Brazilian Intelligence / Intelligentsia
Brasilianische Intelligenz [Brazilian Intelligence / Intelligentsia] (1965), an eighty-page book by Max Bense (1910–1990), can be read as an enthusiastic tribute to Brazil’s intellectuals, who from 1964 onward found themselves confronted by a military dictatorship. A progressive civilization, Bense begins, attracts attention not because of its power relationships but because of its intellectuals. By the time he presented his “Cartesian reflection” (the book’s subtitle) to the then avant-garde Limes publishing house, after four visits to Brazil Bense had clearly worked out his aesthetic position. (Aesthetica, his highly influential series of books which also comprises the volume Programmierung des Schönen [Programming the Beautiful, 1960], had been published from 1954 onward.) Within the circles of Brazil’s authors, visual artists, and architects, he found representatives of contemporary creativity that pointed to the future.
“One has stepped into the realm of an intelligence that almost loves the adventure which begins with making an idea reality even more than the idea itself […].” (Bense, Brasilianische Intelligenz, 1965, p. 17; translated from the German) Brasília, the capital city which was planned for in the constitution in 1891 but which was only begun in 1956 with its inauguration in 1960, is described repeatedly by Bense as a model and example for urbanism of the future that will replace the old humanism: “the city as a complex, collective housing unit” (ibid., p. 19; translated from the German). For Bense Brasília is the “city as a continuation of the emancipated intelligence” (ibid., p. 21; translated from the German). In this architecture and urbanism is concentrated what Bense describes in his book title as “Brazilian intelligence” or “Brazilian intelligentsia.”
Vilém Flusser saw Brazilian thought as Latin American thought that had, however, been altered, expanded, and updated by the tropics. In the literary oeuvre of João Guimarães Rosa, the music of Heitor Villa-Lobos, and in Brazilian abstract, concrete, and figurative artworks, he saw “the eruptive emergence of completely new structures.” In this Flusser was close to Bense: “Only philosophically can we understand and evaluate [these new structures].” (“Vom Denken und Nachdenken in tropischem Klima,” in: Brasilien oder die Suche nach dem neuen Menschen, 1994, p. 255; translated from the German).