educação para adultos
education for adults, 2010

60 posters of 34x46cm each

This project starts from a series of 20 educational posters printed in the 1970s and used by my mother when she was working as a teacher in the 1980s and 1990s.

Using the concepts and procedures of Paulo Freire's alphabetization method, the posters were basis for a series of daily meetings with a group of illiterate women, over the period of a month. The course of each day's conversations became photographic subjects for new posters created by me, that reintroduced to the meetings, becoming a sort of an educational-artistic mechanism.

At the end of this process, the work is presented as panel of 60 posters of yesterday and today, that mix various historical times - 1964, 1971, 1980, 1990, 2010. This final collection detaches itself from the process that generated it, and it can be read according to the spectador's repertoire, be it a photographic encyclopedia, an archive of national chronicle, or even an educational plan revised, enlarged and contradictory.

29th Bienal de São Paulo

Paulo Freire method of literacy combines education with social consciousness. The first experience has been done with 5 illiterate workers. Three of them lerned to read and write within 30 hours. Paulo Freire was invited by João Goulart's government in the 60s to organize the Nacional Literacy Campaign, which intended to alphabetize 2 million of people in 20 thousand circles of culture. The military coup of 64 interrupted the project, repressed the mobilization, and Paulo Freire was persecuted, arrested and exiled. The military regime substituted the plan for the MOBRAL - Brazilian Alphabetization Movement, which objectified functional literacy of youngsters and adults.

Brazil is under military dictatorship since 1964 and Paulo Freire is in exile. In 71, adult education posters go on sale at newsstands, as teaching aids. Between 70 and 90, my mother uses these in her work as a public schoolteacher. In 2006, she retires and throws the posters out, but I hang onto them. I do a little research and find that they are structured something along the lines of the Paulo Freire method – associating words and images from the student’s vocabulary. I see that the method was very open and that it basically sought to delineate politically the existence of the other; and that its concreteness existed only in practice; and that you didn’t have to be a pedagogue to use it. So I figured the posters might be a good platform from which to converse with the illiterate of today, producing new posters out of whatever came up, with new pictures and new words that would fold back on those conversations, completing a kind of cog and wheel. The project could perhaps be an experiment with the Paulo Freire method, striving to flatten out all the times involved – 64, 71, 80, 90, 2006, 2010 – on a single plane. Perhaps it might arise as a revised educational plan, both contradictory and enlarged. I went to associations of washerwomen and seamstresses and found six women who were illiterate, and for the whole month of August we met every day after lunch.
[...] while the role of instigator was, at that moment, given back to me, I feel a little uncomfortable evoking the sense of a condition of oppression without exactly having any conviction of how to shape that into some liberating organization. It’s an experiment, and I bring the method without actually knowing how obtainable that political awareness is, or to what extent it truly is an exercise in liberty. The project borrows a utopian impetus from another historical moment, but at times like these utopia comes across as maladjusted, a foreign body in action. And so I feel I have no right to awaken dormant discontent in the face of a world in which everything breaks so crudely down into the privileged and underprivileged; into a history of power retention in which I’m not sure on which side of the equation I fall. Oppression and freedom send up sparks not exactly of struggle, but of a recovery of power in knowledge of one’s life, and in the recognition of a body authorized to move in contradiction. Critical perception cannot be imposed, and perhaps the horizontality is that everything that comes up is what already exists in life experience, both theirs and mine, and that it is potentized by our encounter. To experience true exchange you have to be bold in the provocations that go into the conversation or onto the blackboard, you have to take risks with your words. This same urgency goes into the taking of photos, but it is a delicate negotiation; it involves inviting people to be social actors in a representation that is unfavorable to them, sometimes foisting upon them a stigma they want to flee, sometimes another’s role that they would rather avoid. It’s face-to-face contact that presents me with my own ethical immaturity, lack of clarity as to where I want to take this exercise in insolence that breaches the limits of my comfort zone about that which I grew up reading as invisible. Art affords me experiences that would be impossible were I just a researcher or social scientist. I can handle traditions more fluidly, invent methodologies, experiment with fictions in which I am pedagogue and researcher one minute, and fugitive, exile, scoundrel the next. I work from daily – in some senses even personal – urgencies and discomforts that acquire a social dimension through artistic experience. That pitches me as stem cell, and the unfolding of the work triggers a series of contradictions that put me in direct contact with the time that went before me, turning history, economy and national problems into more palpable, less abstract entities.