Claudia Andujar

Vertical 8


Claudia Andujar born 1931
3 photographs, gelatin silver print on paper
Frame: 593 × 407 × 34 mm
Lent by Tate Americas Foundation, courtesy of the Latin American Acquisitions Committee 2015
On long term loan


Vertical 8 is a sequence of three vertical format black and white portrait photographs showing two men and a woman that are displayed side by side in a row. This grouping of images derives from a series of eighty-two photographs titled Marcados (meaning ‘Marked’ or ‘Branded’) taken by the photographer Claudia Andujar in 1981 and 1983. All of the images depict members of communities of Yanomami Indians from the Brazilian Amazon region. The photographs were taken as identification images during the first vaccination campaigns targeting Yanomami communities who had come into contact with outsiders – and were thus vulnerable to diseases such as measles and malaria – largely through activities such as mining and road-building which had begun to encroach on their territories from the late 1960s. Andujar had first become involved with and begun to photograph the Yanomami in the early 1970s. She had also established the Comissão pela Criação do Parque Yanomami (Commission for the Creation of a Yanomami Park, or CCPY). It was under the aegis of this organisation that she led the first vaccination teams, composed of two doctors and herself, in 1981 and again in 1983. Images of the Indians wearing numbered labels round their necks were taken for identification as Yanomami personal names are subject to strict taboos of secrecy. The portraits were set against different backgrounds, in this case almost black, to identify different communal groupings.

It was only after Andujar stepped down from the leadership of the Pro-Yanomami Commission, the successor organisation to the CCPY, that she began to take stock of her extensive archive of negatives. In 2005 she showed a group of three of these images under the title Branded for Life, Branded for Death in the exhibition Citizens at Pitzhanger Manor Gallery, Ealing, which toured to other venues in the United Kingdom. She then composed a much bigger installation of eighty-two images for the twenty-seventh Bienal de São Paulo in 2006, which she titled simply Marcados. It is from this installation that Vertical 8 comes (as well as the related Horizontal 2 1981–3, Tate L03792). The work exists in an edition of three, of which this copy is number three.

The daughter of a Jewish father who perished at the hands of the Nazis during the Second World War, Andujar fled Europe for the United States before finally settling in Brazil with her mother in 1955. Working in Brazil teaching English, Andujar took up photography only after an initial interest in painting, simultaneously becoming involved in São Paulo’s artistic and intellectual scene. Her early photographs were from travels around Latin America and within Brazil. Her first photographic essay, which also constituted her first encounter with the indigenous peoples of Brazil, was made in 1958. From 1971 she began to photograph the Amazon region and the Yanomami people and during that decade spent several extended periods living among them.

Through her work Andujar has deliberately and consistently examined the boundaries between ethics and aesthetics, and between art and activism, as well as the complexities of contact and cultural negotiation between indigenous populations and settlers. The series Marcados is widely acknowledged to be a summation of that investigation, as well as a record of her dual commitment to the Yanomami people by representing them visually and through political activism. When this series was published as a book in 2009 Andujar made a statement that drew an explicit connection between her own personal history, the history of the holocaust and the need to prevent another extermination in her adopted country of Brazil. She linked those ‘branded for death’ in Europe through the yellow star and numerical tattoos with the numbers labelling the vaccinated Yanomami ‘branded to live’, which formally registered individuals and communities with a precarious status and visibility in the modern Brazilian state. Despite the inversion effected in the intended outcome, Andujar acknowledged the complex ambiguity of the act of labelling or numbering humans. She stated:

I first came across those ‘branded for death’ when I was thirteen ... My father, my paternal relations, my school friends, had been ‘marked’ with a yellow star of David sewn onto their clothing at chest height to identify them, to terrorize them, intimidate them, and then later, to deport them to the extermination camps … Nearly forty years later … Our humble rescue group – at the start, just myself and two doctors – immersed ourselves in the Amazonian jungle … we hung a numbered tag around the neck of each Indian ‘vaccinated’. It was an attempt to save them. We created a new identity for them, though undoubtedly, a system that was alien to their own culture. I wanted to show the circumstances surrounding this project using these images that were taken at the time. It isn’t about justifying the mark around their necks, but rather, about explaining that it refers to a sensitive and ambiguous area, one that may arouse discomfort and pain … It is this ambiguous feeling that has led me, sixty years later, to transform the simple record of the Yanomami as ‘people’ – branded to live – into a work that questions the method of labeling people for whatever ends. I now see this work, an objective effort to organize and identify a population at risk of extinction, as something on the verge of a conceptual piece.
(Quoted in Claudia Andujar: Marcados 2009, pp.4–5.)

While there is a long tradition of representing Brazil’s indigenous populations in the visual arts of the country, in the twentieth century this took on a new form through Oswald de Andrade’s reference to the Tupi-Guarani in the Anthropophagite Manifesto in 1928, which provided a strategy for a post-colonial ‘consumption’ of the European (modernist) other. Brazil has often acknowledged its tripartite character, deriving its populations from the colonial Europeans (largely Portuguese but added to by immigration), the indigenous and the African. However, despite this cultural acknowledgement and the incorporation of tribal objects and motifs in avant-garde art from the West, the rights of the indigenous population have often been ignored. Thus they still constitute one of the most marginalised sectors of Brazilian society. Latterly, art historian Moacir dos Anjos has characterised the marginalised sectors and communities as ‘Cães sem plumas’ (‘Dogs without feathers’, quoting the title of a poem by Joao Cabral de Melo Neto). Dos Anjos explores representations in contemporary Brazilian art of the indigenous, the insane and the poor, finding in them a powerful political indictment of the inequalities of Brazilian society and positioning Andujar’s work as central to his argument.

Further reading
Claudia Andujar: A vulnerabilidade do ser, exhibition catalogue, Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, São Paulo 2005.
Helouise Costa, interview with Claudia Andujar, in Lisette Lagnado (ed.), How to Live Together, Twenty-seventh Bienal de São Paulo, exhibition guide, Fundação Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo 2006, p.50.
Claudia Andujar: Marcados, São Paulo 2009.

Tanya Barson
November 2014

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