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Friday, June 9 • 4:30pm - 4:50pm
Art making against social constraints: the practices of the Brazilian multidisciplinary artist Ana Lira

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The 21st century might bring about yet another renewed conception of art, as practitioners from countries and communities that once suffered under colonization emerge on the international art scene. More often than not, because they address their condition and the context of their art making, their artistic practices also aim at fighting social injustice more or less explicitly.
The Brazilian multidisciplinary artist Ana Lira (b. 1977) exemplarily embodies such a reflexive, politically-minded kind of art making, pushing against or subverting social constraints while exploring more subtle, and arguably more empowering, ways of bringing about social change than other artists-turned-activists.
Indeed, our frequentation and analysis of Lira’s work reveal the possibility of art making being “critical making”: when ideas materialize through mediums and processes, and lead to often stimulating discussion as the artistic output prompts viewers and/or participants to question social norms and engage in critical social reflection.
In Ana Lira’s endeavors, three themes–or strategies–emerge, demonstrating how her art making potentially transforms her working conditions and that of her fellow artists. These themes are the use of collective work as a mediation process to challenge hierarchies and power relations; the articulation of assistance, training, and education for other artists; the active–and subversive–redirection or redesign of the (Brazilian) art system.
Consciously departing from the traditional, historical, or commonplace conception of the artist as an isolated genius, Ana Lira actively favors multidisciplinary collaboration and collective actions, taking great care to establish non-hierarchical relationships in the production of her work. This stance is evidently rooted in her personal experience as a person of Afro-diasporic origin, and her awareness of the persistence of structural discrimination in both Brazilian society and the art world.
In particular, the artist herself links contemporary obstacles to historical colonial dynamics, especially in regard to the limited access of artists of black descent to artistic spaces and opportunities. Moreover, the delegitimization of specific forms of expression hinders the form, content, and reach of their artistic expression overall.
To work at and around these pitfalls, first and foremost, she highlights the poetic and transformative power of cultural expressions of the non-white communities instead of only focusing on constraints originating from systemic inequality. Furthermore, she addresses active exclusion and marginalization in “practical” ways, acknowledging if not centering her collaborators in her projects; redirecting resources through personal negotiation or public revendication; using her position and leverage as a fairly renowned artist to promote and perform renewed ways of making art and working in the art field as she brings social practices to institutional contexts–and reciprocally–through her art.
The proposed paper–drawing from semi-structured interviews carried out with the artist in 2022 as well as from primary and secondary data and literature–further examines her work processes and the way she addresses constraining conditions and devises alternatives aiming at improving them. We will explore how and to what extent Ana Lira’s art practices actually function as powerful tools and opportunities to mitigate social injustice, and how they offer seminal examples of critical thinking materialized through art.


Rafhaela Luvison Perlin

Universita Tor Vergata

Friday June 9, 2023 4:30pm - 4:50pm EDT