VIDEOBRASIL 40 | 10th Videobrasil

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posted on 03/31/2023

Now in its tenth edition, the festival consolidates itself as an event for visual and electronic arts


Within its first decade of existence, across nine festivals held, Videobrasil was much more than an event devoted to screening and awarding videos. Artistic performances, installations in different languages and media, equipment fairs, debates and workshops have always occupied the Museu da Imagem e do Som (MIS) venue during the dates of the festival. But it was after moving to Sesc Pompeia, in 1992, that the exhibition space gained even greater prominence, bringing VB closer to a visual arts exhibition than an audiovisual festival. It is at this moment that the need to change the name of the event emerges, reflecting the changes in its structure and focus. So, between November 20 and 25, 1994, the 10th Videobrasil International Electronic Art Festival* was held, incorporating in its title a term that was more coherent with what was presented and executed there.



“The goal is to look ahead and see how electronic art is moving forward,” noted director and curator Solange Farkas in an interview with the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo. “Holding the exhibition no longer corresponds to the movement of video art. Video installations and performances are the most significant expressions today.” With this conception, in a week of busy schedule, the tenth festival occupied Sesc Pompeia’s entire exhibition area and its theater with 12 installation works by leading national and international names; four impactful artistic performances; and promoted six parallel exhibits dedicated to countries and a retrospective exhibition on the first decade of Videobrasil—which had become, in 1991, a cultural association with the mission of preserving and disseminating its collection.

Well established, at this point, as an international, biannual event dedicated especially to the Global South, the tenth festival maintains its fruitful partnership with Sesc-SP, and is the first to define a thematic core for its program: audiovisual poetry. Just as technologies advanced rapidly, with new video equipment and exhibition media (such as the CD-ROM), artistic languages set out on new paths. In his text for the catalogue, the regional director of Sesc-SP, Danilo Santos de Miranda, endorsed the curators’ choices: “What is sought is to explore paths for a consistent and true poetics of video. If it has already shown us its descriptive, documental, utilitarian or commercial possibilities, what remains to be seen is how it is capable of generating a poetic language.”

One of the highlights of the edition was Robert Cahen, a composer who switched from concrete music to audiovisual and became one of the pioneers of video art in France in the 1970s. At the festival, he set up the installation Le Souffle du Temps, made up of dozens of candles and monitors that suddenly turned off and on, exploring the dark as a representation of waiting, surprise and emotions arising from expectation. In an interview, the artist appeared to be scrupulous towards his enchantment with technology: “We are in a moment similar to that of early cinema. We experiment with highly developed technical means, but they don't bring anything new. It is the imagination of the authors that will point the way to a new cinematography.”

Another video pioneer, US’s Rita Myers, presented the performative installation Ressurection Body, in which a naked man spent nine hours a day lying in bed with electrodes attached to his body. Changes in his heartbeats provoked changes in the images—Myers' family photos—transmitted on 14 monitors, making the human body an expression of “destabilized and reconstituted meanings.” Another featured work was Terminal II, by Netherland’s Jaap de Jong, a denunciation of the violence of war in the late 20th century. The installation features images of three musicians, each on a monitor, performing a kind of “orchestra of the dead,” while another screen displays images of the conflicts in Yugoslavia.

The theme of violence also appeared in the work The Shape of Pain, by the Serbian duo Breda Beban and Hrvoje Horvatic. In an immersive environment with broken glass on the floor, charred walls and the projection of a blade cutting the palm of a hand, the work reflected the duo's pain at being forced to leave their country during the Bosnian War. The Japanese-American Bruce Yonemoto, in turn, addressed the uprooting of Japanese immigrants settled in Brazil and the US. With two screens, Separated by birth associated the testimonies of communities that were distinct, but with a shared heritage. Somewhat less distressing was Motorway, by England’s George Snow, who celebrated movement by showing—to viewers on the seats of a Mercedes—footage of roads with interference of virtual images. Spain’s Joseantonio Hergueta made a reference to Christian religiosity in the somber La Pornícula, while Germany’s Dieter Kissling resorted to CCTV to reflect on contemporary electronic news outlets.



Three installations by Brazilian artists wrapped up the exhibition environment: in Ações Reflexas, Guto Citrangulo placed TV sets over Sesc Pompeia’s lake, contrasting images of collective catharses with those of clouds parading across the sky; in A Casa dos Monstros, Marcelo Tas designed a version of a fun house mirror maze, putting visitors face to face with “the monster” within. Tempo vento morte, luz vento luz marked Carlos Nader's debut at the festival, with a work that explored concepts such as transience, death and time by setting up a corridor of strobe lights and a space with wind and images shot in video. Known for expanding the frontiers of documentary from the 1990s onwards, Nader would become an invaluable contributor to Videobrasil. 

Among the performances, No Sleep and a (Dead) Bird, by US’s Stephen Vitiello, was an attention-grabber, with guitar loops, bird trills and spoken texts mixed with images that were pre-edited or generated on the go by the artist. The images were the visual track for the songs, not the other way around, as explained by Vitiello, a composer and curator who conducted an important research in the field of sound art. Poscatidevenum - Um Espetáculo de Música e Imagem, by the Minas Gerais-based Eder Santos and Paulo Santos (the latter a musician from the Uakti ensemble), featured a mix of music, spoken word, video, cinema and dance that materialized in an operetta—inspired by a subway trip made in San Francisco (USA). Otávio Donasci, a recurring figure at VB since the festival’s first edition, presented the development of his research with “videomasks” and “videocritures,” hybrids of installation and theater that proposed an unconventional interaction with the audience. Finally, Spain’s Antón Reixa recited, in Without embargo (6 tentativas de falar em voz alta), texts about love and Galician nationalism.

Consolidated over the years as a rich space for the dissemination of international production, the parallel exhibitions of the tenth edition also focused on poetic and experimental productions. Curated by Solange Oliveira Farkas, the Uruguayan Ricardo Casas and the Argentine researcher Jorge La Ferla, the Panorama of Audiovisual Poetry in Latin America exhibit presented independent productions from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay, made between the late 1980s and the early 1990s. In the curatorial text, La Ferla underscored: “In Latin America, the history of independent video would be marked by the diversity of equipment, the libidinous pursuit of creation and the total absence of incentives for production. This situation was transferred to the hybridity of the productions, in the mixture of formats and genres.”

From the countries of the northern hemisphere, Vitiello brought together 30 videos for the North American show with references to memory, dreams and the past, many of them linked to sound art. From France, Jean-Marie Duhard selected more than 50 works referring to poetry understood as a literary genre. From England, Michael Mazière brought works more connected to intimacy and individuality, some of them focusing on the theme of homosexuality. The Spanish Carlota Alvarez Basso, curator at the Museo Reina Sofía, picked videos from her country that “bombard linguistic and artistic borders.” Works that she described as video-poetry, video-performance, video-collage, video-rock-and-roll, video-journal or video-advertising.

Completing the parallel exhibitions were a German panorama, curated by Hermann Nöring, with an overview of the country's production in the early 1990s, from "classic" video art to computer graphics works; and an exhibition dedicated specifically to the work of Belgium’s Rob Rombout, a reference author in documentary production, with an approach that is at the same time journalistic, authorial and poetic. Rombout also held an intense workshop at the festival on the languages he worked with.



Global South Competitive Exhibition

The emphasis given to installations and performances did not mean a decrease in the importance of the main exhibit, entitled at the time Southern Hemisphere Competitive Exhibition. Once again focusing on the production of the so-called Global South, it featured 37 selected videos, with a majority of video art works—“ranging from video poems in their pure state to works that somehow hold the poetic within themselves; what was considered were their aesthetic and formal aspects, as well as mastery and exploration of the specificities of video as a medium,” as explained by the text of the festival. Among the chosen works were productions from Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Chile and Uruguay. All directors were invited to attend the festival in person, consolidating Videobrasil as an international space for exchanges and meetings.

The edition’s international jury—comprised by Christine Van Assche, Jorge La Ferla, Marcelo Tas, Michael Mazière and Tom van Vliet—awarded four works: Janaúba, by the Minas Gerais-based artist Eder Santos, a video that draws on the film Limite (an experimental work by Mario Peixoto) to construct a poetic narrative about life in the interior of Brazil; Diástole, by Inês Cardoso, based on fragments of the poem Eurídice, by Arseni Tarkovsky, which alludes to the movements of the heart muscle; and Tereza, by Caco Souza and Kiko Goifman, a documentary that juxtaposes texts by Jean Genet, Percival de Souza and S. Paezzo with testimonials of inmates from the city of Campinas. The fourth winner was Captain Cardoso, by Argentina’s Gabriel Yuvone and Pablo Rodríguez Jáuregui, a parody of the “acculturation process” in Latin America, blending actors and animation, with humorous references to pop culture. Jáuregui was awarded an artistic residency grant at the Paris-based visual effects production company Ex Machina.

With a more documental language, A Arca dos Zo'e, by Dominique Gallois and Vincent Carelli—creator of the Vídeo nas Aldeias project—also stood out, a work that shows a group of Waiãpi indigenous people traveling by plane to the remote village of the Zoé (Pará), with whom they establish a dialogue through the filming and screening of videos; Fuck the Pope, by Flavio Ribeiro, a sort of manifesto against the Pope's statements on the spread of HIV and his position against the prevention campaigns for the disease; Nove, by Fábio Almeida and Juvenal Pereira, a video montage with photographic images of the Carandiru prison massacre, in which the São Paulo police executed 111 inmates in 1992; and God for All, by Roberto Berliner, collecting testimonials from young Christians from 81 countries who congregated in Brazil to discuss such topics as religion, racism, sexuality, violence and nationalism.

These were works, whether experimental or documental, that spoke directly to the political, social and cultural context of the time. The post-Cold War “new world order,” which was disseminating neoliberalism, continued to preserve historical inequalities, promoting conflicts and provoking social unrest. In the Brazilian context, the new set of economic measured entitled “Plano Real” came into force, catapulting the election of Fernando Henrique Cardoso to the presidency. Even without major social advances, there were signs of some stability in the political and economic spheres—after the end of the dictatorship, superinflation and the impeachment of former President Fernando Collor. Brazil's victory in the World Cup brought a little more optimism to the country.

Now established after four editions of the event, the Videojornal of the tenth festival was produced by the Emvideo team, and directed by Eder Santos and Marcus Nascimento. Interviews with the audience and artists, a kind of talk show and schedule updates created the daily bulletin recorded and broadcast over the festival, putting Videobrasil in sync with the most current trends in video journalism at the time.

As journalist Paulo Allegrini wrote in the newspaper Folha da Tarde during the event: “Video is art, science, television, advertising, journalism, music video, video art, multimedia performances, high-definition TV, an imbroglio of aesthetic pursuit that translates so well, albeit in a chaotic fashion, the impasse of so many postmodern creators, orphans of so many vanguards of the past, and treading a field of revolutionary shrapnel. (...) Video is a revolution of customs that has been transforming people's lives.” This was the transformation closely followed—and encouraged—by Videobrasil: “The festival now reaches its tenth anniversary, with some challenges and triumphs, and its current structure is the envy of any major European festival,” concluded Paulo Allegrini in his article in the Estado de S.Paulo.


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 tenth Videobrasil, by Kiko Farkas.

Gallery 1
1. “Nome”, by Arnaldo Antunes, Célia Catunda, Kiko Mistrorigo and Zaba Moreau.
2. Robert Cahen and Francisco Ruiz de Infante.
3. “Le Souffle du Temps”, by Robert Cahen.
4. Breda Beban and Hrvoje Horvatic.
5. “Flight 101 To No Man's Land”, by Diego Lascano.
6. George Snow and Tom van Vliet.
7. Kimi Nii, author of the edition's trophy.
8. “Terminal II”, by Jaap de Jong.
9. Jorge La Ferla.

Gallery 2
1. “Captain Cardoso”, by argentinian artists Gabriel Yuvone e Pablo Rodríguez Jáuregui.
2. Videojornal staff.
3. “Território do invisível”, by Marcello Dantas.
4. Stephen Vitiello.
5. “Poscatidevenum - Um Espetáculo de Música e Imagem”, by Eder Santos and Paulo Santos.
6. “A Arca dos Zo'e”, by Dominique Gallois and Vincent Carelli.
7. “Diástole”, by Inês Cardoso.
8. Rita Myers and Stephen Vitiello.
9. “Ressurection Body”, by Rita Myers.