In Brazil, evangelical politicians and a conservative press are working to suppress art by forcing museums to shut down or reject shows, gay-themed, involving nudity, etc., that are anathema to their beliefs. This text, by Vik Muniz, a prominent and at times politically controversial Brazilian artist, is in response to a recent ‘scandal’ in which a mother allowed her child to touch a naked man who was part of a performance in the Museum of Modern Art, São Paulo. The avalanche of criticism (of her) and cries for censorship have dominated the front pages of daily newspapers. Today, one member of the Brazilian House of Representatives called for the artist to be tortured.
“The goal of art since prehistory has always been to develop tools so that man could see the dimension of the universe that surrounds him beyond the reach of his own senses. It was through art that we developed the languages needed to formulate concepts such as history, humanity and nature, and it was also and continues to be with the imagination that we conquer through our evolutionary relationship with art that we formulate our relationship with everything that is sacred and religious.
All art is a questioning of the relationship between being and what surrounds it. It is a vast field of continuous experimentation that requires total freedom of action. Consequently, this experimentation produces works that are not accessible to all tastes and often unsuitable for certain ages.
As a parent, I would not take my younger children to see an exhibit on subjects they might not be prepared to understand, much less encourage their contact with artistic experiments intended for adult audiences. By having complete freedom not to expose my children to improper displays for their age I do not waste my time fighting things that do not affect them.
I am very saddened by the way in which politics, already so denigrated and devoid of moral values, decided to explore the artist’s image to distract the attention of the population from their corrupt and self-seeking practices. The current polemic around art is the product of a strategic, pernicious and totally empty ideology moralism because it is obvious that:
Art is not pedophilia; PEDOFILIA IS PEDOPHILIA art is not pornography; PORNOGRAPHY IS PORNOGRAPHY and these politicians are doing nothing to prevent children from having contact with improper materials without having to go to a museum or theater. Pornography, pedophilia, and bestiality that so preoccupies these opportunists can be accessed by almost one hundred percent of the population, including all children through the cell phone and the computer. The indignation of the people has not been with the show that they did not visit, nor with the performance that they did not see; people are infuriated with material accessed by cell phone or computer, distributed not by cultural institutions but by groups of political interest. Pedophilia and pornography do not depend on museums to exist, it is within the reach of their children at home, at school, in their scholarship, and even in the cell of the deputies, in the cell phone of the defender of the family, Deputy João Rodrigues, who was spotted watching pornography during a plenary session. What are these thugs doing against this kind of pornography and pedophilia that comes to you without you having to go to a museum? Anything! Because it is much easier to attack culture for political gain.
As an artist, I have always sought to carry out my work by seeking inclusion, understanding, accessibility and empathy, respecting the sensibilities of the public, captivating it for a more active participation in the universe of contemporary culture.
It was through art that I discovered that I am not alone, that there are other people, some of them incredible. It was through art that I discovered other cultures, other beliefs, other habits, it was through art that I discovered things that were beyond my time, beyond my body and beyond my knowledge. It was through art that I was closer to God.
It makes me angry that people so corrupt and selfish are taking advantage of my passion as a tool of division and discord. They are erecting, with a moral cement they do not possess, devoid of honorable and ethical people, an infamous wall to protect themselves from the destiny and the history that they themselves created. BRAZILIAN POLITICS ARE FILTHY AND USE CULTURE TO DISTRACT ATTENTION [from nefarious activities]. DO NOT ACCEPT THIS! INVESTIGATE, DISCUSS, COMMENT AND SHARE! A country without art is a country without a voice. THE DREAM OF ALL AUTHORITARIANS IS TO PRESIDE OVER A NATION OF MUTES.”