- Infinity City | Marcio Harum | 2011
- On Art and Politics | Carla Zaccagnini | 2010
- Operation for the Masses | Marcelo Rezende | 2010
- 16th Festival Awarded Artists | Teté Martinho | 2009
- I Look, Therefore I Am | Denise Mota | 2007
- Identity/alterity | Paula Alzugaray | 2007
- Other Spaces | Eduardo de Jesus | 2006
- 15th Festival Awarded Artists | Solange Farkas | 2006
Infinity City | Marcio Harum
In a critical manner, the set of videos that comprise Cidade infinita (Infinite city) is based on a few works culled from the collection of Associação Cultural Videobrasil, without being limited to it. From January until March 2011, in three monthly online FF>>Dossier publications, the curatorial investigation looks into the production of three artists: Letícia Ramos, Shaun Gladwell, and Sebastian Diaz Morales. The choice of videos, based on facts and background, stems from the first hypothesis of when they were first seen by me, sitting in the audience in the last few editions of the Videobrasil Festival. Markedly, as the title implies, the selection involves the city as a thematic ground zero, giving way to aesthetical speculation on its significances, and leads to a critical review of the works mentioned.
The pieces of work by the three artists featured herein are infiltrated by urban conditions of instability. In their semidocumental experimentation, the city is portrayed as the protagonist of an oscillating time. Guided by slow, empty motions that are at times phantasmagorical, their static cameras superimpose repeated images without a past, and require, at first, a still gaze, again and again. Each new sighting of a given moving image appears transgressed; it is generated by an unexpected vortex.
Perhaps the trio shares certain corresponding cultural codes. Nevertheless, they connive with an uncertain degree of generational commitment. Most of all, they seek a link in their praxis, one that reaches beyond the mobility that tends to a model of cheap voyeurism, and that has them live up to their yearnings—albeit with an uncommon lifestyle, which they reveal through urban self-portraits, like artists-characters.
Letícia Ramos, who featured in the Southern Panoramas competitive exhibition in the 16th Videobrasil, in 2007, with the work Panorâmica 01, appears in the programme in sync with the pulleys and chains of a city-machine. With a powerful piece of work that serves the optical apparatus built by the artist herself, ERBF – Estação radiobase fotográfica (BTPS – Base transceiver photographic station, 2005–2009) features a set of rulers in which holes of various calculated diameters were drilled to allow light to enter, enabling prolonged film exposure. The device has a peculiar prism, with an infinite depth-of-field perspective. The camera bellows, attached by small aluminum shafts, can be stretched up to seventy centimeters, enabling the varying focal distance of such artistic challenge to be overcome.
Kickflipper: Fragments Edit (2003), by the artist Shaun Gladwell, was shown at the Panoramas of the Imagination show, curated by the Australian David Cranswick, at the 16th Videobrasil (2007). The work addresses the poetical representation of extreme urban sports; it is conveyed to the viewer by means of freestyle skateboarding tricks, which give rise to a credible resemblance with a solo dance performance. An installment of Kickflipping Flâneur, a series of works that combines signs that elucidate the author’s artistic trajectory, the video conceives a possible updated version of the meaning of flâneur, by transposing the meaning from Baudelaire’s Belle Époque Paris streets to Bondi beach, a hot spot of Australian summer nowadays.
His previous work, Storm Sequence (2000), follows the principle of portrait painting in real motion: it brings to mind the silhouette of a street dancer who moves on the four zigzagging wheels of a skateboard. Gladwell opens up a kind of clearing for meditational balance, geared towards bodily mastery of technique, which provides a link between the urban settings and nature.
Sebastian Diaz Morales, who has two works featured in the critical review of collections proposed in Cidade infinita, participated in the competitive exhibitions of the 14th and 15th editions of Videobrasil. He was awarded by the jury in 2003 for The Apocalyptic Man (2002), made during a six-month tour of cities in the central areas of Mexico. Produced by Morales’ company, Just Like A That, it is inspired in excerpts from the book Los Siete Locos (1929), by the Argentinean Roberto Arlt. Visually paced as a travelog, it is an iconoclastic expedition through an underground tunnel. Then an obscure city emerges, internalized as subject, dug up with extremely anxious feelings, in an angst-ridden narrative.
In 2005, the artist returned to the Videobrasil festival with Lucharemos Hasta Anular la Ley (2005), which formally discusses the progress of and the access to postproduction effects, as well as the specifics of the work’s editing. Televised scenes from a civil protest attack on the façade of the Argentinean congress are obscured, creating an atmosphere that favors perception of the city as arena for combat between the individual and the State. The video thus transforms a news story originally shot as a political issue of strictly journalistic character into a universal matter, an essay that goes beyond, upon commenting on the inhumane conditions that affect all in society.
What are the cities that we wish to live in like and where are they? What to expect from them from now on? Cidade infinita attempts to capture the omens of a decade that seemed to have no end.
On Art and Politics | Carla Zaccagnini
On Art and Politics
When a friend told me that politics “is the negotiation of subjectivities in the public space,” I warned her that I would quote it as soon as—or whenever—I found a context. Well, here is the context, because in order to discuss art and politics, it seems necessary to me to try and define these fields. It is a difficult and inevitably reductive, yet important task. Art is not just whatever, nor is politics.
In the long class I taught last night, in which almost all kinds of questionings were made, from the least expected to the least appropriate, a student asked me about my definition of art. Maybe because in these moments it is more comfortable not to be alone, maybe because it is useless to try and say differently what has already been said so well, maybe because it had been a long time since I had asked myself that, maybe because I knew of the after-effect of silence and respect that an answer such as this would certainly entail, and which seemed desirable to me, I quoted Mário Pedrosa: art is an experimental exercise in freedom.
Now, thinking of something that may be published, I am unable to find a better definition. The artistic practice that interests me is an exercise, in the sense that it is constructed through the attempt itself, with no possible rehearsal, and as a learning process. It is also experimental because it is a method of knowledge based on experience, because it is always an experiment, a pilot project, a prototype of no product at all. And its matter of investigation or moving force is often a question regarding or a desire for emancipation, autonomy, construction of a subject; it is somewhat antialienating or—despite all my reluctance in saying or writing down this word—libertarian.
Certain of the little zeal or of the null inflexibility with which Julieta keeps her in-transit statements, I allow myself to take a step back. Even before its negotiation of subjectivities, I believe that politics is the assuming of a position; it is the outlining of a subject’s position within a public sphere—be it the public space, matters of public interest, etc.
Whenever I think of art and politics, I think of the exercises and experiments that propose, maintain, or expose a position that questions or mobilizes an emancipation process. I think of proposals which, with all of the imprecision typical of exercise and experimentation, risk assuming a position in the public sphere which is structured based on, and at the same time reveals the point of view of a subject that is aware of itself, of where it belongs, and of its implication in the present moment and the uncertain future of that same sphere.
The videos BMX, by Alexandre da Cunha and Face A Face B, by Rabih Mouré, based on which I have selected the artists featured in this curated programme of dossiers, are good examples of such exercises, in which the public space and the historical moment prove constituted and (re)signified through the negotiation of subjectivities.
Operation for the Masses | Marcelo Rezende
Operation for the Masses
Since the beginning of the concretist movement in São Paulo, in the 1950s, and of the dissidence caused by the Rio de Janeiro-based neoconcrete group towards the end of that decade, constructivist thinking in Brazil diluted itself into the most varied media and forms, having become a defining moment in the history of Brazilian 20th-century art, a critical research field, and, at its worst moments, a mannerism, a genre, a style. Anyway, it remains unavoidable.
The foundation to the constructivist ideas and intentions that were partially implemented during the early years of the 1917 Russian Revolution was the repositioning of the role of art, which expanded its presence in the political field by becoming inserted into industrial means of production and seeking to establish a form of popular avant-garde, cultivated through contact with mass consumption—with design, advertising, and poetry as its strategic elements.
In the first two decades of the Brazilian industrialization period, this rational, neo-Enlightenment plan dissolved itself into other proposals (when in contact with the local context) and gained subjectivity and sensuality, but despite its presence in national culture and counterculture, part of its initial project—namely, to come up with creative ways of organizing and existing in society through art and its consumption—remains unfinished.
Today, at a historic moment in which the country undergoes a second wave of economicgrowth, in which the technology for distributing information occupies a central position in the rebuilding of power and consumption relations, this concern of the Brazilian Constructivist Project with large-scale dissemination finds a renewed possibility. “Operation for the Masses” seeks to examine in which way this project presents itself now asan active proposal for artists and society alike.
16th Festival Awarded Artists | Teté Martinho
I Look, Therefore I Am | Denise Mota
I Look, Therefore I Am
If cinema has established itself as a universe in which reality is illusion,(1) the Uruguayan artists chosen for this FF>>Dossier apply this perception—inverted—to portray the current society: illusion is reality. In “Baudrillardian” key, they debate with the seventh art by conditioning the comprehension of the world to the observation of fictional artifices that mark the modern times, “the age of simulation”(2)characterized by an avalanche of artificial signs.
To Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007), “the signified and the referent are now abolished to the sole profit of the play of signifiers, of a generalized formalization in which the code no longer refers back to any subjective or objective ‘reality,’ but to its own logic.”(3) Furthering this comprehension and in one of his most aggressive papers, in “The Mask of War” (an article published for the Libération daily on March 10, 2003), he states that the war in Iraq was a “puppet event,” “a kind of disease prevention on a worldwide scale” in which, as shown by Steven Spielberg in the movie Minority Report—the Frenchman compares—, the crime bud is supposedly nipped before it germinates. “The question that irresistibly arises is: would the supposed crime have taken place?” inquires the philosopher. “Here, reality is a virtual horizon.”
Successful cinematographic products have been able to make use of these ideas. Matrix, a series of two movies by the Wachowski brothers, greatly multiplied the presence of Baudrillard’s name in the medium, with which he was so involved. However, he considered it a misinterpretation of his ideas, as it is polarized between the real and virtual. As a movie translating his suppositions, the French philosopher prefers The Truman Show.
It is within this orbit, but from another perspective, that the guests of this FFDossier gravitate. Dani Umpi, Paula Delgado, Martín Sastre, and Juan Pedro Fabra Guemberena have, as the backbone of their artistic investigations, the instances of a world created in a laboratory—or even better, on editing tables—, where the perception of realityis measured by image.
Especially in the Uruguayan context, in which video as an artistic tool has only recently gained official recognition (the Video Department of the National Museum of Visual Arts in the country was only established in 1999), a prominent generation of artists has materialized, working with digital media from the start of their careers. All have been awarded, having shown their work locally and internationally (Guemberena and Sastre have participated in several biennials), and have very individual work, although theyalso produce with other groups.
Uniting cinema, TV, video, and visual arts, these authors move in a universe of receptors conditioned to the technological vertigo of the current day. Inventors of a varied and uninterrupted “make-believe,” they point out the artificial, cruel, and/or idiotic characteristics of contemporary discourse in daily relations of power, collective or individual—be they masculine x feminine (Paula Delgado), North x South (Juan Pedro Fabra Guemberena), mainstream art x independent creation (Martín Sastre), or high x low culture (Dani Umpi).
Different from the comprehension of simulacrum offered by Matrix, here life is reproduced with no distinction between objective and subjective reality, farce, comedy,satire or drama, fiction or documentary. All four artists find in the simulacrum a toolof power and, ironically, adopt the modus operandi of a society that is saturated of images and excessively familiar with representation in all its forms.
Dani Umpi—character-author-work that the artist previously known as Daniel Umpiérrezhas become—moves around the underground region by the Río de la Plata, the children’s soccer fields, and the beauty parlors in the neighborhood, where he finds appreciators for the varied and often paradoxical fruit of his creation. A playback singer, writer-performer, poet-curator, creator seen full-time as creature, multidisciplinary, fantastic, and fanciful, prepared to show a peculiar world with many traces of daily life and playful winks into the vicissitudes of life, “sophisticated and vulgar,” as he defines it.
Questions of gender, pastiche, or fetish, and darts good-humoredly thrown in the direction of sexism leave the hands of Paula Delgado, from various personas that integratethe visual commentaries the artist weaves around herself. An enthusiastic wannabe, an antiquated engaged couple waltzing in a shopping center, unknown sex-symbol candidates faced with the same industrial production process for female beauty showing themselves ridiculous and sublime, generating sympathy and distancing, bringing smiles and commiseration.
Like a charmer, Martín Sastre throws glitter in the eyes of the observer. Like Umpi,he is the product and cause of his creations, a character who mimics under extraordinary conditions and who may be the redeemer of Latin America while on his climb to world domination, the element of connection to the secret life of Princess Diana after the carcrash in which the world pronounced her dead, or the underdeveloped reincarnation of a megastar like Robbie Williams.
The illusionist’s credential is also hidden in Juan Pedro Fabra Guemberena’s magician’s hat, out of which soldiers camouflaged under a dreamy or nightmarish sky, books crossed by ambiguous (North-American or Iraqi?) rifles, and youths attuned to the colorfulguidelines of fashion, but who intimately fondle dark projects of existence, may come out.
It is no longer art that emulates the world, but the world that guides itself by theimages and codes that rule the culture of the masses.
Life and its vicissitudes, miseries, wonders, and mysteries is a parade of small, large, and uninterrupted fictions before our eyes. What is not on the screen (large or small) does not exist. These artists simulate the simulacrum and concentrate on mechanisms that not only perpetuate but also strengthen the dominion of images over any other object or form of contact with the world around us. Wigs, stereotypes, extravagant garments, imitations of personalities of the international pop world, abundant use of Hollywood language, production of war material adequate for sensationalistic use and, joining all this, the excessive appreciation of appearances is at the core of the work of thoseselected, creators of real sensations caused by what is shown.
I look, therefore I am.
“It is no longer a question of imitation, nor of reduplication, nor even of parody. It is rather a question of substituting signs of the real for the real itself; that is,an operation to deter every real process by its operational double, a metastable, programmatic, perfect descriptive machine which provides all the signs of the real and short-circuits all its vicissitudes. Never again will the real have to be produced: this is the vital function of the model in a system of death, or rather of anticipated resurrection which no longer leaves any chance even in the event of death. A hyperreal henceforth sheltered from the imaginary, and from any distinction between the real and the imaginary, leaving room only for the orbital recurrence of models and the simulated generation of difference,” describes Baudrillard in Simulacra and Simulation, a kind of instruction manual not to pass unnoticed by these artists.
A generation educated by a frantic and universal electronic nanny, these creators, born in the 1970s and buried in artistic production from the ’90s onwards, maintain a relation of repulsion and fascination for the serial construction of rules, truths, and myths, surrounded by an aura of glamour and pictured here through references that often have cinema as their matrix.
The first point of inflection in the perception of the world and of the work of art,caused mainly by the exhibition of moving pictures—representation and reproduction of the real in the most perfect translation—, the popularization and seduction of the copy had in Walter Benjamin its most prominent prophet, when cinema made its moves on the horizon of artistic expression. In his classic paper “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1935), the German pointed out the loss of the “aura” of artistic objects, transformed into a possibility of fruition not only for few, but for the “masses,” in what results in a “new attitude” with regard to art.
If in the early days of cinema the unexpected was a source of surprise and, consequently, of pleasure(4)—the image of a train arriving at Ciotat station, 110 years ago, frightening the Lumière brothers’ audience in a public exhibition, as they thought the locomotive was going to break out of the screen and crush them all, is already classic. Today the excess of familiarity with this kind of representation of daily successes (printed, aesthetic, and exciting, primordial sensations of modern men, according to Nietzsche) is the factor of estrangement that the artists in this Dossier want to attract attention to. The different notes from the contemporary world can no longer be heard through difference, but through what is excessively common.
The young woman dreaming of fame who travels to New York and from there sends imagesof the supposed refinement reached; the singer who mixes folklore and dance music in a joke but becomes a radio hit; an exercise of war converted into a romantic landscape; stardom built by editing tricks and clichés that, as they are in current use, tend to surprise the critical capacity of viewers are some of the surprising circumstances of thework of these artists.
Blogs, instant celebrities, simultaneous and massive cinema releases, reality shows,webcams, CNN, YouTube, and pirating are part of the daily life of these authors, soakedin the advents of the “information society”—fast, fragmented, excessive—and comfortablein the reproduction of their codes and in the manipulation of their rules. In the reflection they propose, image is, par excellence, a tool of control, from where fame, the concession to violence, and the surreptitious homogeny on a global scale come.
“If the Real is disappearing, it is not because of a lack of it—on the contrary, there is too much of it. It is the excess of reality that puts an end to reality, just as the excess of information puts an end to information, or the excess of communication puts an end to communication,” writes Baudrillard in The Vital Illusion(5).
In the recurring exercises evidencing “videotization”(6) of life, the artists use largely known significants to produce new meanings. They pulverize the understanding of the real as something palpable, that may be classified and understood, taking to the extreme the presentation of images as the unique and last vestige of fiction transformed into reality and that, once again fictionalized, destroys itself.
(1)Edgar Morin, The Cinema, or The Imaginary Man (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005).
(2)“...The age of simulation thus begins with a liquidation of all referentials—worse: by their artificial resurrection in systems of signs.” Jean Baudrillard,Simulacra and Simulation (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1994).
(3)Jean Baudrillard, The Mirror of Production (St. Louis: Telos Press, 1975).
(4)Paul Virilio, War and Cinema (London: Verso, 1989).
(5)New York: Columbia University Press, 2001.
(6)Jerzy Kosinski’s vidiot was originally published in 1971 and taken to the cinema (inthe movie Being There) screen played by the author in 1979.
Identity/alterity | Paula Alzugaray
Walter Benjamin used to say that “traces of the storyteller cling to the story the way the handprints of the potter cling to the clay vessel.” It was Maurício Dias who alluded to this excerpt from The Storyteller, the first time I interviewed him, to exemplify his interest in Benjamin’s statement on the issue, and his disbelief in the documentary film template the concern of which is with the invisibility of the author. Maurício Dias & Walter Riedweg share with documentary films the use of a video camera, this instrument so attached to recording what is real. But their performance, with each new work, attests to the impossibility of representing “life as it is.” They have no intention of placing themselves in the world simply as observers, hence their aesthetics is much less concerned with representing, and more concerned with interacting with what is real.
Issues pertaining to voice, authorship, collaboration, or authority in constructing a discourse about the other are as central to the poetics of Dias & Riedweg as to contemporary anthropology and documentaries, which are increasingly challenged to rid themselves of the commitment with “unveiling” identities and “revealing” realities. The warning was sounded by producers and theoreticians, such as anthropologist Jay Ruby, to whom the dilemma at hand is to define of whom one speaks of, to whom one speaks, and how one speaks. “The documentary’s claim to an inside track to the truth and reality of other people was therefore undermined if not destroyed completely. Documentaries were recognized as an articulation of a point of view—not a window into reality.”
In this moment of breaking the mirror and reassessing functions, contemporary documentary film counts on contributions by visual artists who, since the mid-1990s, have been coming closer to this medium. In order to reflect about the pendular relationship between artists and documentary filmmakers, I brought together, in this FF>>Dossier curatorship, the poetics of Dias & Riedweg, Alice Miceli, Rosângela Rennó, and Luciano Mariussi. Some work by appropriating themselves of files and by recontextualizing documents. Others record artistic processes of interaction with people, groups, situations. Not all of them make documentaries, but they constantly question the relationships between reality and its recording. Based on this common premise, I choose as a common element for discussion works that use mirrors, always in a paradoxical manner, either to question the concept of image as duplication of the world, or to reflect about the very mechanisms for representing the world.
Historically, the relation between art and documentary has bordered on antagonism, in the molds of the art/science dichotomy. Although associated with the objective and descriptive discourse of science, the documentary has incorporated features of interpretation, subjectivity, of being arbitrary and partial. Here, it is worth noting the founding experiences of the “shared documentary” by Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin, in Chronicle of a Summer, in France; and the antidocumentary project by Arthur Omar, in Brazil. When documentary cinema reached its “crisis of representation,” contemporary art was already in a conceptual stage, as the modern self-referencing paradigms were completely destroyed. When artists started operating in territories outside of art, migrating to the fields of anthropology, ethnography, sociology, politics, body therapies, and other spheres of the “real world,” they stopped being opponents of documentary makers. Thus, it is worth noting here their contributions to the revision of documentaries and its acceptance as a practice that is increasingly hybrid, permeable, and distant from the paradigm of reproduction of reality.
Just as Brazilian contemporary photography used up its function of capturing the soul and unveiling the identity of the Brazilian, documentary cinema, in its crisis, or postcrisis, also seeks to shun away from the paradigmatic Brazilian sociological types—the farmer, the favela inhabitant, the Indian, the rubber tapper, the laborer—, aiming at broadening the spectrum of identities. The video Espelho diário (2001), in which artist Rosângela Rennó plays the roles of dozens of women by the name of Rosângela, adds to the gamut of Brazilian archetypal identities regular, far-from-obvious types, bringing freshness and perplexity to a field mined by foreseeable aspects. Those include the blonde stupid female police officer, the pombagira (TN: religious entity of thecandomblé, an African-Brazilian religion), the female inmate, the retirante(TN: a migrant from northeast Brazil to the Southeast), the murder victim, the single mother living in the favela, the mother of thirty-three children, the beloved woman, the bride, the abused girl, the middle-class housewife, the overdresser, and—one of the most explored categories by the means of communication—the violent death victim.
On the other hand, Espelho diário is part of a group of works by Rosângela Rennó which explore narratives. Going back to The Storyteller, I sense in the vast collection of texts in the series Arquivo universal a permanent tension between what Benjamin described as “narrative” and as “informative.” Even if extracted from news articles, the texts interpreted or reproduced by Rennó have a slightly fantastic aura, which brings them closer to the “narrative” text described by Benjamin: “It is left up to him [the reader] to interpret things the way he understands them, and thus the narrative achieves an amplitude that information lacks.”
The work makes a reference to British tabloid Daily Mirror [literally translated as “Espelho diário,” in Portuguese] but by displacing the text from its original sphere of journalistic news Rennó places it in front of a mirror. “On the other hand, is it not true that every newspaper article concerns us?” one of the Rosângelas asks, in an open confrontation with the mirror that separates the realms of the personal and the social, the intimate and the public, the I and the other.
In the light of the modalities of documentary representation proposed by documentary theoretician Bill Nichols, the work of Dias & Riedweg may be interpreted as self-reflecting. This means that, instead of reflecting the other, it reflects the policies for representing the other. In this sense, maybe what Dias & Riedweg are doing is not so far removed from the propositions of documentary filmmaker Eduardo Coutinho, who seeks a new device for relating with interviewees with each new film. Hence my interest in inviting for the critical essay on the work of Dias & Riedweg documentary filmmaker and researcher Consuelo Lins, the author of a reference about the work of Coutinho.
Self-reflectiveness is all encompassing in the body of work of Dias & Riedweg, but it is especially important in Voracidade máxima (2004). “We work with the mirror to denounce not only the paradoxes, but also the complexity of things,” Maurício Dias told me. In the installation—a roomful of mirrors, with a bed in the center, in front of a screen where a video is projected—, the function of the mirror is to fragment and multiply the possibilities for viewing the subject being approached. Between interviewer/interviewee, a spectral relationship also takes place: in order to discuss sexuality, economy, prostitution, and immigration, both share identity signs, using the same clothes and bearing the same face (the interviewee wears a mask reproducing the features of the artist’s face).
The physical presence of Dias and Riedweg in the video installation is in keeping with Jay Ruby’s argument regarding the end of the naïve belief in immutable truths about the world. “Nowadays, people want to know who made it and what ingredients were used before they buy anything—aspirins, cars, news, or education. We no longer believe producers to be people with good intentions.” Regarding the relativity of truths, Dias & Riedweg are preparing for the Documenta 12 a work in which Hans Staden: The True History of His Captivity, 1557, a report by Hans Staden about Brazil and its cannibalistic habits, is reinterpreted in the light of the Rio de Janeiro funk movement.
The passivity of spectators in face of the manipulation by the means of communication is precisely the concern that led Luciano Mariussi to make the video documentary Não entendo (1999), in which the artist insists on presenting his particular, partial view of the facts. The video is part of a series of works that evoke the clash between contemporary art, the audience, and the exhibition site. Whereas Estética (2002) features theoretical formulations by the audience regarding their understanding of a contemporary art exhibition,Não entendo is a representation of the lapse separating art from audience. As a strategy, everything was conceived in order to maximize the embarrassment: in the recordings, questions about art were asked in foreign languages, to incautious passersby in the streets. In the edit, the questions were removed, leaving only the monologue of embarrassed people. The work was conceived as site specific, to be shown in museums and institutions next to other works of art. Thus, Mariussi points his camera at the texts and subtitles, which function as bridges in the art x audience relationship. Entre gritando: Eu sei o que é arte contemporânea (e ganhe um desconto de R$ 2,00 reais), a propositional work presented during the 29th edition of the Panorama da Arte Brasileira, of MAM-SP, operates in the same category of video.
Finally, the first artist featured in the Identidade/Alteridade [Identity/alterity] curatorship, Alice Miceli, dilacerates the mirror in Ínterim/auto-retrato (2003). In the video, Miceli’s image is broken down into fragments, which progressively lose their original identity until they reach the image of another identical person, her twin sister. The video features a disquieting character, also present in other works by Alice Miceli, because it locates the unfoldings of the time contained in a single image. Something similar takes place in 88 de 14,000(2004), which projects onto a curtain of sand the pictures of men, women, and children who were executed in a Cambodian prison. The implacable passing of time, contained in each moving grain of sand, restores the pulsation to each picture. It is as if life and reality were returned to the documented fact.
The images of Cambodia make me go back to Walter Benjamin, who identified two basic groups of storytellers. I recognize in Alice Miceli the ancient figure of the merchant sailor, who brought reports from distant lands, imprinting the stories with travel marks and providing them with new meanings. Miceli strips the images off their documental aspect, providing them with a new temporality and breadth of senses that did not exist before, in the information. In this sense, we return to the first chapter in the history of documentary film: travel movies. When Alice Miceli invents a device to record images of the invisible in her trip to the Chernobyl exclusion zone, I see her as an update of the exploring filmmaker. But that is another story.
Other Spaces | Eduardo de Jesus
In 1973, Nam June Paik announced in his Global Groove: “This is a glimpse of a video landscape of tomorrow, when you will be able to switch to any TV station on earthand TV guides will be as fat as the Manhattan telephone book.” Although Paik's prediction did not come true as precisely and radically as the video suggested, since there areno channels dedicated to experimentation and none boasting the diversity of images proposed by Paik in his video, we do live surrounded by images. It is an imagescape of sorts (Burnett, 2004), combining the intensities of direct reality with modes of media presentation and representation, thus creating a tension between proximity and distance, as for instance in the case of television and the place it occupies in households throughout the world.
The question we posed ourselves for this curatorship inevitably involved the relation between spaces and electronic image. Far from painting an apocalyptic scenario (Lyotard, Baudrillard), we believe it is more important to draw a landscape as it unfolds, asmuch for displaying the power of video to reveal the space that we experience in contemporary life (hybrid, flowing, heterogeneous, discontinuous), as for thinking of how video occupies space in contemporary life. Which is to say that there are two distinct, yet intertwined trends: on the one hand, we have video as a possibility for revealing space; on the other hand, we have space itself filled with images, filled with screens (Virilio). But getting back to domestic spaces: the space of the inhabited house-which in a way is organized around the TV as a form of distraction, a window to the outside world, or a mirror* to itself-has prompted many different considerations. Dan Graham, Vito Acconci, Margareth Morse, Run Burnett, and others have approached the questions that arise from the presence of images in contemporary spaces.
Despite the attractiveness of the issue posed by these two trends, here we will approach only one of them: the way in which video portrays/reveals space.
We believe that contemporary audiovisual production is on its way to a reflection on space that will bare the daily tensions we experience in the various spaces through which we pass. On the one hand, we are aware that long-distance communication technologies allow us to take the space back in a different way. The boundaries between public and private are in motion, and so are we, with our cell phones, palmtops, and other mobile communication and information access tools. On the other hand, technology aside, the contemporary conflicts force us to redefine identities, ethnicities, and, above all, places, territories, spaces. How does the audiovisual production cope with this situation? What we have is a diversity of strategies designed to widen the meanings that space can attain. The concept of heterotopia, defined by Foucault in “Of Other Spaces” can help us understand these relationships.
Foucault wrote: “The present epoch will perhaps be above all the epoch of space. We are in the epoch of simultaneity: we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed.”** Given the situation we experience, Foucault points to three basic stages in the ways in which we have perceived space over the course of history: initially, in the Middle Ages, there was a split between real and celestial space, which created a space of localization. Afterwards, Galileo introduced the concept of the space of extension, i.e., infinity opposing the Middle-Ages view. Man had lost his central place in infinite space, which “has no center and no margins.” Currently, according to Foucault, we live in the age of positioning. Therefore, space is “defined by relations of proximity between points or elements; formally, we can describe these relations as series, trees, or grids.”
This space, which offers itself in the form of “relations among sites,” as Foucault put it, is based around two concepts of space: utopias and heterotopias. Utopias are “sites with no real place.” On the other hand we have heterotopias, which are actual sites.
There are (...) probably in any culture, in every civilization, real places-places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society-which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted. Places of this kind are outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in reality. Because these places are absolutely different from all the sites that they reflect and speak about, I shall call them, by way of contrast to utopias, heterotopias.
The study of these heterotopias of crisis and deviation allows us to understand the relations among sites of individuals and groups in these different spaces of “simultaneous contestation between the mythic and the real.” Despite Foucault's citing a few highly metaphoric examples such as the mirror (utopia and heterotopia at the same time), the cemetery, the asylum, and the boat, based on these premises one can attempt to explore the relations among sites generated by images and their devices in space.
Therefore, we believe that some of the more recent audiovisual work deems feasible the situation of space as heterotopia. In the case of the videos, it is all about a way of handling images so they reflect the multiplicity of relations among sites that we experience nowadays, in the various spaces we travel. Each artist, in his/her own way, knew how to build his/her images of space in “a sort of simultaneously mythic and real contestation of the space in which we live.”
It was not by chance that we inaugurated the Other Spaces curatorship of the FF>>Dossier with Landscape Theory (2005), by Roberto Bellini. The space Bellini is able to unveil in his video is amazing. The cliché images show how space is being furrowed by capital in a complex range of power relations, turning the simple act of recording images into a threat. The friction in the dialogue between the one who records the images and the one who comments on the act is not reflected by the plain images of birds flying across the sunset. This context transforms the image, which then translates and reveals the ways in which power is exercised. The empty space supports all of the control sites at the same time, confronting us with the idea of juxtaposition.
Without confronting any space as image, Bellini reveals to us the degree of the heterotopias we experience, invented spaces juxtaposed with real spaces. The image-device lays bare the tension networks and the lines of force that characterize the relationship between the place of the image (“There was a guy taking a picture of Dillard's over here the other day with a movie camera (…) and the Austin PD held him in,” goes one of the conversations in the video) and the image of the place (the sky in a U.S. city) as property, which is the ultimate furrowing.
In Uyuni (2005), by Andrés Denegri, the situation repeats itself. The barren space shown in powerful, processed images seems to oscillate between security and insecurity. A foreign view experiencing the new. The empty space in Uyuni reverberates the situation of the featured couple, which does not seem to be a part of all that, not included in that situation. As opposed to providing images with new meanings through audio, as does Bellini, Denegri shows us that the images reflect precisely the situation of the couple. Space is no longer juxtaposition, but rather a “system of opening and closing that both isolates them and makes them penetrable.” The dimension of the city of Uyuni, disclosed by Denegri, relates to the couple's situation. The image does not show space as it really is, but rather as a reality constructed through a situation.
In Alugo-me (2004), by Fernanda Goulart, space is subjective. Recorded in consecutive visits and sessions at empty houses for rent, Goulart created a space between the private and the public. On one side, images of the empty house, ready to be occupied; on the other side, the sound of love ads on popular radio stations. Loneliness? An empty feeling? The spaces in the houses depicted by Goulart hold us captive, in a situation where we have the house on one side and the street on the other side. Her video seems to build an intersection between these two spaces, a connecting link through the combination of image and sound. The street seems to invade the empty space in the house to fill it up with its hopes for love.
That same public space is the focus of Vue Panoramique (2005), by Bouchra Khalili, with a different approach. Instead of bringing things into the domestic realm, such as Goulart, Khalili deals with motion and contemplation. She contemplates and comments on the public space. In this way, her own way, with much delicacy, she bares our nomadisms, the transitions between spaces, the coming and going of boats. Space here is the landscape that allows itself to be watched with an intense gaze concerned with seeing beyond, interested in discovering the function of motion. Landscape and memory seem to meet each other in this nomadic view of the landscape.
Claudia Aravena takes on the subject of memory, territories, and nomadisms, the latter of which somehow reflect upon identities. The issue can be detected in the meeting of different memories in Berlin: been there / to be here(2000), as well as in the approximations between Santiago and Berlin in Lugar Común (2001). In Out of Place (2005), though, Aravena seems to delve deeper into these questions, as she discusses, in a very personal way, the situation of Palestinian families exiled in Chile. The situation is that of space as recreation of memory, a quasi-Proustian*** memorial project, free in its time of search and seeking. Such is the work of Aravena. Here, the function of space is to seek time and to reveal/twist memory.
In Background to a Seduction (2004), by Gregg Smith, the space is pure playful recreation. A couple sharing a bottle of wine switches from situation to situation, as the camera softly moves around and ends up revealing where and in what context that setting is located. Smith shows us that space is, first and foremost, motion and recreation. Heterotopia that approximates distinct places. Thus, the realm in which the couple lives, with all the delicacy and subtlety of small flowers moving gently in the background, could be any place, since that atmosphere of encounter always creates a space, which in turn incrusts other spaces, giving rise to a juxtaposition of several different spaces.
Far from exhausting the relations between image and space, this curatorship is a point of convergence for reflections, and it is intended to fuel the debate on the issue, even if it is an initial one, in order to prompt and provoke further discussion.
* See: GRAHAM, Dan, “Video in Relation to Architecture” IN: HALL, Doug and JO FIFER, Sally (eds.), Illuminating Video: An Essential Guide to Video Art, New Jersey, Aperture Foundation, 1990. GRAHAM, Dan, “Three Projects for Architecture and Video / Notes (1977)” IN: Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art, STILES, Kristine and SELZ, Peter (org.), University of California Press, 1996.
** All quotes from Foucault's “Of Other Spaces” mentioned here have been extracted from http://www.foucault.info/documents/heteroTopia/foucault.heteroTopia.en.html.
*** One cannot help but recall Proust waking up in the middle of the night, searching for a place: “For it always happened that when I awoke like this, and my mind struggled in an unsuccessful attempt to discover where I was, everything would be moving round me through the darkness: things, places, years.”
Eduardo de Jesus