Once away from the countries we were born in, we inevitably become stronger representatives of our culture. Once amongst different nationalities, we turn back to our roots for our identity.
Through the arts, levels of communication go beyond languages and every culture carries its visual, sonic and historical characteristics. Brazil creates a fantasy in every one’s mind and, even if someone comes from the opposite side of the planet and does not know where the country is found on a map, people will talk about it as an iconic cultural reference; it creates connections, starts conversations.
When living abroad, a Brazilian has a particular responsibility, specially these days, to feed the curiosity of people about an exotic and still powerful creative influence. Although its artistic production is young, if compared to Europe, Brazil has managed to export and be known for its music, films, fashion and visual arts. The Brazilian creative community has been growing significantly in the global sphere, and intensively in London, a place where every culture finds space for expression.
Once, the cultural exchange was part of the political exile of the late 1960’s, bringing to the world the leaders of the Tropicalia movement, talented and opinionated artists such as Gilberto Gil,and Caetano Veloso. Their original mix of samba, rock and roll and jazz caught the eyes of the music festival on the Isle of Wight in 1970. The two artists had been been living in London for three years and they had had incredible adventures, such as meeting legends such as Arabella Churchill, Andrew Kerr, Bill Harkin and Thomas Crimble, and helping to set up Glastonbury and then playing at it. They composed key works in their oeuvre and collaborated with musicians from all over the globe. Gilberto Gil experienced reggae for the first time, and learnt about African culture that, once back to Brazil, inspired him to pioneer the Afro-Brazilian cultural movements. Their exile brought Tropicalia to a world stage, where cultural trends were boiling and several artists from David Byrne to Beck have been influenced by it. Gil and Veloso only had the time to absorb and exchange all of these experiences because they were living in London. In this way they were powerful examples one of the characteristics of the Tropicalia movement called ‘Antropofagia’, that means, cultural cannibalism fusing contrasting influences and creating something new.
This mutual creative exchange helped Brazil impose its cultural mark on the world, opening doors. Today, we live in a moment of great recognition and respect worldwide for Brazil and its arts and culture. Given the expansion of the Brazilian economy and the increase in global information exchange though the Internet, the number of Brazilian people travelling, studying and sometimes living in different countries is growing. As a result, the nation’s creativity is rising and mixing within the international contemporary scene..
Recently Brazil has started to enter major art galleries in London, with exhibitions dedicated to important names of contemporary arts, such as Ligia Clark, Ernesto Neto, Os Gemeos, the Campana brothers, Sebastiao Salgado, to name a few.
While these names are internationally renomwed, there is also a young talented new generation of Brazilians who live in Europe, particularly London,and encourage other Brazilian creative artists to the country.
Invited to curate a monthly exhibition in a café in Soho in 2008 and having lived now in London for six years, I have had the chance to create an experimental art event called Braziliality. The idea is to make a platform for the promotion and exhibition of this new generation, bringing together Brazilian artists who live abroad and international artists who have a connection with Brazil.
For the first two months I needed to look for artists but soon artists were looking for the project. In the last four years of the project, over 40 exhibitions and events happened, over 200 artists were involved and around 50 became members of the platform. The project has showcased in the Hackney Wicked festival, V&A Museum and is planning to be part of the Liverpool Biennial.
The objective is to promote a movement of young Brazilian artists like the Young British Artists on the 1990’s, proving that their union and collaborations can draw more attention and recognition.
There are similar projects in different areas happening in Europe, such as Festival Visual Brasil in Barcelona, which has been running for the last 9 years working to promote film making, art and technology.
Both projects attract and create artistic communities and they develop the communication and exposure of Brazilian art and culture abroad. Still, these projects go through challenges such as the lack of financial and institutional support. Other problems for the short residencies are caused by legal problems or difficulties in promoting the commercial side of the arts. Unfortunately some communities, even coming from the same country, will prefer not to merge, as people who believe in life as competition can give precedence to individual interests over common purposes,
Even with all the problems, cultural exchange is fundamental to the formation of country’s cultural identity internationally. And if getting together can sound like a cliché, in fact it has been proved that it works for art movements and benefits all parts involved. In the case of Brazil, whilst the eyes of the world are turned on its cultural potential, it is time to show the best it has, and to build a sustainable artistic relationship feeding the world with our new generations of talent.
*Alicia Bastos is a Curator and Cultural Producer with 15 years of experience in the creative industries working for global brands in fashion, the events Industry and the arts, focusing on cultural events that create communities. She created Braziliality in 2008 and is developing the art project to become an arts organisation and cultural centre.