VIDEOBRASIL 40 | 7th Videobrasil

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posted on 01/26/2023

With one eye on Brazil and the other on the world, the festival gets record audience

From its 4th edition, held in 1986, the Festival Videobrasil began a rapid process towards internationalization: first, with the exhibition to the Brazilian audience of works from North America and Europe; then, with the invitation for foreign filmmakers to come to the country to present their work and debate about the direction of video in the world. It was clear that the development of national production, in terms of technique and language, depended on greater knowledge of what was being done abroad and on exchanges with professionals from other corners of the globe.



In this path, foreign videos would only be included in the VB Competitive Exhibition in the 1990 edition – when a gaze over the Global South was also strengthened – but it is possible to state that the 1989 event was genuinely an international festival. Held between September 26 and October 1 of that year, just under two months before the first direct elections for president after the end of the dictatorship, the VII Festival Fotoptica Videobrasil* brought a record audience of 10,000 visitors to the Museu da Imagem e do Som (MIS), in São Paulo, eager to see and hear a multitude of foreign guests. 

The main leap forward in relation to previous years – when Videobrasil had already dedicated parallel shows to showing productions from the US, England, Germany, France and Canada – took place in the form of debates, in the effective exchange of knowledge and the strengthening of an international market for video. Thus, among the ten international participants were not only videographers, but festival and institution directors, TV executives, critics and producers.

Most of them attended the Meeting TV e Vídeo no Brasil - Uma Abordagem Sintética [Meeting TV and Video in Brazil - A Synthetic Approach], held over three days with the participation of the Centre International de Création Vidéo Pierre Schaeffer, and Jean-Paul Fargier, independent artist and producer; the Dutch Tom van Vliet, creator of the renowned World Wide Video Festival; the Belgian Jean-Paul Tréfois, director of programming for the RTBF channel; critic Rod Stoneman, coordinator of the British broadcaster Channel 4; the Italian Sandra Lischi, creator of the Ondavideo festival; in addition to other fellow Europeans such as Dominique Thauvin and Christianne Philipe, and the Brazilians Julio Worcman, Isa Castro and Roberto Loeck. Mediated by Marcelo Machado and Candido José Mendes de Almeida, the speakers debated the relations between video art and broadcasters, as well as the possibilities for relations between foreign and Brazilian producers.

It was not just Brazil that learned from the world, as Stoneman pointed out at the time: “Europeans have a terribly limited view of the world. That is why direct contact with producers in distant countries is very important”. The highlight in the vast media coverage of the festival was also the internationalization of the event. The newspaper Jornal da Tarde highlighted in its culture section: “Foreign interest stirs the festival”; and, following: “Open borders – it's time to go out into the international market”. Interestingly, this search for a market expansion that addressed in the meetings did not fail to generate some criticism from the panelists themselves, including Bongiovanni: “You worry too much about the business. You should look for quality,” said the French to the Brazilians.

In addition to the Meeting, a workshop taught by the English producer and critic John Wyver, who also approached the relationship between video and television, was also a featured event. Based on European examples, Wyver's observation was that video art makers were losing their hostile view of the conservatism of TV channels; and, at the same time, broadcasters were realizing that the experimental language brought paths and ideas to their programming, even in advertisements. As a video producer – close to artists such as Bill Viola, Laurie Anderson and David Byrne – the British stated in an interview with the Jornal da Tarde: “What is most stimulating is knowing that we can reach a larger audience and that this leads to evolution. Productions are no longer hermetic works, and video professionals seek to find new languages, and new images and ways of thinking.”



As for parallel activities dedicated to other countries, there were the English and French screenings. The first, featuring more than 40 videos, was curated by Gill Henderson (from the British Council) and journalist Paula Dip, and presented avant-garde works made in the second half of the 1980s – with political themes, language experiments and animations. The French exhibition, in turn, was curated by Jean-Marie Duhard, and brought together seven works by Ex-Nihilo, one of the most awarded production companies in the world at the time.

Still on the path to the internationalization of Videobrasil, the Hors-Concours Video Exhibition presented four works by important Brazilian directors – Flávia Moraes, Roberto Berliner, Wagner Garcia and the duo Marcello Dantas and Maria Lucia Mattos – but all of them were made overseas. Angola, for example, is a documentary by Berliner about the history and culture of the African country, its independence and the war against South Africa. Processing the Signal, by Dantas and Mattos, addresses the North American video art through interviews with Nan June Paik, Zbigniew Rybczynski, Ira Schneider and many others. 

In this exchange between countries, the carioca Sandra Kogut, who had already distinguished herself in previous editions of VB, especially with music video, won a scholarship offered by Bongiovanni for an artistic residency at the Pierre Schaeffer Center. The distribution of residencies and grants would become, from then on, a crucial and permanent guideline in Videobrasil's work.


Fiction in the National Production

If, on the one hand, it looked outwards, the festival did not fail to look intensely at Brazil, as always. Despite being a remarkable year in the national political scene – in which the 1988 Constitution was enacted and the electoral dispute put Lula, Collor, Brizola, Covas and Maluf face to face – the videos selected for the Competitive Exhibition were less tied to institutional policy issues than in other years. In the 41 selected works, we saw a predominance of social themes and, mainly, videos with a fictional and poetic atmosphere, focused on developing aesthetics and languages in tune with the technical development of the time. “This year the Festival sought to portray the growing professionalization of the production. Among the videos, there is a trend to be bedazzlement through the use of certain effects,” as Solange Farkas told the press.

Among the ten winners of the edition were Ficção ou Fricção, by Guto Jordão, a collage of images of cultural icons from different countries, digitally created or transformed, and interspersed with a frantic soundtrack; E o Zé Reinaldo, continua nadando?, by Adriano Goldman and Hugo Prata, a mix of fiction and reality in which a telephone operator asks playwright Gianfrancesco Guarnieri for help to prevent a murder; Um Encontro na noite, a video that explores the relationship of a bored couple, opposed to the fantasy of another couple dancing to the sound of Cheek to Cheek, (score by Irving Berlin for the film Top Hat); and A paixão segundo Bruce, by Luiz Duva, a satire on an adventure with Batman set in downtown São Paulo, in which the superhero falls in love with his nemesis, the Joker.

Lucila Meirelles remained on the spotlight, year after year, in Videobrasil. With a more documentary language, she was awarded for her film Crianças Autistas, which features images of boys and girls performing everyday activities. Another acclaimed video, O mundo de Aron Feldman, by Fabio Carvalho, dedicated to the gaúcho filmmaker known for his underground production. Finally, the seventh edition of VB continued to give space to music videos and other pieces related to music. Among the works were Araçá Azul, by Fernando Trevas, Marcus Villar and Vinícius Navarro, a short documentary with Caetano Veloso in which the composer talks about his new work while backstage at a concert in João Pessoa; and Manuel, by Sandra Kogut, a music video for Ed Motta’s song, with animations and the participation of actors portraying characters from the Brazilian culture.



As for video installations, always present at the MIS during the festival, Kogut presented O Caminho das vertigens, a walkway with monitors that displayed images of sidewalks and streets seen from above. Eder Santos, in turn, gained prominence with Oremos, an installation with a series of monitors and large screens that formed a kind of “electronic church.” The images shown were a multichannel version of Rito e expressão, an experimental video by Santos that featured his interpretation of the Minas Gerais Baroque based on images of the reconstruction of a church in Ouro Preto. The third video installation, by Marcelo Masagão, was both a tribute and a satire to television. According to a description released at the time, it was “a mix of installation, happening and sculpture exhibition, which placed the visitor in front of more than a dozen pseudo-televisions 'tuned' to different pseudo-channels.”

All of this, once again, was recorded in the Videojornal, created the previous year under the direction of Hugo Prata, and this time conducted by Pedro Vieira. It was a kind of newsletter of the event, a “making of” produced daily during the six days in a mini-studio set up at the MIS. The result was broadcast on screens throughout the museum.

An art critic and expert in audiovisual languages, Arlindo Machado had launched the book A arte do video (Editora Brasiliense) at the 6th Videobrasil. For the 1989 festival catalogue, the researcher wrote a short text on Masagão's work, in which a short excerpt seems to say a lot about the cultural context of the period. In the last year of the 1980s, after seven editions of VB that had captured the spirit of an era, Machado wrote: “The domestic television set is truly the totem of our time, around which all the tribes of the planet gather daily to celebrate the ritual of consumption and imaginary life. If, one day, someone proposes to formulate an anthropology of the man of this century, he will certainly place, in a privileged place in the global village, this plastic box whose frontal face opens, like a black hole, to all the mythologies of the contemporary world”.

Videobrasil could no longer avoid taking a closer look at this “global village;” thus, the following year, it would take on the designation of International Festival, including foreign productions in its Competitive Exhibition.


By Marcos Grinspum Ferraz

*the title used to name the main exhibition organized by Videobrasil, now called Biennial Sesc_Videobrasil, has undergone adjustments over the years. The changes were based on the organizers' perception of the features of each edition, especially in regards to its format; duration; frequency; partnerships with other companies and institutions; and the expansion of the artistic languages showcased. The main adjustments to the titles of the exhibitions were: inserting the name of the partner company Fotoptica between the 2nd (1984) and 8th (1990) editions; including the word “international” between the 8th and 17th (2011) editions, from the moment the event starts to receive foreign artists and works intensively; using the term “electronic art” between the 10th (1994) and 16th (2007) editions, when the organizers realize that referring only to video did not account for all the works presented; including the name of Sesc, the show's main partner in the last three decades, from the 16th edition onwards; and replacing “electronic art” with “contemporary art” between the 17th and 21st (2019) editions, as the focus expands to varied artistic languages. The most recent change took place in 2019, in the 21st edition, when the name “festival” was replaced with “biennial,” a term more appropriate to an event that was already being held biannually and with an exhibition duration of months, not weeks.



Images: Videobrasil Historical Collection

1. Poster of the seventh Videobrasil, by Kiko Farkas.

Gallery 1
1. Jean-Paul Tréfois, Pierre Bongiovanni, Solange Farkas, Rod Stoneman and Dominique Thauvin.
2. “A paixão segundo Bruce”, by Luiz Duva.
3. “Crianças Autistas”, by Lucila Meirelles.
4. John Wyver and Marcelo Tas.
5. “Oremos”, by Eder Santos.
6. “Oremos”, by Eder Santos.
7. “Um encontro na noite”, by Luiz Villaça.

Gallery 2.
1. “E o Zé Reinaldo, continua nadando?”, by Adriano Goldman and Hugo Prata.
2. Leon Cakoff and Thomaz Farkas.
3. Tom van Vliet.
4. “O mundo de Aron Feldman”, by Fabio Carvalho.
5. Marcelo Machado, Ricardo Nauemberg and Rod Stoneman.
6. Scene from the Videojournal.