Anna Bella Geiger (b. 1933, Rio de Janeiro) is one of Brazil’s most important living artists. Belonging to the first generation of conceptual artists in South America, Geiger’s truly experimental practice includes pioneering video work, innovative printmaking, performance, installations and painting. Her multidisciplinary oeuvre draws on scientific, philosophical and spiritual sources in order to critically examine the sociopolitical context of Brazil.
Geiger has explored contemporary national debates around culture, identity and history in her work since the early 1970s. Her profound study of physical and geographic space led her to investigate the historical procedure of mapping. Referred to as “geo-poetry,” her work constitutes a formal play that fuses the visual language of cartography with the malleability of language and soft, fluid materials, while also incorporating the fragmentation of graphic and video techniques. The artist’s far-reaching deconstructions of the world map trace the relationship between image, territory and power, and inevitably includes reflections on Western modernity and its exclusions and stereotypes. She developed these issues further in series devoted to the art system and the position of the artist.
Native Brazil / Alien Brazil takes its title from Geiger’s emblematic work of 1976/77 that departs from a series of postcards showing the indigenous peoples of Brazil. Their staged poses are indicative of the idealised image of an “authentic” Brazil that was propagated by the military dictatorship (1964–1985). By depicting herself and family members in recreations of these scenes, the artist exposed the ethnographic gaze and its comprehension of race, class and identity. As in various other works, these appropriations articulate postcolonial, feminist and ecological questions that have lost none of their contemporary relevance.
This exhibtion is co-organized by Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand (MASP) and the Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art, Ghent (S.M.A.K.). It is the first retrospective dedicated to the work of Anna Bella Geiger. Featuring over 180 artworks made over a period of six decades—from the 1960s to the present day—it provides a comprehensive overview of the artist’s multifaceted oeuvre.
Native Brazil / Alien Brazil is accompanied by an extensive catalogue with texts by Danilo Santos Miranda, Bernardo Mosqueira, Zanna Gilbert, Estrella de Diego, Philippe Van Cauteren, Gabriela de Laurentiis, Tomás Toledo and an interview with Anna Bella Geiger by Adriano Pedrosa.