“Osso” Exhibition

Cleaning products: trash, selective justice and contemporary art

The “OSSO exhibition – plea for the full rights to defense by Rafael Braga”, at the Instituto Tomie Ohtake, in São Paulo, brings together works by various artists with the aim to give visibility to the emblematic case of black youth as victim of arbitrary Justice in Brazil.

Consequently, that which has been and should by now be buried returns to disrupt and explain the present, as in A permanência das estruturas (The permanence of structures), in which Paulino prints several times the title phrase of the work on two pieces of fabric sewn to other pieces that show images of the past used to sustain the allegedly positive “scientific theories” of racist discourses.

Also interested by what remains of the past in the present, Lauriano proposes in his Experiência concreta #3 (Concrete Experiment #3) that the visiting pubic gives continuity to a work in the process of being built. On two A4 sheets of paper, with ironic didacticism, he suggests: GATHER Portuguese stones you find on the street and bring to the EXHIBITION. POSITION the stones alternating the colors to make a CAGE. Now, the stones that can be used to build the cage can also be the weapon to pummel a poor Black body – the preferred targets of the Brazilian justice system.

In Selfportrait, by Moisés Patrício, a series of nine pieces measuring 5×3 cm each are affixed to the wall. Delicate, they combine abstract drawings made from strands of the artist’s own hair, which gives it organic movement. Formalist and minimalist – after all, he uses only the black of the hair and the white base on which he draws – this work departs from his well-known photographic images in the Aceita? (Do you accept?) series, in which his hands appear to be gesturing offerings.

Also small is the painting Cadeira calçada (Sidewalk Chair), by the artist from Goiania, Dalton Paula. The choice of these dimensions is aligned with the old practice of former vows, the form in which Catholics pay for a miracle obtained through bi- or tri-dimensional visual representations. In popular Black Catholic material culture and in Afro-Brazilian religions, the chairs accommodate crowned kings and queens in popular merrymaking, priests of the sacred meeting sites are seated in them, and it is not rare to see unauthorized persons forbidden to sit. In the way Paula treats it, the chair remains fragile, since what is holding it up are glass cups, which makes it only able to hold itself, and never to accommodate a body. In this way, they determine absence.

In Maré vermelha (Red Tide), an action video-installation by Thiago Gualberto, the artist shows a young man with his back to the viewer, dressed in black shorts, with short hair, listening to headphones. With no additional corporal ornamentation that could detract attention from his virile body, which through slow movements suggests a dance – ginga (rocking back and forth) – that “naturally” would emerge from the corporal experience of people from poor segments of Afro-Brazilian society. This movement serves as a metaphor for what the artist observes is not only the body as seen, but the view from the camera which, more than only seeing, frames and archives.

Paulo Nazareth, in turn, presents two works Tommie and Projeto/Coleção (Project/Collection): the title of the latter beckoning to a series of disqualifications of the phenotype attributed to him in places he has already passed through. An artist who blurs the boundaries between his origin and his own territorial dislocations, this work reveals the ways in which police authorities react to the corporal materiality of the artist: drug trafficker, thief, terrorist, bad guy, mentally disabled among other terms printed on a small sheet of newspaper produced by the editorial platform P. NAZARETH ED. / LTDA.

Sonia Gomes, of Minas Gerais, presented a piece from her series Torções (Twists), which teaches us something about how people are socially constructed. Interested less in the critique of the past and more in family memory and ancestral lineage, Gomes manipulates, among other materials, cloths that are left over from casual social rituals. Clothing that has had intimate contact with loved ones, pieces for the body and for the home in emotionally heavy moments. Tying, sewing and twisting, the artist reveals, through her pieces, the extent to which clothing produces bodies. Clothes, moreover, have the capacity to define who oppresses and who is oppressed. Judges’ robes in Brazil, bought with public money and reserved for this purpose, contrast with the clothing of rescued children in shelters, as they do with the beige uniform adults wear in overcrowded dirty penitentiaries, in violation of basic human rights.


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


Translated from Portuguese by Sara Hanaburgh.