“O interesse central de Malasartes são as artes visuais, mas estaremos atentos de um modo geral a todos os campos culturais. Mais do que em objetos de arte, procuraremos nos concentrar no estudo dos processos de produção de arte, na sua veiculação e nos mecanismos que a realimentam. Tradicionalmente, as revisas nas quais os artistas são maioria defendem um movimento, un ismo. Vindos de formaçãos diferentes, e com uma produção pessoal não menos diferente entre si, o que nos une é um consenso sobre o papel que a arte desempenha em nosso ambiente cultural e o que ela poderia desepenhar.
Malasartes é portanto uma revista sobre a política das artes. Entre a aparente opção de editar uma publicação que trate a arte como objeto de consumo e outra que seguisse a moda das revistas enigmáticas, Malasartes preferiu, pretensiosamente, tomar a si a função de analisar a realidade contemporãnea da arte brasileira e de apontar alternativas.
Com isso deixamos claro que Malasartes é um projeto aberto, porque se considera representante de uma tendência, não sendo porta-voz de um grupo, mas de uma posição.”
Selected Subject Headings
- Architecture and society - Brazil
- Art - economic aspects - Brazil
- Art education - Brazil
- Art and society - Brazil
- Artists and museums
- Artists as teachers - Brazil
- Brazilian poetry - 20th century
- Clothing and dress in art
- Conceptual art
- Cultural policy - Brazil
- Ideology in art
- Indianists - Brazil
- Independent filmmakers - Brazil
- Motion pictures - Brazil
- National characteristics, Brazilian, in art
- Neoconcretism (art movement)
- Politics in art
- Street art - Brazil
On March 28, 1968, Edson Luís de Lima Souto, a 17-year-old high school student protesting high priced meals in a Rio de Janeiro restaurant for low-income students, was killed, point-blank shot in the chest, by Brazil’s military police. Another student in the protest, Benedito Frazão Dutra, was also shot, and died in the hospital. These events ignited a wave of popular protests in Brazilian’s society, culminating in the March of the One Hundred Thousand that took place in Rio de Janeiro in June 26, 1968, a few days after a protest in front of the U.S. embassy had left a count of 28 dead.
As a result of this societal turmoil, Brazil’s military dictatorship stepped up its repression, institutionalizing it through a decree issued on December 13, 1968, the Ato Institutional Número Cinco, or AI-5; AI-5 has been signaled as the harbinger of the anos de chumbo, or “leaden years;” this is, a period in Brazilian’s dictatorship in which a concerted effort was made by the military rule to smash and destroy any inkling of political dissent, involving torture, killings, and, importantly for what concerns us here, the preliminary censorship of the media as well as of any intellectual or artistic activity suspicious of “subverting the political and moral values” upheld by the military; AI-5 then signaled the fullest implementation of the Operação Condor, the overarching U.S.-backed campaign of political repression and state terror that brought to Latin America one of its darkest periods in its history.
Amid this ominous context, Brazilian society’s will for expression remained unwavering.
Heedless of the military regime’s nationalist slogans like Brasil, ame-o ou deixe-o, or Quem não vive para servir ao Brasil, não serve para viver no Brasil,
Under the editorial responsibility of the journalist Mario Aratanha, Malasartes’ editorial team was composed of a heterogeneous group, the majority of them artists: Cildo Meireles, Waltércio Caldas, Carlos Vergara, José Resende, Rubens Gerchman, and Carlos Zílio; the group also included other voices: of critics, like Ronaldo Brito, or poets, like Bernardo de Vilhena. In their opening editorial they made clear that Malasartes was not a unified group, but rather “an open project, as it considers itself representative of a tendency, without being the spokesman of a group, but rather, of a position.”
To get a better sense of what this cultural position could be in this particular Brazilian context, we’d like to quote here Claudia Calirman:
“By the late 1960s and early 1970s a shift had taken place, with many artists and intellectuals now seeking a means of cultural production that was somehow ethically and politically significant but not necessarily nationalistic or ideologically oriented. They were criticized from all sides: the left accused them of being elitists lacking a social commitment to grass-roots cultural production, while the right labeled them rebels sowing the seeds of communism through the country.”
In Malasartes, this “ethically and political significant” cultural production took the shape of an austere and short-lived periodical; in its three issues, Malasartes engaged in a dialogue with the international sphere--we are after all in the 1970s and the height of conceptualist practices--while maintaining a focus in its local context, politically as well as historically.
For example, in the first issue, we find reprinted Ferreira Gullar’s 1959 influential essay Teoria de não-objeto alongside contemporary criticism, like Ronaldo Brito’s Análise do circuito; or Joseph Kosuth’s seminal Art after philosophy, in the context of works and essays by Waltércio Caldas or Cildo Meireles. These combinations, alongside José Resende’s text on the formation of the artist in Brazil, points out to Malasartes’ desire to trace the ideological structures that shape the field of art and its positioning in society: from an artist's education to the work’s circulation through art institutions, ending in an analysis of art’s economic aspects, i.e. the art market. For example, in its third and last issue, the journal published a manifesto against Salão Arte Agora, questioning the organizer’s ties with vested economic and ideological interests, his regressive cultural stance.
But art was not the only focus of the journal, as architecture, cinema and literature were also represented, always in relation with their impact, or possible effect, on the society from which they stem.
The two remaining issues were rich with a variety of essays, among them texts by architect Lina Bo Bardi, art historian Terry Smith, art critics Suzana Geyerhahn and Mário Pedrosa; it also included artists’ pages or articles dedicated to the work of artists like Allan Kaprow, Lygia Pape and Tunga, critical reassessments of neocontretismo or independent filmmaking in Brazil, a visual essay by photographer Miguel Rio Branco and so on. It would be important to note though that these social and political concerns reached out to other fields beyond the cultural realm, as the article dedicated to the indigenous Indian population of Brazil and its relations with the government attests.
For us, it is interesting to note that Calirman highlights how intellectual and artistic endeavors like Malasartes and the practices it espoused were perceived as threatening both by the left and the right; in particular, how they were labeled as elitist by progressives; from our distance, intellectual efforts like Malasartes bear witness to the resilience shown by specific artists through their thoughts and works, a critical stance against simplifying claims of “social engagement,” not dissimilar to contentions we have observed in our current landscape. We would assume that to be aware of everyone’s imbrication in the system of cultural production is the first step to a politics of liberation and change, and to this radical insight many pages of Malasartes were dedicated.
The name Malasartes could somehow translate as trickery. The journal brought to us creators’ trickery, artists' creative means to circumvent oppressive circumstances and effect change. These efforts are continued. In 1979, military president João Figuereido passed the Amnesty Law relaxing the repression on activists and intellectuals while providing amnesty to the repressors; in 1985, the country shifted to democratic elections. To date, perpetrators of human rights violations during the two-decade military dictatorship in Brazil are yet to face criminal justice.
In 2004, Apoena Meireles, president of FUNAI and the indigenist to whom Malasartes dedicated the above-mentioned article, was assassinated while investigating mining activities in indigenous lands, signaling to the urgent fact that work must continue, even if the historical circumstances are changed.
Malasartes did its very important part in a dangerous context, bequeathing us an essential document, a thinking and creative model for our current dangerous contexts.
To peruse the indexed contents of Malasartes, please log into the database.
”Introdução,” Malasartes (Rio de Janeiro), no. 1 (September-November 1975): 4.
This brief historical sketch has been assembled from a variety of Wikipedia entries: Brazilian military government, Edson Luís de Lima Souto, The March of the One Hunderd Thousand, AI-5, and Operation Condor.
We recommend consulting the following works for a sweeping historical overview: Glória Ferreira. Arte como questão: anos 70. São Paulo: Instituto Tomie Ohtake, 2009; Artur Freitas. Arte de guerrilha: vanguarda e conceitualismo no Brasil. São Paulo: Editora da Universidade de São Paulo, 2013; Arte contemporáneo brasileño: documentos y críticas = Contemporary Brazilian art: documents and critical texts. Ed. by Glória Ferreira. Santiago de Compostela: Dardo, 2009. Please see note 5 for another essential reference.
Ibid., our translation.
Claudia Calirman. “Introduction,” in Brazilian art under dictatorship: Antonio Manuel, Artur Barrio and Cildo Meireles. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012: 1. Calirman’s remarkable book is an essential read for a deeper and nuanced understanding of the context in which Malasartes appeared.
We quote from the Introdução: “Malasartes tem quarto números anuais, com uma tiragem inicial de 5,000 exemplares. É impressa em tamanho 23 x 32, off-set, preto e branco, terá em média cerca de 40 páginas e permitirá um maximo de 25% de anúncios.” Despite its initial stance, the journal was irregular in its appearance and it only published 3 issues.
Sergio Meirelles. "Com a palavra o sertanista," Malasartes (Rio de Janeiro), no. 3 (April-June 1976) : 16-19.
After these notes were posted, ccindex encountered and indexed an article specifically dedicated to Malasartes. An excellent art historical account of the journals' significance, we highly recommend its reading: Camila Maroja. "Red shift: Cildo Meireles and the definition of the political-conceptual," ARTMargins (Cambridge, Mass.), vol. 5, no. 1 (February 2016): 30-58.