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HW67 - Movimento _ SP Arte 2022 _ 14_edited.jpg

Text: Divino Sobral
06|09|22 - 07|30|22


Until the 1940s and the outset of the Westward March, an instrument of penetration of the Estado Novo government (1937–1945) headed by president Getúlio Vargas, the Araguaia riverbank in Goiás was considered the last frontier of civilization and, beyond that point, the Xavante people resisted fiercely, preventing the advance of modern-day white encroachment upon the Mato Grosso jungle, regarded as a demographic void to be occupied by the State. Hal Wildson was born in Aragarças, a city in Goiás that borders the Araguaia, where the narratives of the impoverished and forsaken people describe memories of violence, caused mainly by illegal mining and conflicts with indigenous people, in the Midwest backcountry. In a way, his works are rooted in the stories of that place.

Hal Wildson is part of a generation of young Brazilian artists who make politicized art, at times operating in opposition to the powers that be, at times giving a voice to the voiceless and a face to those made invisible, and sometimes inserting messages against colonialism and obscurantism in his works. Despite the differences in context, language and techniques, it is as if the flame of the political art produced in Brazil during the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s was rekindled, in opposition to the Military Dictatorship (1964–1985). However, this rekindling is linked with the discourses, debates and demands of the present

Concerned with creating works that are based on aesthetics and ethics, the artist reckons that there is a need to reinvent alternatives for the crisis that affects all spheres of national public life, aiming to contribute to the minimization or containment of the growing process of the Brazilian society’s ruination. Thus, he works with the language of art to elicit a political reflection that allows a glimpse of a utopian place.

The reinvention championed by the artist takes place by looking at the past, by searching for references in the knowledge of black and indigenous ancestors, by thinking about society in ways that lead to fixing the mistakes and misdeeds committed by civilization. This is how he intends to base his work on a utopia, a dream of an equitable and just society. Hal Wildson cites the Teko Porã philosophy, developed by the Guarani people, which postulates a relationship of balance, harmony and respect among all beings and environments that comprise the interconnected systems of life on earth. He also cites the Ubuntu philosophy, whose origin is connected with the South African peoples Zulu and Xhosa and whose principles are living with the Other, solidarity and harmonious sharing in community, thus nurturing the idea of common humanity. Both those non-Western bodies of philosophy go against individualism and private property, so highly valued by the capitalist mindset, and they spawn societies in which differences and unevenness among their members are absent. The Teko Porã and Ubuntu philosophies are lines of thought that, despite cultural and temporal distances, are in tune with the classic Renaissance utopia described by the Englishman Thomas More (1478–1535) as a place where goods and work are shared equally among all members of society, with no distinction between rich and poor. Those three philosophies similarly advocate humanism through the principle of equality and are committed to the well-being of the community.

In the work entitled Re-Utopya para Pindorama (Re-Utopya for Pindorama) (2022), Hal Wildson borrows the visual structure of a banner pictured in a commemorative poster for the abolition of slavery, dated 1888. Placed in the center of the poster, the banner bears the Imperial Coat of Arms captioned with a reference to Lei Áurea (Golden Law; the one that abolished slavery in Brazil) and integrates the illustration of a social pact that was never implemented in Brazil. By recreating the banner using an embroidery technique, he highlights the fanciful nature of the narrative concocted to minimize the effects of slavery, in an attempt to hide the gravity of its marks, while it also resembles an official banner, bearing nationalist aesthetics and the names of the ancient philosophies Teko Porã and Ubuntu written at the bottom of the Re-Utopya flag.

Some of Hal Wildson’s works address the dispute of narratives around national symbols, which is a paramount issue of today’s political debate. The republican flag was shaped after the imperial flag designed by Jean-Baptiste Debret (1768–1848). In the center of the yellow rhombus, a blue sphere spangled with white stars was inserted, spanned by a curved white band inscribed with the positivist motto “order and progress”, which was sewn with green thread. It should be noted that in the republican government, from its outset to the present, order has been maneuvered to keep the people under control and to prevent social upheaval, while progress, which is the flagship of modernization, is directed at securing the wealth of the economic elites.

For Hal Wildson, dealing with the realization of society’s ruin entails the need to reinvent a utopia for Brazil, one that may offer a perspective for overcoming the structural conflicts that stem from its colonial past and are largely responsible for the condition of underdevelopment that affects a great part of the population. That utopia must firstly allow people to resist the dominating forces, which enforce order upon the little ones to guarantee the dominion of the big ones. Hal Wildson inserts his critical thinking by altering the verbal element of the National Flag, i.e. by replacing the positivist motto with the word “Re-Utopya”, which carries the humanism of the Teko Porã and Ubuntu philosophies. Thus, he gives a name to the urge of transformation concerning social justice, sought in ancestry and in an equitable sense of social life.

In the current year, in which the bicentennial of the Independence of Brazil is celebrated, the Re-Utopya flag was hoisted on the trunk of a small tree – planted in Ipiranga, a permanent celebration place in São Paulo of the official narrative of independence. The event’s result is the work called Re-Florestar Utopya (Reforest Utopya) (2022), a polyptych of nine photos that show the flag fluttering in an empty space. The idea of reforestation addresses, with a critical approach, the deforestation caused since the beginning of the country’s colonization, as early as the brazilwood exploitation period, and now aggravated by the mistaken notion of development propelled by the expansion of agribusiness and mining, along with a disregard for environmental laws. Printed on paper, the images go through handmade interventions with black and red inks, in which the artist highlights the extension of the roots of the trees that symbolize indigenous and African ancestry, at the same time that they metaphorize the depth of the feeling of belonging, fuel for the will to fight against the destruction of the Brazilian natural heritage.



The hoisting of the Re-Utopya flag at Ipiranga Park also resulted in a video experiment entitled Re-florestar nossa gente (Reforesting our people) (2022). It shows the flag blowing in the wind against a blurred landscape in the background, while voices of some people close to the artist, captured in a household environment, speak of dreams and utopian plans, focusing mainly on the indigenous issue in Brazil. The artist's utopia reflected on other people's is a way of reliving the collective utopia, ancestrally experienced and necessary today.

The association of digital techniques for the production, editing and printing of images with traditional manual techniques, such as painting or drawing, is also put into practice in the works of the” Afluentes” (Affluents) series (2022), whose titles are taken from the names of rivers and streams near quilombola settlements (a term that originally designated communities founded by fugitive slaves) or indigenous villages: Açucena, Araguaia, Bacaxá and Juruena. The colors black and red are also protagonists, and the cartography indicates the territory where the waters run. Lines that originate from the hydrographic map of Brazil are painted on the photographic images of the faces of black and indigenous people, as well as zambos. The word affluent can be a noun, meaning a stream of water that feeds an even larger one, and it can be an adjective, meaning that which flows in abundance. In Afluentes, the two meanings come together in the portrait of the country coupled with the portrait of its most forsaken people, and the artist reminds us that he is also the son of the people born on riverbanks, in the distant hinterlands.

Like a dermatoglyphics canvas, Singularidades (Singularities) (2022) is composed of 441 fingerprints on that support. Fingerprints are unique designs found on the papillary ridges of the fingers, and they set apart and identify each human being. In the case of Hal Wildson's work, it is his own fingerprint – embedded during the process of creating images on a typewriter – merged with documentary photographic images belonging to public archives. In fact, each of the work’s fingerprints is a portrait that merges information from the artist's body with the image of another person, much like an encounter, a fictional conversation between the artist and those portrayed, those who form the foundation of the Brazilian people, who are at the bottom of the social pyramid, the lowest stratum of workers, Afro-descendants and indigenous people, mestizos of all kinds, those who have been called outcasts, vagabonds, down-and-outers, bums, John Doe, subject to the exploitation of the workforce, relegated to the cities’ outskirts, condemned to exclusion and oppression.

Utopia original (Original utopia) (2021) is a work made with a mix of typewriting, xerography and stamps on 384 sheets of paper. As in Singularidades, the number of elements is more than a formal matter of the image’s technical production, as it integrates the language of the work, which, like an allegory, can only be made out by looking at the fragments put together. The idea of assembling fragments is intrinsic to the creation process of Utopia Original, which results from the composition of several photos of political demonstrations that took place in Brazil. The combination of several photographs creates a large fictional demonstration, which brings together a compact human mass of workers who express themselves in political protest. There is a poetic use of the word original in the title that refers to both the concept of origin and the uniqueness of the work of art, stressing the fact that the work Utopia Original is made of copies that, to a certain extent, rule out the condition of originality. The images are reproduced on photocopied pages from the book The Brazilian people: the formation and meaning of Brazil, by Darcy Ribeiro (1922–1997), a classic of Brazilian anthropology. Published in 1995, it contemplates the existence of many Brazils – of caboclos, sertanejos, caipiras, crioulos and sulinos – within a greater Brazil, it tackles the country’s ethnic formation and issues of race, color and miscegenation, the birth of Brazilians among indigenous and black people, as well as the complex civilizing process of the people’s formation.

Lastly, images of the Utopia original panel are being printed on an official stamp of Brazil’s postal service – as part of a campaign entitled Social Movements, launched to commemorate the Bicentennial of Independence – and on two art postcards, produced as multiples for the release of the stamp during the exhibition. Through the stamp, Hal Wildson's Utopia original seeps into society and spreads its utopian message, closing a chapter in his career that prompts reflection on the social function of the artist and their art.

Divino Sobral

Visual artist and independent curator




Opening: 09.06.2022 | 6pm - 9pm
Visitation: 10.06.2022 - 30.07.2022 
Tue - Fri: 11am - 7pm
Sat: 1pm - 6pm

Technical file
Text: Divino Sobral

Press office: CWeA Communication

Video producer: Maria Dantas
Lighting: Antonio Mendel
Photography: Rafael Salim
Translation: Eduardo Fradkin

Montage: Gilmar Pires



Rafael Peixoto

Framing: Frame

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