Micro-geographies of Grassroots Collective Action. Tripartite Ethical Unity of Art 

Affiliation:Federal Fluminense University

Abstract: While global capital and the system of nation-state negotiate the terms of the emergent world order, a worldwide order of institutions has emerged that bears witness to what we may call “grassroots globalization”, or “globalization from below” Arjun Appadurai,2003

Appadurai’s notion of “grassroots globalization” grounds this transcultural ethic-aesthetic inquiry into new practices of art inspired in the critical pedagogy of dialogue with the legacy of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, the art critic Mario Pedrosa and the thinkers of decolonial embodiment of knowledge via diverse strategies of micropolitical and micro-geographies of collective and community-based engagement. The micro-political and geographic are here understood as fundamentally affective, collective and decolonial embracing an emerging ethics of tripartite unities and shifting paradigms from the universal to what Ramon Grosfoguel calls as transmodern pluri-versalism. The “micro” calls for a flipping of the capitalist globalization of the technologies of control and consumption from the top down to their counter-flows as radical “bottom up” or grassroots social activisms and networks. Radical is used here within the Marxian sense of “rooted” and the existential phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty as an unfolding praxis. Together with a variety of other current and particularly decolonial thinkers and practitioners this “phenomenological rootedness” informs a critical pedagogy of the embodiment of knowledge – a praxis that is grounded in context specific and situated micro-geographies and ethical collectivities to redeem local connectivity and community.

These tendencies point towards a tripartite unity of collective movements based on a pragmatic grassroots utopias of aesthetic-ethical-political community action. There is a call for mapping local-global subversions and reversing causalities of premodern, modern, and transmoderns strategies via micro-geographies of affects (Spinozian sense of affects) that foster centers of potentiality and strivings amidst interventions in local cultural, political and environmental contingencies. “From Adversity we live” ends the famous 1967 manifesto by Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica and it is in thinking and acting within adversity amidst widespread institutional and political collapse and regressive setbacks in human rights and social cultural achievements that is so urgent. In this context we must reconfigure the meaning and potency of art. From art schools to museum education programs we have an opportunity to re-imagine, expand and generatively and critically flip social practices together with a therapeutic societal mobilization for a grassroots revolution through micro-geographies of multiple voices and affects.

This transcultural ethic-aesthetic inquiry addresses the continuous experimental inflections of the role and strategies of art practice today and its potency of affects. The “micro” operates within a critical confluence – pre-modern, modern and transmodern; West and non West, North and South – seeking new meanings for art and community. As reconfigurations of school-forest-laboratory practices merge social and environmental therapeutic gestures through polyphonic events of multiple temporalities and subjectivities creating meeting places of solidarity.

This approach both draws on and updates the legacies of different Brazilian artists and critics, such as Mário Pedrosa’s notion of “paralaboratory,” and Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark’s proposals for the embodiment of experimental and environmental art. Their pioneering leaps into and critical engagements with an expanded concept and practice of art in the world lay the groundwork for a grassroots practice of contemporary micro-geographies of affects for social change. Here art operates beyond predetermined limits, weaving networks of collaboration within and outside of academic programs, between universities, museums / antimuseus, galleries, schools and alternative social organizations and communities, where the possibilities of the “not yet conscious” to use Ernst Bloch’s concept of the potential of art is taking place in events and zones of polyphony and mediations of marginal imaginaries. The interest is to map and outline a tripartite ethic of art, one that emerges as an agent of connectivity focusing on collective and geopoetic resistance in micro-geographies of creative, collective and affective action, all the while recognizing the socio-cultural challenges in which such action is situated along with the critical disjunctions and disagreements that traverse the practices and mindsets of schools, museums, biennials and alternative centers.

Bio: Professor in the art department and the Postgraduate Program in Contemporary Studies of the Arts at the Federal Fluminense University (UFF). He had a PhD in Art Education at NYU (2006) and Master Degree in Studio Art and Environmental Art at NYU (1993). Pos-Doctoral with Fred Evans at Dept. of Philosophy, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, USA. As former curator/director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Niterói (MAC) (2005-2008) he curated numerous exhibitions with dialogues in Education and Environmental Actions such as Poetics of the Infinite (2005) and Lygia Clark: Poetic Shelter (MAC, 2006) as well as the outreach initiative Arte Ação Ambiental [Art Environmental Action] (1998-2014)) working with the favela community of Morro do Palácio in the surroundings of MAC. In 2013, on returning to MAC as director and general curator (2013-2016), he curated a number exhibitions with Brazilian artists and the João Sattamini’s and MAC Niterói’s collection. He co-curated the international exhibition Joseph Beuys: Res-Publica: Conclamation for A Global Alternative and the video installation of Isaac Julien – Ten Thousand Waves as part of the 20th anniversary of MAC Niterói including the exhibition Guanabara Bay: hidden lives and water. Current is dedicated to the research group – Interfluxos Contemporâneos Arte e Sociedade (Contemporary Interflows of Art Society) focuses on the interface between art, museums and society. He is co-editor of Revista MESA (www.institutomesa.org).