The transforming power of arts through the eyes of our collaborators
Q&A with Marcelo Mattos
“I think art transforms people, transforms relations, therefore it transforms the world.”
During Transform and even previously, there has been many partnerships between public culture institutions and British institutions (Tate Gallery and Pinacoteca do Estado, supported David Bowie exhibition at MIS, International Museums Academy amongst many others). What is the importance of these collaborations to Brazilian institutions?
I think that the culture area has an inclination for the exchange with institutions from other countries that can bring and always brings many significant benefits. I believe that the artistic creation’s dynamic and its production demands and feeds off of this exchange. This is indeed an experience where there's an exchange of something that has been developed by both sides, and not simply the passive acceptance of a certain way of doing things or an assimilation of the British experience. This exchange promotes interaction, presentations, experiences and advancing for both sides in the way they are built. All activities within a culture have this nature, therefore thinking about this in an international perspective is always very productive. My evaluation of this strategy is very positive, and I think it has great potential. What seems very significant to me is that the British Council's action, through Transform, creates an institutional structure which obviously contributes, facilitates, enables these experiences and systematizes these exchanges.
The Secretary of Culture of the State of São Paulo – SEC and the British Council have also been partners in training and capacity building projects in the areas of Musical Education, Museums Development and promoting Accessibility and Human Rights. How do you evaluate the role of these initiatives in medium and long terms?
Look, I think that in this area of exchanges there are more immediate, concrete actions, such as supporting exhibitions, concerts, and of course they're important. But in my opinion the most important and productive investment should be precisely in the educational area, for being an investment that has bigger potential for larger, more consistent results, even on medium and long terms because it'll precisely focus on people who participated in these experiences who will then act as multipliers of what has been learned. I think that these educational actions should be our highest priority, because of this potential of expansion, dissemination and long term development.
In the context of Accessibility and Human Rights, the Unlimited network was created, increasing access to culture for people with disabilities but has also enabling them to take centre stage in their shows. Trainings with British institutions were also offered to improve accessibility in our culture spaces. What must still be done in the sense of changing social perception and attitude towards the population with disabilities?
The accessibility universe is one of the biggest challenges nowadays for the culture sector, at least in my vision of the Brazilian scene. I think there have been many advances in the matter of physical accessibility – today we have legislations that in a generally guarantee accessibility within our cultural spaces. The big challenge, the next step, is what we in São Paulo call 'Communicational Accessibility', which is exactly the development or the use of different strategies that are necessary to guarantee full access to the cultural product for disabled people in all ranges of limitations, whether cognitive of physical. Another matter that is also extremely important is working with disabled people as creators, as artists, recognizing their creative abilities and ensuring the means for these different creative processes to develop. I think that in this area of accessibility, and for ensuring Human Rights there has been a large synergy between our vision for the cultural filed in the State of São Paulo and the actions from different British institutions. The British Council adopted this synergy through the exchange in both communicational accessibility and the recognition and nurturing of disabled artists. They were extremely rich, very exciting experiences - some personally I must say - and I believe above it all that they demonstrate how art has this ability to put the creators in tune with those enjoying these creations, regardless of any barriers, whether it's language or physical and cognitive restrictions. Art finds the means to overcoming all of them. This part of the exchange was very satisfying and stimulating for it gave visibility to this very important and unrecognised universe.
What has been the British Council's and Transform's role in the development of the public cultural institutions in the past years? What were their effects?
I think all these partnerships that the British Council enabled through Transform were, at least in the context of the Secretary of Culture of the State of São Paulo and mainly in these three areas – museums, musical education and accessibility - very important and yielded great contributions. It's important to highlight the longevity of this programme, maybe one of the greatest challenges in the cultural area today. One of the weaknesses that we have faced are these short-lived the actions, which obviously are important but without a shadow of doubt the possibility of a permanent programme like Transform and the repeated partnerships (like the attendance of professionals from British museums at the Paulista Museums Meeting), which took place in 2014, 2015 and 2016, the technical visits that museum directors from São Paulo made to the British institutions and the technical visits that British directors and professionals made to the Brazilian museums), this possibility of a programme that develops over time creates solidity and potential for deepening our discussions and reflections that bring much more productive and consistent results than an isolated action. To me that is the big differential Transform and British Council's activities brought in the last years. This intelligent vision of developing a regular programme, systematized over time which allows depth and the developing of these actions within a more solid perspective.
Was there any moment through the program that particularly impressed you?
Some actions connected to accessibility, especially in terms of development of creative actions by disabled people, have a very intense emotional load for they introduce us the potential, the beauty and at the same time the difficulty, the scale of the work and the will that is required for these creations to become real. Without a doubt, all these moments offer you very strong emotional experiences. I have a very profound connection with museums, so in this field I recall many of the lectures from directors and professionals from British museums that I attended in São Paulo and they showed a common identity of problems and challenges, and of how we're all part of the same set of great challenges in the museum area. It's delightful to discover new strategies that will respond to these common challenges. There were also many personal emotional moments as well. I became very fond of Katherine Zeserson's work in the musical educational area. It was wonderful to see how in just a few minutes she can establish a synergy between the students and something that seems so complex at first suddenly becomes so evident. It's an extremely solid reflection about the role of musical education in the construction of individualities. All these projects had very emotional moments for me.
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