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In the late 1950s, more than 50,000 workers worked non-stop in three shifts to build Brazil's new capital, Brasília. In the pivotal time of September 1959, a symposium - Special International Congress of Art Critics - took place over nine days, in three cities across Brazil: Brasília, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The symposium hosted artists, architects, art and architectural historians such as Mário Pedrosa, Meyer Schapiro, Giulio Carlo Argan, Bruno Zevi, Jorge Romero Brest, Tomás Maldonado, Frederick Kiesler and Eero Saarinen, to name but a few. They were brought together to debate the role of modernity in a new world surfacing in the post-war period.
The Congress gathered 114 participants, made up of 83 delegates and 31 observers, with the official participation of members and delegations from 22 countries: Brazil, France, Italia, USA, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, Chile, Japan, Israel, Turkey, Belgium, Spain, Yugoslavia, Mexico, Holland, Poland, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Germany, and Sweden. Accepting Mário Pedrosa's invitation to debate on Brasilia, among those present were André Chastel, Bruno Zevi, Giulio Carlo Argan, Meyer Schapiro, Sérgio Millier, Tomás Maldonado, and Oscar Niemeyer. Mary Houston, wife of Mário Pedrosa, undertook the organization of the resulting Congress files. The minutes from the congress form a historical document for understanding the central place of modernity in its vocation to give shape to the challenges in a new world.
This Dialogue was held in conjunction with the exhibition, Mário Pedrosa: On the Affective Nature of Form. In this performance, the congress was scripted by the Michelle Sommer, one of the exhibition’s two curators, and then again reinterpreted into a performative piece by Cuqui Jerez. The aim was not to comment on or interpret the past, but rather attempt to compose the mental and conceptual impact of the congress by examining the archive document. They seek to confirm the impossibility of reproducing or fictionalising the debates that were responsible for this moment of radical utopia beyond Brasília’s becoming.
Where held: MNCARS
Date: 27 April, 2017
Video credit: Javi Álvarez vimeo.com/lafollable
Organized by: Museo Reina Sofía
Concept and direction: Cuqui Jerez
Created in collaboration with: Óscar Bueno, Javier Cruz, Jorge Salcedo and Silvia Zayas
Selection of texts: Michelle Sommer
Project direction: Chema González
Coordination and production: Sara Buraya
Video and edition: Javi Álvarez vimeo.com/lafollable
Cameras: Jose Luis Abajo and David Tesouro
Stage manager: Daniel Fortanet
Technicians: Javier Sánchez y David Medina (Vitelsa)