VIDEOBRASIL 40 | 19th Videobrasil

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posted on 12/20/2023

Southern Panoramas takes center stage with three exhibitions and a parallel show of the collection


After establishing Panoramas do Sul [Southern Panoramas] as the main axis of the event in 2013, Videobrasil continued its constant process of choices, innovations and reframings in the following edition, the 19th Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil*, held in São Paulo between October and December 2015. In the new layout, the biggest change was the expansion of Panoramas into three exhibitions: the main one, with 53 artists chosen via open call; a second, with five names invited by the curators; and another, with works by four young artists selected through a public notice, who produced works under the supervision of the festival's curators. While the first two occupied Sesc Pompeia, the third marked the inauguration of Galpão VB, the association's new venue in São Paulo. There was also a large parallel exhibition, featuring pieces from the Videobrasil Historical Collection, at the Paço das Artes, expanding the event throughout the city in a way that had been rarely seen before.



With artistic direction by Solange Oliveira Farkas and curated by Bernardo José de Souza, Bitu Cassundé, João Laia, Júlia Rebouças and assistant curator Diego Moreira Matos, the festival exhibited works created in a plurality of languages and media, without establishing a single path or theme. At the same time, the pieces outlined at least four broadly identifiable scenarios, according to the curators: “The first could be defined by the intensification of the idea of crisis,” relating to political and social issues in a world ridden with inequalities and conflicts; the second scenario investigated a post-utopian environment, beyond human presence, in which “the subject is absent or is turned into an object, the landscapes are desolate, and the relationship with time is ambiguous;” the third, in turn, featured works that revealed “layers of sexuality, violence and beauty,” in which the body takes the forefront, whether on an intimate scale or in its relationship with the world; finally, the last scenario brought together works that heralded possibilities for a new engagement of the subject in the world—in which there existed a greater connection between nature and humans.
Regarding this wide spectrum of themes and languages brought together in the main exhibition, an article in Ocula magazine summarized: “The central exhibition offers a multitude of perspectives, not in parallel, but in fluid relationship.” The article in the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo, in turn, focused more on what connected the works than what differentiated them: “Although the political focus was not a curatorial criterion, a good part of the works selected for the competition move in this direction.” The choices were political, as Solange confirmed to the publication, especially because they presented “an important production that is not mapped.”

The works awarded in the edition are a good example of this geopolitical approach. The Grand Prize chosen by the jury—made up of Hoor Al-Qasimi, N'Goné Fall, Priscila Arantes, Sam Bardaouil, Sofia Hernandez and Till Fellrath—went to the young Chinese artist Hui Tao, who in Talk about Body discusses issues relating to identity and “the randomness of the notion of belonging.” In the video, influenced by Chinese soap operas, Tao appears dressed as an Islamic woman, sitting on a bed and surrounded by people who listen to him—calling into question both hegemonic ideas of globalization and the coexistence of different times and cultures. Sunday Best, a bronze sculpture by Haroon Gunn-Salie that reproduces a dress with an empty interior, but modeled as if it were occupied by a female body, gave the South African artist the SP-Arte/Videobrasil Special Prize. A kind of anti-monument, the work references stories experienced in a multicultural neighborhood in Cape Town that had its Black population removed by an apartheid decree. 

The expansion of the network of international partnerships also allowed nine participants to be awarded artistic residencies in institutions around the world. Among them, the Brazilian Paulo Nazareth was granted the Arquetopia residence in Puebla (Mexico) for his four-channel video installation L'Arbre D'Oublier, composed of recordings of the artist walking backwards around trees in Brazil and Benin. This walk, seen as an attempt to “rewind history,” refers to the memory of the so-called Tree of Forgetfulness, in the city of Ouidah, around which enslaved men were forced to walk seven laps before leaving for the new continent, in a ritual to erase their memories of the past. The Turkish Köken Ergun, in turn, won the residency prize from the China Art Foundation Red Gate, in Beijing (China), for the installation Bayrak (The Flag), shot in an Istanbul stadium on the date that Turkey simultaneously celebrates Children's Day and the establishment of its parliament. The optimistic imaginary of childhood mixed with the militaristic nature of the celebration results in tension that explains the violence of nationalism and patriotism in the country.
Also from the Middle East, the Lebanese Roy Dib was awarded the Vila Sul – Goethe-Institut Residency Prize, in Salvador (Brazil), for two works: Mondial, a video that mixes fear and affection as it records a gay couple traveling from Lebanon to Palestine, crossing territories that don’t allow free transit; and A Spectacle of Privacy, a video installation in which a couple discusses the use of condoms. Dib's production is remarkable for lending voice to a generation that was born in the 1970s and 1980s amidst conflicts and that attempts to fashion new possibilities of coexistence with otherness in Lebanon. For the video Fire-Followers, Karolina Bregula was awarded a residency at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, in Woodside (USA). In the work, the Polish artist portrays, in a parodic tone, an environment of paranoia created in a small town in northern Europe hit by fires that destroy its art collections and that result in the population's fear of visiting museums and galleries.



With the impactful video installation Escenarios II, the Peruvian artist Maya Watanabe was awarded a residency at the Kyoto Art Center (Japan). Showing footage of a desert environment, with no human presence, in which a burning car disintegrates, the video leads us to believe that something happened there, creating an unresolvable mystery for the viewer. From another corner of the planet, the Australian Pilar Mata Dupont creates with Purgatorio a kind of Brechtian operetta about the bureaucracy of modern national states. The video, which won her the Residency Award from the Wexner Center for the Arts (USA), features sketches in which “overblown, ridiculous and Kafkaesque” characters are responsible for the misfortune of society’s marginalized groups. 
In addition to Nazareth, four other Brazilian artists were awarded in this edition. Luciana Magno was the winner of the Delfina residency, in London (England), by Trans Amazônica, a video in which she records her performance in the middle of an unfinished section of the highway. With her long hair hiding almost her entire body, the artist assumes a position similar to that in which indigenous people are buried; the duo Aline X and Gustavo Jardim, in turn, was awarded the Kooshk Residency in Teheran (Iran), for their video installation Tocaia, on which a herd of oxen emphatically looks at the camera, creating a tension in which it is impossible to tell who is threatening and who is threatened—the animals or the spectator. Finally, Clara Ianni won a residency at A-I-R Laboratory (Poland) for the drawings from her Linhas series and the video Forma Livre, in which sketches of Brasília illustrate the audios of interviews in which the architects Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa are questioned about the massacre of candango workers during the construction of the federal capital of Brazil. Interested in the discrepancies between discourse and practice, the artist reveals two celebrated figures who refuse to acknowledge a tragedy.
If the relationship was not explicit, it is curious to think that Ianni's work was presented in 2015, at a time when Brasília appeared daily to the eyes of the population as a symbol of the political and economic crisis that was looming over Brazil. The utopia of a modern and prosperous country—which gained momentum during the times of Niemeyer and Costa, before the 1964 coup, and came back in the first decade of the 2000s, under Lula’s administration—drastically clashed with the context in which the 19th festival was carried out, when political tension was increasing and conservative forces carved out space in power. A year later, in 2016, the progressive president Dilma Rousseff would suffer a parliamentary coup that would lead her vice president, the conservative Michel Temer, to the country’s top position.
Concluding the Southern Panoramas awards, three videos received honorable mentions: The Disquiet, by the Lebanese Ali Cherri; Gamsutl, by the Russian Taus Makhacheva; and Excuse me, while I disappear, by the South African Michael MacGarry. All of the honored artists also won the original trophy produced by the artist Efraim Almeida, a piece in which two eyes sculpted in bronze and acrylic are a reference to Saint Lucia (protector of sight) and evoke the very word that gives the festival its name: video, from the Latin video—“I see.”

Still in the main exhibition, two performances stood out, continuing Videobrasil's historical focus on this type of language: in VOSTOK_cineperformance, by Letícia Ramos, the projection of a fictional and poetic video about a submarine expedition was accompanied by the live performance of the soundtrack arranged for orchestra; Fancy em Pyetà, segundo ato, by Rodolpho Parigi, presented the anti-heroine Fancy in a static position, playing the role of Virgin Mary and holding a black Jesus Christ in her arms.


Guest artists

Also at Sesc Pompeia, the main exhibition was joined by the exhibition by the five guest artists—Abdoulaye Konaté, Gabriel Abrantes, Rodrigo Matheus, Sônia Gomes and Yto Barrada—with an entire warehouse dedicated to their large-scale works. Based on the work by Konaté—Malian with great international recognition, but little shown in Brazil—the exhibit drew on similarities and contrasts between the works of artists who, “with a myriad of strategies, attest to the power of the voices that speak of the South and from the South,” according to the curators. For the show, Konaté created an exuberant set of three textiles inspired by his meeting with Guarani Indigenous people on the coast of São Paulo. The production process of the work, commissioned for the festival and later presented at the 57th Venice Biennale, resulted in the documentary Cores e composições (from the Videobrasil Authors Collection series), which also recorded the artist during stints in Mali and Denmark. Also in the universe of textiles, Gomes created Deslocar, a work in which tied, twisted, rolled and sewn fabrics refer both to the artist's childhood in the interior of Minas Gerais and to social and cultural aspects of Brazil.
The other Brazilian participant on the exhibition was Rodrigo Matheus, who created a large-scale installation—Mauser & Cia—connected to the history of Sesc Pompeia itself, located in an old barrel factory. By hanging barrels, covering the floor with sand and placing cranes across the space, the artist created a zone of instability, bringing into the warehouse the “ruins of its history.” The French of Moroccan origin Yto Barrada, in turn, presented Wallpaper Tangier, a large-scale printed photograph—aesthetically similar to a wallpaper—through which she raised questions about identities, borders and immigration. Part of her investigation on the Strait of Gibraltar, which separates Europe and Africa, the work questions the distorted idea of the existence of a life of ease on the other side of the waters, creating tension between the real and the desired.
Wrapping up the set of works that reflected “the fabric of the rough and frayed social fabric that makes up the political scenario at the beginning of the 21st century,” in the words of the curators, the Portuguese Gabriel Abrantes presented Liberdade, a video shot in Angola that simultaneously exposes the intimate relationship of a couple and issues related to immigration. The Portuguese also had a parallel exhibition at the 19th festival, with the screening of five of his films that show an iconoclastic view of history, art and cinema, subverting elements from Hollywood genres—romantic comedy, science fiction or action film—to address the impacts of globalization, gender issues and the failure of utopias.




Commissioned works at the Galpão VB

The main axis of the festival, Panoramas do Sul, concluded with the exhibition of commissioned projects, with works by artists selected from a public notice opened in 2014. Ting-Ting Cheng, Cristiano Lenhardt, Carlos Monroy and Keli-Safia Maksud occupied the Galpão VB, resulting in an exhibition with different strategies, but where it was clear that playfulness and color gained strength in the exploration of various cultural traits and identities and, at the same time, the tensions that characterize the regions of the world where these artists came from.

The Kenyan Keli-Safia Maksud, for example, presented in her installation entitled Mitumba a series of printed fabrics which, even with prints originating from African culture, were actually produced in the Netherlands. As they were shot during the exhibition, this referred to the violent process of whitening to which Black populations were subjected throughout colonial history. Taiwanese Ting-Ting Cheng, in a different way, also approached the notions of belonging (or lack thereof) in The Atlas of Places Do Not Exist, a library with books on inexistent places, opposing the concepts of existence and visibility.
The exhibition was completed by the works of two South American artists: the Brazilian Cristiano Lenhardt, who in the video Superquadra-Saci addresses in a poetic—and frantic—way the opposition between the modern and rational architecture of Brasília and Saci, a folkloric character associated with disorder and the irrational; and the Colombian Carlos Monroy, author of one of the most eye-catching works, the installation Llorando se foi. O Museu da Lambada. In memoriam de Francisco “Chico” Oliveira, which brought together a series of Latin American cultural objects—a car with coconut trees, traditional fabrics, mannequins, clothes, vinyl records and magazines—and sparked a debate on hyper-sexualization on the continent. Based on the story of appropriation (or plagiarism) of a Bolivian song that blew up in Brazil, Monroy also raised questions about copyright, not only in a documentary and analytical way, but also in a fictional and surrealist fashion.

A vital space in the history of Videobrasil, the Galpão VB, in São Paulo’s West Zone, would house, in the following years, individual exhibitions by names such as Akram Zaatari, Cinthia Marcele, Giselle Beiguelman, Haroon Gunn-Salie and Minerva Cuevas, as well as group shows that had great repercussion, such as Resistir, reexistir, curated by Gabriel Bogossian, and Agora somos todxs negrxs?, curated by Daniel Lima.

The collection on parallel exhibition

Increasingly larger and more relevant in Videobrasil's work, the institution's collection—which had already occupied center stage in the previous edition with the commemorative installation 30 anos—was once again activated with the parallel exhibition Quem Nasce Pra Aventura Não Toma Outro Rumo, a selection of historical videos chosen by the curator Diego Matos to echo the reflections raised at the festival. Looking at the festival's fruitful past, which has seen hundreds of artists from the Global South over three decades—from experimental and underground figures to more pop and established names—Solange highlighted the need to keep this collection alive and accessible, preventing it from becoming a kind of deposit stuck in the past. “In this way, the exhibition reaffirms the role of the collection as a driver that guides our work and allows us to identify new relationships between the contemporary artistic production and reality,” Solange argued.




Among the 16 participants selected by Matos to exhibit at Paço das Artes (then located inside the University of São Paulo) were the Brazilians Cao Guimarães, Carlos Nader, Cristiano Lenhardt, Geraldo Anhaia Mello, João Moreira Salles, Karim Aïnouz, Marcellvs L., Marcelo Gomes and Rita Moreira, alongside the foreign artists Claudia Aravena (Chile), Clive van den Berg (Zambia), Malek Bensmaïl (Algeria) and the collective The Otolith Group (England/Ghana). The works on view ranged from well-known achievements in the world of Brazilian video, such as Parabolic People, by the Carioca Sandra Kogut—awarded at the 9th Videobrasil, in 1992—up to recent foreign works such as The Sun Glows over the Mountains, which gave the Israeli Nurit Sharett the residency award in the previous edition of the festival. Regarding this plural set, Matos stressed the connections and dialogues between the works, especially through their common belonging to the geopolitical South of the world: “It is a regard that imposes itself from the South to the North through poetic reasons, other stories and fictions, of dissent against the normative social field, as well as from other places—geographically mapped, but excluded from hegemonic culture,” he wrote. 
As always, a series of public programs and workshops were devised to activate the exhibits and deepen the debates they raised. Curators, researchers, representatives of institutions and several of the artists participating in the festival spoke about their work, the counter-hegemonic perspectives, the new artistic possibilities in the contemporary world and the crucial role of artistic residencies in the art world. Workshops with Carlos Monroy, Ting-Ting Cheng and Abdoulaye Konaté, linked to the works they exhibited at the festival, complemented the activities open to the public.

Videobrasil’s political, combative stance was once again latent in the constellation outlined in the four exhibitions and public activities of the festival’s 19th edition—without, at any point, losing focus on experimentalism, on the aesthetic and formal quality of the works. An interview with Konaté about his production clearly explained this path taken by the festival: “I have always tried to work with social problems, but aesthetics—the work with color, composition—has also always interested me deeply. The social phenomena that interest me the most are the tragedies that affect society, and which I present as interrogations, questions, inquiries. Even if I do not have the solution, I draw the public’s attention to these issues.” And he concluded: “The entire human aggregate is a universal wealth. We have to do whatever it takes to preserve what is positive in different cultures.”

Somehow, the introductory text by the then regional director of Sesc São Paulo, Danilo Santos de Miranda, tied together the set presented and pinpointed the relevance of the festival (and of the arts, more broadly) in a complex, troubled, and often paralyzing sociopolitical context: “Indifference and conformity tend to hide a certain discomfort caused by the multiple demands of contemporary life. One way of shaking up this state of affairs is to promote moments of suspension and estrangement capable of cultivating other possibilities of being and existing in the world. These moments of suspension can be achieved in different ways, especially through the arts.” In the case of the 19th Videobrasil, of the arts produced in the South, as the curators declared: “The new forms of circulation and the different transits created today change the compasses, but we cannot ignore that there are still paths of power based on submission and that, in various ways, these paths encounter a colonial past and a geography of oppression. History leaves us with a liability, and it seems that, for the future, we are still overwhelmed with past.”


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, Iara Morselli, Denise Andrade, Tiago Lima / Videobrasil Historical Collection 

1. Poster of the nineteenth Videobrasil, by Angela Detanico and Rafael Lain.

Gallery 1
1. João Laia, Júlia Rebouças, Bernardo José de Souza, Bitu Cassundé and Solange Oliveira Farkas.
2. Danilo Santos de Miranda and Solange Oliveira Farkas
3. Opening of the festival at Sesc Pompeia.
4. "Fancy em Pyetà, segundo ato", by Rodolpho Parigi.
5. Workshop Woven memory: monotype seen from Mali, with Abdoulaye Konaté.
6. "Mauser & Cia", by Rodrigo Matheus.
7. Awards event.
8. Exhibition at Galpão VB.
9. "VOSTOK _cineperformance", by Letícia Ramos.
10. Opening of Galpão VB.

Gallery 2
1. "Talk about body", by Hui Tao.
2. "Forma Livre", by Clara Ianni.
3. "L'Arbre D'Oublier", by Paulo Nazareth.
4. "Bayrak (The Flag)", by Köken Ergun.
5. "Trans Amazônica", by Luciana Magno.
6. "Fire-Followers", by Karolina Bregula.
7. "Tocaia", by Aline X and Gustavo Jardim.
8. "Escenarios II", by Maya Watanabe.
9. "Mondial 2010", by Roy Dib.
10. "Purgatorio", by Pilar Mata Dupont.
11. "Sunday Best", by Haroon Gunn-Salie.
12. "Excuse me, while I disappear", by Michael MacGarry.
13. "Gamsutl" by Taus Makhacheva.
14. "The Disquiet", by Ali Cherri.

Gallery 3
1. Audience and performers around Llorando se foi. O Museu da Lambada. In memoriam de Francisco ‘Chico’ Oliveira”, by Carlos Monroy.
2. Abdoulaye Konaté.
3. Carlos Monroy's installation.
4. Detail of Carlos Monroy's installation.
5. Diego Matos and Priscila Arantes.
6. The Paço das Artes, at the University of São Paulo.
7. The edition trophy, by Efraim Almeida.
8. The performance-installation "Oiko-nomic Threads", by Marinos Koutsomichalis, Maria Varela Afroditi Psarra.
9. Sônia Gomes during the production of "Deslocar".
10. "Residency Network" meeting, part of the public programs.