I am fascinated by sound interference and remixes, ultraediting, blending, everything that goes beyond the immediateness of the image and the verbal. Words, depositions, speech; for me it’s all raw material to be modulated. I’m not interested in anything that preexists the images, but the production of an experience through the image, in the image, like a chemical reaction in the brain, that can only occur there. Arthur Omar
A filmmaker, photographer, and composer, since the 1970s, Arthur Omar has built a career path that breaks down borders between different artistic territories. Political and poetic, his work covers static and moving images, electronic music, installation, and Web art, and has social violence as one of its key issues. The subject of a large retrospective at the MoMA New York in 1999, he showed, in the 2002 Bienal de São Paulo, a series of photographs entitled Viagem ao Afeganistão, taken in the disaster zone near Cabul.
The Festival will feature twelve works by the artist, including a series of short films made between 1972 and 1989 (CineSesc), the emblematic work Atos do diamante, videos made from 1997 to 1999 (Auditorium), and three recent installations (3rd floor).
Interview Ivana Bentes, 2007
Ivana Bentes: Fusion, editing, luminous pulsation, torrential flows, crawling camerawork, and hyperacceleration, musical intensity, theseare all features of the language of your filmsand videos. Are these the bases of the audiovisual and sensorial thought you’re looking for?
Arthur Omar: I see three different levels in the creation of my work. The language features organise and formalisethe image, forge the material of the film, video, or photograph, they’re the means of reaching the brain, directly, through the sensory organs. I’m fascinated by sound interference and remixes, ultraediting, blending, everything that goes beyond the immediateness of the image and the verbal. Words, depositions, speech; for me it’s all raw material to be modulated. I’m not interested in anything that preexists the images, but the production of an experience through the image, in the image, like a chemical reaction in the brain, that can only occur there. So if in the installation Dervix I film a Sufi ceremony in a totally personal way, it’s not a question of wanting to interfere in the language. What I’m doing there is dialoguing directly with Sufism, with the ecstasy, and making the video introduce a contribution to our understanding of it. Leaving cinema behind, having discovered another vocabulary in video, real-time, continuum, image-drift, you could say my most recent and as yet unseen work is very informal. On a second level, what we have is no longer language features organising the image, but a regrouping of the works according to conceptual guidelines: anthropology, ecstasy, the act, the antidocumentary. These are platforms, bases that traverse different works. And, finally, the core question that always concerned me—the subject/object relationship—is a theoretical, indeed methodological reflection (a phenomenology sui generis), investigated in the practice of the works. How does one produce perceptive experiences, subjective positions, exploding the clichés? This is the biggest challenge. How do I put myself in another place, invent perspectives, escape from the places reserved for me, even by the critics and the historians? This is what is both most vital and most difficult.
What are the divergences and the lines of continuity between your short films from the 1970s, the videos from the 1980s and ’90s, photography, music, drawings, and your present-day installations?
I see two lines, two series in these works, which often meet, sometimes bifurcate: deconstruction and ecstasy. There’s a deconstructive impulse in the short films of the 1970s. With each film I was looking for something specific, something singular, dear to cinematographic perception. In Congo, for example, I inverted the hierarchies and gave the written word, the hand-scripted word, and signs precedence over the image, deconstructing the demonstrative structure of the classical documentary and its regime of truth, thus proposing an antidocumentary. In Vocês, we created an artisanal device that simulated stroboscopic light and made a political flicker film about the iconography of the guerrilla fighter and his parody, using a wooden machine gun whose pulsing emissions of light (war and cinema, light that wounds the retina) interfere with the film theatre itself, the very architecture of it, making the darkened room throb. It’s a music video avant la lettre, entirely structured around a Bob de Carlo version of a song performed by Michel Polnareff. In Tesouro da juventude, I worked with found footage, films from the trashcan of a TV station, and, for the first time, thought along the lines of a visual, lyrical anthropology, using these snatches of anthropological films from the 1920s. For me, each film should contain a perceptual platform. Like Triste trópico. It’s not Cinema Novo, it’s not fringe cinema, it’s a hypertextual proposition, one of radical intertextuality, as far back as 1974. In the videos from the 1980s, this more radical deconstruction gave way to flux, to flow, transition from cinema to video, the idea of ecstasy, the capture of experience, these notions emerge as a reconstruction (from scepticism to belief in the image).
How would you place the following three texts/manifestos today: Antidocumentário provisoriamente (1972), Kodak-gnose (1988), and Foto, cine, vídeo: A questão do artista (1992), on transit between mediums?
These texts are the result of close-quarters work with films, video, photography, music. In Antidocumentário I deconstruct the sociological documentary, showing how to document is to show and to fictionalise, even as per the rules of classical fiction. In Kodak-gnose, I investigate the ecstasy in photography, the relationship between exhibition, exposition, and the synchrony between the photographer and the photographed. In A questão do artista, I envisage the digital artist becoming an amateur, a nonspecialist, working with real-time and spatial continuum. I arrive at the informal here. If I were to stop filming today, I could spend the next ten years producing videos, photographs, images. I edit daily; think, edit, shoot, photograph, sample, draw, it has all become a single flux.
ASSOCIAÇÃO CULTURAL VIDEOBRASIL. "16º Festival Internacional de Arte Eletrônica SESC_Videobrasil": de 30 de setembro a 25 de outubro de 2007, p.16-17, Edições SESC SP, São Paulo-SP, 2007, p. 116 a p. 117.