By Kev Geoghegan | Source: BBC
Over the summer, a group of some 30 Brazilian artists will be putting their mark on London in their own distinctive way as part of the UK-wide Festival 2012 arts programme, which runs alongside the Olympics.
In the case of Breno Pineschi, that means sticking up 10,000 brightly coloured paper bananas around the capital. Pineschi is one of 30 artists invited to the capital to take part in Rio Occupation London, part of the London 2012 Festival. His installation, the aptly-titled Tropical Cluster No. 1 is, he says, “my way to bring a real feeling of colour and happiness from my city Rio and my country”.
The project has been commissioned by Rio de Janeiro’s State Culture Secretariat and co-produced by the Battersea Arts Centre. The artists will work and stay in some of London’s most revered galleries and museums including the Southbank Centre, Somerset House, Tate Modern and, in Pineschi’s case, the V&A.
“It’s incredible for a graphic designer, the best place in the world I’m very happy,” he says.
Its aim is not only to show off the best in new Brazilian art but also to create a cultural link between London and Rio - which is due to host the Olympics in 2016. It has also been inspired, in part, by events in 1986 when 100 Brazilian artists launched a cultural invasion of the football World Cup in Mexico.
Some of the highlights of Occupation Rio include the Brazil Kitchen, a band made of chefs who will jam and cook for their audience.
Pedro Rivera treads a slightly more controversial line with his work which will see him showing London street vendors how to use 60 specially designed, collapsible tables to evade the police.
Artist and film-maker Christiane Jatahy is a co-director of Rio Occupation. Her own contribution is to approach Londoners and ask them if they would like to invite a Brazilian artist into their home to create a piece of art.
Paul Heritage, executive director of People’s Palace Projects - the UK arts charity which is producing the event - says: “We’ve had some incredible letters, like, ‘I’ve just moved into this street and I don’t know anyone and this would be a great chance to invite my neighbours’.
“A couple found a stash of tequila under their stairs and thought this would be a good excuse to open it, and there was a beautiful one from a woman who said her 92-year-old great aunt has dementia ‘and the warmth and rhythms of Brazilians, I think she would really get something from’.”
Joao Sanchez’s El Boxer Amateur is a series of paintings on rice paper hanging above the foyer of the BAC, showing tattooed fighters between bouts.
Laura Lima is one of the more established artists invited to participate. Her work has been exhibited at the Manchester International Festival - alongside Marina Abramovic - and is displayed at the Modern Museum of Sao Paulo in Brazil. At Sunday’s launch, she showed a version of her work, Man = flesh / woman = flesh - sweet. Described as a man sucking a sweet “with open mouth using a special device”, he is revealed to be wearing an uncomfortable looking headbrace. She says her new work will “combine cinema and visual art”.
“I’m going to have a film set and will stream live to the Shortwave cinema in Bermondsey over three different dates. People don’t have to stay for the whole thing. They can just come and go. I’m not telling a story.”
Christiane Jatahy says the project presents the artists “who represent a much bigger group of artists in Rio” with a serious opportunity.
“What will I bring, what can I create and what can I take away with me afterwards? The occupation is not just a platform showing what we have done, but to create something new,” she adds.
Ahead of the Olympics in 2016, Rio de Janeiro will also play host to the football World Cup in 2014. The expected celebrations will almost certainly reinforce popular perceptions of the city and its culture of beach football, Samba and caipirinhas.
“Those things are part of Brazilian culture,” says Jatahy. “We’re not denying them but perhaps we can look at them more critically; our artists reference them but with a new way of looking at them”.
The logistics of moving 30 artists and their equipment halfway around the world has brought its own difficulties.
“Usually for something like this we meet the artists beforehand and we spend weeks planning it, whereas we had just a day to set up the 30 shows,” says BAC’s Sarah O’Connor.
“Flexibility and compromise were the two words in order.”
Last year, fears were raised in the cultural sector that the Olympics would impact negatively on audiences for shows and exhibitions in the capital. However, a recent Onepoll survey suggested more than two million ticket holders had already bought tickets to a concert, musical, exhibition or play.
O’Connor agrees people are starting to engage with that most ephemeral of concepts, the Cultural Olympiad.
“Theatres were scared that it would be quiet but it’s not quiet now,” she says. “I think people are beginning to get an idea of what that very fancy phrase means, and it means samba drums with speakers built in and Brazilians singing in corridors and showing films in council chambers.
“It’s about the mixing of cultures.”
In the spirit of exchange, plans are already under way for a group of British artists to make the journey over to Rio next year.