The Last Adventure

Romy Pocztaruk

The Trans-Amazonian Highway was created under Brazil’s latest military regime, during Emílio G. Médici government (1969-1974), to cut the northern half of Brazil’s territory from east to west and promote ‘national integration’. The construction of its 4,000 kilometres – stretching from Paraíba to Acre, all the way to the Peruvian border – represented a pharaonic undertaking at the time, one worthy of a growing nation: ‘the last great adventure of the century’, according to state propaganda. After a few years, the construction of various stretches of the highway was halted and, with the passage of time, the Trans-Amazonian Highway had become a site of unkept promises, long gaps and waits, the ruins of something that never came to be.

In 2011, Romy Pocztaruk spent a month travelling a large part of the highway to see what remained of the project and what had been born in the small towns in the vicinity of its absence. The trip aimed at an experience close to the conquering of a territory and imagery which, though symbols of nationalist identity, remain inaccessible and stigmatised to this day. The result is a study in documentary photography, in which Pocztaruk and her possible subjects never appear in the scene, and which is instead dominated by registers of their places in transit and life. Though emptied according to photographic direction, the houses, parks and streets portrayed present a detailed human dimension of the environment and material culture.

Forty years late, the paving of some portions of the Trans- Amazonian Highway was resumed during the year of Pocztaruk’s trip, only again to be interrupted shortly after. Despite the infrastructure and the image of the highway as a monument to national progress, the project A última aventura [The Last Adventure] features arguments for reopening the debate on the methods of conducting and effecting social transformation – in this case, via the simulation of the possibility of transit, of a journey that began but hasn’t yet been concluded, neither for Pocztaruk nor for Brazil. – AMM