Curitiba Travel Blog

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When you think about Brazil and make word associations with the country, pictures that come to mind, you could think all day, and I bet these names wouldn’t make it in your list of top hundred words, and likely not even make it to the top thousand: John Cage, Yoko Ono, Emmett Williams, George Brecht… So you can imagine my surprise when, in Curitiba, Brazil I stepped beneath a giant eye, opened a door, and these names flew into my face.

Let me further explain the surreal.

In the city of Curitiba, who has literally risen from the decay into a model city, there is a building designed by Oscar Neimeyer in the shape of an eye levitating above a reflecting pool. Inside this museum is art. If you were to visit the museum today you would first see an exhibit by a beautiful Brazilian Painter Cicero Dias, and after walking past his oils of bright, tropical, slightly distorted men and women you would come to a door. Past the door and enter the shrine of Fluxus.

Fluxus… what is it?

Based solely on my understanding (as Fluxus means many things to many people), it was a part of a global transitional movement of radicalism in opposition to the bleak global realities revealed by the world wars: hunger, hatred, war, routine, poverty… the participants in Fluxus, which would be most easily equated to a “happening” in the United States, gathered annually in Germany as artists, musicians, writers, free thinkers, and members of the theatre troupe of life. At this event these self identified radicals would revel in the company of other like minded beings and live out their art as marginal to society. These were the artists who experimented with creating composition out of squiggly lines, holes punched out of paper, falling pianos, silent pianos and alarm clocks, building blocks inside of pianos… These actions, this art, was meant as an insult to the high nosed world who had created such refinement as the cello sonata and symphonic performance whose attendees were the wealthy, socially conscious class largely responsible for controlling the puppet strings to the world.

Ironically enough, in the past 40 years the art that originated as a slap in the face to the elites has since become a mark of eliticism in and of itself. Attend any John Cage performance today and you will be surrounded by young men and women dressed invariably in black who will congregate after the performance to debate the meaning of the pause the performer made in the twenty third measure before the yada yada yada without being able to accept that the pause was there because the pen the composer used ran out of ink. I know this world. I grew up backstage with the performers who still believed in the elimination of classism in art and who spent hours perfecting the music of the progeny of the founders of movements like Fluxus. And it is precisely because I know this world that I am so mystified as to why it is here, inside the eye, in Curitiba, Brazil.

While these artists were gathering and participating in art in Germany and around the Western world, Curitiba was being re-born from the throngs of a military dictatorship. Now, some forty years later,  Curitiba is filled with a brilliant mixture of individuals from Brazil and around the globe. There are more natural blonds in this small city than in all of Argentina, I would venture to propose. But what this city also has is a European complex. Everyone you meet here is very quick to point out their diverse heritage and makes sure to emphasize how strong the European influence in Curitiba is. So maybe, maybe I came across an exhibit of radical contemporary artwork inside the "eye museum" because Curitibanos need to feel more than Brazilian. They feel like they need to be connected with their European counterparts so that they too can engage in the practice of  commenting on the rest in the twenty third measure before the yada yada.

travelman727 says:
Unfortunately, so true! I used to play percussion in a philharmonic orchestra and saw the elitism in "the musical arts."
Posted on: Jun 29, 2006
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