An Account Sixteen Years Later1
What is the situation of a country with a capitalist dependent structure, where a national democratic bourgeois revolution did not manage to come about, which enters into industrialization with the remains of oligarchic national structures?
Brazil enters at last the history of western industrialization, carrying elements of pre-history and Africa, rich in popular influences. All the contradictions of the great western mistake are presented contemporaneously, or soon, in its modernization process, with the violent strokes of a failing situation. A process that industrialized nations took centuries to carry out, happens here within few years. Abrupt, unplanned, structurally imported industrialization, leads the country to experience an uncontrollable natural happening, and not a process created by man. The sinister marks of real-estate speculation, lack of planning for popular housing, the speculative proliferation of industrial design—gadgets, objects—most of them superfluous—weigh down the country’s cultural situation, creating serious obstacles, making the development of a truly autochthonous culture impossible. A collective awareness is necessary, any delay is a crime at this stage. De-culturing is in full sway. If the economist and the sociologist are able to diagnose freely, the artist should act; moreover, he should be in touch with the intellectual, as a part connected to the active population.
A re-examination of the recent history of the country is called for. An account of “popular” Brazilian civilization is required, even if it is poor in the light of a higher culture. This account is not one of folklore, always parternalistically pampered by higher cultures, it is the account “seen from the other side”, the participating account. It is Aleijadinho and Brazilian culture before the French Mission. It’s the Northeasterner with his leather and empty tins, the inhabitants of the villages, the Negro and the Indian. A mass that invents, that produces a contribution that is indigestible, dry, hard to swallow.
This urgency, this not-being-able-to-wait any longer, is the real base of the Brazilian artist’s work, a reality that needs no artificial stimulus, a cultural bounty within reach of his hands, a unique anthropological wealth, with tragic and fundamental historical incidents. Brazil is industrialized, and the new reality must be accepted in order to be studied. A return to extinct social structures is impossible, the creation of handicraft centers, the return to handicraft as an antidote to an industrialization strange to the cultural principles of the country is wrong. Because handicraft as a social structure never existed in Brazil, what did exist was a scanty immigration of Iberian or Italian craftsmen and, in the 19th century, manufactures. What does exist is a sparse domestic pre-craftsmanship, never craftsmanship.