The Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo presents the 35th Panorama of Brazilian art, its traditional biennale exhibition, which offers a reading of the current state of art in Brazil. Under the title Brazil by Multiplication, and the curatorship of Luiz Camillo Osorio, it is inspired by one of the seminal texts of Hélio Oiticica: A General Scheme of the New Objectivity (1967).

“Although it discusses aspects of the text written for the catalogue of the exhibition New Brazilian Objectivity (Nova Objetividade Brasileira) (MAM Rio, 1967), this Panorama is not a recapitulation of the previous exhibition, neither is it concerned with historically legitimizing it. What we are doing her is paying homage to a text by the artist based on issues raised therein and which continue to be pertinent”, explains the curator. Among the topics presented in the text and explored in the show are: the constructive will; a tendency towards the object; spectator participation; the assumption of political, ethical and social attitudes; a tendency towards collective propositions; and new formulations of the concept of anti-art.

Without limiting itself to a definitive diagnosis or a final answer, the exhibition proposes a reflection on these questions, which are crucial to understanding Brazilian art and culture, revealing the pertinence of Oiticica’s thought in the context of the country’s reality and its art today. Caught between its Amerindian and African origins, and its European influences, Brazil has never arrived at a clear definition of its national identity, either within its borders or in the context of the globalized world. It is thus opportune to mention the second text that inspired the Panorama and its title, National by Subtraction (Nacional por Subtração) (1986), by Roberto Schwarz.

Here, Schwarz reflects on how the construction of national identity always occurs through a process of subtraction in relation to the foreigner, in relation to what comes from outside, without being tied to tradition or to the past of the country itself. Subverting the Schwarzian thesis in favour of the idea of the multiplication of references, the 35th Panorama understands our national identity as being formed of an accumulation of superimposed, agglutinated layers, which are never harmoniously fused together. “In the case of Brazilian culture – and this was posited in a highly original way by the tropicalist generation under the influence of the Anthropophagy movement – the singularity must be seen as the construction of a self in constant metamorphosis, which is to say, as a multiplication of identity and not as a primary subtraction in search of a formative essence.”

So it is consistent with his proposal that the Panorama’s list of artists should include, in addition to well-known names from the artistic circuit, the Coletivo Mão na Lata (Hand in the Tin Collective), from the Complexo da Maré (a Rio favela complex), and IbãHuniKuin, of the indigenous HuniKuin tribe from the Brazilian state of Acre (who will stage the Projeto Parede – Wall Project – during the Panorama). “We don’t want to tell their stories on their behalf, from an outsider’s perspective, but we do want ethnic groups that are considered to be minorities to be included in the show and to be able to speak for themselves”, explains Osorio.

The myriad of artists on the list extends beyond the visual arts, including names from the worlds of architecture, dance and cinema. “The idea is to broaden the field of the visual arts, incorporating other forms of expression, precisely to demonstrate how this separation of artistic genres, at the time when Hélio Oiticica was writing, was already limiting and today seems to be really outdated.”