exo experimental org./São Paulo S. A. archive

originally published in On Difference #3, Politics of space, 2007
Editors Iris Dressler, Hans D. Christ, Wurttembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart

EXO experimental org. is an organization (NGO) based in São Paulo (Brazil) since 2002, coordinated by Ligia Nobre and Cécile Zoonens. It was idealized as a structure that would give support to existing cultural manifestations, especially those which operate on the crossroads of aesthetics and politics, a rare concern among existing cultural institutions in Brazil. The metropolis of São Paulo is both the site and the content of many of EXO´s activities. These include seminars, publications and scholarship programs which are articulated between EXO and various peers and institutions.

São Paulo S.A. [1] aesthetic, social and political practices in debate, initiated in 2002, is one of EXO´s main on-going projects. It is directed by Catherine David and realized by EXO in association with various Brazilian and international cultural institutions. Among this project’s main concerns is the articulation of investigations related to the Brazilian social and political context. It focuses on the debate related to contemporary aesthetic practices at the intersections of diverse disciplines and urban experiences. It considers the metropolis of São Paulo and its complexities as the epicenter of reflections, which involves theoreticians, artists, as well as social and political agents. It gains public visibility in the format of seminars and encounters on different topics, an open archive, workshops, work presentations, an international residency research program, and a series of visual and theoretical folders and publications.

São Paulo is the political, economic and cultural epicenter of Brazil since the mid-20th century. The inequality between the conditions of life of high- and low-income groups defines conflicting relationships within its territories, making this metropolis and Brazil one of the most unequal places in the world. São Paulo can be a laboratory due to its complexities such as segregation, favelas, urban social movements, the processes of modernity and coloniality in Brazil etc. However, it is important to pay attention on not transforming the urban territory, the city into anecdotes or fetishes, not instrumentalizing the political subjects.

For the context of the exhibition “On Difference #2/ 4br” at WKV/Stuttgart, EXO presents part of the São Paulo S.A. Archive focusing on three ongoing projects developed in a collaborative working ground by artists and authors from different contexts. Each of these research projects present specific methodologies. In its first appearance outside of Brazil, it seems relevant to provide a minimum context for each of these projects:

Photographer George Dupin (France, 1966) and urbanist Kazuo Nakano (Brazil, 1968) have been working on Strategies of territorialization in the metropolis of São Paulo. Specific processes of residential intra-migrations have been followed up, giving visibility to some of the disputes between different social groups for residential areas (with their respective interests and capacities for political and economic articulation). These processes open up for key questions for the project that Kazuo Nakano precisely addresses: “Who are these subjects of the power and counter-power of contemporary cities? What are their collective or individual tactics and strategies for action, organization, and communication? What political processes are established from those actions? What analytical and visualization procedures are more effective to reveal the emergence of those contemporary political processes? What are the political implications of those analytical and representational procedures of the contents of urban reality?”

The second research presented is by Pablo Leon de la Barra (Mexico/ UK, 1972), who operates in the intersection between art and architecture, questioning the appropriation, variation, translation and migration of the images of modernity within different contexts. CopaCopan is an investigation based on the Copan building’s archive (historical and legal documentation, photographs, newspapers and press articles) to be published this year. Copan building was designed in 1951 by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer as a commission for the North American Panamerican Hotel and Tourism Company. Located in the historical center of the city of São Paulo, its inauguration dates from 1966. These decades comprised an economical boom in São Paulo, which resonated with a larger ideology of development and progress for the country along with the construction of Brasilia – the new capital of “the country of the future”. Copan has been, since then, one of the most important symbols of São Paulo, “synonymous of the metropolitan scale of the modern times”. Its final configuration houses 1.160 apartments divided into 6 blocks and stores on the ground level. With an estimated population of 5.000 inhabitants, its present diversity makes Copan an active place for the co-existence of different social, cultural and professional levels. Copan is the site where EXO has its office and artist-in-residency program. It is also where São Paulo S.A. first event Situation #1 Copan took place in November 2002. Scrutinizing Copan’s emblematic position is an attempt to problematize São Paulo’s complex urban and societal representations, its images of modernity and ideas of progress.

Jukebox: echoes of an unresolved fragment by filmmaker Tata Amaral (Brazil, 1961) is a free translation of the work “A non-realizable film (partial views)” initiated by the artist Alejandra Riera (Argentine/France), which for Tata Amaral “takes shape through reflections on the rights of existence of an oppressed nationality, language, identity, democracy and dictatorship”… To do this free translation -an invitation by EXO specially for an exhibition in São Paulo (2003)- Tata Amaral used several materials without any editing in a juxtaposition that shaped itself as an audiovisual jukebox. The idea of echoes related to Alejandra’s installation allowed her to do initially a thematic approach: a woman, arrested, a Kurd. However Tata’s “work did not focus on the theme itself, but on relationships it brought to her attention that ended up spreading to other environments”, like: prejudice against inmates’ wives, fights of women’s rights, the search for Kurds in Brazil, among others. “The result from this work was a heterogeneous material, made up of documental and fictional images, which can be looked up in chapters, in any order, in a way that the relationships between them happen according to the person who is looking it up.”

EXO operates on a micro scale as an attempt to establish a critical position associated to experimental actions in the cultural and social fields, in search for new methodologies and articulations, for new modes of representation. Its activities and projects are based on collaborative processes promoting the development of local and international networks. This mediating position between the sensible, social and political statements, between the artists, authors, the researcher and the social subjects, as well as between the different publics and partners, can not be taken for granted. It poses continuous questionings about how to find and to define modes of action. That implies (re)defining who we have been working with, how we do it, and towards which directions and audiences. Most of the time we find ourselves drowned in bureaucratic tasks and matters concerning EXO’s sustainability and routine, and our challenge has been not to lose sight that these operations and decisions– including the management ones – are political.

[1] The project borrows its title from Luis Sergio Person’s film (1965) which marks the industrial and economical turning point in the history of the city of São Paulo.

Images by George Dupin, 2006