The Brazilian Association of Aesthetics (ABRE) was born in the beginning of the 1990’s and its history can be divided in two main moments: its sprouting and development, led by Nilza de Oliveira along with Regina Moura and Maria Helena Lisboa da Cunha, in Rio de Janeiro, that culminated with the city hosting the XVI International Congress of Aesthetics, promoted by the International Association for Aesthetics (IAA) in 2004; and its re-foundation in 2006, led by Rodrigo Duarte along with Virginia Figueiredo and Imaculada Kangussu, with the support of the previous board. The new board of directors transferred the association’s activities to the state of Minas Gerais, insuring a bi-annual regularity to that which became its main event: The International Congress of Aesthetics Brazil, significantly amplifying the number of memberships and creating new events in the field.
ABRE’s sprouting and development: Rio de Janeiro (1989-2005)
ABRE was initially created under the name Association of Aesthetics for Latin America (AEAL) at the XI International Congress of Aesthetics of IAA, organized by the British philosopher Richard Woodfield of the University of Nottingham, UK, and held between 29 of August and 2nd of September, 1988. The organizing committee noticed the lack of representation of Latin American countries and invited the artist and professor Nilza de Oliveira, who was then living in London and the only Brazilian participating as lecturer in the event, to create the Association of Aesthetics for Latin America (AEAL). Renowned philosopher who were present at the occasion signed a document offering their ample support so the association could become a reality in Brazil. Among those present were Richard Woodfield, Tomas Kulka (Department of Philosophy of Tel-Aviv), Paul Carther (University of Oxford), Ales Erjavec (University of Slovenia) e Tomonobu Imamichi (University of Tokyo). A compromise was then sealed in order to create the first association of aesthetics of Latin America with the aim of establishing and maintaining a permanent forum for philosophical exchange of ideas between Brazilians, Latin Americans and other populations about art and aesthetics in Latin American.
Back to Rio de Janeiro in 1989, and with the intention of formalizing the Association of Aesthetics for Latin America (AEAL), Nilza de Oliveira holds the first meetings at the School of Visual Arts of Parque Lage (EAV), assisted by Regina Moura. A few students took part in these meetings but no one manifested interest in joining. During these period, an issue intensified the precarious condition of ABRE’s officialization: to formalize the association, it was necessary to have a fixed address which could not be that of the School of Visual Arts of Parque Lage, where Nilza de Oliveira worked at the time. “We turned to Casa Gelli, a business that, sensible to the Brazilian bureaucratic complexity, was generously willing to help us out by lending their address to the newly created association. AEAL had then a small space in this furniture and decor store located in Copacabana” says Nilza, in whose apartment the meetings took place.
With a fixed address and having overcome several bureaucratic challenges, the Association of Aesthetics for Latin America (AEAL) was officially settled on September 19th, 1994. Its statute was drawn based on the statute of the International Association of Aesthetics (IAA), highlighting among its goals the necessity of rescuing aspects of the artistic memory of Latin America and intensifying cultural relations in the region, as well as stimulating the interest in studies and research in aesthetics as a philosophical subject. Thus, AEAL aimed mainly at putting in place an exchange between Latin American cultures and strengthening its ties. The association became relevant at the time for its role as a cultural counterpart to the social-political-economic projects of integration recently implemented by Mercosul (1991-). The first board of directors was composed of the following members:
- Honorary President: Octávio Paz
- President: Nilza de Oliveira
- Vice-President: Daisy Justus
- Second Vice-President: John Howard Szerman
- General Secretary: Sylvia Helena Mota Rabello
- Second Secretary: Salomão M. João
- Treasurer: Pedro Claussen
While AEAL tried to become a reality in Brazil, IAA held, in 1992, the XII International Congress of Aesthetics in Spain (by initiative of Luis Alvarez). On that occasion, two other South-American associations announced their interest in joining: the Argentine Association of Aesthetics and the Chilean Association of Aesthetics. In 1993 the Argentine Association of Aesthetics (AAE) was created and on the 8th of July of the same year the University of Buenos Aires held the I Latin-American Symposium of Aesthetics under the direction of Maria Ravera, one of the founders of AAE and with the participation of nine Latin American countries, including Brazil.
On the 27th of October of 1995, under the leadership of Nilza de Oliveria and with the support of Maria Helena Lisboa da Cunha, AEAL held the I Brazilian Symposium of Aesthetics, with the theme “Differences between artistic value and aesthetic value in the work of art”, at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. In 1997, between the 14th and 20th of September, the II Latin-American Colloquium of Aesthetics took place at the Noel Rosa theater and at the Philosophy Department of the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ), with the theme “Aesthetics in Question”. The exhibition had as a highlight the installation “Luar do Sertão”, from Lygia Pape. With over 300 participants, the event brought together Brazilian and international researchers, coming from Latin America, United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. One of them was Arnold Berleant (president of IAA), Richard Wolheim, Gerd Bornheim, Rodrigo Duarte, Nise da Silveira, Hans Koellreuter, Rosa Maria Ravera, Filoteu Samaniego, Margarita Schultz, Alberto Bass, Kátia Muricy, Elena Garcia, Benedito Nunes, Reza Tavakol, Ana Mae Barbosa, Julio Bressane, Rosa Maria Dias, Lucia Santaella, Luiz Tatit, Wally Salomão, Maria Helena Lisboa, Ricardo Basbaum, Karla Chediak, among others.
An year after the II Colloquium, in 1998, the Association of Aesthetics for Latin-American (AEAL) changed its name to Brazilian Association of Aesthetics (ABRE). The change was necessary given the creation of other national associations in Latin America, like the Argentine and Chilean associations created in 1993. The AEAL then rewrote its statute and establishes a new board of directors, keeping Nilza de Oliveira as president and Gerd Borheim as honorary president until his passing in 2002.
ABRE’s first board of directors, until 2005, was:
- Honorary President: Gerd Bornheim (1998-2002*)
- President: Nilza de Oliveira
- Vice-President: Monina Rapp
- Second Vice-President: Rosa Werneck
- Secretary: Jader de Britto
- Treasurer: Henrique Fernando de Oliveira
It was also in 1998, after six years of attempts, that the Brazilian Association of Aesthetics was unanimously appointed by the international associations attending the Liubliana Congress in Slovenia, to host the XVI International Congress of Aesthetics, in 2006, in Rio de Janeiro, under the coordination of Nilza de Oliveira. It was the first time that this major event of IAA took place in LAtin America. The goal was to present different thinking approaches and reflexions on aesthetics as a subject of philosophy, focussing on the cultural diversity in its relation to etics, history, critic, philosophy, education and everyday life, emphasizing the academic and cultural relevance of aesthetics. The event’s central theme was “Changes in aesthetics”, bringing to light the current problems and questions of aesthetics, mainly concerning contemporary art and culture.
The XVI Congress had aproximately 400 participants from different countries, cultures and traditions. Among them there were Ken- ichi Sasaki, president of IAA, who gave the opening lecture; Rodrigo Duarte, honorary president of ABRE and of the congress; Jos de Mul; Gerardo Mosquera; Ales Erjavec; Renato Janine Ribeiro; Fernando Cocchiarale; Marco Lucchesi; Joseph Margolis; Virginia Figueiredo; Charles Feitosa; Anthony Cascardi; Thierry De Duve; Paulo Herkenhoff; Carter Curtis; Edward Lucie-Smith; Vera Terra; Arnold Berleant; Katya Mandoki; Richard Woodfield; Jale Erzen; Wolfgang Welsch; Lev Kreft; Margarita Schultz; Anna Bella Geiger; Diana Domingues; Maria de las Nieves Eirin Rapp; Marilou Winograd; Jeanne Marie Gagnebin; Ricardo Barbosa; Márcia Gonçalves; Rosa Maria Ravera; Graciela Dragoski; Célia Aiziczon; Pedro Geiger; Paulo Sergio Duarte; Reynaldo Roels; Lea Soibelman; Lucia Avancini; Marco Antonio Figueiredo; Reza Tavakol; Antonio Jardim; Luis Alvarez; Maria Helena Lisboa da Cunha; Milton Guran; Regina Moura; Anelise Pacheco; Tâmara Quirico and Luiza Ramalho.
Development of ABRE: Belo Horizonte and Ouro Preto (2006 – )
ABRE’s tranference meeting took place in the 19th of May, 2006, at the Aesthetics Lab of the School of Philosophy and Human Sciences of the Federal University of Minas Gerais. Ate the occasion, a new board of directors was elected for the 2006-2007 term:
- President: Rodrigo Duarte (UFMG)
- Vice-President: Imaculada Kangussu (UFOP)
- Secretary: Iracema Macedo Silva (UFMG/Capes Prodoc)
- Treasurer: Verlaine Freitas (UFMG)
Since then, ABRE joined the Research Line in Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art of the Postgraduate Program in Philosophy of the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the Postgraduate Program in Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art of the Federal University of Ouro Preto.
Moving to Minas Gerais, ABRE benefited from the experience acquired with the aesthetics congresses that had taken place since 1993, mainly held in Belo Horizonte and under the coordination of Rodrigo Duarte (see interview). The themes of the events were “Death of Art, today” (1993), followed by “Beautiful, Sublime and Kant” (1995), “The Lights of Art” (1997), “Katharsis” (1999), “Mimesis and Expression” (2001), “Aesthetic Theory” (2003) and “The Aesthetic Dimension” (2005). The first to be officially linked to ABRE was the 8th International Colloquium of Aesthetics: “Aesthetics of Displacement” (2007), to which followed “Displacements in Art” (2009, Ouro Preto), “Image, Imagination and Fantasy” (2011, Ouro Preto), “Taste, Interpretation and Critic” (2013), “Tragic, Sublime and Melancholy” (2015) and “The Ends of Art” (2017). The 14th International Congress of Aesthetics Brazil, “Arts of the Body, Bodies of Art” will be held in 2019, in the city of Ouro Preto. All events resulted in publications, either in printed or electronic versions, being the most recent published by ABRE.
Held in Ouro Preto in 2002, the first Colloquium of Philosophy and Fiction was organized by Imaculada Kangussu (see interview) and Olímpio Pimenta as an additional activity promoted by a branch of the group which would come to integrate ABRE. With ABRE’s relocation in Minas Gerais, the goal established in 1990 by the former AEAL to hold regular events and promote aesthetic philosophy became a reality. This accomplishment is credited to the experience and dedication of researchers and professors who embraced this challenge even before ABRE’s official recognition in 2006. It must also be mentioned the increasing participation of the members of the Workgroup of Aesthetics of the National Association of Post-graduation in Philosophy (ANPOF), and also from other fields which share interest in aesthetics, helped consolidation the International Colloquium of Aesthetics Brazil ontribuiu para consolidar o Colóquio Internacional de Estética Brasil as the main event for research exchange in Brazil, attracting a growing number of young researchers.
Among the successful actions carried out by ABRE during its developmental phase was the creation of ABRE’s publisher, responsible for publishing the results of the International Congress of Aesthetics Brazil, stands out as well as the inclusion of the discipline “Aesthetics” as a sub-area of philosophy within the National Council of Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq). Since 2018, with a board of directors from three different states, ABRE has been working on reformulating its administrative structure and its digital presence, aiming to consolidate its role as reference institution for studies in aesthetics in Brazil.