Essay André Brasil, 07/2004

The poetics of the loop

1. Plain, clean, concise images. Possessing undeniable formal and technical accuracy, the images created by Leandro Lima and Gisela Motta delude the viewer: their ambiguity is not easily apprehended, for they are protected by an apparent transparency. But there is something there, a remaining discomfort: back rumour, subtle trembling.

2. The girl swings (sem título #4 - untitled #4, 1999). A banal image, repetitive in its naivety. Image-cliché: countless comings and goings. However, there is something strange about this so familiar scene, something produced by minimal displacements: saturated colours, artificial landscape, abstracted girl. The oblique framing, the convex look. And there, between what has been minimally displaced, the world intensely becomes another. The swing, the landscape, the movement, the camera, the look: from cliché to vertigo, everything seems loose.

3. If the green colour is the greenest in the world (Leminski), what to say about this impossible green? (verde.dxf - green.dxf, Lima, 2004) When it is artificially stamped on the grass, the paradox establishes itself: this colour is so green that this world cannot be the one we know! And how about this blue, bluer than the blue colour itself? Geometrically divided into two: the sea, the sky, the white line. Horizontal blue. If Klein Blue - Yves Klein's hallmark - is the material blue of paint, the body and the performance, and if the blue of Magritte's skies was purposely rarefied, stylised and oneiric, this blue.dxf (azul.dxf, Lima, 1998/2002) is pure synthesis: it seems to exist only as a result of a combination of digits. The colours blue, green, red and yellow form a synthetic landscape in Leandro and Gisela's photographs, videos and installations. An ambiguous landscape: so similar and, at the same time, so distant from the natural world.

4. Water is a constant (analógico #2 - analogical #2, 1998; sem título #5 - untitled #5, 2002). It flows and re-flows, sounds and resounds. But its fluidity is imprisoned in an endless loop. Again, there is a synthetic environment, as the water of the laboratories (that was fiction in the old days, but now is often in the daily news), where all kinds of raw materials are synthesized, and organic matters are created and duplicated.

5. In analógico #3 (analogical #3, Lima, 1998), the electronic water of a swimming pool made of pixels. Isn't that our situation between the images? Drift, immersion, dive, drowning (Motta, 2003). Sensory experience, more than a merely visual one.

6. In Leandro and Gisela's work, the loop becomes a poetical strategy: it is economical, automatic, circular; it impedes the image to refer to a possible past or to succeed in constructing a future image. In loop mode, the image cannot narrate or foresee. It only displays itself, it exhibits its automatism. As if the world machine had stopped working, unable to produce new experiences. But if the loop is repetition, the difference is produced by the encounter between the thought and the work. The repetition does not stop, but the viewer's thought flows continuously. And the circle becomes an ellipse, for, during the repetition, the image is being constantly altered by different thoughts. As the well-known Heraclitus' river: always the same and always another.

7. The landscape is a natural one; the scene is simple, transparent: some people taking a walk between the trees of a wood (que é de? - that is of?, 2003). But, as in Magritte's Carte Blanche (1965), this between becomes an interstice where the beings disappear. Between: interface, space for passing. As if the reality was full of cuts through which the beings could cross to other invisible, unknown, fantastic domains. But if Magritte's landscape is intense and intentionally oneiric and surreal, Leandro and Gisela's wood is between banality and fantasy, ordinary reality and imagination. The installation becomes more ambiguous with the device created for this work: the image appears only when it is projected on the viewer's shadow. A complex game of appearing and disappearing, of visible and invisible worlds.

8. The wood is removed, but there are still people passing by. In this work (marrom - brown, 2002), as simple as disconcerting, the visitors are filmed while they go through the exposition (“now the objects perceive me”, Paul Klee would say). In the projection, people are passing by from one place to another, but there is no scenery. That can be any place: an exposition? A shopping centre? A studio where a TV commercial is being filmed? The scene becomes even faker with the use of chroma key. It is not necessary to cut the landscape, for it has already been removed: from the image as a place of transit to the image as a non-place. Or a nowhere place.

9. What is expected from a body? That it lives. What is expected from a performance? That it happens. In the (almost or anti-) performances by Leandro and Gisela (sem título # 1, 2, 3 - untitled #1, 2, 3), the body simply does not respond. Or, when it does respond, it is taken over by a disturbing automatism (or autism). Automaton-body, strange body. Body in loop mode.

10. Or a body upside-down (interlúdio - interlude, 2003), lying on its own carapace, unable to turn over to its natural position (impossible not to think about Gregor Samsa).

11. How strange is this world created by Gisela and Leandro: disconcerting, fantastic, paradoxical. Echos of a revisited surrealism? I don't think so. After all, the real world surpassed the surreal one a long time ago. What these works suggest goes beyond it: strange is this world, our world. Transformed into an artifice, a synthesis, a simulation, it seems to be definitely in loop mode. It is the artist's role (and not only the artist's) to tear, to cut, to open ways: to make hybrid, permeable universes of the natural and the artificial, the organic and the synthetic, the alive and the non-alive.

12. As a lotus flower (made of digits) being born and re-born on the skin.

Interview Eduardo de Jesus, 07/2004

How did you become interested in working with images?

We don't know exactly, but maybe because our personalities were formed by a visual culture, and we realized that by creating images, we could instigate discussions. And maybe because we found it difficult to create artistically valuable written works.

You have produced performances, installations and photographs. How is the process of producing the works in relation to the choice of supports? What is the role of video in this process?

We believe that we choose the support while we are in the process of developing an idea. Maybe we use video so frequently because it is a potent means of communication that includes time, moving image and sound. We are also interested in the quality of verisimilitude produced by the video camera, for we record real situations that we alter afterwards. In Sem título #4 (Untitled $4), we united a real image of a person playing on a swing with an animation of a synthetically constructed landscape. 

The body appears reconfigured in many of your works. How do you see the relations between body, technology and image? Is there a possible reconstruction through the use of image processing?

We are interested in the relation between the individual and the environment; we try to create a symbiosis between the body and its surroundings. We use the body as an instrument, but always trying to deprive the image of the representation of the artist himself, depriving the body of our personal characteristics. But, of course, any work can be autobiographical in a way, for even in Interlúdio (Interlude), the beetle can represent its creator. We often use processes of digital manipulation, or even a “make-up” to suggest a body altered and adapted to its environment.

In 2003, you participated in the exposition A subversão dos meios (The subversion of the means), at Itaú Cultural, in São Paulo. In the opening text, the curator states that “(…) it's impossible to deny that the non-conventional use of technological means made by the artists is itself a critical comment on the dominant systems of communication (museums and galleries, the press, TV, cinema etc), for art creates poetical devices that are able to alter the perception of images and facts”. How do you see the relations with technological means? Is there a desire to subvert, to alter and make experiments using video and digital image in the process of artistic creation?

Indeed, we try not to passively accept the established patterns of video language created and used by TV or cinema, for instance, but we don't want to limit our work to the subversion of each means. The support must be moulded according to our plan, and the way we use each means also must be considered.

The first work that I got acquainted with was Sem título #4 (Untitled #4), at the Competitive Exhibition of the 13th Videobrasil International Electronic Art Festival. The image seems to alter the horizon, revealing an unusual point of view; the loop technique also called my attention, being a format of exhibition and a creative possibility. How did you begin to use the loop technique? Is there any reference to time in these works?

We first thought about this technique because we were looking for a photographic picture that could represent more than an instant, as if the moment could breathe. In the first works, we used the same point of view; the camera was often static, avoiding clear-cut narrative structure; we didn't want to create a linear narrative; thus, something different was presented. There is no beginning or end; it could be a loop but that's not a cycle, that's just the suspension of an instant, producing a doubt: in exactly what place and time does the narrative take place? We are also interested in the amount of time the viewer may spend “reading” the work; the viewer is not obliged to stay for an indeterminate amount of time in order not to lose part of the presentation. The time one spends reading a video can be the same time one spends reading a painting. 

Is there a “contamination” or a connection between the works you produced in the field of graphic design and the artistic ones?

Of course there is a connection; art and design feed each other, but we are mainly interested in bringing some art to graphic design rather than the opposite.

Comment biography Eduardo de Jesus, 07/2004

Between 1996 and 1999, Gisela Motta and Leandro Lima studied plastic arts at FAAP, in São Paulo, and from then on they began to work together, producing enticing works that treat the themes of the body, image and technology.

Their work is not limited to only one support. They produce photographs, videos, installations and performances. During the opening of the exposition Grátis (For free), at Galeria Vermelho (São Paulo, 2004), they mounted a stand to sell their artistic videos (VCDs and DVDs), named “generics”, for R$ 3,00 (1 dollar), at cost price. During the whole exposition they sold their videos at cost price, a critical performance that positions the artist within the great art market.

In 2003 they participated in the exposition Modos de usar (Ways of using), also at Galeria Vermelho, with the videoinstallation Que é de [Which is of] (2003), an installation that requires the participation of the viewer to reveal the images. The projection is veiled with a strong light, and the viewer can only see the image when his shadow is cast on the white screen. The screen displays, in an almost oneiric form, a wood in which people appear and disappear among the trees, as in a hide-and-seek game, or between image and shadow in the installation itself.

Between 2002 and 2003, they worked hard on a project that culminated in the exposition “In ´vel” [In ble] (2003), at Galeria Vermelho. In this exposition they displayed Sem título#5 [Untitled #5] (2002), a video projection that reveals an individual immersed in an organic environment.

The pair of artists also produced the performance Interferência (Interference), with Maurício Ianês and Edilaine Cunha. In this work, the artists alter the electric scoreboard used in fencing competitions to pick up radio waves. In this case, it seems that the body becomes an interface that allows communication through its movements.

Gisela Motta and Leandro Lima also produced solo works. The video Lotus, by Leandro Lima, is one of them. This video shows a person hiding his face while leaves grow on his arms. There are also the installation Interlúdio (Interlude), a video that shows a beetle upside-down and its countless, useless attempts to turn over to its natural position, and Azul.dxf [Blue.dxf] (1998/2003), a synthetically produced photograph of the sky and the sea. This works took part respectively in the expositions A subversão dos meios [Subversion of means], at Itaú Cultural (2003, São Paulo), and A foto dissolvida [The dissolved photo], at SESC Pompéia (2004, São Paulo).

Gisela Motta participated in the exposition In ´vel with the solo work Retratos (Pictures), an incisive series of photographs of empty roads with names of people in the surroundings of São Paulo. The images impress by the rigour of the compositions and the amplitude of the landscapes around each of the names. The road's empty spaces, apparently lifeless, are properly named and seem to gain the status of “almost-people” or “almost-subjectivity”, as a counterpoint to the solitude and hardness of the empty road.

In 1999, they produced the loop video Sem título #4 (Untitled #4), which shows a person playing on a swing. This apparently simple image is produced from such an angle that it ends up distorting the proportions; it seems that the horizon is constantly moving in a completely synthesized landscape. It seems to be a strange world, with peculiar physical laws. This video was exhibited in the Competitive Exhibition of the 13th Videobrasil International Electronic Art Festival (2001) and in the exposition Imagética (Imagery), in Curitiba (2003).

Still in 1999, Gisela Motta and Leandro Lima participated in the exposition Outros Corpos (Other Bodies), at the Museu Brasileiro da Escultura, in São Paulo, in the context of the 2nd Advanced Seminar on Semiotics and Communication. In this exposition, they presented the videoinstallations Sem título #1 [Untitled #1] (1997) and Sem título #2 [Untitled #2] (1998), works that are structured around new representations of the body.

In that same year, in the exposition Enigmas at the Galeria Brito Cirmino, in São Paulo, the pair of artists displayed the diptych “Gisela e Leandro”, two identical photographs produced by the fusion of the image of two people. Behind these faces, there are interfaces of image processor programs that reveal the peculiar world that generated these images, the synthetic environment of the images generated by countless algorithms.

Bibliographical references 07/2004

To extend the approach to the work of Gisela Motta and Leandro Lima, we have included some web links in this section.