Indeed, Brasilia could be associated with the gaze of Brazilian modernists of the 1920s, who ‘discovered’ the vastness of their own country when accompanying Blaise Cendrars into the interior states of Brazil. Recalling the novels of Guimar?es Rosa, Wisnick states:
Brasilia emerges as an unnamed city in the two tales that begin and end the book Primeiras Est?rias (first stories) [by GR], published in 1962. In both stories - where a boy is taken by his uncle to visit the construction site of a new city, with its artificial lake, engineers and machines - modernity’s eruption is accompanied by a continuous feeling of death. Since this nameless Brasilia is not exactly a city, but rather the spectre of the modern yet to be accomplished, it represents a principle that, in spite of everything, was already present within the Sert?o [wilderness], and which it does not contradict. For that constructive and destructive power that takes possession of space, that is blind towards the vegetation that it wipes out, is still the Sert?o, other and yet the same, its fold.
Wisnik then elaborates how the Sert?o is replicated even within the space of modernity:
Yet despite its vocation to the modern, Brazil did not achieve modernity as such - this is its fundamental dilemma. The ultra-modern capital failed to civilise the ‘other’ Brazil, where archaic residues survived and redeveloped to such an extent that at certain moments they ceased to be residues and revealed themselves actually to be primordial conditions. Such was the case, for example, with the brutality and violence that the workers building Brasilia were subjected to on site: the violence of the lawless Sert?o was renewed rather than subdued by the modern city. Moreover, the spatial segregation that resulted from the appearance of satellite cities around the Master Plan replicates the spatial structures characteristic of the social hierarchy of the traditional large estates and the power structures imposed by the political barons.
The inauguration of the new capital, together with the general political instability of the following years, brought the realisation of the unavoidable presence of the ‘other’ Brazil. The spectre of this ‘other’ had indeed always been present in the shadows of the developmentalist project. With this acknowledgement, it became increasingly apparent to many artists that the constructivist avant-gardes could no longer ethically sustain an autonomous laboratory approach to aesthetic experimentation. While it also became evident that developments that aimed at engaging with a wider public, such as the Popular Centres for Culture, placed art at the service of political ideology, and thus compromised the conceptual and intellectual complexity (not to mention quality) of creative production. It was only following this moment of crisis, and indeed after the military coup of 1964, when organisations such as the Popular Centres for Culture were outlawed, that a renewed interest in Oswald de Andrade re-emerged. The firm convictions of the constructivist role within society gave way to an ambivalent attitude in which an openness to outside influence was combined with concerns and engagement with the other national reality, that of the marginalized sectors of society. The experience of constructivism was not necessarily rejected, but was juxtaposed within a nexus of cultural sources.