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While debating about a world at odds and a divided society, Vik Muniz and Fernanda Torres talk about art’s role and its position within this context

Frontiers of Thought is holding the first 2018 edition of a series of lectures and debates in São Paulo. The philosopher Eduardo Wolf mediates a talk featuring Fernanda Torres and Vik Muniz about the divided contemporary society, a globalized world at odds and the position of art within this context, with its possible emancipating role for people and individuality. “We need art. Art is a humanizing agent. It expands the image of the world and makes us realize how life is important and wealthy,” the artist summarized.

Fernando Schüler, curator of the Frontiers of Thought, opened the event presenting the theme that would guide the chat between Fernanda and Vik: the search for consensus in the culture wars. “How can we deal with the discomfort of contemporary democracy and the rebirth of phenomena such as xenophobia, fundamentalism and totalitarianism? Society should not be homogeneous; it is healthy to have multiple voices, but how to act in this context of divergence?” Fernando said.

What is art’s role in society today?

Actress and writer, Fernanda Torres, spoke first at the conference. She focused her speech on the crisis between the future expectations of her generation and the imposed reality, especially after the popularization of the Internet. “I was alive at the end of the Cold War and had a forecast of a connected future, without frontiers. David Bowie calls the Internet the ‘alien form’. It changed everything and destroyed structures, including the arts, the phonographic market, the film and the TV,” she said.

Torres discusses how new advancements concentrate wealth in fewer hands and puts everything on the line, but it mainly affects  the arts and journalism sector. New generations are so accustomed to an abundance of free content and do not value its production. “There is a widespread feeling of insecurity and, thus, we close ourselves in niches, within our borders,” she assessed. “It is hard to make a living as an artist in this world. Should what I do be aimed only at my niche, that of an elite white woman, or is it for everyone? I believe art is the place between borders; not a peacekeeper, but rather the human doubt and contradiction,” she said.

Torres believes that the emergence of identity issues is not a problem in itself, but a factor that requires attention. “Brazil has a burden of slavery that has never been solved and only represented on T.V. with new movements that arise within the country,” she said. “There is a growing sense that art must educate people. I just don’t know if it’s going to get worse or better.”

The next speaker, Vik Muniz begins his presentation by asking: “What is the world?” “One day, my daughter asked me that question and I realized she didn’t want an answer about the planet itself, but about this world that is a flow of events, sensations, things. And the best answer I came up with is that it’s a collective image, a world image,” he said. Vik recalled the emergence of the image for mankind, dating to 60,000 years ago, according to archaeological discoveries.

For the artist, images make memories appear, give meaning to life and makes everyone who sees them feel the same type of way. “The invention of representation, along with mastering fire, is one of the most important discoveries of mankind, and the closer we get to the absolute simulacrum, the more we want to improve. Art is an essential part of this race between traditional ways and technology,” he affirmed. “The artist works between the in and out, between the mind and the environment. It is the interface between consciousness and phenomena, as well as science and religion.”

Muniz explained that these three items are part of the historical and individual development of a human being and a benchmark on their track of mental and material growth. He believes that we have reached a point in the world in which technology makes it difficult to depict reality and its representation seem extremely thin, and the result is “terrifying.” “So, rough ideas overrule those who are kind of lost and afraid of this complexity. The only possible way to work on this world image is through education and art,” he concluded.

Content published in May 22, 2018

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