VIDEOBRASIL 40 | 18th Videobrasil
Over the festival’s three decades, Southern Panoramas becomes the main axis of Videobrasil
For much of its history, especially in the first two decades, the Videobrasil festival established a clear separation between its video screenings and its exhibitions. The questions raised in each of them were always connected, but while the audiovisual projections were screened in dark rooms, works of greater physicality—such as performances, installations or electronic sculptures—were scattered across spaces of public circulation. Around the 2000s, the festival's competitive exhibition (Southern Panoramas) began incorporating video works that tended towards installation, now assembled outside the screening rooms. Increasingly, it was perceived that the growing hybridity between languages and the incorporation of video into the universe of visual arts called any type of segmentation into question. This is how, in 2011, Videobrasil opened up to all artistic practices, definitively turning Panoramas into a biennial visual arts exhibition. The next step, taken at the 18th Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil*, was to elevate this axis—which previously shared attentions with large individual or thematic exhibitions—to the status of the main nucleus of the event.
Held from November 6, 2013 to February 2, 2014, the festival occupied Sesc Pompeia and CineSesc in a historic edition, celebrating Videobrasil's anniversary. “In the year in which it turns 30, the festival turns the spotlights to the Southern Panoramas exhibition, its biennial selection of the contemporary production from the world’s geopolitical South. Put to the test in the previous edition, the option to open the segment to all forms of artistic expression unfolds into an exhibition experience carrying new strength and expanded representation,” as Solange Farkas explained. “Accordingly, the 30 years historical section proposes a polyphonic deep dive into the many faces of the trajectory that transforms Videobrasil, originally a stronghold of video, into the first Brazilian contemporary art festival dedicated to mapping and investigating the artistic practices that emerge from this specific ‘territory’—drawing on a selection that is not tied to market impositions.”
The consolidation of the Southern Panoramas’ exhibition character—which, in addition to Solange’s general curatorship, had a curatorial committee formed by Eduardo de Jesus, Fernando Oliva and Júlia Rebouças—did not interfere with some of the traits that made up Videobrasil since its first edition, among them the selection of works conducted through an open call and the existence of a strong awards segment. In total, around 2,000 projects from 94 countries were submitted, from which 107 were selected, hailing from 32 countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Asia and Oceania. Through paintings, performances, sculptures, drawings, objects, books, installations, videos or photographs, the curatorial selection created a large diagram, without establishing clear divisions between the themes presented. “The exhibition operates by approximation to construct this diagram in a sensitive way, acknowledging the social, political and economic differences that characterize the complexity of contemporary geopolitics,” argued the committee’s text.
In this design, some of the highlights were works on identity, territorial conflict, immigration and displacement; memory—personal or collective—and its potency for fabulation; contemporary cities, their urban issues, power relations and social inequalities; and the fictionalization of nature, with its mythical and magical dimensions. The text by the director of Sesc SP, Danilo Santos de Miranda, deepened the topic: “Values linked to human coexistence, the systemic notion of environment and the distrust regarding excessive rationalization, developed in many regions of this vast ‘South,’ would serve as opposition to a pragmatic and homogenizing north. (...) Questions about shifting aspects of current times—cities, landscapes, borders, identities—materialize in their mutual contrasts and offer the possibility of conversation with the viewer.”
Awards and residencies
For the first time in the festival's history, the Grand Prize went to a performance, O samba do crioulo doido, by the Mineiro dancer Luiz de Abreu. In it, the black body, seen as the locus of discrimination, is at the center of the action. Drawing on elements regularly associated with Brazilian black people—such as samba, carnival and eroticism—the artist creates images that speak of racism and transgression as a form of resistance, also resorting to debauchery to “return the stolen subject to the body-object.” In his words: “We don’t control other things, so we at least control our bodies.” The other performance within the Panoramas was presented by the group Cão, a collective with Bruno Palazzo, Dora Longo Bahia, Maurício Ianês and Ricardo Carioba, which created an action with a dense and gloomy atmosphere, mixing projections, smoke, industrial rock and electronic music.
The artists who were granted artistic residencies (nine in total) included three Brazilians, all of them from the Northeast of the country. A requiem for the religious leader Estelita de Souza Santana, the video installation Funfun—“white” in Yoruba—gave Ayrson Heráclito a grant from the Raw Material Company (Senegal). Sergio and Simone, by Virginia de Medeiros—awarded the ICCo (USA) scholarship—contrasts two identities of the same person: the travesti Simone, who worships her orishas in Salvador; and Sergio, the evangelical preacher she becomes. Finally, Doméstica, a video that records the lives of domestic workers based on footage taken by middle-class teenagers—mixing relationships based on labor and affection—gave Gabriel Mascaro the residency at the Wexner Center for the Arts (USA). The topic gained prominence at the festival in the same year that a constitutional amendment equalized the rights of domestic and childcare workers to those of other workers in the country.
It is notable that the main issues raised in the four award-winning Brazilian works—such as systemic racism, prejudice against Afro-Brazilian religions, the growth of evangelicals, homophobia and inequality—draw a direct line to the major political debates seen in Brazil from that period onwards. In late 2013, the country was experiencing the consequences of the so-called “Jornadas de Junho” [June Events], acts initiated due to the increase in public transport fares that culminated in the largest mobilizations in Brazilian history. The movement triggered there would lead, in the following years, to major acts against Dilma Rousseff's administration, which would suffer a coup in 2016.
As had become a tradition in Videobrasil since the late 1990s, artists from the Middle East also made the spotlights, with a series of works presented, two of which were awarded. For The Sun Glows over the Mountains, Nurit Sharett was granted a residency at the Red Gate Gallery, of the China Art Foundation (Beijing). In the video, the Israeli artist narrates memories of her childhood spent amidst her country’s tense political life, deconstructing aspects of the official history. The Lebanese Ali Cherri, who won the residency at Res Artis, A-I-R Laboratory (Poland), presented Pipe Dreams, a video installation that uses the image of Syrian president Hafez al-Assad to raise the issue of authoritarian regimes and their power symbols. “This and other Lebanese and Israeli works delve into the region’s archives to draw a blunt parallel with the present—and show that nothing, or almost nothing, has changed since then in that fertile terrain of political upheaval,” wrote Silas Martí the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo.
Also approaching territories under conflict, another featured work was Tomo, by the Malian Bakary Diallo, a piece that draws on a word in Bambara (Malian language) to outline a kind of fable about Africa, showing the continent as a place razed by “armed and mental conflicts.” Participating in the festival for the second time, the artist was awarded a residency at Instituto Sacatar (Itaparica, Bahia), in which he did not take part due to his premature death in a plane crash shortly before the date he was scheduled to come to Brazil. Other winners were the Cameroonian LucFosther Diop—awarded the FAAP residency at the Lutetia Building (São Paulo)—who in We Are One films his own hand to address human relationships, their complexities and conflicts; and My Father, by the Pakistani Basir Mahmood, a video that deals with the artist's relationship with his father from the image of a man trying, in vain, to pass a thread through a needle’s eye.
Honorable mentions were given to the Chilean Enrique Ramírez, the Malaysian Sherman Ong and the Brazilians Marcellvs L. and Caetano Dias, who wrapped up a plural awards ceremony, reflecting the breadth of the artistic and geographical map presented in the Southern Panoramas. Designed by the Paulista Erika Verzutti, the trophy commissioned for the edition depicted a pomegranate—a fruit associated with luck—cast in bronze and colored wax. Rounding out the main section of the festival dedicated to artistic residencies, the Brazilian Claudio Bueno and the Egyptian Mahmoud Khaled received the Videobrasil in Context Award, the result of an open call launched before the event in partnership with the Delfina Foundation (London) and Casa Tomada (São Paulo). After three months working in these spaces, the artists developed projects based on the Videobrasil Collection, connected to the association's mission of activating and making its collection public.
Immersion in three decades of history
In another of Sesc Pompeia's large warehouses, the imposing video installation entitled 30 years made up the central axis of Videobrasil's historical celebration. Featuring 234 screens, the project created a huge immersive mosaic with images from videos, performances, installations, interviews and meetings that were central to the festival since its first edition in 1983. Around 16 hours of videos edited from 5,000 hours analyzed were shown, a content that reflected the transformations and continuities in the event and in the history of electronic languages in the world, especially in the Global South. These contents included moments in which central characters in this story took center stage in the installation to comment or narrate crucial events in Videobrasil's trajectory. Created by Solange in partnership with Marco Del Fiol and Jasmin Pinho, the installation’s soundscape was designed by the Brazilian collective O Grivo, an exponent of sound investigations within the scope of current art.
In the press, the celebration of the festival's three decades was given huge prominence. The titles of the articles set the tone: “The 30 years of a visionary festival,” in the O Estado de S.Paulo; “Film me, edit me, going on 30,” at L'Officiel Brasil; “Image and action,” in Serafina; and “30 years of images,” in Select magazine. In the latter, in an article by Giselle Beiguelman, the artist and researcher stated: “One of the main art-media festivals in the world is Brazilian. (...) A trailblazer, it has been, since its very first edition, a setting for the projection of emerging languages in contemporary art. Confident in the face of risks, it placed video in the field of aesthetic discussion in the early 1980s. In the 1990s, it included CD-ROMs and in the early 2000s, web art. Following its many editions, it is clear that all media was once new, and that this 'new media' attribute is inconsequential. Formats follow one another, get outdated, improved, perfected or discarded for various marketing reasons. What remains of this type of artistic production, as ephemeral as the technologies that once enlivened it, are the vectors of transformation that the works manage to impose on the ways of conceiving and problematizing art.”
A significant part of this story could be seen in the Video Library set up for the edition—the most comprehensive assembled thus far—with around 1,300 works shown at the festival since its creation. These ranged from Brazilian works that participated in the first competitive exhibitions in the 1980s to international video art classics by such names as Bill Viola, Nam June Paik, Gary Hill and Marina Abramović. The Video Library also included records of performances, making-ofs and interviews with artists and guest curators throughout the 17 previous editions. Immersion in the three decades of the festival also took place through the Public Programs, an axis that grew in importance in the 18th festival, with around 60 participants taking part in debates, lectures and “readings-activations.”
The first two panels were remarkable, as they brought together the playwright José Celso Martinez Corrêa—winner of the Grand Prize of the 1st Videobrasil for Caderneta de Campo—and members of the production companies Olhar Eletrônico and TVDO, leading names in the Brazilian independent video in the early 1980s and winners of several awards in the first editions of the festival. The debates also addressed the early days of video in the country, in this case the 1970s, led by such critics and curators as Aracy Amaral, Cacilda Teixeira da Costa and Roberto Moreira; a panel on the history of VB composed by Solange, Gabriel Priolli, Moacir dos Anjos and Teté Martinho; the Argentinean Gabriela Salgado, the Polish Ika Sienkiewicz, the Colombian Mario Caro and the Cameroonian Koyo Kouoh delved deeper into the topic of artistic residencies and the creation of international collaborative networks; and a panel on graphic design featured names that created the festival's visual identity over the years, including Kiko Farkas, Angela Detanico and Rafael Lain, and the duo Celso Longo and Daniel Trench (designers in the 18th edition).
In addition to the historical portion, another section of the Public Programs was linked more directly to the Southern Panoramas exhibition. The panels included international artists such as the Lebanese Akram Zaatari, the Chinese Morgan Wong, the Malian Bakary Diallo, the Argentine Jorge La Ferla, the Cuban Yolanda Wood and the French Michael Mazière, as well as the Brazilians Lais Myrrha, Rogério Haesbaert, Ivana Bentes, Cao Guimarães and Paulo Miyada, among others. The Panoramas exhibition was the springboard of the PLATAFORMA:VB which also launched as an online device that enabled users to aggregate and cross-reference texts, images, links and other information related to the works in the Videobrasil Collection.
Still in the 30-Year axis, two performances presented in previous editions of Videobrasil were re-enacted, reinforcing the central place performance has always had throughout the festival's history. Coverman, by the Brazilian Alexandre da Cunha, originally performed at the 13th festival, had an expanded version and was the topic of conversation between the artist and the curator Fernando Oliva at the Public Programs. With references to Lygia Clark’s relational art, the performance addresses the preservation of life and physical fragility, simulating medical procedures and first-aid measures. The collective Chelpa Ferro, in its turn, presented Reboot, a reinterpretation of O gabinete de Chico, one of the first public performances by the Rio-based sound art group. Performed at the 12th festival, in 1998, the work combines live images and sounds extracted from conventional instruments and noisy objects.
One of the most representative artists in the history of Videobrasil, awarded several times at the festival since the 1980s, the Mineiro Eder Santos had his second feature film, Deserto Azul, released in the 18th edition. Produced with the support of Sesc SP, the science fiction film shot in Brasília and Atacama (Chile) presents an arid and dehumanized future, in which a man seeks answers to the intuitions and dreams that torment him. The work features Pedro Farkas and Stefan Ciupek as cinematographers, soundtrack by Fernanda Takai and the cast includes Odilon Esteves and Maria Luísa Mendonça, among others.
Finally, two printed publications and one audiovisual series resulted from the 18th Videobrasil: in the Caderno Sesc_Videobrasil 09 – Geografias em movimento [Geographies in motion], edited by the artist Marie Ange Bordas, from Rio Grande do Sul, such topics as forced immigration, deterritorialization and affective cartographies emerge in collaborations with the South African William Kentridge, the Cuban María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Achille Mbembe and Rogério Haesbaert; in the book Em residência / Rotas para pesquisa artística em 30 anos de Videobrasil [In residence / Routes for artistic research in 30 years of Videobrasil], more than 30 recipients of artistic residencies at the festival report on the impact of these immersive experiences on their works; and in the Videobrasil na TV series, made for Sesc TV, several characters from the event's history discuss the three decades of VB. Among them, Fernando Meirelles, Marcelo Machado, Zé Celso, Anna Maria Maiolino, Tadeu Jungle, Walter Silveira, Eder Santos, Carlos Nader and Sandra Kogut.
“A confluence of visual poetics, actions, reflections and reinterpretations, the 18th Videobrasil is configured as a broad platform, which contributes to establishing, in the field of art, an identity based on video, over the course of 30 years,” Solange wrote in a text for the edition. And she concluded: “From our visions of the past that materialize in the present, we are particularly happy to see the prominence that the new discourses produced by the geopolitical South of the world have been achieving, given the inability of hegemonic thought to elucidate the contemporary world. In a way, this is what is reflected in the fact that, here, Southern Panoramas occupies center stage.”
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.
Videobrasil Historical Collection
Everton Ballardin/ Videobrasil Historical Collection
1. Poster of the eighteenth Videobrasil, by Celso Longo + Daniel Trench.
1. Tiécoura N'daou, Bakary Diallo, Solange Farkas, Lucfosther Diop and Rehema Chachage. Photo: Max Röhrig.
2. General view of “Panoramas do Sul”.
3. Sesc Pompeia walkways.
4. Luiz de Abreu and Nurit Sharett.
5. Call for the Southern Panoramas exhibition at Sesc Pompeia.
6. Bakary Diallo, Pablo La Fuente, Roberto Winter and Ayrson Heraclito.
7. Ayrson Heráclito, Eduardo de Jesus, Virginia de Medeiros, Monique and Tom van Vliet.
8. General view of “Panoramas do Sul”.
9. Eder Santos.
10. General view of “Panoramas do Sul”.
1. "O Samba do Crioulo Doido", by Luiz de Abreu.
2. "The Sun Glows Over the Mountains", by Nurit Sharett.
3. "We Are One", by LucFosther Diop.
4. "Sergio e Simone", by Virginia de Medeiros.
5. "Pipe Dreams", by Ali Cherri.
6. "Journey to a Land Otherwise Known", by Laura Huertas Millán.
7. "My Father", by Basir Mahmood.
8. "Tomo", by Bakary Diallo.
9. "Funfun", by Ayrson Heráclito.
10. "Doméstica", by Gabriel Mascaro.
1. The video installation “30 years”.
2. The video installation “30 years”.
3. Marcelo Machado, Fernando Meirelles, Solange Farkas, Danilo Santos de Miranda, Walter Silveira, Marcelo Tas, Pedro Vieira, Tadeu Jungle and Gabriel Priolli.
4. The performance “Coverman”, by Alexandre da Cunha. Photo: Ali Karakas.
5. Danilo Santos de Miranda and José Celso Martinez Corrêa.
6. Reboot, by the Chelpa Ferro collective.
7. The “Tudo pode ser um programa de televisão” table. Photo: Ali Karakas.
8. Aracy Amaral and Cacilda Teixeira da Costa.
9. Eduardo de Jesus, Moacir dos Anjos, Teté Martinho, Solange Farkas and Gabriel Priolli.
10. Michel Maziere, Jorge La Ferla, Yolanda Wood, Solange Farkas, Elvira Dyangani Ose and Sabrina Moura.