Click, Pulse: Frederico Morais and the Comparative Slide Lecture
Sonia de Laforcade
A declaration: “The critic, today, does not judge. He creates.” The words read like a manifesto but are meant to be spoken. They mark the beginning of an atypical slide lecture. The setting is the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro (MAM-RJ), where the lecturer, Frederico Morais (b. 1936), is the director of the department of education and professor of art history. “The critic … creates,” Morais says, and he projects a slide that has little bearing on his words. In the street photograph, a pickax rests on the black-and-white mosaic of Rio de Janeiro’s sidewalks, a heap of red earth spilling over the patterned pavement. Morais moves on to the next slide, and, with a percussive sound not unlike that of a pickax, the projector conjures a new setting: an installation view of a large exhibition space inside MAM-RJ, its gleaming black floor strewn with abstract works made with bent metal sheets, stacked wooden slabs, and mounds of gravel. The photograph documents the group exhibition Resende/Fajardo/Baravelli/Nasser (August–September 1970, MAM-RJ, featuring works by José Resende, Carlos Fajardo, Luiz Paulo Baravelli, and Frederico Nasser) on view in the exhibition galleries nearby. The next seventy slides appear one after the other at a variable speed, never straying far from the rhythm of a person’s breath. Throughout, installation photographs of the exhibition alternate with snapshots of construction sites and other material processes found in the city—grass growing around a fire hydrant, cement walls encroaching on the cliffs cradling the bay. Titled Memória da paisagem (The memory of landscape), this work is Morais’sfirst attempt to articulate a new practice, the “áudio-visual” or “audio-visual,” which he roughly defines as an experimental take on the slide lecture. The audio-visual, in turn, is meant to establish a new art criticism or “Nova Crítica.” Per Morais’s opening pronouncement, the Nova Crítica endeavors to bridge the conventionally separate tasks of the critic-as-judge and the artist-as-creator. The audio-visual emerges as the medium of the critic-as-creator.