2010 / 2014
In A fortaleza [The Fortress] Yuri Firmeza re-enacts, nearly twenty years later, a childhood photograph in which he strikes the classic bodybuilder’s pose, bending his elbows and flexing his muscles to demonstrate strength. Between one image and the other, aside from the growth of the boy into a man, our attention is called to the radical change in the background landscape. In one image, we see houses, a scattering of buildings and the horizon in the background. In the other, taller buildings crowd the once-empty spaces. The eye can’t see too far in Fortaleza, where the artist has lived since he was little: the city has literally become a fortress and Firmeza presents himself in front of it – joking around with his lean body while, at the same time, assuming his responsibility as a resident of the city.
This reflection on memory and individual experiences, on the collective and common good of a group of people or a society appears in Nada é [Nothing Is] – his new work for the 31st Bienal – but the creative flux gives way to the opposite. The film began with a study of the city of Alcântara as a place for the manifestation of Brazil’s national projects in different periods, and culminated in the search for personal, subjective and current meaning for the place’s legacy. In the eighteenth century, the city was the first capital of the state of Maranhão, the home of wealthy sugar and cotton barons. When the colonial economy crumbled, Alcântara fell into obscurity and only regained national attention in 1990, when the Brazilian Air Force set up a launch centre for satellites.
The traditional celebration of the Divine Holy Spirit, held every year forty days after Easter, is presented as a feature of the city’s current vocation. In this limbo in which it exists between the prosperous past and the promise of an interplanetary future, discourses of science and religion are mixed together around the same ideology of faith in what could be, but, for some time now, still is not. – AMM