Gabriela Fero

Image: Gabriela Fero


Considerations on the work of the plastic artist.

If political art reflects historical time, in some circumstances it even manages to condense it; however, in times that do not want to be condensed, thought through or radically changed, such as capitalism at the beginning of the XNUMXst century, a fully and effectively critical art, which captures and exposes the contradictions of time, is rare and exceptional. Contrasting with the current backdrop, Gabriela Fero's painting has represented one of the highest moments of originality in political art in the XNUMXst century. In a rare combination of high-quality technical work and a sophisticated philosophical reading of politics, Gabriela Fero freed herself from the weaknesses and pitfalls of contemporary art and, at the same time, overcame the traditional historical impasses of left-wing art: she is the most expressive artist in the world. new marxism.

The exceptionality of a full critical art, whose potential is explosive, is due to the rarity of the articulation between artist and struggle. As a rule, art is constructed in an individualistic way, as a work of genius or aimed directly at the consumer market, alienated from a broad perspective of struggle; on the other hand, political art guards the limits of politics itself – in a historical arc that went from socialist realism to the contemporary reduction to liberal struggles for representation. The poorly politicized artist, with standardized readings and fragile critical schemes – raising awareness through the mere revelation of suffering or awakening compassion or, still, boastful due to the exaltation of the strength of fighters – was the standard of the XNUMXth century. The depoliticized artist, or politicized by the left liberal mode in neoliberal times, is the standard of today's time. Only if one escapes from such traps is it possible to reach avant-garde levels in art.

Just the question about the pertinence of critical art today is already proof of the succumbing of contemporary struggles to the swallowable field of liberalism. On the right, liberal art directly linked to markets; on the left, the art that criticizes to insert and represent, but this within capitalist reproduction itself, without contesting or exploding its landmarks. Faced with the arc that goes from the submission of the artistic impetus to the arts market to the struggle for representation in the system, but not against the system, Gabriela Fero advanced to a unique position: her art, from the fragments of subjectivity in capitalism, deals both with subjectivities how much of capitalism.


The artist, critical subject of her time


Although starting from a level common to many artists of great insertion at the beginning of the XNUMXst century – her training at Escola do Parque Lage placed her, in principle, in a typified space of ethos contemporary art –, Gabriela Fero operates a tour de force in the ambience from which she comes: she is not a liberal left-wing artist, she is a painter of Marxism, who takes capitalism as her object and central problem. But, at the same time, it departs from what traditionally presented itself as Marxist plastic arts in the XNUMXth century, engaged in a level of humanist appeal that resulted in a kind of reconciliation with the world through distributive, developmentalist solutions or rejoicing with the given reality itself. – more of capitalism, anyway.

Gabriela Fero's radical critical position stems from a peculiar conjunction of personal trajectory, cutting-edge artistic training and political questioning. Born in São Paulo and born in Rio de Janeiro, with a decisive experience also in Ireland, Gabriela Fero had a peculiar and outstanding career as a kart driver. On an artistic level, coming from a family that already had an inclination towards painting – a mother who was a painter and a father who was passionate about motorsport and who, symbolically, also painted racing helmets –, she was trained in Rio de Janeiro in the context of a generation of outstanding visual artists. in recent decades and who turned out to be their teachers. Living in the coastal region of Rio de Janeiro, with family members directly linked to the pre-salt oil professions in the Campos Basin, she ended up directly becoming critically aware of the political contradictions of the oil economy and its social and environmental impacts.

Along with her career as an artist, Gabriela Fero also articulates a special theoretical reading. His critical position – personal and artistic – is linked with a cutting-edge Marxist training, both in political theory and in the philosophical sphere, as exemplified by his direct interface with unavoidable works and thoughts such as that of the Marxist art theorist Nicos Hadjinicolaou, of whom is one of the translators for Portuguese. Also participating in my research group at USP for several years – being a dear pupil with whom I often reflected on art and philosophy –, Gabriela Fero still dialogues with the most advanced works of Marxist criticism in recent decades in the field of of ideology and art, also dealing with the translation of some fundamental texts in the area. Involving herself directly in the theoretical field that I designate as “new Marxism”, Gabriela Fero is a rare artist and art thinker who achieved a directly radical philosophical knowledge in the critique of capitalism.


Political art in the XNUMXst century


The XNUMXst century represents, in art, a distinct tuning fork within the same contradictions that emerged in the XNUMXth century. Fundamentally, the forms of art and politics are the same – derived or shaped as they are by the determinations of capitalism. But, in average terms within the mode of production itself, the post-Fordism of the late XNUMXth century and the beginning of the XNUMXst century has a specific accumulation regime and mode of regulation in the face of the moments that preceded it, such as those of Fordism of the first three quarters of the XNUMXth century. Art also remains, fundamentally, structured in determinations, contradictions, powers and general limits arising from sociability through the commodity form, the same ones that permeated the XNUMXth century and reach today. However, in the middle terms, art unfolds some specific horizons and ideologies in the current times of post-Fordism.

With regard to the general terms of determination, art in capitalism is confronted with the imperative of overcoming the system from the sensitization of the subjects who are constituted and ideologically questioned by capital. Socialist realism and avant-garde were and still are opposite responses that start from the same observation regarding an unavoidable fact: the guy who can make the revolution is not revolutionary.

Hence, either its language is spoken to conquer it (socialist realism) or it breaks with its horizons to annoy it and challenge it beyond (vanguard). A third solution to the problem, which is to accept the non-revolutionary subject without involving or confronting him, is characteristic of non-political art, that which is directly assumed to be market-oriented: producing what the consumer immediately desires. The three political positions of art – two of intervention and one of capitulation – remain the same through centuries of capitalism until today.

With regard to its production and circulation in the various media within the same mode of production, art has specific strategies that always end up being ways of inserting, representing or reforming the framework of exploitation, domination and oppression. In the XNUMXth century, political art was that of exaltation of the working class. In the XNUMXst century, it is the representation of identities, groups and movements. In both, the strategies underwent inclusion and, therefore, reform: the praise of work and the strength of the worker in Fordism; O "women empowerment” in post-Fordism.

The strategies of political art vary the subjects according to the average terms of reproduction of capitalism, but their devices remain: sensitization, humanization, inversion of hierarchies, exaltation of the exploited, dominated or oppressed. If so, political art turns out to be a reinvestment of reconciliation. The system will recover. In Fordism, with the jouissance of the working class, which will then universalize its exploited class values; in post-Fordism, with the dominated identities that will then be inserted into the system.

The political art of social reform is typically the art of insertion. Socialist realism was his Fordist strategy, in times of state administration of goods; “capitalist realism” and “identity realism” are his post-fordist strategies, in neoliberal and individualist times. In the case of socialist realism, art for the people suffered the limits of the so-called experiences of real socialism or the official communist parties. In the end, they managed sociabilities of State capitalism and national-developmentalism; socialist realism was, in fact, national-popular realism reinserted as the development of productive forces under the same production relations. In the case of current, post-Fordist times, the realism of identity does not break with capitalism; rather, it naturalizes it, seeking to improve it with representativeness. A so-called capitalist realism, in turn, is the highest point of a critique that also ends up succumbing to partiality: the reaction against capital or the rejection of the bourgeoisie, in this case, is an aesthetic form of maintenance of the same because nothing different there will be.

Denunciations of the ecological crisis, the psychic exasperation of the subjects, the immorality of the economy, politics and war without investigating the specific forms that constitute and reproduce them are a kind of aesthetics of negativity for the maintenance of positivity that is reputed not to be achieved – not being able to be another. For this fringe of political art, the end of the world is imagery or illustrable, but not the end of capitalism. Two insertions – the workers in power; the subjects in order – and a refusal with no overcoming horizon: these are the three possible articulations of partially critical art.

A structurally critical art is one that is not limited to models of capitalist reform. The humanism of the appeal to compassion for the sufferers and victims is not its path, because it is easy, moralistic and inconclusive. The subjects are at the same time producers and products of the reproduction of exploitation, domination and oppression. It is not a question of proclaiming the distant gaze through which classes and groups and individuals are olympicly contrasted – exploiters and exploited, dominant and dominated, good and bad, wrongdoers and victims. The ideology of capital runs through everyone, competition is general, commodification is total, accumulation is the law.

Fully critical art is, then, neither organicist – praise of classes, groups, movements – nor individualist – exposition of virtuous and/or deplorable examples. It reaches the mechanisms of capital, the forms of sociability, the ideology that is a constitutive positivity and not simply a negativity to be fought with awareness or a call to moral pride. Therefore, a full critique, in art, is both full negativity – there is nothing in capitalism that escapes its determinations, forms, laws and dynamics – and full positivity – only the totally Other is superior to what is already given. Not ideologies – class power, nationalism, developmentalism, representations – against Ideology, but Ideology about Ideology; Desire upon Desire: Socialism over Capitalism.


Gabriela Fero's art, by positioning itself at the center of the contradiction of the struggles of the present time, not only does not succumb to typical weaknesses of the limited artistic and cultural horizon of the present time, but also overcomes the vicissitudes of a critique that traditionally has not known how to achieve a decisive advance in the ideological dispute. Fero intervenes, with his painting, as a critical artist without concessions to the reconciliations of capital – thus affirming a full negativity – and, at the same time, demonstrates forms and mechanisms of social reproduction – thus revealing a full operative positivity of sociability of our time and also revealing the positivities of Ideology and ideologies – unconscious and desire beyond the eventual liberal moral clamor for class and group conscience. Not of inclusion and maintenance, but of the negativities of exploration and exclusion and the positivities of rupture, art is made of it.

In this sense, Gabriela Fero crosses, against the grain, the consecrated artistic model of the XNUMXst century. It does not reactively oppose one organicism to another – class versus identities is the most obvious example of this model of supposedly critical reactionaryism. The negation of all reforms, class and individual or group representation operates in a positive way. The whole is the theme of Fero's work, but not an unspecific whole and easily rejected for moral reasons – as a capitalist realism could do, based on the exasperation of the subjects and the global ecological crisis –, but the structured totality. Its determination, its historical cause, its social forms, its varied formations, its dynamics, its Ideology.

By painting the specificities of the whole of sociability, Gabriela Fero then unravels the relentless criticism of this whole and the identifying interpellation of its reasons and mechanisms, which also allows us to glimpse the possibility of a totally Other. Art assumes, in Gabriela Fero, the role of announcing science, becoming the delineator of the desire for the revolution. Critical art is not, directly, science and revolution, but it is the announcement of the first and instigator of the second.

The subject is the strategic motto of Gabriela Fero's art. It's not objects or nature, as an easy critique would engender. Objects are inert, nature would be sacralized beyond the human, in such a way that society would only be expected to be passive and not disturb the course of the natural or the object. The subject is the decisive problem of sociability, and here, as a rule, political art succumbs to the desire already constituted in subjects by the capital Subject. State power, representativeness or even cathartic events like rebellion are products/reactions of the already given capitalist desire.

Gabriela Fero goes beyond delivering what is expected: subjects are capital producers because they are at the same time its products; your desires are your problems; its catharsis is its succumbing to it; its partial, individual, group or class victory is the failure of the transformation of the whole. Painting the desiring subject of the order that constitutes, exploits and dominates him, and making his structural denunciation the desire of a totally other subject, which does not yet exist, is the best dialectic of subjectivity that can be promoted by critical art.

There is no idyllic point of return in a sociability totally produced and dominated by capital. Nature is human. But the human is also natural and objectal because it is a commodity. In Gabriela Fero's art, oil is not restricted to the denouncement of its ecological problems, as a liberal left would typically and comfortably consider, nor is it a data of the petition for industrialization or just the rescue of nationalism, as the struggles of Fordism presented . Oil sums up the contradictions of Fordism and post-Fordism.

In Gabriela Fero's canvases, through the oil and gas supply spouts, subjects are both fed and annihilated. Oil and the carcasses of sharks and bats are imagery references of a fully financialized capitalism, in which the commodity finally presides over everything, in a way that is at the same time powerful and disgraceful. For Gabriela Fero, oil is human, not because it is a good thing at first and that was later polluted by men, but because it is nothing but oil and imposes itself on us because it circulates as a commodity.

But, in turn, the human is object: pump, hose, machine, gas are not external constraints of subjects, they are their pieces, their parts, their engines, their soul. By painting subjects cut and at the same time alive, mechanical and at the same time operative, Gabriela Fero demonstrates the totally human nature of the object/natural and vice versa. There is no opposition whereby one good side saves the other degraded. There is no developmentalism or technique that saves the human, nor ideal humanity that saves nature and objects: the productive forces are means and extensions of the relations of production. It is then the subject, in a relational way, the problem of capitalism and the center of Gabriela Fero's art.


The contradictions of political art in Brazil


Subjects are constituted and operate under the same determinations and forms as capital, but in specific social formations. Art in Brazil has the same dilemmas and contradictions as art in the world, starting, however, from its own historicities, circumstances and affections. Political art, in Brazil, has the virtues and sufferings of its capitalist political dynamics. Horror is its most explicit and striking face: torture, scourge, slavery, violence, pain. But the historically dominant ideological framework in the country, right and left, always tends to counterbalance social horror with the vaunted virtues that are attributed to it: party, joy, carnival country, cordial man.

Given this ideological fusion of horror and sweetness, Brazilian art also affirms such a polarity whose implication is merely summation, without being dialectical. When political art pretends to be critical, progressive, it sometimes affirms pain, sometimes love. You cry, but you also laugh. With that, the horror is circumscribed to the economic, political and social moment. Happiness, in turn, is also limited to the scope of the home, the neighborhood, the community, the neighborhood, the suburbs, the hills, the interior, the sertanejo, native peoples, black peoples, intersubjective affections. There is no dialectic between the two poles. There is horror and happiness, but they turn their backs on each other, in such a way that the two affections are claimed in a fragmented or almost isolated way, without constituting a whole. War and peace, the exemplary and grandiose work of art by Candido Portinari at the UN, are two canvases.

Post-Fordist political art also operates on the pattern of bipolarity without dialectics. The same dominated and oppressed subject is the one who, in another circumstance, asserts himself, is proud, and starts to be represented. The circuit of negation and redemption is forged at the full level here: in the end there will be reconciliation. Pain will result in happiness. The social fabric will not be abolished or superseded, it will be reconstructed in a better way. The pictures painted by the dominated genders, races and groups will finally be exhibited in the museum, gaining space alongside the traditional paintings made by the dominating white men that portray the dominated. Oppression and affirmation. Identities will count; the law of value will then be extended. The appreciation of value will remain intact, only now redemptive: from the restricted circuit to the expanded circuit of art as a commodity.

Thus, in the United States and Brazil, only colonial slavery and its contemporary echoes are the pole to be fought; capitalism as liberalism and representative institutionality is the pole of redemption. The polarity does not reach the critique of capitalism itself. War and peace are two independent markers, as are evil and good, exclusion and inclusion. Moralism will be its corollary, humanism its remedy, reconciliation with capital its enjoyment.

Alongside the Brazilian artists who operated sadness alongside joy – Portinari, Di Cavalcanti – there are those who operated more sadness – Goeldi, Iberê Camargo – and those who operated more joy – Djanira, Aldemir Martins. The reputed Brazilian soul is intact in the artistic ideology, either by one pole, by the other or by both, but, in this case, one beside the other. Few, like Segall, were a shadow in the light of the tropics, or, like Burle-Marx, extracted the maximum of abstract modernity from the natural colors that sprouted from the plants of the earth. The fine dialectic that permeates the same line between horror and happiness and between tradition and the future was rare in Brazilian art in the XNUMXth century. In the XNUMXst century, it is still, until now, virtually non-existent.

There is, in political art in Brazil, a problem of form: the political narrative in Brazil is not one of rupture, but of continuity. It does not fully correspond to reality – Brazil has a history of struggles and bloodshed –, but it corresponds to the ideology that is asserted. Therefore, ideologically, there are no redeeming struggles, there is no overcoming of one mode of production by another through open acts of confrontation – the abolition of slavery is symbolized by an imperial legal enactment. When post-Fordism seeks to correct this situation, it only ends up operating its opposite and complementary tuning fork: resistance, everyday life, day-to-day life, subsisting and existing resisting of dominated subjects.

Thus, the historical dynamic is ideologically affirmed as an act of modernization, without rupture, and the struggle is celebrated as an individual act of resistance, whose marker and index is suffering. Leaving the pole of an art that celebrates salon modernization, one goes directly to the other, which celebrates subjects atomized in suffering and resistance. Missing, in the history of ideology in Brazil, the masses, the flow, the dynamics of capital itself, its contradictions, struggles, combats, sufferings and desires in the same structured whole.

As a result, there is a structural and historical weakening of political art in Brazil. It doesn't even compete with that of Latin American countries that celebrate epic heroism, like Mexico. If the Mexican Revolution, in the first half of the XNUMXth century, released an epic ideological historicity, it then gave rise to a highly expressive muralism, only not more critical because of the limits and revolutionary impasses of that country at that time. Eugênio Sigaud, who was expected to be the Brazilian correspondent for Diego Rivera or David Siqueiros, had neither the ideology nor the social materiality that would enable him to do so. The same with Tarsila do Amaral in the face of Frida Kahlo. Portinari is not Picasso, not because of an absent technique, but because of an ideological motto. Di Cavalcanti is not Guayasamin because the Brazilian's subjectivation is salt next to sugar, and the Ecuadorian's is the taste of whey. Brazilian political art mirrors Brazilian political ideology.

When, finally, Brazilian art is temporally equivalent to the same quality of art from other regions of the world, in the current times of post-Fordism, this is due to the fact that the whole world has also lost the dialectic that would enable a capital and decisive political art. By throwing history into everyday reproduction and reforms that do not structurally undermine capitalism and liberalism, political art asserts itself all over the world in the same way, and its affirmation is exactly its failure. Central capitalist countries, on the other hand, no longer produce avant-garde art; in a capitalism that is of crisis as a structure of its dynamics, only the insertion in the market is the tonic and the marker of success.

The possibility of producing both the avant-garde science of our time and also its avant-garde art lies on the borders between center and periphery: taking advantage of institutions but not suffocated by them; taking advantage of the burrs of capital consumption but not adapting to its terms and desires; affirming the future horizon not from the center of the domain that does not allow change, nor from the periphery from which criticism does not disturb the whole, but from the tangent between both, from the center-periphery, Brazil's privileged position.

Gabriela Fero has the conditions both to reposition the history of political art in Brazil and also to place Brazilian political art itself at the forefront of world art. After a century of semi-critical political art, finally the possibility of a structural critique; after half a century of liberal-individualist art, finally an art that takes the subject-individual as the decisive question of a structured whole. This will be fully Brazilian because it is the truth of Brazil, this will be fully global because, fundamentally, nothing that crosses us is different from what crosses the world.

It is not the picturesque that will make room for us and join us to the world; it is the revolution, absent all over the world and less and less possible to be painted and spoken about in the center of capitalism, which will allow shedding light on those who are the first to reveal it in the conditions and clamors of the XNUMXst century. A piece of that potential is in the artist's hands, through her brushes; another piece is in the hands of society, which makes the fight its motto.

Gabriela Fero's painting may, in the XNUMXst century, finally reach the forms of political art, which were touched upon in XNUMXth century Brazil, but could not be fully established. Cabinet art, the canvas sizes proper to bourgeois appropriation, serving as elements in the decoration of houses, themes of universalist taste, the picturesque and the grotesque as objects for captive consumer audiences, painting that is always in fashion and that allows constant circulation of the artistic market, all of this impassively crossed the varied modes of accumulation and the regimes of regulation of capitalism.

It is true that in times of Fordism, with national-developmentalism, public art and muralism had some incentive in Brazil. However, it lacked the touchstone of what to portray, and how. Insufficient criticism resulted in insufficient form. Eventually, the XNUMXst century will know, with Gabriela Fero, the full mural form, the finally radical imagery narrative of the country and the world. The extreme that generated Guernica based on a texture of reading the world that is solid in its indignation and greatly potent in its imagery and positioning of the world, it could be – in another way, in other circumstances and with other virtues and purposes – the fuel for Gabriela Fero to be the painter decisive of our time.

Is the time of present capitalism – of accumulation precisely because of its crisis – liable to know a full critical art? More than art being long and life being short, the issue is that the occasion is fleeting.


*Alysson Leandro Mascaro He is a professor at the Faculty of Law at USP. Author, among other books, of State and political form (Boitempo).

Originally published on Boitempo's blog.


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