Today the gallery is closed.
Like last Sunday (day two) we went for a walk; This Sunday instead of a promenade down Paulista Avenue and Parque Trianon, we went for a promenade in Parque da Independência.
It was a busy. Not so many tourists as far as I could see.
The park was divided into three parts: One part was dominated by a big monument to Brazilian independence. Behind the monument, there was a French-style garden. The last part of the park is a more forest-like green aria with a lot of trees.
In the middle of the park, there is a big but closed Paulista Museum.
There are two lines or diagonals in the park. One is the wide main road going from the monument uphill to the French style garden (very used for people on roller-skates, skateboards and bicycles), and the other diagonal is the river called Ipiranga, which in Tupí language means “i” (y)= water and “piranga” =red. Suddenly I remembered that someone told me that the Tupí people from the costs of Brazil were so many when Portuguese conquistadores came in 1500. They were actually as many as the whole population of Portugal at that time. Today the name of the river is probably the only Tupí reference in this park and monument space where the river is primarily seen as an important historic spot where Dom Pedro I in 1822 declared Brazil independent from the pluricontinental monarchy United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves.
The more forest-like part of the garden was different, dark and in interesting contrast to the French style open garden. There were some roads leading people in down different paths. The along the paths there were small stations with machines for recreation. People stopped to do exercises on simple metal machines and bars. When I looked closer, I could see that the sponsor for this initiative is Santander Bank. Last Sunday we went to Paulista Avenue, and the there the coordination of the recreation activates was also sponsored by a bank; another bank called Bradesco. It started to look like a pattern. Instead of using the public taxation money from the municipality, private sponsors are financing the healthy living and weekend recreation of the citizens. Private sponsors are always calculating well their profit, and we can be sure that the sponsorship is a good investment for them. Promotion and visibility bring profit. We can also ask ourselves what the City of Sao Paulo is using the public money for instead, if not on public space and activities for the citizens. In Sao Paulo, it looks like the banks are sponsoring the culture and my Sunday promenades were infiltrated by a promotion for banks.
After the park tour and after the sun was gone, we went to visit a shopping mall Shopping Pátio Paulista. A place with many shops, corridors, and escalators connecting the different floors. Many people were shopping, but also hanging out and walking around just like in the park earlier same day. Strangely enough, the walk in the mall and the walk in the park seemed similar.
I came to think about Creators of the shopping worlds a documentary by Harun Farocki about complex process behind the creation of shopping malls including the economy, design, art, sociology and other aspects of a perfectly planned manipulation. In his film Farocki follows a group of experts from different fields who together are trying to find out what draws customer attention and how a spontaneous purchase can be encouraged.
I started comparing the park and other public recreation places street that we have seen in Sao Paulo with this mall. My thought went to questioning the ethics and the transparency.
Maybe the companies’ direct commercial agenda of selling in the malls could even be more acceptable than the underlying and often hidden commercial agenda in the marketing of sponsors we find in public spaces such as parks and the streets.
Not knowing that we are being influenced indirectly might even be worse than the direct consumerism manipulation calling for us to buy.
When a city lets its citizens think that a park is a place with no commercial or political manipulation, they might be misleading people more than a shopping mall, where visitors, at least, know that they are part of a consumerism machine focusing on money.
My comparison might be a bit banal, but still I spent some time reflecting on what these metropolitan-style promenades were about.
In the evening, I looked up a word promenade in the dictionary and found out that the Latin word prōmināre that it derives from means “to drive (beasts) forward” or “to drive (cattle) along”.
Maybe to have a promenade in a city is to be led in a heard, no matter where we walk. The surroundings are so intoxicated with commercial interests, and it might be difficult to find a free space. An oasis without influences and a place to disconnect might be an illusion in an urban environment.