Displacement, communication and circulation are the primary resources in the development and language of Paulo Nazareth's (several dates, Watu Nak, Vale do Rio Doce, state of Minas Gerais) work, which is manifested in actions or as immaterial, or behavioral art. Anchored by ethical commitments to indigenous and Afro-Brazilian peoples – which form a part of his ancestry – Nazareth traces routes of contact with the world, taking as a starting point his upbringing at the top of the Morro do Palmital [Palmital Hill], in Santa Luzia, a natural overlook point in the North Zone of Belo Horizonte, where the People of Luiza, or People of Lagoa Santa, would have lived. He enacts his own mixed-race identity on these routes, challenging norms and prejudices, and searching for rituals and conceptual, historical and emotional connections with figures of struggle and resistance, from past and present.
His vocation as a hiker prompted the work Cadernos de África [Journals of Africa] (2012-ongoing) – in which he walks across Brazil and southern and northern Africa – as well as the project The Red Inside (2018), in which he crossed the East Coast of the United States in a red minivan loaded with concrete watermelons, travelling from New Orleans to Niagara Falls, and then on to Toronto, Canada. The journey, envisioned as a reflection on forced and elective migration, retraced the vestiges of the Underground Railroad, the escape route of African Americans enslaved in the 19th Century, heading towards states where slavery had already been abolished.
Nazareth deals consciously with the circulation of his works. One of the main areas of his production is the editorial platform P.NAZARETH ED. / LTDA., printing pamphlets at low costs and in large quantities, which are then distributed for free or for voluntary amounts. Their content includes realized and unrealized projects, stories, concepts and memories, generating critical debates about dominant ideologies and their mechanisms of violence and structural racism.
In exhibition spaces, Nazareth combines documentary practices and installation and sculptural assemblages, using materials found on his travels and in his performative practices, which involve elements of ritualization and catharsis. In [A] LA FLEUR DE LA PEAU [(A) THE FLOWER OF SKIN], 2019, a performance first realized in Brussels, a sack of white flour hangs from the ceiling and is rhythmically stabbed by two immigrant men. The white powder falls to the ground until the men leave the scene and a woman, also an immigrant, organizes all the powder into a precise circle with a broom – alluding to white Western culture and its use of rationalism as a tool to repress other cultures in the world. At the same time, it evokes other ancestries (African and Islamic) who have had their own history, in terms of developing mathematics and geometry, erased by Eurocentric narratives.
Caroline A. Jones, Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).
Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).