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Rio Negro Manifesto,
Integral Naturalism Manifesto

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In 1978, Pierre Restany joined Sepp Baendereck and Frans Krajcberg on an expedition to the Amazon. As they ascend the Rio Negro, Pierre Restany writes the Manifeste du Naturalisme Intégral or Manifeste du Rio Negro. There he explores his own vision of Art confronted with the "alternative" aesthetic of Frans Krajcberg, based as much on reflection as on instinct. The launch conferences in Rio, São Paulo and Brasilia have sparked controversy.


Amazonian nature calls into question my sensitivity as a modern man. It also calls into question the scale of traditionally recognized aesthetic values. The current artistic chaos is the conclusion of urban evolution. Here we are faced with a world of shapes and vibrations, the mystery of continuous change. We must know how to take advantage of it. Integral nature can give new meaning to individual values of sensitivity and creativity.

The Rio Negro Manifesto was launched the day Brazil opened up to democracy: the military had just granted amnesty to opponents. It was the first debate after the dictatorship, we had never talked about the destruction of forests. The attacks were violent. Some did not admit that three "gringos" spoke about Brazil. The manifesto was presented in Curitiba, New York, Paris, Rome and Milan." 

Frans Krajcberg.

Pierre Restany - Upper Rio Negro - Thursday, August 3, 1978.
In the presence of Sepp BAENDERECK and Frans KRAJCBERG

"The Amazon today constitutes the last reservoir on our planet, the refuge of total nature. 

What type of art, what system of language can such an environment, which is remarkable from every point of view and exorbitant in relation to common sense, arouse ?  


A naturalism of an essentialistic and fundamental kind, opposed to realism and the continuity of the realist tradition of the realist spirit beyond the succession of its styles and forms.  

The spirit of realism throughout of pure verification, the testimony of affective availability.  

The spirit of realism is metaphor; realism is the metaphor of power; religious power, the power of money during the Renaissance, political power later, bourgeois realism, socialist realism, and the power of the consumer society with pop art. 


Naturalism is not metaphoric. It translates no will to power but quite a different state of sensitivity ; a greater opening of consciousness. The tendency to the objectiveness of verification translates a discipline of perception, a complete disposal to the direct and spontaneous message of the immediate data of awareness. Journalism, but transferred into the domain of pure sensitivity : sensitive information of nature. To practice this accessibility towards the natural datum is to admit the modesty of human perception and its limits in relation to a whole which is an end in itself.  

This discipline in the consciousness of one’s limits is the first quality required of a good reporter; for this is what enables him to transmit what he sees while the facts as little as possible.  

Naturalism thus conceived implies not only the strongest discipline of perception but also the widest human openness. 

Ultimately nature is and it exceeds us in the perception of its own duration. Nut in the space-time of a man’s life nature is the measure of his consciousness and of his sensitivity. 

Integral Naturalism is allergic to any sort of power metaphor of power. The sole power which it recognizes is not the abusive power of society, but the purifying and cathartic power of imagination at the service of sensitivity. 


This naturalism is of an individual order. The naturalism option as opposed to the realist option is the fruit of a choice which engages the whole of the individual consciousness. This option is not just critical; it is not limited to expressing man’s dread of the danger inflicted upon nature by the excess of industrial and urban civilization. Rather, it translates the advent of a comprehensive stage of perception, the individual passage to planetary awareness.  

We live in a time of double balance. To the end of this century will be added the end of a millennium, with all the transferences of taboos and of collective paranoia which this temporal recurrence implies, beginning with the transference of fear of the year 1000 to fear of the year 2000, with the atom replacing the plague. 


And so we are living in an age of balance. The balance of our past opening on to our future. Our First Millenium must announce the Second. Our Jewish-Christian civilization has to make ready for its Second Renaissance. The return to idealism in this super-materialist 20th century, the regained interest in the history of religions and the tradition of occultism, the ever increasingly pressing search for new symbolist iconographies - all these symptoms are the consequence of a process of dematerialization of the object which began in 1966 and is the major phenomenon of contemporary art history in the West. 


After centuries of and its culmination in the apotheosis of the object as the synthetic idiom of the consumer society, art doubts its material justification. It is de-materializing: it is becoming conceptualized. The conceptual developments of contemporary art can only make sense if they are examined though this self-critical lens. Art has assumed a self-critical position. It is questioning itself about its immanence, its necessity and its purpose. 

Integral naturalism is an answer. And precisely by its virtue of integralism, that is to say, of generalization and extremism of the structure of perception that is to say of the globalization of consciousness, naturalism represents now an open option, a guiding thread in the chaos of art today. Self-criticism, dematerialization, idealist temptation, symbolist and occultist subterranean routes - this apparent confusion will perhaps be cleared up on day by starting from the notion of naturalism, the expression of planetary consciousness. 


This perceptive restructuring corresponds to a veritable maturation: dematerialization of the art object, its idealist interpretation, the return to the hidden sense of things and to their symbology, all these symptomatic trends create a whole body of facts which forms an operational preface to our Second Renaissance, the necessary step towards the final anthropological mutation. 


We are experiencing today two meanings of nature. Ancestral sense of the planetary fact, modern sense of industrial and urban acquisition. We can opt for one or other, deny one in favor of the other, but the important thing is that these two meanings of nature be lived and taken up in the completeness of their ontological structure, in the perspective of a universalized sense of perception, the Ego embracing the World and becoming one with it, in the accord and harmony of emotion treated as the ultimate reality of human language. 


Naturalism as a discipline of thought and of perceptive awareness is an ambitious and exacting program which reaches far beyond the current stammering ecological prospects. It is a matter of struggling ecological prospects. It is a matter of struggling much more against subjective pollution, than against objective pollution, the pollution of the senses and of the brain, much more than of the air or water. 


A context as exceptional as the Amazon arouses the idea of a return to original nature. Original nature must be exalted as a hygiene of perception and as mental oxygen: a whole and complete naturalism, a gigantic catalyst and accelerator of our faculties of feeling, thinking and acting. "

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Film directed by Frans Krajcberg during the trip on the Rio Negro in 1978 and presented during the manifesto launch conferences.

Krajcberg has recounted several of his travels in the Amazon with Pierre Restany, in Piaui or in Nova Viçosa where he makes the art critic discover what cannot be learned in books:

"Restany is a man of the cities, a hundred percent urban, with his Parisian bistros, his meetings, his New Realist movement. Nature, he didn't know what it was. He didn't even know how to walk on the beach".

Frans Krajcberg gives the art critic things to see and to feel, by showing him, through the viewfinder of his camera, the peculiarities of nature. “ To him, everything was green. But there are hundreds of greens. I showed him the plain in the distance and its chromatic differences, the background versus the foreground. I told him to look at the red spot of a flower in the middle of all that green. By that, he only shows him the system of complementary colors. We talked about Mondrian. Little by little, he is sensitized. Look at this tree, it is almost square. Mondrian has saw a little thing from this tree to get to the square. He started from this tree to go towards pure abstraction. Krajcberg started from abstraction to return to the tree " .


Pierre Restany and Frans Krajcberg on an expedition on the Rio Negro River

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Pierre Restany et Frans Krajcberg à Paris

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