Superfictions by Guerreiro do Divino Amor – Whiteness, Superhibernation and Supermessianism
By Clarissa Diniz
Despite our obligation to reflect on colonialism in Brazil – growing aware of blind spots and finding historical remedies for its genocides and epistemicides – it becomes increasingly clear that there is a need to address not only the other of euroethnocentrism, but also those who, as a result of their privileges, occupy positions that are connected to it. To problematize and deconstruct the colonial supremacy of whiteness is inseparable from the commitment to protect the pre-eminent and central roles of non-whites. In art, the fact that the models of representation are monopolized in the hands of the few inevitably cements the political impossibility of self-representation in general and, as a consequence, the failure of any kind of representativeness. Therefore, if those who have historically been denied access to the right to self-representation are to exercise this right, those who lay claim to representation as their innate point of view have the duty to represent these others and their perspectives. In light of the despotism of giving universal validity to a single point of view, officially declaring it to be the essence of representation, the demand that we represent ourselves seems eminently more ethical than authoritarian. However, the Brazilian artists who are creating self-representations outside the spectrum of those subjects whose images have been stolen from them are few and far between. While it is still a struggle to give visibility to black or indigenous artists and their self-representations in the realm of art – or to any issues that are of concern to them apart from approaches based on identity – most non-black and non-indigenous artists strategically and comfortably shirk their political duty to represent themselves without fictionalizing the idea that takes our white, Judaeo-Christian, patriarchal images etc. to be the essence of representation itself. As a matter of fact, even the art produced in today’s “miscegenated” Brazil has not faced up to the whiteness that lies at its heart. Guerreiro do Divino Amor’s work addresses these omissions.
Since 2005, Guerreiro do Divino Amor has been working on his Superfictions project, mapping out complex urban landscapes to investigate the way cities are organized in social, political, economic, religious, moral and cultural terms. Growing up during the age of globalization and the internet, he has combined the experience of living in the places fictionalized by him with the work of a digital archaeologist who digs up the iconographies and imaginary worlds that he appropriates from the vast treasure trove of information available on the internet. In an open process of creation continually informed by new data, he creates endless narratives presented in chapters. Brussels, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Brasília and Belo Horizonte have all served as different focal points for this superfiction, which illustrates the adventure of civilization. Far from reproducing the imperialist messianism that aspires to economic, political and symbolic hegemony, he problematizes and satirizes it: the mappa mundi provides the material which Guerreiro do Divino Amor uses to enact the conflicts between different peoples, nations, classes, groups, individuals and the cosmopolitics that collide with and derive from them. Colonized by the utopian horizons of social harmony during the advance of imperialism, and in the hope of finding a lost paradise, this fictionalization became a hostage both to a mythical past and to a futuristic imagination. It has been decolonized, however, since the Gardens of Eden proved elusive, and the “barbarians” who occupied the lands reserved for it in the imagination rebelled against the euroethnocentric “civilizational” project, thus exposing its fictional character. Of course, regarding as fictional the epistemic, ontological and legal bases of a world that is clearly heading towards disaster liberates the fiction from the prison of peace and prompts us to creatively face the war, the apocalypse and other processes that already happening, fictionalizing the real so that it becomes amenable to thought.1
Superfictions is based on a primordial war: the Superempire versus the Supergalaxy. Although each chapter is unique in character, on the whole it is a war between “dichotomous civilizations which fight for control of space and the minds of humans”. While the Supergalaxy is moved by “chaotic impulse”, the Superempire “is a rational battle machine operated by superconsortiums”, as illustrated by the Supercomplexo Metropolitano Expandido (Expanded Metropolitan Supercomplex) (2018), which presents the megacity of São Paulo as a machine along its dimensions of power, careerism, meritocracy and money. In the conflicts that play out in São Paulo, the social subjects excluded from its project of success are obliterated and obscured: this is why the film focuses on the project of the bandeirantes – Brazil’s pioneers – as well as slavery, religion, gambling, banks, the media and São Paulo’s mayor João Dória. They make up the landscape of the Supercomplex, held together by superducts and supervortices that ensure its functionality. Aware of the representations of his own social position, Guerreiro do Divino Amor is interested not only in scrutinizing, but also in calling out the individuals and organizations underpinning the mechanisms responsible for producing and maintaining the power structures that he explores in his films. The individuals oppressed by the Superempire are both the victims and mainstay of these power structures, as is also evident in SuperRio (2015).
Instead of simply appropriating images extracted from their original media and rearranging them together with other elements in the films, panels and publications that make up Superfictions, Guerreiro do Divino Amor focuses first and foremost on the treatment to which his images are subjected, evoking in us a simultaneous sense of familiarity and alienation that forms the critical basis of his project. This strategy of assemblage stakes out one of the central theatres of the civilizational battle between the Superempire and the Supercolony, on an objective and an unconscious level: the aesthetic. As Guerreiro do Divino Amor warns, the domination of rational civilization seeks to “create comfort zones [...] in a world in its own image: smooth and clean”, which is why it promotes all kinds of sanitization. The social whitening that pervades Superfictions – and which in A cristalização de Brasília (The Crystallization of Brasília) (2019) is metaphorically embodied by the volcanoes spurting bleach all over the Brazilian capital, whitening both the earthly and the spiritual dimensions of life – is underlined by the aesthetic antieconomics of the collages that structure the narrative of the films and that throw the aesthetic conflicts between different classes, races and genres into relief. Given that the war between the Superempire and the Supergalaxy is cast as a class struggle, “bourgeois taste” is continuously subverted by the iconographic overindulgence of the films and of the backlit panels with their Chinese contraptions. Fragmented and asymmetric in their totality, they do not abolish, but rather accentuate the symbolic dominance and the cultural war between individual civilizational projects. In the work Supercomplexo Metropolitano Expandido, the rationalist and ordering perspective embodied by the offstage voice that drives the narrative in a mechanical and desubjectivized manner is subverted by the evidently anachronistic special effects and the rebellious, overloaded, garish visual presentation which undercuts the progressive and hygienic tone of the spoken text. In A cristalização de Brasília, the stark contrast between the smoothness of the subject and the critical undertones of the film is encapsulated by the Goiânian accent and indigenous looks of the presenter, Sallisa Rosa, who saunters through the National Congress, the Brazilian parliament, in a shockingly pink outfit; and, in SuperRio, by the face of a black woman, Pahtchy, who appears as a sort of “weather girl”, a historical fetishization of sexist whiteness. In addition, Superfictions highlights the conflicts surrounding symbolic hegemony by presenting itself as a work of art: it invades the white cube and the elitist social field of “contemporary art” with imaginary worlds – characterized, for instance, by references to the 1980s such as neon spandex, the Brazilian children’s TV show presenter Xuxa and the tacky outfits of the street carnival group Bunytos de Corpo – that are far removed from the lofty art world in social, moral, cultural and political terms.
Guerreiro do Divino Amor’s most recent film dramatises the history of the Brazilian capital as a symbol of messianic whiteness. In A cristalização de Brasília, the war between the Superempire and the Supergalaxy gives way to a reflection on the modus operandi of modernity as a form of colonialism. This Brazilian modernity reached its melancholic climax in the 1950s. “The primordial superfiction of the supernation is the supervoid”, proclaims the film, while the voice of the poet Vinícius de Morais recites the first embarrassing lines of the Sinfonia da Alvorada (1961), composed at the request of Brazil’s former president Juscelino Kubitschek: “In the beginning was the wilderness”. The film links the founding and the construction of Brasília back to the invasion of the indigenous lands which the Portuguese colonizers later called Brazil. Squirting bleach onto the place which they regarded as superempty, the colonizers acted as if it was a desert, although they were the historical cause of its desertification: “Nobody was there / The solitude seemed more like a non-existent people saying things about nothing”, declares Vinícius’s poem in the belief to be “taking possession” of the place by marking it with “two axes that intersect at right angles – which is to say, the sign of the cross itself”. From the Jesuit mission and its catechesis to its developmentalist reincarnation in the 1950s and its messianic resurgence in the form of neo-Pentecostalism right up to the election of a self-proclaimed messiah as president, the film analyzes Brazilian history as a “pioneers’ fever that multiplies with hypnotizing effect, spreading between people as a Stockholm syndrome epidemic”. Perhaps we feel sympathy even for what harms us because we believe to be in a desert. All the more necessary, therefore, to rouse those life forms that lie dormant because they are afraid to wake up.