Hélio Oiticica: Tropicália

Oiticica uses visual and sensorial methods to engage the audience in art that not only allows you to physically participate, but reflect upon intellectually–connecting people with nature through the sensorial observation of one’s environment, Oiticia use of sound and texture gives the participant a deeper understanding of the true culture in which represents Brazil a culture in which he would later predict to become a product of a fetishized interpretation of what it truly represents.

In both pieces Rijanviera and Tropicália, Oticia uses the organic form: rocks, gravel, sand and water to produce his installation as an “experimental image field” this experience gives the participant physical means to bridge connections between environment and the meditative experience in societies that are desensitized by mass production and colonialism, ultimately eliminates a greater intellectual connection required to create a new means of artistic and political  language through Brazilian elements. (178)

In his earlier years, Oiticia spent time crafting homologous work with a typical pop and op art narrative which contained the geometric and pluralist performance of both abstract optical and minimalist reference. Although these works were well crafted, he soon discovered that the “all consuming” nature of popular culture — a general cultural main stream from the United States was an overwhelming art movement at its present time–principals in which perpetuated a European fetishization of Black and Indigenous-brazilian cultural norms–although these former movements were intended to reject them. His purpose to acknowledge the preservation of Black and Indigenous history was in response to the counter culture that would take place in the late 1960’s to 1970’s and how popular culture itself had a large impression and impact on it as a social and political movement. This can be seen in his piece CC5 Hendrix-War. Oiticica seems to explore the relation of Black culture and perception in the United States to the miscegenation in Brazilian communities. Through the use of  tribal representations he reflects on the violence that has been imposed on disenfranchised communities and throws them in the face of the typically placid, White viewer.

In his piece Parangolé he uses his experiences exploring the culture in favelas and the “outer- edges” of society to reflected how specific cultures, ideas and beliefs are usually overlooked and misinterpreted because they are forms of second-hand knowledge when compared to first-hand experience. Oiticica’s own personal experience exploring the everyday life of the  favela contests to the lively expression he used through his intense studies of samba, and the afro-Brazilian heritage that it was connected to.


Manifesto Antropófago

Cannibalism can be defined as consuming all or part. In one perspective the idea of cannibalism can be a representation of how the product of popular culture consumes itself or its ideals while only taking part of what is represented and leaving the rest it does not understand, or in the same thought, consuming all of, but never fully understanding it. A comparison to consuming the entirety of something because of a shortage of what is needed. Oticia uses this as a platform to give his audience an opportunity to consume a more natural and organic perspective as this is what they need, this which is in fact the experience itself that they do not consume or become consumed by.

“Bourgeois, sub intellectuals, cretins, of every kind, preaching ‘Tropicalism’ Tropicália (it’s become fashionable!) –in short, transforming into an object of consumption something which they cannot quite identify” (179)

Although he uses these sensorial elements, the purpose was to help the participant to see past the “myth” of miscegenation–a perception of what was assumed to be “Brazilian” life and culture based in European and Aryanism principals and to enact a deeper knowledge of how the visual and textural experience should be focused on the characteristics of the Brazilian condition. “The concept of Tropicália, presented at the exhibition ‘New Objectivity’ in April 1967, came directly from this fundamental need to characterize a Brazilian condition” (177). This condition was not just fantasies of ‘parrots and banana trees’ but the tactile-sensorial experience that could be consumed while the viewer was being consumed by the work itself.



Frank, Patrick, ed. Readings in Latin American Modern Art.177-179.

New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004.

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