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before the urban "spawing"

When I was invited by Funarte to run an urban intervention workshop as part of the Contemporary Challenges   action program in Porto Velho, Rondonia, I drew up my schedule for it. I came back from London a week before and did everything possible so that the work would fit into my available time.

Why so? I have been around this Lord’s world… 22 Brazilian states and 26 countries. In my imagination, Rondonia was a memory of Ieda, a co-worker from the INPS (Social Security) office in São Paulo city back in the 70’s when the idea of transforming the former territory into a state was being consolidated. It was a so far away and so different place described by Ieda that  Rondônia was in my mind as the foreign place where my friend had come from.

Lots of things have happened in my life since then.  I entered university, graduated on art, started my art work and travelled around the world.

While I was preparing the workshop material, besides remembering the foreign-Ieda Rondonia, I realized that Porto Velho was more unknown and mysterious to me than Paris or Berlin. What Urban Art history would I tell about? Should I take the “Southern or European wonderful references”?  Actually, interventions in urban places have been unique in each and every city. It does not work as a formula/way/mold. So, every try on preparing the material looked faked to me as stating the defense of a neocolonialism and hierarchical knowledge armor.

I chose to empty out the information I had in mind and I arrived in the city free to any experiment, as an empty glass/body so that I would really see the city, exchange knowledge with the people at the workshop in Ivan Marrocos Culture Center.  And so that happened; a hierarchy free exchanging of knowledge.

Those were five days of work, talks, good encounters, walking around the city.

On the third day, the “Urban Spawning “ came up to the workshop while we discussed about the possible intervention spaces at the streets of Porto Velho. We started talking about a suggested work at the ferry that connects the city to the other edge of the river; starting from the ferry, we talked about the bridge, the plant, the replacement of the river population, the bridgehead, the allotment and the new occupation of the edge.

The construction of the Madeira river plant destroyed the waterfall where the fish spawning took place. Then the idea of bringing the fish to the city was brought up and involved the participants of the workshop.

We considered that the word Piracema (Spawning) poetically summarized the problems that happened because of the river deviation caused by the construction of the plant and the occupation of the land at the left edge of the river.

We chose the place of the intervention: the Getulio Vargas Square in front of the State Govern House.  That is the square where swallows perform their yearly flight similar to the fish spawning.  It is an outstanding phenomenon. Using the same place seemed to be the perfect metaphor; occupying along with the swallows that, alive in the air, perform an immense ballet reminding us the expressive strength of Nature.

The “Urban Piracema” was drawn on the ground with stencil. Hundreds of fish climbed up the stairs of the square heading to the Govern House.

Rondonia was not a foreign place for me anymore. Porto Velho exists concretely now and there is much to be done in there. The view from Google Earth gives us the idea of a city “created by an American industrialist who exploited wood”.

The tourist attractions and the official monuments portrayed the Western taste and no Indian people are considered as part of the development of the city.

The plurality and joining of the history events seen closely is much richer than the view seen from far away. Other stories should be told on social networks, creating a different view from Porto Velho and setting up other “knowledge exchanging moments”. This is a very long topic to talk about, but not now or here. Certainly “Urban Piracema” will be taken some other times by artists from Porto Velho and it will have the city flooded.

São Paulo, November 21th, 2013

Néle Azevedo


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