Between ivory towers and ebony gods
The project was part of the exhibition “Implosão: Trans(relacion)ando Hubert Fichte”, curated by the philosopher filósofo Max Jorge Hinderer Cruz and the artist do Amilcar Packer. It was presented at Museu de Arte Moderna da Bahia and at Centro Municipal de Arte Hélio Oiticica no Rio de Janeiro. The initiative was part of a big international project, created by Anselm Franke and Diedrich Diederichsen, that started in Germany by the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) developed in association with Goethe-Institut.
In Leticia Barreto's work, the interest at anthropology and ethnography began in 2007 with the project “The stranger inside”, about her experience as a Brazilian immigrant woman in Portugal, which was later transformed into a Master´s project. During the development of the work, more than the aspects of gender and nationality, the most intriguing aspect to the artist was trying to understand the reasons why we have so much difficulty in dealing with the difference, by being it for any gender. According to Kapuscinski, when in contact with each other the first thing that captures our attention is the color of the skin, occupying the most important place within the separation scale and assessment of people. When we cross the border of our racial zone, it becomes impossible not to reflect on what it means to be black, white or yellow (Kapuscinski, 2009: 58). That is why the artist's interest is not only to study racism and its historical construction but especially to recognize the role of whiteness in this process.
In her work, the chemical reaction of the bleach on the black fabric metaphorically alludes to a "whitening of thought", markedly ethnocentric. The mark of prejudice, as well as that of sanitary water, is profound and permanent.
In this process of erasure, depigmentation of the surfaces on which she works, the artist tries, by lending an expression of Fichte, "to reach the deepest layers of herself" by investigating her own white identity and her own racism inherited from the societies she were born and also the society she lives today. Institutionalized racism and embedded in culture and daily habits, which we do not even realize, structural data in our social formation. It´s important to face our colonial and post-colonial past and the consequences of these in the present and the future.
"Discourses about African cultures and religions were and still are marked by historical, political, literary and cultural distortions" (Claudius Armbruster, 2004). Many were the foreign travelers who looked toward the peripheries. Fichte (and his companion Leonore Mau), Verger and Carybé, and the Brazilian Jorge Amado became interested in Afro-Brazilian culture, approaching the experience of alterity in different ways, exploring the fluid border between ethnography and art. Unconventional researchers, they merged with the object researched, becoming an integral part of the universe investigated.
In this new series the artist presents, the paintings were created based on historical photographs of these researchers/artists, and from the outstanding photographs by José Medeiros e especially by Pierre Verger, where the exotic/erotic aspects are quite evident. In the speech of these foreigners about "bahianess", who is really the "other"?