PRINT May 2014

Renata Lucas

Perimetral Highway, Rio de Janeiro, August 17, 2013. Photo: Renata Lucas.

THERE ISN'T A DAY like another in Rio de Janeiro. First there were the construction sites, the forced evictions, and the devastation of entire blocks in the city’s port area and surroundings. Now there is the building-and-implementation phase of the so-called Porto Maravilha, a major undertaking associated with such international corporations as Tishman Speyer, the Trump Organization, and Westfield Group: an ambitious plan to drastically change the architectural and human landscape of the city. The project is transforming an entire region of predominantly lower-class housing—neglected by the government for years—into luxury towers, hotels, and shopping malls. Rio is proud to announce that with money from the private sector, it has achieved what it couldn’t have before. But the city seems to be acting as a lab for capital, where an accelerated process of privatization has meant a lack of public participation and a weakened civil society. Reacting to this hygienist policy of aggressive gentrification, the city has been swept by protests.


There are also new museums in the redevelopment program. The Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow), currently under construction, advances like an immense white body on the sea. Dedicated to technology, it has been designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. The Museu de Arte do Rio, with its poetic acronym MAR (sea), was designed to exhibit the main private art collections of Rio. Painted white, as if to match Calatrava’s museum, MAR was the first to be completed; it is housed in a former bus station and police hospital constructed in the 1940s and a neighboring early-twentieth-century building. The decision to use these structures was made in only a few days, and many bus passengers were surprised by the unexpected disappearance of their station, which moved a few blocks away overnight. The new building is like a hologram: Looking at its white skin, recently applied, one still seems to see the old bus station made out of brown tiles.


At the same time, a disembodied museum is built on air, for a body passing diagonally across the city, transgressing the orthogonal trajectories of urban movement, for a man who meanders through the cracks: the Museum of the Diagonal Man. It could be embodied according to the same method as MAR, falling into some existing architectural entity—from time to time, materializing itself in a corner or in a slot of any given space. MAR shows that white paint in itself already accomplishes the transformation of one thing into another. I am likewise looking for niches for fleeting and fractured acts: an entryway, a sidewall, a spiral staircase, a modernist window. Everything serves to compose a museum in fragments, which merges with the landscape itself.

Renata Lucas is an artist based in Rio de Janeiro. This text forms part of her project The Museum of The Diagonal Man (2013–).