Outros Navios: Photographs by Eustáquio Neves (Other Ships: Photographs by Eustáquio Neves) is the title of the vast exhibition-investigation that revisits almost 40 years of production by the artist Eustáquio Neves (Juatuba, MG, Brazil, 1955) at Sesc Ipiranga, in São Paulo. Referring to the tumbeiros or “floating tombs” – European freighters that transported thousands of slaves from the African continent to Brazil until the 19th century – the title of the exhibition also names the photographer’s most recent series of works. The series brings to the contemporary context, from the superimposition of photographs taken in urban centers, the evidence of structural racism and symbolic violence against black people, which still persists as the great evil of Brazilian society.
The photographer, of African descent and originally from the state of Minas Gerais, has been producing work since the late 1980s that he himself describes as autobiographical, referring to his ancestry and his life experiences. His works mainly reflect the memory of slavery, as seen in the series Valongo: Cartas ao Mar (Valongo: Letters to the Sea), or on the place of the black person in Brazilian society, as in the series Boa appearance (Good looking). According to Neves: “We lived for almost four centuries as slaves in Brazil. But until today, 129 years after the abolition of slavery, we continue to be invisible to a large white majority who seem to believe that the country was made exclusively for them.
The current exhibition is curated by Eder Chiodetto (São Paulo, SP, 1965), one of the leading specialists in contemporary photography in Brazil. It presents mainly photographs and films, but also drawing, writing, stamping, cuttings from documents and newspapers, and collages. Also on display are film negatives, acetate sheets, matrices, color and texture palette studies, materials and tools, which testify to the artist’s creative process. According to Chiodetto, Eustáquio’s degree in chemistry was essential for his work to be marked by an intense experimentation with analog photography, which “recurrently gives rise to encounters, collisions and reactions between different materials and chemical baths. to generate fortuitous occurrences that expand the repertoire of his poetic strategies”.
Neves cites Artur Bispo do Rosário (1909-1989) – who, like him, was self-taught – as the first artist who inspired him to go beyond the production of traditional photographic images towards what he called the ” enlarged photograph. For this, he develops techniques for superimposing images in the darkroom and various interventions on them, thus confirming, over the years, their great poetic potential and their originality. His series of works, developed from the junction of strongly symbolic pictorial layers, calls upon various techniques and materials, resulting in images that reflect the superposition of historical and intimate times, at the same time.
Outros Navios: Photographs by Eustáquio Neves is subdivided into three rooms, while also presenting other works scattered in the Sesc Ipiranga unit. Room 1 presents series that allude to the violence and silence perpetrated against slaves. In room 2, we find the series that concern resistance through ancestral know-how and affable rituals, as well as various media used by Neves in the studio. Finally, room 3 offers a video installation.
Thus, the production of Eustáquio Neves highlights and discusses the black diaspora in Brazil, while recalling and recreating the stories of this African ancestry based on aspects that constitute daily life, emphasizing Brazil as a country with the largest black population outside of Africa, and where structural racism is a reality.
The show is part of the Diversos 22 project (Miscellaneous 22)composed of a series of actions organized by Sesc São Paulo, which contextualize the commemorations of the independence of Brazil, based on an updated and critical vision.