Brazilian Modernism: Feminism in Disguise – 巴西现代主义:变相的女权主义

The recent exhibition ‘Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil’, at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, credits the artist with creating the visual identity of Brazilian modern art. This begs the question: why did so many Brazilian women artists reject feminist discourse, even as their works struggled with similar issues addressed by their counterparts in the US and elsewhere? The most common explanation has been that Brazilian women artists, such as Do Amaral, had a prominent role in the visual arts and so didn’t need to fight for space or visibility. According to the critic and curator Paulo Herkenhoff, women were more than contributors to the visual arts in Brazil: they were the driving force of Brazilian art in the 20th century.

Do Amaral was the link between artistic communities in Paris and São Paulo and so became the catalyst for the emergence of Modernism in Brazil. Her 1928 painting Abaporu (which translates from the indigenous Tupi language as ‘the man who eats people’) – is a depiction of an elongated figure, a sun like a slice of lemon and a cactus. It became the visual representation of the concept of Antropofagia, which was set out in the Manifesto Antropófago (Cannibalist Manifesto, 1928), by Do Amaral’s husband, the poet and writer Oswald de Andrade. He encouraged artists to critically appropriate, digest and transform foreign influences into something new and uniquely Brazilian, proposing an end to cultural dependence. The artist Anita Malfatti was also instrumental in presenting avant-garde visual languages to Brazil in works such as O Homem Amarelo (The Yellow Man, 1915–16). The 1960s saw an explosion of great women artists such as Lygia Clark, Anna Bella Geiger, Anna Maria Maiolino, Lygia Pape, Wanda Pimentel and Letícia Parente, among many others. More recently, the work of artists including Jac Leirner, Beatriz Milhazes, Rosangela Rennó and Adriana Varejão – all of whom were born in the 1960s – have been exhibited internationally and widely collected.


Brazilian Modernism: Feminism in Disguise - 巴西现代主义:变相的女权主义

Tarsila do Amaral, Abaporu, 1928, oil on canvas, 85 x 73 cm. Courtesy: © Collection Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires and the Museum of Modern Art, New York

Mostly from privileged backgrounds, Modernist female Brazilian artists had access to higher education, artistic training and the latest developments in the visual arts. Despite the fact that many of their canonical works tackle topics around identity and the body, feminism did not have a significant place in the country’s visual arts when the movement gained momentum in the West in the late 1960s and ’70s. Because Brazil was under the most brutal phase of its dictatorship during 1968–75, important debates around identity were relegated to the sidelines as many artists focused on the fight against government repression while feminism concentrated on issues related to women in the workforce and wage inequality. Critical discussions around women’s sexual emancipation and their subordinate role in society were dismissed as subjective, individual and personal. The famous motto ‘the personal is political’ was rejected by leftists as bourgeois reformism.

Under these circumstances, many artists resisted being labelled as ‘feminists’ since it was perceived as limiting one’s artistic significance or, even worse, as being divisive and counterproductive. Over time, the discussion of feminism in Brazilian visual arts became a subject deemed best avoided. Though many canonical works by leading female artists questioned assumptions around gender, their attempts to explore or respond to feminist issues were often disguised or hidden.


Brazilian Modernism: Feminism in Disguise - 巴西现代主义:变相的女权主义

Anita Malfatti, O Homem Amarelo (The Yellow Man) 1915–16, oil on canvas, 61 x 51 cm. Courtesy: © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Maiolino and Pape, for instance, addressed the authoritarian regime while also indirectly challenging patriarchal structures. Both artists employed the double entendre of the word língua, which in Portuguese translates as both ‘tongue’ and ‘language’. In the most poignant image of Maiolino’s photo-sequence É o que sobra (What Is Left Over, from her series ‘Fotopoemação’, Photopoemaction, 1974), she holds a pair of scissors, as if ready to cut out her own tongue. For Maiolino, the series was a way of transforming an act of poetic freedom into one of political resistance. Severing your tongue symbolically implies that your ability to speak has been undermined and so alludes to a twofold critique of censorship and the exclusion of women from male discourse.

The wounded tongue as an imposed sign of silence, self-mutilation and pain is also present in Pape’s concrete poem Língua apunhalada (Stabbed Tongue, 1968). In this work, the artist’s gesture of sticking out her tongue implies civil disobedience and political resistance. The body is stripped of its ability to articulate cogent meaning, destroying the efficiency and clarity demanded by patriarchal culture.

Both Pape’s O Ovo (The Egg, 1967) and Maiolino’s Entrevidas (Between Lives, 1981) tidily knit together notions of birth and destruction. O Ovo comprises a series of giant, wooden cubic structures (not ovoid-shaped, as the title might suggest) covered with coloured plastic from which either the artist herself or members of a samba school burst out. The thin surface of the cube is like a skin easily torn apart by the participants – a symbolic act that not only references birth but also the need to break free from political repression and societal constraints.

Maiolino’s Entrevidas consists of a rectangle on the floor covered with dozens of eggs. This ‘carpet’ evokes a sense of the precarious, the fragile and the sensorial. As the artist walks barefoot among the eggs – literally walking on eggshells – the implication is that of a minefield.


Brazilian Modernism: Feminism in Disguise - 巴西现代主义:变相的女权主义

Anna Maria Maiolino, Entrevidas (Between Lives), 1981, gelatin silver prints, each: 144 x 92 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milan


The constant need for self-imposed restraint under the military regime is also explored in Pimentel’s paintings. Influenced by graphic design, Pimentel uses vivid colours and smooth, flat brushstrokes in a Constructivist grid to render intimate scenes – including parts of her own legs, feet and toes – intruding into household spaces. In her ‘Série Envolvimento’ (Involvement Series, 1968–84), parts of sewing machines, telephones, hairdryers, stoves and other devices related to the realm of women’s lives evoke a sense of domestic confinement and entrapment.

Likewise, in Parente’s videos the household becomes a space of instability and estrangement. The artist transforms familiar domestic chores – such as ironing, sewing and applying make-up – into unfamiliar and uncanny situations. In the video Tarefa I (Assignment I, 1982), Parente lies face down on an ironing board, while a maid presses the clothes that the artist is wearing. Through this ironic and painful act, Parente converts her own body into a passive object in an allusion to domestic violence. The objectification of the female body is also suggested in her video In (1975), in which the artist suspends herself through her blouse on a clothes hanger – as if she has become a commodity herself. She then closes the closet door remaining inside its claustrophobic space, replicating the asphyxiating atmosphere of the period.

Parente’s self-representations are far from the conventional feminine depictions of women in advertising and mass media. In the video Preparação I (Preparation I, 1975), the artist stands in front of a bathroom mirror brushing her hair and applying make-up. She sticks a piece of adhesive tape on her mouth and then outlines it with lipstick. She repeats the procedure on her eyes, drawing an eye shape with a pencil over the tape patches, and then takes her bag and leaves the room. Here, the functions of seeing and speaking are denied to the artist – a reference to the assault on the right to free speech and the impossibility of bearing witness under the authoritarian regime. The work also violates ideal standards of female beauty, questioning normative aesthetic values imposed on women by patriarchal culture.

Notwithstanding the fact that Brazilian women artists such as Do Amaral ‘had a seat at the table’, many of her peers confronted patriarchal structures alongside their critiques of political repression. As such, they forged new ways of representing women’s subjectivities and – even if they did not label themselves feminists – conceived a particular form of feminism unique to their country at a critical historical juncture. 

Published in Frieze Masters, issue 7, 2018, with the title ‘Feminism in Disguise’.

Main Image: Anna Maria Maiolino, É o que Sobra (What Is Left Over), from the series ‘Fotopoemação’ (Photopoemaction), 1974, digital print, 62 × 153 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milan

Claudia Calirman

Claudia Calirman is a writer and curator based in New York, USA. She is currently associate professor of art history at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York

Issue 7

First published in Issue 7

September 2018

Features /

Lygia Pape
Anna Maria Maiolino
Wanda Pimentel
Frieze Masters 7
Claudia Calirman

最近在纽约现代艺术博物馆举办的“Tarsila do Amaral:在巴西发明现代艺术”展览,认为艺术家创造了巴西现代艺术的视觉特性。这就引出了一个问题:为什么这么多巴西女艺术家拒绝女权主义话语,即使她们的作品在美国和其他地方遭遇了类似的问题?最普遍的解释是,巴西女艺术家,如Do Amaral,在视觉艺术中具有突出的作用,因此不需要为空间或能见度而斗争。根据评论家兼馆长保罗·赫肯霍夫的说法,在巴西,女性不仅仅是视觉艺术的贡献者:她们是20世纪巴西艺术的推动力。阿玛拉尔是巴黎和圣保罗艺术界之间的纽带,因此成为巴西现代主义兴起的催化剂。她1928年的画作《阿巴波鲁》(从土生土长的土比语翻译成“吃人的人”)描绘了一个细长的身材,一个像柠檬片和仙人掌一样的太阳。它成为《Antropfago宣言》(食人者宣言,1928)中由Do Amaral的丈夫、诗人和作家Oswald de Andrade提出的Antropofagia概念的视觉表现。他鼓励艺术家们批判性地吸收、消化和转化外国影响,使之成为巴西独有的新事物,从而结束文化依赖。艺术家安妮塔·马尔法蒂也在作品中为巴西呈现了前卫的视觉语言,比如《O Homem Amarelo》(黄种人,1915-16)。20世纪60年代,伟大的女性艺术家如Lygia Clark、Anna Bella Ge.、Anna Maria Maiolino、Lygia Pape、Wanda Pimentel和Letcia Parente等数量激增。最近,包括Jac Leirner、Beatriz Milhazes、Rosangela Renn、Adriana Varej.o在内的艺术家的作品——他们都出生于20世纪60年代——在国际上广泛展出。tarsila_do_amaral_abaporu_1928_._on_canvas_85_x_73_cm._courtesy_c_._.o_de_arte_latinoamericano_de_buenos_aires_and_._of_._art_New_york礼仪:拉丁美洲布宜诺斯艾利斯艺术馆和纽约现代艺术博物馆,大都来自特权背景,现代主义巴西女艺术家有机会接受高等教育、艺术培训和视觉艺术的最新发展。尽管她们的许多经典作品都涉及身份和身体的主题,但是当20世纪60年代末和70年代西方的视觉艺术运动蓬勃发展时,女权主义在这个国家的视觉艺术中并不占有重要的地位。在1968年至75年的独裁统治期间,围绕身份的重要辩论被搁置一边,因为许多艺术家把重点放在反对政府压迫的斗争上,而女权主义则集中在与劳动力中的妇女和工资不平等有关的问题上。关于妇女性解放及其从属社会角色的批评性讨论被当作主观的、个人的和个人的。著名的格言“个人是政治”被左派拒斥为资产阶级改良主义。在这种情况下,许多艺术家拒绝被贴上“女权主义者”的标签,因为它被认为限制了自己的艺术意义,或者更糟的是,它具有分裂性和反作用。随着时间的推移,讨论巴西视觉艺术中的女权主义成为一个被认为最好避免的话题。尽管许多著名女艺术家的典型作品质疑了关于性别的假设,但她们探索或回应女权主义问题的尝试往往被掩饰或隐藏。anita_malfatti_o_homem_amarelo_the_._man_1915-16_._on_canvas_61_x_51_cm._courtesy_c_the_fitzwilliam_._cambridge.礼仪:例如,菲茨威廉博物馆、剑桥、麦奥林诺和教皇在向威权政权发表演说的同时,也间接挑战父权制结构。两位艺术家都使用了lngua这个词的双尾,在葡萄牙语中它被翻译成“舌头”和“语言”。在Maiolino拍摄的系列照片中最令人难忘的一张“o que sobra”(剩下什么,来自她的系列作品“Fotopoemaão”,Photopoemaction,1974)中,她拿着一把剪刀,好像要剪掉自己的舌头。对于Maiolino来说,系列是一种将诗歌自由的行为转化为政治反抗的方式。割断你的舌头象征性地意味着你的说话能力被削弱了,因此暗示了对审查制度和将妇女排除在男性话语之外的双重批评。受伤的舌头作为沉默、自我毁损和痛苦的强加信号,也出现在教皇的具体诗歌《Lngua apunhalada》(Stabbed.ue, 1968)中。在这项工作中,艺术家伸出舌头的手势意味着公民不服从和政治反抗。身体被剥夺了表达有说服力的意义的能力,破坏了父权文化所要求的效率和清晰度。教皇的《Ovo》(鸡蛋,1967)和麦奥莱诺的《Entrevidas》(间谍,1981)将出生和毁灭的概念紧密地结合在一起。Ovo包括一系列巨大的、木制的立方体结构(并非如标题所暗示的那样,卵球形),上面覆盖着彩色塑料,艺术家本人或桑巴学院的成员都从中迸发出来。立方体的薄表面就像一层容易被参与者撕裂的皮肤——这种象征性的行为不仅指出生,也指必须摆脱政治压迫和社会约束。MioLIIN的TestVIDAS包括一个长方形的地板上覆盖了几十个鸡蛋。这个“地毯”唤起了一种不稳定、脆弱和感官的感觉。艺术家赤脚走在鸡蛋中间——字面意思是走在蛋壳上——暗示的是雷区。Anna_maria_maiolino_entrevidas_._._1981_gelatin_._prints_144_x_92_cm_.Brazilian Modernism: Feminism in Disguise - 巴西现代主义:变相的女权主义 Anna Maria Maiolino,Entrevidas(Inter.),1981,明胶银印,每个:144×92cm。礼貌:艺术家和米兰拉菲拉·科特斯美术馆,皮门特尔的绘画中也探讨了在军事政权下自我约束的持续需要。受平面设计的影响,皮门特尔在建构主义网格中使用生动的色彩和平滑的平面笔触,以渲染侵入家庭空间的亲密场景——包括她自己的腿、脚和脚趾的部分。在她的“Série Envolvimento”(参与系列,1968-84)中,缝纫机、电话、吹风机、炉子和其他与妇女生活领域有关的装置引起了一种家庭封闭和陷阱的感觉。同样,在Parente的录像中,家庭变成了一个不稳定和隔阂的空间。艺术家把熟悉的家务——如熨烫、缝纫和化妆——转化成不熟悉和不可思议的情形。在Tarefa I(作业一,1982)的视频中,Parente面朝下躺在熨衣板上,而女仆则按着艺术家穿的衣服。通过这种讽刺和痛苦的行为,Parente把自己的身体转变成一个被动的对象,暗指家庭暴力。她的视频(1975年)也提出了女性身体的客观化,其中艺术家通过她的衬衫悬挂在衣架上,仿佛她自己已经成为一种商品。然后,她关上留在其幽闭恐怖空间内的壁橱门,复制出那个时期令人窒息的气氛。Parente的自我陈述与广告和大众媒体中对女性的传统女性描写远非如此。在视频Preparec a o I(Preparec I,1975)中,艺术家站在浴室的镜子前,刷头发,化妆。她把一条胶带粘在嘴里,然后用口红勾勒出来。她在眼睛上重复这一过程,用铅笔在胶带补丁上画出眼睛的形状,然后拿起她的包离开房间。在这里,艺术家被剥夺了观看和演讲的功能,这指的是在独裁政权下侵犯言论自由权和不能作证。作品也违反了女性美的理想标准,质疑父权文化强加于女性的规范性审美价值。尽管像Do Amaral这样的巴西女艺术家“在桌上占有一席之地”,她的许多同龄人在批评政治压迫的同时也面临着父权制结构。因此,他们创造了代表妇女主体性的新方法,并且——即使他们没有给自己贴上女权主义者的标签——在关键的历史关头构思出了他们国家特有的一种特殊形式的女权主义。伪装中的因式主义。主图:安娜·玛丽亚·梅奥利诺,《左边是什么》,1974年,来自“FotopoemaConceo”(摄影)系列,数字印刷,62×153厘米。礼貌:米兰·克劳迪娅·卡里尔曼·克劳迪娅·卡里尔曼,艺术家兼画廊拉斐拉·科特斯。克劳迪娅·卡里尔曼是美国纽约 的作家和策展人。她现在是约翰·卡里尔曼的艺术史副教授。纽约市立大学杰伊刑事司法学院第7期,第一期刊登于2018年9月7日巴西奥利诺万达皮梅特尔


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