“Ethnographic Expeditions in Fiction” – Ícaro Lira

For the past five years, Ícaro Lira has been analysing the implications and the development of political and historical acts of Brazilian history through documental works, archivist, archeological and fiction. His exhibitions present similar structures to ‘museums’, reuniting several forgotten fragments, and producing a system of objects which articulates artistic and non-artistic materials and a set of actions, not necessarily confined to an artistic object, but scattered in exhibitions, books, studios, debates, walks etc.

Icaro Lira’s Museu do Estrangeiro (Foreigner’s Museum, 2015-18), for example, is an ongoing project the artist is collaborating on with refugees and immigrants in the city of São Paulo. It’s part of his Ethnographic Expeditions in Fiction, which has already taken several artists to work at the site of one of the bloodiest civil wars in Brazilian History, the Canudos War (1895-1897), a bloodshed imortalized in one of the canonical works of Brazilian Literatura, ‘Os Sertões’ (1902), by Euclides da Cunha, released recently by Penguin Books in a new translation. For the 3rd Biennale of Bahia, among the group of artists and researchers he invited were the curator Beatriz Lemos and the artist Paulo Nazareth.


Renata Scovino introduced an interview with the artist about the project “Desterro” (Exile): “In the project ‘Desterro – Exile Project’ Ícaro Lira develops a research in the field of visual arts which seeks interdisciplinary partnerships in sociology, anthropology and archeology. His work includes several actions that start from the need to stay in the place of investigation. The search in the archives of the institutions, the cohabitation and the interviews with local residents, as well as notes, drawings, diaries, videos and photos. All feeds his project. It can be said that the work of Ícaro questions the notion of art which separates the process and the documentation. He goes way beyond that, since, for the artist it’s not enough to collect material and replicate museum procedures. The work of Ícaro Lira is based on the archive as a possibility of redemption of the past, is not the mere recognition of an event that interests, but a kind of knowledge that opens to empty, absences and oblivion.”

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Ícaro Lira – “Exiles

He would come to say in that interview with Renata Scovino:

Ícaro Lira: “My first contact with Canudos was with the Glauber Rocha film and then with the book Sertões by Euclides da Cunha. Antonio Conselheiro is from Quixeramobim in the central backwoods of Ceará – my home state – and I always had a very close contact with his image. I worked initially with materials from the National Library (in Rio), Joaquim Nabuco Foundation (Recife) and Bahia Public Archive (within the Bahia Biennial). My research proceeds fundamentally on the fields with the locals, with the survivors and their descendants. I consider all my work as a single body, a continuous research on forced migration movements. I try not to put things in frames, works are open ideas and their formalization in the museum or gallery also follows this path. There is no final form, but an ever-changing process.”

Ícaro Lira – Museu do Estrangeiro (Foreigner’s Museum)


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Brazilian novelist Lima Barreto (1881-1922), who unmasked the Brazilian hypocrisies towards race and the blatant racism in the first years of the Republic, in a picture taken when he was first committed to a mental institution in 1909.

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(set of racial denominations used in Brazil to describe various skin colour tones)

Ícaro Lira,​ was born in Fortaleza, Brazil, in 1986. In 2013 Icaro received the IPHAN Art and Heritage Honor Award, National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute. In 2014 he participated of 3rd Biennial of Bahia with the work “Desterro, Ethnographic Expedition of Fiction”. In 2017 participates of Rumos Itaú Cultural with the project Expedition Catastrophe: for an Archeology of Ignorance And in 2017 of the 20th Festival of Contemporary Art Sesc_Videobrasil at SESC Pompéia in São Paulo-SP.

He has held individual exhibitions at the Paço das Artes (SP), Cultural Center Oswald de Andrade (SP), Central Gallery (SP), IBEU Gallery (RJ), Centro Cultural Banco do Nordeste (Fortaleza-CE) and SESC (Crato-CE). In the last years, he has participated in art residencies in Brazil and Latin America, among them Capacete Entertainments (RJ), Terra UNA (MG), Instituto Sacatar (BA), Red Bull Station (SP), VATELÓN (Soriano, Uruguay) and LA ENE Aires, (Argentina). He lives and works in São Paulo, Brazil.