Esqueleto [Skeleton]: A History of Rio

Art curator

Fred Coelho e Maurício Barros de Castro


Carlos Vergara, Edu Monteiro, Guga Ferraz, Gustavo Speridião, Hélio Oiticica, João Paulo Racy, Luiza Baldan, Marcos Chaves, Raïssa de Góes, Raul Mourão, Rona and Thaís Rocha

Exhibition date

13/04/2019 – 11/05/2019

Cities are made up of historical layers accumulated through time and space. These are urban contexts in which debris and traditions necessarily integrate with projects of the future. In Rio de Janeiro, however, much of the past has become a kind of ghost that wanders the present.

Popular memory, its immaterial ties and its architectures, rarely form an official future. In the voracity of destructive progress, hurried constructions crossed hills and embanked seas. Houses and lives were removed, knocked over, or simply abandoned for a new one, which quickly turned into a ruin.

On this path made of bricks, cement, arms, bureaucracy and bullets, there is the acute emptiness of the bodies that remained along the way. Effaced lives that still scream through the cracks in the soil and archives. The Favela do Esqueleto [Skeleton Favela], home of Cara de Cavalo [Horse Face], a place where Hélio Oiticica had friends and experiences, was occupied throughout the 1950s around the unfinished and abandoned building of an INPS hospital. Its growth transformed the landscape next to the Maracanã and in front of the hill of Mangueira. During the rule of Carlos Lacerda (1960-1965), it was summarily removed. Years later, it became the current site of UERJ.

From the name and history of the erasure of the favela, we exhibit in different formats and poetics, the city like a huge skeleton. It's material and immaterial spectra recorded here are traces that still pulsate in the senses of the present. Its lofts, its abandonment of bodies in timeless oppressions and its devouring constructions support this set of landscapes crossed out in the bones and the flesh of its inhabitants. The ghost town and, at the same time, the ghosts of the city.

If every culture-related document is a document of barbarism, the violence against hills, neighborhoods and houses in Rio de Janeiro is the funeral record of a scheduled extermination. To live this city is to assume a permanent body at risk. As whispers amid the chaos, art, politics and memory are ways of not forgetting the voices blowing in chorus: we are the skeleton of the skeleton of the skeleton of the skeleton ...

Maurício Barros de Castro and Fred Coelho

April 2019.