A series of counterpoints and semantic dualities arise in the first few elaborations on Ícaro Lira‘s Frente de Trabalho (“Labor Front”) exhibition (Jaqueline Martins gallery), starting with the ambiguous reading contained in the title. The term, used for an emergency measure created by the Brazilian government to aid groups of unemployed people, takes on an almost opposite meaning here. The notion of work remains central, but collective mobilizations depart from places and groups that are almost always on the margins of public policy. If by its original meaning the practice is sold as a solution – in the style of mottos like “Don’t talk about crisis, get to work” – in this case its conditions may indicate the cause of structural problems that such a dictate aims to combat.
A good way to visualize these layers of reading begins with a search for the hashtag #frentedetrabalho. Although most of the posts were made by the artist himself, it is interesting to start out with a term that puts images with such disparate concepts side-by-side. For example, an aerial photo of the Trans-Amazonian Highway (1968-1974), a controversial project that decimated thousands of indigenous people and exposed its approximately 4,000 workers to all kinds of diseases, which was posted by Lira next to the announcement of people selected for a Frente de Trabalho workforce by a municipal government in the interior of São Paulo. Or another image of a town councilman announcing that he has requested the program for his municipality. “We need to create more opportunities for the less fortunate, the unemployed and those in situations of high social vulnerability,” says the caption. Despite the propagandist tone of these pieces, seeing them next to the images inserted by the artist creates an interesting amount of noise. Instead of optimistic discourse, they involuntarily reveal the precariousness of working conditions as a strategy to combat the crisis – precisely the opposite of what they aim to defend.