Annelies Vaneycken in Repórter sem beiras – or the other is you

Annelies Vaneycken_Wall Journal_2012_Reporter-sem-Beiras
Annelies Vaneycken. Wall Journal_2012/ Reporter sem Beiras Project

Annelies Vaneycken in Repórter sem beiras – or the other is you
Daniela Labra

“Observe the observed observer”
(W. Burroughs)

Many readers have probably never set foot on Brazilian
soil. Clearly the theme discussed in this show — everyday
life in the Brazilian favelas — is a foreign urban experi-
ence. Apart from being geographically distant, this real-
ity bends and recreates the European infuence that was
engrained in Brazil with the arrival of the Portuguese royal
family in 1808.

It is also unlikely that you are familiar with the events of
the second half of the nineteenth century and the role of
the country’s intellectual elite in the years following in-
dependence. Inspired by the ideas of the Enlightenment,
they supported the project of constructing a rising tropi-
cal Continent-Nation, a nation which excluded the poorest
members of society, emancipated slaves and women. This,
it seems, is what prevented the future development of a
modern, socially-inclusive country. It also led to other prob-
lems, such as the phenomenon of today’s urban favelas.

The favelas are areas of paradox and poverty where of-
fcial power is subverted. They are also places where new
aesthetics and economic paradigms are being created and
invented. In order to understand how things work here,
one needs to experience these contrasting regions from an
insider’s perspective, i.e. from the perspective of the favela
dwellers themselves.

At a time of global economic crisis, Brazil, with its human
and natural resources, has been rising politically in the in-
tense panorama of international capitalism and degraded
ecosystems. It has been trying to be seen as a territory
of miscegenation, ofering strategies for overcoming and
resisting hegemonic nations in decline.

In this sense, “improvising” Brazilian style has become
an inside trademark and cliché. It is used both as a frst
and last resource and ofers real, positive possibilities for
production in times of adversity. But it also generates the
problem of believing in the “temporary-permanent” where
unfnished public and private situations end up becoming
ultimate solutions. In a way, the favela is the achievement
of this peculiar Brazilian operational means.

“Repórter sem Beiras”, developed by designer Annelies
Vaneycken, began as a “social design” project that deals
with stigmatized populations and the negative percep-
tion attributed to them by society. Looking to transform
through visual communications, and uncomfortable with
the established, commercial side of graphic design, she
decided to create a series of graphic pieces with poor
communities in Brazil.

Vaneycken is interested in deconstructing social roles that
have become cultural identity clichés. For this reason, she
spent long periods of time inside communities in Rio de
Janeiro and Recife where she conducted workshops in
visual communications. The news articles she worked on
addressed simple questions raised in the favelas by the
people themselves. Issues like misery and violence, so of-
ten the focus of the media, were not among them.

Annelies Vaneycken works as an information (and empow-
erment) communicator for those who have no access to
any form of media. Despite the risk that these practices
involve — in terms of confning the object that is being
studied in an ethnographic vision — she deals with un-
known logistics carefully in order to study them without
moral judgement.

For Vaneycken, outsiders occupy a central position in the
study, and she describes herself as one of the “Others”.
By admitting her own inadequacy in the periphery of the
world’s periphery, she avoids all posturing (which could
diminish the poetic and political objective of her work) and
the temptation to use clichés that are close-minded and
‘aestheticise’ the media. In this sense, there is no “Other”
in her work — just you and us.

Rio de Janeiro, October, 2011

Reporter Sem Beira Project_fotodossier


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