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Translations of nature: Amerind benches and naturalistic drawings

16 May 2015
30 Aug 2015

MAY 16, 2015
AUG 30, 2015

Starting May 16, Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, the art museum of the São Paulo State Secretariat of Culture, hosts the exhibit titled Bancos Indígenas [“Indigenous Benches”], which features pieces from the BEI collection.

The pieces were produced by indigenous populations of the Xingú and Amazon river basins and mostly reproduce animals found in these regions. The exhibit will bring together a selection of benches, created by indigenous peoples of the Xingu and Amazon river basins, all in shapes typical of animals found in these regions. The show will also feature drawings from the “Philosophical Journey” by Alexandre Rodrigues Ferreira, a Portuguese naturalist who went on a 10-year expedition through the Brazilian Amazon rainforest in the late eighteenth century.

The presentation of these works brings into question the various ways of representing nature, one from a European background and one from the indigenous people who live in Brazil, asymmetrically illustrating the contact between different cultures. The set of the drawings from the collection of the National Library is the result of naturalistic scientific literature of the eighteenth century.

They include notes of the journey, aimed at retaining the characteristics of animals, plants and indigenous objects collected during expedition. The benches are presented in the opposite sense. They carry, in their workmanship and their artwork, the symbology and iconography specific to each community.

They are objects are considered “resistant,” which – in addition to their usefulness – endure to this today, because they keep the techniques that perpetuate the traditions of each of these peoples and their identities. They are objects considered “resistant”, which were not replaced by industrialized goods, and perpetuate the traditions of each of these peoples and their identities.

The exhibit attempts to open a dialogue between these forms of representation and the senses to their communities: on the one hand, the Portuguese scientific drawing, which, in its neutrality, seeks to “describe” to the observer that which is foreign to their culture; on the other hand, the indigenous expression, which symbolically appropriates the forms of nature for the development of pieces that do not abdicate their utilitarian and community function.

On view through August 30, 2015 on the second floor of the Pinacoteca.