Cheers from Brazil! Two weeks ago I arrived in São Paulo to collect the data for my research on police corruption at the Police Ombudsman Office (Ouvidoria). Though I’ve lived 8 years in this city prior moving to NYC, it feels that coming here after exactly 1 year away has a different “taste”: maybe my experiences in NYC have exacerbated my critical look towards the city.
This exercise of alteridade begun right before my plane landed: the Brazilian air plane company I was flying with screened a promotional video about Sao Paulo emphasizing it’s multiculturalism, it’s dynamism and it’s “inner character” for both entertainment and business. Images of “the city that can never stop” were edited in accordance to this idea of movement and velocity. For a moment, it felt like we had returned to JFK! I couldn’t stop thinking about it for the next couple of weeks – it seems that Sao Paulo sees (and sells) itself as a sort of Brazilian New York; actually, more specifically as Manhattan.
Ironically, the next week I saw two exhibitions at MASP – the MoMA of Sao Paulo (?) – that brought again those thoughts in my mind. The first one, entitled To Look and Be Seen, was about modern portraits and had the following explanatory sentence: “(…) however the great similarity between the portrait and the portraited (…) they do not reveal themselves entirely, do not expose themselves. What is seen is the persona, the mask the subjects wear to let themselves be seen (when not to see their own selves). In a way, this is an attribute of most portraits if not of all”. The second exhibit was about myth, art and reality, which also had an interesting phrase that caught my attention: “(…) Man is an animal that tells himself stories, this is what distinguishes him from all other species. And myth is one of the first stories, of the first forms of meaning that man gave himself. Jacob Bryant, mentioned by Edgar A. Poe in his famous novel about the stolen letter, wrote that we keep forgetting that we do not believe in fables but keep acting according to them as if they were existing realities”. In this sense, was that video a sort of portrait of a paulista mythology? Anyhow, what exactly all these thoughts have to do with my own research? I still have no idea… but it will definitely remind me about the importance of always paying attention to the correlations of three processes whatever my object of research is: how one sees himself, how one portraits himself and what one hides about himself!
MA Candidate, CLACS