José Celso Martinez Correa (1937-2023)

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By RODRIGO DE FARIA*

Zé Celso's Brazil played a central role in the international concert of utopias and experiences that projected a profound transformation of the country itself and the world

Em the age of extremes, historian Eric Hobsbawm defended the idea that the XNUMXth century would have been very brief, in addition to being a century full of atrocities produced and put into practice by the human mind. It is difficult not to be co-opted by these two major structuring axes of his general argument, especially when we think of the two World Wars, the Holocaust, the Berlin Wall, the Civil-Military Dictatorships that devastated Latin America, neoliberalism, among many other tragedies. that characterize the XNUMXth century.

However, the same 6th century is the historical context of many transformative projects, many of them revolutionary, even with all the contradictions that characterize them. And this in all areas of activity of the men and women who lived and still live that century: in the arts, in politics, in economics, in architecture and urbanism, in geography, in culture in general. And without necessarily agreeing with the idea of ​​the brevity of the 2023th century, what the death of Zé Celso, on the morning of July XNUMX, XNUMX, tells us is that the complex and contradictory XNUMXth century is gradually closing its curtains . The political-cultural theater of that century's intention little by little turns off the lights of all its scenarios.

A close look at the XNUMXth century and we are quickly confronted with countless experiences that dreamed of a world different from the one we live in today amidst the (re)ascension of a Nazi-fascist extreme right in all corners of the world. Mexican revolution, Russian revolution, Rosa Luxemburg's intellectual-revolutionary experience in Germany, the Cuban revolution, these in the field of political history. In the field of arts, architecture and urbanism, we can think of the artistic vanguards of the early XNUMXth century – with all its contradictions, such as those involving Italian Futurism –, the creation of the Bauhaus in Germany, the musical revolution since Arnoldo Schömberg , passing by John Cage and György Ligeti. In several other fields, such as cinema, dance, theater, literature, etc., much was produced in the short XNUMXth century.

Zé Celso's Brazil played a central role in the international concert of utopias and experiences that projected a profound transformation of the country itself and the world in the 1920th century. The Modern Art Week in the XNUMXs, Antropofagia, the music of Gilberto Mendes, Cinema Novo, Brazilian Modern Architecture, the concretist literature of the brothers Haroldo and Augusto de Campos, Guimarães Rosa, Tropicalism and the radical purism of the strings the guitar of João Gilberto, the architectural poetry of Lina Bo, the Brazilian scenes of Tarsila do Amaral, the exuberant and sweet voices of Elis Regina and Cássia Eller, the poetry-music of Cazuza and Renato Russo. All these people lived (many and many still do) and helped build Brazil, including Zé Celso.

Zé Celso lived not only in the XNUMXth century, his existence continued even more powerfully in the current XNUMXst century. His life was and will always be a radical sacred-profane ritual, exuberant and explicit, a poetic-human bacchanalia. Araraquara, São Paulo, the world, local and universal, national and cosmopolitan, all these dimensions are superimposed in his theater-city. Brazil is impregnated with its theater-craft-workshop, a country that was swallowed and turned over in its countless theatrical rituals. Zé Celso stripped us of all the deep prejudices naturalized by Brazilian society.

His theater is dramatic, it is comic, it is ironic, it is profane, it is sacred, it is radical, it is uncompromising, it is erotic, it is carnal, it is tactile, it is political, it is “all at the same time now”. The experience of experiencing one of his theatrical rituals is something that remains in anyone's memory, as was the experience that many were able to enjoy at the premiere of the show. The Bacchae in 1995 at the beautiful and little-known Teatro de Arena in Ribeirão Preto, in the interior of São Paulo. It was there at Teatro de Arenas – even before its debut at Teatro Oficina on October 2 of that year, 1995 –, in what is one of the most beautiful open-air scenic-architectural spaces in the whole country that, for hours and hours, we could experience all that is the theater of Zé Celso. the bacchanal of The Bacchae in the scenic-architectural space that takes us back to the classical Greco-Roman world could only have been guided by the sacred-profane poetics of Zé Celso.

Unfortunately, the same fire that one day destroyed his home-theatre, Teatro Oficina, destroyed his home-dwelling and made us orphans of the one who dared to strip us of ourselves, of the one who put us in a “trance” in our own “land”. . Twenty years ago, in 2003, another revolutionary died, Haroldo de Campos, the profane-poetic “inventalínguas” of the infinite “Galaxies” who never (did) get tired of (re)inventing Brazil with his prose-poetry. Between the death of Haroldo and the death of Zé Celso, the void that leaves us without a “word”, that structural object-matter of poetry and theater.

Fortunately, Haroldo de Campos and Zé Celso, like many, many other people whose lives are meteors that devastated our hypocrisies and prejudices, were never just people, because they are an idea, and ideas never die. Ideas are existences that make us (re)think the world, Brazil, each one of us.

If one day, as poetically formulated by Adriana Calcanhoto, Caetano Veloso was “naked by bacchantes” in a scene of the same show The Bacchae during Rio Cena Contemporânea in July 1996, we can certainly say loud and clear, without any fear, that Zé Celso was “naked for Brazil”. What remains for us, appropriating the idea of ​​Adriana Calcanhoto, who suggested that we should “eat Caetano”, let's eat Zé Celso, let's swallow him, chew him, feast-e-mo-us on the bacchanalia he always offered us with your life.

*Rodrigo Faria Professor at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of Brasilia (UnB).


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