Text by head curator Solange Farkas, 2001

Fluxes, Fusions and Assimilations

Videobrasil begins in this edition to incorporate more recent world artistic tendencies and new technologies, bringing them into sharp focus in this project, started in 1983 to call up and stimulate the creation and reflection on Brazilian and Latin American audio-visual. Audio-visual arts come together for five days, marking the itinerary of their aesthetic searches. Artists from Latin America, United States, Europe, Asia and Africa meet to exchange experiences, certainties, doubts and intuitions about the future.

The selected works in video, CD-ROM, web art and the performances reflect the enormous influence of image and sound digitalisation in contemporary artistic practice. More than a mere production resource, these media produce a change in the perception of images, generating absolutely restless and hybrid art works, as clearly shown in the pieces selected for the Festival’s Competitive Screening.

More than ever, it is necessary to think and stimulate the use of technologies as a means of individual expression and its use as a poetic instrument, as is the case with our special guest, Gary Hill, one of the most important visual artists, who rebuilds the aesthetic of video with his brilliant solution to the dilemma of being an artist at the end of the century: the placing of a body at the centre of the process, linking image to image, poetics to poetry, the words we say to the languages we embody, as well observed American by critic John Handhart. The Festival includes once more in its programme a series of performances, this time with artists such as Alexandre da Cunha, Marcello Mercado, Eder Santos and Luiz Duva. The opening of a new space entirely dedicated to the presentation of new projects and world premiere of works will be inaugurated by Brazilian video artist Lucas Bambozzi and Chilean German Bobe.

The curatorships bring together art works that sketch a panorama of the world scene while preserving their mobility, making them visible in the integrity of the signifiers from which they are constituted in the defence of the experience of the gaze as a means of approaching the world. These programmes had the collaboration of some of the most important international institutions dedicated to research in electronic media, from countries such as Belgium, Canada, Spain, United States, France, Greece, United Kingdom, Mexico and Peru.

Claudia Giannetti, curator of the LINK_AGE show, emphasises the interactivity between work, space and visitor, making the spectator to leave aside his passive role in order to participate and give life to the works. Among the choices are sites and CD-ROMs of diverse origin and themes, characterising the fusions, the convergences and divergences of art in the digital era.

Greek video art comes to us through a sample selected by Dodo Santorineos, founder of the Fournos, an art and multimedia centre that has been contributing for a decade to the development of new artistic supports for the country. What can be glimpsed in Santorineos’ selection is the way by which Greek artists have been affirming local identity, without leaving aside global concerns. Thus themes such as memory or the role of women in societies under transformation appear in the work of authors of various origins and backgrounds.

Gabriel Soucheyre, curator and director of Videoformes, brings to us a selection that, without denying their artistic predecessors, seeks to advance the exploration of themes such as the body, sexuality and electronic poetry. Elements that are sometimes reflexive, sometimes visual arise in work compiled by the curator, who was concerned with bringing together a sample of the differences in a France rich in heterogeneity. From Belgium, curator Paul Willemsen, of Argos, an audio-visual arts centre created in 1989 in Brussels to distribute and assist contemporary video art in that country, reveals to us is his selection a dynamic country, associated to the fashion avant-garde in Antwerp and an active generation of artists scattered throughout cities such as Brussels and Gent. A hybrid panorama, result of Belgium’s recent history that, as says Willemsen, is "accidental, fruit of the confrontations between Latins and Germanics".

The selection by Canadian curator Hank Bull, of Western Front – an art centre that has as focus of action the relationship of art with performance, networks and telecommunications –, approaches subjects such as the body and sexuality, local tradition and specificities, the formation and perception of stereotypes.

Lynne Cooke, since 1991 curator of the Dia Centre for the Arts, in new York – one of the most active promoters of electronic art in the United States – establishes in her programme relationships of video with other media such as literature, electronic games and cinema, and also a kind of metalanguage arising from prospected material, in collages that speak of the presence of the video medium in our lives.

Artist and curator, Michael Mazière brings a programme that includes works involving perceptions and sensations, leaving aside a little the conceptual obsession that has become so characteristic of Anglo-Saxon artists. Michael elects emotion as a guide, presenting circular films such as "Ferment", in which a death is the point of departure to a trip that goes round the city until it ends in a birth.

Machismo, lesbianism and pulp drama are recurrent subjects in the work of Mexican artist Ximena Cuevas, who knows how to deal with subtlety, irony and humour themes such as lies and (false) images, which induce to a reality made up of representations. Born in 1963, Ximena, who in her country has been called siren, bomb and magician, has been chosen by Priamo Lozada, of Laboratorio Arte Alameda in Mexico City, to represent her country in Videobrasil.

Pierre Bongiovanni walks new territory and brings to Videobrasil a selection of web art. Director of CICV Pierre Schaeffer, in France, one of the most active art centres exploring the artistic possibilities created by new information and communication technologies, Pierre brings in his selection a multiplicity of paths that characterises web art. The chosen sites give an idea of how production in the so-called "virtual studios" is going, and bring together works presented in meetings of this new category, which are influencing media as distinct as video and painting. Poet, philosopher and video artist Gianni Toti returns to Videobrasil, in a just homage prepared by Peruvian curator José-Carlos Mariátegui, with works that speak of Latin American identity and that redeem an extinct heritage. As in the trilogy "Tupac Amauta", a piece of work in which language and history create relationships between them and also with the past.

The work of Rafael França, pioneer artist in Brazilian video art, will be revisited in a retrospective exhibition and in the launching of a documentary directed by Alex Gabassi, the second in the Videobrasil Authors Collection, started in 2000 with "Certain Doubts by William Kentdridge", about the South African artist.

I would like to thank SESC São Paulo for having always believed and continuing to provide the necessary conditions for yet another Videobrasil. I would like to thank also all the other institutions, the countless and precious collaborators, my team, the group of artists and curators who make it a privilege for us to participate in the project and maintain active dialogue.

(13th Videobrasil catalogue) ASSOCIAÇÃO CULTURAL VIDEOBRASIL, " 13º Festival Internacional de Arte Eletrônica Videobrasil" [13th Videobrasil International Electronic Art Festival]:19 to 23 September 2001, pp.16 and 17, São Paulo, SP, 2001.

Presentation text 2001

Rafael França

In a short but intense and diversified career, Rafael França (1957-1991) has investigated media as distinct as urban interventions (with the group 3NÓS3), graphic arts, and finally video art. Ten years after the author’s death, Videobrasil pays a tribute to this visionary artist with a retrospective of his video work and the launching of a documentary – the second film of Videobrasil Authors Collection. Resulting from an exhaustive research, emotional meetings with former collaborators and teachers, the documentary – directed by Alex Gabassi – follows the artistic path of Rafael França, whose production, courageous and rebellious, laid bare his very life. Such is the case of "Prelude to an announced death" of 1991, a video made in Chicago (where he had gone to live in 1982, thanks to a scholarship) where he speaks of his approaching death – a consequence of Aids. The documentary brings to us valuable material, such as an interview given by American researcher Charles Nafus, as well as images provided by Video Data Bank of Chicago, where Rafael França studied and taught. Among the testimonials, are Regina Silveira’s (Rafael’s teacher), theoretician Arlindo Machado’s, as well as statements by Mario Ramiro and Hudnilson Jr., colleagues in the 3NÓS3 group. The trio did urban interventions, such as the wrapping of statues in São Paulo, and cannily made use of the Press: action were only started after the journalists had arrived, in a game involving ideas such as visibility, manipulation and mass communication. Besides, the video tells a little about Rafael França’s little known study material, prospected at the (Contempory Art Museum of São Paulo University) by Cristina Abi of Videobrasil, responsible for the research. Thanks to the Museum’s collaboration, it was possible to gain access to 190 tapes of various formats, donated by the artist to the institution. These constitute the raw material to be used in installations, institutional material directed by the author, as well as television programmes and films used in his researches. Hugo França, Rafael’s brother, was a crucial collaborator for the video, contributing with ideas and material. Director Alex Gabassi emphasises the pioneer character of Rafael França in video art, at as moment when few Brazilian artists raised issues such as the narrative possibilities of this support. More than a documentary, the video, based on the book "Sem medo da vertigem" (Without Fear of Vertigo) by Helouise Costa, is a tribute to the artist: "the interviewed are like remembrance islands", states the director. With the retrospective exhibition and the documentary, Videobrasil brings to the public a valuable but little seen work by a transgressive artist, who has researched and experimented with video art as few have done in Brazil.

ASSOCIAÇÃO CULTURAL VIDEOBRASIL, " 13º Festival Internacional de Arte Eletrônica Videobrasil" [13th Videobrasil International Electronic Art Festival]:19 to 23 September 2001, pp.124-125, São Paulo, SP, 2001.

Presentation text 2001


These are programmes that speak of the fusions, alliances and transformations in course within today’s video and electronic art production. By establishing a dialogue between different supports, the hybrid works selected by ten curators from Belgium, Canada, Spain, United States, France, Greece, United Kingdom, Mexico and Peru allow contact with the thought and production from distinct points of the globe. In the works presented, references can be as disparate as the language of the Incas, the life of Eskimos, religious groups in the hinterlands, or even techniques developed by DJs to animate the night. Italian artist Gianni Toti, considered the father of video poetry, and the Mexican artist Ximena Cuevas, the most effervescent new talent in her country, are also at the centre of special programmes.

The selected videos, CD-ROMs and sites show that despite the phenomenon of globalisation and of the transformations of notions of time and distance – with the increase in speed and the reduction of physical gaps –, local aspects can still play a fundamental role for creators. The popularisation of working and electronic dissemination tools have also been allowing a bigger and more diversified production, enriching even more the vast collection of electronic art available in the world today.

The body, sexuality, interactivity and increasing transference of events from the real into the virtual world seem to be concerns common to the artists who are helping to build and rethink contemporary production. The approaches, though, needn’t be homogeneous: humour, irony, reflection and criticism are to be counted among the possibilities, which multiply every day. The idea of a standard has no room in this democratic panorama, encompassing both a generation of artists who have been conceiving works specifically for electronic supports, as other creators that, coming from traditional media, have been showing active interest in incursions into this universe of new possibilities.

To create this international panorama, Videobrasil has invited curators actively linked to the promotion of electronic art: Claudia Giannetti, of Mecad in Barcelona (Spain), Dodo Santorineos, of the Centre d’Art Mulimedia, in Athens (Greece), Gabriel Soucheyre, of Videoformes in Clermont-Ferrand (France), Hank Bull, of Western Front in Vancouver (Canada), José-Carlos Mariátegui, of Alta Tecnología Andina in Lima (Peru), and Lynne Cooke, of Dia Center for the Arts in New York (United States), Michael Maziere, London-based independent curator (United Kingdom), Paul Willemsen, of Argos in Brussels (Belgium), Pierre Bongiovanni, of CICV in Montbeliard (France), Priamo Lozada, of Centro de la Imagen in Mexico City (Mexico). The diversity of gazes will allow thinking and rethinking of electronic art, which pace beside traditional support has already become permanent.

ASSOCIAÇÃO CULTURAL VIDEOBRASIL, " 13º Festival Internacional de Arte Eletrônica Videobrasil" [13th Videobrasil International Electronic Art Festival]:19 to 23 September 2001, pp.142 and 143, São Paulo, SP, 2001.

Essay Arlindo Machado, 2001

Rafael França: Work as Testament

Rafael França's highly personal oeuvre for electronic media remains to this day not only underground, in the sense of being little seen and known, but it also constitutes a lingering gap in the reflection around Brazilian art. In a strict sense, the only systematic effort in the interpretation of this work remains the dense volume organised by Helouise Costa, “Sem Medo da Vertigem” (No Fear of Vertigo), published by Paço das Artes in 1997. In this sense, França's videography demands an urgent revision, so that one can finally situate his importance in the history of video art, Brazilian or international. The sudden and unexpected rediscovery of video art (in this year's Venice Biennale video predominated as the main expressive language by young artists) could be, perhaps, a good pretext to evaluate the real contribution of this Gaucho artist, who died precociously in1991, before reaching 34 years of age and after contributing in a important way to areas of painting, printmaking, performance, installation, urban intervention, curatorship, criticism and reflection on contemporary art.

Rafeal França's videography is one of the most coherent e systematic in the whole history of our electronic art. It introduces and develops themes and procedures with a persistence and obsession that has no parallel any other work in this country. Such is the case with his experiences with fictional narrative. A literature lover, França adapted to video Marguerite Yourcenar's "Du Vain Combat" (1983) and also the short story "Insônia" [Insomnia] (1989) by Graciliano Ramos, besides being under the clear influence of Edgar Allan Poe's William Wilson in his "Reencontro" [Reencounter] (1984). The relationship with literature is, indeed, one of the links between França and Gary Hill. There are, for instance, many contact points between the recreation of Graciliano Ramos by França in “Insônia” and of Maurice Blanchot's "Thomas L'Obscur" in "Incidence of Catastrophe" (1987-88) by Gary Hill: both start off from the same initial situation - the deliriums of a man who wakes up in the middle of the night and is haunted by the ghosts emerged from his nightmares - to build disturbed narratives, in the very threshold of madness. Also in "As If Exiled in Paradise" (1986), a writer is terrorised by hallucinations sprouting from his writings, exactly as with Hill's Thomas. The difference is, however, that while Hill opted for the condensed and anagrammatical form of poetry, França preferred to explore the diegectic flux of fictional narrative, according to the model of prose.

Narrative in an electronic medium is a particularly problematic issue in video art. In fact, few video artists ventured into the fields of fiction. In its 40 years of history, video art has accumulated few narrative experiences really worthy of attention, above all if we think of diegesis in a distinctive way, both in relation to narrative models canonised by cinema and in relation to models serialised by television. In Brazil, particularly, we have witnessed nearly no incursions into that area. Besides Rafael França, only Artur Matuk, Lucas Bambozzi and, to a certain extent, Eder Santos presents a more systematic production in this direction. In general, in the field of video art the predomination is of documentary (and its hybrid docudrama variation), performance or personal statements in the “first person” style, plastic experiments tending to the abstract, the essay or reflection about art itself, the parody or criticism of mass communication means, besides other more personal or sporadic “genders”. There has been the time when, indeed, it was supposed that video was not an adequate medium for narrative proposals, a statement that, despite being contestable on a theoretical plane, is still effectively corroborated in the medium's practice.

One of Rafael França's richest veins is precisely the experimentation of creative alternatives for videographic fiction. One could go as far as saying that, excepting a rare example of a nearly documental recording - "Prelude to an Announced Death" (1991) - and a fake documentary - "Without Fear of Vertigo" (1987) - all of the other works by França are always experiences on the invention of new narratives forms for video, with no loss, however, for confessional or self-testimonial aspects, basic to this work. One should not expect, however, to find in França's videos classic narratives, in the manner of certain literature or certain cinema, not even the most open narratives, of a modern profile, according to the models of the nouvelle vague or of avant-garde cinema. França's narratives are totally experimental, absolutely elliptical and fragmentary, exploring things such as the dynamic contrast between very fast and very slow cuts, whole sequences presented frame by frame (as in a slide projection), faux raccords with sectioned planes in the sheer duration of a phrase, out-of-focus images, absence of synchrony between sound and image (dialogues with no lip synch), long silent stretches, use of different colours or black-and-white textures and so forth. As a general principle, França never resorts to seduction procedures consecrated by cinema and by television. The mise-en-scène is completely de-dramatised, decoupage progresses in a direction opposite to spectacle, discontinuity is total. Images of Rio Carnival, for instance, which would potentially seduce the spectator and evoke the local exoticism, end up completely disarticulated in "O Silêncio Profundo das Coisas Mortas" [The Profound Silence of Dead Things] (1988). Generally, França's characters present themselves directly to the camera, as if making a confession to the spectator. This interpellation of the audience by means of the frontal point of view of the camera and the straight gaze towards the lenses transforms the spectator into interlocutor, producing a visual uneasiness, since it is not normal that fictional characters present themselves in a narrative. In its turn, the use of inverted dialogues (presented back to front), as in many moments in “Reencontro”, is another element in common with the work of Gary Hill, as in the use of sound palindromes in "Why Do Things Get in a Muddle?" (1984) and "Ura Aru" (The Backside Exists) (1985-86).

"O Profundo Silêncio das Coisas Mortas" is a story of love and betrayal between two homosexual lovers, in which present and past, reality and memory, experience and desire are fused in an intricate manner and contaminated further by the interference of the social, of the urban (the city, the traffic, Carnival) in the lovers' intimacy. “Reencontro” seems a modern interpretation (set in the hard times of the military dictatorship, with explicit references to torture methods) of William Wilson's parable, Poe's celebrated narrative by about a character persecuted by his alter ego that ends up committing suicide to flee from himself. “Getting Out”(1885) is a tense and claustrophobic narrative about a woman who simulates being locked in a burning building. "Combat in Vain" (1984) and "Fighting the Invisible Enemy" (1983), in their turn, work with the creative absorption of the zapping effect (chaotic collage of images and sounds, similar to the quick scanning of television channels), in such a way as to suggest shattered narratives, splinters of a fiction, possible but not completed, one step from complete dissolution.

França occupies a sui generis place in the history of Brazilian video art. He comes from Porto Alegre, outside of the Rio-São Paulo axle, where all the videographic production is concentrated, and has made a good part of his videos in Chicago, where he went to study and later taught. The technical facilities and the intellectual ambience of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago were fundamental to the development of his style, something that has happened, by the way, with other important names of Brazilian electronic art, such as Carlos Fadon and Eduardo Kac. This relative displacement forged in França's work a distinctive character, and to a certain extent, a radical one. Criticism to television and to mass media in general, as well as insubordination to market values have frequently put França in a position of antagonism with his Brazilian colleagues of the “independent video” generation. In the same way, he would be one of the first to break away from the founding generation of Brazilian video (known as the “pioneers”), where it put forward semiotic indifference, aversion to issues pertaining to the rhetoric of the medium and a certain merely instrumental conception of video, regardless the fact that he still kept the same existential stance of this generation. Indeed, França was one of the first Brazilian video artists to seriously dedicate himself to the research of the expressive medium of video and to point out creative paths for the organisation of plastic and acoustic ideas in terms of being adequate to the medium. This concern was never marginal in his work, despite the fact that semantic aspects, so strong and imposing, often foregrounding with greater emphasis, obscuring innovations in the syntactic plane.

Above all, video allowed França to meditate about his biggest obsession: the fatality of death. Indeed, the theme of death (and its threshold version: suicide) cut through the whole of the videographic work of this maker, as the pathos that gives unity and coherence to the whole of his progress. The character in “Reencontro” is faced, suddenly, with the condition of mortality, in “Getting Out” he simulates his own suicide, and in "O Silêncio Profundo das Coisas Mortas" he plans the assassination of his unfaithful lover. At the same time, this work, of a very personal tinge, has also been centred on a dramatic question about the issue of homosexuality. One shouldn't forget that França's videographic work was built in a moment (the 80's) when Aids appears as inescapable scourge (at that time) for the homosexual and haemophiliac communities. The homosexual drama par excellence was, in that context, less social exclusion than the inevitability of death. In this sense, "Without Fear of Vertigo" occupies a strategic place within França's oeuvre. In this half-fictional and half-documental video, França himself and many Brazilian and American friends discuss suicide and death facing experiences. In the end, we see a supposed police suspects parade with character Peter Whitehall, condemned to five years in prison in the United States for having filmed the suicide of him partner Yann Bondy, a terminal Aids victim, instead of preventing him from taking his life. França died in 1991, himself a victim of Aids, after having offered us the most authentic testimonials of fidelity to himself. His last video, "Prelúdio de uma Morte Anunciada" [Prelude to an Announced Death] (1991), finished a few days before his death - knowingly so -, is a veritable celebration of the values that guided his life and that he never let go, not even in the most agonising moments of his illness. The video, in its almost absolute bareness, reminds us of Derek Jarman's "Blue", also made as a kind o testament by a director in the terminal phase in the evolution of Aids. In França's work, the director himself exchanges the last caresses with his partner Geraldo Rivello, while on screen appears a list of all his Brazilian and American friends victims of Aids and the soundtrack delivers a searing interpretation of “La Traviata” by Brazilian soprano Bidu Saião, recorded in 1943. The last thing that appears on video is the phrase "Above all they had no fear of vertigo", retaking the central idea in "Without Fear of Vertigo": to take on, to the last consequences, life's intensity as it burns in the chest, for death is the unavoidable fate of all.

ASSOCIAÇÃO CULTURAL VIDEOBRASIL, " 13º Festival Internacional de Arte Eletrônica Videobrasil" [13th Videobrasil International Electronic Art Festival]:19 to 23 September 2001, pp.140-141, São Paulo, SP, 2001.

Text by host institution Danilo Santos de Miranda, 2001

The Reinvention of the Contemporary Gaze" The Reinvention of the Contemporary Gaze

For SESC São Paulo the idea of culture is linked directly to the process of education for citizenship, understood as a way of perceiving and interpreting the surrounding reality, serving as stimulus and incentive to social participation, as instrumental for individuals and groups so that they can express and communicate their ideas, knowledge and opinions, in order to manifest their demands.

These notes reveal the institution’s continuous concern for offering to the public more than cultural events, for offering activities that fix a concept and widen reflection around specific themes, but simultaneously instigators of new productions and renewed readings. What is at play here is the bringing together of an acute sensitivity in the observation of new tendencies to the capacity to conceive, elaborate and carry out projects commonly marked by daring and, above all, by an educated aesthetic, artistic and cultural sense.

In it’s 13th edition, Videobrasil International Electronic Art Festival exemplifies in a concrete way such vision, when it keeps burning the creative flame that binds together the artistic-poetic thinking and technological invention, at the same time as it strengthens exchange between curators, artists and the public.

Created as a contemporary digital-electronic art panorama, Latin America’s most extensive and significant, the Festival intends the analysis and the reflection on the impact of new media in artistic production. Image and sound integrate to technological frameworks in constant production. The convergence of new media in artistic creation and the result thus produced constitute the main focus of 13th Videobrasil.

Competitive screenings, international informative shows, lectures, meetings and workshops with artists and curators from all over the world, video installation exhibitions, performances, CD-ROMs and web art make up the programme. Parallel to all this, there is Gary Hill’s special participation and the launching of Videobrasil Authors Collection series with a film on the work of Rafael França.

Diffusion, exchange, research and experimentation. This is the format that distinguishes the Festival as a forum attentive to new languages, open to the avant-garde and the recognising of expressive voices in video art. These are principles that strengthen the link between SESC São Paulo and Associação Cultural Videobrasil, a partnership engaged in the continuous building of knowledge.

To SESC, this proposal is fundamented in the complementary processes of sensibilisation, appreciation, fruition and artistic production; such proposal is widened to include the distinct but often interrelated areas of action of the plastic arts, music, dance, theatre, cinema, literature and multimedia; it is confirmed by the range of possibilities of contact of the public with the art of shows, presentations, exhibitions, courses, open classes, lectures and workshops.

This is the concept of informal education associated to the continuous commitment with innovation and research, be it in the scope of language, support, material, or, further, themes. The art-technology partnership demands from people the reeducation of the gaze, of perception and of sensitivity. For SESC, the issue is to widen the comprehension of contemporary art and the critical formation of new readers.

(13th Videobrasil catalogue) ASSOCIAÇÃO CULTURAL VIDEOBRASIL, " 13º Festival Internacional de Arte Eletrônica Videobrasil" [13th Videobrasil International Electronic Art Festival]:19 to 23 September 2001, pp.13, São Paulo, SP, 2001.