Brasa Ilha

Location: Largo da Batata, São Paulo, Brazil
Year: 2018
Researcher: Amanda Abi Khalil

Brasa Ilha was conceived as a public art project aimed at building bridges and connections, exchanging knowledge and flavors, and dissolving boundaries. In the words of OPAVIVARA!: “(Brasa Ilha is) a pump to emanate nutrients that feed networks of affections. We want the movement, we want the amplitude, and we want to share recipes for living together.”

This work was produced for a public art commission first shown in Sao Paolo at the site of Largo da Batata, a public square in the center of Sao Paolo. This square was an important site because it is one of the main distribution points for people who live on the outskirts of the city to get into the city. Mostra Urbe invited OPAVIVARA! to install a commissioned work on site. In response to this they devised a hybrid vehicle they titled Brasa Ilha. So named because it used a now out of production VW vehicle first produced in Brazil called the Brasilia. The two parts of its name carry a depth of meaning in Portuguese; brasa, the Portuguese word for ember, is also the root of the name of Brazil. Ilha, which translates to island, completes the title, in English “Ember Island”. OPAVIVARA! were interested in thinking about how to transform Brasilia, an almost intentionally isolated political center, into a space for the people. This took on an alternative meaning with the converted vehicle which was in a way a self-sustaining island of shelter, and food provision.

The VW Brasilia car was transformed in Brasa Ilha into an open air kitchen for everyone to access. Comprising a car, a barbecue, and a pizza oven, Brasa Ilha invited everyone to join in the shared experience of cooking and eating communally. For this work there was no chef and no distribution of food from OPAVIVARA! to the public. This open call to community gathering and even more fundamentally serving as an address of the basic needs of Brazil’s large homeless population united the city in a communal act of care.

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The many intricately considered layers of this project coupled with its socially conscious outcome make it a work of exceeding excellence.

From the careful consideration of the site for its demographic and usage, thinking about the way it brings together populations that might clash, to the very specific reference of an out of production Brazilian Volkswagen model. This socially engaged initiative that provides a public kitchen space that is normally not available for homeless people to cook at focuses on addressing these needs albeit temporarily rather than concealing the issues at hand.

Brasa Ilha works with easily recognisable elements - this is done as a critique of what is considered low art and high art: composed of a barbecue, car, and a pizza all elements very present in everyday life. A collage of these comes together to make a bigger statement and give new meanings to banal objects. How can we rethink the patterns of our daily life when we encounter such a thing as we are walking on the street? Where is the value in desacralizing the art experience? OPAVIVARA! are concerned with empowering the audience to become part of the work – for them, the moment the work is working best is when it works on its own.

An especially interesting local reference that is made possible by the fact that OPAVIVARA! are deeply rooted in the environment within which they are producing work. A popular saying in Brazil goes along the lines of “everything ends in pizza”. This has two meanings: while on one side it’s a big celebration after a fight when people can reconcile over pizza, in politics it's used pejoratively to mean that nothing was resolved, no culpability was assigned. It is through OPAVIVARA!’s unique perspective that pizzas are made on Brasa Ilha in all its meanings.

Progress Agency