Essay Jorge La Ferla, 10/2004

About the Work of Gustavo Galuppo: History(ies) of Digital Video

Gustavo Galuppo is one of the most original video artists of his generation in Argentina. Galuppo has produced a versatile work in search of his own style through a process of thought that is located between cinema, video, and digital art, questioning the expressive patterns of short and feature works. This video maker from Rosario, a video and cinema lover, has also begun to work in the field of installations and performances with his group Vera Baxter.

I would like also to mention this series, the Dossier, which is already an important organ within the international audiovisual panorama, enriching Videobrasil's memorable history. These chronicles are helping to preserve the Brazilian and international video-graphic heritage. The energy and continuity of the Festival, this Dossier, and the ambitious project of constructing an on-line database are some of the reasons why Videobrasil is so important as an organization within the world of video art. Videobrasil's vitality during this time of crisis correlates to the work and attitude of Gustavo Galuppo, who has been producing a solid audiovisual work without interruptions.

I have considered some aspects of Galuppo's last work, which may be useful for an analysis of his work as a whole. Thus, I have found short and long videos which establish a dialogue with many contemporary aesthetic trends.

The use of the concept of short subject movies in video is an interesting idea. This is not only an issue of duration, but also a semiotic contamination within the framework of electronic and digital technologies which reaffirm certain hybrid relations between cinema, video, and multimedia arts. The creative manipulation of these transfers between different supports and languages has produced a great turn in Galuppo's last works: El ticket que explotó, 5´, 2002; La disección de una mujer ahogada, 60´, 2002; Días enteros bajo las piedras, 65´, 2004; La progresión de las catástrofes, 8´50´´, 2004. These works alone constitute an interesting corpus.

In his long videos, there are some narrative devices forming a complex experimental narrative that we could maybe relate to the elegiac, anthological cinematic attempt in Intriguing People (1995), first feature by Eder Santos. In Galuppo's first long video, Disección de una mujer ahogada, Timoka, an undefined location, functions as an audiovisual panoptic terrain which is kept under rigid regime of control and isolation, where stories of disaffection and isolation take place. The protagonist's notes are part of a more extended enunciation in which his non-linear visual memory constructs a story of losses. In Días enteros bajo las piedras, an electronic, hybrid space with chromatic textures is constructed, a location where Clara Vogler and Nataniel are kept prisoners, wandering around and waiting for the inevitable death. This electronic, digital space is a fictitious location where the characters have tactile experiences that function as fragments of a complex narrative which is constructed of intertextual interferences through the manipulation of appropriated movie images and fragments of personal archives.

Disección de una mujer ahogada is a work which delineates the most complex plot, for it, at the same time, presents and breaks with the logics of traditional fiction, recycling certain mythical themes which are the same that crush the female character in its relation to love, death and incommunicability. This amorous, narrative search exposes an apparently hopeful romantic discourse, which results in a utopia, even for its creator. The images in this video were taken from domestic, home videos and fragments of silent films, and carefully joined during the fundamental process of post-production. Disección de una mujer ahogada and La progresión de las catástrofes were freely based on texts by J.L. Godard and Marguerite Duras. They propose complex intertexts between cinema and video, in which, through digital manipulation, the cinematic mythology is absorbed and recycled, resulting in something that could be called History(ies) of Cinema Through Digital Video.

The complex, interesting issue of video digitalization marks a work (Galuppo's) which is structured around the hybridism of technological supports and languages, through an original semiotic manipulation of cinema and video, emphasizing expressive constructions that relate to the history of these audiovisual devices and its mythologies.

Thus, Gustavo Galuppo, one of the most assiduous Argentine video makers, produces extraordinary expressive works which establish dialogues between themselves through the manipulation of images. On the one hand, there are “the brief poetics, conceptual, reflective works”, says Galuppo, “on the other, there are the long ones, in which the narrative tries hard to make way through solid structures. I don't know where they come from (and I do not want to know, I'd rather explore them and find their ways), but now I'm trying to take and explore both directions. Maybe that is just like this, two independent forms. Or maybe they join somewhere, generating a third form. We will see.” (G.G).

"If that is the question, to explore one or both directions, you are doing fine. Anyway, you are in the middle of a long, hard, painful trip. It is through this persistent search that you become an author. You are doing fine, but there is always a need to get deeper into this. I believe that the narrative elements of your long works are something new, of great importance to the genre, and that your conceptual re-reading of cinema and memory is being very well conducted. You still need to sweat more blood. Something that is difficult in Argentina, because of the lack of support and patronage. But do not worry, you have already made yourself useful.

Best wishes,


Interview Eduardo de Jesus, 10/2004

How did you become interested in moving images? How did you began to work as a videomaker?

The source of my first impressions related to moving images was without doubt the cinema. More specifically the films I watched on TV, mainly horror films. I used to go to a cinema where they used to exhibit films by R. Corman and an English producer company called Hammer on Friday nights, in a session called Viaje a lo inesperado (Trip to the unexpected). Figures like Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing moved charmingly through suggestive, artificial environments, and so I caught myself immersed in this strange pleasure of contemplating the ugly. The horror films, particularly the Hollywood films of the 30's and also of the 60's, are truly a rich source: the love for the monstrous, the different, the destructive, for what comes to shake the basis of a rotten structure. Afterwards, I became a cinephile, and began to watch and study everything I could, old and new stuff. During this period, I discovered A Bout de Souffle (Breathless), by Godard, and, even not understanding the whole thing, I assumed the idea of destruction (I couldn't assimilate the concept of “deconstruction”), and maybe I had felt again that childish taste for the monstrous, the repulsive, everything that was against the institutionalisation of images. It was the starting point for my desperate escape, a difficult, fruitless search for everything that was produced off road: avant-gardes, experimental, outcast videoart. That “viaje a lo inesperado” of my childhood had been converted into the sign of a personal search. Maybe I began to work specifically on images a little too late, but I had already watched and read a lot of stuff, and had acquired some theoretical knowledge. I can say that, since those first impressions I had, my thoughts began to form audiovisual structures which were difficult to avoid. A kind of “romantic occasionalism” through which every external happening was transformed into a projection of a personal feeling. I made my first attempts when I went to a cinema school in Rosário for a brief period of time, but I only began to work for real afterwards, when I gave it up, and began to believe in the possibility of a solitary creation, the man, his camera (also dispensable), and his editing equipment.

The relations between cinema and video become evident in many of your works. There are also direct references to Jean-Luc Godard, an important figure in the field of audiovisual art who explored the tense relations between cinema and video in his works. How do you deal with these relations in your works?

I think Cinema and video are “members of the same family”, the same audiovisual lineage. Both express themselves (quoting Gene Youngblood) through “chains of images and sounds in time”, something that goes beyond the support. What video gives me, in its particular way, is the freedom of the solitary creator, the possibilities of appropriation, transfiguration, and manipulation. The possibility of re-creating stereotypical images, of revealing their affective potencies, their worn out beauty, of giving up the institutionalised images, of sucking their blood and leading them to a personal location where they may be filled with new energy.

You often make use of texts in your videos, sometimes in direct relation to literature, as in El Ticket que explotó (2002), based on the book The Ticket that Exploded, by William Burroughs. Sometimes the text interrupts the image, as in the video La progresión de las catastrofes (2004), in which the word “cut” appears upon the image of a couple. How do you establish the relation between text and image in your works? Is there a hierarchy, or a starting point? How is the process of creation?

Everything begins with an image. Maybe a unique inevitable image which includes the affective potencies that I want to express. Afterwards, this insufficient image establishes relations with literary texts, acquiring indispensable organic features (mainly Marguerite Duras, but also Franz Kafka, Robert Walser, W. Burroughs and Clarice Lispector). Then, the structure begins its forming process. I am interested in the poetic function of words (impersonal words, advertisement words, words deprived of an animating voice), and also in the poetics of denaturalized images and the relation sound-image. And, finally, the magical conjunction of all these elements. A poetics made of fragments, of dangerous appropriations that end up translating the sensations of an undefined pain, which might be transferred according to the personal views of the viewer. I am also interested in noises, interferences, shocks, and the difficulties of joining these elements together.

The group “Vera Baxter” (in which you take part) creates soundtracks for your videos. The group also performs live with sound and video projections. How is the relationship between your works and Vera Baxter's? Is there an exchange of references?

Vera Baxter is an independent group which has an evident relation with my works. Its music is the sonorous expression of my videos, sometimes as a support, a kind of bone structure. In the same way, my conception of images feeds the performing concept of the group. There is a continuous exchange, or more than it; they are like independent parts of the same project. Besides, Vera Baxter is creating videos independently now. We are producing a series of shorts, something like “personal diaries” or “short scenes” created and produced by the group. This is too far from my work.

“Vera Baxter” released its first album in 2003. How was it?

The album La disección de una mujer ahogada was produced by an independent record label from Rosário. It had a good acceptance in this city. Anyway, in Argentina, every art work must be accepted in Buenos Aires (the capital) by the “owners of knowledge and the truth” to be legitimated, and it got in our way. So I guess it was a bit of a failure.

You also work as a critic and a curator. Currently, you are curating the project Syndrome for the promotion of experimental video. What do you think about the current electronic art scene in Argentina, particularly in Rosário?

Rosário is a conservative city in regard to audiovisual production. Traditional features and TV documentaries form almost the entire local audiovisual production. There is no tradition or spaces for discussions and promotion of this kind of art. It is a difficult situation. There is no way for the indispensable creative audacity and reflection to spread in Rosário. We need audacity and reflection to stop feeding this production of images crushed by plainness, repetition, and lack of critical thought.

Comment biography Eduardo de Jesus, 10/2004

Gustavo Galuppo's first video was El Diablo vino a Tucsón, which was exhibited at the 12th Videobrasil International Electronic Art Festival, in 1998. Galuppo's characteristic style was already latent in this first video: black and white images rigorously edited and disfigured through all kinds of manipulations made by the artist. This video was awarded Best Experimental Video at the La Tribu Alternative Video Festival, in Buenos Aires.

The following year, he made two documentaries: Los perros de la lluvia, which was awarded Best Video Documentary at Córdoba Audiovisual, in Córdoba, and Juan, awarded Best Local Video at the Festival Latinoamericano de Vídeo, Rosario, Argentina. These were his only documentaries, though some of his other works reveal traces of this genre.

That same year, Galuppo produced Mala noche and Teoria de los líquidos. The later made way for a kind of video work structured around a theory or a certain field of knowledge, a strategy of the artist to produce works turned to a more reflective approach to the moving image, almost a kind of essay which, in an open, polysemic way, reveals aspects of a theory. Teoria de los líquidos received special mention at the Festival Latinoamericano de Vídeo, in Rosario, Argentina, and was awarded Best Experimental Video at the Festival de Cine e Vídeo de Santa Fé, Argentina.

In 2000, again making use of this metaphor for theories, he produced Teoría de la deriva, an emblematic work made with beautiful fluid, disfigured images that reveals little by little the idea of “the adrift.” Far from reaching a definitive conclusion on this theory, this video displays a profusion of meanings through a fragmented, fluid narrative. The video was awarded with the Silver Award at the JVC Tokyo Video Festival, in Japan, and Best Experimental Video at the X Certamen de Cine e Vídeo, in Santa Fé, Argentina. It was also exhibited at the inauguration ceremony of the Tsushimamaru Museum (Tokyo, Japan), in memory of the nuclear holocaust.

The following year, during the production of the first part of the video La disección de una mujer ahogada, Galuppo became acquainted with Carolina Piva and Fernando Romero; afterwards, they formed the group Vera Baxter. From then on, the group began to develop soundtracks for Galuppo's videos and perform with video projections. This video marked the beginning of his feature production. That same year, Galuppo produced La persistencia de la oscuridad (teoría de los elementos ígneos), one more essayistic work which was awarded Best Experimental Video at the Festival de Cinema e Vídeo, in Santa Fé, Argentina. This video was widely displayed in international festivals and exhibitions.

Based on texts by William S. Burroughs, he produced El Ticket que explotó, in 2002, a kind of science fiction video that dialogues with some of the political happenings in Argentina at that time, and makes way to a deep reflection on totalitarianism. This video was displayed in exhibitions and festivals like the Videospace, in Los Angeles, a video exhibition on economic war, and the 14th Videobrasil International Electronic Art Festival, in São Paulo, and was awarded with the Video Communication Award at the JVC Tokyo video festival, in Japan, Best Experimental Video at the Festival Latinoamericano de video, in Rosário, Argentina, and best experimental video at the Certamen de cine e video, in Santa Fé, Argentina.

In 2003, the first album by the group Vera Baxter (with the soundtrack of the video La disección de una mujer ahogada) was released by the independent record label Astas Romas.

In 2004, Galuppo produced his second feature Días enteros bajo las piedras, followed by La progresión de las catástrofes, a meticulous collage of fragments of films and domestic videos about the impossibility of representing love.