191.4 Xapolhim's concrete steps: An artist-flâneur challenges the "shock of order"

Wednesday, August 1, 2012: 3:06 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Raphael SOIFER , Science of Art/Contemporary Studies of Art, Universidade Federal Fluminense , Niterói, Brazil
Xapolhim, a poet, graffiti artist, musician, and anarcho-punk activist, utilizes interactive street art practices to challenge gentrification and the violent urban reforms of Rio de Janeiro’s “Shock of Order” campaign.  As local government privatizes public space, expels residents from their homes, and severely restricts the city’s vibrant networks of street life, Xapolhim’s artistic productions stimulate creative encounters between Rio’s urban space and people who inhabit it.  Drawing on the work of Michel de Certeau, this article examines Xapolhim’s trajectories through the city as artistic actions in their own right and his artistic actions as “microbial practices” that encourage the collaborative exploration and resignification of public space.

The article views the “Shock of Order” initiative as a spectacular codification of space and social relations.  Using Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle, it analyzes the production of an urban environment whose inhabitants are relegated to receiving passively the new “order” imposed on their city, a literal and metaphoric cartography that seeks to reduce spaces and social practices to easily understood and controlled forms. As a counterpoint, the article presents collaborative artistic creation – as understood by Augusto Boal and Nicolas Borriaud – as a potential key for reclaiming agency and understanding the city’s complexity.  Xapolhim’s artistic production, therefore, serves not only as a challenge to the newly established order, but also as a breeding ground for transgressive forms of social contact and the construction of temporary communities.

As local government attempts to permanently transform Rio de Janeiro in anticipation of the future mega-events, Xapolhim’s artistic practices privilege a temporary understanding of community, as in Hakim Bey’s “Temporary Autonomous Zones” and Joseph Roach’s “behavioral vortices.”  These groupings, however impermanent, stimulate in their practitioners a complex social memory that fuses present action with past experience, thereby challenging the forceful implementation of an “ordered” future.