Creative Thursdays (text 1)

Creative Thursdays (text 1)

Throughout the end of April and May, I organized the making of a collective artwork with caregivers and children at the Soil Factory. With the title "Creative Thursdays," I structured a series of six weekly meetings for making art following two parameters: A series of titles that brought attention to our bodies as the primary reference for creating art and one artist's work as a historical reference to provide an initial collective disposition.

The structure of six meetings and the title "Creative Thursdays" mirrored the "Domingos da Criação" (Creative Sundays) organized by museum director Frederico Morais in 1971 at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Morais envisioned a series of six meetings to unsettle the country's usual Sunday cultural practices of watching soccer or going to church. More importantly, Morais defended the idea that "all people are innately creative. They only do not exercise this creativity if they are prevented from exercising it by political or paternal repression or education." For the Creative Sundays, Morais centered the activities on materials such as paper, soil, wires and threads, and on the body through expressive arts like dance and theater. The museum had the materials available on a large scale to the public, who could freely manipulate them. The intentional lack of structure beyond the conceptual framing and providing one primary material for each meeting aided people's experience of freedom (particularly important in years of military censorship in a country ruled by the US-backed dictatorship).

While planning for "my" Creative Thursdays, I sought to maintain a similar lack of structure for the making of art. In other words, the conceptual framing of the meetings and the historical references provided didn't require teaching any particular skill and didn't determine the expectation of any objective outcome. Instead of defining the goals of the meetings materially and with a task-oriented perspective, the program for these Creative Thursdays invited people to "join me and my children" in making art. This framework follows the ideal of raising children in an integrated way in society while helping caregivers to unlearn the systematic frameworks that separated childhood from most of our current public and professional spaces.

The historical connection between Morais's Creative Sundays and "my" Creative Thursdays also stands on the shared desire to dissolve the boundaries between institutions and life. While discussing his general philosophy as a museum director, Morais stated: "The city is the natural extension of the art museum. It's on the street, where the "formal medium" is active, where the fundamental experiences of man occur. Either the art museum takes its "museological" activities to the streets, integrating into everyday life and making the city (…) its natural extension, or it will be a cancer." His ideal was to subvert the museum's institutional power of determining cultural hierarchies, in his own words, to work "in contradiction with the sociocultural verticalization inherent to the museum." Integrating art into everyday life is a crucial aspect of my art practice that I sought to bring to the Creative Thursdays by fostering a sense of connection and involvement for all participants.

Moreover, Morais grounded his perspective on the particular Brazilian (and more broadly Latin American) cultural tradition of challenging colonial institutions—such as the museum—by denying their modes of classification and order. Particularly in the 1970s, Morais and his contemporaries worked through the revisiting of Oswald the Andrade's "Manifesto Antropofágico," which proposed the digesting of colonial structures into a uniquely Brazilian attitude. If, on the one hand, we continue to witness the failure of such an attitude in truly dismantling the colonial powers -- especially the State structures that perpetuate racism and the dominance and destruction of Indigenous land -- on the other hand, the stance for "digesting" human systems continues to feed the vitality of art-making.

While my perspective for Creative Thursdays builds partly on the historical awareness I'm trying to outline here briefly, my larger framework is grounded in my present moment in "motherhood," which—although it can be framed socially in specific ways considering the economic and political constraints that impact how we experience "being a mother" nowadays—isn't and can't be a structured institution. Like childhood, caregiving happens within the freedom one holds to love and express care in daily life. In other words, it unfolds in the making. The Creative Thursdays carried forth this by describing to caregivers that they would make art alongside their children. This general attitude envisions the experience -- for the adults -- of the collapsing of the systematic structures that separate childhood, caregiving, and art-making. For children, the aim is to have art-making as a continuation of the inherent play-based attitude driven by curiosity and discovery of the world that characterizes the first (at least) 12 years of life.

Writing this text now, a couple of weeks after the end of the Creative Thursdays, exposes one of the difficulties of our prevalent Colonial-Capitalist perspective: the question that I try to answer while writing about the Creative Thursdays is: "What do I have to show for it?" I have lots of artworks that I aim to organize into an art exhibition. But much more than that, I have stronger ties into the community that will only "show" if they continue to grow and continue to "make sense" in daily life. The documentation through writing, the creation of institutions (in this specific case, the Soil Factory that hosted us), or the artwork in itself end up gathering the values of experiences that can only be truly noticed in the vitality of people and the peacefulness experienced after realizing ourselves in living with others. Yet, grounding my thinking here in Morais's experience also shows that what we have to show for in our actions towards freedom might only come up after time, through history. The historical perspective of the Creative Sundays that I access here invites for transcending and continuing to reach for the freedom of building life outside the constrains of lifeless and careless colonial systems.