The Work-Stay: Rio de Janeiro and Sāo Paulo

Parasite 2.0 and Jerszy Seymour Meet Collectives in Brazil

In mid-February, just a couple of weeks before most international travel was stopped, two members of the three-person collective Parasite 2.0 flew from Italy to Brazil for a two-week work-stay in Rio de Janeiro and Sāo Paulo. Goethe-Institut hosted them in both cities, and they met with some of the local collectives working on the intersection of art and activism, focusing on participatory projects: Coletivo Em Silêncio, OPAVIVARÁ!, Esponja, AVAF, and Centro Cultural São Paulo.

Along with designer Jerszy Seymour, who is their mentor on the Forecast project, they seek to create a so-called “collective of collectives,” consisting of other practitioners working similarly. They aim to question society’s relationship to design, and critically probe the status of the individual designer. They argue that it is time to rethink how we envision the human habitat and with it, the forms of social relationships that spatial organization generates, calling for new forms of collective production.

Parasite 2.0 and Jesrzy Seymour (middle)

In addition to meeting with like-minded collectives, Parasite 2.0 also held a workshop in Sāo Paulo together with Brazilian architecture practice Clube, where design and architecture students came together to envision future urban environments. Forecast Artistic Director Freo Majer, who held a workshop in Rio de Janeiro—a condensed format of Forecast, where he was joined by former Forecast mentor, artist Laura Lima—met with Parasite 2.0 and Seymour at the end of their work-stay to find out how the project developed.

Majer: What inspired you to choose Brazil as the location for this condensed work-stay with your mentor?

Parasite 2.0: The project we developed for Forecast, Nasty Temple, is based on finding new forms of collectivity within different environments, and we thought that it would be interesting to gather various collectives in a single occasion, including a collective from Brazil. What’s more, the second stop on our two-week work-stay is Sāo Paulo, which came out of our fascination with the Teatro Oficina, built by Italian-Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi, and how this place was and is crucial to overturning certain hierarchies we find in the medium of theater.

The impressions we’ve gotten from Brazil are that a lot of contemporary issues are manifested here in an extreme way. At the same time, there’s a strong sense of collectivity, a connection to activism, and an engaged political background. It’s interesting to see how this sense of collectivity feeds back into society in everyday life. You can see it in the streets, as the base of the city itself.

Majer: What were your local hosts like, in Rio and Sāo Paulo?

Parasite 2.0: What we find very interesting about the collectives and organizations hosting us here—the Goethe-Institut (GI), Esponja, OPAVIVARÁ!, and Coletivo Em Silêncio—are the ways in which they form a collective image rather than highlight individuality.

The fact that GI is deeply connected to local associations, artists, and activists is also impressive: They’re in touch with different figures at different levels, from the museum director to the favela activist.

Another impressive aspect was to see how to create a space that becomes a focal point of a certain society within a city. Esponja in Sāo Paulo, for example, creates this important hot spot where people can come together and work within this reality.

Jerszy Seymour: It’s incredibly helpful to have people who know the terrain and make introductions. Esponja and Yusuf Etiman—who’s kindly hosting us here—enable us to have a connection to the inside workings of Sāo Paulo, its activist community, trans community, and alternative artist communities. It lets us investigate our subject in another context and also share with them.

Parasite 2.0 and Coletivo Em Silêncio

Majer: What does the work-stay contribute to the project?

Parasite 2.0: What the work-stay offers us is a strong contact with the location we’re in and at the same time an intensive work session with our mentor, where we’re not just sharing professional moments but also our daily lives. You experience local reality together. It was important to meet people in different situations together, and get out of mediated forms of communication. That’s crucial to our discussions about collectivity. We also let go of our politeness or inhibitions; we are able to be more direct with each other.

We went a lot deeper into the concept, and had the opportunity to share it, not just with our mentor, but also have it confront different realities and be tested. We’ve had a huge amount of exchanges with all the collectives we’ve met during these two weeks, from Coletivo Em Silêncio and their work inside the favelas, OPAVIVARÁ! in Rio, and the possibility to go see a local exhibition together. Other moments were more practical, like the workshop we hosted in Sāo Paulo with Clube, a young collective of local architects, and have students work on fictional cities.

Seymour: The work-stay gives us the physical time to be outside our normal life, and have dedicated moments of connecting face to face: talk, maybe disagree, have dinner, come back, perhaps come back with other thoughts and reformulate things. We’re discovering the harder layers as we deal with them. We’re all out of our comfort zones.

We’ve achieved very good discussions on what the collective of collectives means, and how to transport that to an audience. I think a crucial moment came when we visited the SESC Pompéia (a social and cultural center in SP designed by Lina Bo Bardi), where you see an incredible amount of public participation in these infrastructures. It became clear that we have to involve our public and spark participation and interaction in the project.

At Teatro Oficina
SESC Pompéia

Majer: How do you understand your position as mentees in the Forecast program?

Parasite 2.0: As mentees, it was important to have an external point of view on our practice. Working as a collective of three, we see ourselves as one organism. Sometimes having an external perspective was enlightening and pushed us to approach things more critically.

As a mentor, Jerszy is a constant source of ideas. He always tries to push you further—there’s never a final point, always more. It’s very stimulating and important for us. His own work and research has been a reference for us over the years, so having the opportunity to dive into his world was important to us.

Majer: And how do you see your role as a mentor, Jerszy?

Seymour: I’m an investigator or a questioner; I know many of the topics that Parasite 2.0 is working on and have my opinions on them, but the production of the work is theirs. I always just ask and ask until the project becomes apparent.

Parasite 2.0 are special because of their contradictions. For example, dealing with discussions around social issues and having a name like Parasite is already a contradiction to their actual position. They’re intellectuals, nerdy, sexy … These are great qualities.

The Forecast program can be quite direct, the mentor-mentee relationship is not like a teacher-student structure. When people come to Forecast they’re at different points in their careers. Parasite 2.0 has done a lot of work, and also teach. I have to know that they know for themselves what certain things are and what they want to take as a responsibility in their work. It’s much more a discussion between practicing artists. This is fresh, and new, and very interesting—and rare.