By Dani Ribas
The MARTE Festival is a young event, with just two editions. In 2018, in was held in Mariana and this year in Ouro Preto, both cities in the historic circuit of Minas Gerais.
The festival concept is both simple and powerful. Music, arts and technology - as in the acronym MARTE - also refers to the planet Mars (“Marte” is the Portuguese name of the celestial body). A female AI cyborg astronaut observes everything taking place on Earth from a station on Mars and warns: “open up your eyes for new worlds”. She’s the one - with her cybernetic voice - that announces the festival line-up and attractions. This is the motto for a program that aims to take non-conventional artistic propositions to the public, provoking and causing people to reflect.
The choice to hold the Festival in Ouro Preto wasn’t random. The music program, interspersed with audiovisual installations and video mapping project on 18th century buildings, is almost a spaceship that lands on the quiet town on top of the hills. Future and past meet, and the sensation is of a quantic experience: of being in the present and the future simultaneously. Just like in the Raul Seixas song: “today is just a hole a in the future through which the past flows”.
The historical past and the mountains that protect it are the perfect metaphor for the opening program, held at the Opera House, a wooden theater established in 1770. It’s the oldest functioning one in the Americas. In its 18th century origins, it was one of the very first theatres to welcome women amongst the company artists, an exception in the conservative colonial Minas Gerais society. In the MARTE opening program, this little baroque jewel hosted the performance of Felipe de Oliveira (a performance artist from Belo Horizonte who conducts some sort of “gay cabaret”) and also the interior night of the award-winning Maria Beraldo, who played in the nights of SIM 2018. In the 18th century, admitting women on board was a very audacious gesture. In the 21st century, the audacious gesture consists of showcasing artists who talk openly about their sexualities. Invisible threads connecting the past to the future in the same space, creating once more the idea of a near-quantic experience to those people present.
Maria Beraldo’s record entitled Cavala is a solitary and courageous journey into the depths of the “I”. Ancestrality and histories born “in the interior of me”, says the artists. The best-known track “Tenso” talks about the tension between finding a novel way to love and the memory of an old way of feeling. While exposing this internal journey in a small theatre, imbued with colonial and patriarchal conservatism, Maria Beraldo managed to expose her intimacy in an even more courageous way than in her award-winning record. So close to the audience, it was possible to make out the embarrassment on some faces as well as the ecstatic expression of discovery on others.
She made it clear that “Tenso” wasn’t just her excitement. It was “tense” seeing that some people (a few) could not cope with this “new world” brought by MARTE, and walked out. The embarrassing cracking of the wooden floors of the centuries-old building accentuated the tension. The real exposition of intimacy is tense, in a world where this intimacy is often masqueraded by the fake happiness promoted on social media. Just like a hermit that shocks and intrigues society when he shows up after a period of reclusion and transformation on the mountains. Similarly, Maria Beraldo provoked and charmed the public while baring her soul on the stage of the town on hills. The impact is just like the arrival of a hermit on a Mars spaceship in a town still connected to the 18th century but also curious about the future.
There could be no better place than Ouro Preto for the discussion promoted as part of the MARTE program. The concerts at the Tiradentes Square were interspersed by futuristic projections in video mapping of the historical Inconfidence Museum building, on the other side of the square. The performance “Azul Moderno” by Luiza Lian corroborated the festival concept by evoking “surreal comparisons between the stars surrounding Andromeda e its blue modern shift. Luiza’s Afro-Brazilian liturgy of the Pomba-giras and Iaras seemed to make even more sense in a town teeming with Catholic churches in Baroque style.
It’s live that the individual expression of any artist acquires a collective dimension, as that’s when it touches on topics of the present. That’s when they cease being a mere individual inspiration and become pertinent to its historical time, rendering a new meaning to long-established conceptions, while crystalised precious gems from the mountains of Minas Gerais.
Music has the role of energising our perception for the existence of new worlds. Festivals are the events where this materialises, where music takes place in a shared and collective manner. This allows new meanings to become part of the culture that we share with our contemporaries. It’s these meanings, collectively formulated from individual artistic expressions, that can transform the world that we live in. Without them, and without sociability and formulation spaces such as festivals, we will sentenced to eternally reproducing the present without perspective. Defending the existence of music and the spaces that host it is equivalente to defending our very own existence in its integrity, with all of its might. Allow the ship to sail. Long live MARTE!