Baró Galeria presents – Dos meus comunistas, cuido eu. (Roberto Marinho) [-I’ll take care of my communists. (Roberto Marinho)], solo exhibition by Lourival Cuquinha which will debut some never seen before artworks that proposes a reflection on the Brazilian land structure, its roots and its unfolding in contemporary politics. The show is the second of a series of three exhibitions – the first being ORdeMha, which also took place at Baró in 2016. The link between the exhibitions is established by the presence of Golpe Profundo, which consists of a dark green to Petroleum black gradient banner painted along the gallery’s walls.
In Apocalypse Policy, one of the works of the exhibition, Cuquinha offers the transcription of Pero Vaz de Caminha’s letter to live crickets and exposes the document to the substances expelled by insects. Commonly employed by landowners, this procedure is called grilagem (“cricketing”). The action of the crickets on the paper gives an old appearance to illegally appropriated land ownership documents in order to legitimize possession. Grilagem is revealing of the unequal structure of access to land in Brazil, where land owners and the elites support and use the state and legal mechanisms to their benefit.
In Caminha’s letter transcribed by Cuquinha, the colonizer enunciated on May 1st, 1500 his first impressions of the territory that would come to be called Brazil. In an almost baroque furniture, which refers to the extravagances of the Portuguese aristocracy made of glass and wood, the letter is exposed and through the glass one can see the live crickets aging, altering and, devouring the document. Through its degradation, the document is at the same time legitimized since it assumes antique characteristics and destroyed.
This work reminds us of what could have been the first grilagem in the territory that would give rise to the country – the ‘discovery’ of the land by the Portuguese. Caminha’s letter enunciates a history of domination and plundering of the indigenous population that already inhabited the territory. The Portuguese appear in history as heroes and glorious pathfinders while the real slaughter against the local population is erased from historiography. Cuquinha points to the moment in which the European conqueror appropriates arbitrarily and then violently of Brazilian lands and from that point onwards begins a Brazilian history which is inscribed with relations of domination, inequality and plundering. In the works Brasil República Vendida Financial Art Project and Sócios (or Chora Geddel), the artist seems to put us as spectators before these relations of plundering that permeate contemporary politics.
The title chosen by Cuquinha is even more curious: Roberto Marinho’s 1964 statement when shortly after the military coup one of Castelo Branco’s ministers asked him to hand over a list of his employees who had connections with the left wing and Communism, the editor-director-owner, Roberto Marinho then stated: “I’ll take care of my communists.” In choosing this phrase, Lourival Cuquinha seems to remind us once again that in the history of Brazil the state and public power are often subordinated to private power and to large corporations. The Brazilian State, as well as when it was responsible for promulgating the Land Law, responds and acts together with the elites, maintaining the unequal structure of the country.
Moreover, the choice of this phrase takes us back to the history of the struggle for land in Brazil: the struggle for a change in the land structure is immediately identified as a communist struggle and, thus, something that the status quo and authoritarianism pushes forward to be condemned by the general population. Under the ‘threat of communism’, military actions and interventions were – and still are – justified and the struggle of important social movements is disqualified.
Thus, the history of violence with which land tenure takes place in Brazil and the legal mechanisms that legitimize inequality are part of the work of Lourival Cuquinha. A narrative fiction about the ‘discovery of Brazil’ combined with the reference to contemporary methods of expropriation make the artist’s work an important point of reflection to consider our current national situation.