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dead cinema, new cinema

david cranswick finds inspiration at videobrasil

David Cranswick is director of d/lux/media arts, Sydney. His participation in Videobrasil was supported by the Australia Council for the Arts and Videobrasil.

In Still Waters Crocodiles Lurk, Marcel Odenbach In Still Waters Crocodiles Lurk, Marcel Odenbach
courtesy of the artist
FLYING SOUTH BEYOND AOTEAROA, ACROSS THE ARC OF THE GREAT SOUTHERN OCEAN, TO CROSS THE COAST OF CHILE BEFORE HEADING NORTH OVER THE SNOW-CAPPED ANDES, TO DESCEND LATE AT NIGHT INTO A SOMNAMBULANT SAO PAULO, WAS A VOYAGE ACROSS VAST DISTANCES AND ALSO THE REACHES OF THE IMAGINATION. THE 16TH VIDEOBRASIL INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ELECTRONIC ARTS IS LIKEWISE EXTENDING SCREEN-BASED ARTS BOTH GEOGRAPHICALLY AND CONCEPTUALLY. THE MAJOR THEME FOR 2007, LIMITE: MOVING IMAGE AND LOTS OF STRANGENESS, WAS UNDERPINNED BY A CLUSTER OF SUB-PROGRAMS THROUGH WHICH THE CONFLUENCE OF ART, VIDEO AND CINEMA WERE TO BE EXPLORED.

Sao Paulo is a city of staggering complexity and scale, and is Brazil’s economic and cultural powerhouse, with over 20 million inhabitants. This year’s Videobrasil had moved to a new venue in the unlikely and unpromising 14-storey office block, the SESC (Social Service of Commerce, a private cultural agency) Centre, on the grand Avenue Paulista in the city centre. Over 10 days SESC was the hub of a glittering constellation of filmmakers, critics, curators and artists gathered from around the globe to participate in a formidable program of retrospective exhibitions, cinema screenings, forums and critical debate.

going up

The five floors of the former office block now the heart of Videobrasil have been stripped bare and skilfully reconfigured as a series of galleries for the huge audience that the festival attracts, shuttled up and down in packed elevators between the successive floors, each dedicated to invited artists.

ground floor

There’s an outdoor video installation by Eder Santor and, in the foyer, a light installation by Angel Detanico Rafael Lain leading to the adjacent cinema and auditorium used for a daily program of screenings and forums.

mezzanine

The videotheque comprises a mini auditorium for forums and presentations, a video library browsing space and a catalogue shop including a rich collection of Videobrasil archive programs.

level 3

Here, the Loop video program, presented on plasma screens, comprised selected entries from the screening program and included works shot on mobile by Giselle Beiguelman and two of the eventual award winning works by other Brazilian artists Ayson Heraclito (As Maos Do Epo) and Alice Micelli’s short tribute to Andy Warhol titled Jerk Off 2. Level 3 also featured installations and exhibition screening spaces for retrospective exhibitions of two significant South America video artists: Arthur Omar and Carlos Adriano. It was a rare excursion into tracing the trajectory of video art development in this region. As a first engagement, what was striking was both the specificity and universality of visual languages. Nuanced cultural references, themes and techniques—borne out of a South American experimental tradition strongly informed by a social documentary style of filmmaking—proved characteristic of a significant number of works presented in this year’s Videobrasil.

level 4

Peter Greenaway’s Tulse Luper, an installation of 92 ‘suitcases’ extraordinaire, was stunningly baroque in its intensity. You are confronted with a dimly lit room with shelves of open cases filled with dusty old shoes, a train set, lingerie, small LCD monitors running video from films etc. For the audience this becomes a curious forensic exercise in deducing the significance of this material in the life of the enigmatic character of Tulse Luper. For the full story go to http://petergreenaway.co.uk/tulse.htm

level 5

An entire floor is devoted to one of the pioneers of western video art, Marcel Odenbach (Germany) with a major exhibition of 15 works dating back to 1978, culminating in a new single channel video installation, Disturbed Places—Five Variations on India (2007). This single channel work, characteristically presented in a complex and meditative documentary style, reflects on an idealized India—as promulgated through the 1960s counter culture—and evoked by the subtle interweaving of soundtracks from films of that era against footage from a recent journey.

In Still Waters Crocodiles Lurk, Marcel Odenbach In Still Waters Crocodiles Lurk, Marcel Odenbach
courtesy of the artist
hybridity & a new cinema

The theme of “hybridity of form” between art and cinema has been echoing around major film festivals over the past year including Toronto and Rio de Janeiro. The curator and director of Videobrasil, Solange Oliveira Farkas aimed to develop a common understanding about the ways the imaginative and theoretical spaces of hybridity have been charted and might be navigated in the future.

Explorations of a prospective ‘new’ cinema were grounded against the historical backdrop of a seminal experimental film from 1932, Limite: Movimentação de imagem e muita estranheza (Limite: Moving Image and Lots of Strangeness). A rare screening of this work by Brazilian filmmaker Mario Peixoto provided a central motif for this year’s event, as a precedent in form and technique and a departure from narrative. It is regarded as a film that has nourished and encouraged contemporary videographic language and a deterritorialized cinema.

greenaway festival launch

Peter Greenaway launched the festival in grand style with a massive three-channel outdoor projection component of his Tulse Luper project. More a performative cinema event, it comprised images and scenes conjured live from the artist’s huge database of cinematic works. Here Greenaway re-mixed and jammed with Serge Dodwell aka DJ Radar via a sophisticated touch screen interface. Over an hour the booming club-like atmosphere of the performance was completed by the crush of a street jam-packed with thousands of fans mixed with bewildered onlookers.

True to form, Greenaway’s strident and contentious critique and his experimentation with the formal language of film echoed throughout the week’s program. In an interview he stated, “Cinema is wasted on cinema—we really must put it to better use.” His notion that cinema is ‘dead’ was fiercely contested in a debate between Greenaway and French critic Jean-Paul Fargier who rightly asserted that it was “a claim too far.” The compromise reached was that we are seeing the birth of a ‘new cinema’ for which Greenaway was claiming some sort of paternity

What new forms art and cinema in the digital era might take was further explored in an extensive programs of exhibitions, retrospective screenings and forums which included works by Kenneth Anger, Marcel Odenbach, Arthur Omar, Carlos Adriano, Edgard Navarro and a huge program of recent screen works from around the world.

jury duty

Regrettably, I was unable to see all of the programs. I was there to work. A small group of jurors, our task was to deliberate on the subject of the confluence of art and cinema, and award three major and three supplementary prizes from a pre-selected program of 66 new works drawn from a total pool of more than 700 entries.

Australian artists have a significant history of participation and achievement at Videobrasil over many years. Peter Callas, Deborah Petrovich and Norie Neumark are among the dozens of Australians represented since the 90s. Australian artists on exhibition this year were Bridget E Walker, John Gillies, Alexandra and David Beesley and Shaun Gladwell together with a program I curated of Australian video works, titled Panoramas of the Imagination.

Likewise the other jury members were invited to curate and present their own video programs. These included Berta Sichel, Senior Curator of film and video at the National Museum of Art, Madrid, Tanzanian filmmaker, academic and director of the Zanzibar Film Festival Martin Mhando, Jean-Paul Fargier, author and art and cinema critic for Les Cahiers du Cinema and Daniela Bousso, Brazilian media art curator, writer and critic.

the future now

What Videobrasil so eloquently proposed and demonstrated is that we have entered a new space where boundaries fall away and that we can intelligently move into a creative and critical space where a new language of the screen can accommodate and embrace the wealth of possibilities that have been developed by artists and filmmakers over the past 80 years. We have this within our grasp. One work by Marcel Odenbach, about post-genocide Rwanda, elegantly and powerfully articulated what a new cinema might be. A simple two-channel installation titled In Still Waters Crocodiles Lurk (1995-2004), it dissolved the interminable dispute over narrative and form.


For more about Videobrasil, including this year’s award winners, go to www.sescsp.org.br/sesc/videobrasil/site/festivais/festival_16_en.asp

Videobrasil, 16th International Electronic Arts Festival, SESC, Sao Paulo, Sept 30-Oct 25

In RealTime 83 Nigel Helyer reports on Mexico’s Transitio_MX02 Mexico new media and video festival.

David Cranswick is director of d/lux/media arts, Sydney. His participation in Videobrasil was supported by the Australia Council for the Arts and Videobrasil.

RealTime issue #82 Dec-Jan 2007 pg. 26

© ; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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