Invisible Cities – Michelle Sommer

Sub_notes on subterranean urbanism


Upper-notes about (our) Maracangalha

by Michelle Sommer

The earth is hollow and concave and we inhabit its internal part. We are inside and not outside Earth. The hypothesis – absurd for science and prolific for art – has survived since 1665, when Athanasius Kircher – a German Jesuit-mathematician-physicist-alchemist-inventor – proclaimed the Hollow Earth theory in a eureka moment; and was soon followed by Edmund Halley, the notorious British astronomer and mathematician, in 1692.

In the last century, in 1947 and 1956 precisely, admiral Richard Byrd, in his expeditions to the North and South Pole, penetrated 2,730 km and 3,690 km respectively into the interior of Earth. From its extremes, towards the inside, he claimed not have seen either ice or snow, but vast areas of mountains, forests, vegetation, lakes and rivers, in a spacial experience defined as “The Land of Everlasting Mystery”.

At the beginning of the 1970’s, the Environmental Science Service Administration (ESSA), which belongs to the Department of Commerce of the United States, published photographs of the North Pole taken two years before by the satellite ESSA-7. ESSA did not suspect that their routine atmospheric recognition photos would contribute to the awakening of one of the most sensational controversies relating to the Hollow Earth theory, with images that showed an immense hole leading to the interior of Earth (could this concave cavity be the one that Admiral Byrd entered?).

The kingdom located inside Earth is called Agartha; a sacred place for Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. There is a magical key in the domain of the esoteric and occult to access this blessed land that is part of the invisible world. It is the “Open Sesame!” that unlocks the doors to a new world of wonders and that allows us to go to the celestial Earth or, if you prefer, to the internal terrestrial paradise.

In the manifest world of our surface, Brasilia represented the ideal city utopia. Whilst the capital of Brazil was erected between 1956 and 1960 the great master-musician-poet-actor Dorival Caymmi composed “Maracangalha”, in 1956. Rocking the movement of construction in Brasilia, we sing like this:

“I’ll go to Maracangalha / I’ll go / I’ll go in a white uniform / I’ll go! / I’ll go with a straw hat / ‘llI go! / I’ll invite Anália / I will / If Anália doesn’t want to go / I’ll go alone! / I’ll go alone! / I’ll go alone! / If Anália doesn’t want to go / I’ll go alone! / I’ll go alone! / I’ll go without Anália but I’ll go!… (3x) / I’ll go alone!… (16x)

They say that Zezinho, a friend of Caymmi, was the one who inspired the song. Maracangalha was this “other place”, the extramarital refuge of his friend, who repeated it to his wife as an excuse to leave the house: “I’m going to Maracangalha”.

It is Mario Pedrosa who, in 1957, reflecting upon the new capital Brasilia, asks: “Brasilia or Maracangalha?”. “Brasilia is a kind of bunker impenetrable to external noise, to public opinion, like a State that housed itself in underground armored caves to, while commanding the operation, escape the bombing and the enemy’s automated attacks in a future atomic war”. Said the critic ironically in his expectation of what Brasilia was to become.

Almost 60 years later, Brasilia lieth there, in the same artificial climate of isolation, occupied in Cabralian fashion (you can even see the cross is in its foundation!). From here, so geographically distant, we scream “Open Sesame!”. From there – but not only from there – the thieves emerge. In our modernist condemnation we are our own colonizers. It is the same wise Mario Pedrosa who also affirms: “well, who says utopia, says art, says creative will”.  Let’s go now then and (re)establish Maracangalha – or our Upper Agartha in the dream that moves the revolutionary mentality of the utopians! Forward!

“I’ll go to Maracangalha I’ll go! (3x)”

PEDROSA, Mário. Reflections on the new capital. Revista Brasil: Contemporary Architecture, n. 10, 1957. In: Mario Pedrosa. Architecture, critical essays. Editora Cosac Naify, 2015.

Michelle Sommer is a doctorate student in History, Theory and Art Criticism at PPGAV/UFRGS (2012-2016), with a doctorate internship at the University of the Arts London, Central Saint Martins (2015); a masters in Urban and Regional Planning (PROPUR/UFRGS) and architecture (PUCRS). She is the author of the books: “Práticas Contemporâneas do Mover-se” (2015) and “Territorialidade Negra Urbana” (2011). She is part of the faculty of the Visual Arts School of Parque Lage / RJ and is currently, together with Gabriel Pérez Barreiro, preparing an exhibition about the thinking of the critic Mario Pedrosa for the Museum Reina Sofia / Madrid, with repercussions in México and Brazil. She is a teacher, researcher and visual arts curator.