Seven countries, countless poetics

por: Associação Cultural Videobrasil

Sixteen artists from Latin America and the Caribbean reveal an artistic diversity in inverse proportionality to the variety of languages

Eight countries – Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Mexico, and Peru –, all of which, apart from Jamaica, speak the same language. The representation of Latin America and the Caribbean at the 18th Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil, however, reveals a wealth of themes, poetics, procedures, and strategies that far exceeds any reductionist attempts. And there are some points of convergence that highlight both common discussions and very diverse associations of ideas.

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A tightly-knit dialogue with film language, for instance, appears in a variety of pieces. This relationship can be explicit, as in the video Sitiado (above), by Colombia’s Carlos Guzmán, in which 41 seconds from the film État de siège, by Costa-Gavras, are used in order to discuss military dictatorships in South America, or in The night of the moon has many hours, by his fellow countryman Mauricio Arango, in which the stories of disappeared political prisoners’ families are restaged.

Also a part of the universe that combines film and socio-political critique, Brisas, by Enrique Ramirez and the piece by Claudia Joskowicz (picture) contain input from the authors’ family memories: while Ramirez’s long shot of the government palace is an indirect reference to the president Salvador Allende’s murder, the Bolivian artist’s video installation discusses how her Polish Jew family interacted with ah Nazi upon settling in La Paz. Like the name of the city itself (which is Spanish for The Peace), the artwork’s title does not spare irony: Sympathy for the devil (the famous Rolling Stones song sets the tone to this piece).

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Different relationships with film are also to be found in video works by Colombia’s Laura Huertas Millan and Argentina’s Sebastián Diaz Morales. Her Journey to a Land Otherwise Known combines fiction and documentary to explore the idea of exoticness based on the architecture of the Tropical Greenhouse in Lille, France, reinventing the statute of the character in audio visual products – although there is a narrator, the very space is the protagonist. On the other hand, Morales questions the simulacrum dimension that film and video possess: in his Insight, he uses a mirror shattering in very slow motion in order to inquire about the outer bounds of fiction and representation.

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As in Laura Millan’s work, the video by Argentina’s Charly Nijensohn (El êxodo de los olvidados, video still below) highlights the symbolic character of the landscape – in this case, the imposing ice fields of Patagonia. But even though its blue and white shades impose themselves upon our gaze, there is a certain choreographic character to the motion of human figures. Jamaica’s Olivia McGilchrist also incorporates dancing as a poetical element, and it is subtly presented as a way to break solipsism in her video installation Elation; the dancing in a night club is a genesis of otherness.

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A choreography also arises in El contorno, a video installation by Maya Watanabe, from Peru. Five people execute a dance which, in tandem the urban scenario, is surprisingly reminiscent of classical theater. Utilizing a triptych, the artist tenses the relationship between uniformity and diversity, neutrality and expression. The Argentinean Gabriela Golder also uses a triptych, though in a very different way: her Conversation piece is visually reminiscent of 18th century painted portraits, and the conversation between two little girls and their grandmother proposes a critical revision of history.

Other works propose historical-social re-readings as well, either through humor – as in Drive-thru, by the Costa Rican Christian Bermudez, where a visit to a Norwegian pastor immortalized in tourist pictures problematizes the foreign view of cultures deemed picturesque –, or through affective memory, as in Cuculí, by the Peruvian Daniel Jacoby, where a first-person account of the artist’s stay in Tokyo creates metaphors for belonging and cultural diaspora. The relationship between affection and one’s physical surroundings is also featured in Fluxus, by Gianfranco Foschino. In the video, the Chilean artist appears to create one of those decorative contraptions, but in fact it is a recording of waterfalls at the Queulat National Park, made at the time when the government of Chile was planning on condemning the area near the Biobio River.

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Artists often transplant important facts from their lives into their work. The duo comprised of Israel’s Aya Eliav and Argentina’s Iván Marino explores the beginning of their relationship, after they met during an edition of the Festival. Devoid of chronological order, domestic video footage and conversations compose The day you arrived in Buenos Aires and portray the couple’s private life as they await the birth of their first child.

In contrast with this delicately constructed eros built upon the realm of affection, the artificial eroticism of pornography reveals a comic perspective, which the Argentinean Federico Lamas explores in Censorship Universal Language Organization. In his C.U.L.O., censored images of genitals in 1960s TV soap operates are at once an absence (of the naturalness of desire) and a presence (of socially engendered castration). The artificialization of reality also appears, though from a completely different perspective, in a piece whose author hails from a borderline State between North and South – Mexico. In Lago Onega N.82012, Jacinto Astiazarán tackles urbanism to discuss the postmodern architectural pastiche. At the final stage of construction of a residential building in Mexico City, the project’s dubious aspirations to beauty and order create a stark contrast with the surroundings – a contrast that has much to say about the way we see the relationship between North and South.

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Find out more about the works on show in Southern Panoramas.

Check out the Festival program and visit the shows – go to our Schedule section.

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