Carla Milani Damião
Priscila Rossinetti Rufinoni
Rita Márcia Magalhães Furtado
The International Colloquium of Aesthetics in the Center IV: Aesthetics of Travels has been conceived as a University of Brasilia (UnB)/Federal University of Goiás (UFG) partnership for the sharing of research and formation affinities with other parts of Brazil, and beyond. The main theme that has been chosen for this Colloquium is the association between traveling and Aesthetics, the latter understood roughly as a field of knowledge or culture that deals with perceptions, experiences, and its speculative developments. Thought of as a broad field, travel goes from the importance of nomadism in the formation of human culture to the idea of Bildung (moral, intellectual, cultural and artistic formation); travel narratives that may come from the Western oral and written tradition, from Homer’s Odyssey model through to film genres such as westerns, sci-fi or road movies; traversing the various types of travel writing, logbooks and texts that give support to a kind of life education that necessarily encompasses alterity. Travels are connected to self-knowledge dislodged from a homeland, but also to ritualistic reunions that sustained through oral tradition form the great adventures of a people, thus transmitting it as world knowledge for future generations. Traveling, through its experience of distance and strangeness, creates an authentic space of cosmological and philosophical investigations, of searching, nostalgia, but, above all, of discoveries that can be personal, collective, scientific and/or territorial. In the space category, the fictional and narrative aspects find imaginary projections and a territorial exploration from which a kind of knowledge emerges, characterizing itself through an investigative perspective and observation; from unknown space a new character – a new Self, new Selves – appears. This kind of experience has acknowledgment and authenticity in known narratives, be they fictional or autobiographical, such as Wilhelm Meister’s Journeyman Years and Italian Journey both by Goethe, as classic examples. Continuing with the autobiographical world of traveling, it is worth noting Le Corbusier’s accounts in Precisions, describing the profound and perceptive impact he experienced in passing through Rio de Janeiro en route to Buenos Aires. He discovered that the true city of lights was not Paris with its pulsating yellow night, but Rio with its natural light mirrored on the clear water and the white foam from the waves, reflected on the greenery from the hillside, opening itself to an endless blue sky.
From another angle, the reports written and illustrated from the viewpoint of colonial incursions – so-called “discoveries” – are evidence and irrefutable testimonies of crimes against humanity. What really took place was invasion, exploration, and incorporation of distant territories by Europeans through the great navigations. This can be read through the postcolonial perspective. By way of example, on a recent visit to a museum in Saint Petersburg, Ailton Krenak rediscovered pieces and registers from his own culture collected by an ethnographic Russian expedition to Brazil at a time when Krenak’s people existed in much larger numbers on open lands. From Russia, he returned with the register of a lost vocabulary, one which had been erased from the memory of his people. In another train of thought, but still inside the colonial project, one can contrast the opening of borders that comes with globalization, and reinforces the necessity of a technologically enhanced commerce free from state control, with the closing of borders and creation of national barriers, the construction of walls and the retention of masses of people in refugee camps throughout the globe. It is a recent phenomenon, from which new narratives no doubt are emerging, but one that is connected to ancient experiences of pain and displacement provoked by the destitution related to such journeys.
In this sense, these journeys provide experiences of the aesthetic order, being, at the same time, the subject of scientific or artistic inquiries, or being, in themselves, products of knowledge, and social and economic relations. They are the themes of works of art and architecture, public or private accounts; they are, in addition, part of the fiction of experiences and are strongly connected to memory and history. When directly experienced, they reach truths that expose social relations: adventures, escapes, discoveries, changes, persecutions, migration…crossing the borders of those who invented them; or just staying in a large common global ground, a perspective to those who just accept this common ground as it is. Rights. (In)justice. Risks. Life propagation and death announcement. The economic salvation of some, the exploitation and desperation of others. And so, traveling understood as spatial displacement implies a broad relation with the world that, however, always begins aesthetically.
The main goal of the International Colloquium of Aesthetics in the Center IV: Aesthetics of Travels, therefore, is to explore the feelings and experiences tied in with these great displacements and its impact on knowledge, cultural formation, and on the comprehension of what, and how many, humanities we are. Historically, it has been the great journeys by sea or land that has brought together such distinct and distant peoples, and in the present day, by virtue of air travels, the same process is further compounded. Starting from this fundamental aspect of traveling, we intend to assemble interdisciplinary efforts to investigate the multisensory experiences propitiated by travels or that are attributed to it through different pedagogic resources, present in the artworld and historical documents, or within the vast communication universe. The importance of such a collection of arts and registers to the humanities tends to be decisive when the commercialization of traveling assumes industrial contours, thus becoming the theme ‘travels’, creating an urge for critical thinking. Mass tourism, for example, begets a contradiction to the definition of traveling itself, for it allows the displacement of people to occur without really changing locations, such is the standardization at the destinations that receive these masses of people hungry for “sameness”, despite being in constant motion. Furthermore, the present-day great migrations and expatriations are perceived as traveling as well, and are subjects of an extensive critical production by politically minded artists who understand them as fundamental experiences which can create a supportive communion in the struggle against such suffering.
In the technological field of inquiry, these ethical questions implicated in the aesthetic experiences of traveling become equally relevant when we think about the unmanned flights made by drones and aircraft operated by algorithms or remote control. Such movement creates a gigantic number of images and data that have become humanly impossible to be experienced one by one, but that can be used as evidence for law enforcement, and against the emergent current of ‘alternative truths’ (or post-truths).
Through thinking in such an expanded way, the meaning of traveling and the works of art that investigate it through different media requires Aesthetics, as traveling is not only about facts and events. This is the main theoretical assumption of this proposal, for, beyond facts, travel projects itself as experience or fiction, manifested in images, voices, looks, words, smells, and textures, becoming movies, performances, literature, installations, architecture, sculpture, poems, music and so many others forms of art, exposing and reconceiving the world which we inhabit and, more often, in a fresh new way. Aesthetics history further allows us to accept a dimension of traveling independent of spatial displacement, considering the interior or subjective journeys, which were born, especially, from the mystical traditions, recently revisited, for instance, in the works of Michel de Certeau.
The proposal of this event, therefore, comes from the necessity of an interdisciplinary dialogue between different fields of researches related to traveling. There is, however, a basic and precise center of interest: to deal with the imaginary and the representation of traveling, even if such travels are objective and documented. A bond between the objective and the subjective, the individual and the collective, united with memory, time and space.