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Exile and Modernity: Space and the Foreigner in São Paulo

The theme of the exhibition was the legacy of foreign contribution to the formation of São Paulo's urban and architectural landscape and its subsequent impact on the arts, literature, graphic design, etc.


The curator defined a selection of main sub-themes to be included that, while following a certain linear path, also included multiple interconnections among them. The main language concept for the exhibition was the "foreigner's point of view": a point of view seen as an interpretation by a newcomer, how looking from the outside in generated changes to what was seen and the consequent transformations. "Ruptures" that bring down barriers and an influx of cultural baggage as a tool for a new point of view.


Bearing the concept in mind and refining it within the team, the process of developing the spatial project involved a series of brainstorming sessions with the curator, looking for meanings, connections and their materialisation. A sequence of spaces were determined over the course of the exhibition, from the entrance onward, that represented the gradual immersion, in layers, of the cultures from abroad into the national one. There was no intent of linearity, despite the organisation into themes; the aim was to highlight the perception of relationships among the subjects included in order to reveal it as part of a complex network of non-linear interactions.


The "Initial area, which represented the eminence of transition from the point of view of the European architects and artists about to immigrate to Brazil, was characterised by a reflection on the oppression in the countries of origin that drove the desire to move, with the dream of a new country that still existed more in the imagination than reality. A kind of antechamber was conceived as the entrance to the exhibition, with a lower ceiling and enclosed by panels, effectively isolating it from the rest of the space. 


This was followed by a passageway representing the transition from Europe to Brazil: the voyage, layers of arrival, bewilderment and amazement. A kind of bridge between two worlds, this was represented by a tunnel painted in graphite grey that led to the main space, providing a contrast to reflect the unveiling of a new world.


The main space was open and bright, revealing the courses of cultural insertion. Here, one can see the exhibition as a whole, with its innumerable possibilities of visual connections between different elements and, although a direction is suggested, the area can be covered with no strict limits.


The spatial design concept adopted a flexible modular system of exhibition tables, panels and acrylic enclosures – elements that could be configured in various arrangements, depending on the evolution of the curatorial direction, up to the last minute. These elements were grouped along a central axis, leaving the walls free. The exhibition tables measured 90 centimetres high and supported the acrylic enclosures containing documents or original works of art, as well as the written information on the pieces. The 2-metre high panels acted as a support for printed information and reproductions of documents and photographs, in addition to supporting original paintings lent to the exhibition from private collections. The elements were built in MDF and painted white. The walls also featured 2-metre high MDF panels and were used to display printed information over an unfolding of sub-themes, tied into a colour scheme, relating to the tables and panels before them. There was also a space for films, interviews and furniture displays. Based on the determined parameters, this formed the spatial framework for the graphic design team hired to develop the exhibition's graphical concept.


8 areas were defined, each with the following sub-themes:

1) Modernisation (the period before the arrival of the foreigners)

2) Voyage/Ships/Modernity

3) The Foreigner's Point of View

4) Europe/Mapa Mundi (the context of international production)

5) Documentation (the difficulties encountered by foreigners settling in Brazil)

6) Intermediaries (Brazilians who allied themselves to international movements)

7) Briefs (the contribution of foreign architects in the typology of national buildings)

8) Dialogue with the national (fusion and tropicalisation)

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