8 and 9 December 2006

Conference in São Paulo: “Ensaios Amazônicos – Amazonian Experiments”

São Paulo, 8 and 9 December 2006

In December 2006, an international scientific conference was held in São Paulo. It explored the different dimensions and topics of the Amazon project.

  • Danilo Santos de Miranda, regional director of SESC, Social Service for Commerce, São Paulo
  • Joachim Bernauer, Goethe-Institut São Paulo
  • Peter Weibel, ZKM Karlsruhe
  • Eduardo Góes Neves, Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology of the University of São Paulo
  • José Ribamar Bessa, University of Niterói
  • Paulo Roberto Martini, INPE – National Institute for Space Research, São José dos Campos
  • Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, professor of anthropology at the University of Rio de Janeiro
  • Philip M. Fearnside, biologist at the INPA – National Institute of Amazonian Research, Manaus
  • Washington Novaes, journalist
  • Lúcio Flávio Pinto, editor-in-chief of the “Jornal Pessoal”, Belém
  • Marcelo Leite, sociologist, São Paulo
  • Fernando Pellon de Miranda Jr., geographer, Cenpes, Rio de Janeiro
  • José Wagner Garcia, media artist
  • Carlos Alberto Ricardo, sociologist and director of the ISA – Instituto Socioambiental, São Paulo
  • Mauro William Barbosa de Almeida, anthropologist at the Universidade de Campinas (Unicamp)/Acre
  • Toinho Alves, journalist
  • Laymert Garcia dos Santos, sociologist
  • Tânia Stolze Lima, social anthropologist, Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF), Niterói
  • Habakuk Traber, Munich Biennale
  • Pedro Peixoto Ferreira, sociologist, Universidade de Campinas (Unicamp)
  • Geraldo Luciano Andrello, sociologist at the ISA – Instituto Socioambiental, São Paulo
  • Hermano Vianna, music anthropologist, Rio de Janeiro
  • Rosângela de Tugny, musician, Departamento de Música da Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG), Belo Horizonte
  • Marlui Miranda, singer

A final report by Joachim Bernauer

The seminar “Ensaios Amazônicos – Amazonian Experiments” was held by way of a preparatory meeting for the production of a new opera. It examined the necessity and possibility of reflecting on the current state and future prospects of the Amazon region on three different levels: first, as part of planet earth; second, as the territory of certain nation states, above all Brazil; and third, as a model for a globalized perception of nature (diversity of species), of the secrets of the primeval forest (biotechnology and handed-down knowledge), of the environmental crisis (global warming) and of the fate of homo sapiens (past and future).

The seminar is to look into the possibility of a political/aesthetic reflection expressed in a polysemiotic form commonly used in the western world, namely opera. The seminar will attempt to find answers to the following questions: Given the fact that an opera is to be created, what sort of material in the Amazon region should be used for the project? To put it another way, what is at stake there that needs to be brought to the stage? And how can this be done – this is also a key question – in a way that ensures that the complex reflections that are developed in the Amazon region are included in this reflection on the Amazon?

The Amazon region today finds itself at the very heart of the global environmental crisis, of geopolitics, of conflicts regarding the preservation of biodiversity, of the privatization of genetic resources and of the associated handed-down knowledge, of the interests of technical sciences and of transnational capital flows, of “delayed” economic exploitation, of development projects (sustainable and non-sustainable) and of the social and ethnic problems which manifest themselves on the local, regional, national and international levels. And, as if this were not enough, this is all happening on a scale that is truly Amazonian, that is to say superhuman or grossly extreme. This applies not only to the landscape, to the size of the rivers and the richness of the forests, but also to the attitudes of those who believe that this region is an inexhaustible “paradise” which is available for infinite exploitation.

Incredible but true: Peter Weibel overcame his fear of flying and actually came to São Paulo. The seminar profited greatly from his presence. Unfortunately, the “other” shaman from the Amazon had to cancel at the last minute due to a death in his tribe which required his presence in the village. During the course of the seminar, the best and “most critical” knowledge about the Amazon was gathered together, presented and discussed. The excellent level was achieved thanks in particular to the two coordinators: Laymert Garcia dos Santos (Unicamp, Campinas) and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro (Museu Nacional, Rio de Janeiro).

Joachim Bernauer
was the director of the Goethe-Institut São Paulo in 2006. Since 2008, he has headed the Goethe-Institut Portugal in Lisbon.