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The perspectives of culture according to Ricardo Ohtake

by Richard Meckien - published Mar 27, 2017 07:25 AM - - last modified Apr 07, 2017 03:42 PM
Rights: Original version in Portuguese by Sylvia Miguel.

Ricardo Ohtake - posse

Ricardo Ohtake, new holder of the Olavo Setubal Chair of Arts, Culture and Science.

To address the trajectory of art and culture in Brazil from the post-Second War period until the crisis of 2016, and to analyze the current situation of institutions and activities in the field with prospects for the future, are some of the goals of the new holder of the Olavo Setubal Chair of Arts, Culture and Science, created in 2015 and officially launched in February 2016 by the IEA in partnership with Itaú Cultural. Architect, graphic designer and cultural manager Ricardo Ohtake took office on March 17, in a ceremony in the University Council Room that was attended by authorities, sponsors of the Chair, artists and scientists.

"The discussion of the future is what matters most, mainly because of the new political, social, economic, administrative and institutional situation in Brazil, which we know has created a legal anomaly in the country, provoking insecurity for the population and certain insecurity in the cultural environment", said Ohtake.

While opening the ceremony, Martin Grossmann, academic coordinator of the Chair, professor at USP's School of Communications and Arts (ECA), and former director of the IEA, welcomed the new holder and thanked the work done by diplomat and essayist Sérgio Paulo Rouanet, former national secretary of Culture and author of the bill to encourage culture that bears his name. During the inaugural year of the Chair, Rouanet developed the approximation between the borders of knowledge in the personal, institutional and scientific scopes, as he recalled in his speech.

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Sergio Rouanet inaugurates the Olavo Setubal Chair of Arts, Culture and Science

The new activities will include the debate on the actions and the thinking of cultural leaders, and the participation of institutions in the development of the artistic and cultural field, in a reflection that will go back to the cultural history of Brazil, Grossmann showed.

Ohtake recalled the evolution of Brazilian society and mentality - including its typical contradictions and complexities with which "a modern and medieval country" was built - and related this trajectory to the steps taken by the country in the cultural and artistic fields.

He mentioned the beginnings of the cosmopolitanization of Brazil, especially in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, with the emergence of icons such as the Vera Cruz Cinematographic Company, the TBC Brazilian Theater of Comedy, art institutions, the Biennale and museums, among them the São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP), created by the coffee bourgeoisie.

To expose and develop his own trajectory as a cultural leader in the context of the city, the country and internationally will be one of Ohtake's pursued goals. He will also invite critics, cultural leaders, artists and historians to participate in debates and testimonials; approach the relationship between art and politics and the role of exhibitions in the art debate; and analyze the role of cultural leaders in the development of institutions and thinking.

The new holder intends to bring his experience of more than 50 years in this field. He has been Secretary of Culture of the State of São Paulo, Secretary of the Green and Environment of São Paulo, director of the São Paulo Cultural Center, and director of the Museum of Image and Sound and the Brazilian Cinematheque. He has lectured in several architecture, communications and plastic arts faculties and was curator of the Brazilian participation at the Architecture Biennale of Venice in 2010.

The Ohtake family is one of the most influential for the arts and architecture in Brazil. Ricardo Ohtake is son of artist Tomie Ohtake (1913-2015) and brother of architect Ruy Ohtake, who signs the project of the famous building that houses the Tomie Ohtake Institute. He has graduated from USP's Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism (FAU), and currently directs the Tomie Ohtake Institute.

"If, on the one hand, cultural activity is always provided by very limited resources, on the other hand it always requires a lot of imagination and daring for propositions to be solved. The leader does not have to be an intellectual, but he must know where the concepts, the variations of approaches, the artists, the history of art, and also the engineering of the activities take place. As the resource is never enough, knowing how to give priorities and alternatives is fundamental to make sense of everything that is done," he said.

While reviewing his own career, Ohtake recalled his childhood, when he invented things and plays on the street in the 'Mooca' neighborhood, in São Paulo. "I realized with surprise that I internalized what critic Mário Pedrosa said in the 1950s to my mother: 'The key is to be original.' I understood that I always had to be original, not only in artistic creation."

Posse Ricardo Ohtake - mesa

From the left: Eduardo Saron, Ricardo Ohtake, José Roberto Sadek, Vahan Agopyan, Sérgio Paulo Rouanet, Roberto Setúbal and Paulo Saldiva.


The Olavo Setubal Chair of Arts, Culture and Science, created to foster interdisciplinary reflections on academic, artistic-cultural and social issues in the regional and global contexts, has been taking the form of an "experimental platform for freedom", according to Grossmann.

"If Rouanet practiced the permanent exercise of criticism by producers, and academic and cultural institutions during this period, Ricardo Ohtake intends to explore the experimental exercise of freedom, be it as a public figure, as a cultural manager, or through his wisdom and his constant thinking that produces an exemplary practice in the field of the arts and culture," said Grossmann.

In almost 12 months of activity as holder of the Chair, Rouanet has sought broad approximations and interactions in the epistemic, institutional or even personal fields, he showed. "The participation of so many colleagues in the effort to give prestige to other areas of knowledge, culture, arts, psychoanalysis, science and philosophy was an attempt to minimize the gap between the human sciences and other sciences," he said.

For Rouanet, the Chair has been a unique opportunity to deepen the effort to unify science a little more; an effort that was extended to the institutional field, with USP interacting with other institutions.

In the words of IEA's director Paulo Saldiva, the ceremony brings the symbolic sign of generosity and passion expressed in the "action of sponsors such as Itaú Cultural, or in the work of people like Ricardo Ohtake, who come to share their experience, teach and illuminate the spirit."

The Chair also celebrates the union between academia, artists, intellectuals and young people who could see the example of rare values such as leadership and enchantment, Saldiva said. "Values such as generosity, passion and enchantment for study are sorely lacking for our youth today. These are feelings that make things happen despite all the difficulties," he emphasized.

USP's Vice-President Vahan Agopyan has stressed the importance of interlocution between academia and external sectors provided by chairs and interdisciplinary instances as the IEA. "I often say that the IEA is the think tank of USP: a place for debates on cross-cutting themes and, as well as the chairs, capable of promoting interaction with society. Dialogue with society is a challenge of the 21st century for all universities, and with the support of Itaú Cultural we are managing to increase this interaction," said Agopyan.

Roberto Setúbal, executive president of Itaú bank, when speaking about the support for the Chair, preferred to recall his father's personality and his tradition of appreciation for culture, his career as an entrepreneur and an engineer graduated from USP's Polytechnic School (POLI). "Severe, firm and demanding, but always very open to dialogue and new ideas. A man of science and research - he has worked at the Institute of Technological Research (IPT). A mayor who created the São Paulo Secretariat of Culture, a gesture that made me very proud in my student days and that shows how he valued culture and was open to the new," he said.

Eduardo Saron, director of Itaú Cultural, recalled the important role of Ohtake in the democratization of culture and arts in Brazil. "The democratization of access to culture, so much discussed by managers in the country, is a theme that will remain for a long time. Art and culture are beyond the needs and rights of the citizen. If the artist thinks of art as a field of desires, managers and actors of cultural politics need to think about culture in this aspect. It is not a matter of democratizing access only. It is about autonomy and freedom of expression. Cultural democracy thinks and understands the individual as an actor of self; an autonomous citizen who has the right to freedom of expression; to see and experience all cultures," said Saron.

Professor Lilia Moritz Schwarcz, from USP's Faculty of Philosophy, Languages and Literature, and Human Sciences (FFLCH), was invited to give the reception address to the honoree. She recalled the work done with Ohtake and the projects undertaken at the Tomie Ohtake Institute.

Lilia Schwarcz - posse Ricardo Ohtake
Lilia Schwarcz, from USP's Faculty of Philosophy, Languages and Literature, and Human Sciences (FFLCH): "Ricardo Ohtake has distributed gifts in the fields of art and culture".

"A visionary of the arts, an intellectual of culture, an academic of the world of museums, of the arts in the broad sense, he knows that culture is what it does. In Ricardo Ohtake's words, among the various ways of assessing the success of different art forms, there is a unifying question, which is the transformation that the viewer of art undergoes before a work, and the emotion that provides a new knowledge, a new sensitivity, and / or a new experience," said Schwarcz.

For Schwarcz, Ohtake has "distributed gifts": he has toured the fields of architecture, graphic arts, decoration, urbanism, drawing, theater, education, cinema, publishing, dance, photography and the plastic arts; he has made exhibitions, documentaries, film festivals; sponsored concerts; created drawings for many books. "He has inspired generations, having passed through numerous institutions until landing at the Tomie Ohtake Institute, which opened for all kinds of experimentation."

"It is impossible to meet Ricardo without being deeply affected by his history, his smile, his generosity, his very noisy silence, and his transforming affection. I congratulate USP for realizing that Ricardo is a born scholar in the sublime function of being a cultural multiplier, and thus an immense distributor of gifts, an intellectual open to diversity, plurality and equality in this unfortunately unequal country," said the professor.

The State Secretary for Culture of São Paulo, José Roberto Sadek, highlighted the important link between the university and society promoted by the Chair, and the promotion of non-polarized dialogue, treated with the complexity and nuances that the theme requires.