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One of Latin America’s pre-eminent contemporary art festivals is coming of age this year. The 18th edition of the biannual Videobrasil festival – or to give it its full title, the 18º Festival de Arte Contemporânea Sesc_Videobrasil – kicks up its heels with all the verve of a feisty newcomer when it gets underway on 6 November, thirty years since its first edition in 1983.
What started as a festival dedicated solely to video art has evolved to include different electronic art forms, and now embraces contemporary art in all its guises although, perhaps not surprisingly, a majority of works remain video-centric.
This year, the festival, which takes place at SESC Pompeia and CineSESC and also includes a full schedule of discussions and lectures, includes the long-running art competition ‘Panoramas do Sul’ (‘Southern Panoramas’) plus a marathon 20-hour video retrospective, ‘30 Anos’ (‘30 Years’).
Festival founder Solange Farkas and a her curatorial team whittled down a submission list of more than 2,000 pieces to the works of 94 artists from 32 countries for the Southern Panoramas exhibition. A five-member international jury panel will award prizes at the end of the first week of the festival, though all works will remain on show until the event ends, on 2 February 2014.
|A still from Sebastian Diaz Morales's ‘Insight’|
Although prominent new-media artists such as Brazil’s Lucas Bambozzi, Argentina’s Sebastian Diaz Morales, and Lebanon’s Akram Zaatari have all made the cut this year, there is a refreshing focus on younger, up-and-coming artists, including rising Brazilian stars Pedro Motta, whose main medium is photography, Marcellvs L., best known for his video and sound installations, and the Peruvian video artist Maya Watanabe, with nuanced, provocative works from all three.
The themes of the works span a plethora of contemporary concerns: the devastation of war in Mali; marginalised Christian Palestinian families in Israel; the ecstatic elation of dancers in a club. Lovers of the sublime may gravitate towards Chilean artist Gianfranco Foschino’s breathtaking Fluxus, a silent, three-metre video sculpture showing a glacial waterfall in Chile, which doubles as an environmental protest at the Chilean government’s ongoing support of hydroelectric projects.
|Jeanno Gaussi’s ‘Ordinary Heroes’ from his Kabul Fragments series|
In a similar vein, Argentina’s Charly Nijensohn films a tiny band of travellers braving the magnificent, desolate peaks of Patagonia’s ice fields in El exodo de los olvidados (The exodus of the forgotten), while Pakistan’s Basir Mahmood steers into more personal territory with his video My Father, focusing on an elderly man trying and failing to thread a sewing needle in an intimate and humbling portrait of old age. In this age of instant Vine and Instagram videos that last seconds and are forgotten seconds later, the show offers a bracing reminder that video remains a dazzling and vertiginous platform for artistic expression.
If this sort of stuff energises you, don’t miss the second exhibition, simply titled ‘30 Anos’ (‘30 Years’), a video retrospective of the festival’s illustrious history compressed from a wide-ranging 5,000 hours into a composite that will still take just under a day to watch in its entirety. Linger a while, and out of the rich river of video flotsam that emerges, masterpieces and obscure historical gems alike will surface.
|Still from Orit Ben-Shitrit’s ‘Men Die and They Are Not Happy’|
Accompanied by a soundtrack created by the Brazilian audio art collective O Grivo, this is an exuberant patchwork of interviews and works by art world luminaries such as Nam June Paik, Marina Abramovic, and the star of 2011’s festival, the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, as well as British filmmakers Derek Jarman and Peter Greenaway. Rubbing shoulders with them on screen are works by celebrated Brazilian counterparts Eder Santos, Cao Guimarães, Tunga, Tadeu Jungle and Fernando Meirelles (of City of God and The Constant Gardener fame), all on screen, all immortalised in video, and speaking polyphonically on over 200 monitors.
The 18th Festival de Arte Contemporânea Sesc_Videobrasil takes place at CineSESC (see below) and SESC Pompeia, Rua Clélia 93, Pompeia (3871 7700).