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Inspired by Chico, addressing climate change

Chamada installation

ChamadaFromChicoMendes (detail) © Kooj Chuhan

Chico Mendes in 1988

Art and activism come together in a new installation curated by Kooj Chuhan. 

The life and death of Chico Mendes (1944-88), the Brazilian trade-union leader and environmental activist who fought for indigenous rights and to preserve the Amazon rainforest, and who was assassinated by a rancher at just 44 years of age, remains a national hero and inspiration for many.

Artist Kooj Chuhan is one of them. Inspired by Mendes, he decided to convene an installation that would highlight art, environmental action and social justice in the same spirit of collaboration with which Mendes acted as he innovated ways of dealing with complex and messy social and political circumstances.

The name of the art installation, Chamada, means ‘A Call to Action’ in Portuguese. Of the 20 artists from four continents who answered Kooj’s call for submissions, a dozen artists and groups were chosen to take part, including climate change activist and UN Youth Representative Marian Osman from Somalia, and the Bangladesh Krishok Foundation.

Installation maskEach of the contributing artists has specific stories to tell that resonate with Mendes’ story and complement his legacy. Collaboration was key for Kooj: ‘I liaised with a number of artists and documentary filmmakers and got their interest, contribution and support for this composite work,’ he says. ‘It feels to me like a new way forward for people across the world to produce cultural meaning together.

‘This is a playable, interactive installation. Visitors encounter a range of objects they can play like instruments, which spark off videos, music and poetry from different artists and environmental activists. Chamada connects parallel experiences, analyses and contexts. The project is an alternative to the usual “language” and descriptions of climate/environment found in artworks… In a way it is a piece inspired by carnival ideas and “participatoriness”. It’s the idea that art can allow fluidity between community, so-called high art and activism, as well as academic research. That’s my contention.’

Kooj’s installation “Chamada from Chico Mendes” is at Durham Art Gallery, England, from 5 June to 6 July 2015.

Top Photo: Chico  Mendes in 1998, photographed by Miranda Smith. 

Bottom Photo: ChicoVideoMask. Photo copyright Kooj Chuhan.

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