On October 15, 1968, on the eve of his voluntary exile from Brazil, artist Hélio Oiticica wrote to fellow artist Lygia Clark in Paris to “recount a group of events and experiences here that have greatly transformed me during these past months.” These transformational occurrences included Oiticica’s participation as an actor in Glauber Rocha’s experimental feature Cancer, the photographing of Caetano Veloso attired in one of Oiticica’s Parangolé capes on the rocks of Rio de Janeiro’s Arpoador beach, the police raid on the concert where Veloso sang the counterculture anthem “É Proibido Proibir” (It’s forbidden to forbid) beneath Oiticica’s banner stating “Seja marginal, seja herói” (Be an outlaw, be a hero), and the collective exhibition Apocalipopótese in Rio’s Atero do Flamengo park.
1968 was a watershed year for Brazil, when the military dictatorship of 1964–85 entered its most repressive phase and the fecund leftist culture of the 1960s was extinguished. In the face of that year’s dramatic intensification of cultural censorship and the forced and voluntary exiles of many cultural figures, a wide range of artists, filmmakers, and poets embraced an ethos of aesthetic and social marginality. From 1968 onward, the young underground filmmakers grouped around Júlio Bressane and Rógerio Sganzerla re-vindicated Glauber Rocha’s original theorization of an “aesthetics of hunger” and spliced it with the B-movie horror tradition of São Paulo auteur José Mojica Marins to produce a “cinema of garbage.” In direct dialogue with the marginal film movement, and in continuation of Lygia Clark’s abandonment of the production of “commodifiable” art objects, after 1968 numerous Brazilian artists turned to the moving image as a means for self-exploration and political resistance. As the artist and filmmaker Lygia Pape put it, “Marginal was the revolutionary act of invention, a new reality, the world as change, error as adventure and the discovery of freedom…the anti-film.”
Organized by Jytte Jensen, Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art, and Nicholas Fitch, PhD candidate, Columbia University. With thanks to Barbara London, former Associate Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art, The Museum of Modern Art.