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Discovering Brazilian culture through Japan

Prof. Christine Greiner (Arts of the Body / Communication and Semiotics PUC-SP) invited to offer two classes within a course on Brazilian culture that she organized at the University of Tsukuda (Tokyo), in which researchers and artists like Beatriz Aoki, Marcus Bastos, Marco Souza, Michiko Okano, Miisake Tanaka among others also participated. The first class was about performance art in Brazil. In addition to Flavio de Carvalho, Paulo Bruscky, Wesley Duke Lee and the collective Rex & Sons, Márcia X... I rediscovered and reexperienced the collective body proposed by neo-concrete artists such as Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Clark and Lygia Pape, in my view, responsible for the birth of an authentically Brazilian and at the same time global art of performance.


Approaching the performance art movement in Europe and the USA, the neo-concretists proposed an art based on the perception and experience not only of the body, but also of time and space. On the other hand, moving away from performance art, they did not worship the individual figure of the artist. On the contrary, these works detached themselves from the figure of the one who created them to pulverize themselves in the body of the other or others. Lygia Clark’s relational objects are an example of this form of performance that detaches itself from the artist’s persona (remembering that Lygia has always avoided the word performance for her works): works that are only carried out with the active involvement of the observer or the “facilitator”. .

Here I cannot avoid talking about the body-media theory of Christine Greiner and Helena Katz, which presents a body that is always in metamorphosis from the relationships it establishes with the environment and others: a body in process, open to outside interference. The inside and outside of the body, the individual and the collective, the self and the other merge in a web of relationships.

As I lived and studied for many years in Europe and approached performance through this lens, I always felt that my reference in the arts of the body was exclusively European. Mistake. Preparing this class I rediscovered myself very Brazilian in the methods and principles of creation. I thank Christine Greiner for her initiative and generosity in designing and delivering this course, which has already been rescheduled for next year in Tsukuba. Not surprisingly, this collective body I spoke of marries the philosophical and aesthetic principles that underlie Japanese culture. A society in which the individual is the result of relationships that develop in an “in-between space”. But this is already a topic for another research.

About the second class, “arts of the body and the feminine: a brief comparison between Brazil and Japan”, I will talk about it in my next post.

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