'Brazil - the cultural contemporary' Forming Ideas Conference Speakers Biographies - BRAZIL

21 January 2011

Royal College of Art

Kensington Gore

London SW7 2EU

Adélia Borges

Craft, Design and Social Change in Brazil

Against a backdrop of quickening economic, social and cultural change, the strengthening of Brazilian material culture in relation to local identity is currently one of the distinctive trends of Brazilian design. This is a two-way process: designers teaching craftspeople, and craftspeople teaching designers. This reunion and interaction between design and craft has been taking place since the end of the 1980s and is now a definite feature of Latin American design. Designers have held workshops in all parts of the country with the prospect of preserving local heritage and old production techniques, while improving the technical quality of products and helping to refine the aesthetic syntax. The symbiosis of local cultural expressions, regional cultural identities and a sustainable approach has evolved - long before the appearance of the word ?ecology' in the dictionaries, the Brazilian population, constrained by poverty, were already recycling materials, using organic materials and rational production methods. In this keynote lecture, Adelia Borges will offer a personal perspective on the development of the craft-design relationship, shadowed by the legacy of European Modernism and the complexities of Brazil's indigenous development, exploring the social dimension in design which brings an improvement in the living conditions of Brazilians and an improvement in the quality of life of people in general, but which also carries dangers of disregarding local conditions and the knowledge of the artisans. 

Adélia Borges is an independent design curator and writer and Professor of Design History at FAAP in Sao Paulo. She is strongly interested in design that enhances quality of life and believes that the Southern Hemisphere should be proud of its cultural roots and need not copy other cultures. From 2003-7 she was director of Museu da Casa Brasileira, a governmental museum in Sao Paulo specialising in design and architecture and she has curated major exhibitions in Brazil and abroad. Her latest projects in 2010 were the Brazilian Design Biennial and Puras Misturas (Pure Blends), the latter an exhibition that previewed MAM-SP, a new museum devoted to improving the dialogue among cultures in Brazil, which will open in São Paulo supported by the city's government. Her books include Sergio Rodrigues (2005) and Brazilian Design Today: Frontiers (2009). As a journalist, she was the director of the magazine Design & Interiores (1987-1994), the design editor of Gazeta Mercantil, a daily business newspaper (1998-2002), and writer for Brazilian and international journals including Indaba in South Africa, Interni in Italy, form in Germany. Her books, articles and catalogue essays have been published in Portuguese, Korean, Germany, Spanish, French, English, Italian and Japanese. 

Adélia Borges was supported by a travel grant from the Royal College of Art.

Kiki Mazzucchelli

Poor Architecture: Lino Bo Bardi and the Brazilian Vernacular

This paper will examine the architect Lina Bo Bardi's work, emphasising her unique and ground-breaking incorporation of the Brazilian vernacular into the vocabulary of modern architecture, in order to consider the relevance of her architectural principles in the contemporary context. It will focus on three moments in her trajectory: her first built work, the Glass House (1951), her own residence in the São Paulo borough of Morumbi, a project which is still strongly characterised by a Western modernist typology; secondly, her best known work, the MASP-Museu de Arte de São Paulo (1968), a project in which she developed the concept of  'poor architecture', inspired by her experience in the north-east of Brazil, as well as creating an innovative display strategy for the museum collection and exhibiting her commitment to folk art; and finally her last project (1977-82), the SESC Pompeia, in São Paulo, a cultural and sports complex located in a former factory, which Lina Bo Bardi described as a 'citadel', a fortress in an urban fabric increasingly dominated by private and corporate buildings.

Kiki Mazzucchelli is a Brazilian independent curator and writer working between London and São Paulo. She holds an MA in Visual Cultures from Goldsmith's College and is currently a PhD candidate at TrAIN / University of the Arts researching the history of contemporary art exhibitions in Brazil. Recent curatorial projects include Barbara Wagner's solo show Brasília Teimosa (ICA, London; 2008), the sound-based exhibition OIDARADIO (Paço das Artes, São Paulo; 2008) and Jonathas de Andrade's solo exhibition Tropical Hangover (Galeria Marcantonio Vilaça, Recife; 2009). In 2009 she was a curator-in-residence at the Fundación Gilberto Alzate Avendaño (Bogotá, Colombia). She is the editor of the publication project The Poster as Expanded Exhibition Space, supported by the Fundação Bienal de São Paulo and the Brazilian Ministry of Culture, which will be launched in 2011. She has published internationally including Arte Contexto, Art Press, Bravo! and Flash Art.

Attua Aparicio, Sarah Colson, Alexander Groves, Maximillian Gubbins

Beleza (Beautiful)

Four MA (RCA) Design Products students in their final year reflect on their experience of working with top Brazilian designer Marcelo Rosenbaum on a community project in Sao Paulo last summer. They have also curated an exhibition especially for this conference in the Courtyard Galleries outside the lecture theatre: 'Beleza' is a collection of images, videos and objects which the designers found beautiful, alongside their own new work that was formed in response.

Attua Aparicio graduated in Industrial Design Engineering in Madrid and Product Design in Valencia. She is in her final year an MA in Design Products at the RCA. Her background combines technical knowledge with craft and manual skills. In 2007 she won the Injuve Design Award, which recognises the most promising young Spanish designers.

Sarah Colson graduated with a first class honours degree in Interdisciplinary Textile Design from UWE in Bristol and is currently studying for an MA in Design Products at the RCA. Sarah is a process-driven designer who values communal activities to act as a performance within her practice.

Alexander Groves has a BA in Fine Art from Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford and currently studying for a MA in Design Products at the RCA. His background in sculpture informs his design which seeks to discover new aesthetics through unusual processes. He is part of Studio Swine, a multidisciplinary design practice founded in 2010.

Maximillian Gubbins graduated In Product and Furniture design from Kingston University in 2004, going on to work as a design consultant in both London and the USA. Max is now studying for an MA in Design Products at the RCA where his work is based upon in-depth research into both social and cultural issues in our society, often going beyond the usual scope of design practice.

Frederico Duarte

The Added Value of Human Resources in Brazilian Product and Furniture Design

Despite political and financial stability, record economic growth and an expanding, massive internal market fuelled by increasing social mobility, Brazil's consumer goods industry is yet to fully grasp the potential of both the country's consumers and designers. Hindered by a highly inflexible labour market, an onerous and bewildering tax and tariff system, a poorly educated workforce, low R&D investment, insufficient infrastructure and widespread informality, Brazilian manufacturing companies have notoriously been as averse to risk and investing in design and innovation as they have been reliant on lowly-skilled, lowly-paid labour for market advantage.

This paper will address how Brazilian designers, faced with this reality, have been working on the edges of industry, making the most of natural, technological and human resources at their disposal in order to realise their ideas and projects. It will also address one of design's most challenging issues today: making the people who make the stuff we call design matter.

By focusing on a selection of designer-led communities projects from all over

Brazil, the paper will explore how issues such as supply vs. demand, media hype vs. sustained development, authenticity vs. stereotype, philanthropy vs. commercial viability, success vs. failure, experimentation vs. continuity, charity vs. exploitation, authorship vs. popular crafts have shaped the practice and the understanding of this dimension of Brazilian design. Designers/Projects discussed:

• Renato Imbroisi: pioneer in starting, and exporting (to Africa), this design model

• Laboratório Piracema de Design: the ever-poignant issue of continuity

• Paula Dib: Transforma design, the dilution of authorship

• Imaginário: Potters from Cabo Sto Agostinho, first-person account of meeting with potters

• Fibra Design: the exhilarating rise and fall of Bananaplac

• Solidarium: scale, making the stuff people need, getting that stuff to where they can buy it

• Campanas + Coopa Roca: Does Lacoste need the ladies from the Rocinha more than they need Lacoste?

• Brunno Jahara

• MK27

Frederico Duarte studied communication design and worked as a graphic designer in Portugal, Malaysia and Italy. In 2010 he graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York with an MFA in Design Criticism. He worked for several years at Experimentadesign (the Lisbon design biennial) and has since 2006 worked as a design writer, critic and curator, contributing to and editing books and catalogue essays, giving lectures and workshops, organising events and curating exhibitions on design, architecture and creativity. Website: www.alvorada.org

Frederico Duarte is supported by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation

Cristiana Tejo

Painting in Raw Flesh

This paper introduces the work of the prominent artist Adriana Varejão, taking into account the Brazilian context and perspective. Notable is her rigorous investigation of international visual culture and the connections generated by globalisation in her post-colonial pictorial corpus. The tiles are a kind of skin that veils excess and desire metaphorised by viscera, blood, flesh. In other words, the civilising process in the colonial past is scrutinised as the history of the painting in itself. In her artistic path, Adriana Varejão becomes more synthetic when she clears the historical references and focuses on hygienic places such as saunas, baths and swimming-pools. In the transition space, incisions, echoing Lucio Fontana, show the contrast between the order and homogenisation of the grid and the bodiliness of the flesh behind the squares. The duality of the Baroque sense is expressed in many moments; rationality and the organic, the ornamental and the ugly.

Cristiana Tejo is coordinator of Education at Fundação Joaquim Nabuco and an independent curator based in Recife, north-east Brazil. She is a member of IKT (the International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art) and part of the curatorial team of the Made in Mirrors project (an international network involving curators from Brazil, China, Holland and Egypt. She has curated projects and exhibitions in Brazil and abroad including: Rumos Artes Visuais Itaú Cultural (Sao Paulo, 2005-2006), New Utopias: Jarbas Lopes, Detanico & Lain and Martin Sastre (Museum of Modern Art Aloisio Magalhães, 2007), Special room of Paulo Bruscky at X Havana Biennale (Cuba, 2009), co-curator of Brazilian Summer Show with Roel Arkenstein, Museum Het Domein (Sittard, Holland, 2009), co-curator of Art doesn't deliver us from anything at all – Art and politics in South America with Clio Bugel (Uruguay), Paz Aburto (Chile), Frank Motz (Germany) and Charlotte Seidel (Germany), ACC Galerie (Weimar, Germany, 2006). 

Cristiana Tejo has organised colloquia on curatorial practice in Brazil and also on subjects such as: Panorama of the emerging thought (Recife, 2008), After the wall: the geopolitics of the arts (Recife, 2009), The crisis in the culture and the culture during crisis time (Recife, 2009), Curating and new centralities: (In)between Temporalities (Recife, 2010) and Education and Art: echoes and considerations (Recife, 2010). Her writings on contemporary art have been published nationally. Her work has attracted significant grants, including Goethe Institut (Seminar Fast Forward – 4th Berlin Biennale, 2006), Mondriaan Foundation visiting programme (The Netherlands, 2007) and Centro Cultural de España (Arco Madrid, 2008)

Bronac Ferran

Brazil: A Space of Invention? A Society In the Making?

In the past five years Brazil's image has been changing in the world media. Aside from its hedonistic reputation, the country is increasingly referenced as an emergent powerhouse, a growing economy, a country rich in natural resources, pioneering research and development in sustainable fuels and developing oil wells.

A report from the Demos think tank in 2008 described Brazil as a ?Natural

Knowledge Based Economy', emphasising its strong history and future potential with respect to science and technology-based industries. Vilem Flusser (1920-1991), the Czech philosopher and writer who lived for three decades in Sao Paulo after fleeing war-torn Europe, referred to Brazil as ?a society still in the making', starting with the ?revolution' by Brazilian poets in 1922 who sought to synthesise ?different realities' of the languages spoken there into ?a new meaning'. Many years later Gilberto Gil – then Brazil's Culture Minister (2003-8) – echoed this when he described Brazil as a ?laboratory of the future', pushing forward a programme of experimental workshops held across the country led by youthful hackers encouraging free software and open hardware projects as alternatives to commercial media. At the same time, the country was embracing social media at a rate and pace which outstripped any other in the Southern Hemisphere, making it also a magnet for commercial companies keen on prototyping and testing new technological products. This paper will consider the work of Brazilian-born artists and collaborative projects which draw on and engage with scientific and technological concerns.

Bronac Ferran is part-time Senior Tutor, Research, in the Innovation Design Engineering Department at the RCA. In her former role as Director of Interdisciplinary Arts at Arts Council England she set up artists placements in Brazil. Since 2007 she has been working as a freelance writer and event curator through her organisation Boundaryobject.org, facilitating a workshop for the British Council in Sao Paulo about art, technology and environment (2009); co-authoring a Mapping Report on Digital Culture in Brazil for the Dutch Foreign Ministry (2009); curating a Symposium on Research and the Creative Economy for the UK Foreign Office and AHRC during the UK/Brazil Joint Year of Science and Innovation (2008), and speaking at events in Bahia, Santa Catarina, Sao Paulo and Rio De Janeiro.

Tristan Manco

Graffiti Brasil

Brazil is a country of extremes and this is reflected in its graffiti. The intense vandalism of pichação tags inscribes entire cities, while some of the most intricate and poetic works are painted in the name of graffiti. From brutal anger to colourful artistic experimentation, graffiti is both a manifestation of social issues as well as an artistic reaction to them. Through its cities' walls we can gain an insight into Brazilian life – where extremes live side by side. Brazil's graffiti is unique. Shaped by the country's extraordinary cultural mix, its political history and a strong do-it-yourself culture, Brazilian graffiti has its own indigenous styles and techniques, distinct from one city to another. While graffiti worldwide is becoming more homogenised, such diversity and individualism are rare. The aim of this paper is to understand some of the reasons how and why Brazil created its own independent artistic expression through graffiti, exploring its development particularly in the last fifteen years and paying attention to key artists and stylistic developments. Graffiti art's recent acceptance and exposure in many of Brazil's key cultural institutions will also be discussed, including exhibitions in the Museu Oscar Niemeyer in Curitiba, the Santander Cultural Centre in Porto Alegre and the huge expo of graffiti art in 2010 at MASP in Sao Paulo, featuring artists such as Zezao and Titifreak.

Tristan Manco is an author and designer based in Brighton, specialising in art direction, printdesign and publishing. He has been a regular researcher in Brazil and has published frequently with Thames and Hudson, identifying innovative artistic talent from around the world: Stencil Graffiti (2002), Street Logos (2004), Graffiti Brasil (2005), Street Sketchbook (2007) and Street Sketchbook Journeys (2010). He lectures regularly on Street Art for institutions such as Tate Modern and at international art festivals, and on illustration and design for colleges and universities. He writes for journals including Juxtapoz and Creative Review. In his early career he worked as in-house designer for Peter Gabriel's Real World group, designing CDs for eminent music artists as well as books, merchandise, award-winning animations and video projects. He has subsequently worked independently, designing the iconic Blur Think Tank album and for clients including EMI Music, BBC, the Arnolfini Gallery and Habitat. He is also designer and artist liaison for Pictures On Walls, the London-based artist-led screenprint publisher

Justin McGuirk


Justin McGuirk writes on design for The Guardian newspaper and has spent the past two months researching housing in Brazil. An award-winning journalist, critic and contributor to broadcast media, McGuirk's writings on design culture range from the architecture of Palestinian refugee camps to the design of electric shavers. He was formerly Editor of Icon, the international architecture and design magazine. Justin will participate in the day's discussion sessions as respondent to the conference papers.

Martina Margetts

Conference Convenor and Chair

Martina Margetts is Senior Tutor in Critical & Historical Studies at the Royal College of Art in London, specialising in the applied arts. She was for nine years Editor of Crafts and a senior member of staff at the Crafts Council. Her books include International Crafts (Thames and Hudson 1991), Michael Rowe (Lund Humphries 2003) and Tord Boontje (Rizzoli USA, 2007). She has curated major international touring exhibitions including The Raw and the Cooked: new work in clay in Britain (MOMA, Oxford and Barbican, London 1993, with Alison Britton), Objects of Our Time (Crafts Council 1996) and Only Human (Crafts Council 1999). She was crafts advisor to the Visual Arts Department of Arts Council England from 1999 to 2007 and is on the Advisory Board of the Journal of Modern Craft and of Craft Research. She lectures, curates and writes internationally and was a judge and conference speaker at the 2009 Cheongju International Crafts Biennale in South Korea. In 2010 she undertook a research visit to Brazil with a group of arts specialists under the auspices of the Arts Council-funded programme Forming Ideas and this conference is an outcome.