Kunstsammlung NRW
Laymert Garcia dos Santos, Foto: Kunstsammlung

#32 meets: Laymert Garcia dos Santos

Laymert Garcia dos Santos is a fellow with the Goethe Residency Program at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen. From January to March 2016, he will be living at the Schmela Haus in Düsseldorf's city center.

Garcia dos Santos is an essayist and professor at the University of Campinas in the Federal State of São Paulo in Brazil. During the 1970s, he lived in Paris, where he earned a PhD in information technology. Between 1992 and 1993, he held a guest professorship at St. Antony’s College at Oxford University. He has published widely on art, culture, and technology.
Melanie Vietmeier interviewed him for #32



#32: Laymert Garcia dos Santos, welcome to Düsseldorf. What are your expectations regarding your curatorial residency?

In my view, this residency represents a unique opportunity for gaining insight into and an understanding of the art scene in North Rhine-Westphalia and in Düsseldorf in particular. My stay of several weeks in the magnificent Schmela Haus, a chance to visit current exhibitions at the K20 and the K21 and to exchange ideas with curators, and to attend solo shows in galleries and other museums, is an opportunity for me to find out why modern and contemporary art was so important here, and how the city's public institutions succeeded in making artistic life a part of everyday reality.
#32: You participated in the conference “museum global? Multiple Perspectives on Art, 1904–1950,” which took place in January 20– 22 at the Kunstsammlung NRW in Düsseldorf. What were your lasting impressions of this event?
Particularly interesting for me was the relationship between modern art and “Otherness." This problematic, begins of course, with Cubism and Primitivism, but it appears that the "Other" pertains not just to the production of ethnic art, when we recall, in the spirit of Rimbaud, that "Je est un autre" ("I is someone else"). It goes beyond questions of form. With regard to a distancing from classical modes of depiction, to be modern also means in some sense to comprehend the "primitive." That's why I was enthusiastic when Monica Juneja showed Amri Sher-Gil's Self Portrait as Tahitian as a sample image. In this work, this Indian modernist artist emphasizes that she is the "Other of the Other." And moreover both as a creator and model... For me, the perspectives are reversed here: to identify with the "Other" is not just a problem that preoccupies artists from the periphery, but Europeans as well. When we consider this aspect, an expanded modernism becomes more complex, richer.
#32: According to media reports, Brazil is currently confronted with severe economic and political challenges. How would you characterize the situation for art in Brazil?
Since the turn of the 21st century, the Brazilian art system has changed and improved as a consequence of external and internal factors. Globalization has made it easy easier for Brazilian artists and artworks to be shown abroad; technological developments and the digital age have opened up new options for the promotion of Brazilian art and the circulation of information and knowledge.
At the same time, there have been government initiatives designed to integrate large segments of the impoverished segment of the population into the economic, political, and social system, as well as to develop strategies designed to make culture more accessible, and to create incentives for creative production. Economic development, the new geophysical status of Brazil, and a rediscovered interest in the diversity of Brazilian culture created a positive climate and provided fresh impetus for the São Paulo Art Biennial, strengthened the local art market, and encouraged the founding of private galleries as well as cultural and art institutions. The current political and economic crisis seems to be weakening this trend – but in my view, the future is not as gloomy as the one painted by the Brazilian media.

Back in January, in the framework of the Futur 3 program at the Schmela Haus, Garcia dos Santos presented the multimedia opera Amazonas – Music Theatre in Three Parts, produced as a cultural experiment with his involvement. This collaboration between European and Brazilian researchers, as well as inhabitants of the Yanomami village in Amazona not only thematized the consequences of the destruction of the rainforest, but also addressed issues such as the relationship between the conceptual world of indigenous magic and a Western scientific orientation.

Screened on February 18, 2016 will be his experimental film Xapiri (2011) on Yanomami shamanism. Videos of the lectures from the Futur 3 program can be viewed here.
Melanie Vietmeier is an art historian who works for the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in the framework of the program museum global? Currently, she lives in São Paulo, and plans to report for #32 from South America on a regular basis.