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textos sobre letícia

→ Arqueologia do cotidiano: objetos de uso, de André Parente e Katia Maciel

→ Alô, é a Letícia? de André Parente

→ A medida da casa é o corpo, de Katia Maciel

→ A videoarte de Letícia Parente, de Rogério Luz

→ A terceira via. Entrevista de Fernando Cochiaralle

→ Um mundo aparente, de Jorge La Ferla

→ Eu mundo de mim, de Clarissa Diniz

→ Persistência da consciência: marcas da identidade, de Cristina Tejo

→ Letícia Parente: a videoarte e a mobilização do corpo, de Claudio Costa

→ Retrato de Letícia Parente

 (caderno de Fernando Cocchiaralle - PDF, 1,5MB)

→ Medidas, por dentro e por forade Roberto Pontual (PDF, 56KB)

Hello, is it Leticia?

André Parente

Writing about Letícia is not an easy task for me. I’m her son, but also the son of her work. In fact, great part of what I do – whether artistic production or intellectual labor – somehow takes me to her work. On the other hand, I was not only an attentive witness to her work, I was a collaborator in very different levels, always present and interested: I’ve been a model, a cameraman, a photographer, a producer and also a co-author. For this reason, writing about her often produced in me a strange feeling of being writing about myself.

Letícia Parente’s work is little known both by critics and the general public. This is partially due to the fact that Media Art has hit the art scene in Brazil very recently. Even if we restrict Media Art to one of its main means of expression, video art, none of the major mainstream artists are video artists. Likewise, none of the mainstream critics produced a relevant text on video art in Brazil.

On the other hand, much of what was produced in Media Art in Brazil during the 1970’s has been lost. Most of the xerox and mail art works as well as video and video text works have been lost, whether because they were fragile material or due to the obsolescence of equipment or the unskillfulness of art institutions in Brazil (which include museums, art collectors and artists) with respect to archive. More than one third of Letícia’s videos have been lost, as she used to send her own matrixes to the exhibitions, since it was impossible to make copies of her works at that time2.

In general, Letícia’s work is known through her videos. However, video has not been her most important means of expression. She started in art late – when she was 40 (1971) – at the workshops of Ilo Krugli and Pedro Dominguez in Rio de Janeiro. After taking part in several group exhibitions and receiving a prize from Salão de Abril, she went back to Fortaleza and had her first solo exhibition in 1973 (Museu de Arte da Universidade do Ceará – MAUC) with a set of 29 prints. She moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1974 in order to take a doctoral degree and continued to attend art workshops. Among all her professors, the only one who has had an effect on her work was Anna Bella Geiger, from whom she inherited a kind of conceptual poetics (see Fernando Cocchiarale’s text, A Terceira Via [The Third Path]) in which the division between the visual and conceptual aspects of an artwork, art and life and art politics dissolves. In the end of 1974, some colleagues and former students of Anna Bella formed an art group which was decisive for her future work.

Between 1974 and 1982, that group became known as pioneer in video art in Brazil and was composed of Anna Bella Geiger, Fernando Cocchiarale, Sônia Andrade, Ivens Machado, Paulo Herkenhoff, Letícia Parente, Miriam Danowski, and Ana Vitória Mussi. It produced a series of videos which were shown in great part of the video art events in Brazil and abroad. In fact, video was only one of the means used among many others, such as photography, audio-visual (the projection of slides with sound), cinema, mail art, xerox, and installation.

The production of this group of artists, including Letícia, was key to the history of art and media in Brazil. Not only were they one of the pioneers in the use of those media, but their production also had an impact on their peers. Roberto Pontual normally considers them as part of what he came to call the 1970’s Generation (which includes, besides that group, Antônio Manuel, Ana Maria Maiolino, Cildo Meireles, Artur Barrio, João Alphonsus, Waltercio Caldas, Iole de Freitas, Tunga, and others), which is composed of experimental and/or conceptual artists who emerged concomitantly with the intensification of the crisis of the modernist and formalist repertoire as well as the emergence of new support and mediums for image production in Brazil (photography, cinema, audio-visual, graphic arts, mail art, xerox) and new spaces, including the experimental area of MAM [Museum of Modern Art] in Rio de Janeiro and MAC [Museum of Contemporary Art] in São Paulo.


Audio-visual played a role that has never been properly analyzed in the production of some artists in the 1970’s. Much has been told about Quasi-Cinema, by Hélio Oiticica and Neville d’Almeida, as it was not only an audio-visual experience, but also an audio-visual installation; however, very little is known about the experiences of other artists. According to Frederico Moraes – who is also the author of some audio-visual experiences – it was a proper means for documenting the artists’ obsessions and Brazilian problems, as in the case of a documentary.

Letícia performed about half dozen audio-visual works. In Eu Armário de Mim [I, Closet of Myself], she shows us a series of images from the same closet where household objects (white clothes, black clothes, spices, crumpled paper, seasoning, chairs, worship objects) and people (in one of them the five children are put in the cupboard) can be seen, forming at the same time a weird taxonomy and a miniature portrait of the house and the artist. At the same time we see the image of the objects that constitute this weird taxonomy, we can also hear the artist speak in the form of a prayer, the chorus of which is “Eu, armário de mim”. Just like in her other works (the xerox art series Casa, the video In), the images, objects and gestures of everyday life reveal us an “archeology of the present time” (Letícia).

Mail art

Letícia was deeply constructivist, that is, she believed that reality was the point of arrival, rather than the point of departure. Therefore, for her it was not about representing a preexistent reality, but using images to produce an effect of reality. Her xerox works include various series, the best known of which are Casa and Mulheres [Women’s House]. In those works, the artist intends to use the graphic codes at her disposal to talk about the women’s condition in our society. The house is more than merely a territory or a neutral space – it is the confluence of the signs and networks that constitute and form us.

In one of the images of the Casa [House] series, the artist proposes a city map which is composed of two cities (see image on page 50): the City of Bahia (the former name of Salvador) and Rio de Janeiro. This is Letícia’s imaginary city and it somehow anticipates the relational city, the city-network, the topological city, envisaged in the project of Nelson Brissac, Brasmitte, a project that connects the city of São Paulo to Berlin through the Brás and Mitte districts. Letícia was an artist whose thinking is topological, heterotopic: her house is made of various signs and codes, networks and relations.


The question of the body in art has been exhaustively discussed over the past years. In Brazil, it has been so since the “quasi-body” (the body as a problem) of Neoconcretism, which saw in the work of art an “extension of the body”, to the happenings and performances of the 1960’s, in which the artist’s body became one of the main characters through which the works eventually revealed themselves as a subjectivity production process. First and foremost, it is about showing that the body is by nature something that goes beyond the Cartesian, illuminist, Fordist and Taylorist models of rationality and discipline. The body is essentially related to production, desire, unconsciousness, something that always escapes the process of reification of the body as data, order or model. Moreover, the body is not space, since it is a process, not only because it reinvents itself continually, but also because it goes where our habits and desires go.

Much of Letícia’s work was based on that, a kind of Neo-Kantianism, whether structuralist or Bachelardian, in which the structure is a topological and virtual category, a pure condition of possibility of what we see, feel and do. Along the same lines, Letícia always sees the body or the house as privileged places to express at the same time the wall that separates what frees us from what imprisons us. In this sense, the xerox image of the pin, next to which “freedom, imprisonment” can be read, becomes important.

In other of her xerox works (see image on page 21), we can see a series of images of Brueghel’s paintings, in which the characters are somehow imprisoned, subjected, muzzled by baskets and cages. This is a recurring image in the artist’s work – for her, if art has a role it is because it leads us to rethink subjectivity processes.


One of the best known series of Letícia’s photographic work is Série 158 [Series 158], in which she appropriates images of faces of models in women’s magazines. She subjects the face images to deformation in order to make a more elongated face or the other way round (see image on page 55). This action is intended to trigger a problematization of characterological taxonomies, which tend to interpret the determinism of certain physical aspects over psychological aspects. Curiously, this work draws our attention to digital artists, who deformed faces using Photoshop (as in the case of Helga Stein’s work). In fact, Letícia’s work today shows us that deforming faces did not have any purely imagetic purpose; it was rather intended to start a problematization of the social models whereby a face is captured.

In another untitled photographic series – photos I have made from the artist’s body on her request and based on her ideas – Letícia subjects her body to several twists and tensions. Here, we clearly see that the body is no longer taken as a pacifying, Cartesian image. Thus, the body is no longer what separates the subject from the object, that is, the thought from itself, but it is something in which one should “dive” (diving in the body was the formula produced by Hélio Oiticica to exorcize Platonism, purism, modernist formalism) in order to connect the thought to what is outside it, as the unthinkable.

What is the unthinkable? First, it is the intolerable that leads to the silent cry of an involuntarily and silently tortured body; it is the despair that leads the artist to twist her or his body until it is deforms into useless, empty, unshaped gestures; it is the strange ceremony, which consists in forcing the body to free itself through unconventional attitudes; it is, above all, subjecting the body to a ceremony, dramatization or violence, like when the body tries to show itself in an impossible posture.


In the pioneers’ videos, generally performed in a single plan sequence, everyday gestures, performed like a ritual – going up and going down stairs, signing a name, putting on make-up, adorning, eating, playing telephone – are played in order to produce an image of the body. In them, the image is an inflection, a fold, but the fold goes through the body attitudes, a “dive into the body”. The question of the body comes back here as a concept or critical attitude, which is intended to cause us to think about the intolerable of the society in which we live. In Passagens [Passages] (1974), Anna Bella Geiger slowly goes up and down a staircase in a constant pace, like in a rite of passage; in Dissolução [Dissolution] (1974), Ivens Machado signs his name a hundred times until it dissolves; Sônia, in Sem Título [Untitled] (1975), goes into a trance as a way of reacting against the intolerable TV, which interferes with her meal; in A Procura do Recorte [In Search of a Frame] (1975), Miriam Danowski cuts little dolls in newspaper as a way of transmuting small gestures into transgressive rituals; in Estômago Embrulhado [Nauseated Stomach] Paulo Herkenhoff transforms the visceral act of eating into an ironic pedagogy of how to “digest information”; in a collective video, Telefone sem Fio [Wireless Phone] (1976), a group of artists arranged in a circle plays telephone while the camera turns around them and the viewer watches the transformation of information into noise, revealing – through a popular game – one of the main theoretical questions of communication (noise is part of the communication process and not only interference).

Letícia Parente’s work is marked with the idea of drawing from the body an image that gives us a reason to believe in the world we live in. Her videos are preparations and tasks through which the body reveals the models of subjectivity models that imprison. In Marca Registrada [Trademark] (1975), Letícia, based on a Brazilian game typical of the Northeast, sews on the sole of the foot with a needle and a thread the words, Made in Brasil, at the same time at which she reveals the reification of the individual, which is present in several of her videos; in the video In (1975), we can see the artist enter a cupboard as if she had turned into clothes; in Tarefa I [Task I] (1982), the artist lies down on an ironing board and a black women irons her clothes (the contrast between the black woman’s hands who is ironing the clothes, but whose face cannot be seen, and the white woman lying down on the ironing board makes this video a Tropicalist version of Manet’s painting); in the video, Preparação I [Preparation I], the artist gets ready to go out, but when she puts on her make-up she sticks an adhesive plaster to her eyes and her mouth, as if to show that her eyes and mouth are just a mask, dictated by conventions; in Preparação II {Preparation II] the artist applies a series of vaccines against prejudice (racism, cultural colonialism, the mystification of art, etc.).

These videos have many characteristics in common: all of them are performed in a household environment; the artist performs actions which are associated (almost all) to female chores (ironing, sewing, putting on make-up, etc.); none of them contain speeches; all of them are performed in plan-sequence. This made me think about the possibility of doing an installation where they could be projected side-by-side on a 20m wall so that the common aspects – the reification of the individual, the woman’s condition, the oppression of household chores and daily arrangements – could be maximized.

Some critics believe that both Letícia’s and her group’s works are like recordings of performances. That happens because the technical aspects of shooting and editing are relegated to a second place. In any case, what matters is that in the pioneers’ videos the camera and the footage act on the bodies and characters as a catalyzer. However, nowadays it becomes increasingly clear that video art works differentiate from other works in part because of a kind of dryness, almost an absence of decoupage and editing. In fact, there is a lack of knowledge about the history of cinema itself coupled with a certain colonized attitude. I do not believe that this could be said about Andy Warhol’s and Michael Snow’s films. Warhol’s single-gesture bodies (Sleep, Eat, Blow Job, Kiss) and the empty plans-sequence of Snow (the 45 minutes of zoom shots in Wavelength, the three hours of panoramic moves in La Région Central) are one of the main trends of experimental cinema, in a process of radicalization of the empty times from post-war cinema (Neorealism, Nouvelle Vague, New World Cinema).


Among all her works, the most expressive and current one is certainly the installation named Medidas [Measures]. First, Medidas embodies the main concepts and elements of Letícia’s work: the body, the face, the transformation of physical action and presence into cognitive action and mainly the problematization of subjectivity production models. Secondly, Medidas uses the main supports and means of expression used by Letícia throughout her career: photography, audio-visual, xerox, installation, among others. Evidently, the new means of image production are not, in Letícia’s case, determinant – in them, message is not the medium, as McLuhan would say – but they are certainly a condition. In my opinion, Medidas is the first great manifestation of art and science in Brazil.

The article written by Roberto Pontual on Medidas in Jornal do Brasil (24/06/1976), presents a quite interesting description of this exhibition. However, a variety of questions should be subject to an in-depth analysis. One of them refers to the manner in which Letícia approaches a structuralist strategy, in particular Michel Foucault, of denaturalizing the body, considering the body as something that is produced by biopolitical forces. The interesting thing about structuralist thinking – which is a discussion of the apparatus (dispositif) par excellence – is that it seeks to address the fields of power and the relations that constitute the subjects and signs of the cultural systems beyond their psychological (personality) and metaphysical (signification) characteristics. The structuralist thinking is relational, though it has some traces from idealism, whether because it believes in essential structures and forms a priori (for instance, incest and castration for psychoanalysis and anthropology), whether because it believes in the homogeneity of the elements that constitute the structure (they are of the same nature).

According to Foucault, an apparatus has three levels of assemblage: 1) a heterogeneous set of discourses, architectonic forms, propositions and strategies of knowledge and power, subjective dispositions and cultural inclinations, etc.; 2) the nature of the connection among these heterogeneous elements; 3) “episteme” or discursive formation in the broad sense, resulting from the connection among the elements. In fact, Foucault’s conception system is fully contemplated in the etymology of the word “apparatus” (dispositif).

An apparatus is found provided that the relation among heterogeneous elements (enunciative, architectonic, technological, institutional, etc.) helps produce in the social body a kind of subjectivity effect, whether of normality or deviation (Foucault), territorialization or de-territorialization (Deleuze), pacification or intensity (Lyotard). In Letícia’s case, the measures are produced in order to cause on the visitors’ body an effect of unveiling of social apparatuses. In this sense, she creates a situation, an interactive apparatus (actually a set of apparatuses) for measuring the body. It is by no means a way of making the visitor (here, the viewer is no longer a viewer, he or she is an “interactor” in the strictest sense of the word) know his or her body. The strategy is rather to unveil the work, concealed by the productive system, whereby we produce our body by trying to adapt to the models derived from the system by virtue of its knowledge, power and subjectivity production strategies (the three main axes of Foucault’s approach).

In reality, Letícia’s exhibition deals with two basic strategies: an apparatus for mobilizing the viewer (who acts in the sensory- motor level, that is, perceptive, physical, emotional actions) so as to accomplish the measurements requested, and on the other hand, an unveiling process, designed to lead us to realize little by little that the acts we perform in the sensory-motor level result in the belief that our body is natural, when it is actually the result of a permanent negotiation among the system models (rules, prescriptions, discipline, the concept of health and what is or is not good for the body, and rationality and body functionality models) and our own desires. It is essentially an art and science exhibition to the extent that it awakens in visitors a confrontation between their bodies and particular desires and scientific (or pseudoscientific) models, which set the rules and prescriptions designed to balance the relation between risk and pleasure on our bodies. As opposed to art and science manifestations in general, here science is unveiled in the sense that it is not neutral; it is the field par excellence for the production of subjectivity. Therefore, as opposed to great part of the artists, who use science to produce art (but in most art and science works science plays a leading role in the work, in a totally apathetic way), Letícia makes art a way to free us from a certain scientific view.

Finally, I would like to thank Daniela Bousso for inviting me to hold this exhibition at Paço das Artes. I would also like to thank Paço das Artes’ team and friends, in particular Angela Santos and Marcelo Amorim, as well as my colleagues Fernando Cocchiarale, Marisa Flórido, Cristiana Tejo, Daniela Castro, Cláudio da Costa and Katia Maciel for accepting the invitation to write about Letícia Parente’s work.

1 It’s a sentence found in one of Leticia Parente’s videos, The Call (1978), considered lost. In the artist’s own description: “The artist comes into an apartment, gets to a room where a sound recorder and a phone are placed on a table. She records on tape the question “Hello, is it Leticia?” She repeats the question several times, stops the recording, rewinds the tape. He sets up the recorder once more, and lets the question echoing. She calls her own telephone and lets the speaker near the recorder. Leaves the apartment, goes down the stairs, gets to the street, goes down the slope, enters her own building, goes up the stairs, arrives to her apartment door, opens the door with a key, hears the telephone ringing, picks it up, listens to her own recorded voice asking “Hello, is it Leticia?”. She answers “Yes, it’s Leticia”.
2 This incident motivated her to make 2 copies of her video Trademark, one B&W (1975) the other in color (1980). Actually, the matrix of the first one had been accounted as lost in CAYC screening in Argentina, having been found years later.

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