VIDEOBRASIL 40 | 12th Videobrasil
The show is expanded in time and space, and the edition has a strong focus on performance
Celebrating its 15th anniversary, consolidated as the leading event of video and electronic art in Latin America, and commemorating its fourth edition in partnership with Sesc-SP, Videobrasil had as the milestone of its 12th edition an expansion in time and space. Held for the first time in three locations and with a one month-duration — one week, previously — the 12th Videobrasil International Electronic Art Festival takes a few more steps towards the format of visual arts biennial, which would crystallize in the following decade. Focusing on experimental productions by young artists and collectives, especially from the Global South, connected to the universe of CD-ROM and the internet, and creating more room for performance, the edition took place from September 22 through October 25, 1998 at Sesc Pompeia, Sesc Ipiranga and Sesc Vila Mariana.
Performances were far from being a novelty at the festival. Quite the contrary, they were the hallmark of its entire existence since the first editions — with Otávio Donasci’s videocriaturas, for instance, blending video and theater. About this trajectory, the researcher and curator Eduardo de Jesus wrote, years later: “At Videobrasil, it is clear that performance operates in the expansion of the scope of poetic construction. In this field, experiments with the moving image coalesce and, paradoxically, the boundaries between artistic manifestations are widened. This widening of borders is certainly a typical feature of both the performance and the video.”
But if they have been present since 1983, the 12th edition is notable for the record number of presentations of this type — nine in all. Among them, Bestiário Masculino-Feminino, by Carlos Nader and Waly Salomão (the latter, the poet who will be honored at the 22nd Biennial Sesc_Videobrasil) drew the most attention. After passing through a silent area, based on Nader’s installation CineSegredo, visitors were given masks and got inside a huge black box, where they came across a kind of “orgiastic happening.” While a band (made up of musicians such as Siba, Eduardo BiD, Davi Moraes and Edgar Scandurra) performed, Waly recited poetry, walking among chickens and dozens of monitors, dressed in silver overalls and wearing a helmet. About the work, the poet said: “It is close to madness that the barriers of communication are broken... Masked is the way to move forward... No utopia dwells in me any longer/ endangered animal/ I want to practice poetry/ the least guilty of all occupations.”
In an edition with ample room for musical research and sound art, the collective Chelpa Ferro made its debut with O gabinete de Chico, a work that combined the projection of live-edited electronic images and musical performance with conventional instruments and noisy objects, such as juicers and knife sharpeners. Formed by Luiz Zerbini, Barrão, Chico Neves and Sergio Meckler, the collective would gain notoriety in the 2000s, participating in the Venice, Havana and São Paulo biennials. Also having music as its focus and following up on his now famous partnership with Paulo dos Santos of the group Uakti, the Mineiro Eder Santos presented Pincélulas. Featuring projections, paintings, recitations of poems and musicians strolling through the space, the performance approached the different moments of human development, from embryonic cells to old age.
The Brazilian duo Tetine, formed by Bruno Verner and Eliete Mejorado, presented two performances: Eletrobrecht, a visual, verbal and musical narrative based on the work of Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956), honored the German playwright and poet in the year of his centenary; Música de Amor, in turn, employed similar resources to explore passion and feelings such as sensuality, hatred and envy. Among the foreign artists, the French duo Lefdup & Lefdup sparked interest with Home of the Page, a super-production performed on and off the stage of Sesc Pompeia, with musicians, dancers, animations and resources from the Internet — increasingly established in the globalized world of the late 1990s. The English collective Antirom presented their interactive research in The Antirom Performance, bringing the atmosphere of British nightclubs and adding the CD-ROM as a creative element. The renowned North American artist Michael Smith showed in A Night with Mike his tragic and simultaneously pathetic performance, in which Mike “believes in everything and understands nothing.” Mixing acting and video, Smith used his character — a kind of alter ego — to address ordinary facts and the unsuccessful search for success.
A veteran of Italian video art, Fabrizio Plessi was possibly the artist that stood out the most at the festival — as can be seen in the countless articles published in the press at the time. This was not only due to the artist’s importance, but also because of the sheer size of his installation Deposito Dell'Arte, which occupied Sesc Pompeia’s entire exhibition area. In large boxes, or containers, that visually resembled a city, Plessi assembled 12 of his works made at different times in his life, many of them adapted to the Brazilian context, under the curatorship of Rosely Nakagawa. “12 trips, 12 places, 12 ideas, 12 ethnic groups and one single art, contaminated by technology, but also by expression, culture and local materials,” the artist stated.
In the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo, the Italian also pointed out: “Some of the installations are spectacular, others theatrical, some are poetic, others cinematographic (...). The public can walk amid them as a journey, a small adventure, with great freedom of interpretation. People don’t have to be intellectuals to understand my work.” The artist was also attentive to Sesc Pompeia’s exhibition space: “São Paulo is a city of passage, a route between the interior and the coast, and Sesc is a factory, a large warehouse, an art warehouse.” To round out the event, the photographer Cristiano Mascaro was invited to record, with an authorial gaze, the assembly of Plessi's work, which resulted in an exhibition that was also presented at the festival.
By extending the Southern Hemisphere Competitive Exhibition to countries beyond Latin America, Africa and Oceania, to include the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe — territories outside the Europe-U.S. axis — Videobrasil underscored its vision of Global South as a fluid concept, linked not to a geographical division of the planet between north and south, but to a complex world geopolitics. Among the 400 applicants, 70 works from ten countries were selected — including videos and, for the first time, CD-ROMs. Solange Farkas, director of Videobrasil, emphasized the good moment of the audiovisual and electronic production in that period, led by the blurring of the borders between media: “With the multiplication of language resources, with this mix of possibilities involving video, cinema, animation, CD-ROM and the web, artists created more freely and brought about an extremely creative movement.” In this universe, the jury decided to prioritize the choice for non-documentary and television works, but works that were “less a mirror of external reality and more a stance towards it.”
This is the case of the first-prize winner, The Warm Place, by the Argentine Marcelo Mercado, a work about life and death made with techniques such as collage, animation and sound effects, in garish colors and a with noisy soundtrack. In second place was Carlos Nader, a strong presence at Videobrasil since 1994, who presented a “negative self-portrait” entitled Carlos Nader, described in the synopsis as “a video about the author, a video about anyone and a video about no-one: an essay on the limits of identity.” The third prize-winner was another Argentinian, Iván Marino, who in Sobre a Colonia poetically addressed the history of a correctional institute for children, talking about punitivism, re-education and the passage of time. Winner of the Alliance Française/INA/Ex Machina Prize dedicated to the field of virtual reality, the Brazilian Carlos Eduardo Nogueira was awarded, for his 3D animation Catálise, with an artistic residency at the production company Ex Machina, in Paris. Lastly, Cego Oliveira no sertão do seu olhar, by the São Paulo-based artist Lucila Meirelles, won the Canal 21/Sony Prize. The broadcaster that named the award was an important supporter of the 12th edition, and made an extensive coverage of the event.
It is also worth mentioning the participation of the Chilean Guillermo Cifuentes, with his impactful Night Lessons, about the political violence during the Chilean dictatorship; Shock in the Ear, by the Australian Norie Neumark, which received an Honorable Mention; the videos by the Lebanese Akram Zaatari — including All Is Well on the Border, about Israel's occupation of his country; Memory 33, by the Indonesian Rohmat Buwantoro and the Canadian Cameron Ironside, a documentary about the U.S. involvement in East Asia; and Station 25, by the Slovenian Ema Kugler, based on her performance in Ljubljana. Despite their variety, a significant part of the pieces addressed conflicts, authoritarianism and historical reparation, reflecting a world approaching the turn of the millennium fraught with geopolitical tensions — such as the Kosovo War — and social inequalities.
Called “informative exhibitions” in other editions and generally focused on the production of a specific country, the parallel exhibitions of the 12th Videobrasil had a different attribute, either with programs dedicated to specific artists or with other diverse selections by guest curators. One of these artists was the British David Larcher, who was in Brazil to participate as juror and follow the program dedicated to his work. Among the videos shown was the 1983 Ich Tank, a kind of visual poem with references to psychoanalysis that got a special version for the festival. Two Germans were also highlighted, as curators of parallel exhibitions: Herman Nöring, director of the European Media Art Festival, selected works by eight important European multimedia art directors, while Nils Röller picked eleven works produced at Germany’s Academy of Media Arts, one of the leading audiovisual art centers in Europe.
Present at the 10th Videobrasil with the striking installation The Shape of Pain, the Yugoslav duo Breda Beban and Hrvoje Horvatic arrived at the 12th festival even more highly praised, with an entire exhibition dedicated to their work. With a unique language — a hybrid of video, cinema, performance and plastic productions — the duo had settled in London due to the Bosnian War, a traumatic fact that would appear, in different ways, in several of their works. Topics related to the issue of belonging also marked The Race is On: Media and Ethnicity, curated by Steve Seid of the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, California. The three videos screened focused on immigration and ethnic identity in the U.S., related to the view of mass media on these issues.
Another exhibition that caught the attention of the festival's audience was that of the Turkish filmmaker Kutlug Ataman, yet another presence that helped to intensify Videobrasil's relationship with the Middle East. It was, in fact, a single work being shown, Kutlug Ataman's Semiha B. Unplugged, a nearly eight-hour film divided into nine parts. In it, the 84-year-old opera singer Semiha Berskoy gives a surprising statement about her life and love affairs, against the backdrop of the history of Turkish art and politics, in a mixture of reality and imagination. Finally, the British Michael Mazière, from London Electronic Arts, was at Videobrasil for the third consecutive edition, this time curating The Architecture of Memory, which proposed objective and subjective discussions on architecture, space and the people who occupy it.
As had become a tradition, Videojornal recorded the festival daily — shown at the festival itself and broadcast on Canal 21 — this time produced by the collective Zebra e Burritos do Brasil and directed by Alex Gabassi. The newest addition was the use of the material collected at the Box 21, a video booth where the public could express opinions, feelings and reflections about the event. The 12th festival also gained an informative website and, for the first time, released a CD-ROM designed by Gisela Domschke and Fabio Itapura, based on the festival’s program. Technological development had made great strides, and Videobrasil maintained its role of leading platform for the exhibition and development of the languages resulting from this process. In the words of Danilo Santos de Miranda, director of Sesc-SP, in a text for the catalogue: “A typical example of being in tune with contemporaneity, Videobrasil brings together positive traits of agility, plurality, rupture, research, experimentation and everything else that characterizes the living cultural fact, freed from replicas, reiterations and crystallized gestures.”
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
Isabella Matheus/Videobrasil Historical Collection
1. Poster of the twelfth Videobrasil, by André Poppovic/OZ.
1. “Bestiário Masculino-Feminino”, by Carlos Nader and Waly Salomão.
2. “Bestiário Masculino-Feminino”, by Carlos Nader and Waly Salomão.
3. “Bestiário Masculino-Feminino”, by Carlos Nader and Waly Salomão.
4. “Deposito Dell’Arte”, by Fabrizio Plessi.
5. “Deposito Dell’Arte”, by Fabrizio Plessi.
6. “Deposito Dell’Arte”, by Fabrizio Plessi.
7. Waly Salomão e Carlos Nader.
8. “O gabinete de Chico”, by Chelpa Ferro.
9. “Ich Tank”, David Larcher.
10. “Pincélulas”, by Eder Santos and Paulo dos Santos.
1. Solange Farkas and Danilo Santos de Miranda.
2. “The Warm Place”, by Marcelo Mercado.
3. Jérôme Lefdup and band.
4. Marcelo Mercado at the award ceremony.
5. “Cego Oliveira no sertão do seu olhar”, by Lucila Meirelles.
6. “Catálise”, by Carlos Eduardo Nogueira.
7. “The Antirom Performance”.
8. “Memory 33”, by Rohmat Buwantoro abd Cameron Ironside.
9. “Night Lessons”, by Guillermo Cifuentes.
10. Audience at Sesc Vila Mariana.
1. “Carlos Nader”, by Carlos Nader.
2. Artists from the festival at Sesc Pompeia.
3. “All Is Well on the Border”, by Akram Zaatari.
4. Videoteca at Sesc Pompeia.
5. “Shock in the Ear”, by Norie Neumark.
6. Carlos Nader at the award ceremony.
7. “Sobre a colônia”, by Iván Marino.
8. “A Night with Mike”, by Michael Smith.
9. Solange Farkas and Rosely Nakagawa.