This 100th issue of our Newsletter marks operational changes in the history of ISEA. First, we would like to thank Angela Plohman for her inestimable contribution to ISEA. Angela's devotion and professional efficiency has enabled our operation for the last three years, we are deeply indebted to her and wish her success in the future.
In our last Newsletter we announced our public call for expressions of interest to host the headquarters of ISEA. Peter Anders is currently mediating on behalf of the board with interested parties. An update will be posted upon further development of the negotiations. Concerning ISEA2006, the planning continues and accordingly Steve Dietz reports on current developments in this issue.
ISEA is very much about diversity and discovery. The nomadic symposia -a unique feature of our organization- is devoted to expose new concepts, groundbreaking artwork and emerging technologies in far-flung regions. Moreover, since 2002, when Patricia Martin guest edited the 88th issue of our Newsletter with a special focus on Latin America, we have explored contemporary culture from South Africa, to Australia and throughout the Balkans to Russia. We are proud to have published (occasionally for the first time in English) these valuable reports, generally unobtainable through other channels. All of this could not have been accomplished without Angela Plohman's care and supervision in addition to the exceptional accomplishments of our guest editors. These regional reports also evidenced our focus on cultural diversity. To take this a step further, Cynthia Rubin, deeply involved with these issues, has volunteered to edit the next newsletters dedicated to cultural diversity.
We are very pleased to take this opportunity to present José-Carlos Mariátegui, the guest editor of our current issue focused once more on Latin America. Mariategui, a Peruvian scientist and media theorist, president of Alta Tecnología Andina (ATA) is well known to the international electronic arts community and has been closely connected with ISEA's activities for many years. Welcome Jose-Carlos.
Chair, ISEA Board
++ Preview of the Next Issue of the ISEA Newsletter By Cynthia Beth Rubin
Readers of the ISEA newsletter are, generally speaking, members of the ever-growing community of artists, curators, and theorists whose careers center on digital culture. But what exactly is digital culture? Whose world does it represent? Where do the values of this culture originate, and how do these values evolve?
The next issue of the ISEA newsletter will be devoted to some of the more challenging issues facing our community: how do we insure that we remain open and inclusive in an ever changing field? For lack of a better term, we call this impetus "Cultural Diversity", but what we are really saying is that this a new arena, so let's make this also a new culture, one that is broad, rather than narrow, one that builds cross-fertilization of a myriad of ideas and approaches, one that catches new waves beyond the hip trends of an empowered few, and keeps us growing through respect for all innovative ideas emerging from the full variety of cultural and intellectual traditions that populate our world.
The Cultural Diversity Committee of ISEA is coming together to produce this special issue of the newsletter. Contributors include Semi Ryu, Jeffrey Aranita, Ko Yamada, Colette Gaiter, Catherine McGovern, Nathalie Magnan, and Patrick Lichty, and more. If you would like to contribute, please contact Cynthia Beth Rubin at email@example.com.
++ Reminder: ISEA Headquarters has a new address
We would like to remind you that ISEA has a new address:
Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts
P.O. Box 14760
1001 LG Amsterdam
The previously published fax and phone numbers for ISEA Headquarters are no longer in service.
Five residency-based projects have been commissioned in collaboration with the Lucas Artists Programs, Montalvo, for ISEA2006.
Muntadas (New York/Spain) and the trio of Nancy Nowacek, Katie Salen, and Marina Zurkow (all New York) will each be working with the CADRE New Media Laboratory at San Jose State University to create new projects for ISEA2006.
Ben Hooker and Shona Kitchen (London) will produce a new work for the San Jose International Airport through the City's Office of Cultural Affairs.
Cobi van Tonder, a South African musician and choreographer based in Cape Town will work with the internationally renowned design firm Ideo to create a new work.
Ashok Sukumaran (Mumbai) will work with Sun Microsystems Laboratories using their SunSpots research to create a new work. Further information about the artists will be posted online - and announced on the ISEA2006 mailing list.
All of these artists will spend much of this summer in San Jose working with their sponsors, supported by the Lucas Artists Programs, developing their projects and then again during the summer of 2006 to produce and implement them.
Finally, we are very pleased to have recently hired Wanda Webb to be the Festival Producer. Wanda has worked for many years with Ars Electronica, ZKM as well as the Interactive Media Festival in Los Angeles in the 90s.
To look beyond "Latin America" [Brief introductory notes]
by Jose-Carlos Mariategui
Approaching to recent electronic art in Latin America is forthcoming a recent cultural development in many areas that had been mixed as a result. Today, media art in Latin America has extended not only to the main cities, but also to every part of the region. We can no longer talk of it as a group of artists that are 'experimenting', but truly as a movement that is redefined depending on the specificity of their local context or the artist's motivation to pursue new ways of intersecting disciplines, alliances and pacts.
Past/Present: Nonlinear languages
In the beginning of the 20th Century, the Latin American avant-garde had a sense or 'spirit' of today's media art. From important publications such as "Amauta" (Lima, Perú), "Manifiesto Antropófago" (Brazil), "Boletín Titikaka" (Puno, Perú), "Revista de Avance" (Cuba), "Klaxon" (Brazil) to "Martín Fierro" and "La Vida Literaria" (Buenos Aires, Argentina), all these were first trials on non-linearity, particularly in written language, which like the Internet it displaced through multidisciplinary grounds of inspiration.
Revista "Amauta" published in Lima during the end of the 20s.
Later in the 1960s, several artistic experimentations were innovative for their time, such as the global collaboration of Argentinean Marta Minujín with Allan Kaprow and Wolf Wostell (1966) a closed circuit TV goes happening (by means of the use of a satellite link), possibly one of first multimedia environments in closed circuit developed on a worldwide scale. In the Peruvian case Francisco Mariotti, in 1968, during Documenta IV of Kassel, presented a gigantic interactive cube of light of seven meters, whose luminance and sound effects responded to the interaction of a keyboard.
By means of these examples we can notice how the advance in Latin America in relation to new media has one long journey, even more, since the beginning there was a tendency to participate actively in collaborative undertakings, which as we always see near to the spirit of the electronic arts, thanks to its multidisciplinary nature.
The interesting thing is that on the majority of Internet projects of recent years had made us go back to the discussion that one was brought in the beginning of the 20th century: the nonlinearity of text but now also mixed with the endless possibilities of digital images. Internet artists such as ones Brian Mackern or Arcangel Constantini are experimenting with those metaphors that associate language with the power of non-narrativity. At this point it is important to mention that one of the most important things is their use of the image, sometimes from previous works in video, which offers broad possibilities to the Internet medium.
One of the most stimulating situations happening today is the way in which media art is a practice that requires research. Many people from diverse disciplines, such as social sciences (e.g.: anthropology) or the pure and applied sciences (e.g.: engineering) are approaching media arts to find proposals that are no longer part of the established art. Today this becomes again a problem in terms of definition of their work in artistic terms. Also it is true that to find help for supporting those works is still restricted in many ways.
Interestingly, in countries such as Brazil, where there is established academic, scientific and technological development, interactive or virtual reality words are a real serious preoccupations and their actors are not necessarily artists but researchers or university professors. Brazil is in that sense one of the few countries in Latin America where there are spaces dedicated to serious academic research.
The artists dealing with these works have also to deal with the social responsibility of their context. Often the field of interactive art is threatened by a crisis in the sense of a poverty associated to its content, in addition, with a high cost in the development of the proposals. In spite of it, the works developed in Latin America in this trend have a high degree of inventiveness. The scene does not seem very hopeful, but finally, a new field is considered as a space of independent producers.
Works like those of Jose Carlos Martinat or Fernando Orellana, who, using a technique propose a critical or conceptual discourse outside the usual machinist wonder.
Fernando Orellana "Unending Enclosure"
We can say that this new trend is what is getting much more interesting, since it usually comes from artists that had become from previous eclectic media art practices and who are proposing projects in technical terms which are indeed prefigured with a conceptual proposal.
Though in many cases research could be done at home, important prizes such as the special Vida Competition Award Production Grants specifically oriented to works from Spain and Latin America are fostering a support on these areas. Also, some new media centers that offer space and finance for production (that range from MIT's MediaLab, ZKM or the KHM to small local initiatives such as Limb0 or ItauLab). And there is ingenious and creativity that uses the lack of resources to develop strong ideas. We are in a stage were scientific research is been challenged by though, new kinds of labs for production of ideas.
Epilogue: Zzzz... (Zilent Zones?)
Expressions of new media art exist in the entire region and are continuously growing and interestingly they acquire different perspectives depending on each area, which makes them exciting and diverse.
For decades the Central American region has been isolated from Latin American culture, being squeezed by tow gigantic hemispheres (north and south) gave Central American diminutive geography its own prelude, enjoying today one of the most fecund moments in relation to the emergence of new media. More art biennales and young artists are uprising, and since 'size matters' the size of Central America makes it really possible to bootstrap low-budget "Regional initiatives" that had been crucial to give visibility to those works among their region.
In that sense, Central American media art, though practically unfamiliar internationally, has been developing its own image thanks to projects such as the Concurso de Videocreación "Inquieta Imagen" organized by the Media Library of the Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo (MADC) of Costa Rica (one of the countries in Latin America with more widespread use of the Internet). San José in that sense has acted as the hub-city for media arts in the region. The works produced in Panama, for example, are technically the most impressive and pristine, which is due to the commercial relation with the United States and the fairly easy access to electronic equipment in comparison to the rest of the region. On the other side, Nicaragua media art is related with ways to reconstruct the country and preserve memory. Guatemala is probably the only country in the region that tries to show a traditional and ethnographical perspective. With around 85% of its population being indigenous, which means that their use of technology in the arts is heavily based on performance or as a way to preserve memory and local traditions.
There are still undertakings in other areas of Latin America that need to be done, such as in Bolivia. Though none of the three country's art schools work with new media, the small city of Cochabamba makes difference: La Fabrica, a new cinema school founded recently, the Biennial of Experimental Art CONART and the recently art space "Martadero".
Martadero Art Space
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Biography: José-Carlos Mariátegui José-Carlos Mariátegui (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a mathematician and media theoretician. Director of Alta Tecnología Andina - ATA, a Lima-based NGO dedicated to research and development in art, science and technology in Latin America.
Towards a Des-Definition of Video Art
by Rodrigo Alonso
When video began being used by artists, its position within the art world was clearly ambiguous. Any production made by an artist with a video camera was considered an art piece within the newly born category of "video by artists". It didn't matter if it was the documentation of a performance, a lyrical vision of reality or the result of electronic manipulation of images; the presence of an artist behind the camera was enough to turn it into video art.
During the eighties, video art was sharply defined as an experimental research with the electronic image. This experimental trend separated from other uses of video and built its own circuit of exhibitions and festivals. Some artists became referents and a distinct group of critics and curators supported the autonomy of this new media.
But in the last years, it can be said that video art is in a process of des-definition, and that for many reasons. On one hand, digital technology has widened its scope and confronted it with the new digital forms. Video has now to compete with net.art and streaming media, digital animation and interactive CDs. Most video festivals have turned into media art exhibitions posing video art as one of many attractions. And at universities, technological art research has also moved to the digital field. On the other hand, video has flourished among visual artists, but their approach often neglects the specificity and history of video art. Most of these artists move easily in the circuit of galleries and biennials, where video installations are preferred to single-channel pieces, while traditional video artists have a hard time to do it. Eventually, the introduction of video into the film industry has seduced some video art makers to try their luck in the world of cinema.
Latin America is not an exception in this panorama. The same trends are developing inside the video art world hardly constructed during the eighties and the beginnings of the nineties. VideoBrasil, the oldest festival of the continent, includes today all kind of electronic production, while festivals born in the nineties like the Bienal de Video de Santiago and the Festival Internacional de Video Arte de Peru moved quickly from video to media art. On the other hand, events devoted only to video like the Festival Franco-Latinoamericano de Video Arte and the Festival de Video del Cono Sur have disappeared.
Simultaneously a growing number of Latin American artists show video in solo and group exhibitions in galleries and museums, many of them being also national representatives in art biennials and other international events. Some of these artists have had an outstanding presence in video art festivals, like Eder Santos and Lucas Bambozzi (Brasil), Gabriela Golder, Marcello Mercado and Charly Nijensohn (Argentina) or Manolo Arriola and Ximena Cuevas (Mexico), to just mention a few. Others have always oscillated between video art festivals and visual arts exhibitions, like Jose Alejandro Restrepo (Colombia), Carlos Trilnick (Argentina), Rosangela Renno (Brasil), Jose Antonio Hernandez-Diez (Venezuela) or Lotty Rosenfeld (Chile). But the artists that move better within the art circuit of exhibitions are sometimes newcomers, young creators that just begin their careers or older ones that have began using video recently. Most of these artists have a history or education in the visual arts. The list is endless, but some examples are: Martin Sastre, Pablo Uribe (Uruguay), Miguel Calderon, Yoshua Okon, Ruben Gutierrez, Fernando Llanos (Mexico), Carolina Saquel (Chile), Priscila Monge (Costa Rica), Angie Bonino, Ivan Esquivel, Jose Carlos Martinat, Roger Atasi (Peru), Ana Claudia Murena, Andres Burbano, Freddy Arias (Colombia), Brooke Alfaro (Panama). Their works include video, installations, performances and digital technologies, refusing any easy categorization.
From an aesthetical point of view, one of the main currents in Latin American video art is the political one, where politics must be interpreted in a real broad sense. In a way, it could be possible to say that Latin American video art has long been a laboratory of proposals to test the different ways artistic discourse addresses political referents or can be considered a political discourse in itself.
Some Chilean video pieces are paradigmatic of the last case. In a country where the responsible for the death, torture and disappearing of people during the seventies, Augusto Pinochet, is still part of the government, and where both the ruling classes and large parts of society are trying to erase the memory of that time, the insistence of Edgar Endress, Guillermo Cifuentes, Claudia Aravena and Lotty Rosenfeld in remembering those acts cannot be understood only as aesthetic proposals but also as political statements: an affirmative stance on memory in a country that push for forgetting.
The confrontation of past and present is central to many other video artists. Jose Alejandro Restrepo has resorted to Colombian history in his video and video installations to unveil the historical roots of some everyday practices. In their videos, Pablo Uribe has addressed the influence of tradition through historical imagery and Alvaro Zavala has confronted the careless life of wealthy Peruvian youth with the Inka legacy.
In the last years, a group of Argentine artists has worked with the images of the violent events that broke out after the institutional crisis of 2001, and some video makers have recovered the tradition of militant cinema in a series of activist videos. Documentary has a long heritage in Latin American film and it is still the basis of many Argentine artists, like Ivan Marino and Hernan Khourian.
Political gaze has a very different appeal in the work of some young artists. They prefer parody and irony to denounce and testimony, in order to exhibit their social concerns and criticize stereotypes. This has been the approach chosen by Mexicans Yoshua Okon and Minerva Cuevas to reflect on authoritarianism and violence, or by Uruguayan Martin Sastre to comment on the lack of opportunities of Third World artists in the international art circuit. Gaston Duprat and Mariano Cohn have cultivated a deep sarcastic viewpoint on some typical Argentine behaviors and attitudes, while Priscila Monge has focused on stereotypes and commonplaces to inquire about the position of women in contemporary societies.
Brazilian artists have often devoted to highlight the sensorial aspects of electronic media in a way that seems to recover the legacy of key figures form the sixties like Helio Oiticica and Lygia Clark. This sensorial trend is also visible in many developments in the area of the digital arts and interactive installations, where artists like Gilbertto Prado, Diana Domingues, Suzette Venturelli or Rejane Cantoni have long researched on ways to improve audiences' involvement with electronic works through sensibility and emotion.
Digital media and interactivity are widening the relationships between people and electronic productions. Brazilian Marcia Vaitsman has created a non-linear video on DVD that allows the user to chose his/her own path through the narrative, while Argentine Ivan Marino has done more or less the same but using streaming technology and the world wide web, so any user connected to Internet is invited to built his/her own story from video footage recorded by the artist.
In the sphere of interactive installations the artworks ask also for people participation, not only by intervening on the flow of images or the construction of stories but mainly acting physically. Many different techniques have been tested in order to improve people involvement; some of them required the development of new interfaces and complex technological systems.
Brazilian artists count on a solid technological structure provided by the universities. Their works are often very sophisticated and have a tendency to lay on data and objects manipulation. Argentine Mariano Sardon prefers using mapping techniques to induce interaction; people produce changes in the piece by walking or moving within a controlled space where technology is hidden. His production is quite rare in Argentine but recent institutions like Fundacion Telefonica and CheLa (Centro Hipermediatico Experimental de Latino America) augur a promising future for Argentine technological arts.
Mexican Centro Multimedia is the pole that congregates and promotes the growth of national electronic and digital arts. In their premises, a group of works using robotics, stereo images, augmented reality and multiple forms of interactivity have taken place. The Universidad de Los Andes, both in Colombia and Venezuela (though not linked), encourages electronic and digital production focusing on the relationship between art and science. Other important institutions in Colombia are the Universidad Javeriana and the Universidad de Caldas, which has created a significant Festival Internacional de la Imagen. Peruvian Alta Tecnologia Andina contributes to this panorama managing resources to foster national and international artists to find their way in the technological productions, coming along with a myriad of Latin American institutions, artists and theoreticians involved in the expansion of electronic and digital fields, towards a des-definition of (traditional) video art.
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Biography - Rodrigo Alonso
Rodrigo Alonso (email@example.com) is an independent commissioner and Professor of the University of Buenos Aires, and an expert on technological art.
Video Art in Central America: precarious archaeology of a short and personal history
by Ernesto Calvo
Confessions and methodology...
To narrate processes, above all, if they are very recent, has a great advantage, that at the same time can become a disadvantage: to relate first hand facts, the information can be richer, broader, more complex; however, maybe being so fresh, one looses the essential critical distance (weighed up? objective?) what one is supposed to possess in order to analyse such phenomena.
So, still with this lack of "distance", I will try at least to tell (cambialo según creas mas acertado) a brief and very personal account- from personal experiences - through the most recent years of video art in Central America. For this task, I'll apply Foucault's methodology (1), that I believe runs through all my reflections: to begin with, "archaeology", as expressed by this thinker, studies, in a sometimes precarious and ambiguous manner, the marginal and hidden facts...and on the other hand the concept of "institution". Therefore it is exactly from this platform that I have tried to influence the consolidation of video art in Central America (2).
First steps: making it visible...
During the year 2001, we organized, through the invitation of the Cultural Center of Spain in San José, an exhibit of Central American video art, however, the panorama didn't appear encouraging: it was difficult to get together the 14 artists that participated in this event. For this reason, I decided to label the exhibit review with a question mark, and at the same time, a hopeful answer: Video Art in Central America? : But it moves. (3)
It interested me to continue giving visibility to Central American video art, and so from my position as chief curator at the Costa Rican Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MADC), I promoted the undertaking of a kind of multiple experiment. This event coincided with the First Central American Video Art Contest: Inquieta Imagen/Anxious Image, together with an international exhibit, Contaminados: (Ex) Tensiones de lo Audiovisual/ Contaminated: Audiovisuals (Ex) Tensions, and a show of video projections, Espacios a la Experimentacion 1/ Experimental Spaces. (4)
In this first competition the amount of participants -43- surpassed our expectations, although the presented videos were very diverse, in their production as well as in their aesthetic quality. This first experience demonstrated that not only Central American video art "moves", that's to say, was already in motion, but, in addition, it was producing some impressive proposals and results.
(foto5) The confirmation of this arrived when the awarded 'first place' of the above mentioned event -Aria, by the Panamanian Brooke Alfaro, also won, shortly afterwards, the First Latin American Video Art Contest of the Inter American Development Bank; and then the same artist later obtained first prize at the Central American Visual Art's Biennial (Nicaragua), from which video art, almost non existent beforehand, started to be a dominant factor in the Central American contemporary art scene.
Continuing this search, in the years 2003 and 2004, the second and third Inquieta Imagen competitions (5) were carried out, with the financial support of the Spanish Cultural Centre, the Embassy of France and the HIVOS Foundation, from Holland. For this event the participation was not only bigger than the first time, but also the technical quality of the productions, the themes and concepts had reached considerable maturity.
As a result, in order to consolidate and amplify support for technological-artistic production in Central America, presently in 2005, the MADC (Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo) decided to include in the Fourth Inquieta Imagen, a selection of different aspects of digital art in the region, from which these new languages (fotografía y pintura digitales, propuestas interactivas en internet, virtuales, etc) will establish an enriched dialogue alongside video art proposals.
Some Video artists: proposals, themes, searches...
Rather than providing a rundown of the artists of each country- that in my understanding-have achieved with major expressive and technical efficiency the theoretical management and practice of video art, I will provide instead a run down of some of the theme affinities.
I wanted to start this with the artist Brooke Alfaro (Panama), that despite having had for some years a successful "career" as a painter, started to approach video art at the end of the nineties, taking as the focus of his investigation through art, marginal people with whom he has maintained an direct and very open approach. From Click, Click, toc, toc (2000), to Cortés (2001), to the exquisite Aria (2001), or the impressive video-performance Nueve (2003), Brooke Alfaro has proved to be one of the most solid and consistent video artists of Central America.
From another perspective, Joaquín Rodríguez del Paso (Costa Rica), an artist who has recurrently explored different languages - painting, etching and drawing, installation and video art - has also produced diverse works with the choreographer Mariamalia Pendones, since the late nineties, including themes from anthropological-peripheral reflection (Exotica. The Ultimate Otro, 1997), to poetry (Agua, Viento, Piedra, 2000) to the subjective (Ultimo round para Viernes, 2003).
In a different vein, from a neat and formal approach, from 1998 to 2000, the recognised artist Priscilla Monge (Costa Rica) has produced a trilogy, structured as a series of "lessons", linked to the theme of violence carried out on the feminine figure (Lección de Maquillaje, Como (des) vestirse, Como morir de amor) however, she hasn't maintained a continuity with her video art production.
From another perspective, but also female, the artist Lucía Madriz (Costa Rica) has produced simple, but very precise videos related to the theme of violence and symbolic or real manipulation that women are subjected to within their social and intimate relationships, through the production of videos like Tell me when to Smile, (2002) and Head Ache, (2003).
In addition, the North American, residing in Panama, Donna Conlon, has also produced simple, although very efficient exercises of documentation, where the principle theme has always been the ecology and the co-existence of the human experience, (Singular Solitario, 2002; Convivencia, 2003; Desatado, 2003).
From the documentation of their own performances, other artists like the Guatemalan Sandra Monterroso (The Essence of Life, 2002; Tus Tortillas mi amor, 2004) and Regina Galindo (Autocanibalismo, 2002; Lips, 2003), approach, in a poetic manner, although sometimes very crude, the (de)limitated spaces and functions that are assigned to women in our patriarchal societies. In the same fashion, the Costa Rican, Natacha Pachano, living in New York, has explored in a playful way the theme of the feminine image (Lipstick, 2001), together with other themes related to dislocated identity, or cinematographic appropriations (Un chien appropriated, 2003).
From a more formal and conceptual approach, the Spanish artist, residing in Costa Rica, Ana de Vicente, has approached metaphysics, anthropologic and natural themes (Chakras 1.0; El Sembrado, 2001; Dis-continuo, 2004), as well as spatial and social themes (The Light, 2003; Popular Mechanics, 2003). Somewhere between conceptual reflection and political or aesthetic reference, one also finds the video installations of Edgar León (Memorias del porqué, 2003 and 1, 2, 3, 2004).
This formal and conceptual simplicity is also evident in the video installations of the Costa Rican, residing in Switzerland, Cinthya Soto (Una Flor (no) es una Flor..., Neptuno, Llo-ver, all works from 2003), where the artist plays with the diffused frontiers between reality and representation.
In the digital animation environment, recognised for their technical quality and suggestive character, are the Honduran, Alan Omar Mairena (Gravedad, 2004), the ingenious Dolls (2002), from the Guatemalan Alvaro Sánchez, as well as, the more intimate and surreal Sophia (2004), from the El Salvadorian Danilo Girón, or the more committed to identity issues, El Tiempo de Crear Nuestra Propio Imagen, (2001), also from the El Salvadorian Diego Barraza.
Getting closer to considerations between animation and metaphysics, is the Honduran Hugo Ochoa, in Cuentos de Honduras y Cegueras (2002); and exploring the co-existence between painting, performance and audio-visual image, (La Vitrina Natrivi, 2002); and the links between anthropological documentation and literature (Como se Llama la Obra? 2004).
The Photographer and designer José Alberto Hernández (Costa Rica), has made a clean and impressive reflection about sickness, birth, life and death, in video installations like Auto-opsis (2002) and 280 days or 40 weeks (2003).
Another artist, who has carried out interesting exercises around the audio-visual with diverse implications, is the Panamanian Jonathan Harker, using Panama City (Metropoli, 2001), and the magnificent short film El Plomero, 2002), parodying the political (Tomen Distancia, 2004).
From a more experimental-fiction genre, the Costa Rican Clea Eppelin and the Panamanian Ana Luisa Sánchez, have recreated attractive and beautiful examples of visual narrative, in works such as Un Cuarto de Corto (2002), Zona Pasaje (2002) or Fábula Alemana en Rojo (2003). Equally, linking the political critique with the memory, video and cinema, historic documentation and intimate reflection, the Panamanian Enrique Castro has produced exceptional material in Memorias del hijo del Viejo (2003).
In the always polemic and hard field of direct political critique, several artists have produced strong commentaries about the habitual mediocrities and repression of power in our countries. For example, Nos Vale Verja (2002), a sarcastic animated documentary produced by Regina Aguilar and "Los Artistas de la Gente", is one of the best examples that has been produced in this vein.
Also connected to the subject of the politics, but seen of an effective metaphoric and ironic way simultaneously, is the video of Dario Escobar (Guatemala) "Made in Taiwan", where the artist reflects about the imaginary violence and 'kistch' of our countries.
Very suggestive proposals of public intervention have been produced by the artist Alejandro Ramirez (Costa Rica) who has explored, ironically, the paradoxes of "calm and peaceful" Costa Rica (La Patriótica, 2001, Canción de cuna, 2002); also ridiculing the national position on the Iraq war (Mi querido pueblo ambiguo, 2003), or playing with the relationship between graffiti painting and traditional and patriotic songs (Acción vandálica en mi Linda Costa Rica, 2003).
The photographer Jorge Albán (Costa Rica) has also explored different public spaces, like monuments (Conversaciones en el Parque, 2003), or the more globalised spaces of consumption and entertainment (Caída libre, 2003), being adventurous, creating in the interactive fields of videogames, and the Internet (Kennedy and Cia, 2004).
From the experimental documentary, the Nicaraguan Ernesto Salmerón has been working with found audiovisual archive material (Documento 1 al 4/29), with which he recovers and re-signifies documents concerning Nicaraguan History.
Another recurrent theme in some of Central American video art is that of migration. The Nicaraguan, residing in the U.S.A., Patricia Villalobos, has approached the fundamental fractures of the migrant's experience in video installations that mix painting, the audiovisual image and performance (Snow, 1999; Corto Circuito, 2000). Other artists, like the Honduran Naufus Ramírez residing in Canada, presents playful and at the same time ludicrous performances related to migration (Skin Changer, 2002; Original Banana Republic, 2002; Doing other People's Cleaning, 2003); and the Panamanian, residing in England Humberto Vélez (El Guachimán, 2001), who has also referred to the traumas and strangeness of the migrant's experience.
An ending, which is not the End...
All these very diverse and enriching individual approaches within video art- including others that I haven't referred to here, and many more that will gradually appear- have been favoured by a continuous effort of regional and international exchange (6), that have permitted Central American video art to continue moving slowly but surely forward...
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1) Reference: Michel Foucault. The Archaeology of Knowledge. Siglo XXI, 1985.
2) This text doesn't try to be, neither can it be, a historical account of video art in Central America, because that's an investigation still to be done. For this reason , I will present only some of the artists and works that, in the last few years, I consider to be some of the most representative of the emergence and consolidation of video art in Central America as a visible and meaningful movement.
3) The exhibit was undertaken as a result of the invitation of the former director of that Center, Mrs.Lidia Blanco, in coordination with the artist Priscilla Monge. The participants were: Brooke Alfaro, (Panama), Andrés Carranza (Costa Rica), Marco Chia (Costa Rica), Darío Escobar (Guatemala), Jonathan Harker (Panama), José Alberto Hernández (Costa Rica), Priscilla Monge (Costa Rica), Alejandro Ramírez (Costa Rica), Joaquín Rodríguez del Paso (Costa Rica), Karla Solano (Costa Rica), Jaime-David Tischler (Costa Rica), Ana de Vicente (Costa Rica-Spain), Patricia Villalobos (Nicaragua-USA.) and Manuel Zumbado (Costa Rica).
4) In this first contest, the first three awarded were: Brooke Alfaro (Panama), José Alberto Hernández (Costa Rica) and Joaquín Rodríguez del Paso (Costa Rica). The artists who took part in the international exhibit Contaminated... were Fabián Marccacio (Argentina), Guillermo Gómez-Peña (Mexico-USA), Karin Schneider and Nicolás Guagnini (Brasil and Argentina), Santiago Echeverri (Colombia), Andrés Tapia (Chile), Fernando Llanos (Mexico), Txuspo Poyo (Spain), Takehito Kogenasawa (Japan-Germany), Ken Feingold (USA.), Regina Galindo (Guatemala). The exhibit Espacios a la Experimentación combined historical films and contemporary aesthetic experiments, with Latin American and international video art.
5) In the second competition, there were around 80 artists who participated and in the third, aproximately 70. The winners of the second event were Lucía Madriz (Costa Rica), Edgar León (Costa Rica-Mexico) and Ernesto Salmerón (Nicaragua- Colombia); and in joint third place Enrique Castro (Panama), Alan Omar Mairena (Honduras) and Sandra Monterroso (Guatemala).
6) Besides the competition Inquieta Imagen and the exhibits Espacios a la Experimentación, two selections offered a greater promotion and visibility to video art in the region. The first exhibit was El dinosaurio todavía estaba allí. Videocreación más allá / acá de Centroamérica, which participated in the 2002 Bienal L.A Freewaves, in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (MOCA) (curated by Tamara Díaz Bringas and myself); also Hybris. Estética, cuerpo, política y cultura en el video arte de Centroamérica (curated also by me), invited to the VII Muestra y Coloquio Internacional de Arte Digital, in Cuba. Both exhibits have been circulating through Latin American countries, the United States, Europe and Australia.
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Biography - Ernesto Calvo
Ernesto Calvo (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Director, Curator and Cultural Coordinator of the Contemporay Art and Design Museum (Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo - MADC).
Some short comments on a moving scenery: recent Brazilian media art
by Eduardo de Jesus
It seems risky to try to outline the panorama of current Brazilian media art scene, since there is a great diversity of proposals, appropriations, circuits, and connections which involves many artists and works. These many directions of the Brazilian media art hinder us from dealing with the whole diversity of poetic and technical processes currently used by the artists, for we would run the risk of giving a myopic, hasty description. Because of the complexity of contemporary Brazilian media art, it becomes a risky exercise in depicting an unstable scenery. Thus, in this text, no line is definitive. Here are some comments on a mutant, hybrid, and complex situation which, on the one hand, is difficult to be dealt with, and, on the other, opens up as a seductive multiplicity of creations that invariably induces reflection and thought.
"Excited science will make the sign of the cross, and we will light fires to appreciate the electric bulb."
"Media is wind."
Abraham Palatinik, Waldemar Cordeiro, Júlio Plaza, Rafael França, Arthur Matuck, Gilberto Prado, Mário Ramiro, Wagner Garcia - pioneers of Brazilian media art, still in our minds in rupture and continuity.
Currently, it is possible to observe that there is a tendency to establish positions of confrontation with Brazilian socio-political reality in media art. In this context, media art works serve as a possibility to establish strategies of perception of the complex Brazilian social life, and thus they construct other visibilities, opening new possibilities of (re)construction of Brazilian technocultural imagery. Indeed, this confrontation with reality is produced trough an intense dialogue between the socio-political context and the arts. That is, the works of art are not isolated from their context, therefore the artists establish relations between their works and social reality. Thus, we find works that reveal, question, intervene, and establish dialogues with the typical multiplicity of social life.
Interactive installations, video works, video installations, actions, performances, and public interventions which present this confrontation with reality extend the meaning of the use of technology not only in art, but also in daily life. The works can be related to technology not only in its most commercial aspects. Sometimes, almost subversive actions and appropriations organically linked to a complex socio-cultural system are developed. This process ends up (re)creating uses and poetic possibilities for technology through art.
This issue has been dealt with by Christine Mello in the text "Zona de risco: poéticas de intervenção digital em São Paulo" (Risk Zone: the poetics of digital intervention in São Paulo), presented at the symposium/exhibition Emoção Artificial (São Paulo, 2004). Taking a series of artistic works produced in the city of São Paulo, Christine accurately points out the many dimensions of a space of production that is built on the confrontation with the city.
Contemporary Brazilian culture moves around a network of transitional identities which appropriate elements of global culture and search in the transformation and impact on the local realities for the scope of its performances and interventions. These movements of appropriation and search end up establishing new contacts between technology and social life.
The works of some collective of artists can be related to this confrontation with reality. They appropriate the space of the cities and communication networks, mixing reality with virtuality, generating significant relations between the many fluxes of information that co-exist in the same city. The event Zona de Ação (Action Zone, São Paulo, 2004). http://www.sescsp.org.br/sesc/hotsites/za/ [See the 116th edition of the magazine Parachute, with a text on art in São Paulo's public spaces by Suely Rolnik] gathered many collectives of Brazilian artists. The project was extended to five zones of the city, and the processes of intervention generated a kind of "under construction exhibition" at the Galeria do Sesc Paulista (São Paulo). Most of the groups established intense dialogues with reality, which generated new actions.
The intervention "Estão vendendo nosso espaço aéreo" (They are selling our air space), produced by the collective Bijari, called our attention. Oscillating between political activism and art, Bijari denounces real estate speculation at the Largo da Batata (Batata Square), in São Paulo. The collective highlights the processes of urban revitalization which exclude the locals in favour of a capitalist landscape. Audiovisual recordings and consciousness-raising acts were carried out. The whole material fed the exhibition, and re-fed the actions in the public space.
Cobaia was another collective that participated in the event. It was formed by members of the collectives Formigueiro, FAQ, and Bananeira specially for the occasion. For the interventions performed in the northern area of the city, they planned to make video recordings and to distribute questionnaires in a stand at the Tietê bus terminal. The questionnaires featured personal, subjective questions; they generated graphics that were used together with the video recordings in presentations.
Cobaia in action.
Images from the project.
These actions do not involve great technological apparatuses, but they outline and produce strategies of shock and confrontation with media reality through all kinds of appropriation in new socio-technical networks connected with the urban spaces of the big cities.
Three exhibitions which were held last year might be highlighted: "Emoção Artificial", promoted by Itaú Cultural, and two exhibitions of the Sonarsound in São Paulo, "Sonorama" and "Life Goes Mobile."
In all three exhibitions the curators highlighted political issues. In the first, curators Arlindo Machado and Gilbertto Prado established the theme "Technological Divergence" for the symposium which opened the exhibition, and which guided the words of theorists, artists, and curators.
Lucas Bambozzi, multimedia artist and curator of the Sonarsound exhibitions, brought to the Centro Cultural Tomie Otakie an important selection of media art works. Some of them, like "Coluna Infinita II - Opostos" (Infinite Column II - Opposite Ones), by Daniel Lima, and "Engordando seu boi" (Making Your Cattle Look Better), by Spetto, established a close dialogue with reality and social inequalities. Bambozzi succeeded in setting up an exhibition full of critical verve which held little fascination for commercial and technological issues.
Lima's work proposes an intervention in the urban space, linking two points of the city through laser beams. One of the two points was the highest floor of the building where the exhibition was held, the Centro Cultural Tomie Otakie, a skyscraper located in the wealthy part of the city; the second point was the favela (Brazilian Portuguese word for a very poor residential area) Heliópolis, located in the Southern part of the city. The laser beams met in the middle, highlighting not only the physical distance between the two points, but also the social one; a kind of virtualization, the only possible means of connecting the two extreme points.
"Coluna Infinita II - Opostos" (Infinite Column II - Opposite Ones), by Daniel Lima.
"Coluna Infinita II - Opostos" (Infinite Column II - Opposite Ones), by Daniel Lima.
In "Engordando seu boi", Spetto makes use of a camera that sends photographs when put into action through a cellular phone. The visitors can put the camera into action and receive photographs of a cow. Besides the humour and irony, monitoring systems, fascination for technology, and the commercial role of big technological development companies controlling social lives become explicit.
Giselle Beiguelman, an artist that participated in the exhibitions "Emoção Artificial" and "Life Goes Mobile", deals with the socio-political issue in a different way. Her works establish relations between systems of communication in urban space, forms of reading, and interaction between different technologies, as in "Leste o leste" [East the East] (2002) and "Poétrica" [Poetrics] (2003-2004). In these works, the artist makes use of interaction schemes through cellular phone, the Internet, and exhibitions on electronic panels and advertisement spaces. Beiguelman is also developing an important theoretical project, which includes "O livro depois do livro" (The Book After The Book) [Available at http://www.desvirtual.com], that deals with the appropriations and alterations of different forms of reading.
10.5 "//**Code_Up", her most recent work, inspired by Antonioni's "Blow Up" (1966), is an interesting investigation into the specificity of digital image. It was exhibited at the Sonarsound, in São Paulo. In this work, it is possible to take photographs and send them to a computer through a cellular phone; it allows us to perceive the depth of digital image and a series of alterations in the image code. This work presents the new "visualities" inaugurated by digital image, giving up mere representation to make explicit the cultural game that involves images today.
The 14th edition of the Videobrasil International Electronic Art Festival also tried to highlight the socio-political character of contemporary art works. Many video works selected for the competitive exhibition presented significant views on this issue. Works like "Ação e dispersão" (Action and Dispersion), by Cesar Migliorin; "A revolução não será televisionada - episódio 1" (The Revolution Will Not Be on TV - Episode 1), by André Montenegro, Daniel Lima, Daniela Labra, and Fernando Coster; "Eu sou filho de Hélio Oiticica" (I Am The Son of Hélio Oiticica), by Carlos Sansolo among others present the many relations between the daily confrontations of social life through the use of conceptual and formal resources of video.
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Biography - Eduardo de Jesus
Eduardo de Jesus (email@example.com) is master in social communication from Minas Gerais Federal University (UFMG) and professor at the Communication and arts school in the PUC Minas. A member of he Associação Cultural Videobrasil Council, worked as a programming consultant in the 13th International Electronic art Festival (2001).
Some LatinLinks - bookmarked with the help of Andrés Burbano and Brian Mackern