niterói (1996) experienced as an artwork-happening of lived public art. From its ground zero starting point completely unforeseeable futures unfolded for Boa Viagem – the neighborhood where the museum is situated and the all encompassing territory that spurred the creation of the project Arte Ação Ambiental [Art Environmental Action] (1999) and the cultural center in the nearby favela known as Macquinho (2008) [T.N. Mac refers to the museum MAC and “inho” in Portuguese means “little” hence “Little MAC”].3 It is from this place of “start[ing] out empty” that I write. The text aims to outline and embody the genealogy of the many processes of convergence and contingency, folds and unfoldings of the history of what can be described as two social sculptures. MAC and Macquinho are living structures open to life, connected through a series of geopoetic turns and crisscrossed by the socio-cultural realities of both macro and micro-politics. Two visionary buildings with 360º views designed by the architect Oscar Niemeyer, they overlook the stunning Guanabara Bay. Each incorporating intuitive forms of new radical imaginaries and environmental action, but also the recognition of the 180º of social inequality with its neighboring favela community of Morro do Palácio [Palace Hill T.N. morro in Portuguese means hill and in common parlance “morro” also connotes favela]. Two symbolic forms of architectonic imagination,4 a chalice and a bow (boomerang) suspend enigmatic futures over the landscape. As instituent inventions, they demand an experimental environmental art of action and permanent revolution.

Fig 1. Panorama Museum of Contemporary Art of Niterói (MAC).

Fig 2.View from MAC of Guanabara Bay.

Fig 3. Macquinho at its inauguration in 2008 (in 2014 it was renamed Macquinho: Digital Urban Platform)

Fig 4. MAC as seen from Macquinho.

It is from an understanding of Boa Viagem as a territorial palimpsest of hope that the concrete utopian function of art proposed by Bloch is invoked as an anticipation of not-yet-finished futures – future, front, novum – the pathos of transformation (here Bloch recovers Marx) – diurnal dreams – before the “not yet” is known or made conscious:

Marx was the first to posit the pathos of change instead of this, as the beginning of a theory which does not resign itself to contemplation and interpretation The rigid divisions between future and past thus themselves collapse, unbecome future becomes visible in the past, avenged and inherited, mediated and fulfilled past in the future.5

It is this future configuration that it is projected as an ethical turn toward art as environmental action. A line of flight, one that breaks with curatorial and museological exhibition models of passive “contemplative knowing,” challenging this state of contemplation, of lenses that look to the past and prevent us from seeing “what-has-not-yet-come-will-be.” Adopting a phenomenological writing, my interest here is to revisit the inaugural ground zero starting point of Arte Ação Ambiental, as a means to recover the memory of anticipatory futures, the seed thoughts and actions that were fostered via a constructive and grounded process of micro-geographies of affections. The focus on the territoriality of the experimental is thus both the instrument and method of intuition and affection at play in this potential of a constant becoming of an autonomous decolonial action, a practice that marks the genealogy of the ethical link between MAC-Macquinho.

The Arte Ação Ambiental project emerged out of the need to create a program specially dedicated to building socio-cultural links via initiatives of education and citizenship that would operate in between the worlds of “museum-city-community” of Niteroi. The project encompassing multiple actions from regular discussions on art and artmaking, training in artisanal handmade papers, design objects inspired in Brazilian neoconcrete art movement, a music band with instruments made from recycled materials, writing workshops and a community newsletter, graffiti sessions and more…begun in 1999 with the youth of Morro do Palácio favela. In 2008, when Macquinho was inaugurated, two intuitive architectural forms of Niemeyer came together, each overlooking panoramic vistas, calling for futures of new imaginary frontiers of art in environmental action. They formed two dynamic gravitational centers, two symbolic forms that not only crowned a decade of pedagogical and socio-cultural collaborations in the face of adversity, but also, amidst breathtaking views and visions of paradise, positioned themselves as future-front-novum landmarks and shelters. The unpredictable happening of Macquinho becoming a reality, exteriorized and incorporated the collaborative and affective process of geopoietic (poiesis) folds that had been a key dimension of the environmental “irradiations” between MAC and the Morro do Palácio community, ones that as if co-existing in mutual open-endedness, were “not-yet finished” futures. A relationship that I see as a dynamic of mutual learning: a forest-school. The museum here became more like an acoustic shell for other social voices. Instituent presences of place which Lucy Lippard called “hermetic narratives.” She notes: “Every landscape is a hermetic narrative: to find an ideal place for oneself in the world is to find a place for yourself in a story.”6

Ensuring others might find a place for themselves at MAC was part and parcel of the motivations behind the Arte Ação Ambiental project. How to institute the ethical position of environmental and collective action embraced by Hélio Oiticica’s Programa Ambiental (1965) [Environmental Program] and Parangolé (1964) [wearable capes and standards inspired in samba and favela culture]? How might the artist’s practice provide an epistemic and ontological ground for an instituent pragmatic approach of counter cultural disobedience and anti-art? One that e/affectively crosses social strata and moves toward a growing will of collective co-creation? Social transformation, imagination and the cultural fabric of the symbolic were at stake in the processes of reconfiguring new institutionalities – ones that might welcome experiential transfigurations of the expressive act in the sharing of subjective and not-yet conscious imaginary and instituted meanings. This practice of new social interlocutions, however, is always confronted by the risks and necessity of breaking down the distance between the fragmented reality of class society and artistic production confined in museums and even so-called alternative art circuits.

In keeping with Bloch’s ideas of “bringing philosophy to hope”, the becoming of MAC-Macquinho was an experimental folding or hinge between worlds, a concept-practice of a forest-school in action, an ambivalence of a “place in the world which is as inhabited as the best civilized land and as unexplored as the Antarctic.”7 The Arte Ação Ambiental project was also a catalyst, part of a process of a network of care in action – within the museum toward the community and vice versa – that were constituent of the “not-yet-conscious,” and an “anticipatory consciousness.” This care-in-action thus institutes the dimension that Bloch elaborates as the “unfinished [nature] of existence,” nurtured in the possibility of MAC-Macquinho’s unfolding connection of that which has “not yet come to be.” Writing today, twenty years after the Arte Ação Ambiental project began, recovering and revisiting its history, reveals a genealogy shaped by intuitive impulses that I might now describe as “forest thinking” or “decolonial thinking.” It was in embracing the experimental in the experimentation of practices in public spaces open to collaborations that inaugural futures were made possible, ones that are not predetermined, and in this way are geopoetic.8 Here unveiling in soul and body processes of collective “coming-to-be” resonance with the world.9

Such processes might be invoked by revisiting the first phenomenological situation of a territorialized (un-alienated) encounter with the institution: a multidirectional geopoetic movement of Arte Ação Ambiental, a forest-school, a “solidarity event” with geopolitical ethical coordinates located and grounded in shared meanings radically contrasting with traditional museum values of knowledge production.10

Futurum: Future: Micro-geographies of Affection in Action
The Sandals of the Favela at MAC

It is a poetic shelter where dwelling is equivalent to communication. People’s movements construct this habitable cellular shelter, starting from a nucleus that mixes with the others.

Lygia Clark 11

It is worth recalling, in this genealogy of the future, the first visit to the MAC in 1998 of the young people who would go on to form the core group of the Arte Ação Ambiental project, remembered by Telto (today, part of the current management at Macquinho). A group of young people aged 15 to 17, all residents of Morro do Palácio, visited the museum as the final activity for the program known as Comunidade Solidária [Community Solidarity].12 Big, tall and thin, all in shorts and wearing well-worn flip-flops (Havianna style), mostly male and black: this is what I remember seeing when I went to meet them outside on the museum’s patio. Even though they lived in the favela right in front of the museum, none of them had ever stepped inside. The conversation was about the museum as a place of creation. This also reflected our pedagogical political practice of the experimental critical education.13 Here we received groups outside on the patio and then begin slowly ascending the museum’s red winding ramp as a shared geopoetic ritual of dialogical perceptions. A red carpet for everyone. The concept behind the museum’s architecture was presented in accordance with Niemeyer’s “necessary explanation” as a principle of hope, a visionary place where both “rich and poor” could have a creative experience of knowledge and beauty.14

Upon entering the main gallery, after letting them walk freely around the circular space that, at the time, featured an exhibition of large-scale paintings, I asked that one of them take off his sandals (flip-flops) and place them in front of the work he liked the most as an admiring spectator might position themselves. Meanwhile I remained with the rest of the group observing the movements of autonomy, emotion, indecision and decision of the young man, one that would be the first creative act of the group at the MAC. Leaving the sandals in the position of an invisible spectator admiring the painting, we began to talk about the group’s perceptions and sensations in response to that scene. From this, a series of individual dislocations and occupations were developed in the main gallery of the museum, all using “empty” sandals, organized individually or groups, aligned or clustered, in different orders and disorders in front of the works, forming images of a collective body of multiple absent bodies.15 Gradually the absence and presence marked by sandals gained body and consciousness through the poetic game of spatial interventions as spontaneous and experimental choreographies of their own invisible bodies.

It was in this experience of “the sandals of the favela at MAC,” that the museum, not only became part of their lives, but also, via the imaginative-existential perception of themselves as subjects full of vital energy, of emerging “not-yet conscious” subjectivities of becoming. They understood in this process the potential of what the creative act can do when it is collectively shared. That moment remembered by Telto, Jefferson and Douglas (all who now work at Macquinho) was also an inaugural experience of shared futures of micro-utopias and heterotopias. It was no longer a matter of explaining the works or the exhibition – they had had an initiation to the museum as a place of creation for bodies of a multi-bodied corpus. In this phenomenology of art as experience as John Dewey notes, a geopoetics of the game of collective environmental action was also inaugurated via a conceptual spatialization of a living ethic of the potential of a collective act – as one of them would later say of “joy in the form of art.” The futures of so many pasts converged, recalling as much Spinoza’s Ethics as the pragmatism of Dewey’s Art as Experience. The grounded experience of the sandals of the favela at the museum also resonated, as unpredictable micro-utopias, with the poetic shelters of Lygia Clark, here inhabiting the intuitive destiny of Niemeyer’s MAC.

It is possible to transpose this narrative of the young people from Morro do Palácio’s collective experience at the museum to the perception of Lygia Clark as expressed by Suely Rolnik regarding the artist’s desire of how her work might impact the spectator, where a living ethic of the production of subjectivity might be fostered:

What Lygia wants to produce in the viewer is that he/she can live up to the difference that appears in the work and dig in his/her soul the new way of perceiving and feeling that the work carries within itself. This achievement could throw the spectator into unforeseeable becomings.16

But what was at stake was not only the becoming of the young spectators but also of the institution – a great architectonic body that welcomed multiple foreign bodies – and of instituting new resonances of the collective destiny.

Revisiting this experience via the lens of care helps us to further understand this existential and institutional double shift. I see now that it not only stimulated new forms of perception and action amongst the Morro do Palácio youth as they “dug” into themselves as co-creators of meaning and of subjectivities. But also that this process activated the very wild soul of the forest-school of Arte Ação Ambiental as an existential territory of becomings, where the social unfolding of Bloch’s future-front-novum of Macquinho was first sparked. The experience would recognize in them, in the networks of collaborations and in that event, the emergence of agents and agencies of future caretakers and catalysts for connections between MAC-Macquinho. Like receptacles of the circularity of time in the intuitive and affective form-function of Bloch’s future, of the museum as a communist, constructivist, primitive “poetic shelter” of the implicit care of the place of creation, of the act of being beyond the “magic of objects.” The museum of multiple utopias, of avant-gardes, of the experimental, folded and unfolded as a condition of an apparatus of social sharing.

Shortly after this experience, the team that began the Arte Ação Ambiental project went to visit Morro do Palácio for the first time in 1999, soon thereafter inaugurating a totally experimental initiative of community learning and citizenship via different artistic practices and environmental education.17 The project initiated an ongoing experience of a pragmatic utopia, one that fostered the mutual crossing of excluded worlds and social geographies. The process pointed to the experimental-environmental soul of freedom and solidarity of another museum model – the museum-forest-school – that operates beyond a focus on artistic creation solely centered on the objects of the museum’s João Sattamini collection of Brazilian contemporary art18 or its temporary exhibitions.19

Drawing on these experiences the Arte Ação Ambiental project began to take shape as a museum-community program for Morro do Palácio instituting a philosophy of experimental and territorial engagement of art and education.20 The Family Doctor Program – a Cuban influenced disseminated model of preventive care and medicine in low income areas were clinics are based in and staff drawn from communities themselves – was recognized as a key model of community action and intersectoral partnership to be adopted by the philosophy and artistic and educational action of MAC in Communities (museum without borders).21 Seeing the Family Doctor Program as a pioneer initiative of social engagement for Niterói, we began to also consider the new cross-disciplinary and intersectorial horizons of outreach and dialogue that were also emerging at the time within socio-environmental art practices.

Our Interest in the Cuban public health model was in its preventive care anti-hospital approach where therapeutic follow up was community-based that is, where the daily care needs of families were treated in the communities themselves. Parallel to this collective health initiative, the Arte Ação Ambiental also assumed the perspective of an expanded geography of actions, of existential agency grounded in territories. An ethical practice that, as one of the former Family Doctor group coordinators Luiz Hubner points out, “meets people in the territory where they live, where life pulsates, in the permanent search for intersectoral partnerships, the construction of new knowledge, new subjectivities, new existential territories, through the co-production of health and quality of life.”22

In fact, it was the weekly coexistence with the youngsters of the Arte Ação Ambiental project that, after a first moment of great resistance and estrangement from the presence of these black bodies in the museum, captivated all the staff including the museum’s first director Dora Silveira (1996-2004). This was what brought the project to the attention of Oscar Niemeyer. The architect immediately accepted the proposal to do a special project for what we called a “module of community action” – again based in the Family Doctor distributed care clinical modules – in the Morro do Palácio favela.

Additionally of course, the concept of actions of environmental art had also been inspired by the international debate on “public art” at the time, especially the projects and ideas of Mary Jane Jacob and the Culture in Action project in Chicago.23 Such trends spurred ethical debates and art practices associated with what was initially termed community based art began to take more and more into account critical community concerns. Dialogic art practices incorporated therapeutic and pedagogical dimensions. These were often linked to environmental perspectives and counter-flows of traditional forms of knowledge, extending even beyond the foundations of social museology. Here, the sociologist Cornelius Castoriadis’s notion of “radical imagination”24 is useful where the work of art, as process and creation, can be an action of institutional imagination, “flexing” and demanding reconfigurations of autonomy and participation instead of alienation and individualism. It is important to note that such action is inseparable from the production of the symbolic, and also, vitally not reduced to mere functionalism or social assistance models.25

It is from this primordial sense of territory, this front-novum, that the Arte Ação Ambiental project was born out of a practice of care as a kind of “therapeutic institutionality;” as the precarious inside/out of the monumental museum toward a concept and practice of a museum-forest-school of micro-geographies of affection and emergent voices. Here, I also draw on Felix Guattari and his concern regarding the fragility of these therapies. Mobilizations toward affection and empathy arise within the institutions from the bottom up, as spontaneous, intuitive and anarchist movements.

Institutional therapeutics is a delicate infant. Its development needs close watching, and it tends to keep very bad company. In fact, the threat to its life comes not from any congenital debility, but from the factions of all kinds that are lying in wait to rob it of its specific object […] Let me begin by saying that institutional therapeutics has got an object, and that it must be defended against everyone who wants to make it deviate from it; it must not let itself become divorced from the reality of the social problematic.

Felix Guattari26

Indeed, institutional therapies are fragile and as such they need to be defended because they deal with affective potentialities and the human aspect of micro-political action. In so doing they embrace an approach of decolonial thinking. Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology was also influential in shaping our work processes and in constructing a common basis of thought and a premise of decoloniality27 that was also part of a broader epistemic turn that included a challenge to the institutions that produce knowledge and pedagogies.This critical institutional turn emphasizes the centrality of the body and affections in an ethical positioning that is aimed at changing modes of perception as a means to cope with social and political structures. It is an approach that seeks to foster care; building and belonging together within the contingencies and contiguities of a grounded practice of micro-utopian happenings. Here we strove to implement in concept and practice events of art environmental action as micro-geographies of affection toward a forest-school with the goal of forming networks of collaboration and connectivity of knowledge across the fields of art, education, health and environment. Along similar phenomenological lines, we can draw on the symbolic and ethical potential of Mário Pedrosa’s conceptualization of a living museum as an instrument of synthesis:

The museum of art, especially the living, experimental museum, that aims to engage people, to attract them, to educate them, can be the privileged place for this non-logical but perceptive-aesthetic reeducation (…)28

Coincidental with Pedrosa’s thought in the late 1960s and early 70s, a new field of social museology emerges drawing on what became known as the Santiago Round Table Charter, organized by the International Council in Museums in Santiago, Chile in 1972.29 Refusing to reproduce passive contemplative and alienated models of social interaction, participants asked: What are museums for? Why a museum if it is not going to be an instrument/apparatus of experimental/environmental “synthesis”? Pedrosa argues for the museum as a context where the production of the symbolic may be accessed. Here, as an immaterial extension of patrimony incorporated as a front of radical imagination, the museum can be a site of the lived experience of different knowledge practices and socio-cultural actions.

As a parallel to what the geographer Milton Santos called an “event of solidarity”, it is worth emphasizing the ethical unity of the phenomenology of care as a practice of micro-geographies of affection and its greater radicalization within “environmental art” and critical education. These micro-geographies have also influenced curatorial shifts toward an understanding of the museum as a living museum, forest-school, decolonial event, geopoetic, architectural and social action apparatus.30 It was from these very experimental confluences and institutional contingencies that the “not-yet-conscious” forest-school becomings for MAC-Macquinho began to shape a geopoetic pedagogy of liberation. One informed by the imagination at all levels of social transformation and by subjectivity and citizenship that, in turn, were nurtured by knowledge practices in formation and not yet instituted. This was how we worked collectively with the youth; flexing as-it-were, the locality in ways that as I mentioned before are importantly inseparable from the production of the symbolic,31 and not reduced to mere functionalism or assistance.32

Theory-Praxis: Experiences of Joy in the Form of Art
Workshops and Territories of Folding of Existential Papers

The being that conditions consciousness, and the consciousness that processes being, is understood ultimately only out of that and in that from which and towards which it tends. Essential being is not Been-ness; on the contrary: the essential being of the world lies itself on the Front.

Ernst Bloch32

At the end of one of the first years of meetings, Renan, a young man from Morro do Palácio, expressed during one of the art workshops (called jogos neoconcretos [neoconcrete games] –inspired by the work of Brazilian neoconcrete art movement 1959-1961 including artists such as Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica) that what we “do is joy in the form of art!” On its inauguration this phrase was printed on the walls of Macquinho. It is a synthesis of a process of care by the hands of many citizens, art and environmental action via the production of joyful affections. Just as Spinoza defined joy as having the potential to act, the pedagogical experimentation of environmental art introduced the affective nature of collective creation as a means of self- perception and transformation, processes that sowed seeds of radical imagination of a not-yet conscious future.

Fig 5. Arte Ação Ambiental “alegria em forma de arte”[Joy in the Form of Art]. Signage for the inaugural exhibition at Macquinho, 2008.

As part of and beyond the day-to-day living with the architecture and landscape of MAC, much more than being a temple of universal archetypes and values, the practices of the Arte Ação Ambienta project transformed the architectural folds of Niemeyer into praxis-theory of Lygia Clark’s “poetic shelters.” Yet, it also seemed that something even more existential and immanent was in play in this turn to art as environmental action at MAC: a fully resonant and emergent sense of the museum as museum-forest-school.

It was through the daily practice of walking in both social and cultural geographies, between the landscapes of the museum and the favela, that not only the institution, but all the participants, directly and indirectly involved, were touched as co-creators, builders and inhabitants of a resonant instrument of futures; vibrating body and soul, a forest-school becoming.34 These young people played a very special role in this history as channels and agents of a micro-utopia or heterotopias of becoming – the museum as a body soul of multiple bodies. Multiple lines of action in the community began to unfold. This was the case of the community newspaper for Morro do Palácio called “O Palaciano”, which evolved from workshops and discussions with Thatiana Diniz then studying communication at Federal Fluminense University (UFF) in March 2003-2004.35

The becoming MAC-Macquinho was modeled from the existential folding and unfolding of various bodies, like the fantastic architectural folds of the neoconcrete games, echoing those of Lygia Clark’s Bichos (critters). Folded by the same hands that collectively produced artisanal artistic papers, another of the Arte Ação Ambiental project’s initiatives, the youth were like craftsmen of futures, recycling themselves by sharing affections. The artist educators Bia Jabor and Eliane Carrapateira, respectively, led these shared transformations in weekly meetings. This existential phenomenological experience amalgamated collective and resonant bodies and souls, a world that came to be experienced and experimented in the elliptical orbit between the Morro do Palácio favela and MAC. As weavers: they wove extensions of themselves, of each subjectivation and re-signification of being, hand-in-hand with the “creativity of life driven by the urgency of facing the obstacles that oppose its expansion.”36

Fig 6. Neoconcrete games workshop at MAC with youngsters from the Arte Ação Ambiental project, c.1999.

Fig.7 Example of the folds of the objects created in the neoconcrete games workshops.

Fig.8 Example of the folds of the objects created in the neoconcrete games workshops.

There was no distance between the practice of folding and the folds of time. As Lygia Clark notes of Pedrosa: “The spiritual exercise of freedom. The event of freedom is also the realization of art.”37 Several lives were folded by the confluence between body and soul, subjectivity and community, but also the museum itself as a geopoetic apparatus instituting autopoiesis, that folded itself into a new reality territorialized as Macquinho of Morro do Palácio. In reviewing the poetic fortunes developed by young people involved in the Arte Ação Ambiental project via the folds of neoconcrete games and craft paper workshops, we can see these “folds” as what Deleuze described as “redoubled matter” and life, that the philosopher further reflects as an infinite process of opening out into the world, when he notes that: “the fold leads to infinity.”38 Hence, we can sketch a tripartite synthesis that was key to the early years of the project: spiritual – environmental art – social transformation.

Front: Macquinho: Território Expandido de Arte Ações e Afetos (2008)

Now I know where the Macquinho is. It’s down there.
Comment by Luiz Camillo Osório on the opening day of Macquinho looking from the vantage point of Macquinho in Morro do Palácio to MAC down below and Boa Viagem beach, December 2008)

It is worth noting here an important comment mentioned by Lucy Lippard in the introduction to her essay “All Over the Place” where she cites Steve Gonzalez: “Most learned people speak about where it is written? Our people speak about where it was lived?”39 With the exhibition Art Ações e Afetos [Art, Actions and Affections] including additive posters by the artist Almir Mavignier, “A Star for Morro do Palácio” especially designed as a donation for the project, Macquinho was inaugurated in 2008, crowning the future-front-novum of the Arte Ação Ambiental project. Mac-Macquinho was then territorialized as a shelter and laboratory of experimental processes of environmental art and citizenship.40 The choice of the title “Arte, Ações e Afetos” for the exhibition that took place both at the MAC and Macquinho celebrated the relational and ethical potential of social and intergenerational outreach of environmental art. It represented a synthesis of expanded care practices embracing therapeutic institutional agencies, collective health and citizenship.41

The Comuniarte project so called by the young participants [T.N a neologism bringing comunidade [community] + arte [art] together] updated our philosophic-pedagogic approach to embrace both questions of participation and integrated concerns of curatorship, art and education, especially via an international collaboration between MAC and The Andy Warhol Museum (Pittsburgh, USA). The project was not as centered on collections or the cult of an artist’s work, but rather focused on an approach that grounded itself in artistic practices – in processes – that in turn promoted collective co-creation and fostered new subjectivities of local protagonisms and territorial agencies in the community. Importantly, Comuniarte was the result of taking care of the future of the Arte Ação Ambiental project. Bringing together a new generation of adolescents gained corporate and geopoetic territoriality through the practice of co-creating and fostering new subjectivities of multiple voices and bodies that contributed to the Arte Ação e Afetos exhibition.

Fig 9. Marcos Cardoso. Communiarte. Collaboration with the group Comuniarte, 2008.

The collaboration between MAC, The Andy Warhol Museum, and the various departments of the UFF put into perspective, both locally and internationally, the potential of Macquinho as a shelter of geopoetic futures, a lab for artistic action, and psycho-socio-environmental agency. It allowed us to rethink a new kind of institutionality – one born of interconnection – based in the link between MAC-Maquinho where care and affection become the ethical parameters for curatorial and museological practices. The critical frontiers of new forms of institutionality and community are constantly moving, often threatened by the discontinuity whether due to questions of political and institutional understanding, financial investments, and vested interests that unfortunately disbanded the MAC-Macquinho link itself.


Novum. Final Notes MAC – Macquinho (2013-2016)
Forest-School: We End up with Nothingness. The “Baldio” is Full
[T.N Baldio = waste land or abandonded city lot]
Affective Collaboration Networks for Future Models

Two final notes should be made with respect to the MAC-Macquinho future-front-novum where its potential was explored in a radical but unfortunately punctual and temporary manner. Considering the severity of the post-2013 crisis, the possible return of Arte Ação Ambiental project might enable a process of generating counterflows and utopian resistance, considering the era of collapses and institutional un-forming that we were and still are going through. It is not by chance that the two cases dealt with the notion of “baldio.” [T.N. in Brazilian Portuguese “baldio” is usually used as an adjective as in “terrenos baldios” meaning wasteland, abandoned city lots or unused land]. Yet the “baldio” here is also that which is on the margins of the instituted, in synergy with the context of the scenario of national institutional “un-doing” and dis-function.

The first example is Carlos Vergara’s exhibition Sudário [Shroud]42 in 2013-2014 that unfolded in an experimental-environmental collaboration called Farmácia Baldia de Boa Viagem [Baldia Pharmacy of Boa Viagem]. Educator and curator Jessica Gogan was invited to coordinate the emergent collaboration network involving, once again, the Family Doctor Program, UFF professors as well as those from other universities and, of course, community residents.43 While impressive paintings, monoprints and photographs by Vergara were on display at MAC, the MAC-Macquinho link was reactivated embracing its full affective potential. The exhibition/public art intervention comprised the mapping of invisible medicinal herbs in the surrounding landscape of Boa Viagem and Morro do Palácio. Large colored flags were placed next to these medicinal plants together with a chart (presented at the museum and subsequently at Macquinho) pinpointing the plants locations and highlighting their forgotten therapeutic values for different organs of the human body.


The symbolic and social therapeutic proposal accompanied this ethical-aesthetic process recovering the links between MAC-Macquinho-Family Doctor Program and Rio de Janeiro and Niterói based Universities (UFF-UERJ-UFRJ), suggesting forms of working and future potential. Bringing together official and unofficial medical knowledge and highlighting living traditions of exchanging recipes between generations of the community, in collaboration with the Family Doctor Program, were key achievements of Farmácia Baldia de Boa Viagem. We can add to this the important curative dimension of therapeutic rituals of sharing tea and affections that were part of the short-lived program of “Chá das cinco” [Tea at Five] held at Macquinho.

We can perhaps revisit these memories as past futures of micro-resistance practices of forest thinking or as Dion Workman proposes “re-wilding the human,”44 in the face of the barbarism that envelopes and dominates, the so-called domesticated and civilized social condition. Here, the Farmácia Baldia project strove to embrace the necessary care of listening to the voices of the place, not only the people, but also the multisensorial ecosystem of a place. Carlos Vergara’s experimental-environmental interest in the recognition of marginal knowledge practices and indigenous know-hows can also be seen as geopoetic processes in synergy with Workman’s notion of “feral permaculture:”

Feral permaculture is a system for designing uncivilisation: a designed reversal of the forces of domestication that replace forests with fields (on the way to making them deserts!) and that tame wildness. The so called “invisible structures” of permaculture – the social, economic and legal structures of human societies and what we might also call the cages of civilisation – must be made visible, laid open and subjected to intense scrutiny, placed at the forefront of design considerations not just tapped on as an afterthought.45

For environmental and social projects, it is important to stress the critical and sensitive necessity of the sustainability of this kind of “care”. As we celebrate the Farmácia’s momentary achievements, we must, at the same time, acknowledge the deep frustration and disenchantment of the project’s lack of sustainability, discontinuity of the relationships and ties with the Morro do Palácio were deeply felt.

Amidst the continuing crisis and confrontations with major national and global collapse, the concept of the “baldio” was also proposed by the artist and curator Nuno Sacramento (Portugal-Scotland) reinforcing future-front-novum prospects that would work toward an integrated curatorial, artistic and educational practice grounded in forming networks of collaboration; ones that would “take care” of Macquinho and adopt an environmental ethical position that would embrace other ways of being and forms of collective making.46 Nuno had as his critical focus the building of talent communities, as Ivan Illich47 projected for the emancipation from an anti-individualist and consumerist society. The project was called Mesa Baldio [T.N Baldio Table]. A project that Nuno also realized in Portugal, in turn also influenced by an earlier project held in Scotland called Maker’s Meal.) The idea was to organize a special dinner celebration, a banquet on MAC’s patio where everything – tables, chairs, plates, cutlery, food etc., – would be literally made from scratch individually and collectively, thus bringing together different craftsmen and also training young people involved in the project’s production.

Fig 18. Nuno Sacramento e a Mesa Baldia, 2016. Photo: Douglas Lopes.

The two “baldio” propositions resonate with other experiences that inspired the futurum-front-novum inventive states of the MAC-Macquinho link via the spirit of an environmental art in action. Here an expansive sense of care, deploying micro-geographies of affection, updates the “ethical position” of Oiticica’s “negation of the artist as the creator of objects, but [one] who becomes a proposer of practices.”48

A Star on the Morro [Hill]: Demand, Creation and Change

Still following Workman’s “forest thinking” in line with Bloch’s “principle of hope,” Macquinho today is an open social sculpture, like a living public structure in the landscape, and as such an anticipation of not yet finished futures – futurum, front and novum. The “pathos of transformation” is always in the condition of listening to the becoming of a place, renunciation and epistemic detachment, so that new ways of being in the world, anarchy, and diversity can be welcomed. Starting in 2016, a new fold of community action emerged – Macquinho ON. A monthly open mic music series that embraces a new turn of unpredictable futures grounded in music and therefore closer to the voices and talents of the community. A music studio becomes a magnetized field of potential affections and opportunities for musical recording. With parties attracting more and more young people from Morro do Palácio as well as different parts and social classes of the city. It is the turn of a resonant sonorous becoming, which is also that of listening. A studio in the favela.49 DJ William Moreira, a music producer who grew up in Palácio, open to listening to the community, describes with three key words – Demand, Creation and Change – Macquinho’s modality of happiness in action. With William, Telto (Elielton Rocha) and other members of the cultural citizenship management team, William is hosting the inaugural change of Macquinho ON. This initiative is fully produced by the different generations of community representatives that lead Macquinho’s activities. So I close with the words of Telto: “Art and culture planted in the favela that makes access sensible and sensibility accessible.” And every time I go past MAC at night and look up to the Morro with the lights of the Macquinho lit up – I remember Almir Mavignier: “Macquinho is a star on the hill.”

Fig 19. View of the installation of Almir Mavignier’s poster Uma Estrela no Morro [A Star on the Hill] at the MAC exhibition celebrating the inauguration of Macquinho, 2008.




Luiz Guilherme Vergara
Luiz Guilherme Vergara is a professor in the art department and the Postgraduate Program in Contemporary Studies of the Arts at the Federal Fluminense University (UFF). As former curator/director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Niterói (MAC) (2005-2008) he curated numerous exhibitions including Poetics of the Infinite (2005) and Lygia Clark: Poetic Shelter (MAC, 2006) as well as the outreach initiative Arte Ação Ambiental [Art Environmental Action] (1998-2014)) working with the favela community of Morro do Palácio. In 2013, on returning to MAC as director (2013-2016), he curated a number exhibitions with Brazilian artists including Alexandre Dacosta, Suzana Queiroga and Carlos Vergara and co-curated the exhibition Joseph Beuys: Res-Publica: Conclamation for A Global Alternative. His research interests focus on the interface between art, museums and society, and he is co-editor of Revista MESA.


1 Hélio Oiticica, “A dança na minha experiência. Anotações sobre o Parangolé,” in: Luciano Figueredo, Lygia Pape and Waly Salomão eds., Aspiro ao grande labirinto (Rio de Janeiro: Editora Rocco, 1986) 73.

2 Ernst Bloch. The Principle of Hope (Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1996) 21.

3 The construction of Macquinho was supported by the Brazilian social bank Fundo Social do Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (BNDES).

4 Arquitetônic is a concept elaborated by Mikhail Bakhtin: “This valuative architectonic division of the world into I and those who are all for me is not passive and fortuitous, but is an active and ought-to-be division. This architectonic is something-given as well as something to be accomplished.” Mikhail Bakhtin, Toward the philosophy of the act. Early philosophical. Essays. Texas: University of Texas Press, 1990, 75.

5 Bloch op cit, 8.

6 Lucy Lippard, The Lure of the Local. Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society (New York: The New Press, 1997) 33.

7 Bloch, op.cit 6.

8 Geopoetic is a term adopted by Kenneth White. See: [Accessed December 2018]

9 Suely Rolnik notion of “corpo vibrátil” or “resonant body.” Suely Rolnik, “Molda-se uma alma contemporânea:o vazio-pleno de Lygia Clark” in: The Experimental Exercise of Freedom: Lygia Clark, Gego, Mathias Goeritz, Hélio Oiticica and Mira Schendel (Los Angeles: The Museum of Contemporary Art, 1999)

10 Milton Santos, “O processo espacial: o acontecer solidário” in: Milton Santos, A natureza do espaço (São Paulo: Edusp, 2002) 165, 167.

11 Lygia Clark cited in Rolnik, op cit, 17.

12 Grant program for social projects of the Fernando Henrique Cardoso government known as Programa Comunidade Solidária (1995-1998).

13 Research explored as part of my doctoral dissertation focusing on Hélio Oiticica Art Center in Rio de Janeiro and MAC Niterói as two institutions that were both inaugurated in 1996. Luiz Guilherme Vergara, In Search Of Mission And Identity For Brazilian Contemporary Museums The 21st. Century, PhD – Art Education, NYU, 2006.

14 Oscar Niemeyer, “Explicação Necessária” in: Luiz Guilherme Vergara ed., MAC de Niterói 10 anos (Niterói: Niterói Livros, 2006) 26.

15 Fred Evan’s concept of multi-voiced body is fundamental to expand Spinoza’s ideas of the body of multiple bodies. Fred Evans, The Multivoiced Body. Society and communication in the age of diversity (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009).

16 Rolnik, op.cit, 9.

17 Important to mention the artisanal production of artistic paper, coordinated by the artist educator Eliane Carrapateira, developed over years of training young people to produce high quality papers. Youth involved in the project became themselves teachers multiplying their knowledge and techniques of paper production. Another important workshop was that of neoconcrete games coordinated by the artist/educator Bia Jabor (see endnote 19).

18 The Arte Ação Ambiental project in its initial format and proposal grew out of the collaboration between a network of local Niterói based artists and educators: Carlos Artur Felipe, Cristina Chagas, Eliane Carrapateira, Marcos Pinheiro Barreto, Ronaldo Affonso and the education staff of MAC.

19 Neoconcrete games was a workshop of community artist production that focused on artworks in the museum’s collection, specially dating form the paradigm shifts of the 1950s and 60s and their roots in geometric abstraction, concrete art movements, and the neoconcrete movement in Rio de Janeiro. These movements were what inspired us to call the workshop and art process “jogos neoconcrete” or neoconcrete games. It was led by artist/educator Bia Jabor. For a number of years a small store operated at MAC to sell the products made by the Arte Ação Ambiental project with considerable success. All the education team was involved in the Arte Ação project. It is important to acknowledge those who began their careers doing internships at MAC with this project: Joana Regattieri Adam,, Leandro Baptista, Ivan Henriques, Patrícia Reinheimer, Roberta Condeixa, and Tatiana Richard. In addition various artists/educators also collaborated with the Arte Ação Ambiental project and Macquinho such as: Eduardo Machado, Hugo Richard, Marcos Cardoso and Edmilson Nunes among many others.

20 Beginning first with funds from the Programa Comunidade Solidária (1999).

21 Arte Ação Ambiental also became an outreach program of UFF in collaboration with the Instituto of Collective Health, offering a point of integration with the Family Doctor Program. On this basis other collaborations emerged with diverse municipal departments active in Morro do Palácio and the city of Niterói.

22 Luiz Hubner, UFF professor Instituto Saúde Coletiva and base coordinator of the Family Doctor Program for the communities of Boa Viagem (1998-2008).

23 Mary Jane Jacob, well known for her work on social engaged art (such as Culture in Action), came to MAC as part of the International Seminar Museums in Transformation organized in collaboration with Museu da República. This contact with Mary Jane influenced a number of public art projects and transdisciplinary actions in local communities. It was with Mary Jane and in partnership with Centro de Arte Hélio Oiticica (on the occasion of the 24th Biennial of São Paulo, 1998) that a special project was developed to compare the work of Gordon Matta-Clark in communities in the Bronx with those of Hélio Oiticica in the favela Mangueira in Rio de Janeiro. Unfortunately unrealized.

24 Cornelius Castoriadis, “Tiempo e Imaginacion,” Zona Erógena. Nº 18. 1994, 2.

25 Cornelius Castoriadis, La Institucion e lo simbolico. La Institucion imaginaria de La sociedade (Barcelona: Tusquets Editores, 1983).

26 Felix Guattari. “Transversality. Institutional Psychotherapy” in: Molecular Revolution. Psychiatry and Politics (New York: Penguin Book, 1984) 11.

27 On decolonial thought: Ramon Grosfoguel, Aimé Césaire, Enrique Dussel, Walter Mignolo and Katherine Walsh amongst others argue for an epistemic turn that would include knowledge-based institutions that have the means to shift perceptions and take critical positions. In particular see Ramon Grosfoguel, “Para um pluri-versalismo transmoderno,” Tabula Rasa, Bogotá: Nº 9:199-215, July/August, 2008.

28 Mário Pedrosa, “Museu, Instrumento de Síntese,” Jornal do Brasil, March 1st, 1961 in: Otília Arantes ed., Mário Pedrosa: Política das Artes (São Paulo: Edusp, 1995) 298.

29 The original signed Santiago Charter is available here:

30 It is interesting to note that this ethical position can bring about and update the possible horizons of engagement and ecosystemic thinking of the art world in the current society, focusing on the microgeography and micropolitics of activations of fissures and rituals of being and direct action without the “split that separates the living from him/herself and the immediate relationship with his environment.” Giorgio Agamben, O que é o contemporâneo? E outros ensaios (Chapecó: Unochapecó, 2010) 43.

31 Even recognizing the conceptual disagreements between Ernst Bloch and Cornelius Castoriadis, my interest here is to seek out a synthesis between both authors drawing on the concept of the imaginary and the autonomous, a place for the individual “flexing” of/with real life.

32 Castoriadis, La Institucion e lo simbolico, op. cit.

33 Bloch, op. cit, 18.

34 Rolnik, op. cit.

35 Thatiana Diniz continued the writing workshops first coordinated by Cristina Chagas in 2003. The idea for a community newsletter, what became Jornal Palaciano was launched in 2004 focusing on raising self esteem via recovering community memories and disseminating events and day to day curiosities of residents and other notable factors that general never reach mainstream news.

36 Ibid.

37 Mário Pedrosa as cited by Lygia Clark in: “A propósito da magia do objeto. 1965. Rolnik, op.cit.

38 Deleuze, Gilles, A Dobra. Leibniz e o Barroco (São Paulo: Papirus Editora, Campinas, 1991) 13.

39 Ibid, 4.

40 Macquinho was inaugurated in December 2008, unfortunately, at end of the government of Mayor Godofredo Pinto. With the change of management, including my own departure from the direction of the MAC, Macquinho was temporarily closed. Also the heavy rains of December and January of 2009 created a risk of landslide and the construction began to show serious cracks. This meant that the building had to be closed in January 2009, only to re-open a year or so later with very minimal activity due to lack of resources.

41 Over the course of 2008 Comuniarte was developed as an unfolding of Arte Ação Ambiental featuring the collaboration of MAC, different departments at UFF and The Andy Warhol Museum (EUA) together with Jessica Gogan (at the time curator of special projects at the museum). The project was sponsored by Oi Futuro. Various UFF department professors including myself formed a true network of multiple knowledge practices: Luiz Hubner from collective health, Paulo Carrano education, Sonia Monerat, literture, and Marli Cigagna, geography. Coordinators Jessica Gogan and Ana Karena Brenner. Key MAC staff included: Leandro Baptista and Roberta Condeixa. In addition to UFF professors 6 university students – 1 from each discipline – were selected together with 12 youth from Morro do Palácio and worked together over the course of eight months. Various other artists, professors and collaborators were involved: Luiz Mendonza, Marcos Cardoso, RUST (Radical Urban Silkscreen Team).

42 Sudário [Shroud] by the artist Carlos Vergara [no relation] was curated by myself and the artist presented at MAC Niterói in 2013-2014.

43 The proposal had first been presented in São Paulo in 1997 as part of the Art Cities Project curated by Nelson Brissac. In its Boa Viagem version, besides a large collective of individuals, residents and Family Doctor Program participants, key professors involved were: Bettina Monika Ruppelt, pharmacology and the botanists Luiz José Soares Pinto and Marcelo Guerra Santos (UERJ / UFRJ).

44 The artist Jorge Menna Barreto introduced me to Dion Workman’s notion of “forest thinking.” See: [Accessed December 20th, 2018]

45 Ibid.

46 Mesa Baldio was supported by the British Council, SSW (Scottish Sculpture Workshop), Creative Scotland, Favela Observatory, residents of the fishing community in Gradin (Niterói), Campos Avançado (NGO), in partnership with MAC Niteroi and Macquinho. It was part of a special residency project with Nuno Sacramento in 2014- 2016 during his time as director of the Scottish Sculpture Workshop. The project was presented as part of MAC’s 20th anniversary exhibition Guanabara Bay: Hidden Lives and Waters.

47 Ivan Illich, Sociedade sem escolas (Petrópolis: Editora Vozes, 1985)

48 Hélio Oiticica. Projeto dos Subterranean TROPICÁLIA PROJECTS.

49 Telto notes that it was Cristiano Oliveira (former administrative staff member at Macquinho) who set off the first spark of this musical turn when in 2012 he decided one afternoon to take his stool and guitar outside and play.