An invention that reconfigured the world, an innovator ahead of its time. The exhibition “The Flying Poet, Santos Dumont” opens to the public on April 26 in the Museum of Tomorrow, highlighting the innovative capacity of the Brazilian inventor, a visionary who devoted himself to science and technology inspired by the art. With audiovisual content and interactive activities, the exhibit includes prototypes of the major creations by Santos Dumont and full-size replicas of the 14bis aircraft and the Demoiselle, the inventor’s most complete project.
Conceived and executed by the Roberto Marinho Foundation, “The Flying Poet, Santos Dumont” occupies the temporary exhibition hall of the museum, curated by Gringo Cardia and with scientific advice from Biophysicist and Researcher Henrique Lins de Barros. The goal is to present Santos Dumont as a young entrepreneur who was an early adopter of concepts that are quite current today – for instance, he freely offered his design for replication instead of registering patents, in a kind of creative commons licensing scheme created before the term itself. He was also one of the first contemporary designers of the country, famous for his precise, simple and functional strokes, as well as one of the most celebrated Brazilians in the world (a trend-setter in Paris, the capital of the world at the beginning of the last century) and an icon of Brazil’s ability to do science.
“It is very significant that Santos Dumont is the theme of an exhibit at the Museum of Tomorrow, because he held innovation as a cornerstone. Just like the museum, Santos Dumont thought innovatively for the common good. Santos Dumont is one of the harbingers of the twentieth century, of the era of technological advances,” said the secretary-general of the Roberto Marinho Foundation, Hugo Barreto. “Through his history, we show how research, scientific knowledge and education can be transformative”. The concept and content of the Museum of Tomorrow were both developed by the Roberto Marinho Foundation, which is also responsible for exhibitions such as “Grande Sertão: Veredas”(original title of the famous book by Guimarães Rosa, The Devil to Pay in the Backlands), a 2006 exhibit chosen to inaugurate the Museum of the Portuguese Language; “100 years of Roberto Burle Marx: Permanence of the Unstable” (2008), at the Paço Imperial; “Fernando Pessoa: Plural like the Universe” (2010), set up in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Lisbon; and “Cazuza, Show your Face” (2013), also curated by Gringo Cardia.
Audiovisual and interactive
In close sync with the language of the museum, the exhibit features audiovisual content, interactive activities, games and immersive environments. “We emphasize the poetic and artistic side of Santos Dumont, hence the title ‘The Flying Poet’. He was a man of science who was inspired by art – it was the stories of Jules Verne, for example, that awakened in him the dream of flying. In the exhibition, we show that exercising creativity is a way to bring forth discovery,” says Gringo Cardia. “People placed Santos Dumont on a shelf of clichés, but he was and still is a very modern, innovative man. He is part of the history of an invention that ‘reconfigured’ the world, that has transformed the way we relate to time and space,” says the curator, himself a lover of aviation – his father was a meteorologist working at airports and Cardia spent his childhood living next to the hangars.
In the year that we celebrate 110 years of the 14 Bis inaugural flight – the first officially approved aircraft flight in history – Santos Dumont is the unifying thread for a journey through the history of flying. “We want to enhance Brazil’s capacity to innovate and to do science, motivating children and young people to appreciate scientific activity”, says the curator of the Museum of Tomorrow, Luiz Alberto Oliveira. He highlights the importance of celebrating the Brazilian inventor in a period in which Rio de Janeiro will receive lots of tourists because of the Olympics. “Santos Dumont is an iconic figure. He created not only an artifact that flies, but determined the process of flying.”
The exhibition “The Flying Poet, Santos Dumont” has been conceived and executed by the Roberto Marinho Foundation, with exclusive sponsorship by Shell Brazil and support from the Federal Government (through the Federal Law for Cultural Incentive). “Santos Dumont made transformative contributions to global mobility. One hundred and ten years after the inaugural flight of the 14-Bis, tens of thousands of aircraft cross the sky every day thanks to innovative and courageous minds like his,” said the president of Shell Brazil, André Araujo.
For the general director of the Museum of Tomorrow, Ricardo Piquet, the exhibit reinforces the guiding principles of the institution. “Innovation will always have its space in our activities, but it is particularly emblematic that one of the greatest Brazilian inventors has an exhibition in his honor. Santos Dumont is a timeless figure, and therefore aligns with our essence of examining the past, present the trends of the present and explore possible scenarios for the coming decades. His boldness was revolutionary; he is still a reference, and his inventions will continue to contribute to the next generation,” says Piquet.
Visitors can experience aircraft
The exhibition is divided into five environments (read below). In the main room, prototypes of the seven models created by Santos Dumont – from the Brasil balloon to the Demoiselle aircraft (the synthesis of all his projects), including the pioneering 14 Bis – showcase the evolution of the technologies developed by the inventor. Dumont’s bold design and minimalist forms stand out in this area. In interactive screens, visitors see several layers of content unfold through digitized documents, images and historical photos. A full-size replica of the Demoiselle (built in the Samba City and transported to the Museum of Tomorrow) will be on display, and visitors can enter a draw to win a virtual “flight” through Paris and Rio de Janeiro in the early twentieth century through video editing.
A documentary about the history of Santos Dumont is on display in the Cinema room, while in the Balloon Hall a film walks viewers through the inventions that inspired the poet and the evolution of the dream of flying, beginning all the way back to the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci. In the Paper Airplanes Workshop, visitors get playful introductions to Physics concepts such as Aerodynamics and Engine Mechanics: launched on a track, the airplanes trigger the Game of Curiosities, where videos show information about the operation of aircraft and many other curiosities. “Using language that is accessible to all audiences, we show how Santos Dumont is inspired by the creators who came before him to arrive where no one had been before,” says Biophysicist Henrique Lins de Barros, a museum consultant and an expert in Santos Dumont, author of books and documentaries on the aviator.
The Educational Area of the museum plays a central role in the exhibition’s experience, with activities and workshops that go beyond the museum space and take over the Mauá square around it, in partnership with the Rio Art Museum (MAR). The exhibition will also feature audio guides in English and Spanish for foreign audiences, videos with Brazilian Sign Language translation and audio description.
The Flying Poet, Santos Dumont
Museum of Tomorrow: Praça Mauá 1, Centro
Open hours: From Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm (the ticket office closes at 5pm)
Further information: www.museudoamanha.org.br