As Artes e os Perigos do Dirigismo – The Arts and the Dangers of Dirigisme (Gilberto Freyre)

A great text by the Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre (1900-1987), published in the Diário de Pernambuco in Recife, on the 29th of September 1963. An important tract against the perverse effects of State appropriation of culture. My own English translation from the original Portuguese here:

The Secretary of Education of the Municipality of Recife just decided to create -so say the newspapers of the city- a Commission for Fine Arts. Why? To be ‘an advisory body along with the referred secretary.’ The membership of artists to this clearly official and pontentially anti-artistic initiative has already been announced.

What transpires from such an initiative? I fear the following: the purpose of extending to fine arts, in general, the municipal, state, and official dirigisme which for years has reduced the Carnaval of Recife to a Carnaval of the Municipality rather than a Carnaval of the people of Recife. Less artists freely artists than artists directed in their art by artist-politicians or artist-ideologues.

I am above suspicion to comment on such a subject, due to the fact that, in various points, the direction which the ‘Commission for Fine Arts’ should follow coincides with the ideas which I have long supported. For it seeks to -and no friendlier goal could encourage it- ‘strengthen a policy of fine arts of cultural, artistic, popular, regional, educational nature’.

Furthermore: it seeks to ‘zeal that works of art (sculptures and murals) be made in material’-as to the specification of long-lasting I do not understand well -‘compatible with our climate and which anchor not only Brazilian, and especially northeastern, fauna and flora, but also the educational, historical, and democratic values of our culture’. A nice goal, however controversial the relevance which is given to ‘long-lasting material’.

But these are proposals to which I agree. Proposals to which I agree in the most cordial manner. In the most sincere manner.

What I don’t agree with is the systematic of the relationship of the government with the arts which the initiative of the Municipality of Recife appears to enshrine: and that although I recognize as valid the ‘democratic’ Brazilian values, it is understood, very anti-democratically and to an almost totalitarian extent, to be an attribution, now of a city government, tomorrow of the state, soon, nationally, for the State or government to direct, the artist, with regards to his themes -such and such and not such and such- and with regards to his function – to the ‘educational’. To the rigidly, systematically, usefully educational. A little more and it is admitted to be an attribution of the State or of the government to impose on the artist -as happens in countries of directed philosophy, letters, religion and arts- an ideology, a style, a technique which matter in the bureaucratization of these arts, through its ideologization. 

Thus appears to me the danger of the new initiative of the Municipality of Recife, already guilty of officializing the Carnaval of Recife, directing it, submitting it to their tastes and their interests, destroying its spontaneity, emptying it of its truly democratic, popular, folkloric, regional, historical values. This is where the danger surely lies: in extending, to fine arts today, and to other areas of culture tomorrow, the dirigisme already moribundly applied today -as with the expression of the Recife ethos in the active participation, enthusiastic creation of the people of Recife-the popular democratic Carnaval of Recife. The subject of which I will return to in my next article.

1 Comment

  1. In France, where “culture” has been nationalized since the 1960s, all culture production is dull, propaganda, things that French people don’t want, are not ready to pay for, don’t care for. French culture used to radiate internationally. Now it has no soul, no life. It’s not something people partake in, but that is imposed upon them. RIP.


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