Plas Ayiti (Neon Project) by Milla Jung, was realized in 2014. It is an artistic intervention in the central plaza of the city of Curitiba, Tiradentes Plaza, in the south of Brazil. The project consists of a bright installation in neon, measuring four and a half by one meters atop the building Nossa Senhora da Luz (Our Lady of Light). At night time, it featured the term Plas Ayiti, which in Haitian Creole means “Haitian Place,” giving visibility to the name that Haitian immigrant refugees used to refer to the plaza where they met as a community.
The intent of this neon intervention—a type of illumination that is almost non-existent in Southern Brazil—was to summon a kind of foreignism, to bring this peripheral point on the map of Brazil closer to other Americas. In this way, the intervention sought to amplify the relational experience of what could ideally be called a contemporary urbe (city), a political space open to dialogue and difference. For Rosalyn Deutsche1, a political space for public presentations is conditioned to truly be public only insofar as it offers a space of alterity, where it is possible to both appear to the other and respond to the appearance. This ability to respond—“response/ability”—is what would bring a space for difference into play, or in other words, the construction of a democratic space.
In its operationality, Plas Ayiti sought to be realized as an appearance both literally and conceptually. An appearance where Haitian refugees could recognize themselves by a community code, previously private, and currently placed in the local public sphere; at the same time, the other residents of the city could not recognize themselves immediately in the contextual legibility of the work. This turn first meant to displace the position of spectators—making the Haitians the primary public and the locals foreigners—in order to then join as one unique, assimilated, and cosmopolitan body.
In addition to the other iterations of the neon intervention Plas Ayiti, there was the intersection with the film installation Plas Ayiti, produced by the artists Felipe Prando, Carlos Kenj, and Daniel Yencken, in collaboration with recently-arrived Haitian migrants David Limose, Serge Norestin, and Team Fresh; there was also a presentation of photography of the Plas Ayiti installation at the print museum Solar do Barão, located just a few blocks from Tiradentes Plaza, which pointed to the displacement of the experience of the museum from the space of city; and there was also the distribution of 13 by 18 centimeter postcards to the Haitian public, with the image of the installation in the plaza, which even included the official logos of the city. This game envisioned to return to Haiti, by postal mail, the incorporation of this previously immigrant presence that was now situated as a critical transcultural image that had created a new reality.
- Deutsche, Rosalyn. A arte de ser testemunha na esfera pública dos tempos de guerra. Concinnitas 15, ano 10, volume 2, Rio de Janeiro, 2009. Translated by Jorge Menna Barreto.