British Council Scotland is working with Creative Scotland to add a Scottish dimension to Transform, British Council’s arts and creativity programme in Brazil (2012-2016).
Building on and consolidating our strong cultural connections with Brazil, last September, we invited nine curators from Scotland to experience the visual arts sector there. The tailor-made itineraries, devised by British Council, started with the opening of the Sao Paulo Biennale, followed by visits to Rio de Janeiro and the extraordinary arts organisation Inhotim. By facilitating connections and dialogue with key arts organisations and artists, we hope to further develop visual arts exchange between the two countries.
Upon their return, each curator reflected on their visit and wrote a blog. Full blog entries can be read on the Scottish Contemporary Art Network's website. Here are some quotes extracted from a selection of blog entries:
Reflections on Brazil - Sorcha Carey (Director, Edinburgh Art Festival)
"I often find myself taking pictures of signposts when I travel – the way a country speaks to its citizens can often communicate far more of a sense of place than any guidebook. Brazil was no exception. One of the first pictures I took on arriving in Sao Paolo was of a single post hosting a stacked array of signs pointing, variously, to Dentistry, Swimming, Theatre, Childcare and Exhibitions. The signpost stands at the entrance to Sesc Pompeia, one of a family of 33 cultural centres spread through the capital and state of Sao Paolo. Founded in 1946, Sesc (the Servicio Social del Commercio) is a private institution, funded through subscriptions raised from commercial businesses, established to promote social welfare and improve quality of life. The result is a unique model which brings together health services, sporting facilities and cultural spaces under the one roof. I had heard of Sesc prior to visiting Brazil, but found it impossible to imagine what such an approach might look like; and from a distance, my initial expectation was that it could only be achieved through a distinct watering down of the cultural elements. In the flesh, I found Sesc Pompeia profoundly inspirational – a complex of warehouse buildings redesigned by the Brazilian architect Lino Bo Bardi, which brought together gallery spaces, theatre and live music events with a library, dental clinic, and dedicated workshops for classes on printmaking, ceramics etc. On the evening I visited, the building was filled with people of all ages, including one particularly energetic 75 year old widow who told us that, having been forbidden to dance as a child, she was determined to spend her remaining years on the dance floor. The exhibition space was showing a survey of work in the Video Brasil collection – challenging and complex work, ably introduced by a young visitor assistant."
Reflections on Brazil - Lucy Askew (Senior Curator, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art)
"The visit gave an opportunity to hear about how visual arts organisations function within a completely different political and economic landscape, provoking many conversations between the delegates about how we ourselves work back in Scotland. It was fascinating to learn about specific initiatives established to support artists and curatorial development. Simultaneously, it was hard not to be struck by the complexities of the country and particularly the inescapable divisions in society, made visible by the invisibility of the favelas on the map of Rio, and the high, double gates surrounding almost every house or apartment block we passed."
"After visits to over 15 visual arts organisations in both Sao Paolo and Rio, as well as a day exploring the Sao Paolo Biennale and a visit to the extensive sculpture park of Inhotim, it was an enormously rich and stimulating experience, full of discussion and debate, but also a complex and sometimes conflicting and overwhelming one."
Reflections on Brazil - Graham Domke (Exhibitions Curators, DCA)
"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 andSESC 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, USPwas 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."
Reflections on Brazil - Fiona Bradley (Director, Fruitmarket Gallery)
"This is the first British Council organised trip I have been on. I got a lot out of it, saw some great architecture (especially concrete staircases), some good art, and had some good conversations. It was very well organised, benefiting especially from the knowledge and contacts of Effie and Liliane, the two Brazilian organisers."
"Key learning points for me:
• The curatorial programme run by Paulo Myiada (talked about in the summary of the Tomie Ohtake Institute, see download below
• The insights around engagement and access at MAM
• The history and actuality of the Bienal
• The sheer beauty of the Daros Collections and building
• Some good contacts, institutional and personal, several of whom have been useful for our forthcoming exhibition."