Date : 2006
Medium : Photography
Size : 180 x 400cm
Dionisio Gonzalez has studied art and photography in several Spanish universities and also in the UK. He has received many awards, in particular the Pilar Juncosa & Sotheby’s Fundació Pilar Juncosa i Joan Miró prize.
Gonzalez’s work is a social critique as well as an architectural reworking of the favelas in São Paulo, Brazil. His interest in the shantytowns lies in the absence of all planning and order. The inhabitants have become the architects and their homes are perpetually changing. The artist has attempted to imagine the effects of a radical reconstruction of the housing situation which would improve the makeshift living conditions of its population.
Dionisio Gonzalez has unscrolled, almost like a text, a monumental, four-metre-wide photograph that invites us to walk along it. It is as if he is rewriting the architectural history of the Brazilian favelas all along the length of this alleyway in the Buraco Quente area.
Let’s walk down it together.
We are immediately struck by its anarchic construction, haphazardly built to meet the needs of its inhabitants. It is a veritable patchwork of corrugated iron, particleboard and pieces of wood. An intent search amongst the patchwork reveals signs of human life in an old bicycle, an abandoned shopping cart, laundry drying on a line and, finally, the woman in the centre of the composition.
Just as this unusual environment begins to become familiar, we notice something troubling. We are seized by a disquieting impression of strangeness.
Look more closely. Elements of contemporary architecture from outside the favela have been introduced into the photograph. They can be seen at the end of the road, on the right of the composition where expensive materials like glass and steel appear.
Why has the artist digitally manipulated the image in this way?
Gonzalez is offering an acerbic critique of the reconstruction plans initiated by President Lula in 2002. These plans promised to vertically expand the favelas of São Paulo to increase population density. With the photographic means at his disposal, Gonzalez magnifies this architecture and its social identity, creating a utopian version.
You could say it is a valiant effort to preserve this architectural heritage.