Friday, 27 July 2007


abra vana alucinete fogo
Casa Triangulo, São Paulo
August 31-October 7 2006
Text by Pablo Leon de la Barra
2146 words

On Tuesday August 21, 2001, Patricia Abravanel, the 24 year old daughter of TV presenter Silvio Santos was kidnapped as she was on her way to university from her father's home in the São Paulo suburb of Morumbi. Her father, Silvio Abravanel, born in the 1930s had started as a street vendor and had worked his way up until he became Silvio Santos, Brazil’s most important TV presenter, Show de Calouros (Amateur Talent Show) which ran for 23 years every Sunday, and Topa Tudo Por Dinheiro (Do Everything for Money) were some of his most famous shows. Silvio became the owner of his own TV channel SBT, Brazil’s second TV network and built an empire around it: most of his 35 businesses, including a bank and a lotto, profit from selling dreams to the country’s poorest. A week later after being kidnapped, his daughter Patricia was released after her father paid a ransom of US$ 200,000, and in a rescue process that included Santos himself held hostage under gun in his own house during seven hours by the same person who had kidnapped his daughter. Brazil's television stations broadcasted live the siege at the home of Santos, who was released after the São Paulo state governor personally guaranteed the safety of the kidnapper, Fernando Dutra Pinto. Sources believed Pinto, who was also accused of killing two policemen, sought refuge in Santos's mansion because he feared he was in danger of being killed by police to avenge their colleagues' deaths. SBT’s TV ratings hadn’t been higher.

Miss Abravanel immediately became a public figure. Upon her release, Patricia told to the television reporters "The kidnaper was fantastic, he didn't lay a hand on me, I was let go because my God is powerful." Miss Abravanel was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome a psychological response sometimes seen in abducted hostages in which the hostage shows feelings of loyalty to the hostage-taker. Mr. Santos declared “If I had known that this was going to be Patricia’s reaction, I would have let her stay more days with the kidnappers!”. Miss Abravanel and her kidnapper were also Christian Evangelicals. It is said that he fell in love with her in one of the ceremonies at Assembléia de Deus temple, where both used to go for prayer.

On the 25th of January of 2006, on the 452 anniversary of the foundation of the city of São Paulo, artists and performers Ricky Castro and Chiris Gomes dressed in lycra and wore glitter makeup, both looking like something between street mimes and transvestites. Castro and Gomes danced while holding 100 purple helium balloons and doing the first Abravanation on the Viaduto do Chá bridge. Abravanation was the term Castro conceived from the derivation of Patricia Abravanel’s last name, saying that the condition of being brain washed that she had developed after being kidnapped was that of being Abravanada. Ricky started using this term to define his public performances, moments of explosions, freedom and colour.

On the weekend of May 12 to 14, 2006, drug traffickers launched a wave of coordinated attacks on the São Paulo police leaving at least 50 people dead. In at least 100 separate attacks, groups of organized criminals with hand grenades and automatic weapons swept across the city, gunning down any police member that they came across. The following days, and in response, police officers shot dead 33 suspected criminals, while plainclothes officers stopped motorists in a hunt for more gang members. The total number of suspected gang members killed by the police were 71. The death toll from four days of violent clashes between police and gangsters reached 133.

abra vana alucinete fogo:
In an act of reverse anthropophagia , for their first exhibition in Brazil, avaf - the anonymous collaborative project known normally as assume vivid astro focus - integrated into their proposal not only the abravanista work of Ricky Castro but also that of other artists and designers that were working independently but close to him. In doing so avaf gave continuity to an operation of collaborations that they have been developing in past years: “We want to be contaminated by other people… We think it’s really important to look at the work of others and create or stress contexts for these works. This contextualizing practice is in our point of view a creative practice and very similar to the way our projects manifest themselves. For us it is important to somehow record incredible explosions of energy and freedom surrounding us and relate them to other moments in history when that happened. At the same time the way we see our curatorial practice is always about sharing, about showing works which otherwise would be hardly available to other people.” Doing it in Brazil, where one of the members of avaf originates, was also an attempt to create neo powerful images and shared signs as part of a collective experience.

For the exhibition avaf also changed its name to abra vana alucinete fogo: abra vana coming from Patricia Abravanel’s Abravanation, alucinete from the Portuguese for hallucination, and fogo meaning fire in Portuguese. The exhibition constituted a collaboration with the members loosely associated around Rick Castro’s Abravanista movement and around the group of people that publishes and collaborates in Dudu Bertholini’s and Kleber Matheus’ 2Fanzine magazine. Up to that moment these groups existed outside of Brazil’s official art scene but shared with avaf similar aesthetic strategies: the publication of a fanzine, production of stickers, neons and masks, and the activation of public and private space through parties and performances. The exhibition then consisted of a platform created by avaf which integrated the works of avaf with the neons of Kleber Matheus, the abravanista videos and vinyl explosions of Ricky Castro, the silkscreens of Fabio Gurjao, the kaftans and silkprints of the Neon brand fashion duo Dudu Bertholini and Rita Comparato, the makeup of Lau Neves, the videos of Renata Abbade and Rodrigo Dutra, and the work of Alex Pinheiro and Rafa de Jota among others.

I visited the exhibition on the closing day-party. Half of the people in the gallery were dressed up with coloured psycho-geometric-tropical robes, many of them designed by Neon specifically for the show, there was even a three-headed kaftan for threesomes to wear . Other visitors had makeup and glitter in their face or were wearing a mask. I had one caipirinha, then another, and suddenly became part of the show. There was a big palm tree made of rattan woven baskets in the centre of the space, the palms were made from abstracted geometric neon leaves-sculptures that seem to fall down from it. The palm tree stood over a round platform with stars from where a transvestite and a man with a mask are djing; during the exhibition different groups used this stage to perform including Gavin Russon on the opening. The ceiling is fully covered with beautifully coloured bunting flags like the ones used in the Festa Junina , while cut-out figures of contortionists hang from above. A gigantic upside down face with her mouth wide open is at the backdrop, this is the face of artist-stylist-icon Renata Abbade, responsible for introducing avaf to the Abravanista and 2Fanzine groups. Further down other live size human figure cut-out sculptures free stand in the space: carnival figures, hot men in ecstasy, women with face surgery and with exchanged body parts. Covering all the space is a giant wallpaper with fluorescent colours, the result of a collaboration between avaf and the São Paulo groups during an Abravanation-batucada a private ceremony in which the different participants for the exhibition gathered in order to create out of action symbolic images for the show. On the upper mezzanine of the gallery and separated by a coloured chain curtain with images another space exists, the floor is covered with sand, towels for visitors to lay down on the sand, and wallpaper and neon and vinyl explosions are on the walls. It is difficult to know who did what and it really doesn’t matter. A video programme is projected on a screen: Relevee a video done by avaf for Delia Gonzales and Gavin Russon; O Vento a video by tropicalista singer and diva Gal Costa, Knock on Wood by Amii Stewart and Vira E Sangue Latino By Secos E Molhados all found in You Tube; and Abravanation Reversor a documentation of the abravanation performance done by Ricky Castro with Chiris Gomes on the Viaduto do Chá in São Paulo.

abra vana alucinete fogo makes evident the evolution in avaf’s work in the last five years, from the creation of bidimensional wallpapers to threedimensional spaces activated by experience-performances-situations. In doing so, the collective gets closer to, and incorporates, a series of strategies developed by Helio Oiticica in the 1960s: the transformation of the exhibition space into a single Penetrable as seen in Oiticica’s Tropicalia 1967; Eden 1969; Nests 1969. In these works, Oiticica collapsed the relation between high art and no art, exhibition objects and everyday objects, and transformed the whole exhibition space into a total work of art and a total experience. In having the visitor wear masks and kaftans and become part of the exhibition avaf also integrates Oiticica’s strategy of the Parangole: "My entire evolution, leading up to the formulation of the Parangole, aims at this magical incorporation of the elements of the work as such, in the whole life-experience of the spectator, whom I now call participator” . In having towels in the sand to watch videos, avaf recreates a similar atmosphere to that of Oiticia’s 1970s Cosmococas: complex environments including slide projections synchronized with a carefully written soundtrack and a specific décor: sand, mattresses, hammocks, etc. With all the glitter, trash and camp of their exhibition avaf gets closer to 1970s Oiticica, a darker and more underground Helio, whose work deals more with men, transvestites and cocaine, and less with parrots and vegetation. This Oiticica is generally disowned in Brazil because he is perceived as too gay.

The exhibition becomes a stage where space is activated by unscripted acts. Disguised as a party or as a carnival, it constitutes an aesthetic reaction to the sociopolitical context of contemporary Brazil, a scenario characterized by a profound crisis and a general lack of hope and solutions in a country kidnapped by TV, the church, poverty, political corruption and drug mafias. In the use of the party as an exhibition, avaf’s proposal becomes highly political. Political activism masquerade as decoration and its transmission through contagion is something avaf has been exploring in some of their past work: already in their installation at a private collector’s house in Miami during the Basel Art Fair of 2004, avaf inserted General Idea’s Aids wallpaper and through it imposed a 1980s gay activism into their collection. Similar tactics were used by the collective in their Homocrap installation in Ecstasy (MOCA, Los Angeles, 2005) where images of Dianetics leader and Hollywood actor Tom Cruise were perverted and transvestied into ‘Tom Cruising’, while “Sodomy is not a Civil Right” helium balloons hung from the ceiling and a chain curtain with the image of pope Benedict XVI observed.

Writer Octavio Paz examined the implications of the fiesta on society and differentiated the Latin-South American party from a European utilitarian view in which party money is spent on celebration in order to attract more money. For Paz, “a fiesta… is also a revolt, a sudden immersion in the formless, in pure being. By means of the fiesta society frees itself from the norms it has established”. The party stops the flow of time, in it the participant hides behind a mask and opens up and escapes from him/herself and discharges his/her soul in order to reveal oneself. In the party/carnival one gets drunk on noise, people, and colours. A dream or an orgy, the party has a different gravity: the weight that represses us is lifted and our actions have a greater lightness. In a carnival/celebration the notions of order and structure are cancelled, chaos comes back and license rules. Anything is permitted. Hierarchies vanish. Love becomes promiscuity.

Contrary to what critics could argue that through aesthetics and party one is avoiding “reality”, in a reality of crisis, the party/carnival becomes not only an aesthetic reaction, but a strategy of survival, a way of inserting revolution through disorder. In avaf’s exhibition as a carnival, participants emerge purified and strengthened from a plunge into chaos. For a moment they are free. In this avaf also comes close to what Oiticica defined as the Supra-Sensorial: “The search here is… the quest for individual liberty, through increasingly open propositions, aimed at making each person find within themselves, through accessibility, through improvisation, their internal liberty, the path for a creative state… defined as the experimental exercise of liberty” .

In 2004, Patricia Abravanel married 27 year old businessman Phillipe Carrasco, son of Ivonne Muniz, the female pastor of the Vida Nova (New Life) church. Both met at the temple where Phillipe coordinated prayer and Bible studies for youngsters. The married couple live close to the Vida Nova church in an apartment of 90 square meters that they both decorated. Today, Patricia Abravanel is preparing herself to succeed her father as director of the Silvio Santos TV group.

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