Tamar Guimarães’ (Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, 1967) films blend different types of narratives, such as documentary, essay, and fiction. In several of her works, the artist addresses crucial moments in the history of Brazil, creating short chronicles of Brazilian society that instigate us to question certain established narratives. This is the case of Canoas [Canoes] (2010) and O ensaio [The Rehearsal] (2018), exhibited here in the Video Room.
Canoas (2010) stages a cocktail party at Casa das Canoas [House of Canoes], an emblematic work by Oscar Niemeyer (1907–2012) in Rio de Janeiro, conceived as the architect’s house. This icon of Brazilian Modernism is chosen to be the scenery of an intersection of different times, which is suggested by the dialogues. Fragments of talks reveal interactions of the guests, played by actors and non-actors, including well-known figures from the national art scene. As the film unfolds, one can notice the social distance between guests and domestic servants, something typical of Brazilian society, which is also reflected in the house’s architecture, a type of Modernism that admits segregation between social and service spaces.
In another projection, O ensaio (2018) features a female theater director who prepares a production of Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas [The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas, or Epitaph of a Small Winner], a Brazilian literary classic authored by Machado de Assis (1839–1908), published in 1881, seven years before the abolition of slavery. Again, some of the sceneries are icons of national Modernist architecture: the Bienal de São Paulo’s Pavilion, a work by Niemeyer, and the MASP auditorium, by Lina Bo Bardi (1914–1992). Some actors of Canoas reappear in O ensaio: the actress Isabél Zuaa, who was a housekeeper in Canoas, is now the theater director, a Black woman who faces institutional difficulties that are reflections of unequal race and gender relations in Brazil, echoing Machado de Assis’ text. In this sense, in an interview, Tamar Guimarães quotes a commentary by Machado, himself a Black author, which was remarkable for the choice of the book: “There will be the abolition of slavery here, but the basic structure of society will not change.”
Video Room: Tamar Guimarães is curated by Laura Cosendey, assistant curator, MASP
Throughout 2021 and 2022, the Video Room program is part of the Histórias brasileiras [Brazilian Histories] cycle at MASP, and in 2022 includes works by Letícia Parente, Tamar Guimarães, Melanie Smith, Bárbara Wagner & Benjamin de Burca and Aline Motta.