September 20, 2022

Social Fabric: Art and Activism in Contemporary Brazil

Visual Arts Center at The University of Texas at Austin

Aline Motta, Pontes sobre Abismos#6 [Bridges over the abyss #6], 2017. Digital photograph, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist.

Denilson Baniwa, Perspectivismo amerindio series (sukuryu-tapuya), 2019. Digital print, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist.

Lais Myrrha, Bestiário (Bestiary) (still), 2005. Single-channel video, color, sound. 40:35 min. Courtesy of the Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin.

Jaime Lauriano, America meridionalis: invenção, epistemicídio, contrato racial e genocídio, 2019. Black Pemba (chalk used in Umbanda rituals), dermatographic pencil, charcoal and high tack adhesive tape on raw cotton. 55 1/8 x 74 in. Courtesy of Galeria Leme.

Social Fabric: Art and Activism in Contemporary Brazil brings together the work of ten artists who reflect upon the long-standing histories of oppressive power structures in the territory now known as Brazil. Blurring the line between art and activism, these artists contribute to both local and global conversations about the state of democracy, racial injustice, and the violence inflicted by the nation-state. In so doing, they ask us to consider how the agendas and policies of those in power are visually articulated in public space and inscribed in official narratives. Their propositions reflect on the function of art as a platform for critical engagement with the historical, political, and cultural configurations of a particular place. Rosana Paulino’s Tecido Social (2010), from which the exhibition takes its title, provides a timely roadmap to approach these ideas while inviting us to imagine anew, stitch by stitch, a more equitable future.

Spanning installation, painting, performance, photography, sculpture, and video, the exhibition unfolds over five galleries within the Visual Arts Center. Aline Motta interrogates how memories are formed, forgotten, and revivified at the crossroads of time, while Castiel Vitorino Brasileiro and Sallisa Rosa explore how healing and justice may be possible through communal efforts, especially in the Black, LGBTQIA+, and Indigenous communities to which they belong. Guerreiro do Divino Amor and Lais Myrrha subvert both historical and contemporary imagery, reminding us that Brazil’s colonial past cannot be divorced from its present. Utilizing both practical tools and affective objects—from maps to family photographs and typography—Jaime Lauriano, Maré de Matos, and Rosana Paulino examine the ongoing legacies of dispossesion and show how these histories are linked to Black and Brown genocide and land exploitation. Denilson Baniwa and Antonio Obá consider the tensions and collisions of different worldviews and foreground other ways of Indigenous and Afro-descendant knowing through the body, non-human entities, and place. By refusing to remain neutral and shedding light on myriad forms of gendered and racialized violence, these artists create spaces of vibrant and vital community and self-construction, where experimentation and joy thrive.

Social Fabric: Art and Activism in Contemporary Brazil is organized by Adele Nelson, Assistant Professor of Art History at UT Austin, and MacKenzie Stevens, Director of the Visual Arts Center, with Curatorial Assistant María Emilia Fernández.

Major support for this exhibition is provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Lead support provided by the Jedel Family Foundation and Mark and Shannon Hart. Additional support provided by the Center for Latin American Visual Studies (CLAVIS), the Irvin–Loughlin Family Fund, and the VAC Circle.

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