Heroes: Luiz Garrido

Strictly in the interests of research, I spent some minutes this morning on coming out of the shower posing naked, establishing that by crossing my thighs it was indeed possible to tuck my tackle away out of sight, leaving just a triangle of hair visible at the meeting of legs and stomach. Fortunately I was the only photographer present and I certainly wasn’t using a camera.

Brasilia – Congress buildings (C) Peter Marshall, 2007

The show Heróis (Heroes) by Luiz Garrido opened in the Black Hall of the Chamber of Deputies of the Brazilian Government at the centre of Brasilia in November with considerable controversy.

What caused the fuss was an image of the famous Brazilian transsexual actress, Rogéria, in a pose similar to my bathroom experiment (though let’s be clear, I omitted the blonde wig, lipstick, nail varnish, loose shirt, tie, trainers and white socks.)

(C) Luiz Garrido

Apparently this image was not among those that had been shown when the exhibition was arranged, and the director of Public Relations at the parliament building took exception to it, arguing it was not appropriate to be shown in a space visited by so many children. The same argument was also put forward by my very courteous guide on my visit to the chamber when I asked him about it.

Brasilia – The view from the Black Hall of Congress (C) Peter Marshall, 2007

So for the opening night, the image was on show behind a screen, while negotiations went on about how it might be presented, involving the Festival Organiser and photographer and the management of the chamber. A notice that was put up, announcing (in Portuguese) that “By a decision of the Chamber of Deputies, this cubicle contains a photograph of Rogéria whose open exhibition to the public was not permitted” and this apparently so upset the chamber that they took down the whole show overnight without further discussion.

I find it hard to image how anyone could seriously think that this image would in any way offend against the Brazilian law relating to children and adolescents, which apparently protects them from displays that are inhuman, violent, terrifying, vexing or embarrassing. Young children would walk by unconcerned, while it is hard to see it causing more than a shrug with teenagers exposed to everything the Brazilian media deem fit to publish. This was certainly not – as one bloggers suggests – an erotic image.

You can read more details on the story – and the responses to it by various bloggers – on ‘Global Voices‘ which also has more pictures from the show.

Luiz Garrido‘s show was at ECCO when I was in Brasilia, and looking at the whole show as an outsider, this picture actually struck me as the least interesting of his images on display. The kind of image that gets chosen not because of the photograph but simply because of the discordant views about LGBT rights that it embodies. I’m very much against censorship, but would personally as a curator not have chosen to show this picture.

But there is no doubt that Garrido is an interesting portraitist. I visited his show at ECCO after hours, following a very satisfying rump steak at ‘Oliver’, the contemporary restaurant that is a part of the gallery complex, together with my companions for the evening, Robson and Chris, and I think we were all impressed by his portrait of President Lula, swathed in cigar smoke (and more than a hint of the revolutionary Cubans.)

Lula, (C) Luiz Garrido

Next to him was another fine portrait, of Lucio Costa (1902-98), whose master plan created Brasilia, and next to that, the architect who designed its famous buildings,
Oscar Niemeyer, 100 on Dec 15, and still working. Costa, taken in a study after my own heart, the shelves behind him separated by bricks, slumps to one side, one eye bright and alert, the other side of his face resigned, reflective.

Lucio Costa, (C) Luiz Garrido

Oscar Niemeyer, (C) Luiz Garrido

Niemeyer is placed centrally in the frame, but cropped along the line of his upper lip, taken in front of a white board with some lines and writing, dominated by the two words “mundo injusto” (unjust world.) It is a powerful image, and one that concentrates on the eyes and intellect of the sitter, his balding dome against the world, as well as reflecting the architect’s own use of geometry and curved shapes – as for example in the National Museum at Brasilia.

Brasilia – National Musuem, (C) Peter Marshall, 2007

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