Outros Navios: photos by Eustáquio Neves (Other Ships: Photographs by Eustáquio Neves) is the title of the comprehensive survey exhibition that reviews almost 40 years of work by artist Eustáquio Neves (Juatuba, MG, Brazil, 1955) at Sesc Ipiranga in São Paulo. Referring to the tumbeiros or “Floating Graves” – European cargo ships that transported thousands of enslaved people from the African continent to Brazil up until the 19th century – the title of the exhibition also names the photographer’s most recent series of works. The series, through the overlaying of photographs taken in urban centers, places in a contemporary context the evidence of structural racism and symbolic violence against blacks, which still exist as a major evil in Brazilian society.
The photographer of African descent from the state of Minas Gerais has been creating an oeuvre since the late 1980s that he himself describes as autobiographical – alluding to his origins and life experiences. His work mainly reflects the memory of slavery as seen in the series Valongo: Cartas ao Mar (Valongo: Letters to the Sea) or about the place of the black person in Brazilian society, as in the series Boa aparencia (Good behaviour). According to Neves: “We lived as slaves in Brazil for almost four centuries. But to this day, 129 years after the abolition of slavery, we remain invisible to a large white majority who seem to believe the country was made exclusively for them.”
The current show is curated by Eder Chiodetto (São Paulo, SP, 1965), one of the most important specialists in contemporary photography in Brazil. It primarily shows photographs and films, but also drawings, writing, stamps, excerpts from documents and newspapers, and collages. Also on display are film negatives, acetate sheets, stencils, studies of color palette and textures, materials and tools that document the artist’s creative process. According to Chiodetto, Eustáquio’s degree in chemistry was essential in that his work was informed by intensive experiments in analogue photography, which “repeatedly lead to encounters, collisions and reactions between different materials and chemical baths to generate random events that define the repertoire of expand his poetic strategies”.
Neves cites Artur Bispo do Rosário (1909–1989)—who, like himself, was self-taught—as the first artist who inspired him to go beyond the production of traditional photographic images and to do what he calls “extended photography”. To this end, he developed techniques for superimposing images in the darkroom and for various interventions on them, thus confirming over the years their great poetic potential and originality. His series of works, created from the connection of strongly symbolic image levels, use different techniques and materials and create images that at the same time reflect the overlapping of historical and intimate times.
Outros Navios: photos by Eustáquio Neves is divided into three rooms and also displays other works scattered throughout the Sesc Ipiranga unit. Room 1 presents series that refer to the violence and silence perpetrated against enslaved people. In Room 2 we find the series dealing with resistance through ancestral know-how and affable rituals, along with various tools Neves uses in the studio. Finally, in Room 3 there is a video installation.
Thus, Eustáquio Neves’ production documents and discusses the black diaspora in Brazil, while also evoking and recreating the stories of this African ancestry based on aspects that make up daily life, with Brazil as a country with the largest black population outside of Africa, and where structural racism is a reality.
The show is part of the Diversos 22 project (Miscellaneous 22)composed of a series of actions organized by the Sesc São Paulo that contextualize the commemorations of Brazil’s independence, based on an updated and critical point of view.