- If you can please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your background and the career path you have taken?
Tiago Gualberto: My name is Tiago Gualberto, I am 33 years old and I am a visual artist. I am currently a Masters Student in Art Theory and Criticism at the University of São Paulo. I was born in a small town in the interior of the state of Minas Gerais, close to the capital city of the state, Belo Horizonte. I am the first individual in my family to enroll in a university. Even though we were very poor and my family did not clearly understand what it meant to enroll in a visual arts program, they gave me all of the support they could. To enroll in a public university in Brazil is a great challenge. You have to pass standardized tests which are called “vestibulares.” It is also difficult to remain at the university once you get it. I was the only Black student in my class, and remaining in this university environment relied on the support of the Affirmative Action program implemented in that very year, in 2003 (two thousand and three). Being in touch with these professors and students dedicated to understanding the importance of cultivating political and historical awareness of racism and violence against minorities was fundamental for the formation of my own identity, and also for my intellectual development. My first exhibit was part of this program in the year 2004 (two thousand and four). Since 2006 (two thousand and six), I have participated in collective art showings at the Afro-Brazil Museum, located in the city of São Paulo. This museum is celebrated as the most important space dedicated to preserving Afro-Brazilian art and culture. I have had the position of content researcher at this institution for the last two years.
- How was it to enroll at an art school in a university?
Tiago Gualberto: It was a great challenge. The expectations for an improvement in my quality of life and my family’s quality of life were very intense. But to study art requires different types of investments, one key one being time. I had to work to support myself. And art, unlike some other careers, requires time to grow in order to be significant. This time is precious.
- How is it being a visual artist in Brazil?
Tiago Gualberto: I can’t give a general answer. But my individual experience has taught me that to be an artist is to be faithful and resilient regarding your principles. It is to guarantee yourself dignity and respect in the midst of the many challenges imposed on you each day. It is also to respect and value those who support you and share the same world. It is not possible to be an artist on your own.
- What subjects interest you? What are you trying to do in your work?
Tiago Gualberto: My work is still young, my career has been 10 years so far. This means that some questions are in a process of growth at the moment. But definitely, I am interested in thinking about what contemporary art is, especially for the populations I come from, and this is my greatest challenge. This means to reflect about who gets to and who does not get to produce, consume and sell contemporary art. It means to test hierarchies imposed by many different fields about what contemporary art is understood to be and what its purpose is. In other words, my issues of interest are political, historical and community-based though all of them are filtered by my auto-biography.
- Tell us about some of your work?
Tiago Gualberto: In my artistic process, my works take a long time to be elaborated. They are like slowly-cooked dishes. My last art work, a Lembrança de Nhô Tim (Souvenir of Massa Tim), is a good example. It has been in the works for more than 3 years. It basically involves the production of five thousand units of an object made of a mixture of iron ore and cement in partnership with members of the community I was born in. This object is similar in shape to a home-made ice cream popularly sold in the region. The name of the object, which means, Souvenir from Massa Tim, refers to the former owner of an extensive mining area close to the location where I was born. In addition to lands, this man owned many slaves. He was named Sir Timothy, Nhô Tim (Massa Tim) was supposedly his nickname. Inhotim, which supposedly comes from this nickname, is also the name of the largest center of contemporary art in Latin America, currently located where this slaveowner’s residence once was. Through countless dialogues, exchanges and negotiations with the local communities, 12 points of exhibition and selling of these objects were installed close to mining areas. Bars, churches, schools and small markets are an example. The souvenir can be acquired by any visitor for the initial value of 4 reais and 99 cents (a little more than a dollar). All of the money raised stays with the community members who agreed to participate in the project.
Providence – 05 MAY 2017