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exp. 1: The Bones of the World

The Bones of Flávio de Carvalho, lecture by Marcelo Moreschi, 11.10.2019

In English

What does it mean to reanimate the work of the Brazilian artist Flávio de Carvalho (1899–1973) in these times of resentful mediocrity? This lecture aims at discussing the relevance, for today’s world, of avant-garde disruption, artistic radicalism, and civil disobedience towards general accordance and powers—a world that Marcelo Moreschi describes as one characterized by the colonization of all aspects of life by digital capitalism; a world characterized by identity politics and well-meaning artistic activism; a world most of all affected by the ascendance of a rabid mediocrity imposing regressive behavior, intolerance, and fascism upon us.

How then could the controversial figure of de Carvalho, not yet adequately recognized, help us grasp these concerns related to the present time in a critical and pragmatic way? This question will be at the core of an investigation of this extraordinary tropical figure. It will focus on two of his Experiências [Experiences]: Experiência nº 2 (1931), a psychological social experiment in which the artist disturbed a religious procession; and Experiência nº 3 (1956), a research project on clothing and sexuality which culminated in him wearing a male miniskirt during a parade through the center of São Paulo.

The lecture will also go into other aspects of de Carvalho’s pursuits, like his habit of manipulating the media (a praxis that mixes rumors and fake news), his part in organizing the Mês dos loucos e das crianças [Month of the mad and the children] (1933) or the creation of the Teatro da Experiência [theater of experience] as well as his “psycho-ethnographic” trip to Europe in 1934­­–35, in search of the “bones of the world”: unexpected material residues left by human animosity.

The analysis of this journey also wants to interrogate Flávio de Carvalho’s legacy. It will pay attention to the—merely apparent—contradiction between the progressive (and even anarchic) praxis that challenges consensuses and established powers on the one hand and, on the other, the strong affirmation of the role of the artist as a disruptive agent of the social and moral order. This reassertion rests on a mischievous combination of psychoanalysis and evolutionary biology, channeled through the mythology of the artist as an exceptional being.

Audio recording: Paolo Combes

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