Negros Indícios

Between Signals and Sounds: Territory and Blackness in the Square

“Negros Indícios: performance video photography”, curated by art historian Roberto Conduru, presented a total of 12 artists – a significant sampling, but not truly representative of the diversity of the black performance art scene in Brazil.

Mindful about presenting a certain outline of Brazil’s national territory, in which this “black presence” has arisen, the exhibition is comprised of works by Ayrson Heráclito, Caetano Dias, Rommulo Vieira Conceição, Tiago Sant’Ana, from Bahia; Antonio Obá and Dalton Paula, from Brasília; Priscila Rezende and Rubiane Maia, from Minas Gerais; Musa Michelle Mattiuzzi, Moisés Patrício, Renata Felinto, from São Paulo; and, finally, João Manuel Feliciano, from Pernambuco. This regional breakdown holds other meanings, if we look at themes like hair, in the pieces by Feliciano, Felinto, Sant’Ana and Rezende, or at the act of posing and dancing in natural or socially constructed spaces in the pieces by Conceição, Dias, Felinto, Maia. Another theme is the relationship between ritual acts and memory, which appears in Heráclito, Obá, Patricio, Sant’Ana and Felinto.

The artists’ diverse backgrounds speaks volumes about where the exhibition was held, São Paulo’s Caixa Cultural in the central square, Praça da Sé, and about the city itself, populated by migrants from different parts of the country who pass through this ground zero of urban memory.

It is interesting to note how two pieces by Renata Felinto, which discuss otherness, are performed either partially or completely in this square: Brunch para Exu, 2013, and Danço na terra em que piso, 2013. This relationship between the body, space and the production of meaning appears in a piece by Rommulo Vieira Conceição: O espaço se torna lugar na medida em que eu me familiarizo com ele (2015/2017).

Although Negros indícios brought together a group of works and artists relevant to the (re)dimensioning of the black performance art scene and its relationship with photography and video, the exhibition presented a few problems, the main one being the design of the exibition that, to some extent, reinforced the relationship between black artistic production and social precarity. As a concrete element among so much digital content, the design of the exhibition interfered with the enjoyment of the work. Another aspect worth questioning is the editing of a wide range of digital works, exhibited in three rooms, which confuse recorded performance with photo-performance and video-performance, creating a blurred line between these areas. But in spite of these, Negros Indícios has made an important contribution to the promotion of the black art scene in the intersecting fields of performance art, video and photography which, when placed together, suggest just how powerful it was as a curatorial experiment.


Alexandre Araujo Bispo is an anthropologist, critic, independent curator and educator.


Translated from Portuguese by Zoë Perry