Essay Ricardo Rosas, 2005


How can one define a show which is not really a show, or a TV show that is not really a TV show? What should one do when the usual criteria for reviewing performances or videos fall into a vacuum in which references no longer exist, and the work to be reviewed goes against basic premises of these media?

Upon watching pieces such as Futebol by Frente 3 de Fevereiro, or the series of shows produced by the A Revolução Não Será Televisionada (ARNSTV) collective, unsuspecting spectators and art critics might face dilemmas such as those. Preconceived notions might be defied. How can one describe the act of reciting Hermes Trismegistus while attached to a drawbridge, thus drawing the attention of local policemen, or creating a “virtual bridge” (with laser beam) to connect a favela to the financial heart of São Paulo, or Bahia de Todos os Santos to Africa, or else “promoting” an arrastão in Rio de Janeiro... featuring an all-White 'cast'? 

Perhaps a good clue for understanding this jigsaw of contradictory cross-references is the fact that artist Daniel Lima is involved in all of the aforementioned collectives and actions. Whether as a member of various art collectives, media artist, or urban interventionist, Lima has developed a taste for contradicting preconceived notions regarding art categories, as well as for putting his finger into open wounds of the urban social tissue. Lima's willingness to see beyond outward appearances, or to subvert them, is present even in his more politically tinged work, in which that very tinge is sometimes put in doubt or approached with an ironic twist.

But then again, we no longer live in an age of absolute certainties. The “great narratives” have already been put aside, or at least partially discredited; major trends in cultural studies, from postcolonialism to deconstructivism, have brought down a whole bunch of once-sacred paradigms and axioms in various fields of knowledge; and even Identity, that great refuge, is currently surrounded by Post-Identity movements led by the same minorities which only a few decades ago would defend it as our sole hope of salvation; in that light, Daniel Lima's questionings are not altogether surprising. 

Nevertheless, the “big issues” and open wounds still persist. Issues such as social inequality, racism, homelessness, corporate media domination, and so on are still valid, and Lima deals with them all. But his approach is not that of self-victimization or of the old and worn-out “cry against oppressors.” Neither does he blindly defend some assumed identity, whether racial (1) or otherwise, but rather, he does small tactical insertions, or “scams,” as Michel De Certeau would put it, which, instead of promoting clear confrontation or antagonism against an enemy, attack by surprise, using cleverness, opportunism, and the distraction of the stronger ones (2). Opp-art-unism.

It is in these sometimes subtle, sometimes overt interferences/attritions that one may notice a certain playfulness as Lima messes around with codes, subverts them, or even “kidnaps” them by dealing with language in certain ways, characterized by violations of established protocols for presentation, whether in a public screening, in the formatting of a TV show, or in an urban intervention. I would like to point out two particular aspects of this subversion of the codes. 

For starters, there is a certain ambiguous fascination with the spectacle which, if on the one hand may leave the unwarned in doubt and eager to criticize a presumed glamorization of political criticism, the existence of vacuums, indifference, or fetishization, on the other hand does nothing to hide incongruence, noise, and dissonance which are themselves the richest and most revealing aspects of what Lima and his groups refer to as “antispectacle.”

The phenomenon of the “spectacle” had already been analyzed by Guy Debord in his book The Society of the Spectacle, an essential book for understanding current beliefs with regard to the invasive omnipresence of media in our lives. The “antispectacle” in itself is not some veiled reference to Debord's ideas, but rather a bold attempt at using the entertainment media to disseminate subversive ideas, and not by chance, Debord will be overtly quoted in the first antispectacle action to be carried out by a collective of which Lima is a member, the Revolução (ARNSTV) (3), in SESC Pompéia's Território de Antiespetáculo at the Latinidades festival in 2003; the festival was an antishow in two parts over the course of two days, packed with group presentations, lectures, interruptions for Q&A sessions, hip-hop actions, independent media images, and VJ performances. The framework, as one would expect, is that of the paradox, for even the videos featuring the actions-such as Liberte-se, jointly produced with the Companhia Cachorra collective-are ambiguous with regard to the actions themselves. In this particular case, the ambiguousness stems from selling empty bullet shells with the inscription “liberte-se” [“free yourself”]; from asking questions about the slogan to people waiting at stop signs, or still from burning the banners with the slogan and throwing away the cardboard signs. What is the point of subversion, after all? Is there a point? Or are these groups interested in the question itself?

Perhaps a previous action, promoted by the collective during the Mídia Tática Brasil festival in March 2003, might be helpful in understanding those ambiguous attitudes. During the action, ARNSTV took over a room at Casa das Rosas and filled it with life-sized cardboard reproductions of media celebrities, of the kind used for newsstand merchandising; during the festival, the reproductions stood with their back to those people who entered the room (depicting celebrities as they “actually” are: cardboard pictures, mere surfaces). Afterwards, the members of the collective went out in a procession, each of them tenderly carrying his/her own model as they walked around the city, went into shopping malls, stores, the subway, banks, etc., and then, in a grand finale, burnt the cardboard celebrities right in the middle of Avenida Paulista. This coupling of entertainment and social critique is the perfect synthesis of the notion of antispectacle.

For some time now, even the most radical activist movements have been trying to “learn from Las Vegas.” As Andrew Boyd and Stephen Duncomb have put it in a text about how the contemporary left-wing can perfect its tactics by borrowing from the industry of the spectacle (4), contemporary movements should “learn how to use spectacle as a tool for political communication-not against their own will, but enthusiastically and guiltlessly.” But isn't it true that ever since the post-WWII period, predecessors such as the situationists, with their theory of détournement (or deviation), have plagiarized comic books and Western movies, while yippie buffoons such as Abbie Hoffman or Jerry Rubin put their deep knowledge of the inner workings of media to their own use? Even a guru of the new movements such as Hakim Bey has already taught us how to learn from postmodernity in order to subvert it. TAZ, with its quotation fever, is a postmodern subversive theory to the core, although its essence may contradict the neoliberal foundation of postmodernism itself. An example of subversive action within the society of spectacle is that of culture-jammers, who use the language of that very society to sabotage advertising messages, altering their meanings with more-than-perfect layouts. Perhaps the notion of antispectacle lies precisely in one such assault to a media format, filling it up with meaningful noise and messages that flip script on the entertainment industry.

Later actions by Lima and the collectives of which he was a member would continue to perfect the format. For example: in the Zona de Ação festival, 2004, created by Lima himself, several groups did interventions in the city of São Paulo, among them the aforementioned ARNSTV and the antiracist activist collective Frente 3 de Fevereiro, in which Lima also takes part. The festival wrap-up was an antispectacular grand finale-a cathartic “anticelebration” of the murder of young Afro-descendant lawyer Flávio Sant'Ana by the São Paulo Military Police-during which the crime was staged, and many different actions of the collectives around the city were screened. A remix of that format took place at the 8th Havana Biennial, near the end of 2003. The presentation of the Sem Saída series, replete with hip-hop and videos, celebrated an action in which Lima trapped security guards into a Havana city square using chains and locks, thus forcing them to find an “escape point” out of the place. The action, with its tension-riddled discussion of the Cuban situation, the ever-present interpretative ambiguities, and its uninhibited screening just a few hours after it took place, was yet another antispectacle to establish a direct conversation with the local audience.

The most recent antispectacle known to us was Futebol, carried out by Frente 3 de Fevereiro at the last Videobrasil Festival in September 2005. Of all previous works, Futebol is perhaps the one that best epitomizes the conflicting aspects of the antispectacle concept. Taken at face value, the antispectacle is not intended to entertain, but rather to bother, or at least convey that uncomfortable feeling of detachment Brecht used to aim for with his theater. Well, Futebol sure is bothersome, as it puts a finger into open wounds with regard to the formation of Brazil, but at the same time it has rhythm, it “goes with the flow,” and it entertains. Once again, the ambiguities are there. Let us not be fooled: the issue is serious and very real, after all, is there racial democracy in Brazil? What about identity, is there any? “What is your identity?” If, on the one hand, a hip-hop vibe provides the soundtrack for MC Roberta Estrela D'Alva's fascinating “Socratic monologue,” with her deep questioning of Brazilian History, on the other hand lies the image remix of the mass media, of TV newscasts, of newspapers, and of recent racist episodes involving soccer celebrities, as opinions are voiced amidst a roller coaster of loops, repetitions, samplings, all of which with an added twist of doubt, irony, and questioning. Can we really think of Futebol as a spectacle? What about its more incisive passages, such as the surgically precise questions about our architecture, pointing to the fact that the contemporary maid's room is a leftover from slavery, or the semiotic “flash-kidnappings” in which huge banners with phrases such as “Onde Estão os Negros?” [“Where Are the Black Men?”] were shown during mainstream media soccer match broadcasts? 

If the antispectacle is partly defined by ambiguity itself and the noise that sets it apart from a conventional, entertainment-oriented spectacle, then these symbolic scratches (5)-true “flash-kidnappings” of media attention by means of instant, hit-and-run banner flashing in soccer stadiums-are another important element for understanding how codes are subverted in Daniel Lima's individual and collective work. 

The aforementioned element is Lima's reverse, inverted use of signs, these symbolic conventions that surround us, as he takes them by storm and turns them around in what I shall call “semiotic arrastão.” The image of the arrastão came from an intervention of the same name that was presented by Lima at the Prog: Me new media festival in Rio de Janeiro, 2005. Given the curators' concern that there might be problems with people on the beach if Black men were to simulate an arrastão, Lima chose the racially “opposite” path: a “blond arrastão.” He intended to lay bare a subliminal premise involved in this process: thirty Black men cannot walk together in Ipanema, but thirty blond men can. In other words, the image of the arrastão is clearly linked to that of the poor Black man. 

When it comes to signs, one need not go too far to realize where the image of the Black man (or that of ethnic groups other than the White one) lies within the symbolic hierarchy of our society. Lima himself comes from that ethnic group, and as we have seen previously, his work often discusses racial issues and the social divides that they create. This, of course, does not rule out the confusing ambiguity and self-irony, detached from any kind of fixed identity. One such example is the Blitz photography series, which runs counter to the critical tinge of Zona de Ação, which dealt with police racism; here, Lima smiles as he greets policemen in pictures so harmless that they were even displayed in front of the 7th Battalion of Military Police in São Paulo. But the half-smile of a Black citizen might hide a certain irony, as he shakes hands with policemen notorious for their violence against Black people, in such a way that overidentification itself becomes a source of doubt. 

But let's get back to the arrastão. It was musician Tom Zé who first came up with the concept of arrastão as a cultural practice, through the aesthetics of appropriation, the idea of creation through “plagiarism-combination.” This “urban theft technique,” as Tom Zé himself put it in the booklet of the Com Defeito de Fabricação CD-in which “a small group runs wild through a crowd, 'sweeping away' money, rings, purses, and even people's clothes” (6)-is a metaphor for an appropriative and even invasive approach towards artistic creation, one that is uninhibited regarding established codes and discourses. According to American theoretician Christopher Dunn, who studies the Tropicália, “given the present-day framework of neoliberal globalization, creation through arrastão can also be an act of violence, subversion, or even resistance.” (7) Dunn believes that the arrastão is a contemporary equivalent of anthropophagy in past times, since these creators “attack the cultural legacy from which they are excluded,” in addition to the fact that the arrastão metaphor “is an explicit reference to the socially underprivileged.” (8) Lima, for instance, promotes a sort of “semiotic arrastão” in which current codes and signs are taken, meanings are reversed, and the original messages are inverted or mixed up with noise and short-circuited. Here the term semiotic is not as much a reference to Pierce or Greimas' science of language analysis as it is to the polissemic possibility of relating content systems to expression systems (9). The concept relates to Umberto Eco's “semiological guerilla” as well, as it aims at reintroducing a critical dimension to the relationship with the media, and deals with ambiguous codes in aesthetic communication or mass communication (10). Another reference is what Franco “Bifo” Berardi calls “semiocapital”: the semiotic capital, another word for the capital of immaterial work, the “economy of knowledge” that is laying the foundation of contemporary globalized economy, according to theoreticians such as Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, the authors of Empire and Multitude. As Bifo puts it, “the deepest running process that began in the 1990's is the full-blown interaction between the economic and semiotic systems, the full integration of productive work and semiotic production. Essentially, globalization consists of this integration.” (11)

In such a scenario, where the signs themselves-language according to philosopher Paolo Virno-have become the driving force behind economy, the image of a semiotic arrastão, or even that of a symbolic “flash-kidnapping” as a subversive or antagonistic practice, may not seem so strange. This type of practice was already present in one of Lima's first efforts, small actions of poetic terrorism where he would alter or replace stickers in subway stairs; what once read: “ATENÇÃO! Segure-se sempre aos corrimãos” [“ATTENTION! Always hold on to the stair rails”] or “ATENÇÃO! Segure as crianças pelas mãos” [“ATTENTION! Hold the children by the hand”], Lima would place stickers with the message “ATENÇÃO! Segure sempre a minha mão” [“ATTENTION! Always hold my hand”]. Other examples were his transpositions from graffiti to laser beams in Scribe and Pichação Laser, in his “virtual bridges,” also made out of laser, connecting impoverished neighborhoods to affluent areas of São Paulo, or Salvador to Africa, and when he hung from a moving drawbridge in Rotterdam while reciting verses from Jorge Ben's Hermes Trimegisto [Hermes Trismegistus], thus attracting the attention of the Dutch police. Another example was the arresting of those who had the power to arrest, the security guards, in the aforementioned action in Havana, Cuba. 

Therefore, the act of comparing the work of Daniel Lima to an arrastão is an allusion to his attitude regarding valid codes, his violence which is nearly “terrorist,” or better yet “disobedient,” to use a well-liked term in contemporary activist movements, since what one does in the semiotic realm is not properly illegal or illicit, but rather an appropriative arrastão that takes over a space, a sign, a format, and then remodels it, inverting it in order to attain the desired effect. 

Perhaps the most emblematic examples of semiotic arrastão in Lima's work are those he developed in A Revolução Não Será Televisionada. ARNSTV's pieces involve recycling, deviation, and altered plagiarism of various mass culture productions; its creations are collective efforts; its output features inverted and ambiguous signs; and, for the most part, the group's series consists of a true arrastão of the signs usually seen in television, media art, and video art, as well as in the pop culture dictated by MTV, among others.

Initially screened in a paid public TV channel, TV USP, the eight episodes (as well as the following ones, either shorter or longer than the twenty-five-minute format of the series) began in 2002, designed as an “anti-TV show,” as the group described it (12). Featuring various artists and collectives, combining TV news, documentary films, and other images, to tell the story of an urban guerilla soldier experiencing an existential crisis, the series unfolds amidst quick cuts from scene to scene, surreal experimental production, and a sometimes distorted, scary voice in off, making for some clearly paranoid moments.

The sign-inversion begins with the fact that the series was made for TV and got screened in a paid TV channel, while the collective's name, taken from a Gil Scott-Heron song, states that the revolution will not be televised. On the other hand, since the group was inspired, as they claimed in an interview (13), by graffiti artists and by the urban cultural guerilla, their intention is clearly that of interfering with TV media. ARNSTV's unabashed artistic experimentalism would never fit into an open TV channel, since they stray too far from the commercial, “utilitarian” framework of that format. Their undeniable political inclination, on the other hand, makes their show unfit for a channel such as MTV, which did not show any interest in broadcasting the series. Finally, the rapid, quick cutting, highly professional editing (very similar to MTV's own editing style), the thoroughly pop, well-finished, TV-series-type aesthetic also sets the show apart from the video art realm as we usually know it (14). The shamelessness in being narrative and pop-esque, as well as the groundbreaking experimentation with video and politics in Brazil, a country where there is no such tradition, characterize ARNSTV's series as a unique creation within the Brazilian audiovisual scene. 

This hybridism-or boldness-in combining intervention, video, poetic terrorism, and the TV format might make it hard to understand the creation in a traditional manner. From the perspective of less conventional theories, such as tactical media according to David Garcia and Geert Lovink (15), ARNSTV's episodes (such as, for example, the Pernambuco-based VJs of the Media Sana collective) are not exactly antagonistic, but shocking nevertheless in media terms, and therefore probably figure among the most significant examples of tactical media ever produced in Brazil.

The contradictions and ambiguities remain. The ideals for which they stand are not so clearly defined, but is this all about ideals or the way in which they are conveyed? How can one defend cultural guerilla, and yet produce a series for paid TV? Those very paradoxes make Daniel Lima's creations both rich and problematic. Without the paradoxes, we would not understand Lima. When questioned if they feared being swallowed by the voracious entertainment industry, the ARNSTV members replied: “Let them swallow us, get sick, throw up.” Not by chance, one of the series' iconic scenes would never make it into a TV Globo retrospective: yes, that “innocent” image of Xuxa doing her show when, in slow motion (courtesy of Revolução's editing), she spots a fire in the set and runs away, the children run away, and the set burns. You name it: art, appropriation, activism, entertainment?


1. I have addressed the relationship between the race-identity issue and the work of Daniel Lima in further detail in another essay, published in the Pan-African Exhibition of Contemporary Art catalogue: “Daniel Lima - Casting a flash of multiplex consciousness?” Farkas, Solange, curator, Pan-African Exhibition of Contemporary Art (São Paulo: Associação Cultural Videobrasil, 2005), 72-74. 

2. Michel De Certeau, A Invenção do Cotidiano - Artes de Fazer [The Practice of Everyday Life] (Petrópolis: Vozes, 1994).

3. The group consists of Daniel Lima, Fernando Coster, Daniela Labra, and André Montenegro.

4. Andrew Boyd and Stephen Duncomb, “The Manufacture of Dissent: What the Left Can Learn from Las Vegas,” accessed on 31 December 2005:

5. Scratch, in hip-hop slang, is the effect DJs attain by placing their hands over vinyl records, making loops and repeating parts of songs, achieving sounds that sometimes resemble whistles or similar high-pitched sounds. 

6. Tom Zé, “A Estética do Plágio,” Com Defeito de Fabricação CD leaflet text, released in Brazil by the Trama record company, 1999. The texts are available at the artist's Website:

7. Christopher Dunn, “Tom Zé põe dinamite nos pés do século,” O Estado de S. Paulo, available at Tom Zé's Website:

8. Carlos Calado, “Antropofagia devora a atualidade no EIA!” Folha de S. Paulo, 14 December 2005. 

9. Federico Montanari, “Semiotica dei medi e del movimento. Semiotica in movimento?” in Matteo Pasquinelli, Media Activism, Strategie e pratiche della comunicazione indipendente (Rome: DeriveApprodi, 2004), 30-37. The book can be downloaded here:

10. Umberto Eco, “Guerrilha semiológica,” in Viagem na irrealidade cotidiana [Travels in Hyperreality] (Rio de Janeiro: Nova Fronteira, 1983), 165-175.

11. Franco “Bifo” Berardi, “O futuro da tecnosfera de rede,” in Dênis de Moraes, org., Por uma outra comunicação (Rio de Janeiro: Record, 2003), 292.

12. Check the group's CoroColetivo Website, accessed on 02 January 2006:

13. The interview is equally revealing of the contradictions embraced by the collective, is archived here, and was accessed on 02 January 2006:

14. With regard to video art's difficulty in dealing with more pop-oriented narratives, closer to a traditional TV format, as well as the turn it has taken for the contemplative white cube of the galleries, see the essay by John Beagles and David Beech: “Video Purified of Television - On why video art wants to be boring,” published in the Variant electronic magazine, accessed on 02 January 2006:

15. Geert Lovink and David Garcia, “O ABC da Mídia Tática” [“The ABC of Tactical Media”], published in the Rizoma electronic magazine, translated from, and accessed on 03 January 2006:

Interview Teté Martinho, 01/2006

What came first in your life: your involvement with art or with activism?

I don't really think in terms of activism. Something that was very clear in my mind, ever since my early work, was the notion of urban intervention and of acting upon the public space, thus shunning away from traditional artistic formats such as painting or sculpture, in order to build a new format, one that fits into space through the creation of situations and images. As I developed my intervention work, I grasped the fact that more than merely a visual discussion, these interventions entail a debate about urban logic. I was driven by the possibility of discussing the artist's field of action, which is a recurring issue in art history: the widening of the scope that took place during the 20th century, the propagation of the notion of art and life as being interconnected, as opposed to being separated by a frame. My involvement in politics was just a consequence.

What is your artistic background?

When I graduated from the Artistic Education College, I felt like there was nothing really new for me to do. It was as if everything had already been done. I directed short films and wrote movie scripts, but cinema did not suit me either: since it is an industrial structure, you never have full control over it. I wanted to experiment with language, to be authorial, autonomous. I got into visual arts after attending an exhibition by Ana Tavares at MuBE, entitled Relax'o'visions (1998). Her work revealed to me a potential I did not know existed in visual arts. In that exhibition, one couldn't tell exactly where the artwork ended and the museum itself began. Her art melded with the architecture using benches, mirrors, everyday objects. The dividing line between what is considered art and normal life-which we don't usually perceive in different ways-contains an interesting tension to work with. And Ana Tavares does so in a very sophisticated fashion, with high standards of visual quality. 

Is that important?

Yes, it is. Whatever political discussion or intervention concept is going on, the artwork itself also needs to function as a language, it needs proper finishing. Political discussions are temporal discussions, focused around certain issues, while my interest lies in discussing language issues, which are nearly atemporal. The great danger of falling into the political art category is in losing your most valuable asset. Art, as a tool, is atemporal. When you deal with politics, things can get mixed up to a point where the work may not attain transcendence, which is not about a specific story, but about humanity as a whole.

Do recordings have a special importance within that framework? 

The idea of the recording is always there: the work is developed with that in mind, too. My first exhibition, which I did in my own studio, was already a work comprised of two distinct moments: there was the upward pointing laser beam, a work with a clearly defined sculptural principle. And then there was the recording, in which the work appears within the context of the city, in the form of photography. My early visual work-which began with a study I did on light trails in the sky from helicopters, for instance-used light, which is the raw material for photography, and the idea of photographic recording was already there. This recurring game I play with things coming out of the exhibition premises was already there as well.

No matter how visual your pieces may be, they never seem complete until they reach a public space, where a political dimension is added to them. I would like you to talk about the Coluna Laser series, which is a clear example of that. 

After my studio exhibition, I was invited to show my work at the Salão Nacional de Artes de Belo Horizonte, in 2000. Coluna Laser II (2004), presented at Sonarsound, São Paulo, showed a development: two horizontal laser beams pointing to the São Paulo Business Center and to the favela of Paraisópolis. It was a fortunate strategy: the overwhelming force of capital of Nokia-the event sponsor, who was solely concerned with potential cell phone buyers-was redirected in the form of light to a point in the city that would never be illuminated by the company. Coluna Laser III (2005), presented at the Pan-African Exhibition of Contemporary Art, in Bahia, is a corollary of Sonar. Here, however, a discussion on Black identity was involved, and therefore I intended to point to the nonplace, the place that can be lost if you have no means of determining exactly what is your Black, White, or Indian identity. That's what the piece is about: it points in a direction, but not to a specific location. 

You have such a strong graphic signature that it stands out even in your more action-oriented work. What's the importance of drawing in your work?

Everything I do has a drawing behind it. The drawing as a foundation of the work gets less and less clear, as I leave the realm of visual arts and enter the realm of human relationships. In my visual work, however, drawings always comprise the basic structure, which sometimes gets spatially expanded and turns into a sculpture, or else is pictorially transformed through photography. Nevertheless, even if the graphic concept should disappear, in the sense of a set line, the idea of the gesture remains. One such example is the work in which I attached myself to a drawbridge in Rotterdam, thus revealing its motion.

In your intervention processes, you almost always work in groups. How did the A Revolução Não Será Televisionada, the idea of doing TV interferences, and your connection with the so-called tactical media come about?

The relationship with media is uncomfortable for all of those who live in this spectacularized contemporary society of ours, which removes the individual from his/her social relationships and places him/her in a world that cannot be experienced, only contemplated. All art, spectacular though it may be, always entails an experience of exchange. A Revolução Não Será Televisionada started out with a show I did along with Eugênio Lima, Roberta Estrela D'Alva, and Unidade Móvel. I edited a video containing some of my interventions in order to use it in that show, and later on I realized that there was room for that material on TV. We got a weekly show on Canal Universitário, put the group together with Fernando Coster, André Montenegro, who work in the field of cinema, and art critic Daniela Labra, and then we began recruiting video artists who had no place outside the art scene where they could screen their work. The shows were structured with narration, video, interventions, and music, and consisted of collages using the work of fifty of those artists. It was a very interesting intervention concept: you might be zapping away between the SBT and Cultura channels, and then all of a sudden you would stumble across someone such as Lia Chaia making drawings on her own skin, in Desenho-Corpo. It was a clear departure from the concept of repetition and copy in TV. The Mídia Tática Brasil festival, promoted by Ricardo Rosas in 2003, was the moment when several groups realized that they had connections with the international activist network, and identified themselves with it. 

Liberte-se [Free Yourself], 2003, by ARNSTV, emerged out of a partnership that was established around that same period, with the Cia. Cachorra theater group, and is a finished example of an urban intervention that defines itself through street response. How does such a work begin? 

When we began, all we had was the sign. We decided to go out on the streets and see what happened. The work took shape as we went along with the action. People started asking us: “What are you guys telling me to free myself from?” We realized that the thing to do was to reply with another question. “But what do you want to free yourself from?” And that's when the whole thing started taking shape. Liberte-se is a nearly ironic work about a kind of heroic artist figure who goes out to the streets, within his/her individual scale of things, and then takes on the urban scale. The idea of inviting a theater group, of putting stage actresses in a nonstage situation, a situation of completely improvised exchange, and then taking those same actresses to a stage in order to perform scenic work parallel to the screening of images of themselves on the streets is a way of playing a game with that hero artist.

Irony is the trademark of Blitz (2002), as well. What does it offer you?

In Blitz, I proposed a photographic blitz to policemen: just like they approach me with their weapons and put me in an embarrassing situation, I would approach them with my weapon, which is the camera, and ask to take a picture with them. Most would refuse, some would accept. The officer would take a picture, just me standing next to the policemen, that was it. The resulting images are quite ambiguous: one can clearly notice the fact that I felt uncomfortable, and the policemen's poses of authority and strength also became evident. I have managed to show the pictures at the São Paulo Military Police Headquarters and they missed out on the irony of the whole thing. For them, all that the images conveyed was the positive aspect of a citizen trying to approach the police. The critics, on the other hand, would point out precisely to the ironic twist of the whole thing, to my signaling in some of the photos-police signs, you know? Hip-hop kids would come to me like: Hey man, how come you've been taking pictures with them cops? For me, that limit situation is what turns the work of art into a moving thing. Otherwise it would just be cheap, politically tinged work. It would be as if I were taking pictures of the police beating up some guy. I want my art to be open to different interpretations. 

Frente 3 de Fevereiro works with a very specific subject matter: the distinction made by police between Black men and White men. What is your particular contribution, as an artist, to the group's work?

It was my mother, Maurinete Lima, who came up with the idea of putting together a working group aimed at discussing the Flávio Sant'Ana affair and the way in which it defies a whole belief system according to which, if a Black man follows on the social footsteps of the White elite, he will get rid of prejudice. Sant'Ana went to college, he graduated, had a White girlfriend, he had all that, and still he was brutally murdered by a police whose definition of a suspect is determined by the color of skin-a police that kills people based on “suspicious attitudes.” My contribution does not pertain to the theoretical discussion of racism; it pertains to the organization of language and the creation of intervention strategies. Our first action, Monumento Horizontal, 2004, relates to the legacy of Argentina, a country with a solid history of political activism, and of combining art and politics. In order to mark the places where people had been killed, they would use monuments which, due to their nonvertical nature, could be made clandestinely, and thus last longer. Our idea was to produce monuments in series, so they could be used in other police incidents, so they could become a popular protest strategy. 

In Jailtão - Ônibus, the artist attempts to sell awareness inside a bus, like a street vendor. In Liberte-se, boys at a street sign sell pamphlets with the title written on them. Discovering these gaps for action is a recurring concern. Is teaching strategies a concern as well?

The gaps, the breaches, the unfilled spaces in the urban setting or in public life are the interesting places to explore in interventions. My goal is to find the right strategies for each action, to think about the impact they will have upon the urban setting, what they will convey, etc. In Futebol, for instance, the banner that is flashed with the inscription “Onde Estão os Negros” [“Where Are the Black Men?”] at the time when a goal is scored uses a moment when the TV camera focuses on the crowd, in order to convey a message which has nothing to do with soccer. Therefore, it is as though we were building a repertoire of strategies for us to use and disseminate. Whether they will be used or not, history will tell.

Comment biography Teté Martinho, 01/2006

Actions that are at once aesthetic and political, set in an urban setting, have been the hallmark of Daniel Lima's (Natal-RN, 1973) work, from his sculpture-like experiments with laser beams to his involvement in media intervention groups, linked to the international wave of activism of the '00' years. His search for a wider, more random field of action than that of the art scene, has brought Lima closer to the city, both as a physical place and as a web of codified power and exchange relationships. To suspend the usual perception of those relationships, replacing it with a tension that might or might not convey specific messages, is the basic goal of his art, which mixes genres freely, and much more than just aiming at a given result, encompasses the entire process from the planning of the action to its recording. 

Lima has been combining art with the urban setting ever since Daniel na Cova dos Leões (2001), his Plastic Arts graduation work for the School of Communications and Arts at USP. The video features interventions in which he uses sand to draw a fleeting line on an avenue, from inside a moving car, as well as recordings of city light trails from a train window. That sequence inaugurated an important field of research, followed by light-filled drawings created with helicopters and recorded using photography, culminating with the Coluna Laser (2001-2005) series, in which Lima used the plasticity of laser beams to create urban interventions loaded with meaning. Presented at the Sonarsound festival (2004), Coluna Laser II - Opostos connected the favela of Paraisópolis to the São Paulo Business Center. In the following year, Coluna Laser III - Mar would project itself from the pier of MAM in Bahia into the Atlantic, rebuilding the elusive bridge from Salvador to Africa during the 1st Pan-African Exhibition of Contemporary Art.

The maturation of Lima's sophisticated plastic work, reaching an important milestone with the Coluna Laser series, runs parallel to his use of hip-hop culture elements (in seminal works such as Pichação Laser, 2001), to the emergence of social issues, and to his experiments with various forms of intervention, both solo and in groups, recorded in video or through photography. In Tudo que está no alto é como o que está embaixo (2003) Lima attaches himself to a drawbridge and follows its upward motion like a hidden passenger. In Blitz (2002), he takes pictures with military policemen, showing the embarrassment of all parties involved, and thus approaching the issue of police racism with an ironic twist. In that same year, along with his brother, DJ Eugênio Lima, Daniel created the A Revolução Não Será Televisionada show, featuring images of interventions, live music, and narration-a format which he would often explore, with variations, in the following years.

Lima's next move was the creation of a media group, named after the Gil Scott-Heron song The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, featuring Fernando Coster, André Montenegro, and Daniela Labra, dedicated to producing media interferences and defying the mass communication establishment. The group created a show for TV USP including aggressive experimental edits of video work by artists such as Lia Chaia, Tiago Judas, Ricardo Ramalho, Túlio Tavares, and Bijari, excerpts from regular TV shows, and narration. The activist tone attracted the attention of art critic Ricardo Rosas, who included the group in the Mídia Tática Brasil festival (2003), featuring local and international collectives who work along similar lines. At the festival, ARNSTV performed an action recorded in the video Famosos em passeio, Famosos em chamas, in which they walk around the city carrying life-sized reproductions of TV celebrities, exploring the irony of their static expressions to the most, and finally burning them in a bonfire on Avenida Paulista. 

Produced in that same year, along with the Cia. Cachorra theater group (Fabiana Prado, Melina Anthis e Paula Pretta), the piece Liberte-se goes back to the concept of putting on a show in the form of a recorded urban intervention. In the piece, comprised of actions in three different cities, anonymous people provide the viewers with food for thought on the title phrase Liberte-se [Free Yourself], while the originality of the intervention strategies made up by Lima-in one of the video's sequences he invites children to sell leaflets with the title phrase written on it and empty bullet shells, for R$ 1, at a stop sign-is featured. Subverting the use of alternative spaces for communication and exchange is a staple strategy in the work of Lima-who, during that same period, along with Fernando Coster, recorded artist Jailtão's attempt at selling tolerance and awareness to the passengers in a city bus. 

Daniel Lima had approached police racism and abuse in his participation at the 8th Havana Biennial, 2003, when he locked up policemen in a city square, and returned to the issue from 2004 onwards, when he became a member of the Frente 3 de Fevereiro collective. Founded by Daniel's mother Maurinete Lima, in reaction to the murder of young Black lawyer Flávio Sant'Ana by the São Paulo Military Police, the group placed a concrete plaque marking the crime site in its inaugural action, Monumento Horizontal (2004), borrowing a strategy used by activists in Argentina during the country's military dictatorship years. Also featuring Achiles Luciano, André Montenegro, Cibele Lucena, Eugênio Lima, Felipe Teixeira, Felipe Brait, Fernando Coster, Fernando Sato, Julio Dojcsar, Maia Gongora, Maysa Lepique, Nô Cavalcanti, Pedro Guimarães, and Sônia Montenegro, the Frente explores a racist episode in the performance Futebol, commissioned for Associação Cultural Videobrasil to kick off the 15th Videobrasil International Electronic Art Festival (2005). 

In charge of the artistic management, along with Eugênio Lima, and action strategies for the group's presentations-such as the giant banner, unfurled inside a full soccer stadium in the moment of a goal, with the inscription “Onde Estão os Negros?” [“Where Are The Black People?”] in the piece Futebol-, Daniel Lima keeps working in many different fields, often expanding the limits of his work, and of the combination of art and urban interventions. In 2004, along with Fernando Coster and Thiago Dotori, he directed the B-Boys who danced in DJ Malocca's Mutant Break music video, featuring producers Will Robson and Noizyman, and singer Clara Moreno. In 2005, Lima participated in Perambulação, a collaborative project that summoned Brazilian and Dutch artists at the 2nd International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam; he also coordinated the CUBO intervention, by Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, featuring the A Revolução Não Será Televisionada, Bijari, Cia. Cachorra, C.O.B.A.I.A., Contra Filé, and Perda Total collectives, in São Paulo; and presented the ironic Arrastão intervention, featuring thirty male blond models in the Ipanema and Leblon beaches, in Rio de Janeiro, during the Prog: Me new media festival.

Bibliographical references Teté Martinho, 01/2006

For additional images and information on the life and work of Daniel Lima, check out the following sites:

Livro6 (Download pdf) 
This poetic book-portfolio contains Lima's work with light and laser, photographs from his Blitz series, images of his subway and street interventions in São Paulo, and his thoughts on art. 

I Pan-African Exhibition of Contemporary Art
The Atlantic, which was a slave route for three centuries, served as a starting point for the Pan-African Exhibition of Contemporary Art (2005), promoted by Associação Cultural Videobrasil, as well as for the piece Coluna Laser III - Mar, by Daniel Lima. 

Casting a flash of multiplex consciousness?
Art critic Ricardo Rosas reviews Coluna Laser III - Mar, which was featured in the visual section of the Pan-African Exhibition of Contemporary Art (2005).

Arrastão for the prog:ME 
A recording of the Arrastão intervention project, created by Daniel Lima for the Prog: Me new media festival (2005), Rio de Janeiro. 

Centro de Mídia Independente

Monumento Horizontal, Frente 3 de Fevereiro's first public act.

Zona de Ação

This Website features interventions by the collectives A Revolução Não Será Televisionada, Frente 3 de Fevereiro, Bijari, C.O.B.A.I.A., and Contra Filé, from Brazil, and Grupo Arte Callejero, from Argentina, for the Zona de Ação (2004) event, promoted by SESC São Paulo. 

Tecnopolíticas em ação
As guests of the Trópico electronic magazine, artist Lucas Bambozzi and Professor Eduardo de Jesus interviewed Geert Lovink, Dutch media activist and creator of the Next 5 Minutes festival.