For those who will come after: the road to the future can only be unlocked by the past.

Tariq Ali


Recently I’ve read an article which said that in the future the human race will experience some changes as part of the evolution process. The anthropologist who wrote the text predicted that we will have bigger eyes, longer extremities and a much shorter memory. I wonder if we could bare having no memories.

Neoliberal systems and society in general seem to have no remorse in ignoring our recent past as if a convenient amnesia occludes it. Politicians and other members of the social “game” are reluctant to go back to some aspects of our history as if this was something you can not mention in order not to awaken “the beast” or perhaps and more likely it’s all about not disturbing our fragile consciousness. Still, the trouble remains there, these past realities must be, at a certain point, never forgotten, they are part of what we are now and we should learn from them, we built our society over the past ruins of our deeds, but also over the achievements we have made.

In 1977 Walter Zanini invited Gabriel Borba [São Paulo, 1942] in order to make a new project for a recently opened new area within the Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de Sao Paulo [MAC USP] which was called Espaço B, an space dedicated to experimental proposals and less conventional projects. It was Zanini who in this same building a year before opened a section of video-art which later made it possible that some of the artists close to the institution produced their work in these laboratories of experimentation. A new area which opened up new ways for the arts in Brasil and also helped the artists with the production of their own works. At that moment Brasil was under a totalitarian government, making, as seen now with some perspective, all these interventions and actions which were really courageous and important in order to shape the future of the modern culture in Brasil.

Nós was the second exhibition presented at the Espaço B, a project envisioned by Gabriel Borba as a window where to show the drift of his work over the past ten years. But Nós also gathered the real concern of the artist regarding the difficult situation he experienced during those years characterized by a lack of freedom and democracy. Therefore he developed in this project a strong position and a tough political statement against the senseless violence and the subsequent forced silence imposed by the dictatorial regimes.

Although the work is a direct result of the conflicts the artist went through in this period ruled by fear, it also encompasses violence in a broader sense, as Gabriel Borba was perfectly aware of the social and political situation in Spain during Franco’s dictatorship. Among other things he was deeply impressed by the assassination of Salvador Puig Antich, a crime which directly influenced the very first version of Nós in 1975 [a small work on paper included in the collective folder of TRAMA and in which the artist appears tied against a garrote like the spanish activist].

But the installation made in 1977 at the Espaço B was mainly inspired by two facts: one was the assassination of Gabriel Borba’s closest friends and acquaintances during the most violent part of the dictatorial period, and the other was the remembrance of a short french film the artist saw years before at the Aliance Française in São Paulo, in which a convicted prisoner was invaded by some personal mementos [in a dreamy like scene], past images of calm, comforting memories of love and beauty while he was in fact waiting to be hung at the gallows. Brief moments of happiness that just crossed his mind before its death.

Nós states this urgency to liberate the mind from the bonds of a regime that limitited and hurt so much and so many. A real yearning for liberty and a painful ode to injustice but also a poetic vivid call to any one who still feels that these stated ideas are/were also theirs.

*Nós in Portuguese means “We” and also “Knots”.