January 17th, 2014
After years of planning, months of workshops and days of setting up, A Beleza do Subúrbio exhibition has occupied and unoccupied the factory at the port of Plataforma—for now.
It is easy to get lost in the post-production part of such a concentrated and compact experience, or better said, it’s easy to take a step aside and more difficult to move back in. For weeks the team was absolutely dedicated, invested and overtaken by planning and mobilizing in order to make A Beleza do Subúrbio happen. Then came Christmas and New Years and space, but not by any means have we forgotten to come back here and share the experience.
Friday, December 13th, 2013
We check the news and it states, blatantly, 80% chance of rain on Saturday, with scattered thunderstorms. I had just spent the entire day trying to find a team to help clean out the factory (two horses had decided that it was the best place to call their stable, and had taken no shame in covering every inch of the entrance to the factory with their blessings), and was fighting my way through programs to make identification keys for each palette in the exhibition. I wanted to be sure that every image had a face, a name and an age. So, it’s 3 in the morning, I’ve been up since 6, and I am praying that the weather report will prove itself, yet again, faulty in the morning.
Saturday, December 14th, 2013
And it does! I wake up at 6 and see a beautiful blue sky; a few scattered, puffy, cumulous clouds to greet us, but nothing ominous. I spend the entire morning running around the entirety of my neighborhood, trying to find somewhere that will simply print 20 pages worth of small, identification pictures—and quickly.
First store: I got to print and my document is altered. Everything is out of order and all the fonts and colors have been changed.
Lesson learned: Always save documents as a PDF.
Second store: “Sure! We can do that for you.“
10 minutes later (still in line): “… but the quality won’t be very good, and it will probably take a few hours.”
Lesson learned: ask all the questions I need answers to in the beginning of an interaction. Answers are not given unless they are asked for.
Third Store: happens to be hidden away in a corner, which we happen to pass, and pass again, and pass one more time, until we finally ask and figure out where it is. But they can do it, and quickly.
Lesson learned: Make whoever is giving me directions restate them… clearly.
We finally get everything printed, and I’m late. So we take a taxi and make our way over to Subúrbio. As we get to Baixa da Fiscal (the extensive avenue that connects the center of the city to the periphery), I notice the sky getting darker. As we drive, a dark grey cloud follows alongside. I turn to Sebas and Felix, who are in the car with me, and without words they both shake their heads, “No”. So I continue to pray, and recognize that at this point, there is little I can do.
When we arrive at Dinho’s house, the group is already setting up the local artist’s work that are to line the entrance to the factory. Inside the factory is reserved for the photos taken by the adolescents who participated in the workshops. Perinho Santana’s work is already up, Zaca Oliveira’s 13 huge paintings are leaning against the brick wall, Cesar Borges is getting his space ready, and I am inside cutting pictures and mounting them on the remains of a cardboard box and matching them with their respective keys. Everything is coming along, when I feel a cold breeze come through the front door, and suddenly hear a few drops… and then all the rest of whatever that massive, grey cloud was holding. Vilma is in the kitchen making the largest feijoada I have yet seen, and I am listening to Pontos de Orixas in the living room, and we both begin to laugh—let’s just continue to pray that this is one of those flash thunder-storms that leaves as quickly as it came.
One hour later, and it’s still raining. The team has slowly trickled in, sopping wet, yet still calm and smiling. They had moved Perinho’s paintings into the boat dock so they wouldn’t get wet, gathered Cesar’s things and set themselves up to wait for the rain to pass, and not for a moment did it seem that anyone in the group didn’t believe that it would. As lunchtime began to creep around, the rain began to let up to a drizzle. It was 1:00 PM and the exhibition was scheduled to begin at 3:00 PM.
I grab the exhibition banner, the concept posters, a broom, a hammer, some nails, and an umbrella, and head down to the factory with Felix. I walk in and the water meets my ankles. Everything we had worked so hard to clean was underground, and we had only a few hours to clear the space. There was little that we could do as the rest of the group was up at the house, so we set the banner and the posters, and began sweeping out water. Suddenly, I see Dinho heading in and ask for the time: 1:45 PM.
Not a single photo (of the 64 photos) is up.
Not a single identification card is up.
Not a single photo is at the factory.
We run the 15-minute walk as fast as we can. The sun begins to come out, and again holds nothing back—a true characteristic of weather (and most other things in Bahia), intensity. As we gather the pictures, and the rest of the materials, we make our way back down to the factory and it is 2:15 PM. The students help me to unwrap the photos and match numbers and letters on the palettes.
“Don’t scratch the photos! Throw away the garbage! If it isn’t identified set it aside!”
Now we have to put up all the identifications and my phone rings. The musicians are lost. 4 Images have no space on the palette. The glue isn’t working to stick the keys to the wall. The hammer is missing. We don’t have nails. The reporter is supposed to be arriving. We still haven’t set up the string light bulbs. My phone rings again and it’s the Nana, responsible for making acarajé. I’m supposed to pick her up! And I begin to break.
It is now 3:00 PM.
By some miracle, my father and Fabiana make the glue begin to work. The hammer appears and we find enough nails scattered around to settle the issue of the four pictures that had no home. The reporter never called. The light bulbs were strung during the exhibition, and Nana managed to fit everything in the car in one run.
It’s 3:45 PM, I have taken a shower, and A Beleza do Subúrbio is happening.
Photo (Left) by Fabiana Pimenta, December 2013. (Right) Photo by J. Sebastian Barreneche, December 2013
There was no moment of realization. This story set itself up perfectly for a movie. It had all the dramatic pauses, all of the tensions and all of the moments of disbelief required to make an audience member squirm as he or she watches. But there was no moment where the music came in loudly and everything was in place and perfect. This exhibition, along with the rest of the factors that played a part in making this project a reality came in layers. As one thing arose and integrated itself into the larger picture, the next challenge was already making itself known.
Throughout the exhibition, new questions came to the forefront: “When do I introduce the students? Other musicians want to play—do we make space for all of the artists who want to perform? How do we fit the adapter into the plug to be able to make the lights work?” and so it went. The details never let up, as truthfully, they never do— that is simply a part of putting on a show.
But we were able to make it so. We were able to take an abandoned historical site, and use it for just one day. We were able to bring locals into a space that they had passed on the street hundreds of times, but had never ventured further into. We transformed the shady corners typically occupied by drug use, into areas to take rest from the sun, eat an acarajé and listen to music.
A Beleza do Subúrbio used local art to enliven a space forgotten, to bring people to envision their own exhibitions and weddings, parties and plays, concerts and community events within those walls: a shift from shame to pride. We consider this exhibition to be responsible for generating a spark; one that serves as inspiration for whatever is to come from the community, and from Subúrbio at large, in spaces of similar value and intensity.
The day before the exhibition, Cesar had painted the length of the wall on which the artist’s were to hang their work, white. That same night, someone spray-painted over a segment of it, tagging it as theirs. Alder, a 12-year-old student from São João do Cabrito saw it, and responded,
“Deixa eles. Eles podem pixar as paredes ontem ou amanha, mas hoje isso tudo é nosso”. (“Leave them. They can graffiti over these walls yesterday or tomorrow, but today all of this is ours”)
This is what we were aiming for.
The recognition of spaces that belong to a neighborhood and how to make these spaces rooted and felt by the people who live around them.
We spent only a week in the factory, and only 3 hours promoting a cultural event within its walls, yet the impact that it has had so far is shocking. Throughout the exhibition I heard countless local artists saying they were moved by the space. People have been calling Dinho and Vilma asking to see the the factory, to learn more about it. The factory has been seen, but this has also given the artists in the neighborhood visibility and provided a platform from which to grow.
When we began this project, we had full confidence that São João do Cabrito and Itacaranha had everything required to make an art exhibition worth seeing—one with the same level of professionalism and dedication that can be encountered in the center of the city. After executing the exhibition, we have proof of this, and we are looking forward to seeing what will come of, and from it!
I want to take the time to link you all to the Kickstarter update concerning the exhibition. It is full of gratitude and recognition and I want to make sure all of those who are acknowledged have an opportunity to see it!
Tirando da Cachola, a wonderful blog run by a group of journalists and producers summed up the event and shared thoughts and images from the exhibition.
And finally, a few reporters came through Subúrbio a week before the exhibition and reported on the cultural movement currently taking place in the periphery and the Beleza do Subúrbio workshops: Aprovado, Conheça o projeto A Beleza Do Subúrbio.
But once again, I want to congratulate all of the artists (of all ages and mediums) for their work on A Beleza do Subúrbio.
Parabéns a todos os artistas (de todas idades e meios) pelo trabalho de vocês no projeto, A Beleza do Subúrbio.
Thank you to everyone in the community who came together to make it happen.
Agradeço a todos e a todas na comunidade que fizeram esta exposição uma possibilidade.
Thank you to Dinho and Vilma for taking me (us, Sebas and Felix) in, for so many delicious meals shared and so many moments that will not be forgotten.
Obrigada a Dinho e Vilma por terem me (nos, Sebas e Felix) recebido, por tantas refeições deliciosas compartilhadas e tantos momentos que jamais serão esquecidos.
Thank you to the students for your hard work, for your perspective and for giving me, and so many others, the opportunity to get to know the beauty of your neighborhood.
Agradeço aos alunos pela dedicação, pela perspectiva e pela oportunidade de ter conhecido a beleza do bairro de vocês, com vocês.