• South as a State of Mind Magazine
    South as a State of Mind Magazine

  • South as a State of Mind Magazine

    South as a State of Mind Magazine

A different story of video from the South, by Agustín Perez Rubio

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posted on 05/28/2014
Article published in South as a State of Mind magazine traces back the history of Latin American video in the fine arts context — and the role of Videobrasil in this process

In article published in Greek magazine South as a State of Mind, Spanish curator Agustín Perez Rubio traces back the history of Latin American video in the fine arts context, and the role of Videobrasil in this process.

Read the article below, available in full:

VIDEOBRASIL: Connecting cities – Collecting experiences
A different story of video from the South

It is clear to everybody that speaking of video and speaking of the South is speaking of alterity. Both terms were constructed as a sort of subsidiary reflex of Art (with capital letters): such as painting, sculpture or drawing; or at a geographic level, always repeating the story that in the South the avant-garde was not native, but rather imported. At least Mr. Derrida and post-colonial studies, in addition to an increase in conceptual art and political views within art, have come to relieve this idea that the South is ever more present, and this to a measure is a sedition from the North, in the same manner as Torres-García had done by placing the map of Latin America upside down. Besides evidencing that video is no longer a scarcely widespread practice and referred to in an almost pejorative form as “electronic art”, and arose to gain a position in the epicenter of artistic practices, since their advent almost one-half century ago in the late 1960s.

In all these years of video history, or better, of video stories (there are so many such as contexts, situations, uses and opinions in favor of an artistic discipline such as video), there is a growing historical approach involving a real effort in constant work and endeavor in an attempt to increase the overview and forms of activity by this artistic tool. In this History (with capital letters) it is no doubt necessary to include everything the South has contributed to it, as there was precisely a great deal of American artists from the 1960s who were in constant touch and held ongoing discussions on these tools with their colleagues in Latin America, in particular in Argentina, Brazil and Chile, etc., and moreover there was a visible exchange of backgrounds and experiences by Latin American artists who lived in the United States in the late 1970s, such as visits and festivals in the early 1970s in Latin American cities, which served to disclose these disciplines’ flow and greater circulation. There are a number of experiences in the above in the Brazilian scenario, but there is in particular an exhibition in 1973 that should be referred to (the same year in which a videoart piece was seen in Brazil in a MAC by director Walter Zanini, who exhibited a work by Fred Forest named Sociological Walk in Brooklyn), curated by Aracy Amaral and named Expoprojection 1973, and that soon went from the Cayc Group to Buenos Aires, as in this exhibition a certain relation was incipient among Southern Cone artists in this medium. This exhibition was recently revised by the same curator, under the title of Expoprojection 1973-2013, held at Sesc Pinheiros, São Paulo.

In any case, during the 1980s a passion for this medium started to develop, during which people started investigating and relating it to what really was the video art practice. A political tool to fight the artistic economic and gallery system itself, aimed more at the relation with a means such as television. It is by means of this contextual approach that we are required to place the birth of many and numerous events that had video as an important subject of investigation, disclosure and studies. There are a number of examples but none with the importance and perseverance of Videobrasil, which in its way in the course of thirty years of experience has become much more than a video festival, and far beyond simply a Brazilian and Southern festival, as it once was. These two notions are precisely those that Videobrasil, by being faithful to itself and to its will, has overcome, to become not only a video but an Art festival, and to be more than a festival and become an obligatory stop every two years in São Paulo, and above all, an outlook to the future and also to the past, to take its place as the largest and most important video Collection in Brazil and one of the most interesting in the South, which draws our attention owing to its uniqueness, or to the characteristics of the Collection that harbors the history itself of the event and its circumstances.

Anyhow, Videobrasil has also achieved this success because it has gone beyond being a Southern festival to become a festival of multiple Souths, or of the idea of a geopolitical South, as its general director and curator Solange Farkas prefers to name it, who has been this institution’s driving force since its inception, and who by virtue of her tenacity and endurance has succeeded in placing São Paulo in the midst of this new axis of the arts, and whose clearness of mind to visualize the future enabled her to see the present with which we are concerned, with the programs’ vigor, interest and quality, and with a striking list of artists, including prominent current players and little known young people, or artists from a certain period that have not reached the future but are the footprints of a specific and contextual reality.

Videobrasil was created in the early 1980s with a very different approach, and as well described by Eduardo de Jesús, Videobrasil curator and well versed in the Festival’s history, we can detect several stages and periods in it. Firstly in the 1980s with an annual festival, at which time Brazil was undergoing a political opening, and during which video art had a love and hate relationship with television. In this regard, documentaries, reports, interviews, including musical videos were part of the program, more centered in countrywide affairs and in which some works were eventually censored by the dictatorial government.

Later on in the 1990s, the Festival became more international, by connecting the Southern Cone with other realities not only in South America, whereby multiple formats and inclusion of parallel exhibitions enriched the biannual event. This is when Southern Panoramas began, first catering for a political reality in the Latin American context and gradually evidencing this Southern geopolitical view by embracing other “Souths”, from Africa to Australia, from the Middle East to China and Southeast Asia, etc. This political axis was maintained and is what increased and broadened the visions of the South that we are currently aware of, by means of the Festival and its participants.

The 21st century’s first decade led to Videobrasil’s inclusion in the art world’s broad international spectrum, in the same manner whereby its discipline and medium found a place in museums, collections, galleries, and artists who previously had not employed this tool became progressively participants in these formats. In the same manner, the event broadened its vision and increased its scope with the inclusion of more curated shows, with artists originated not only from the video world, though they worked with it. Moreover, the relation with other disciplines such as performance became clear, very much present during the Festival’s tenth edition, dedicated to this discipline. We can therefore say that it was also during this decade that the Southern platform was placed as the event’s essential axis.

Lastly, in these last two editions in 2011 and 2013, Videobrasil has been ever more intent in an effort to broaden its spectrum not only in video but also in other practices, from painting to installation, from film to sculpture, though it is worth mentioning that it is in this cinematic or audiovisual relation in which the works are inserted, and the ones that are more effective in the exhibition are those that continue related to video or to film as the work’s essence, although formalized in other techniques or disciplines.

Following this summary across the history of all these connections, as Videobrasil is not an isolated event, but rather in all of its events it invites every artist, from Peru to Shanghai, from Melbourne to Lagos, from Buenos Aires to Delhi, from Beirut to Durban, from Recife to Tel Aviv, all this together with special guests for Public Programs, conferences, seminars, conversations, performances, makes the event something outstanding. Each and every one of these cities and their contexts remain connected by means of experiences and interchanges among participants, which evidences a powerful creative energy and a political and social commitment in its positioning. Moreover, in these last editions emphasis remained on artist residencies, who enjoyed their interchanges and experiences in institutions in cities such as La Paz-Bolivia, Nassau-Bahamas or Lagos-Nigeria to London-UK, São Paulo-Brazil, Beirut-Lebanon, etc. This has broadened the idea of connecting a number of centers, several cities, and artists among different contexts.

In this regard the most interesting, as previously mentioned, is that all these experiences, visions, contexts, policies and situations have been gathered, saved, documented and collected. Videobrasil currently has on file 3000 documents, among works, interviews, documentaries, television programs, etc. that qualify it as a historian of the advent of video and of the artistic world, not only in Brazil but in a South that is connected by means of the experience of a biannual event, yet that continues alive over the years without events, as exhibitions itinerate inside and outside the country, in the same manner it will begin doing with its Collection during the years in which the festival is not held, starting this very year. Similar to the manner that its web page continues active with the Collection, Channel VB and a complete series of publications and activities that convert São Paulo into an important artistic center owing to its artists, institutions, galleries, collections and to the Biennale, in which Videobrasil has created and brought together a large portion of these connections in its thirty years of history.

Agustin Pérez Rubio