Perhaps the visuality evoked by Flávio de Carvalho’s New Look, can be located in the field of what Derrida understood by undecidability, where he would actually use the metaphor of the zombie to describe such condition:
“Zombies are cinematic inscriptions of the failure of the “life/death” opposition. They show where classificatory order breaks down: they mark the limits of order. Like all undecidables, zombies infect the oppositions grouped around them. These ought to establish stable, clear and permanent categories. But what happens to “white/black”, “master/servant” and “civilized/primitives” when white colonialists can also be the zombie slaves of black power? Can “white science/black magic” remain untroubled, if what sometimes works against a zombie is white magic, the Christian religion, the power of love or superior morality? How certain is the opposition “inside/outside”, if the zombie’s internal soul is extracted and an internal force becomes its inside? Is there any security in opposing “masculine” to “feminine” and “good” to “evil” when the zombie is desexualized and has no power of decision?”
Taking this in hand, and thinking of the historical divisional lines that Flávio attempted to destroy with his New Look, it comes to my mind the pictorial representation of the cast system in the 17th and 18th century used by Iberic (Spain and Portuguese) colonial powers, in order to control and order the new ‘races’ that began to emerge in the Americas with the miscegenation that prompted intercourse amongst ‘Europeans’, Amerindians, African slaves and their offspring. One can only imagine that the colonial power was confronted with a chaotic scenario, becoming “racially blind”. But precisely in order to distinguish and their belonging in colonial society a new classificatory order of casts had to be established. For this the Cartesian grid was literally applied to represent these new racial zombies: (image 1)
Two main conditions render the logics of control and ordering behind this system of classification: on one hand, the color of skin conditioned your social position within a labor-based hierarchy (ex. black women were always represented inside the kitchen) and on the other hand all social order was based on the assumption of monogamous heterosexual marriage. The need to reason, to give name to these new irrational beings (zombies), to classify them follows observation of psychiatrist Frantz Fanon:
“It was hate; I was hated, despised, detested, not by the neighbor across the street or my cousin on my mother’s side, but by an entire race. I was up against something unreasoned… I would say that for a man whose weapon is reason, there is nothing more neurotic than contact with unreason.”
Why do I bring this post-colonial and post-structuralist concerns to Flávio de Carvalho? Because, the New Look and the street action that followed its public showing (Experiencia no 3), may well have played with the reasoning and neurosis of his contemporaries. Why? Precisely because he used functionalist reason (modern design architecture) to justify an unreasoble zombie creation (the New Look), which to dismantled an inherited normative normality of people. FdC then interrogates our assumption of tradition, idiosyncrasy and identity and therefore he instigates a certain existentialism, nonetheless by simultaneously proposing a vehicle (a utilitarian object) to overcome such conventions.
But the cast system also came into my mind when seeing the other advertisement printed on the Brazilian magazine of 1956, the one on photographic material which includes the picture of a wedding: (image 2)
Flávio de Carvalho had directly confronted the institution of marriage, in his urbanist proposal ‘The city of the Naked Man’, 1930, where he’d envisioned a futurist city for a mankind without God, property, nor marriage”. As said before, it was precisely both race and marriage what prompted the colonial cast system’s establishment of social divisional controlling order. One could say that perhaps it is the flâneur of modern society, one with whom we can associate FdC, that offers a escapist outsider individuality in order to overcome such normalization of life. What is interesting of FdC is that he is a flâneur-engineer whom rather than interiorizing an individual and perhaps narcissist gaze towards the world, he deliberately wanted to radically modify daily life. At the end, like Le Corbusier he was a functionalist architect, but what drove his function was just a different pulse. De Carvalho’s words to describe the ideal city of the future may well takes us today to even more radical positions towards being in the world; it seems as if his architectural philosophy might well be wanting to instigate sexual libertinism and symbolically also wanting to abolish heteronormativity.