Recife, peripheral?

May 14, 2014

RECIFE — Let’s try to subvert the inferiority complex that might be attached to the term “peripheral” when used to map the agents, places and proposals of Recife’s artistic landscape; the usual ones, the resistant ones, and the ones that continue daring to risk. 

The cultural thermometer should not be read based on the quantity supplied or by comparing terms with neighboring cities, but rather by analyzing the distinct scenarios where a balance of heterogeneous ingredients are perceived. 

The most international of its representatives is Paulo Bruscky, a conceptual multimedia artist, pioneer of mail art, and the originator of xerography and faxart. Apart from a period in New York, he has always lived in Recife, where he has been the principal mobilizing agent since the late 1970s. 

His house is a total wunderkammer, with some of his most celebrated works next to unknown gems, like the series of footprints and Amazonia brand shoes.

He has countless artists’ books and binders of unrealized projects, as well as the most surprising: his personal archive, which includes his mail art exchanges with members of Fluxus and Gutai, as well as documentation of art scenes dating back a few decades.

The Joaquim Nabuco Foundation—its namesake was the founder of the Brazilian academy of letters and an important abolitionist—works to promote understanding of scientific and cultural activities within Brazilian society, especially in the north and northeast areas of the country. 

With Moacir dos Anjos at the head of the Foundation’s visual arts section and two locations in the city, it’s the standard for Latin American and international art in its most political aspect. It also has a space dedicated to the best cinema in the city. 

Here, Moacir is shown at the Oscar Muñoz exhibition at one of the locations, and at the other location, the Baobá Gallery, for the opening of Museu da Policía Militar, by Fabiana Faleiros. 

This year, Amparo Sessenta Gallery will celebrate its 15th anniversary and open a new exhibition by Kilian Glasner. Here, the artist is seen with Lucía Santos, the gallery director. 


BCúbico is a platform for moving image and digital practices, whose participants are among the most innovative creators in the international arena. 

For this occasion, the American artist Peggy Ahwesh presented her experimental videos. 

Every Wednesday night, Fernando Peres’ studio is transformed into the Lesbian Bar, with thematic events accompanied by projections and good music. An unbelievable night can be combined with a fashionable haircut by the artist and hairdresser Marie Carangi.

In less than two years, Espaço Fonte has established itself as one of the most interesting platforms in the Brazilian art world, mixing artist and curator residencies with research space, presentations and cultural events. This initiative is spearheaded by an enthusiastic group of women lead by curator Cristiana Tejo. 

Another of the players connected to the city's art world, Orlando Maneschy, bridges the groups in Pernambuco and Amazonia through his work as an artist, curator and manager of the collection of the Museu da Universidade Federal do Pará

It’s quite easy to stay in the same building to continue meeting people. On the 6th floor is the performance artist Aslan Cabral; the third floor is shared by four artists: Jonathas de Andrade, Cristina Lino Gouvea, Silvan Kälin and Priscila Gonzaga.

At this time, Jonathas’s studio was littered with the posters for the ad he used for one of his latest projects, O Levante, in which he carried out the first carroças race in Recife. 

The city is a treasure trove of other interesting artists like Carlos Mélo, Paulo Meira, Oriana Duarte, Gabriel Mascaro, Cristiano Lenhardt and Traplev. 

Traplev stands out especially for his publishing projects, like the monograph magazine Recibo, a patchwork of collaborations by international artists. 

Before they left, I caught Barbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca, who live between Recife and Berlin, where they work on individual projects as well as collective collaborations.  

Recife has practically united with the neighboring city of Olinda, a UNESCO heritage site and one of the oldest Brazilian cities, whose carnival is especially famous for the rhythms of the frevos and maracatu. 

The headquarters for the Videos nas Aldeias (VNA) are located here. An innovative project started by Vincent Carelli in 1986, it supports the fight of local indigenous groups, using the camera as a tool and working as a shared production. 

They organize audiovisual workshops in villages and donate the materials. They also distribute videos to raise awareness, revise the image of the indigenous reality and deconstruct some preconceptions. 

At the time of my visit, most of the members were absent because of a conflict that is destroying the Guaraní Kaiowà population. 

With all of this, Recife is an example of the need to revise the concept of the peripheral city, where there is room for the convergence of a variety of cultural production models that articulate a healthy ecosystem full of original and intriguing characters.