Interview with Rodrigo Duarte, 05.02.2019

By Miguel Gally (ABRE 2018-2020)

How did the idea for the first congress of aesthetics came about, in 1993? Was it conceived as an international event from the start? Who organized that first congress? Were you aware of the prospect of creating the Association of Aesthetics for Latin America (1994)?

The congress “Death of art today”(1993) was the first event organized by the line of research in Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art (created in 1991) and, even though it was envisioned as the first of a series of international events, it faced many hardships and ended up restricted to the national scope, which was already an accomplishment back then. The contact with the group from ABRE in Rio de Janeiro only happened later on, in the 1990’s, through Gerd Bornheim.

Some events were held in Belo Horizonte, some in Ouro Preto. Was it an strategic decision towards, perhaps, contributing to the Masters Program in Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art of the Federal University of Ouro Preto (UFOP)? (Please remind me of the events that took place in Ouro Preto!).

The congresses held in Ouro Preto (“Displacements in Art”, 2009, and “Image, Imagination, Fantasy”, 2011) happened when the Masters Program in Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art was already in place. Even though this was due especially to a former collaboration between the professors of both post-graduation programs (PPGs), I believe that the fact that these events were in Ouro Preto helped consolidate UFOP’s masters program and contributed to its national and international exposure.

Did you create and participated in the organization of all congresses of aesthetics? Would you like to mention other professors/researchers who were important to the maintenance of this regularity?

Yes: I envisioned the events of 1993 and 1995 and was in the organization of all that followed. From 1997, the presence of Virginia Figueiredo and, later, of Verlaine Freitas, were essencial. Also Imaculada Kangussu, Romero Freitas, Douglas Garcia, Cíntia Vieira da Silva, Debora Pazetto and Rachel de Oliveira took part in the organization of several events. Most recently, Giorgia Cecchinato, who became a professor of the Post-graduation Program in Philosophy of UFMG, has also actively participated in the organization of the events of the series.

Were you part of the organization of the 2004 event in Rio de Janeiro, the XVI International Congress of Aesthetics, along with Nilza de Oliveira, then the president of ABRE?

On that occasion, I replaced Gerd Bornheim, who had then recently passed, as honorary president for the congress and key speaker for the opening session of the event. My role, however, was closer to that of an academic consultant, not really getting involved in the more practical aspects of the organization.

Whose idea was to transfer ABRE’s activities to Minas Gerais? How did this idea come about?

It was Nilza de Oliveira’s own initiative. She asked me about the possibility of this transfer due to some personal issues. At the time, I talked to colleagues and students, with whom I had a closer relationship with, about their availability to help out during this new phase and, having had positive responses, we started the process of re-founding ABRE in Belo Horizonte, which was effective in 2006.

Since 2002, Imaculada Kangussu, who did her masters and Phd under your supervision, and who was in the first few boards of directors of ABRE in Minas Gerais, created the Colloquia of Philosophy and Fiction, another event of aesthetics in Minas Gerais, which was clearly an outcome of your efforts towards promoting and disseminating researches in aesthetics. How do you analyse the relevance of these events to ABRE?

ABRE has always had a relevant role in supporting and encouraging initiatives related to aesthetics and to philosophy of art throughout the country, and FiFi always had our support and enthusiasm. This really is the goal: to establish ABRE as an fomenter and to inspire new and relevant projects in the field of philosophical aesthetics in Brazil.

One of the main achievements headed by you in the field of aesthetics was the inclusion of the sub-discipline “Aesthetics” in the National Council of Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq). How long did this recognition take and when did it happened? To what to you attribute such resistance to this inclusion? Do you believe that ABRE, as an association, contributed somehow to this victory?

When ABRE was re-founded in Belo Horizonte, in 2006, the inclusion of aesthetics in the CNPq’s “tree of knowledge” was a priority. But I could never have imagined how hard it would be, given the great resistance offered by this institution for reasons that I honestly ignore. I had been a member of the CNPq’s Advisory Committee of philosophy for three years and still it had no impact on their position on the matter. For the eight years during which I was ABRE’s president I worked on this, as well as during my following four terms in the association. Only in 2016, after much effort and persistence, did CNPq include aesthetics in their tree.

Do you recall any historical/picturesque/curious episode during your long involvement with the aesthetics field (both before and with ABRE) that you would like to share with us?

One thing that has become part of ABRE’s folklore from the start and still nowadays, is how often it is mistaken for an association of body and facial aesthetics. I have received mail, phone calls and contacts through social networks inviting us to participate in wellness fairs, plastic surgery events, fitness academies and so on. In the Facebook group that I manage, called “Estetas” [Aesthetes], I had to add a few questions to the survey to new members to ensure that they could point out the difference between philosophical aesthetics and body/facial aesthetics. This to make sure the group will not become a marketplace for products and services of this other aesthetics, which is not ours.