MATRIX 252 presents a selection of videos by São Paolo–based artist Anna Maria Maiolino (b. 1942), whose multidisciplinary practice has over the past half-century explored the viscerality of embodied experience, often obliquely through fragmentation and abstraction. Maiolino moved from her native Italy to Brazil in 1960, living first in Rio de Janeiro where she became involved with the New Figuration and, later, Neo-Concrete movements, working closely alongside artists such as Lygia Clark, Antonio Dias, Hélio Oiticica, and Lygia Pape. By the 1970s, when Neo-Concrete artists were engaging with the social and political issues of their time, the Brazilian military dictatorship (which assumed power in 1964 and lasted for over twenty years) had reached its bleakest period, and its resultant brutality became a subject for Maiolino’s work.
This exhibition features a group of four videos, originally shot on Super 8 film, from the 1970s and early 1980s that use the body to express the experience of living under an oppressive regime. In In-Out (Antropofagia) (1973) we see a close-up of two mouths—one male, one female—attempting to communicate while obstructed by various objects (tape, an egg, and string). The title derives from Oswald de Andrade’s important 1928 Manifesto Antropófago (Cannibal Manifesto), which grounds Brazilian modernism in the cannibalization and inventive reprocessing of other cultural and linguistic influences. In two subsequent works, X and Y (both 1974), we see more close-up shots of faces; in the former eyes are imperiled by snapping scissors, and in the latter they are blindfolded while the mouth emits a cry. In each of these works, the human body struggling to find a mode of expression becomes a metaphor for living under censorship and political repression.