Yuri Firmeza: Projeto Ruínas: Casa Triângulo, São Paulo, Brazil

Installation Views


Ruins Project creates a direct dialogue with the work that Yuri Firmeza will show at the 31th Bienal de São Paulo: How to talk about things that don’t exist.

On Turvações Estratigráficas, Firmeza began this archaeological line of research by taking the urban developments in the Rio de Janeiro Port area as a starting point. These events led the artist to interpret critically not only the recent shifts in land policies and gentrification, but also the consequences of these processes in the housing policies of big cities. In his installation, Firmeza appropriated the archaeological remains discovered during the renovation of Rio’s port area as well as the debris of the Favela Morro da Providência, and used them together with old photographs and videos to shed light on the role that culture plays in this context.

Thus, his exhibition at MAR–Museu de Arte do Rio, revealed the need of direct social participation in the definition of what archaeological heritage is, how to recover it, and how to rework it into public dynamics and activities. As Rafael Borges Deminicis put it, in Turvações Estratigráficas, “Firmeza created a new and socially relevant field of archaeology: the Archaeology of the Favela.”

On Ruins Project, Yuri Firmeza addresses the rise of the metropolis, taking the case of the city of Alcântara, in Northeastern Brazil, as starting point. With the news that the Emperor of Brazil Dom Pedro II would come ashore in Alcântara, a strong rivalry set in among the aristocrats, who began to construct palatial mansions to host the emperor. The dispute was in vain because Dom Pedro II never arrived in those lands. The suspension of the constructions and the passage of time transformed the city into a scene of centenary ruins. The festival of Divino Espírito Santo is held yet today in the region as a celebration of the wealthy moment that Alcântara experienced and, for fifteen days, the population still dresses up like the nobility of the monarchical Brazil.

Paradoxically, it is also in Alcântara that one finds an important Satellite and Rocket Launch Center, which deems the city an important center of scientific studies concerning the future of humanity. In Alcântara, an ancestral past gets along with the most advanced aspirations of a future, and Ruins Project explores this juxtaposition.

Together with architect Artur Cordeiro, Yuri Firmeza developed three architectural scale models of ruins. Thus, he metaphorically inverts the progress of the great urban centers: he creates small-scale mock-ups of mathematically calculated ruins.

For the artist, when it comes to dealing with ruins, material equals memory. Present, past, and future participate in another temporal flow that escapes the linearity of historic developments.

Firmeza also presents several architectural drawings of the mock-up models, superimposed photographs of the ruins, stills from a fading 16 mm film of his grandmother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, and a video that boasts the qualities of Brazil as the host of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. All these materials compose a fluctuating network of historical, political, and social temporalities that cross each other and cross us, aiming to produce an encounter between various temporal strata. With the staging of the layers, Yuri Firmeza leaves two questions in the air: What are we producing in terms of ruins — in the name of progress and of idyllic, utopian cities — in the time to come? Has the present become disjointed for the sake of a future?