Anna Bella Geiger

Our Daily Bread

1978

Not on display
Artist
Anna Bella Geiger born 1933
Original title
O Pão Nosso de cada dia
Medium
6 postcards and screenprint on paper bag mounted on card
Dimensions
Unconfirmed: 500 x 709 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased with assistance from the Pinta Museum Acquisition Program 2015
Reference
T14257

Summary

Our Daily Bread 1978 is comprised of six postcards and a brown paper bag with offset printing mounted on card. Each of the postcards reproduce black and white photographic images. The first depicts the lower section of a woman’s face, focusing on her mouth, in front of which she holds a slice of white bread. Two postcards show close-ups of slices of bread with the cartographic shape of Latin America and Brazil removed from the centres. Another postcard shows the two slices alongside one another and a further postcard shows the slices in a breadbasket. The last postcard shows the breadbasket with no bread but with the outline of Latin America and Brazil remaining where previously the slices with their voids had been. The brown paper bag is of a type that was typically used in Brazil for bread. The work documents a performance by Geiger in 1978 that addressed the subject of poverty within Brazil, but also more widely within Latin America.

Geiger was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1933 to Polish immigrant parents. After participating in the First National Exhibition of Abstract Art in Rio in 1953, she studied art history and sociology at New York University. Returning to Brazil, she became a teacher and a participant in Brazil’s conceptual art scene. A pioneer of video art in Brazil, she also became known for her work in a variety of reproduction techniques, particularly engraving, photomontage and photogravure. In 1987 she published Abstraccionismo geométrico e informal: a vanguadia brasiliera nos anos cinquenta (Informel and Geometric Abstraction: The Brazilian Avant-Garde of the 1950s), a key text on Brazilian art of the 1950s co-authored with Fernando Cocchiarale.

The performance documented by Our Daily Bread, in which the artist ate bread and distributed postcards, was originally made in 1978, but was restaged at the thirty-ninth Venice Biennale in 1980, at which Geiger represented Brazil. Through the work, bread becomes identifiable with earth and with identity. By evoking the theme of consumption within the context of Brazilian art, it also makes reference to the persistent theme of anthropofagia (the ingestion of the other) and thus to forms of cultural resistance traceable to the avant-garde’s deployment of Brazil’s indigenous cultures. Such references to anthropofagia and their relation to the politics of Brazilian identity have been a regular feature of Geiger’s work. Likewise, maps have also been a constant element of her oeuvre and refer again to the issue of national identity.

Geiger’s work is regularly included in surveys of Brazilian art, and was featured in the exhibitions Modern Women, Single Channel at MOMA PS1 in New York in 2011, Vidéo Vintage at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, in 2012 and America Latina Photographs 1960–2013 at the Fondation Cartier, Paris, and Museo Amparo, Puebla, in 2013–14. In 2008 Geiger was given a solo exhibition at the Paço Imperial, Rio de Janeiro. Examples of Our Daily Bread are also held in the collections of Harvard Art Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and M KHA, Antwerp.

Further reading
Anna Bella Geiger: Territórios, Passagens, Situações, exhibition catalogue, Casa da Palavra, Rio de Janeiro 2007, reproduced p.52.
Anna Bella Geiger: Fotografia além da fotografia, 1972–2008, exhibition catalogue, Paço Imperial, Rio de Janeiro 2008.
Marek Bartelik, ‘Anna Bella Geiger: On Paper and in “Reel Time”’, Henrique Faria Fine Art, New York, 2012, http://www.henriquefaria.com/exhibition-about?id=65, accessed July 2014.

Tanya Barson
July 2014

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Display caption

Our Daily Bread documents a performance in which Geiger ate bread and distributed postcards, addressing the subject of poverty in Brazil and more widely within Latin America. The outlines of Brazil and South America appear as holes in slices of bread on two of the postcards, and as outlines in the empty bread basket. While the title has Christian resonances, the theme of consumption links this work to ideas of cultural cannibalism: a strategy for absorbing external influences and creating a proudly hybrid national identity which was a key concept in Brazilian modernism from the 1920s onwards.

Gallery label, February 2016

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