I am out of time! We can’t waste time! Forget these expressions before entering the exhibition Nheë Nheë Nheë: Genealogia do Ócio Tropical, by Márcio Almeida at Sesc Santo Amaro, Recife. Try to plunge into idleness, relax and think that life is an existential adventure.
If you feel like sitting or lying in the exhibition space, after all this can be your moment of discovery, enjoyment, pleasure to meet with yourself. To be in idleness is to be in peace by redesigning life and mediating the place of creative transgression. Experimental loitering is nurtured by doing nothing creative. In short, it is what conveys this subtle show of striking formal cleanliness, and which reflects on labor relations, from the time of colonial Brazil to the present day. The concept has other contours and reaffirms the thought of Antonio Negri, Italian Marxist philosopher when he defines: “Work is capacity for production, social activity, dignity, but on the other hand is slavery, command, alienation”.
The exhibition is aligned with three previous works and the most recent, Nheë Nheë Nheë, is the result of Márcio Almeida’s residence at the Usina de Arte Santa Terezinha, in Zona da Mata, south of Pernambuco. For a few days he experienced moments of action and rest. It produced within free time, which nowadays is in danger of being eliminated by the government. Not working formally is seen by the system as vagrancy, laziness, idleness. Hannah Arendt, in The Human Condition, reminds us that all European words for work also mean pain and effort – in Latin and English labor, in Greek ponos, in French travail, in German Arbeit.
What is distinguished in this work is the way to combine elements that sprout in the exhibition space, since the title of the show born in the origins of our indigenous language. Ñheé, according to anthropologist Adolfo Colombres, means speech. Therefore, Nheë, Nheë, Nheë can be a free translation of chatter. It also refers to a form of control exercised by religious in an attempt to unify tribal languages to facilitate forced catechesis.
In the introductory text, curator Beano de Borba comments on Márcio Almeida’s work as a traditional idleness and savage rite, sustained by an insurgency of free time. The artist’s intention is to “draw a parallel between the issue of western work and tropical idleness”. In this context, it is based on the interference of religions and the strategies of the colonizers in catechizing the indigenous. Leisure and freedom is the binomial that runs through all four installations that make up the show. “In the curation process we started from the new work, Nheë Nheë Nheë, and included other works, developments linked to the Western logic of work and reflecting the distortions practiced by the system.”
The Nheë Nheë Nheë installation, which is the title of the exhibition, is a delicate exercise made up of thirteen pieces created with olive twigs, shovels and pit iron that shape the work tools. Despite the relatively small space of the gallery, the works flow. The floor-to-ceiling glass wall does not disturb, on the contrary, it incorporates the external landscape, mimicking the vegetation with the dry branches. In another installation, Nosso Descanso é Carregar Pedras, serialism is present in the set of hospital time cards on which the artist illustrates with watercolor images of stones, symbolic elements of slavery since biblical times. The time clock marks the time demanded by the system which, according to Foucault, becomes a form of labor control.
The most comprehensive of these, Waiting for Work is marked by photography, a series of ten images that capture the resting moment of employees after lunch break. The time to do nothing, free reflection and communication between colleagues. This reality of the daily timeline is a lively extension of a field of attraction and repulsion, driven by poetic and social forces. The show closes, Truck Sistem, which touches on one of the cruelest aspects of Brazilian labor, debt bondage. With around 30 carbon papers, collected and graphed, Márcio Almeida puts into question the recurrent debt slavery experienced by the working class of the city and the countryside. This abuse procedure in force in Brazil shows that the worker can not settle his debts with the boss, even those of the canteen, becoming a permanent slave of the employer.
Nowadays, with the man subtracted from the time to which he is entitled, Genealogia do ócio tropical could be a starting point for the package leaflet: Vida outro Modo de Usar? The artist believes so. “I see production as directly linked to free thinking, without compromise, it is precisely in these moments of reflection that we are most productive.” Márcio Almeida constantly proves this remedy. Just start working a work, without any instrument, thinking quietly lying in the hammock, devising ideas, literally in idleness.