miércoles, 3 de junio de 2009

Dulcinéia Catadora

Dulcinéia Catadora is more than a group constituted by artists, photographers, journalists, young people, children of recyclers, homeless people who write and writers. It’s a collective of people who are united by the difference; people with diverse ethnic heritage, creeds, backgrounds, ways of living.
Diversity among the members encourages discussion and respect to differences, which are recognized, although they are not considered as inequalities, opening room to an intense share of experiences and establishing nets of affects. It’s this group configuration that guides the activities developed in the studio, which are featured not only by complexity of the work, but also by heterogeneity of the “product” book.

Albeit being a fundamental aspect to the group, the social function is not the primary target of the collective. It’s has nothing to do with charity, or with a communitarian work; we do not count on patronage of public bodies or private entities. Our proposal is to act in a sustainable way. We work with income obtained with the selling of the books and with payment we receive for presentations or exhibitions we take part of. The children of cardboard pickers do not receive a donation: they share income that comes from their activity which is to paint book covers and make books, lending them a personal trace that has, as a result, a very particular value to the public’s eyes. This manifested value shows that they are in condition to struggle for a decent life, to pursue a more promising future, to go after a business life that allows them to feel fulfilled as human beings.
We do not believe in art autonomy, art unconnected from life, from human relationships, from social, political and economic context. We have a strong binding with street pickers, and many are the reasons for this integration. First of all, cardboard, from boxes used basically in industry, to products, is the stuff used in the covers of our books. This cardboard is collected from the streets, at the doors of shops, supermarkets storages, at sheds of factories by cardboard pickers, who carry up to five hundred kilos in their carts, bearing steep streets, with heavy and slowly steps when they are going up, and the brakes, pieces of rubber tied to a “leg pull” of wood fixed in the carts, scrabbling the asphalt down street.
We buy one kilo of cardboard from street pickers or in cooperatives for R$1,00. In Brazil, economic situation of world crises in the end of 2008 made the price of this material fall. And cooperatives are sending this material to recyclers ‘with social responsibility’ to only R$0,20/kilo, a fact that is leading street pickers cooperatives, formally constituted to failure.
We have a strong relationship with Movimento Nacional dos Catadores de Materiais Recicláveis, which manages cooperatives in national territory. The movement intents to give dignity to the street picker, emphasizing his essential role of recycling to the country.
By including young people, children of street collectors, our collective tries to help them to have a better self-esteem, and paint of the covers, and reading of the books produced, the contact and talks with authors Who cooperate and visit the Studio, everything contributes to give them opportunities to their future.
The activities developed in such a spontaneous way in the studio lead young girls and boys to feel up and open channels so that they develop interest for areas as photography, music, literature.

To work with available materials, with what is disposable, is essential for us. Besides cardboard, paper used to make copies is industrially recycled. Disposable material has its history. It’s a scrap of industrial society in which we live. That’s why our paintings does not hide what is printed in the cardboard. There is a dialogue between these footprints and the painting made in tempera.
Moulds with the books’ titles are made by all the people of the group. Some of them have up to four, five moulds. This contributes to the singularity of the covers, besides the painting in the first layer. This attitude reveals how much we are detached from conventional practices followed, for example, by a graphic designer. Covers are, first of all, a painting that, after being folded, protects the pages of the book.
Cardboard covers are painted with spontaneity. No one gives technical notions on painting. The act of painting freely, liberated from rules and technical proceedings, promotes an easy going atmosphere, the absence of pressure facilitates people to share experiences, to interact. To accept free expression is not to impose rules from the top.
So, the non existence of pyramidal structure which characterizes the collective, as every collective we know about. To establish hierarchies is to give a sense of value to each activity, to contribution and to the role of each member. All the contributions are equally valued. We reject labels: we are all members, each one respecting the contribution that the others offer to the group.
The artist or artists that work with the group do not put themselves in a position to transfer knowledge. The knowledge is built up collectively. The artist acts as a catalyst, activates social relationships and encourages a dynamic articulation among members. Meanings are built collectively. And it is this collective construction that brings richness to meanings. The artist acts as a producer and reproducer of cultural meanings, a person who encourages interactions, meetings, someone who overpass the limits between art and life, and those who still exist in dichotomy between art and popular culture.
We believe that aesthetic experience is a collective act, which pleasure in encounter and participation. But, collective and individual sphere follow the same path. They do not eliminate individual expressions. On the contrary, the collective gathers the richness and diversity of expressions and individual creations.
Our books are completely different from the product book manufactured, published in a conventional way. They hava nothing to do with press, nothing to do with market distribution. Making profit is not our goal. We don’t follow the regulations applied to the way a publishing house has to operate. We are not a legally constituted entity. We do not exist as trading entity according the law of our country.
Traditional aesthetical qualities of beauty, harmony and balance are part of this perspective, but they relate to the process to which the activity (making books). Dulcinéia’s choice is to follow a way which does not contemplate the work by itself, but the need to deal with ways of expression, the artistic making, the process.
Books are not the “artistic product” the group aims to achieve. They are a result, but not the more important point. Thus, when we submit a project, this always includes a workshop, so that we make ourselves clear that collective making is the core of our work. Our participations in art exhibitions are always installations-workshops. They are hybrid proposals which go away from traditional categories; that’s why they are often not plainly understood, arousing perplexity. As installations, where workshops are happening, with people painting and producing in the space of exhibition itself, they leave in the air the challenging of modalities traditionally seen in a space of art.

We do not constraint our activities to those developed in the Studio. As a collective, our acting goes far beyond the craft of books in private space. We make urban interventions. We believe that we should go to the streets, where the pickers are. It’s in public space that we see our role in social and political context.
And we can state that our work as a collective happens mostly outside the context of institutionalized artistic world. Collectives, although exist in a great number, at least in our country, still develop an activity considered marginal. We do not consider art as a production aimed to a market. We act away from curator’s eyes and from the controlling hands of institutions, beyond vigilance cameras present in traditional spaces which are part of art circuit.
Our interventions call the attention to the cardboard (a symbolic stuff that reminds street pickers). We walk by the streets with a ‘coat’ of painted cardboard. It’s a simple sheet of cardboard, folded in the middle, having books stuck in them. With a megaphone, we say poetry of the authors who collaborate with us. This simple act disturbs the routine of the city, causing a rupture with the events of daily life. We spread literature out loud. Literature for all, poetry in public squares, in the streets, to whom wants to listen to us.
And we also try to provoke discontinuities in reality, giving room to subject involved so that they can rebuild their subjectivity. In some interventions, we approach people and make just a question, letting the respondents free to interpret it and we are available to listen and take note of their answer. This moment more than draws public and the group in close contact: it encourages an intensive interaction between them.
Art is praxis. The artist is the constructor of reality. He develops an attentive consciousness of his place in the world. We believe that the book with cardboard cover can create room for critical reflection.

Some books of Dulcinéia Catadora have a engraving printed in the face page. They are not reproductions, they are xilography, we make one by one. This because xilography is a very popular language in Brazil, especially in Northeast, where a special kind of literary manifestation, called cordel, remains alive.
Cordel generally consists of stanzas with 6 lines rhymed. Written of oral spontaneous creation, much appreciated by common people, it includes a vast variety of themes: daily occurrences, stories published in newspapers are transformed in cordel, political measures, politicians, even important facts of the history of Brazil. It’s common to find lines with good humor and also, with a sarcastic tone. These books are sold in popular fairs or in the streets by the authors, who start a direct dialogue with the public. So, it seems almost natural for us to incorporate this practice of xylograph and also books with this kind of popular literary creation in our catalogue.
Other books bring drawings, illustrations made by the members of the group. And photos made with pinhole are also included. In sum, we always use resources from popular culture which deal with materials easily available and cheap.
Since the process is what matters to us, the choice of “non noble” materials is justified. Dulcinéia proposes ephemeral manifestations, and what is left from them is a photographic documentation, or video. That’s fine for us. To act in the present is what matters. Here and now. To act in society in which we live.
And the same inclusive attitude is kept in relation with the authors which cooperate with the collective. They are willing to mine, spot and to make visible thinking ‘marginal’ areas, for what they carry of particularity and effectiveness of thought.
In choosing the practices of wording there will always be a tendency to go toward what is perceived and thought as community inscription. However, it has to be clear that artistic forms are a reflection of social structures or movements, as our catalogue goes from Sebastião Nicomedes, a homeless guy, to Manoel de Barros, an ex-diplomat. The choice is in praxis, in the invention of sensitive forms, in the intuitive novelty of language, in the exercises “in the limit”, in the way the works “make politics”, whatever may be the intentions or who are leading them.
We believe that the collective has different roles to the three distinct groups of writers: the well-known, who participate enthusiastically of an action which gives large access to literature, once our books are sold for such a low price, with social and inclusive purposes. Literature in Brazil is still a privilege of a few, given educational and economical barriers, imposed by a neoliberal political governance.
The authors have an original and alternative way to publicize their work; so, they are able to be read, even though it is by a tiny share of readers. But they act their role as writers.
And those authors who are homeless, or live in inns, have, first of all, a share, although tiny, of their self-esteem rescued. They see their voices printed in sheets of paper. They are read. They compensate, at least in part, feelings of despise and rejection that society do not hide, with something valued, a book. They have something to say, and they get readers. This changes their relation to the world.
Short stories and poetry are “published” by the collective. Xerox is the resource employed. Fourty, fifty books of each author are made each time, and the “production” is made according to demand. With this, the character of resistance can be stressed, to follow the opposite direction of publishing market, or even to follow an alternative pathway which allows, even in a small scale, to divulger new authors, opening parallel ways in the history of Latin American literature. At last, it competes to the Latin American writer, having a role that is as essential and at the same time undervaluated as that of the cardboard street picker, the task to stitch a history which is still being built and has little interest in the order of this unequal world.
So, to work with diversity, do publicize literature, to give access to new authors and to favor the intertwining of living experiences are the core points that are present in our daily activities. We don’t have a utopian standing. Time of utopias has gone. The idea that it’s possible to change the world is no longer sound. But we want to be with our eyes opened to the reality we live in. We admit that the scope of out action happens within a microsphere, consistent to the ways of perception proposed: To identify possibilities, to recognize the potential of diverse realities and the relations that appear as a result of their contact by means of the collective practices requires a rupture with the ways of living in our society, the challenging of them, even if the limits of such a proposal are recognized.

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