Thursday, 26 April 2012

Kindness generates kindness: an introduction to Profeta Gentileza (Prophet Kindness)

I am very interested in the work of José Datrino, a Brazilian man known as Profeta Gentileza (Prophet Kindness hereafter) whose inscriptions in the streets of Rio de Janeiro have resonated for over two decades now. 

He was born in the deep countryside of Sao Paulo in 1917 but by 1961 Kindness was living with his family in Rio de Janeiro. The news of a fire in a circus in the neighbouring city of Niteroi in December 1961, and of the hundreds of lives claimed in the flames, completely changed his life. Deeply touched by the tragedy, a few days later  he told his family he received a ‘divine call’ urging him to fulfil his life mission of spreading kindness.  

Pillar 5 shows Prophet Kindness' motto: 'kindness generates kindness' (Image by T. Peters Coelho)
I will discuss what happened between 1961 and 1990 in a later post but for now it suffices to say that in the beginning of the 1990s Kindness started intervening on the urban environment of Rio de Janeiro. He thus selected his urban ‘canvas’, 56 pillars of a flyover which  he carefully  numbered and wrote on (see the map here). This work would later become a landmark in the urban landscape of Rio de Janeiro (you can see the 56 pillars here). 
Pillar 13 (Image by T. Peters Coelho)
His writings rapidly became very popular in Rio but despite their relevance to local residents the city council decided to 'clean' the pillars in 1997 and all the 56 inscriptions were whitewashed. The reaction of local residents was almost as radical as the ‘cleaning’ intervention. Through petitions, protests, theatre plays, documentaries, concerts and various other events organized by local residents, academics and artists the council was finally sensitized to the value of the inscriptions. 

In 2000 the council promoted the‘restoration’ of the writings on the pillars, namely, the removal of the whitewash, and the re-touching of the inscriptions (see report of the first conservation campaign here). In addition, the council also included the inscriptions in the local heritage list (see the decree here).  

There are various things that interest me in this case. First of all, is how the perceptions of ‘dirty’ and ‘clean’ changed according to what was associated with the interventions and who they reached.  But I will discuss this in a later post!

If you want to know more you should look at this excellent website, where you will have an idea of the importance and impact of Profeta Gentileza's work.  

You can see a short documentary about his work here

This book has all the inscriptions translated into Spanish and English, a really amazing publication:
Guelman, Leornardo, Amaral, Dado & Kutassy, Marianna (org.). 2011. Livro Urbano do Profeta Gentileza. Rio de Janeiro: Mundo das Idéias 

Leia essa mesma postagem em português aqui

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

ERS: Emergency Response and Salvage

A new application, ERS: Emergency Response and Salvage,  has been released for the iPhone. Developed by NCPTT and Heritage Preservation, it is based on the Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel, a tool that outlines the critical stages of disaster response and provides practical tips for different types of collections. This app let considers not only general information, but specific information regarding different material types.


Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Chinese artefacts stolen from UK museums

Some of the artefacts stolen from the Fitzwilliam Museum

The Telegraph reports that 18 Chinese artefacts were stolen from the Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge University) last week. This is the second of such thefts this month - the Oriental Museum (Durham University) was  hit two weeks ago. What is going on? If you see these artefacts, call the police! 

Jade bowl stolen from the Oriental Museum

New conservation blog: investigating the Cook-Voyage collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum

Make sure you follow Jeremy Uden's excellent Conservation "Curiosities" where he discusses a two-year conservation research project on the Cook-Voyage collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum, funded by the Clothworkers' Foundation.

The Cook-Voyage collections at the Pitt Rivers are from his first and second voyages.  In his blog Jeremy discusses the raw materials, manufacturing techniques, condition, history, significance and the conservation of the collection. Don't miss the amazing Tahitian Mourner’s costume (his first post), collected on Cook’s second voyage in 1774. The costume is on temporary display now, so after reading the blog you can check it out at the museum!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Andrew W Mellon fellowship in objects conservation at the Walters Art Museum

The Walters Art Museum is offering an Andrew W Mellon advanced training fellowship in objects conservation to begin October 2012.  The fellowship is for one year, but may be renewed for a second year. 

Candidates should be graduates of a recognized conservation training program or have equivalent experience. 

Deadline: 15 May 2012.

See more details here

Friday, 6 April 2012

The Great Pompeii Project: plan to preserve sites and prevent interference by organized crime at Pompeii

The Great Pompeii Project  will be funded by the European Commission and cost €105 million.  Approximately €85 million will be spent on the restoration/conservation of the site.
In addition, the influx of European Union money is hoped to help stimulate the economy in an economically depressed area (unemployment rate is nearly 17 %, while youth unemployment in 2011 was 37 %). Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti declared that they "...hope to trigger a process that will assist the local youth who don’t have jobs, but before that happens, Pompeii must remain standing...”.  
An 'anti Camorra Watchdog' has been appointed. “Experience has taught us that subcontracts and construction works in particular are areas that attract the interest of organized crime”, said the Italian Interior Ministry official. 
Read more on the NYT (article by Elisabetta Povoledo) 

Sotheby's pulls ancient Cambodian statue from auction

A 5-foot-tall sandstone statue from Cambodia was estimated to sell for approximately 3 million US dollars at Sotheby's NYC last week. Sotheby's claims the seller is a European collector who bought the piece from a London dealer, allegedly in 1975. 

US Federal prosecutors are trying to confiscate the statue arguing it was stolen from a temple, and illegally imported into the US. They claim it is o"extraordinary value" to the Cambodian people and "a triumph of creativity and innovation". Sotheby's, on the other hand, is disputing the allegations and allege to have "...researched this sculpture extensively and have never seen nor been presented with any evidence that specifies when the sculpture left Cambodia". Well, now that they are being presented with evidence they just have to give it back! Well done, US Federal prosecutors, we are following your work!

Read more on the ART DAILY

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