I was planning to visit a few galleries this week; I did my research, prepared my notebook, and got my MetroCard ready. My body, however, had other plans, and I woke up on Friday with a major cold. Headache, sore throat, congestion – I was seriously suffering.
And so, as I was leaving the library that afternoon, I was a bit worried; I wondered what, if anything, I could write about for this blog without leaving campus. And then, as if by a potent and colorful magic, Projeto Morrinho appeared; it was a blur, a castle, a city growing out from the stone of Rosenthal Plaza. Now I knew, indeed, what I would write about.
Projeto Morrinho is an artistic recreation of a favela, and, more broadly, of Rio de Janeiro. It was built by a group of visiting Brazilian artists; this is its first U.S. installation. Here, recycled materials, bricks, plastic, and colorful styrofoam constitute a miniature city; rickety slums grow alongside skyscrapers and statues; an entire socioeconomic, political, and cultural universe is encapsulated in an arrangement of trash, of spare parts. The colors are beguiling, and yet disturbing; it is beautiful, yes, but jarringly so, thoughtfully so.
Projeto Morrinho inspires us to think, to reconsider our definitions of cities, and of slums; it urges to confront the realities of economic disparity and deadlock. The little favelas are dwarfed by larger structures; their frailty, and their power, is evident to us. What does it mean for a city to have slums? For people to live in slums? What does it mean to struggle in a divided society? An unequal society? What are the consequences of poverty? Of inequality, of differential powerlessness?
All art is political, but political art is rare. What, you might ask, is political art? It is, for me, art which challenges our societal notions; it is art which forces us to think about our world, and our place in it. Project Morrinho is, then, a deeply political art; it is an art of location, of confrontation, and of dialogue. Ultimately, it is beautiful, horrible, strong; it is both manifesto and masterpiece.
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To learn more about Projeto Morrinho at Queens College, click here.
To learn more about the Year of Brazil at Queens College, click here.
Definitely check this installation out – it’s right by the library!