VIDEOBRASIL 40 | 9th Videobrasil

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posted on 03/10/2023

At Fábrica da Pompeia, the festival expands both its structure and dialogue with the world

The 9th Festival Internacional Videobrasil, which was held from September 21 to 27, 1992, marks a series of changes and expansions in the São Paulo event, and became a watershed event in its forty-year history. Held for the first time with a two-year preparatory break, the festival is now organized in partnership with Sesc São Paulo – a collaboration that remains to this day – and now has Sesc Pompeia as its new home, after years at the Museu da Imagem e do Som. The event is also the first to be held after the Associação Cultural Videobrasil was created, in 1991, an institution that emerged with the purpose of promoting artistic production in the Global South and, above all, safeguarding and activating the collection built over the years.



Already established as an international exhibition since its eighth edition, the ninth festival now expands in structure, curatorial scope and exhibition space. In the words of the director Solange Farkas, in her text for the catalogue: “It is a privilege to be able to rely on the wonderful space recreated by the architect Lina Bo Bardi by repurposing an old factory that seems to have been designed for a video festival: the SESC Fábrica Pompeia.” 

When explaining the new periodicity of the event, Solange argued that there was a need for more time for research, broadening of international networks and for organizing a large-scale festival. “Videobrasil is no longer just a competition for videomakers, and now takes on the character of a biennial.” In this way, clear steps are also taken by the event in its approach to the visual arts (whether electronic, performing or plastic), something that materializes more strongly in the following edition, in 1994.

The partnership with Sesc-SP makes possible the presence of several Brazilian and foreign guests. The biggest repercussion was around the New Yorker Bill Viola, an artist who mixed video, installation and performance, and created immersive environments in the quest to “gather the human senses,” and not separate them as Western science had done. Viola came to Brazil for the first time to launch his new work, The Passing, at the festival, and got a retrospective exhibition with single-channel works made from 1979 to 1991, among them the classic I Do Not Know What It Is I Am Like. In an interview with the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo, the artist stated: “I don't think my images are very different from those found in prehistoric caves or in Cézanne's paintings. (...) If I use video, it's because I live in the second half of the 20th century, and this medium is the most relevant form of visual art in contemporary life.”

Another important guest was Gianni Toti (1924–2007), the “libertarian scholar” considered the father of “video poetry.” A prominent name in poetry, theater, philosophy, cinema and journalism, Toti presented in Videobrasil three audiovisual works he called poematronics, part of his constant experimentation to open “psychoperceptive frontiers” to new “sensory speeds.” In the festival, he states: “The poetry of the future is the fusion of all the arts.”

Southern Hemisphere Competitive Exhibition

Dedicated for the second time to works by artists from the South, the main exhibition presented a selection of 45 works from Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Chile, Uruguay and Mozambique. In general, works of an artistic and experimental nature gained more space, even though other genres were still present, such as documentary (such as Índio, by Roberto Berliner), humorous (O Jumento Nosso Irmão, by TV Viva, and ÉCU 92, by 3 Antena), as well as music videos (such as Trac-trac, by Berliner and Gringo Cardia for the song by Paralamas do Sucesso).

After eight editions awarding 10 works per event, the ninth festival opted for a narrower selection, with four works. In first place was Techno/Dumb/Show, by Australia’s John Gillies, a montage of performances by members of the avant-garde theater group The Sydney Front. In second place, the video Parabolic people was the outcome of Sandra Kogut's experiments with the Videocabines—closed spaces in which the public anonymously recorded testimonies and other actions. This time, booths were placed not only in public spaces in Rio, but in several capitals around the world. Third place went to O Espírito da TV, by Vincent Carelli, a work that shows the reaction of Waiãpi Indians (based in the state of Amapá) upon seeing their own images on a TV. The video is a precursor to the award-winning project Vídeo nas Aldeias, which was established by teaching indigenous populations to produce their own films.

The fourth prize, entitled FUTURIS, went to Motocontínuo, by João Quintino, which granted the artist a residency period at Ex Machina, one of France’s largest animation and digital effects producers at the time. It was a continuation of Videobrasil's project of establishing international networks and awarding grants and residencies to artists. Quintino's animated video is a tribute to the English photographer and pioneer of cinema Eadweard Muybridge, known for his use of multiple cameras for motion capture.

The international jury that chose the winners also had another prominent role this time: curating parallel shows entitled Jury Proposal. The English filmmaker Julien Temple, for instance, presented twenty music videos that he directed for musicians such as David Bowie, the Rolling Stones and Janet Jackson. “Pop video, in its fifteen years of existence, has revolutionized every aspect of the moving image in popular culture. An entire generation grew up seeing the world through music videos”, Temple wrote in the catalogue. Australia’s Peter Callas, in turn, gathered some of his works with animation and computer graphics that addressed themes related to the cultural identity of different peoples, colonial history and collective memory.

Spain’s José Ramón Peres Ornia, who researched the relationship between television and power, and a programming director for the Televisión Española broadcaster, presented a selection of 14 videos by different authors, in a kind of historical review of the first decades of video art. The series brought together works by such names as Jean-Luc Godard, Nan June Paik, Marina Abramović, Antoni Muntadas, Robert Cahen and Jean Paul Fargier—the latter also had a tribute exhibit dedicated to his work at the festival. Another Jury Proposal was that by the French artist and composer Jérôme Lefdup, who presented 11 of his works where imagetic research and sound performance merged to create an authorial language.

OFinally, Brazil’s Marcello Dantas selected videos by Robert Altman, Laurie Anderson, Eder Santos and Marcelo Tas, among others, including the famous Programa Legal, by Belisário França and Guel Arraes, a show that became a Rede Globo classic. Also, among the parallel exhibitions, Imagens do futuro brought together around 70 videos curated by the Frenchman Jean-Marie Duhard, focused on works related to the fast technological development in the early 1990s.



The occupation of space

But it wasn't just the exhibitions, debates and the presence of artists and the audience circulating around Sesc that set the tone of the ninth Videobrasil. In fact, what favored the creation of an original and innovative exhibition space was mainly the presence of the series of installations scattered around the venue. “During this week, Sesc Fábrica Pompeia becomes a powerhouse that generates images destined to prepare the viewer's eye for the future. No longer a world of light and shadow, like in the movies, but a world of colors and virtual reality,” noted journalist Antonio Gonçalves Filho.

One of the highlights was The desert in my mind, by Eder Santos, a ninety-square-meter installation commissioned especially for the festival. In it, the artist from Minas Gerais projected images of the Death Valley (USA) in a space that evoked the desert landscape, with 15 tons of sand spread on the ground and artificial temperatures that ranged from 4 to 48 degrees Celsius, depending on the time of day. What also caught the attention of the public was the work Watch yourself, by the US artist and mathematician Timothy Binkley, an interactive work that incorporated images of passers-by into recreations of classic paintings by Van Gogh and Velázquez, among others. The British artist Tina Keane, in turn, set up 11 pairs of monitors shaped as a ladder, with images that contrasted rich executives and beggars in the city of London.

There was also an installation about “escape and salvation,” by Germany’s Barbara Hammann, a work originally conceived for an exhibition in Dachau, a city that housed a concentration camp during the Nazi period; a work by Spain’s Luís Nicolau, inspired by Renaissance altars, which recreated biblical landscapes in video; and the work of Brazil’s Ulysses Nadruz, a videowall with 36 monitors that displayed three “postcards” from Brazil— in this case, a fictional video and two documentaries about the country.

Finally, some exhibitions marked Videobrasil: by the artist and filmmaker Moysés Baumstein (1931–1991), an exhibition showed several holographs; curated by Brazil’s Rosely Nakagawa, the Impulsos Eletrônicos exhibition brought together computer-manipulated images by such names as Arnaldo Antunes, Carlos Matuck, Laerte, Luiz Zerbini and Marcelo Cipis; Totens Domésticos, by Marcelo Masagão, presented 12 sculptures comprised of clothing irons, vacuum cleaners, floor polishers, television sets and other objects.

In addition, two performances stirred the week of the event: Santa Clara Poltergeist, by Fausto Fawcett, a sound and image spectacle that told the story of a call girl in Copacabana—“a saint who heals with blood, a blonde who heals with sex;” and Videomáscaras, by Otávio Donasci, which resumed the research of one of the most active artists in the first editions of the festival, in the 1980s.



Brazil and the world

For the fourth consecutive year, Videojornal (now spelled Videojornow) provided daily coverage of the festival, this time directed by Marcello Dantas. The videos, edited in a studio at Sesc, showed the behind-the-scenes of the event, as well as interviews with national and foreign artists—several of them shot with the newly-created videophone technology. In addition to being screened at the beginning of each day's program, they were shown on TV Cultura, significantly increasing the festival's audience reach.

With the festival’s two-year gap, not only technological transformations and new artistic languages gradually took center stage, but the political context in Brazil and in the world was already quite different. If in 1990 Fernando Collor had just assumed the presidency of the Republic, in 1992 he was on the verge of being impeached—the festival was held during a month full of demonstrations across Brazil. Internationally, the Soviet Union had been collapsed in December 1991, and the end of the Cold War heralded what would be called the New World Order. The topic appeared, at the festival, in the music video Fora da Ordem, directed by Andrucha Waddington and José Henrique Fonseca, for the song by Caetano Veloso. In the lyrics, the realization of a less orderly and harmonious world than the victorious capitalism would have us believe: “Alguma coisa está fora da ordem/ Fora da nova ordem mundial” [Something is out of order / Out of the new world order].

In a context brimming with political conflicts and social crises, but also with a new atmosphere and new possibilities, the festival once again proved to be connected to a changing world. Now established as a cultural institution and kicking off a promising partnership with Sesc-SP, Videobrasil seemed to capture the historical context, as Solange's text explains. “Everywhere we are shown signs of a fertile time. Organizing an event like Videobrasil puts me in a center where much of the creative energy scattered out there converges, both in Brazil and the world over. (...) I hope that my intuitions prove correct, that the signs of new times are confirmed and that the Festival Internacional Videobrasil can follow the path towards the 21st century.”

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 ninth Videobrasil, by Kiko Farkas.

Gallery 1
1. "O espírito da TV", by Vincent Carelli.
2. Solange Farkas, Bill Viola and Sandra Lisch.
3. Gianni Toti (1924-2007).
4. "Techno/Dumb/Show", by John Gillies.
5. Sandra Kogut and Jean Paul Fargier.
6. José Ramón Peres Ornia.
7. "O Jumento nosso irmão", by TV Viva.
8. John Gillies at the Awards Ceremony.
9. Jérôme Lefdup.
10. Julien Temple.

Gallery 2
1. "Parabolic people", by Sandra Kogut.
2. "Escalator", by Tina Keane.
3. "Fora da ordem", by Andrucha Waddington and José Henrique Fonseca.
4. "Motocontínuo", by João Quintino.
5. Australian artist Peter Callas.
6. "Postais do Brasil", by Ulysses Nadruz.
7. "Santa Clara Poltergeist", by Fawsto Fawcett.
8. "Trac-trac", by Roberto Berliner and Gringo Cardia.
9. "Watch yourself", by Timothy Binkley.
10. "Nest für Dachau", by Barbara Hammann.
11. English artist Tina Keane.