August 26, 2014
I’m guessing it’s about 10:30 am by the time we leave the apt and it already feels like a hot day. We stop for juices next to the bus stop and then take a collective taxi to Av. Getulio Vargas. We still have to walk a way but it brings us closer to our starting point. Just as we approach Av do Contorno, I see a black and white polka dotted dress on a mannequin outside of a used clothing store. Remembering our no stopping into stores before our excursions lesson but very tempted by the dress, I look to Pilar for a sign. She’s generally supportive of shopping, and gives me the go-ahead to try it on. Through a narrow corridor and winding steps there’s an upstairs loft area filled with clothes. After going back to get Pilar, we end up leaving with a whole bag full of purchases. The women who work in the store are all very sweet, and invite us to come back again.
Back outside, we approach the Contorno right at the point of the large construction project where we left off last time. During my second dance with construction fence there, the gopro stopped filming after only a minute or so. I consider doing it again today but it doesn’t seem as appealing now, perhaps approaching the site from a different angle at a different time, somehow the moment has passed. So we continue our counter-clockwise route along Av do Contorno. Maybe we’re already tired and things start to feel more familiar and normal the longer we’re here, but there isn’t much that calls out our attention.
There’s a calçada pattern I haven’t seen yet with a dot in the middle that gets more damaged as I reach the far corner. The road here, Rua dos Timbiras, is a rather steep hill and the pavement is worn in a number of places revealing the cobblestone pavers underneath. I love seeing these patches of times past, and I feel especially in tune to them after spending the day yesterday walking around Oro Preto.
Across Av do Contorno, on the outer rim, are other houses nestled and stacked into the hills. This avenue feels much smaller here, compared to the sections at the beginning of our journey. There are a number of places where it appears someone painted over the graffiti and then it was tagged again, creating multi-layered pixação. There’s another stone wall with densely covered in pixação, which makes me think about the way in which the graffiti responds to the existing surfaces and surroundings.
We pass by Cafe Viena, a large, dark, densely packed and richly decorated restaurant/bar with sidewalk seating. Even though we haven’t advanced very far, we decide to stop for a drink. As soon as we sit down I realize my pen exploded in my bag and ink spilled everywhere. They have a very long list of beers, the menu touts “the largest selection in all of Latin America”. We order one of the house brews and two glasses, and I begin the process of unloading everything in my bag and wiping everything down. I pack things back up and then head to the bathroom upstairs to wash my hands which gives me a chance to check out the rest of the place. Upstairs there’s a large eating space set up with Minero style buffet lunch that looks much fancier than our usual spots. Most people there are dressed nicely, and seem to be breaking from the office for lunch.
When I return to the table, Pilar is brainstorming for a title for another upcoming project. Without my pen I feel lost for a moment, unable to make any notes, etc… but then relax into the moment. The waiter comes by and suggests that when we’re done, we should put away “the machines”. I look down at the table and see that Pilar has her camera and iPhone out. He further explains that a boy from the street could come by and take them. There have been a number of occasions, that I’ve been surprised by Pilar’s seemingly cavalier approach to leaving her things out, equipment, bags, etc… in public spaces on the street. Perhaps living in nyc it’s become second nature, but I don’t leave my things laying around like that. I appreciated this moment to try to see things from his perspective. He’s a waiter, working hard to make a living, but he also has an inherent sense of the complexity of the place and people’s varied situations. Perhaps he felt responsible as an employee of the restaurant to look after the well being of the customers. In any case, I found it interesting that he decided to say something to us about this.
Right next door is another bar with essentially the same thing, a place to sit down and talk and drink beer, but with a completely different feeling to it, much more like the places we usually go to here. The facade of the next building over is covered in black and white stencils with writing that says “Estudio da Carne” that looks like it could be an alternative art space. As I take a photograph, a woman is opening the lock, so it seems like a good opportunity to find out, so I ask her what is it? A studio? A gallery? She laughs and says it’s a restaurant! On the corner of the same street there’s another place that looks quite delicious, so we sit at the chairs set up on the sidewalk and share a salgado (salty snack) with catupiry (type of soft cheese), which ends up being mostly chicken but still quite good and filling. Needless to say, we spent quite a bit of time on this block, between the beer at one end and the snack at the other.
From there, again the surroundings didn’t seem all that stimulating. Then we reach another large construction site, and I suddenly feel compelled to do a dance with the fence. Without thinking I realized I was incorporating some of Maria Elena’s ideas, counting my steps within each breath, which is generally around 4. As I did this, Carla’s contrasting approach that counting kills any form of creative expression in movement jumped into my mind and I started to focus more deeply on my center and feeling the connection of my limbs to the center. As I was reaching the end I stood for a moment focused on the security camera and then suddenly the garage door started rolling up. I was startled and and thought I might have set off a motion center, but then a car started driving down the ramp. I stood there filming for a moment and then planned to retrace my trajectory back to the beginning filming with a more fluid intuitive approach. The man driving the car rolls down his window and asks me something, a security guard approaches and I’m guessing he asks me what I’m doing. (Now that I recognize the work Mossa (Miss), I understand when someone is trying to get my attention.) I tell them I’m an artist doing a dance with the construction site, I think its a tango but I’m not quite sure and I continue on my way. The way back feels more free and intuitive, moving the camera fluidly across different levels, low, medium and high and pausing for moments throughout. Peripherally I can see people watching me and I’m sure they think I’m very strange but maintain focus. At the end I still want to take some still photos. Pilar has been waiting a while, she says she watched part of the process and people’s reactions and still had time to stretch etc…
Across the street, I spot a sign “Contorno do Corpo” which looks like a gym, but for a moment at least it seems to encapsulate our explorations of bodies and the city (focused on this perimeter of the planned city.)
Stopping at the bank, I notice that a large part of the space in front of the building is cordoned off with stanchions and chains. There’s a lone motorbike parked in the center of the larger area to the left. To the right there’s a narrow path next to the neighboring building leading to the bike parking rack. It seems Bank of Brasil has very clearly defined ideas about how it would like people to use this space.
On the next corner there’s parking garage painted in yellow and black stripes. I notice how the graffiti writers have strategically used these lines as a surface, with some tags spanning several yellow stripes. On the adjoining wall, the black stripes are covered in white spray paint. As I take a picture, a woman comes out and asks what I’m photographing and I explain my observations to her. She is very distraught by the pixaçãdores, and complains that they keep coming back to cover her walls. She invites me in for coffee, so I call Pilar in to the garage. The woman has a little register and kitchen area set up inside the garage, that she’s had for going on nine years. She asks where we’re from and what brought us to Belo Horizonte. When she hears we’re doing an art residency she tells us there’s an art space down the street and a dance school and walks us to the other garage exit, calls over a young man washing cars outside, and points out the dance school.
The car wash area is quite a fascinating improvised work area in the street, complete with a television set, seating, and a mobile cart for supplies and tree as improvised rack for hanging things. From there I enter the dance school which is quite a magical atmosphere, I’m greeted by the dance teacher to tells me about the wide variety of classes they offer, introduces me to one of his students, and they even give me a little demonstration! By this time Pilar is outside stretching again, she’s tired and starting to fade, so we head towards a plaza she’s identifies on the map as a good ending point.
Getting there, we pass a truck with all kinds of religious signs, like Daniella’s husband was telling me about, a warehouse full of plants, and one more female torso graffiti that looks like it someone had modified with additional marking covering the breasts and public area. I start to recognize the next block from our visits to Lydia’s studio as part of the Maria Elena workshop, and the plaza where we did our synchronizing exercises. From here we take the bus back to the center, by the park we run into Wilsin (the man who makes sculptures from cans) chat for a bit and then head directly to Bem Natural!
With Graça on vacation for the next two weeks, Pilar and I are looking for our yoga fix and set out to check out another class recommended by our new friend, Denise.