During August, 2016, as the Olympic Games evolved, Brazilian and world screens were flooded with young, beautiful, enhanced, fit, ‘efficient’ bodies that happily competed and moved around in Rio de Janeiro. Olympic bodies of various genders, styles and colours that stirred the long rooted imaginations about physical perfection. The upcoming Paralympic Games are a reminder that the glorification of body perfection is embedded in logics of supremacy and exclusion that intersect with ableness, race, class, location and gender markers and that must be constantly subject to critical examining. This is the reason why we have chosen Barbara Wagner as one of the highlighted women artists on the month.
Wagner is Brazilian photographer who lives between in Recife and Berlim whose work is centered on the ‘popular body’ and its strategies of visibility and subversion that are locate in between forms of ritual and spectacle within the contemporary cultural industry. We opted to feature, in particular, the series of photographs titled Stubborn Brasília because the title evokes the capital city where policy and legal regressions in relation to sexuality have been underway for some time, but most principally because the images of series explore the widely commented Brazilian easiness with uncovered and touching bodies revealing that this cultural feature is mostly about being at ease than about perfection. In a 2014 interview to the Brazilian VICE website Wagner elaborated on her desires for images:
I like to photograph people who like to be photographed and at the end of the process incongruences may arise. I am not interested in art that announces itself as art or that engage with speculations with the ‘social’ as to produce beautiful objects devoid from critique. I do think that as artists we must overcome this type of conservative attitude and view what we do as responsibility… otherwise this will be lost time and this is quite serious. As in the lyrics of a a popular song from Recife: “Time runs/ the world turns around/ the world is a ball”
To enjoy Barbara Wagner’s work