Essay Giselle Beiguelman, 04/2004
If it does not seem to you this way, so it is
Turn the monitor round. (don't be afraid) Forget the window. (any window)
Deny all the borders. (even the frames)
Ignore the phonetics. (yes, you can speak without it)
Disfigure the images. (it's possible to see, isn't it?)
Try to unframe, to pile up, to move (the world, the globe, your eyes)
Don‚t answer yes. Always say no. (never post, nor pre, nor anti, much less pro...)
Speak only this way. See by hook (or by crook).
Think this way (think, think, think a lot):
Non-video, non-image, non-web, non-art, non-CD-ROM, non-architecture, non-game, non-who, non-non.
Angela Detanico and Rafael Lain operate by deconstruction. They elaborate temporary universes that defy the forms of identification of the limits between visible and invisible, and of the horizons of legibility, independently of the platform and/or interface they may have chosen.
Typography, graphic design, video, architecture, internet, and CD-ROM are some of the formats that have already been contemplated by the pair. They do not use supports; they transform artifacts and mediatic devices into discursive modalities of unstable diagrams. They enunciate a culture of appropriation that is in the opposite direction of sampling. In their typographic projects, for example, they establish a dynamic in which the remix paradigm becomes a movement of giving.
After all, what are the fonts for but to be used by other authors in other discursive webs that hide the original author's hand?
Intellectual generosity exercise, copyleft without a flag, many of their creations within the field of typography have been collected in a curious CD-ROM. Its name is “Entre”** The Portuguese word entre has an ambiguous meaning. It means either “come in” (Imperative form) or “between”. (2001), and it brings attached to its title some of its reading keys.
Entre, in this case, is more than a command. Entre is an invitation and a challenge. It is an invitation because it invites us to think about nothing but taking an incursion into its particular universe. It is a challenge because it makes us hesitate when trying to define it.
This is a project that places itself between writing and speaking, between music and drawing, between letter and digit. Without explanations, it gives the reader two possibilities: to touch the images, drawing with sounds, using randomly the computer keyboards, or to install a 26 fonts series.
In the first situation, you choose a fragment of any of the authors' drawings, which come as mini-posters together with the CD, and, as you begin to type, a processing of new forms is initiated at the same time that a soundtrack is composed, giving colour to audio and sound to the lines.
But it is not only this field between audio and vision that is of interest. The fonts also suffer a rigorous treatment that places them within this universe of fluid borders in which typography, image and sound are intercepted in a Deleuzian process of recombination of languages. This Deleuzian influence becomes evident in the epigraph of the CD, a quotation of a passage from “Mille Plateaux”: ”There is rhythm since there is a transcoded passage from one mean to another”.
This axiom is carried out to the limit in the font “Utopia”, created to compose a special edition of “Big” magazine dedicated to Oscar Niemeyer, made with miniatures of the architect's projects as the Memorial da América Latina (São Paulo), and the Palácio da Alvorada (Brasília), as well as the icons of the lack of planning that prevails in the big Brazilian metropolises.
The beautiful lines that made Niemeyer's architecture internationally known were reserved for the capital letters. Traffic signals that are related to endless traffic jams, railings that are set under the bridges to prevent its occupation by homeless people, and other signs of our urban horror were reserved for the small ones.
The small letters were constructed purposely in bigger frames than the capital ones, so that when they are typed together, following the basic orthographic rules, the small ones (urban stuff) come literally on top of the capital ones (forms of the modernist architecture).
From this disposition, a text emerges as a dirty social tissue, in which the impasse between the modernist rigour and beauty and its fragility to confront the uncontrollable urban growing becomes the reading key to part of our recent history, giving urban tension to the sentences without appealing to any vernacular resource.
Mixing varied references, from zuzana licko (typography of the famous Californian studio Emigre) to El Lissitzky's revolutionary design, “Entre” is a CD that exempts the design from any supplemental function.
What is designed here is not only what we cannot say in words, not even it gives the mediation between nature and reason to writing. The relations are not of convention.
they rather make we think, quoting Derrida, that the conjunction of the practices of information, cybernetics, and the human sciences leads to a deep subversion, in which the writing appears as “a division without symmetry that designs at one side the closing of the book, and, at the other, the opening of the text”.
The text is not the revelation of a message, but rather a process of questioning the possibility of message, grammatological disturbance that goes through all the projects of Angela and Lain, especially “Pilha” [Pile] (2003).
Here, a writing system made with objects (re)translates what surrounds us into visual statements that implode the letter to give volume to the breaking of the horizontality of the line. It works basically by the piling up of identical objects that, in a scale of 1 to 26, relate the number of objects to phonetic values. Thus, 1 potato = a; 2 potatoes = b; 26 potatoes = z.
The space is diluted into combinatory possibilities, among sentences of sugar cubes, books, vases, quoting Deleuze again, between differences and repetitions, producing an essential vertigo that is effectuated by the desestabilization of form (revitalized by the number) that is transformed into letter, disappears in the object and is faded out in its specificity to come back as a process of questioning no more the possibility of message, but the possibilities of language.
That is what the video ”Flatland” (2003) expands and exceeds, slicing pixels, perverting the logic of the frame to create colours that do not belong to the videographic set of colours, making possible the visualisation of crayon colours that are not there.
It is a liquid documentary that dilutes the motion image into stills, transforming the plains of the Mekong River Delta into multiple rainbows animated by the murmuring sounds of its banks.
The banks of the river, of the image. Edges. More than this. Folds. Deleuze again…. The technique (tool) used is simple. The technology (production of the cognitive repertoire) is complex. The sequence captured by a mini-DV is divided into isolated pictures, a banal resource of its own edition program. The horizontal pictures are then sliced vertically. Each slice is extended up to the size of the original frame. So, unlikely rainbows are born, rainbows that triangulate the vision as Merleau-Ponty wanted to see (and taught us to see). Is it possible to watch “Flatland” without remembering the master of the visible (Merleau-Ponty, any doubt?!) that taught us to perceive the magic of the figurations of the “instant of the world” that Cézanne wanted to paint? That crazy instant that passed long ago, and do not come back, but never really passes, because it makes and remakes itself in all the rocks that are and are not in the mountains of Saint Victory that this poet of light, Cézanne, painted to unbalance everything that we understood as colour, light, shadow and figuration. A noble, disdainful gesture that comes back - with everything - in the colours, the patience, the light, the disdain of “Flatland”.
The plain earth that elevates itself from the pixel sculpted in colour that does not have and does not portray. There, a movement announces itself to come back merciless in the aggressive, subtle, inhospitable gesture that is imposed in “Seoul/Killing Time” (2003). Fine irony. Macabre. Arrogant. The portrayal of the world of the videogames. Fibs. Annoyances. Frauds.
A city expatriated by fashion entertainment corporations, a scenery for an uncommon scene. Aeroplanes are landing on the territory of a city that is transformed into a mere space of action for imbecile players. There, something happens that breaks the rules: the idiot game turns into a story of a desertion.
This is against the norm of imbecility, the paradigm of the stupid rhythm. This is against the ones who think that the most interesting thing in the digital culture is to accept the rules, to attack, and to win.
Against the fetishist rhetoric that takes videogames seriously, Angela and Lain urge us to treat the games as they are: ideological sceneries of vulgar motivation: to kill, to die, or to win.
Again, the technique is simple but the technology is complex. The game (bellicose, sexist, Wasp) has its stage captured by a video camera connected to the computer. The stage is remodelled in 3D - to the very taste of the stupid, blind client - and turns into a maquette of the ignorance show, where we have the most banal premises. A city without scale, without people.
Fine irony. It is only possible to laugh about it if you are able to fool the world's movement, to digitalize your coordinates, to do a “world align” (2003) exercise… to play with coordinates, to move the map - after all, we are in globalisation time, aren't we? - back and forth. It is all on the screen and it is not….
So it is possible to abstract the topology, and redesign the geography, to work with the lines of a design, instead of giving way to the hardness of the territories. In a simple, precise gesture, the world map is divided into parallel lines, as if it was a blank page, open to our conquering. Thus, it is possible to submit it to the rules of text edition, aligning the continents with the left, the centre, or the right side of the monitor, without stopping, always in loop, breaking the orbital and other rules, behaving as architectonic matter ready to be modified by geographical irregularities and history.
To face architecture as if it was a plan of change (rather than an action of change) is also one of the recurrent presuppositions of Angela and Lain, which are evident in projects like “5 Times 10 Steps” (2003) and “Plaf!” (2004).
In the first case, five ladders of different sizes were scattered around the place of the exposition at the Palais de Tokyo. They were interacting with the ambience, for its heights were determined by the characteristics of the places where they were set, and the steps' spacing were defined by their respective heights.
Difference and Repetition, again. Relational architecture of deconstruction and chance… as in “Plaf!”, an intervention made at the façade of the Galeria Vermelho, in São Paulo, which inverted the positions of the ground and the wall.
Again, the technique used was simple, but the technology was complex. The white paint was scraped from the façade, and the white stained ground was projected, questioning the role of the structure in the process of the observer's orientation, as well as the role of the fullness and emptiness in the functioning of the house-machine.
Undoing of structures, perversion of the glance, piling ups, realignments, interference, appropriation, phonetic deconfiguration, and some endless questions: What do you see when you see? How do you read what you read? Do you read?
Italicised by me. Italicised by them.
Interview Eduardo de Jesus, 04/2004
The landscape is a strong, recurrent element in your work. It becomes clear in the works Utopia, Plaff and Flatland, as well as in the visual programming created for the 14th Videobrasil Festival. Is there a landscape instigation to generate these works? Where do the perceptions come from for the production of these works?
we work while we wander. we can’t stay still for a long time. almost all of our ideas arise during strolls, walks. it implies time, space, passages, displacements. the landscape is there, all around us, and its transformation is mostly what interests us. we’ve got the sensation that we are living in a liquid world which is always redesigning itself. the landscapes of our works haven’t got fixed forms… they are extended, unfolded, recombined, realigned… they are transformation landscapes.
Your production displays transit between supports, techniques, means and spaces. How do you effectuate the passages in this transit at the moment of production? Is there a main element that determines the others?
if there is a transit between the means, that’s because we never take them as starting points. we pass by them. we believe they are there, at our disposal to be used. like paths that we take to get somewhere. our work begins with an observation, which leads to a conversation that can be transcribed into video, wooden ladders, piled bricks or a typographical font, but the determining element is the discussion we have between us or with others.
In fact, some works seem to be images of time. Maybe a more extended time, linked to other velocities. How do you articulate the notions of time in the construction of images and instalments?
the perception of time has always interested us because of the movement, its acceleration and deceleration, and because of the transitoriness, the passage of time. in ‘flatland’, we ended up confounding the perception of time, of what is slow or quick. a image that is apparently at high speed is actually a decelerated still unfolded in many frames. in ‘pilha’, we tried to remove the instantaneity of reading. The reader needs to ‘count’ the piles to read, and he ends up staying longer with the words… we try to give time to meanings… and meanings to time.
Comment biography Eduardo de Jesus, 04/2004
Angela Detanico (Caxias do Sul, Brazil, 1974) and Rafael Lain (Caxias do Sul, Brazil, 1973). A varied formation, professional experiences that do not fit in a single circuit and an unquiet view of the communicational and artistic processes that put together text and image are the hallmarks of the artistic trajectory of Angela Detanico and Rafael Lain.
Rafael Lain’s drawing abilities lead him to Caxias do Sul advertising offices and afterwards to the design department of a footwear industry, where he gets in touch with Neville Brody’s experimental designer and other authors through publications and alternative magazines. At this time he begins to produce graphic pieces for a small nightclub in town, an ambience tuned to pop culture and the musical universe of the early 90’s.
In 1994, Lain moves to São Paulo where he begins to work at MTV Brasil with Jimmy Leroy. Later, they become partners in Burritos do Brasil, a design office whose hallmark is the exploration of new possibilities of the visual language within the advertisement circuit.
In 1996, Angela Detanico finishes her studies in Caxias and also joins Burritos’ staff. The office soon gains ground and begins to work for big companies such as Renault, Pepsi and Adidas, and develops the visual identity of Canal Brasil, the first cable channel dedicated exclusively to Brazilian cinema.
In spite of Burritos’ good repercussion, the advertisement market’s natural limitations lead the pair to a new experience. In 1998, they found Fêmur, a design office with a well-marked artistic and experimental character, focused on the cultural market.
During this period, Detanico studies for her Master´s degree in Discourse Analysis at PUC (an university from São Paulo). Her research focuses on the relations of signification between image and text, what in a way leads to passages between image, sound and graphic universe that are developed in many works, especially in a series of performances played with Objeto Amarelo, between 2001 and 2003.
This kind of work shows a tendency towards a kind of experimentation that focuses on the mixture of techniques, supports, possibilities of exposition and especially the dialogue between the contemporary art circuit and graphic design.
During this period, they also work with Associação Cultural Videobrasil as members of the council and at the development of the visual identity of the 13th and 14th Videobrasil International Electronic Art Festival.
In 2001, aiming to expand their field of activity, renew their repertory and exchange information, they take part in a workshop in New York with the staff of Tomato, one of the most important offices of design and typographical fonts development.
Being invited to an artistic residency at Palais de Tokio, in Paris, they develop the Fonte/Delta project. The project was selected, what allowed an eight-month residency in Paris and the possibility to research and develop works in that place. During the residency, they produce a workshop in Vietnam, along the river Mekong. The experience generates the video Flatland, nominated to Nam June Paik Awards 2004, in Germany.
Back to Brazil, they take part in an exposition curated by Lisete Lagnado at Galeria Vermelho. They show Pilha, an artistic instalment in which heaps of objects are related to alphabet letters.
This year they receive an invitation to take part in the 26th Bienal Internacional de São Paulo and produce an exhibition on Brazilian design at Femme de Buisson’s contemporary art centre, in Paris. The exposition occupies all the six hundred square metres of the place, divided in seven rooms, apart from a video exhibition. The main focus is on the visual production of young Brazilian graphic designers, emphasizing the relations between graphic design and other fields of contemporary culture like fashion, skateboarding, hip hop culture and pop music.
Their disturbing work is also in the Brazilian representation at the Venice Biennial of Architecture this year. The work is the font Utopia, which portrays Brazilian Modernism.
Next year they will realize their first individual exposition at Galeria Vermelho.
Bibliographical references 04/2004
Within the structure of the FF Dossier, we reserve this space to show the visibility and repercussions that the work of guest artists attain to within artistic spheres. Our objective is to create a collection of important references which may better illustrate or complement information found in the Dossier. More than this - a space which can be brought up to date whenever new references arise within the scenario.
Although still very recent, Angela Detanico's and Rafael Lain's production has caused a lot of repercussions in its wake within the art scenario in Brazil and abroad. We have selected here a few significant examples.
Palais de Tokyo (Paris), as resident artists of Le Pavillon - they travelled, along with other artists, to the Mekong River delta in Vietnam, which resulted in their work Flatland.
Galeria Vermelho (São Paulo) - represents the artists, who have already participated in two collective exhibitions: Modo de Usar (2003) and Derivas (2004).