“The project presented here has largely taken into consideration that form and content go hand in hand. It is gratifying to recall that Videobrasil Collection emerges at a time when video was being used as a political tool in the fight against the very art system. What I want to emphasize here is the highly political and geographical character of the Videobrasil Collection, a character that, nevertheless, is expressed in a variety of formats, techniques, themes, and experiences.”
Agustín Pérez Rubio
The book Unerasable Memories: A Historic Look at the Videobrasil Collection brings together art critics, curators and researchers from several fields, focusing on the artists and artworks featured in the namesake exhibition showing until November 30 at São Paulo’s Sesc Pompeia. The publication elaborates on the exhibition, providing critical reviews of the works displayed from the perspectives of different researchers. Agustín Pérez Rubio, art director of Museu de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (Malba), as well as the book’s organizer and the exhibition’s curator, invited authors (including art critics, anthropologists, linguists and researchers on cinema and semiotics) from nine different countries to write essays about the exhibition and the artworks it features, by 18 artists from various nationalities, addressing historical conflict episodes.
The “discovery” of Brazil by the Portuguese, the decimation of indigenous populations, African slave trafficking and its heritage, the September 11 attacks, apartheid in South Africa, the Tiananmen Square massacre and various civil wars are revisited in the artworks selected by Agustín Pérez Rubio for the Unerasable Memories: A Historic Look at the Videobrasil Collection exhibition. The selected artworks retrieve these conflicts through eyewitness accounts from artists hailing from countries such as Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, USA, Morocco, Kenya, Lebanon and Zimbabwe. Akram Zaatari, Ayrson Heráclito, Bouchra Khalili, Carlos Motta, Coco Fusco, Jonathas de Andrade, León Ferrari, Rosângela Rennó, Sebastian Diaz Morales and Walid Raad are some of the people involved in this publication and exhibition that attest to the power of art in fighting historical amnesia.
The exhibition is the outcome of a groundbreaking initiative by the partners Sesc São Paulo and Associação Cultural Videobrasil to foster curatorial projects based on the Associação’s collection, featuring 3,000-plus titles amassed over the past thirty years, including artworks, documentaries, documents, registers and publications. To Solange Farkas, the director of Videobrasil, the exhibition book’s launch “is another strategy towards fulfilling Associação’s mission, which extends beyond the safeguarding of the collection and entails spreading the works of these artists from the global South, as well as broadening access to contemporary art. Thus, the guest authors’ texts and essays extrapolate the curatorial interpretations to incorporate new values, enabling diverse readings and reflecting in depth about the artworks and themes put forth by the curatorship.” Farkas remarks that publications and audiovisual products, such as Cadernos Sesc_Videobrasil and the Videobrasil Authors Collection film series, share this perspective of producing critical content about contemporary visual arts and culture.
The Unerasable Memories: A Historic Look at the Videobrasil Collection book was co-edited by Edições Sesc São Paulo and Associação Cultural Videobrasil and organized by Agustín Pérez Rubio, with editorial coordination by Teté Martinho and graphic design by Celso Longo + Daniel Trench. Generously illustrated, the book compiles images of the artworks on display and of the Sesc Pompeia venue, featuring contents in Portuguese and English.
Following the launch, the publication will be available for sale at Sesc SP units (capital and countryside), at major bookstores and online at www.sescsp.org.br/livraria
More on the book
Agustín Pérez Rubio wrote the text Facing Mirrors: Projecting memories against historical amnesia, highlighting the power of art as a testimony of its time and as a tool for preserving historical memory, and the important role played by Associação Cultural Videobrasil in compiling and safeguarding these registers. The publication also features an essay by Germany’s Andreas Huyssen, a researcher, professor at Columbia University (USA) and founding editor of the New German Critique magazine. In Present Pasts: Media, Politics, Amnesia, Huyssen claims: “we cannot discuss personal, generational, or public memory separate from the enormous influence of the new media as carriers of all forms of memory.”
The text about Vera Cruz is written by Agustín Pérez Rubio. His historical and artistic views come together in his review of Rosângela Rennó’s piece about how the Portuguese and native Brazilians met, based on the famous letter by Pero Vaz de Caminha. With her background in anthropology, Lilia Schwarcz makes considerations about A Arca dos Zo’e, a documentary directed by Vincent Carelli and Dominique Gallois based on footage taken by the Indigenous people involved in the Vídeo nas Aldeias (Video in the Villages) project. Gabriela Salgado, a curator who develops an artistic exchange program connecting Africa and Latin America, addresses the musical, photographic, textual and video layers used by Ayrson Heráclito and Danillo Barata to reconstruct the history of African slavery in Barrueco. Also a curator, Manuela Moscoso draws parallels between the Contestado War (1912-1916) in southern Brazil and the period when Enio Staub shot his film Contestado, A Guerra Desconhecida (Contestado, the Unknown War): in the middle of the 1980s, during the emergence of Brazil’s Landless Rural Workers Movement.
Projeto Pacífico (Pacific Project), by Jonathas de Andrade, offers new political and geographic possibilities for Latin America by suggesting an earthquake, and the idea is further developed by Pablo León de la Barra, a curator specializing in Latin American art and responsible for a Guggenheim Museum project focusing on artworks from the region. The critic and curator Inti Guerrero, known for his inroads into art scenes from the West and the East, comments on Face A Face B in connection with practices and artists from Rabih Mroué’s country and time. The curator Inés Katzenstein, a renowned researcher of Argentinean art, provides an in-depth review of the collaboration between León Ferrari and Ricardo Pons, which birthed the Casa Blanca video, a scathing critique of American imperialism.
Cristiana Tejo, a curator currently pursuing a PhD in Sociology, reviews the social invisibility of indigenous populations based on Aurélio Michiles’ O Sangue da Terra (Earth’s Blood) documentary. With a vast command of art history and philosophy, the curator Chus Martínez examines the artistic research and methods of Walid Raad, who combines reality and possible fictions about the Lebanese Civil War in The Loudest Muttering Is Over: Documents from the Atlas Group Archive. The work of another Lebanese artist, Akram Zaatari, is also featured in the exhibition and the publication: In This House, a video that bears witness to the excavation of a letter written during the Civil War, and is interpreted in its myriad narrative layers by the researcher and curator Manuel Segade. The artist Dan Halter’s contrasting of South African apartheid and European raves from that period is commented on via analogies with cinema and scratch videos by the Portuguese curator João Laia, a member of the Curatorial Committee for the 19th Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil, due from October to December 2015.
Ivana Bentes, a researcher widely recognized in academic circles for her work in communication and film, points out the semiotic levels in Liu Wei’s Unforgettable Memory, which revisits the struggle for democracy in China, symbolized by the poignant images of the “unknown rebel” taking a stand against war tanks. Sophie Goltz, a curator particularly interested in time-based arts and the cross-section of art and ethnography, reviews Lucharemos Hasta Anular la Ley, a decoding of popular manifestations by the artist Sebastian Diaz Morales. The curator Octavio Zaya, who discussed “How to fight historical amnesia through art?” in the exhibition’s first Public Programs meeting, comments on September 11 from the perspective of the artist – and immigrant – Carlos Motta, in the latter’s Letter to My Father (Standing by the Fence). In Bare Life Study #1, Coco Fusco criticizes the treatment dispensed by the USA to its political prisoners. Her work is commented on by Magda Gonzalez-Mora, a curator whose research work focuses on art from developing countries.
The Moroccan writer and critic Omar Berrada discusses Four Selected Videos From The Mapping Journey Project, by Bouchra Khalili, based on his personal experience with the piece, which retraces the routes of illegal immigrants often plagued by political or geographical barriers. The performances My Possession and O Samba do Crioulo Doido – by the Mwangi Hutter duo and dancer Luiz de Abreu –, raise issues relating to the affirmation of a black or mestizo identity, and are respectively reviewed by the visual arts researcher and professor Marcos Hill and by Ana Francisca Ponzio, a journalist and curator specializing in dance.
The book also features a text by the sociologist and Regional Director of Sesc São Paulo, Danilo Santos de Miranda, and an interview granted to Fabio Cypriano by Solange Farkas. Cypriano and the curator and founder of Associação discuss the exhibition and other strategies designed to place Videobrasil’s collection in touch with the world. The two discussed the matter further at the book launch, as part of the exhibition’s Public Programs, on October 21, 2014 at Sesc Pompeia, alongside the researcher Eduardo de Jesus.
Unerasable Memories: A Historic Look at the Videobrasil Collection
Organized by Agustín Pérez Rubio
Associação Cultural Videobrasil; Social Service of Trade in São Paulo
São Paulo : Edições Sesc São Paulo : Videobrasil, 2014
320 pages, bilingual (Portuguese/English)
UNERASABLE MEMORIES: A HISTORIC LOOK AT THE VIDEOBRASIL COLLECTION
The times and movements of art
By Danilo Santos de Miranda (regional director of Sesc São Paulo)
In touch with the world
by Solange Farkas
Facing Mirrors: Projecting memories against historical amnesia
by Agustín Pérez Rubio
Present Pasts: Media, Politics, Amnesia
by Andreas Huyssen
by Agustín Pérez Rubio
Vincent Carelli & Dominique Gallois
by Lilia Schwarcz
Ayrson Heráclito & Danillo Barata
by Gabriela Salgado
by Manuela Moscoso
Jonathas de Andrade
by Pablo León de la Barra
by Inti Guerrero
León Ferrari & Ricardo Pons
by Inés Katzenstein
by Cristiana Tejo
by Chus Martinez
by Manuel Segade
by João Laia
by Ivana Bentes
Sebastián Diaz Morales
by Sophie Goltz
by Octavio Zaya
by Magdalena Gonzalez-Mora
by Omar Berrada
by Marcos Hill
Luiz de Abreu
by Ana Francisca Ponzio
A Living Archive - An Interview with Solange Farkas
by Fabio Cypriano