southern panoramas | commissioned projects
The artworks in the exhibit are the results of an open call released by the Festival in 2014 for artists from the South to enter projects for commissioning. Through this new initiative, Videobrasil reaffirms its vocation for finding and betting on relevant artistic proposals in these regions. Created with curatorial oversight from the Festival, the artworks by Ting-Ting Cheng (Taiwan), Carlos Monroy (Colombia), Keli-Safia Maksud (Kenya) and Cristiano Lenhardt (Brazil) will inaugurate Galpão VB, a venue for exhibitions, research, and other activities designed to activate the Videobrasil Collection.
The four projects featured here take distinct approaches to dealing with the existing tensions between symbolic production from different parts of the world. Investigating the presence and materiality of identities forged in the context of the geopolitical South and the way culture produced in this vast region —made up of “non-Western” areas—is built, circulated, and legitimized, they underscore the gaps and deviations in perception that have by now become a natural part of our gaze upon the world.
In this sense, the object of research of Colombia’s Carlos Monroy is the 1990s lambada craze. Spawned by the Brazilian appropriation of a Bolivian song that was later plagiarized by French music producers, it was one of the biggest commercial successes of the national music industry. Its more recent repercussions involve a series of other hypersexualized cultural manifestations, such as certain modalities of pagode and funk carioca. In building his research, Monroy incorporates the issue of copyrights as a structuring element, appropriating preexisting footage from Internet videos as his primary tool to weave a narrative that combines fiction and documental research, drawing a compelling portrait of Latin American culture in contemporary times.
The same tensions between local cultural expressions and foreign elements are featured in the work of Keli-Safia Maksud from Kenya. The artist explores the dissemination of two European products in the African continent: soap and print fabrics. Dealing with the discourses these items bring in their wake, Maksud discusses the elements that inform her identity and rearranges them from a critical perspective. Her work features a bundle of traditional textiles with “African” print patterns that are gradually whitened with bleach. The narratives deriving from the central action poetically and politically re-elaborate key topics from her output.
The intersection of representation and symbology is one of the subjects featured throughout the entire practice of Taiwan’s Ting-Ting Cheng. Her The Atlas of Places Do Not Exist, a vast collection of books about inexistent localities, looks out on the world as a group of immaterial territories and raises issues that hark back to Videobrasil’s own universe—after all, the global South is also a place that doesn’t exist, one that’s charged with symbols and representations that are made to converse here. Echoing themes from the Festival, Cheng’s library constitutes a mapping of different issues that mark our symbolic universe.
Cristiano Lenhardt’s Superquadra-saci analogously explores the existence and inexistence of places. In this video, the artist cuts through different layers of fictional confrontations to build exercises that relate to a politics of freedom and utopian thinking. Combining everyday life with the supernatural and the monstrous, Lenhardt makes forgotten characters his dwelling and refuge, as if remembering that behind every modernist column there lurks a “Saci-Pererê”—an “Indian-Being”—hidden like some ghost.
Between the fantastic universe and the library, the culture industry and advertising, what we get is a glimpse of the instability that constitutes off-center identities and places. This landscape of disputes, at times radical, is what we see on directing our gaze to a southern panorama.