The Brazilian artist Speto’s work 3 Brothers is a tribute to the Villas-Bôas brothers and the narrative cultures of Brazil’s indigenous population. The installation is part of the international street art project on the rows of pillars supporting the U2 subway tracks in VIERTEL ZWEI, a young urban development initiative of IC-Projektentwicklung/value one holding AG in Vienna’s second district. 3 Brothers was realized by WIENER LINIEN together with KÖR GmbH.
The Villas-Bôas brothers’ lives and work form the historical background of Speto’s ensemble of pictures. In the mid-1940s, Leonardo, Orlando and Cláudio Villas-Bôas had joined a major governmental expedition for the colonization of undeveloped jungle areas in Brazil’s hinterland as pioneers, so-called sertanistas. The “March to the West,” as the government project for the opening-up and consolidation of the state territory proclaimed in 1938 was called, would change the young men’s lives for good. Profoundly moved by their contacts with the aboriginal population in the Rio Xingu region, the Villas-Bôas brothers, setting out as colonizers, turned into committed advocates of the indigenous peoples’ rights and lebensraum. Their efforts culminated in the foundation of the Parque Indígena do Xingu in 1961, which, covering an area of 27,000 square kilometers, was the first of its kind protecting the culture of indigenous people. As ambassadors of these endangered cultures, the brothers decisively contributed to anchoring the endangered peoples’ immaterial heritage in the country’s cultural consciousness in the second half of the twentieth century. They were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for their engagement in 1971 and 1975.
Speto’s installation has been inspired by the myths and the graphic vocabulary of the Amazon rainforest’s indigenous peoples and the naïve folk woodcuts of his native Brazil. In the axis of the subway tracks, two ornamented pairs of pillars painted black feature as entrance portals at the northwestern and southeastern ends of the section, framing the ensemble of pictures for the viewer looking at the work from the front. The part in between comprises several transverse pairs of pillars, each of them linked conceptually by the artist. The half-cylinders facing Vorgartenstraße show frontal views of mythological figures and archetypes from the indigenous cosmogony of the Amazon region. In the center, we find a Curandeiro, a traditional healer and shaman, for example; the pink river dolphin Boto to its left may, according to legend, turn into a human being at night. Qualities, phenomena, and forms of appearance culturally associated with these figures are visualized on the pillars’ inner halves, symbolically mirroring the figures. The pillars of the opposite row are covered with geometric patterns all around their circumference. These patterns are borrowed from the ornamental language to be found in the traditional body painting of the Amazon basin’s indigenous peoples.
Speto’s specific appropriation of the extant architectonic structure offers independent visual spaces of experience and pictorial arrangements along the orthogonal lines of sight. With the line of sight shifting, alternating pictorial constellations unfold their fascination between figurative iconicity and ornamental abstraction.
Text: Roman Tschiedl
Subway pillars of the U2 line between Trabrennstraße and Stella-Klein-Löw-Weg, 1020 Wien
* 1971 São Paulo, lives and works in São Paulo (BR).
WIENER LINIEN, VIERTEL ZWEI