PAULO HERKENHOFF INTERVIEWS YURI FIRMEZA
PH – You live in Fortaleza, which is also your place of choice. You live a double marginalization by the market: your work is not absorbed in Ceará nor does it circulate adequately in Brazil. These are problems of art circulation in our specific capitalist system. The lack of institutions supporting contemporary art (an exception is the exemplary case of Centro Cultural Banco do Nordeste – CCBNB – with Jacqueline Medeiros) also closes other opportunities for the artists from Ceará. The university, especially Universidade Federal do Ceará, has fallen behind in comparison to others congeners as to implementation of bachelor and graduation courses for artists and theoreticians, and in all that is related to it (publications, seminars, a museum active with the current production). It seems to me Ceará is closer to the impasses of Pernambuco than to the solutions of Pará. What is it like to produce art under that double exclusion, dispersion, or disorganization? With the actions of Alpendre and the teaching experience of Solon Ribeiro, now interrupted by Faculdade Gama Filho (renamed Faculdade Grande Fortaleza), Ceará produced an excellent generation of artists: dense, experimental and inventive, diversified in the construction of their own language, pertinent to their time. How do you make your work possible? What does the Prize mean to your experience as an artist?
YF - I am sure that Power is not located in the State machine, but I know that the bad conduction of the State cultural organs, the inadequacy of some institutions and of certain people that still retain the political power in Ceará are some of the most blatant discrepancies to the execution or the continuity of the art experiences in Fortaleza. The deficit in the universities that you indicated was, to some extent, resolved by action like the ones you mentioned, Alpendre, CCBNB, artists graduated in philosophy, architecture, communications... That is, multiple disciplines helped educate a series of artists. What happens is that in Fortaleza, like in many regions of the country, the actions are volatile. Let's take, for instance, the experience of Solon Ribeiro at the helm of the arts course founded and coordinated by him at the university. More than a school, what happened was a great movement with caustic effects in the arts scene in Fortaleza. From that school came out a significative number of dense, inventive, and experimental artists you mentioned in your question. Another beneficial moment was the passage of Luiza Interlenghi and, next, Ricardo Resende through Museu de Arte Contemporânea. What happened was that the city's mediocre/middle class demolished the whole foundation that was being constructed with those experiences. We're talking about an ostensibly paternalist State, with insufficiencies and disputes of all kinds. If we think in historical terms, this first decade (2000-2010) upset the city's whole art history and its "representatives". It is, undoubtedly, a milestone in the cultural scene of the city. Because, even with all the coronelismo1 incrusted in Fortaleza, what was left from those volatile experiences were the artists and the urge to create. Are the lack of consolidated public policies to continue the institutional projects, the fragility in the field of education and the promotion of knowledge problems for the city? Absolutely. And what has happened? Well, if during a certain time the multiple disciplines guaranteed the presence of the artists in Fortaleza, today what we see is a Diaspora. A massive migration of artists to, mainly, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. An exodus due to the fragmentation of those events that slowly perished. It's a shame, of course, that such thing must happen. Especially when these departures are nor decided by the artists, but rather are forced dispersions, a matter of survival. On the other hand, the desire to come back, in those who left is almost unanimous. And, from that perspective, the departures are positive. I don't appreciate the resentful discourse, the discourse of the deprived, of the victim. And, on another scale, I'm well aware that in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro artists face the same difficulties as the ones experienced here. Of course, when we talk about São Paulo, we're talking about a metropolis that is the economical base of the country. What I mean is that the question of marginality does nor occur only in Fortaleza, but it's peculiar to a perverse system ruled, above all, by a mercantile, capitalist, and imposing logic. Our country's geopolitics – the concentration of everything in one single place, São Paulo –does not attenuate the problems in this system, on the contrary, I dare say it intensifies them, it creates more marginalization and, what's even worse, it impses itself a model for the rest of the country. The apathy and the inadequacy of the institutions and universities in Ceará must urgently change, otherwise the artistswill continue to migrate to the model-mirage called São Paulo. I've bee there, and for me, São Paulo is a city that failed as to the inventive possibilities in the art "field". My interest in São Paulo was directed to the academic life where, in this aspect, I see some thinkers that are more committed to another dimension of what art is, for example, Sueli Rolnik, Lisette Lagnado... Apart from the academic life (or a part of it), what is the movement that has any liveliness today in ßão Paulo? That arsenal of galleries? Artists who produce "professionally" and, with a few exceptions, fight for a place in the market? I don't want to moralize this discussion and say I'm against galleries, the market, or something like that (although I still believe in the boisterous position of being against. I say boisterous because being against these days is too much of a démodé utopia for our postmodern little world). The problem I see when that market starts to impose the production of knowledge, the production of works, the history of art, and life itself. This vast system of goods called artworks so present in São Paulo is perverse and negligent in relation to the artistic output of the rest of the country. As opposed to that, I see in Fortaleza a zone of possibilities the size of the coast. You mentioned Pará e Pernambuco. Pará created its own mechanisms through a consolidated university, a consistent repertoire of artists and theoreticians who think, above all, the question of image, of photography, with large critical capacity and experimentalism. However, at a certain point, many of those artists-theoreticians-professors were also "exiled". That was the case, for instance, of Orlando Maneschy and Marisa Mokarzel, who incidentally took her doctorate in Fortaleza. As to Pernambuco, after Chico Science, they honour us with the person who, in my opinion, will rearrange the current knowledge in history, theory, and critique of Brazilian art, Clarissa Diniz. Apart from that, if I'm not mistaken, they will create an arts graduation course in partnership with the universities of Pernambuco, Paraíba, and Bahia, a multidisciplinary course. Amidst all the adversities, I believe there have been, albeit sporadically and many times extrainstitutionally, favorable events and winds. No doubt about it, it's a strugglr, it's an endless tug of war. I had the opportunity to live a ling time off scholarships and grants, in order to develop my work. From state scholarships (Secult) to municipal ones (Funcet), even grants from other cities, like Bolsa Pampulha, from Museu de Arte da Pampulha in Belo Horizonte, Mian Gerais State, a scholarship from Fundação de Amparo 'å Pesquisa de São Paulo, because the master's degree course I'm taking at Universidade de São Paulo, Funarte's Projeto Marcantonio Vilaça, Prêmio CNI SESI Marcantonio Vilaça para as Artes Plásticas, among others. These are undoubtedly important to the artit's process and not just a final "work".These scholarships allow us a greater experimental freedom, productions that are less committed to selling or to the "product's success" (and I don't believe this is just mockery, I think this is a fact).