Muito obrigado to Alexandra for reaching the brink of near deafness with me and surviving to tell the tale. Yes I saw windows shake. Who says favela architecture is precarious if it can withstand the sonic onslaught every weekend while IPHAN declares a meticulous building that took four years to construct too fragile for subfrequencies? Maybe the real precarity is in the formal city.
Building sound systems is its own architectural gesture too, especially with the elbow room of a big downtown square, a far cry from the tight squeeze of a favela’s improvised public spaces. Turned on its side, Furacão 2000’s speakerboxes look like they would tower above downtown Rio’s citadel to petroleum, the Petrobrás tower lurking behind in all its sinister, cut rectangular prism glory.
In fact, the vertical architecture of downtown actually served as a sonic prism, trapping in the sound waves that just about made themselves visible — from the shaking window to my vibrating Coke can to the blurry vision when I was trapped in the ricochet effect of speakers against building. Sonic Warfare indeed.
In another medium and on another scale, the Projeto Morrinho also “descended the hill” (as the metaphor goes for favela culture entering the formal city) and set up shop on the Largo da Carioca. Far from exhibits that recreate shanties as a fetishized art object, Morrinho is like DIY Legos, as the universal building block impulse was picked up by favela kids and turned into a way to ease some of the stress of daily life in Pereira da Silva by recreating their community — large made of bricks — out of bricks. The vibrant colors of Morrinho gave a taste of morphology that funk was born into, against the drab backdrop of some more downtown office buildings.
If the urban periphery achieved a hard-fought moment of recognition in the center of the city, though, the periphery of the event saw the most prominent trend in Rio lashing back: order. As the “Urban Control Regulators” of the city’s department of “Public Order” prowled like sharks, waiting to snap up minnows in the form of street vendors who strayed too far from the swarms of funkeiros, an unlucky victim literally had his applecart upset as agents confiscated a cooler full of drinks — probably to go swill beer at the station — and his pushcart. The vendor looks on despondently as the city crushes an honest, hard day’s work and municipal guards stand tall over the telltale remains of ice melting on a hot Rio street to do what they do best: keep a vague and arbitrary notion of order that is sucking the life out of one of the world’s most vibrant cities.