The manifesto “Do corpo à terra” [From Body to Earth] was published in conjunction with an event of the same name organized by Frederico Morais (b. 1936), a groundbreaking figure in art criticism in Brazil. The event, which was held at the Parque Municipal de Belo Horizonte in Minas Gerais, coincided with the opening of the exhibition Objeto e Participação at the Palácio das Artes. Both events formed part of what was called the Semana de Vanguarda. This text was published under the title “Da semana de vanguarda (I)” and “Da semana de vanguarda (II)” in Mari’Stella Tristão’s column in the newspaper O Estado de Minas, Belo Horizonte, on April 28 and May 5, 1970, respectively.
With the passage of time, the event Do corpo à terra would become a milestone in contemporary Brazilian art because it brought together a large number of young artists making interventions, situations, and happenings for public space. Some of those works—specifically Artur Barrio’s situations and Cildo Meireles’s work on the revolutionary leader known as Tiradentes—spurred controversy.
After working initially as a film critic, Morais became a champion of experimental avant-garde art in articles published in a number of print media from Belo Horizonte, the capital of his home state. In 1967, Morais moved to Rio de Janeiro, where in the sixties and seventies he would become one of the most active “committed” critics on the art scene. Articles of his authorship were published in newspapers such as Diário de Notícias and O Globo. In the context of absolute censorship at the hands of the military pursuant to AI-5 (Institutional Act No. 5, 1969), Morais witnessed the emergence of a type of artistic production in Brazil that he called “counter-art” or “guerrilla art.” He came to question the position of the critic as one who stands in judgment, formulating and engaging in “new criticism,” which entailed operating from within the sphere of the artist’s production and working in direct contact with the artist.
For a related text, see Frederico Morais’ “Contra a arte afluente: o corpo é o motor da ‘obra’” .
For additional information, see Francisco Bittencourt’s “A geração tranca ruas,” Jornal do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, May 9, 1970.