Beauty Activism

30 May 2018, 3:38 pm

By Marcelo Rosenbaum
Founder and creator of A Gente Transforma Institute.


We are a tool to raise funds and empower projects, viewing learning as a factor of exchange and transformation. We act as a university of knowledge, where vocation is the starting point for creating relationships and forms of work that support the autonomy and freedom of communities.

“The crucial thing is that the factory of the future should be a place where homo faber becomes homo sapiens sapiens because he has realized that manufacturing means the same thing as learning – i.e. acquiring, producing and passing on information”.(FLUSSER, Vilém, O mundo codificado: Por uma filosofia do design e da comunicação. São Paulo: Cosac&Naify, 2007, p. 43).

My work is about exploring the stories, practices and vocation of the places and people that inhabit the depths of Brazil. I’m not a designer, but I believe in design as a process. I can’t call myself an architect as I do not hold a degree in architecture, but I consider myself an architect who builds bridges within the intangible, delivering objects that can also be spaces, a typography family or a manifesto. I practice the activism of beauty, connecting knowledge and ancestry as a pathfinder for vocations. Diving into this culture that is not static, into the vocation of communities from the most distant places in Brazil is what moves me. I like to call such places universities. Since I don’t have a degree in anything, I’m always learning at a different university. The methodology for carrying out this work is Essential Design, fruit of the laboratories and immersions that I have carried out over eight years.

Affective Archeology

Essential Design is what I call the way we relate to ancestral knowledge, manifesting this through valuing what is useful, what is not excessive. My methodology with the IGT is to put into practice an affective archeology; we dig into memories to understand the knowledge of places, their needs and desires. Why not start building with the community something that it knows how to do and will use? If, in our slavery memory, those who produce cannot make use of the resource, what is the impact, for example, of a community that produces toys for its own children instead of receiving broken plastic toys from welfare? We believe that an object produced in this way has the potential to transform and heal. We work so that it reaches the market being valued as such and can also be perceived as an art product.


Turning Point

In 2010, the great transformation took place in the search for understanding how my actions are related to each other and to the world. That’s when I met a person who had far fewer privileges than I did, but who has worked on something I’ve always searched for: impact. One day, I turned to her and said that my dream was to do what she did. She looked at me with a very surprised face and said: “Well, you don’t do it because you don’t want to!”. In a non-judgmental tone of voice, as if to say that she could not understand my apathy toward a dream. I went home and I kept thinking: we don’t do something because we don’t want to, we live only to pay bills, trapped in the illusion of believing in everything we’ve built and that something is always going to be missing. Over time, I became more aware and started to set aside my prejudices and myths, seeking to enter into the flow of nature’s abundance.

Everything is always very intuitive in my life, and most of the times I am guided by interest in learning how the people in the communities I visit are connected to their ancestors to keep themselves alive and resilient. I am an incurable optimist and I seek through work to transform beauty into a tool of transformation, connecting sciences: one more cerebral e other more spiritual.

I like to think of it as a silent resistance, where each person involved represents a resistance for the survival of culture, of tradition, of connection with ancestry. It is a silent struggle for freedom, for the right to live with dignity in their native land, respecting the elements of nature. It fills me with joy to put my gift and talent at the service of keeping our ancestral culture alive.

I understand that it is imperative to include art collectors in this process, because if art promotes reflection, it is necessary here to view human beings as the art of living. We need to amplify our network of beauty activism for the sake of strengthening and increasing longevity of social affairs, which by their transgressive nature lack financial subsidies to keep the wheel turning. Without subsidies, these projects die. We need to understand them as productive centers of continuity and constancy, non-static like any successful company. Getting to know more and more social projects, 80% of them die. Only those with support resist. We hear a lot about subsidized projects becoming dependent, so our focus is on creating horizontal relationships, where there is training rather than rote learning. Rote learning is the same as catechizing. If you make someone learn by rote, you assume that this person is not capable. Everyone is capable, each one has his/her own vocation. The perception of empathy and the understanding of these values made me understand that our work had to act in another dimension.

Vocation and Ancestrality

What value does an object have if not to communicate? The object by itself is empty. What is important are the relationships built from it. Nowadays, our notion of work is in learning how to relate to the ruptures that have happened and will always be necessary from now on. Our guiding thread is vocation and ancestry.

We cannot have the craft alone, for example. We connect ourselves through manufacturing, from doing with identity, obviously, but the object is not the end. It is the means. And my intention has always been to build this bridge. This creative flow can begin with craft, food, music, architecture, and build new dimensions within a learning relationship.

I believe that the most important thing is to show that this knowledge is outside books and museums, and place it within the circle of the economy of the world order.

An example that I am very proud of and that meets this proposal is Várzea Queimada, a typical village in the northeast of the interior of Piauí, where women who lived on an income of R$ 115 per year started to earn an average of R$ 2,600 making the same objects as before (with straw and rubber), but now, sold in different parts of Brazil.

The low Human Development Index is a metric that indicates places without opportunities and services, based only on formal education, development without involvement, on the myth that in order to have value a man needs a diploma, forgetting the ancestral knowledge that comes from his own life. But maybe these communities have a little key that could be very useful for us? Coaching, mentoring, design thinking, co-creation are nothing more than life in the community, where one shares what one really has and those with experience are recognized sources of wisdom.


The Eagle Metaphor

Is man prepared for the future with the ever more concrete possibility of finite nature? The eagle, when it reaches the age of 40, has two options: live twice or die. The feathers are heavy, the talons are crooked and no longer suitable for hunting. It needs to let go of all of it. So, it flies to the highest point of the mountain, breaks all its talons, plucks all the feathers, suffers cold and hunger, stays in solitude and after it is reconstituted, launches itself into the first flight of its maturity. With all its experience, the freest, lightest and most renewing flight.

In nature, things do not go wrong, they redesign themselves. As long as companies and their leaders are worried about giving up former privileges, they will not move into the realm of innovation for the future that has already come.


Published at the first edition of SP-Arte Magazine, on April 2018.



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